Taking a break
| July 1, 2012 | 7:34 pm

Hi Readers. Many of you may have noticed that I’m not posting here right now. Rest assured that my blog will stay here, up and running. But I will be taking a break for about 6 months while I study for and take the Lamaze Certification Class.

This blog is really important to me, and I’m still full of ideas, but I haven’t been having time to sew for myself, let alone write about sewing!

See you all soon!

Hiking the Gorge
| May 21, 2012 | 10:13 pm

Why doesn’t my brain ever remember things the way they actually are? I remember the Gorge MetroPark as this beautiful easy hike with an exciting waterfall view.

The Gorge really is a long walk next to a sheer drop-off into the rapids of the Cuyahoga River. It’s also partially closed, muddy, and eroding into the rock-filled ravines.

But, still I love it. Although next time I go hiking there I will not bring these three people with me unless I can also bring Rob. He was on a plane to Boston, so I decided to kill some time on Sunday afternoon with a moderate hike with the girls. We hit the trail right at the start of nap time, so I’m very impressed that we made it at all. Let alone that we were able to not fall to our doom, not fight even once, and not get stuck in the mud. Unfortunately, I was too busy preventing all of these inevitabilities so I wasn’t able to capture any more pictures.

The girls were really excited about seeing Mary Campbell’s cave. They were surprised it was so big, and were suspicious that it was even a cave at all. Olivia was really upset that her church socks got all muddy (why did she wear them?!). Elise was really worried she was going to fall into a ravine. And Cressida was really torn between choosing to be carried and walking by herself.

At the end of the hike I met Greg (I think) from Live Instense. Live Intense is the brain child of three recent college graduates who are trying to promote intentionally living in the outdoors. They were meeting up with people for a monthly group hike and had their banner out, so I stopped by to see what was up. Greg told me that they are in the final days of a Kickstarter Campaign to raise money for some T-Shirts to promote their website and their group. Why don’t you hop on over to their website and see if you’d like to kick a couple of dollars their way?

And thanks, Greg, for the bottled water, I had used all of ours to wash off Olivia’s church socks.

Veggies in the Sun Oven
| May 16, 2012 | 2:18 pm

My kids love fresh green beans so much. I make them about once a week in the summer because I know that they are going to go down fast. Steamed or roasted with a dash of lemon juice, that’s the ticket!

Since I knew that the kids would devour green beans pretty much no matter how they are served they made the perfect first choice for my latest cooking experiment. My friend Colleen let me borrow her Sun Oven! And let me tell you, the green beans were outstanding! Moist, still crisp, slightly caramelized, and quickly devoured.

So, what is a sun oven? It’s an insulated outdoor oven which directs the sun’s heat into the cooking chamber with giant metal reflectors. There are many tutorials online on how to make your own, which I may try after I have to give back my loaner, but buying one is pretty cool, too.

I have used the sun oven twice now, each time at about 4pm, facing west. The days were fully sunny and I got an average temperature of 275* in the cooking chamber. According to the directions, if you’d like to get a higher temperature, like around 350* to 400* you can grab the southern sun at noon by aiming the oven towards the south. Then your food will get a high heat in the early day, and the oven temperature will slowly lower to around 200* in the evening once the sun is no longer directly into the funnel of the reflectors. So essentially you are slow roasting food in a completely energy free way (after manufacture and shipping of course).

Is anyone else out there cooking in a sun oven? Are you using a handmade one or a manufactured one? If you’re using a handmade one, what is your average temperature? I am really excited about the possibility of using a sun oven in the summer when my western facing kitchen is too hot to cook in, but I want to know if it is worth it to make one, or if I should just buy the same model Colleen let me borrow. Feedback, please!

Am I MOM Enough?
| May 11, 2012 | 9:13 am

This is the beginning of a new section on Clever Nesting. One of the things that makes this blog a nest, and not just a creative space is that I am a mommy bird with three chicks. I have been writing about these parenting adventures and saving the content on my computer without planning on sharing it. But something happened this week which makes me want to speak out more about this part of my life.

After the TIME magazine ran, I was contacted by Eric Mansfield from Chanel 3 News. He wanted to know if I would weigh in on the controversy. I agreed and this is the link to the video.

I didn’t get to say what I was hoping to say on air. I am proud of what I did say, but I was nervous so I forgot to mention that the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for at least two years, and that the average global weaning age is around 4 years old. But even more importantly, I wanted to say we are all mom enough. And it inspired me to write the essay which follows the jump. Read more »

Portage Trail Spring Barn Sale! Starts Thursday!
| May 9, 2012 | 10:42 am

I am so pleased to announce that I will be contributing some of my coffee bean bag purses and totes at the Portage Trail Barn Sale. My goal was to sew a bag a day for the past two weeks to prepare. That was insanity. There are so many moms who manage to juggle the work-at-home-mom gig. I don’t think that person is me.

