Friday, February 19, 2010

Sapporo Snow Festival

For a week in February, the northernmost island in Japan hosts a fantastic snow festival. The sculptures made of snow are a highlight. Some are enormous — even larger than this one. I haven't been to the festival yet myself, but Mr. Field Notes' dad has been a number of times. He shared this photo and I thought it was so neat I had to share it too. The detail in the leopard's spots and the orangutan's cheek pouches is awesome. It's estimated that 2 million people visit the festival. Here's a little insight into how the massive sculptures are constructed: how to make
a giant snow statue.

In Japan, as here too, it won't be much longer before festivities culminate around a different occasion — the appearance of the spring blossoms — something that is an even bigger event in Japan than this snow festival. I haven't been to Japan yet for the plum and cherry blossoms, but I think this year, Mr. Field Notes and I might have to break out the sake boxes and furoshiki we got in Japan and make our own mini party under our plum tree.

In anticipation of the spring, I've started farting around with a new spring line up for my etsy store. There are a lot more plantable paper offerers on etsy and the competition has had an effect on my sales. It's mostly fine, because I would rather hang out with my gorgeous daughter, but I do need to keep creating or I won't be able to keep buying nifty things on etsy! To that end, I recently received some new paper punches, an ume (plum) flower shape and a sakura (cherry) flower shape. This is what I've decided to do with them (the first one is an old hydrangea shape):

I need better photos and a prettier assortment of colors, but it's a start. I'm not sure, but I think I will offer them as a DIY wedding package, one that is very affordable (under $25). What do you think? I'd love some feedback...!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

NEW: Flowers made out of paper that grows!

Spring comes quickly around here, and with the tops of the bulbs already peeking out of the ground, I have a limited amount of time to develop my new line of recycled paper products before planting season is here. For a few years now I have been making 'plantable paper' in my spare time, mostly custom requests from people who are getting married. Plantable paper is embedded with seeds. As the paper biodegrades in soil and water, the seeds sprout and grow out of the paper. It's a really nifty way to give seeds and also makes a perfect, inexpensive favor to give away at weddings. Over the years I've been asked to make butterflies, hearts, cones to hold flower petals, printed table place cards in various shapes and most recently — 200 paper flowers. They are going to be placed in little pots along with a smaller paper butterfly and flower. Soon this years flowers will be growing from the scraps of this project. In the meantime, I am putting them up for sale as a new regular item in my store on etsy. Happy planting!

Friday, February 12, 2010

I have a baby APE!

Why it took me so long to realize this, I have no idea. But, I truly do have a baby ape. For the past 2 days as we leave the bedroom, Baby Field Notes has reached toward the mobile hanging from the overhead light. She's had her eye on this thing since the day she came home.

A couple of years ago I admired it in a shop in Japan. It's not really intended for babies, it's just a cool little doodad that I liked and brought home. It matched the bedroom, so I hung it up there. Eventually it just faded to the background.... until Baby Field Notes moved in. It caught her eye, being black against the white of the ceiling.

And now, finally, she's developmentally able to gesture to get lifted up to touch the end of it. There's a little bell there. When she realized she could make it make noise, she came unglued. So I've been lifting her up so she can make its bell ring. Well, today she grabbed hold of the little bell and would not let go. I had already lifted her up several times so I was getting tired. I think I made her feel off balance when I hoisted her up the last time and that's why she latched onto the bell so firmly.

When mama's unsteady, better grab anything close... branch, vine, mobile. I thought she was going to take the whole light fixture down with her. Babies are stronger than they look, afterall, and for good reason too. It wasn't all that long ago geologically-speaking, that young apes were able to hang on to mom all by themselves.

So there she was, my little ape hanging on for dear life, wobbling while I was trying to figure out how to get her to let go without being able to pry the bell out of her hands myself.

I forgot what I did, but not the lesson learned: Don't do that again!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Totally Easy Quilt - A good one for prompting geography lessons!

This quilt is an absolute cinch to make. For about $20 (on etsy) you can buy the world map fabric. You will also need some red (or yellow, blue, whatever you like best) smooth minky fabric and some batting. I recommend looking at your local Joann's and buying it when you can use a 50% off coupon. You'll need 2 yards of minky or other fabric for the backing.

Just pin the three layers, stitch along the lines of latitude and longitude using a clear presser foot (no free motion foot needed), start in the middle of the quilt and work your way out. When done with all the lines, fold over the minky, pin and sew it down (I did the binding by hand because it looks nicer especially when you have minky bindings). I used black for the lines and red bobbin thread.

Voila! The finished quilt is about 32 x 56 inches — large enough for a play mat or lap quilt. And best of all, you can use it to start all kinds of fun talks about the world for years to come.

