24 April 2015

Creativity: Start Now

So this is where all their money is going.  My kids have had a sudden urge to earn money and then take walks down to the dollar store.  They've also been digging holes on the side of the house that is rarely seen.  Just digging and digging.  They've created a mermaid lagoon.  Didn't we all have that need to dig when we were little?  There was really no purpose other than to make a hole where there wasn't one, and then we'd figure out what we wanted that hole to become.  Not much has changed, really.  We all have a desire to create something that didn't exist before.  What has changed, however, is the ability to just begin.  We want it to not only be picture perfect, but pinterest-perfect. I feel like I need to have a clear picture of what the outcome should be, details worked out, and a nice clean summation of a project before I even start!  Sometimes my best projects start out with failures that have to be remedied by creative solutions and improvisations.  So, let's start digging holes!  The details can come later.  Just pick up that shovel (or fabric or paint brush or measuring cup or fill-in-the-blank your tool of preference) and begin.  What do we have to lose?

17 April 2015

Rainbowtized Planters for the Family

The previous owner of this house loved to garden, winning several "Garden of the Month" awards from our tiny city.  We have an acre of land and have found all sorts of gardening treasures, some half buried and broken, some just in need of a little TLC. And spray paint. Of course.
There was a giant stack of these old, faded green planters that I thought I'd spruce up, rainbowtize and give one to each of the kids in which to garden.  
I set them along the railing, and as we enter and exit each day, we inspect (and sometimes compare) the little sprouts. I think that's the key, to have them somewhere we see daily. Olive is winning with her giant cucumber sprouts, Divine's purple flowers have yet to make an appearance, and everyone else's are somewhere in between.  Clover jumps for joy (literally) and claps her hands each time she sees something new happening in her little square foot plot.  We had to learn that plants can actually get too much water sometimes. ;)
Check back in a month or two and we may just have watermelons growing on our porch!

15 April 2015

Easy, Professional Looking Maxi Skirt-DIY

Did you know there was such a month as National Serger Month?! I only learned of it this year, or I would have been celebrating all my life.  BabyLock has put together a free pattern book, all about sewing with a serger.  I have this easy Maxi Skirt included.  
Materials: 2-2 1/2 yards knit fabric
waist circumference plus 1" of 1"-3" (depending on preference) elastic

1-Start by cutting an A-line skirt, flaring it as much as you prefer.  Cut the waist half your waist measurement adding 1/2" on both sides for seam allowance. I use my measuring tape to keep a straight line from the waist to the hem.
2-Cut your waistband double the width of your chosen size elastic, adding 1/2" on both sides.  The elastic as well as the waistband fabric should be the circumference of your waist plus 1".
3-Serge the waistband and the two sides of the skirt, right sides together.  Zig-zag stitch the elastic, overlapping 1/2".
4-Wrap waistband over elastic, lining up the seams.  Make sure the elastic is pressed up against the fold crease and that the raw edges of the fabric are lined up.
5-Pin the waistband to the skirt, RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER, lining the seem up in the center back of the skirt.
6-Serge waistband to skirt, stretching the fabrics, if necessary, to feed evenly through the serger.
7-Hem using a coverstitch on your serger, or a double needle on your sewing machine.  And there you have a covered, professional looking waistband maxi skirt!
Olive now matches my painted patio and I might make her just stay there so I can admire the coordination of the two. ;)

14 April 2015

I Wish My Life Had A Soundtrack

I lay awake at nights, thinking of all the posts I ought to do, posts I want to do, believe you me, there are lots, yet this space has been sitting quiet.  I've vowed that will change (because it's National Serging Month, did you know there was such a thing?!) and to start things off, or rather REstart things off, I wanted needed to share this video with you.  My brother-in-law, Craig, summarized all the fun we had at our family reunion last year with his GoPro video camera.  It makes me want to get one! (Notice he jumps in the water with it!)  I'm glad he added a soundtrack so you can't hear me singing...


21 February 2015

Crushed Cans and Katy's Theory of Ratio Relativity

Thank you checking up on me with my long, unintentional absence here.  Whenever Ryan mentions he misses reading my blog thoughts, I know it's long overdue for a post.

