For the love of: Motherhood

My plan was to do a “Yo Momma Monday” reflection on my life as Cecilia’s mama this Monday, but we were visiting family in Stockton and I wasn’t around my computer. Family is always the perfect excuse for not writing. This is my third year celebrating Mothers Day, and the second year that I get to spend with my kid. Technically, I did spend the first one with her too…but she was celebrating in my belly.

A couple weeks ago, my friend and I were talking about that quote “Everything changed and nothing changed” when we had our kids. Sure, my Friday nights are a little different and all of the money I do earn is spent on formula, gas and groceries…but in the bigger picture, what all has changed?923957_1414953962103156_2455092_n

I’m still me. And while my family has grown, they’re all still the same people. I was never huge into traveling, so it’s not like that changed. She didn’t derail my studies, she actually motivated me to apply to the school I’ve always wanted to attend, and not give up when it felt like everything was crumbling around me. She didn’t take me away from my big, fancy job. I was working at a boutique here and there and interning at a local paper. Nothing that I had to fret about giving up when I had her.

In fact, I actually like this version of myself better. I’m nicer. I don’t forget birthdays and I’m not scurrying around my house to find random items I can give people as gifts. I don’t check for my money and suddenly remember I spent it all at the bar the night before, or I left my credit card there. I know exactly where I spent it all – at the grocery store, duh. I stick with plans I make with people (for the most part), and when I do flake, it’s most likely because my daughter fell asleep right before I was planning on leaving or she’s been in tantrum city. And when I do have a beer, I enjoy it. Because that will be it for the night.

02b5cad6a97211e3874612e79814bf9e_8I appreciate and respect my parents (and pretty much all parents) a whole lot more and I’m constantly in awe of everything they did for me and my brother. I learn to pick my battles, and I don’t argue as much. I get frustrated but now I deal with it, and not just freak out and shut the world out.

She teaches me to not value all the stuff I have lying around, because she will probably walk all over them, or chew on them, or tear them apart. She teaches me to put up anything I truly value and to take good care of it, because if I let her have it, she will most likely destroy it. She knows when I need to take a break from the computer or my cell phone. And most of all, she teaches me not to take myself too seriously.

929315_642978312447553_726817861_nBecause of her, I have taught myself how to cook, have maintained a garden and have healthy relationships with all of my friends and family. Because of her, I focus on the people and things that hold the most importance, and let go of what I can. Instead of putting 10% into a million projects, I pick a few and put everything that I have left in me into them. Because of her, I push myself to continue going to school for something I love, because I want her to do the same when she’s ready.

Because of her, I have changed. But I will always be the same Amanda.

Yo Momma Monday: Ashley Weeks Cart

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Meet Ashley Weeks Cart, 30, from Southwestern Vermont. She runs Cartwheel Farm with her husband James, and she is mama to two beautiful girls (Addison (Sunny) who will be turning five next month, and Courtland (Kaki) who is two and a half), a super mutt they call Hanna Banana, a puppy named Gladden, a potbelly pig named Penelope (“Penny” for short), a flock of five hens – Bunty, Edwina, Dora, Nemo and Ginger and an angel dog – their beloved three legged dog, Ursa Bear, who lost her life to cancer.

Before Ashley and James were introduced to the world of parenting and farming, they lived in Los Angeles and Ashley attended USC, where she received her MA in Curatorial Practices in the Public Sphere. She also ran a reusable bag business with her sister at the time.

Photo taken by Ashley Weeks Cart

Photo taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

After Sunny was born, Ashley and James returned to the East Coast to be closer to their families. Both attended College in the Berkshires, so they moved back to Williamstown, MA for the first two years, and that is when they decided that they wanted the rural life. So they bought a farm across the border in the Green Mountain State.

“James’ family had a farm growing up, and we really loved the idea of our daughters learning about where their food comes from and the responsibility and care that comes from owning farm animals and tending a vegetable garden. That was all possible with this little property.”

Photo by Theron Humphrey. Click on the picture for the link.

Taken by Theron Humphrey. Click the photo for the link.

Both Ashley and James are photographers and Ashley does freelance work on the side. Her introduction to photography began when she was just a kid, and would spend hours tooling away with her dad’s Nikon SLR. All of that playing and shooting paid off, because now she connects with her readers through her photography on her blog.