I plan to sew fench knots onto the places Baby Field Notes visits. Another idea is to sew them into places I'd like for her to visit and then take them out when she has, replacing the knots with a different colored thread. I've got a few places on my list and I am sure she will add her own. Today I fell in love with Krabi, Thailand after seeing my friend's vacation pictures. Picture white sand beach along crystal clear turquoise water with not a soul in sight. Just you, the fish and the ocean breeze — I'd go tomorrow (and leave BFN with one of her grandparents so the Mr and I can enjoy ourselves!)

Sunday, February 07, 2010

First Gift Quilt - Finished!

Made mostly from 'Paula Prass Flights of Fancy' fabric I purchased on etsy, this one took me from Fri-Monday to finish last weekend. The thing I really like about quilting as opposed to other projects is that I can pick up and set it down easily. I'm not inclined to set down projects. I prefer to just barrel through and finish but with a baby around, there are distractions galore and they cannot wait.

One time, however, I was so determined to finish a part of one quilt (the blue-green one) that I figured out how to nurse and rip seems at the same time while sitting at my machine bench. It was awkward and uncomfortable but I got both jobs got done. And this week I managed to nurse BFN while sitting on the floor of her room working at my laptop while taking a phone call. Babies are the reason women were forced to become excellent multitaskers.

Although baby and I still prefer to NAK (--> cute Nursing @ Keyboard onesies designed by my SIL), I'm finding that I'm becoming much more at ease with not NAKing. And most of the time BFN moves from NAKing to SNAKing, it's a relief. She falls alseep in my lap and then I can, maybe just maybe, move her still sleeping, still nestled in the quilts I've bunched around her to support her, to another place so I can get up ..... and get back to quilting, or take a shower, or make lunch for myself, etc. I've got a gallery of saved pics of her lying on her bedroom rug in all different arrangments of her cozy quilt coccoons. They're amusing. I'll have to make a gallery of them sometime. So, this particular quilt — in its nearly finished form at the left — is my first quilt that is a gift. I used the free motion foot to embroider a message on it along one edge and 'wrote' the year too. That was fun. It turned out much better than I expected. Have you ever tried to write while moving the paper instead of the pen? Hard! Try it with a sewing machine.

Learned a couple things with this one too. My seams met much more closely and I had almost no need to rip out seams because of bunching. I have changed my technique for prepping the layer for top quilting. If I start the free motion stitching in the middle of the quilt and re-stretch and re-pin as I move out toward the edges, I've found everything stays much more taut. The other thing I'm doing now is using safety pins to keep the layer together. They don't fall out and get lost as I move the quilt around.

My best quilt so far, I think!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Baby's 'First' Meal

Yuki has appointed herself to a new 'job' — cleanup duty for baby meals. She is so eager that I've decided we need a mealtime protocol, mostly to manage her enthusiasm. I am not a germaphobe regarding the dogs, and they have already given little Baby Field Notes lots of kisses, but they're not exactly welcome all the way through the meal. I am aiming for a good cleanup at the end and maybe some spot cleanups here and there when I say it's okay. Hopefully it won't take too log for all of us to get on board with the new program. She already knows how to back off on command, and when there is food involved, Yuki is very eager to 'perform' so it probably won't be long before she demonstrates she's learned a new word: Cleanup.

Baby Field Notes, like Yuki, has really leaped whole hog into solid foods. There's no such thing as partial pig with her. She has gone so gung-ho for solids virtually overnight that it's kind of hard to believe that just 2 weeks ago she was gagging on food. Now she gulps with gusto and is so interested in solid food that I am a little worried she is going to wean herself too soon. I want to continue breastfeeding her for 2 years, at least. Not only because it is good for her, but good for me too. It is so good for me that my goal is to keep lactating until menopause. Crazy, isn't it? I just hope she doesn't make me start pumping all the time. It is not nearly as pleasant as her doing the work, lol.

So far we have done really well with making our own baby food. We've got a food processor to puree anything we'd want to give her. The purees get poured into ice cube trays. They can be popped out and put into freezer bags and then defrosted one by one, or in BFN's case, 2 or 3 at a time, as needed. It is easy, cheaper than buying jars, and easier on the environment because it creates less waste.

So far, she's wolfed down cream-of-wheat, squash, applesauce and bananas, and kidney beans. The beans were the first solid food we gave her that she swallowed. We had been trying rice cereal but she wouldn't have any of it. Then one night while I was eating a dish of kidney beans, rice, barley, tomatoes, onions and chicken (an awesome mix!) I decided to give her a small taste off my finger. She took it readily and seemed to especially love the squished beans. And why not? They are delicious. And these ones were a little spicy. I don't know, but maybe she liked the spicy food more than the flavorless rice cereal. Who could blame her?