We have a backyard hotdog/s'mores roast on the first Monday of each month.  It began when we moved into Magnolia Manor and had a backyard large enough to actually enjoy.  We use it as an "excuse" to invite others over because it's such an easy dinner...plus I don't have to clean my house to enjoy it.  I suppose you could say it's one of our new traditions, and traditions, as Ryan recently reminded me, are what the kids will remember.

One particular evening we had grapefruit juice to counteract, or at least help balance the negative effects of our hotdogs (all natural!).  Clover drank one up, ripped the tab off, and crushed it.  Now perhaps she was overly tired, or it was just one of those days, which even 6 year-olds have, but after seeing her cute little can crushed, she was immediately regretful.  She began to cry big, body-heaving sobs of sadness that she had crumpled her can.  I told her we could recycle it and that she would become new, bright and shiny.  This only increased the volume of the drama.  The rest of us, in hushed tones, wondered aloud why she was emotionally attached to her piece of tin, and stifled giggles that accompanied the amusement of the whole situation.  As I shooed her off to get showered and in bed, the can went with her.  She clutched it with her might, convinced that her gentle caressing would undo her actions.  She only let it out of her hands as Olive kindly offered to draw a face on it, personifying the recyclable even more. As she was getting in bed, she told me she was going to sleep with it.  

My first reaction was to laugh and lay down the law of being the parent, you are not going to sleep with a sticky, crumpled can.  But, in that moment we're often given as parents to change our gut reaction to what should be the rightful action, I agreed, because it all comes down to math.  To me, this was nothing more than Monday night hysterics of a 6 year-old, to be forgotten with the morning rush of school lunches and car line.  To Clover, it was much more than that.  While my worries and joys might seem bigger to me than hers are to her, I realized that they are the same ratio.  Her worries of homework and friends being mean versus the joys of having a playdate or being invited to a birthday party are very much the same ratio as mine, thus they are very much equal.  I was grateful that my mind worked faster than my mouth in this moment, that little grace to say the right thing.

I found this under the bathroom vanity yesterday and vowed to remember that her ratio is just as important as mine.  As is everyone's.

18 December 2014

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Do you need a last minute gift for your favorite foodie?!  Something homemade, but that doesn't take months to knit: Vanilla Extract! 
As simple as it is, it's super satisfying to use vanilla extract that has actual vanilla beans floating around.
We like to buy a vodka bottle that is simple and can be used for the extract (just remove the label).  Simply slit 5 (plus or minus a few) vanilla beans on one side so the vanilla seeds can seep out into the vodka.
No matter how many times I use a vanilla bean, I am still fascinated by the amount of seeds they contain, all the while breathing deeply that scent that is never recreated exactly.
Over time the infusion (and color saturation) gets stronger.  We refill our bottle with new vodka and more vanilla beans as we use it over time and just keep it going like a marathon.  You could even engrave it for a more personalized touch.
Tie a tidy bow and hand it over to a very happy (spoiled) foodie! ;)

17 December 2014

Stella Nova: The Game

**Edit: click through this link to get $10 off your purchase of Stella Nova through the end of the year!**

My kids are finally getting old enough where we can play board games other than Chutes 'n Ladders and Candyland.  We are embarking on some fun, new territory in game land.  
I know that a lot of people have the tradition of getting a new family game for Christmas each year, and I have happened upon a really great one, for several reasons.  Stella Nova means New Star, and it's a strategic game of wise men traveling to bring baby Jesus their gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.  There are two categories of questions: Bible questions, specifically the story of Christ's birth (which are the easier of the two, and which include a bible reference if needed) and the second category being History & Geography, which will test even the most knowledgeable, but fun to be able to learn new facts.
You obtain provisions along the way to help you in your travels, navigating robbers, sandstorms, and fog.  Then you gather the three gifts before making your final destination to Bethlehem. One of my favorite things about Stella Nova is the absolute solid construction.  The board and game pieces are not flimsy, withstanding even the little hands of Drummer, and the box is sturdy enough to last many many Christmases to come.  
The kids have begged to play every day since we got it.  I would suggest kids 10+ are able to play unassisted, and we paired the younger kids with the older kids to help roll dice and answer questions.  The only things I would suggest is reading through all the directions before you attempt to play with the kids.  I thought we could just learn as we went along, but finally had the kids take a break while I read through the whole instruction sheet so we could play correctly.  We also had many jokes about the city Kush. ;)
Stella Nova will definitely be a game we look forward to pulling out each Christmas as a new tradition to be reminded of all that transpired around the birth of Christ. Meanwhile, someone ought to get going on all the pajama sewing that needs to be done before Christmas Eve... ;)