” I have albums of black and white photos of our pets and house growing up that I shot with that camera from back in 70s. It was totally a hobby, but it brought a lot of joy. It wasn’t until after college that I got back in to photography. I was working at another small liberal arts college that allowed me to take one course a semester.

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the picture for the link.

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

I took a film photography class, and loved hiding out in the dark room and relearning how to really use a camera. When we moved to California we invested in our first digital SLR, and after our oldest daughter was born, James and I really began to want to better master our camera as we were amassing a slew of baby photos.

When we moved back east, I developed a great relationship with a local professional photographer and she really helped me take my work to the next level. I try to pick up my camera and shoot every single day. I learn something every time I do. Practice practice practice is the best advice I can give. That, and shoot in manual mode. Just do it. Your photos will be world’s better once you get a hang of it.”

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the picture for the link

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link

Ashley started her blog Blog a la Cart when she was still living in LA and was the first of her group to have any children. With James working all day, she felt alone and overwhelmed, and she needed a creative outlet that would get her thinking about more than changing diapers and feedings.

“Honestly, I write about whatever inspires me at the moment – there is no real rhyme or reason to my blog content – that space is ultimately an outlet for me, so I write about and share what is most impacting me at the time. Sometimes is as simple as a room makeover, other times it’s more serious feminist issues that I’m struggling with as a parent/mom.

Taken by James Cart. Click the photo for the link.

Taken by James Cart. Click the photo for the link.

I try not to be influenced or alter my point of view to please anyone but myself since that space was born very much out of a need to better support myself. I love that people share in that space, but it’s ultimately about being true to my voice and story.”

Since Ashley has a full-time job, her photography and blog are both done on the side. They are  creative outlets for her, and while she admits it can be tough balancing family, work, the farm and her creative business, she loves what she creates and is grateful to have both there to supplement their lives.

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

“I have a truly amazing partner. I would not be able to do all I do without him in the mix, providing the balance and support that I need. He is the girls’ primary caregiver, and does the lion’s share of the cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping etc. This enables me to work a day job full time, and then come home and spend time with my girls and have meaningful family time, before spending my evenings editing photos for clients or writing content for the blog.

There is no way I would be able to keep everything in balance without James helping carry the weight. I think people don’t consider enough how their choice of life partner will be one of the biggest, most impactful decisions of their entire lives. People want the pretty wedding and storybook romance, but don’t often consider the long term weight of that decision. I feel very lucky to have been able to grow into adulthood with James by my side (we met at his 20th birthday party in college) – we’ve been able to make some huge decisions and changes together and we really compliment and balance each others strengths and weaknesses.”

Penelope. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the image for the link

Penelope. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link

Of all the things her girls have already learned on the farm, she hopes that they will always have a respect for their food and the cycle of life. Both have already experienced the loss of a family pet they cherished and loved and they know where the food on their table comes from.

“We don’t shelter them from this, and they have a very thoughtful and honest perspective on death and life (for their age). I love that they understand that our Thanksgiving turkey comes from a turkey farm and must be killed before we can eat it for dinner. It’s not just some plastic wrapped lump from the grocery aisle.

Taken by Theron Humphrey. Click the image for the link.

Taken by Theron Humphrey. Click the photo for the link.

They know the sweetness and joy of picking blueberries right off the bush. They understand that maple syrup comes from the veins of a maple tree as they themselves have collected the sap and watched it boil down into that sugary delicacy. They’ve hand turned apples to cider. They’ve weeded and sweat and and pulled fresh carrots from the ground. There is something so simple and yet so very important from these lessons that we get to make a part of their everyday.”

Ashley’s best advice for working parents (whether it’s in or outside of the home) is to carve out time for yourself. She likes going to the gym or for a run or a walk once a day. It’s not only good for her physical health, but it’s good for her mental and emotional health as well. She also loves crafting, and shares many tutorials on her blog.

Turning apples into cider. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the image for the link.

Turning apples into cider. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

“I have trouble sitting still, so I build in crafts and projects to any free time I may have on a weekend or evening. I love working with my hands, and it’s fun to be able to involve my children in the projects when possible.