I get distracted by my garden, my friends, my kids, my desire to learn how to build a drip irrigation system…. And another project that I am so excited to share, but I’m not quite ready yet.

Kid's Cape made by Portage Trail Barn

In any case. I have much less than 14 bags to offer at the sale, but the ones I do have are really great. You’ve seen the photos before. I’m also bringing some items which I made last year, some arm cuffs and headbands and stuff.

Mostly, I’m just glad to be a part of such a unique retail opportunity. My friend Mary Beth is such a creative and industrious person. She’s a real up-by-your-bootstraps kind of woman. And she has chickens, which is something I really want (anyone want an awesome house in west akron with fabulous neighors so I can move to a house with a yard big enough for chickens?).

There are many other vendors offering their wares at the sale, too. So you will need to check out the Portage Trail Barn blog to see her featured sellers to know what to look forward to.  And even better, you can head over to the sale next weekend and feel all the hand crafted goodness with your own fingers. I am planning on restocking my supply of hand knit dish cloths. As well as finding some handmade gifts for my mom’s birthday!

  • Spring Barn Sale- May 17-19
  • Thursday 5p-8p
  • Friday and Saturday 10a-3p
Community Plant Swap
| April 30, 2012 | 9:46 pm

Saturday morning, in spite of the grim cloud cover, gardeners of West Akron got together to trade plant divisions. Elaine Chin from Chin’s Place on West Market street was the host, and she more than made us feel welcome. She had the servers from the restaurant bring us hot tea and crab rangoon. And if you’ve ever eaten at Chin’s Place, you know that it was great crab rangoon!

About 30 to 40 people were in attendance, each one bringing one or more plants to share. As everyone mingled in the parking lot, huddled into little circles to keep warm, we’d OOOoooo and AAAaahhhhh as new species were put on the offering pile. Divisions were separated into three basic catergories: edibles, flowers/perennials, and ground covers. The show stoppers of the day were the bleeding heart and Mary Bethel‘s aloe, for sure. Everyone was whispering that they were hoping to get a bit to take home.

Elaine had all the swappers draw a number from 1 to 100. Then she called them in order, and as your number was called you were able to go pick three plants. As things were chosen, seasoned gardeners would help newer gardeners choose plants, describing their type and how they like to be grown. People grabbed strawberry starts and herbs for their vegetable gardens.

Even though I drew number 75, I was not left out of the abundance. I was able to replace some of the hostas which Sherman has dug up and tossed around. I also grabbed a giant fern, some parsley, a couple pots of evening primrose, and a bleeding heart cut for Rob’s mom.  Once all of the swappers were able to pick three plants it was opened up for a “free for all” until all the plants were gone. It was amazing. I don’t think that a single plant was left over.

I just put my transplants in the ground this afternoon, and it’s raining a nice little sprinkle on them. I want to give them a day or two to perk up and see what makes it before I take pictures of them in their new homes. I’ll let you know what makes it!

Paqarina Farm Visits our Girl Scouts
| April 24, 2012 | 2:10 pm

One of the reasons I love being a Girl Scout Leader is that everything that I am excited about fits in with the Girl Scouts purpose. Right now our girl are learning about the natural world and farming in our Journey “Between the Earth and Sky.” We’ve even been talking about regional crops, local food, and plant classifications. The leader’s guide for the journey recommended having a farmer come to talk to the troop about plants “special jobs” as we prepare to talk about sunflowers and their ability to clean up dirty places by drawing toxins like lead out of the soil.

Well, I immediately thought of local Paqarina Farms because of their work in urban farming in Akron. They might not have been using sunflowers to clean up their land in the Akron City Limits, but they have definitely used organic principals to make that rusty old patch of soil a viable farm which can even support customers and a CSA. I emailed Karmi, one of the owners of Paqarina to ask if she would come speak to our girls and she said, “absolutely!”

Yesterday was the day she came to speak with the girls and it was a hit! Our scouts were so amazed that our Farmer was not a man, but a woman! They sat down to hear “Miss Karmi” explain their bee hives, horse plows and companion planting. My daughter Olivia informed everyone that bee hive collapse is happening because of pesticides in High Fructose Corn Syrup (which was both adorable and embarassing). The Troop decided that I was the Queen Bee and they were the worker bees. And everyone played with tools.

Here’s the troop working in their journals drawing something they learned about farming from Miss Karmi. Most of the girls were really inspired by the “three sisters” so you can see their corn and beans in the pictures.