10 December 2014

Christ Themed Advent

Maybe it's because we lived in all-carpeted apartments and houses every time I was pregnant that I can't stand the smell of vacuums.  I admit to splurging on those scented vacuum bags to help mask the smell.  But that's when December comes into the picture.  We get our Christmas tree and all pine needles must be vacuumed.  Give that tree a hard shake before putting on the lights and trimming it with baubles and bells, then suck all the needles to make vacuuming happen more than frequently enough until it's time to change the bag again. ;)
This year we've started something new, a grand thanks to my mom.  She gathered 25 varying pieces of artwork to depict the life of Christ and printed corresponding scriptures on the back.  Instead of our regular scripture study, we take turns each morning reading one while holding a battery operated candle.  It's so wonderful to read about His life in such a condensed period of time, nudging my mind to think on Him more. I am hoping my mom makes these available for purchase next year because they are the very best type of count down to the celebration of Christ's birth.  I'll let you know when she does....;)
I came across this quote in a book I'm reading that really felt good: I am suspect of tidy history and squeaky clean people.  I believe Jesus Christ was perfect--not because He never got mad or always made everyone feel good.  He didn't.  He was perfect because He was the most grown up grown-up who has ever lived.  His responses to people and situations were consistently mature, principled, and selfless. -Neylan McBaine
He acknowledged that we all falter and make mistakes and lovingly encouraged us to be better.  It's hard for me to admit that the only person I can change is myself, because it hearts my heart to watch my children choose wrongly, but just as Christ allows us to make mistakes, he also made it possible to fix those mistakes, which is what I hope my kids will learn.  Nobody is a hopeless case.  There is hope enough to go around. :)

28 November 2014

Just For You: I'm in a book! {and a giveaway}

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We spent much of it on the beach enjoying a most beautiful day.  We don't do turkey, but we certainly didn't starve. ;)

It was so surreal when I brought the mail in from the mailbox, opened the manilla envelope to see me in a book! 
It's a book Just For You.  Not your kids, but you.  All types of projects, from clothes to accessories to phone covers. It's subtitled Selfish Sewing, but I don't think it's selfish to sew for one's self. It's important to do, in fact!
My project in the book is a faux leather belt, and you can see my silly fabric peeking bio picture.  It's not quite as professional as everyone else, but that's how I am, right? ;)  There are projects that just require measuring and there is also a sheet of patterns in the back for the more complex projects, something for everyone's skill level. :)
It was so fun to flip it over and see my friends Delia, Disney and Jessica's names on the back with mine!  And did you notice my matching nails with the dress?  Serendipitous! 
You can find it on Amazon and you can also win a copy right here! You can also win fabric for 4 projects over here.

+Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win. Answer this question: what would you like to see on my blog? What are your favorite types of posts?
+Enter until December 5th
+Open to everyone internationally!  U.S. winner will receive the actual hard copy, everyone else will receive the digital copy.

19 November 2014

Artist Highlight: Julia Blake

Growing up in a household of artists, I'm always intrigued by other artists.  They are, more often than not, unique and interesting.  Ryan always introduces me as an artist, but I've never really felt that that is my title.  My medium of fabric isn't traditional.  But my need to create is very much driven as any artist is to make something that didn't exist before.  When I asked artist Julia Blake to answer some questions, I loved reading her responses.  It reignited a passion to create more in my own soul.  For those of you who say you can't follow a dream for some reason or another, read on. 

KD: When did you know painting was "your thing?"

JB: I had loved art and taken classes as a teenager, but abandoned it for more 'practical' studies. Many years later, after my 6th child was born I was really sad to be done having babies. REALLY sad. When he went to preschool I knew I had to do something BIG. That's when I started painting again. My first few paintings were pretty bad, but then I had the break-through painting. It was a huge painting and a gift for a friend. I feel like God gave me the gift to paint because of the sacrifice I was making. I could not stop working on it. I didn't want to eat or sleep. I just wanted to paint. That was the defining point. I painted 100 paintings the first year and sold 100 the next year. I am so happy to have found something that fills me - I'm pretty obsessed about it and I have to remember that my kids still need me. I have to finish that job I started.

KD: Speaking of 6 kids, when do you find time to paint?