Mostly, I would be happy to spend my days knitting and listening to audiobooks – but it’s good to mix it up. I learned to quilt last year, and that is a dangerously wonderful, time-consuming hobby. I hope to be able to do more of it when my children are older – as it also demands a lot of stuff and space (iron, cutting table, sewing machine, etc.) whereas knitting I can keep in my handbag for a down moment waiting at the doctor’s office or pharmacy, etc.”

Photo by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

Photo by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

In the future, Ashley hopes to expand her photography portfolio and hopes to capture more maternity and childbirth moments. She wants to master tomato growing, to include alpacas or other fiber animals in their farm family so she can spin her own wool and she wants to bake a truly authentic loaf of French bread. Her favorite thing about everything she does is the impact it makes on other people.

“My favorite moments happen when a reader emails me to say that something I’ve written or shared has touched them in some way, either by making them feel not so alone, or validating their feelings, or even getting them to think about something in an entirely new way. Those emails send me over the moon.They bring me so much happiness.

Sugar. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the image for the link

Sugar. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link

And with the photography, I love getting feedback that I’ve captured a client or their family in a way that really represents them. Getting positive feedback on my work keeps me motivated and makes me feel like I am making a difference (however small) in my community.”

And as for the impact she has felt from her children, and life on the farm:

Picking strawberries. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the image for the link.

Picking strawberries. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

“There are SO many ways that motherhood has changed me, mostly it has given me deep respect for my own mother and the  mothers around me as I am so acutely, personally aware of the challenges, joys, heartbreak, and perspective that motherhood brings. It’s humbling and inspiring and I am so very grateful everyday that I get to call myself a mother to my little girls. It’s the hardest thing I’ll ever do, yet I am eternally grateful that I get to have this kind of experience and perspective and love in my life.

And the farm has connected me to life beyond my family in really meaningful ways. From the flowers to our vegetable gardens to our chickens, I am tuned in to the life cycles and seasons of life on the farm. I recently read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver (everyone should read it!) and it has really inspired me and further enforced in me why James and I made the choice to buy this home and raise our girls this way, connected to their food and this place.”

Painting by Rebekka Seale. Click the image for the link.

Painting by Rebekka Seale. Click the image for the link.

You can read Ashley’s blog Blog A La Cart to find out more about raising a family on a farm, and you can also view her portfolio there. And check out her video about life on the farm! If you want to hire Ashley to take your photos, you can e-mail her and you can connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

If you are an awesome mama or you know one and would like to be featured in this series, don’t be shy! Leave me a comment, e-mail me and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest.

Yo Momma Monday: Maiden Jane

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Meet Jane, 51, a quiltin’ mama of four from Cleveland, OH. She sells her quilts, pillows, totes and repurposed items in her Etsy shop and posts tutorials on her blog – Maiden Jane. I found her blog while searching for upcycled apron ideas, and I instantly fell in love with her story.

Before she was gifted one by her husband before the birth of their first one, Jane had never used a sewing machine. She did, however, love to create things and sewed by hand when she was a little girl. Although her mom never sewed “not even a button,” she supported Jane’s hobby buy purchasing her craft kits.

“So I am largely self-taught. My mother-in-law helped me in the early days and I also attended classes at the Sewing Expos that came through town.”

For Jane, most her inspiration comes from her daily life. If she has a need that she feels is not being met by the products on the market, she will try to create a solution.

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

“That’s how my Oversized Tote came about. My husband and I tried all different ways of carrying all our supplies to the beach – plus the kids! We decided big bags would be the answer.”

She is also inspired by stuff that other people might be considered junk.

“I am a little sad when I go to a garage sale or the thrift shop to see all the stuff that we – first, buy, then, pitch. I hope that I don’t accumulate so much in my own life that will later be sitting on shelves.”

Her customers are also a source of inspiration, as they will ask her to make certain items that may end up spawning an entire line!

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

As a small business owner and mom working from home, Jane does not have a set schedule. She does, however, set goals for how much time she wants to spend on certain tasks. She will take breaks for housework and when her kids come home, and she sets aside specific days for her errands.