Miss Karmi invited us to visit in the summer when all of the crops are in full swing and her chickens are out and about. And I plan on paying her a visit to the Highland Square Countryside Conservancy Farmer’s Market on Thursdays this summer. I’ll keep you posted as to what else my kiddos learn from Miss Karmi later on!

What is Templeton?
| April 19, 2012 | 9:59 pm

I never properly introduced Templeton Goods, and I’m sorry about that. When Colleen and I were writing the blog together I didn’t want to take up post space with personal advertisements, and she didn’t have a craft line she produced, so anyway… I never introduced my craft line and etsy store properly.

Templeton Goods is named for the infamous Templeton the rat from E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web because (almost) everything I use for materials is reclaimed or repurposed. I’ve never been very good at buying new materials anyway, so this is really just comes naturally to me. Last year I really focused on men’s wear fabrics: herringbone, houndstooth, chambray, cotton shirting. These fabrics are so abundant and universally stylish I just loved working with them. If you came to Crafty Mart last year I’m sure you saw me hawking them.

This year I’ve moved onto a new fabric to work with. Colleen brought me over a coffee bean bag which she bought from a local coffee shop. The fabric was just so cool! It had prints from the countries the beans were grown in. Some of the bags had rainforest alliance logos printed on them. The weave is loose and summery. I was very inspired. I’ve made some coffee cup sleeves out of the material, which are with a vendor waiting to be sold so I can’t photo them. But the crown jewel of accessories I’ve made with these coffee bags are the purses and totes.

I am in love with them. They are fun to sew (though they create a large quantity of dust). And each one turns out different! I’ve been pairing the totes with fabrics I’ve collected from my favorite trash-dive, Zero Landfill.

I’m so excited about the way these are turning out it hasn’t been hard to stay motivated in the sewing room. Expect more combinations to be revealed soon! And head over to Templeton’s FB page and like me. You’ll be updated when new items get posted in the store.

My new Trek 7100
| April 17, 2012 | 9:50 pm

Last week I took the girls to Eddy’s Bike Shop in Fairlawn because I needed to get some inner tube repair patches for my bike. But Eddy’s was having a $50 off Trek bikes sale (you should see if they still have the sale going on!) and we just got our taxes back….

Oops. I bought my first new bike ever. It’s the 7100, and it is basically like gliding down the road on butter.  It is so smooth!

Can I just say that buying a new bike at Eddy’s is like all of the things I like at once? Athletic gear, outdoor opportunities, small business support, family togetherness, eco-friendly transportation. Basically, it’s perfect.

Here’s the photos of the girls’ and my bike outing. We loaded everyone up and hit the Memorial Trailhead of the Towpath for a quick before dinner ride. I keep the bike rack on the van from April to November, just in case we need to hit the trail on a whim.

Please note my hipster basket toting my purse. I could have bought one at Eddy’s for a pretty hefty price, and I would have been happy. But I happen to have had a basket just the right size sitting in my garage doing nothing at all. So my neighbor gave me some heavy duty plastic chord ties and we attached that sucker to my handle bars. I am officially cooler now that I have a basket on my hybrid bike. And a bike trailer, too. Yes. I’m feeling cool.

Elise’s Lego House
| April 12, 2012 | 10:53 am

Look! My daughter, Elise is a Clever Nester, too. She became interested in Legos after finding my husband’s old set in his parents basement last year. After reading some Lego for girls reviews (this one came after our purchase but it is a great read!) we bought her a basic pink starter set for her fifth birthday. It’s just girlie enough, but can work with all the other Lego products for open ended fun.

She uses the Legos to build elaborate houses with multiple rooms, gardens, stables, cars and appliances. I’m completely impressed and see a possible Elise Lloyd Wright in my future.

We bought Olivia a set of Legos for Christmas, too. The Hogwarts Castle set. Olivia, Elise, and my husband Rob all sat down together and built the castle following the directions to a T. Then it went up on a shelf until last week when Rob gave Elise permission to harvest it for parts. She was already using Hagrid’s hair to make a second mom, and all the wands for broom sticks (see photo below), but now she wanted to use the castle windows for her home.

I always see her working on it on her work table. I help her get the one block thick pieces unstuck every once in a while. But some how I hadn’t noticed how elaborate her house was until today when I was vacuuming under the table and had to grab all the loose pieces before they got sucked up. Did you see that stove? Did you see the table, complete with center piece and service ware? It’s amazing! No wonder my two year old, Cressida, is always trying to steal it!

She even has an area rug in this room. And vases on the shelf below the TV. See what I’m saying? Elise Lloyd Wright. Lego Genius.