JB: Right now 4 of my 6 kids are still at home.  I try to paint every minute that they are in school. I usually take a break when they get home and through the dinner hour, but not always. When my littles are in bed I try to paint again, but sometimes I'm too exhausted. Thankfully, I paint very quickly. My paintings actually stink if I slow down and think about them too much. 

KD: Do your children show interest in artwork, and if so, how do you foster that?

JB: My 16 year old daughter is a very good artist. She was chosen for the Intensive Drawing and Painting class after her freshman year. I sometimes pass along portrait commissions to her because she is better at them than I am. This summer we took a 3-day portrait workshop together at Southern Virginia University with one of my friends, Rose Datoc Dall. It was a very fun getaway for us. I hope that she will pursue art in college. My 6 and 8 year old sons paint with me sometimes and seem to really like it. The whole family sees my painting process because I have set up my easel in the kitchen. I find I'm most productive that way. I can help with homework or work on other things when I step away from a painting.

KD: What is the fulfillment or satisfaction you receive from painting, and is there anything else that comes close to replicating that feeling? (i.e. other types of creativity) 

JB: This gift has really filled the void I had when I was done having babies. I always loved being pregnant, anticipating a new baby and loved the first couple years of mothering where I felt like I could be the perfect mother. The older my kids get the less I can be the perfect mother to them. Painting is about anticipating and nurturing - it's about saying something through process, symbol and color. The satisfaction for me is multifaceted. Sometime I fall into bed with the current work in progress on my night stand so I can look at it. I can sit and stare at something quantifiable that I have done. SO much of mothering gets undone or has to be redone. Laundry, cleaning and grocery shopping don't stay done, but a painting stays done (unless I decide to work on it some more). There is something so completely validating about having something physical, tangible and meaningful to show for my hours and efforts. And to have people buy my work just magnifies that validation. When people say they like my work that makes me very happy, but when they part with their money and hang it in their home I am deeply satisfied.

KD: So, what's on the horizon for you?
JB: I am so excited to be buying an old church in Western, MA with artist J. Kirk Richards. We will renovate it and use it as an art studio for ourselves and we plan to host visiting artists for residencies and workshops. You can read about it here: www.artistcommon.com and any purchases you make from myself our Kirk will have make this project happen. We'd love your help. 

KD: What advice would you offer to those who want to create but feel inhibited for one reason or another?
JB: That is a great question. I want to just say DO IT. Fear of failure needs to just go away! That is the lamest excuse. If you try but you don't do something well, take a class or study via books and videos. We live in an amazing time where information is available. Practice. Keep a sketchbook or notebook with you all the time to write down ideas.  If time is the issue then figure out what you want most and put that at the top of your list. We all have the same amount of time in a day - figure out what you are willing to sacrifice to do something you love. For example, I used to love shopping for clothes but I rarely choose that over painting. I have cut back on running and cooking  (both things that I really like). I hardly volunteer any more. I feel like I've done my time with the PTO already. My oldest is 20 and I have put in plenty of hours running carnivals and auctions etc. I still go read in the class room and chaperone field trips, but I have stepped down to let younger moms run the organizations. I don't feel guilty about that. I am making deliberate choices. I have two demanding jobs at church and I try to do those on Sundays only. It is very hard to find the right work/life balance and I don't claim to have found it. Being an artist is a full-time job for me, but it is the second most important job I have. Being a wife and mother is the most important thing to me and I hope that my epitaph will reflect that.

Admit it, you're ready to shut down the computer and go create!  I love it!  And aren't Julia's paintings incredible?  I'd like one of each in all the colors.  Maybe even purple. ;)  Original artwork makes me happy.

Shall we do a giveaway to celebrate creativity?  Julia is offering $100 towards her painting to one of my readers. To enter, do these 2 things:

+ Sign up for her email list on her website www.juliablakeart.com
+ Comment on your favorite IG painting on @juliablakeart
+ Open Until 11/30

Or, you can take 15% off using code NoBigDill15 on anything painting!   