“…This year I am trying to be working by 7:30. So that means checking email early and then getting started working on sewing. I rarely work for more than two hours straight without doing something else…

I can fritter away a lot of time on social media, so I am trying to confine that to morning,
lunch, and evening. But it’s an important part of my business. So much of my work is custom and then the product ships out right away, so that means I have to photograph it within a day or two of being done.

When Jane and her husband built an addition to their home, they added a master bedroom. The designer wanted to add a glamorous bathroom or a walk-in closet, but it was Jane’s husband who offered up the idea of a craft room/office. And Jane couldn’t be happier with the decision.

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

“One of the best things I have is a mobile table. It is on wheels so I can move it around the room or out of the way. The height of the table can also be changed. Side flaps on the table change the table size
to make it narrow. So the entire table can slide under the counters. We also have several mobile file
cabinets – which gives us storage and extra seating for when the kids are working in here.

Jane bought an entire Singer sewing book set at a closeout sale years ago, and she still refers to them often. She also likes Simplicity’s Simply the Best Sewing Book, The Reader’s Digest Guide to Sewing and the Vogue Sewing Reference Book. For newer books, she likes A Bag for All Reasons by Lisa Lam and In Stitches by Amy Butler.

Jane says she has made and enjoyed a few patterns by Burda, and after she made some totes from Jennifer Paganelli’s fabrics – they all sold out!

“I get a little frustrated with the traditional pattern makers. It seems they have forgotten how to write a pattern for beginners.”

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

Not only does Jane share her love of sewing and quilting on her blog, she also shares tips on practical living. Since she and her husband are both engineers, they thrive on order and solving problems that arise in their growing family. They are constantly changing and organizing things to adapt to their evolving lifestyle – like simply storing plastic grocery bags in an old milk jug with holes cut on the top and sides.

“Do you know, we still use that jug after 20+ years? My husband jokes that it saved our marriage! Since I am practical in nature and some of my products were borne of the idea of being practical, yet pretty, I used it as a basis for developing my brand.”

Jane gets tremendous satisfaction from working with her hands and making as much as she can. She started sewing for herself and her kids and would make gifts for people when she could. She created t-shirt blankets for her nieces and nephews as High School graduation gifts, and after encouragement from a friend, she opened an Etsy shop. Soon after that, she started a website and her business has continued to grow in the last five years.

“I almost feel selfish because I enjoy it so much…I love doing it for the creativity but I am motivated by the financial gain.”

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

Even though her kids and husband help out when it’s needed – doing chores, make pickups and drop-offs, help with laundry and set the table – she remains an one-woman operation. Her oldest daughter, who has modeled on her website before, is now off to College so her other daughter, Annie, has taken over modeling. She also has her own Etsy shop called Pink in Mind.

Jane’s work and has been featured in quite a few websites, such as Craft Gawker, Craft Gossip, Totally Tutorials and All Free Sewing. She says that it has been a mixture of her submitting her work to different sites, and getting sought out by different bloggers.

“I was thrilled to have a few projects featured on Craft Gawker because that forced me to improve my photography. But I’m clearly not “there” yet because I continue to get rejected! I haven’t made it into a magazine or book yet, but that might change soon!”

Jane is inspired and motivated by piano music, and since her oldest son is a jazz pianist, her house if full of music! She loves both classical jazz and New Age – like Jamie Cullum and George Winston. She will also listen to musicals and soundtracks while she sews.

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

Since Jane sells patterns for some of her quilts, she wanted her customers to be able to share their creations that they made with her pattern. So, she added a board on her Pinterest for all of her customer creations. If a customer puts their work on their own blog, she can also add that to her Pinterest board.

“If my customers send me a photo, I put it on my blog and then pin it. Then I have a reference board for other customers to see finished blankets.”

When I asked her what her advice was for new moms who are also starting their own businesses, she had this to say:

“First, enjoy your time with your babies. When they are young and on schedules, you can use nap time and evenings. That’s when I sewed a lot. Then again, I was only sewing for fun at that point. It was a wonderful outlet for me. I see so many amazing business women and bloggers and wonder how they do it all with young kids.

In my opinion, it gets harder when the kids get older. When my kids hit the teen years, my life turned into chaos. Suddenly, I was running kids to practices. No longer was the evening my own as the kids were staying up later. So my point is, life goes by so quickly.

Here I am, starting a business in my late forties. When I went to college for engineering, I realized that I didn’t really love it by my junior year. But I also decided that I would have many careers in my life. So I was open to whatever path my life would take. If you are starting a business at home, go for it. Dive in. You’ll learn as you go. It’s so easy to start an Etsy shop. But find what works best for your family.”

Customer Creation from Jane's pattern. Photo from Maiden Jane.

Customer Creation from Jane’s pattern. Photo from Maiden Jane.

Jane hopes to continue to grow her business and says that she always has new ideas for products if she has some time to design them, and she has also been percolating with products she could have made with a small manufacturing house or collective.

“I only have two hands and although I love to create with them – and I always will – I can’t see how to grow my business without additional help. I love collaborating with other makers and have some new bag fabrics in the works. Usually my mind is overflowing with ideas.”

If you would like to find out more about Maiden Jane, visit her here. If you or somebody you know would make a perfect feature for this series, share a link in the comments and on social media or e-mail me with the information!

The Liebster Award!

leibster-badgeTuesday was sort of unexpected. I mean, I knew the day was going to come – but the I didn’t know a thing about what we were going to do. Since my boyfriend works such crazy hours, we don’t get a whole lot of time to hang out. So, I was a little shocked and a lot of excited when he hurried me to get ready so we could go house hunting. We got Starbucks (which is quite the treat when you’re saving for a house), drove all around Sacramento, got lunch at Burgers and Brew – one of my favorite places – and just enjoyed hanging out.

While I answered some e-mails in the morning, I didn’t get much work done and my homework was forgotten for a day. And I suddenly remembered how wonderful it is to take a day off and just spend time with my family. It makes the crazy stressful days of going to school and trying to get your business going totally worth it.

I am taking some time off of worrying about the goals and deadlines I have – taking a day off Project 2014 – and just celebrating being celebrated. One of my online buddies, Bev Feldman – who I wrote about before – nominated me for a Liebster Award, which is award passed around by bloggers who have less than 200 followers. While I have more than that on social media, I think it’s referring to followers on my actual blog site, which for sure qualifies.

Here are the rules:

  1. List 11 random facts about yourself
  2. Answer 11 questions, that the blogger who nominated you, has asked
  3. Nominate 11 other bloggers with less that 200 followers
  4. Let those bloggers know you nominated them and pass on the love

11 random facts:

  1. I have a seriously heightened sense of smell, and can pinpoint a scent in a nanosecond. And I come up with weird smells all the time, which was super fun when I was pregnant.
  2. Like Bev, I, too, have a horrible short-term memory but can still remember my best friend’s phone number from grade school. And not all of my long-term memory is great, just random stuff like that.
  3. I plan my night accordingly so I can watch Chelsea Lately at 11:00.
  4. I once had a photo album dedicated to Drew Barrymore – total stalker.
  5. I use … when it’s unnecessary – I just love it.
  6. Which is ironic since I’m a total stickler for grammar.
  7. Even though I have had a stutter since I could talk, I was often in trouble at school for talking too much in class.
  8. I had a Filipino imaginary friend when I was little.
  9. I didn’t try seafood until I was 25, and then it was clam chowder.
  10. I taught myself to cook when I was pregnant.
  11. Even though my mom could knit and sew anything she wanted, I refused to learn, and now that I want to learn, I have no time. Poor, poor me.

11 answers:

1. What is your favorite color? Teal/turquoise. They’re so alike and I can’t decide on one.

2. Do you speak any other languages? If so, what are they? Only the language of love.

3. Coffee or tea? Coffee all the way. Unless I’m sick.

4. What is your favorite season? Fall

5. What does your perfect day look like? My perfect day would be adventuring over to Dillons Beach on Hwy 1 and hitting up all the little restaurants and shops on the way up and back. Then heading over to the mountains and camping out. And yesterday was pretty close to perfect – just hanging out with my dude and my baby.

6. If you could travel to anywhere in the world, where would you go? Jamaica

7. What is the meaning behind your blog’s name? Before I got pregnant, I enjoyed going out to bars, shows and parties. Then, I instantly turned into a housewife (instant is a little exaggeration – it took some time and still has its challenges) and became all domesticated. Don’t get me wrong though, I still enjoy a good beer. I just don’t drink the whole 12 pack anymore.

8. Do you have any pets? Nope. Not at the moment. My cat passed a couple years ago and I have him tattooed on my arm.

9. What do you enjoy most about blogging? At first, I just loved documenting all of my life changes and all the stuff I was learning to do. Now, I love all the connections I have made. I love all the people I have met, and finding new recipes and crafts. I just love the community.

10. If you could relive any day of your life, which one would it be and why? I don’t know if I would, because I don’t know if I would be where I am if I had done it differently. But, I would love to sit and enjoy the birth of my daughter again. So much was going on that I didn’t get a lot of time to really enjoy what just happened.

11. What is the most daring thing you have ever done? While I have done many stupid things that could probably classify as daring, I haven’t really done anything too daring. No backpacking across Europe, no skydiving. I moved to Stockton with someone I knew for a couple months and started a family, that’s pretty daring, yeah?

I would love to nominate: Pauselius, April Heather Art (a blog I JUST happened upon)

11 questions:

  1. If your life was a movie, what would the title be?
  2. First thing you do when you wake up?
  3. What’s in your picnic basket?
  4. If you were to scream something at the top of your lungs right now, what would it be?
  5. How do you like your coffee?
  6. How long have you gone without doing laundry?
  7. Where was your favorite adventure?
  8. What band do you listen to when nobody’s around?
  9. Would you be friends with your high school self?
  10. Why did you start blogging?
  11. What’s one thing you couldn’t go without – aside from your phone and computer?

This was a lot of fun and thank you again Bev for nominating me!

Yo Momma Monday: Karen LePage

yo momma mondayMeet Karen LePage, 42, a sewin’ mama from Michigan. I met her through Oh My! Handmade and I instantly swooned over all of her work. She not only sews up a storm, but she also creates patterns, sells custom-made garments and shares tutorials on her website at One Girl Circus! Oh, and she also co-wrote a sewing book for boys, appropriately named Sewing for Boys.

Before she started working for herself, she sang at weddings, sold cars, managed a coffee shop, taught German and worked in Strategic Planning. To say she is well-rounded would be an understatement.

Karen started a blog after she read and loved blogs from other people. Initially, it started as a means for documenting her children’s special moments.

“I guess it’s not surprising that I’m not very consistent with it, however, because I was never a child who could keep a journal beyond “dear diary” for more than a few weeks.”

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

After her mother bought a sewing machine when Karen was five, she started experimenting and made every project in the booklet that came with the machine. From there, she spent several years making wardrobes for all of her dolls. As a kid, she started watching Sewing with Nancy when it came on PBS, a show she still watches to this day.

I always say Nancy Zieman taught me to sew…I still watch it.  I still love it.”

Karen still remembers her first sewing project – a drawstring bag – and she says there have been plenty of disasters along the way. When she first got started, she would wear her disasters; now, she tucks them away until she’s ready to try again. Her latest creation was a Japanese double-gauze newborn outfit that was in a box for six years because she couldn’t stand to look at it.

“I’m so happy I could rescue it!”

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

As a mom, Karen says that her children not only inspire her work, but also keep her balanced and admits that if she didn’t have her kids, she would probably just work all the time.

“I love making things, and having humans relying on me for comfort, food, and shelter ensures that I nourish myself with their companionship while meeting their needs, too.”

The creativity bug has definitely hit both of her kids, as her son likes to design the garments she makes for him, and her daughter is a quilter. Her son also shops at thrift and vintage stores, so he has become quite the master at button replacing, and he already has an eye for what can be fixed, and what cannot. Her daughter will often work up a patchwork when she’s in the sewing space.

“She has an amazing eye for color and pattern.”

Karen describes her workspace as chaotic yet comforting. While she is always moving things around in there, she still keeps an open space for her kids to visit while she’s working. She does like to take some time tidying up in between projects.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“But as soon as I have a clean space I’m inspired to start making again – immediately.

Although there’s no such thing as a normal day, there is one consistency in her morning routine – coffee (ain’t that the truth). Her daily activities are determined by deadlines, inspiration and commitments – and she does try to get some sewing in every day.

“I start to get twitchy when I’m away from my sewing machine for too long.”

Karen says that the best and scariest thing about running her own business is that everything – from what get made to what gets published – is all her.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“Sometimes it’s wonderful and sometimes it’s terrifying and sometimes it’s wonderfully terrifying.”

She started teaching classes after someone asked her to do it, and that is one of her favorite things about what she does.

“There’s something super-satisfying about nudging my students toward sewing confidence.  I love that it’s a skill they can use forever. I love holding their hands through the tough part and saying “Look how awesome you are!” when they make it through and realize they can make something they didn’t think they could make.”

When Karen is not teaching classes and making clothes –  or thinking about new classes and new projects – she loves reading, hiking with her daughter, yoga and cooking.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“Actually, strike that, I like reading cookbooks.”

And of course, she loves all forms of crafting. There isn’t a craft she hasn’t stopped, and thanks to Creative Bug and the craft section in her local bookstore, that won’t be ending anytime soon. She loves making anything from  baby clothes to formal gowns – all of it.

“If it goes on a body, someone will wear it and love it, and that’s something that makes me happy and keeps me going.  There’s always something new I want to try, whether it’s a technique or material I haven’t yet attempted; I incorporate my latest learning into each new project.”

She gets the majority of her fabric from local fabric stores and loves visiting new stores in any town she visits. When she cannot find a fabric she wants locally, she will shop online.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“I spend my dollars locally whenever possible.”

Karen loves being a part of the handmade community because she has always been just one of a handful of people she knows that love sewing. Of the four high schools she attended, she only found one friend who could sew. ONE! Now that she has a whole community of friends who also love the same kind of things, she counts it as a blessing.

“I feel so energized and inspired when working collaboratively; even when working on my own thing amongst fellow makers.  The handmade community is what has made my 30s and 40s the best years of my life.”

She currently has two patterns in the Stitch Magazine Spring issue and there will be another one in the Summer issue. She is also working on a handmade garment line and is hoping to hire some local people to help with the sewing and sales of her products.

“I’m really excited about it, but I’m also thrilled to have a steady stream of consultancy projects.”

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

Karen hopes to inspire people by being an advocate of all things handmade – whether its making, buying, spreading the word, or all of the above.

“I also hope I can inspire people to try something new every once in a while, and to really enjoy the process of making.”

Thank you to the lovely and wonderful Karen for participating in this series! You can find her blog here, buy her stuff here and read the book she co-wrote here.

If you enjoy this series and would like to be a part of it, or know someone who should, please leave a note in the comments or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest and Instagram. Next month, I will be talking with Jane Skoch from Maiden Jane!

Finding my Style

Last week, it dawned on me. It was past 9 pm on any given night, and I was still in my PJ’s. No, I’m not depressed. I’m a happy stay-at-home mom who doesn’t get out and about as much I used to and sometimes I forget to change out of my PJ’s. And sometimes I shower and then put clean PJ’s back on.

And this is when it dawned on me. “Wow–I have really let go of myself,” I thought. But have I?

Me, my baby, and my PJ's

Me, my baby, and my PJ’s

I’ve never been a big fan of fashion. Style, yes. Fashion, no. Only recently did I discover there was a difference. I always just wore what I thought was cool – and sometimes other people dug it, and other times, random people would say “uhhh…what’s that on your head” “It’s a head wrap, people! I just don’t know how to wear it. Dang!”

During high school, we Catholic school girls had it pretty easy in the outfit department. We wore uniforms and sometimes I would paint my shoes with nail polish and wear argyle socks to be different. I’m a real rebel. I had a small group of friends and we cared more about music than anything else in the world.

After high school, I got a job at Picture People. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a photo studio chain that specializes in babies and dogs. I worked there for four years, and by the time I left, I could categorize the customers by what time of day it was. Weekday mornings – afternoon: stay-at-home moms and dog lovers, weekday afternoons – business moms who schlepped their kids from school to the mall for their annual photos, weekends – dads.

Again, the outfit choice was easy. We had a uniform (I’m seeing a theme here) and a spinny hat. Nothing else I could wear would ever distract anyone from the spinny hat. I would snicker at all of the stay-at-home moms, swearing that would never be me. As if I was doing any better.

Then, there was College. In Humboldt. I could honestly say I don’t even remember what I wore – it was Humboldt.

Then, there was my 20s. Oh, the 20s. Where I wore patterned tights with a patterned skirt and a tiger shirt. All different patterns. Because I wanted to, dammit. I would wear fedoras with jean shorts that I cut myself and were all jagged and rough. And I didn’t care.

Fake fishing near Lake Tahoe. I had a little boombox shaved into my head

Fake fishing near Lake Tahoe. I had a little boombox shaved into my head

And now, here I am. In my jammies, looking at my chipped nails and too overwhelmed by my closet to confidentially pick out an outfit. But look where I’ve come. I shower daily, I learned to cook and clean all in a little over a year, I’m going to the College of my dreams and I have an amazing kid and boyfriend. Not too shabby. But still, I miss that fearless abandonment I had every time I went through my closet. I miss wearing something truly unique instead of the same ol thing.

Kate Payne wrote in Hip Girls Guide to Homemaking that work-at-home-ians should shower and get ready like they’re going to work every morning. Make yourself look all business-casual and you will be more productive throughout your day, she says. Well, it can’t hurt.

I’m going to make it a point to go through my closet and stick with the clothes I truly feel speak to me. The rest, I can donate to our clothing recycling program we’re doing as part of our fundraiser for Vox. Then, I’m going to make it a point to get fancy during the week. To actually put on some adult clothes and maybe even brush my hair.

Because, as I tell Sam all the time – if it’s important to you, you will make time for it.

What is your style? If you’re a mom, do you feel like you lost any of it when you had your babe? How did you find it again? Let’s talk about it.

Coffee and Muffins

coffee and muffins

Last weekend, my mom and I embarked on a new challenge. We must avoid all drive-thru eateries for an entire month. This wouldn’t be difficult for me, but I have a secret addiction to drive-thru Starbucks. Because sometimes when we’re on the road, I need a coffee. And almost all the time, I don’t want to have to lug my daughter out of the car and then back into the car to get a simple coffee.

The thought of walking to a little, hidden gem of a local coffee shop is a beautiful thought, except for the fact that I live nowhere near one. When I lived in downtown Sacramento, you could just turn in any direction and point, and a coffee shop would magically appear. But this is not the case.

So, it’s time to broaden the horizons. Since I will be more dependent on my at-home coffee-making skills more than ever, I’ve come to a conclusion. It’s time to stock up on some coffee from rad coffee shops when I come across one, and then get some rad travel mugs.

Photo from Mugoos

Photo from Mugoos

First of all, I love Mary Tyler Moore. I used to watch that show on TV Land before all my of childhood shows somehow wound up there, and before there was a DVR. This coffee mug not only brings a smile to my face and brings back memories of no responsibilities, it’s also kind of a perfect quote for my life right now. This ceramic mug has a plastic lid and is double-insulated. MC Simon, who made the mug and runs Mugoos, is a mama-of-two who was welder before running her own handmade ceramic shop.

Photo from Heartbreak Coffee

Photo from Heartbreak Coffee

Heartbreak Coffee is not actually local, but I read about this online coffee shop on Design*Sponge and I fell in love with the story. She brews and sells everything from her kitchen, and the first comment on her Coming Soon post was from her mom. I mean, come on.

So, I think this would be a great time to start reviewing different coffee shops – both local and online.

And what goes better with coffee than…

IMG_1458MUFFINS!!!

I used a recipe from The Granny Girls for these apple blueberry muffins and they were delicious – and good for you! I count them as a success because my boyfriend – the enemy of all that is health food – even enjoyed them. My muffins tend to be dry, but these were simply delightful. Moist (I know, I hate that word too), and every bite was filled with fruit.

The ingredients are below and you can get the full recipe here. I’m thinking of adding bananas next time (like, tomorrow).

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup raisins or currants blueberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup apple juice (I didn’t have any so I used almond milk)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, beaten (or 2 egg whites)
  • 2-3 medium apples, unpeeled, finely chopped (or grated)

What healthy steps are you taking? Share them in the comments and on social media. If you are writing about it, share the post with me! I would love to help motivate each other!