17 November 2014

Bigger Baby Bunnies and Life at Warp Speed

Back in February I asked Pearl what she wanted for her birthday.  She gave me a choice.  So nice of her.  Either a bow and arrow or she wanted to breed bunnies.  My vote was bow and arrow.  It seemed less involved, until there was an incident involving a homemade bow and arrow and a near eye-loss experience.
If you follow me on instagram, you'll know this is Prince, the bunny with one good eye who Pearl chose as the father because she was afraid nobody else would ever take him home.  He has won our hearts. Penny, the doe, we thought was uncooperative.  We tried time after time to get them to breed and assumed it was a failure, and breeding bunnies wasn't nearly as easy as all the cliché sayings and songs suggest.  We began to look for a new doe for our sweet Prince.
Until one day we noticed Penny had started pulling fur to make a nest, a sign that they are pregnant.  We have had bunnies in the past, however, who have done this and they all turned out to be "false pregnancies".  Pearl and I counted back the days when we tried to breed the two and figured if she was indeed pregnant, she was due very soon.  I palpated her, but as I forgot to go to school to become a veterinarian, I wasn't positive she was pregnant, but very suspicious that she might be.  We put a nesting box and lots of hay in her cage, just in case.
The next morning, I felt like it was Christmas as a child.  I ran outside and saw what appeared to be an exploded fur ball in Penny's quarters, particularly concentrated in one corner.  I reached my hand in the softest mound you could imagine and felt a warm, squirmy little body.  I wanted Pearl to be there to share in this moment,
so I ran to tell the kids and Ryan that Penny had her baby(ies?) in the night.  Ryan looked at me with skepticism and raised brows that almost touched the ceiling.  I smiled back, perhaps a bit smugly, and said, "It's true."  The stampede made it's way to the backyard where I reached inside once again and began counting the tiny bunny bodies.  One *gasp!*, two *gasp!*, three *GASP!*
Many first time mothers let their litters die because they're not sure what to do, but our little Penny did a fabulous job.  Mother rabbits don't stay by their babies, like many other animals normally do.  They nurse them a couple times a day and leave them on their own to avoid drawing attention from any predators.  The babies stay close to one another for warmth and open their eyes after about 7-10 days.  They can have anywhere from 1-8 babies in a litter.
A rare moment to be able to catch the babies nursing, this one hanging upside down like a bat to get that sweet milk.
Penny did such a great job of nursing these babies and they soon turned from small, sleepy, squirming, squeaking runts, to plump, playful, puffy buns.
Pearl and I brought them in this morning to take photos and Ryan was shocked (once again) that these were the babies.  "They're so big!"  Just a few short weeks and they are ready for new homes.
How did that happen so fast?  So it is with our own litters. With young children, grand perspective is so elusive.  We know, in the back of our heads somewhere, that they will grow up and leave home, but in the midst of the potty training, laundry folding, homework completion, ballet lessons, basketball games, and everything else that seems to fill the minutes of each day, that whispering, transparent perspective sometimes blends so well, going unnoticed until we happen to look through old photos of our child who was just learning how to walk, yet somehow wants a phone for Christmas and is already talking of driving.
It happens alarmingly fast.  It's almost as if we should start each day resetting our perspective, taking a moment to remember the day they were born, or even when we were awaiting that day with such anticipation.  I imagine it would sprinkle a sense of calm and contentment over our minds as we feel frustrated or overwhelmed.  A new resolve, perhaps, to not be blindsided by the minutiae, to build the memories now, despite the everyday.
Meanwhile, anyone want a bunny? ;)

03 November 2014

Knudsen Family Reunion 2014

When you think of family reunions, do you get shivers of dread down your spine?  Do you imagine cheeks being pinched by old aunts and eating pork and beans for every meal?
You haven't been to our family reunion, then.  I think my parents should be master event organizers.  They've always been good at creating itineraries and researching the best of the best places to eat and locals to experience.  Their specialty being New York, of course.  I've lost count how many times they've been.
It's been several years since we were all together, ironically, it was in North Carolina both times.
We rented a giant 3 story house on a lake in North Carolina where we all fit just perfectly: 2 grandparents, 6 children, 6 in-laws, and 19 grandchildren!  My parents flew out a bit early, the two families out west flew in together and the rest of us made the drive.
And if you know my family, you know we like a good theme.  And theme color.
We were also given an itinerary in advance with assignments as well as scheduled meals each family was in charge of.  (Neither of the two fathers above are his.  I love it so much.)
My mom faithfully wore her "Cross Yourself" hat throughout the entire reunion.
They chose "Cross Yourself" which is a scripture reference found in The Book of Mormon, Alma 39:9 which says, "Now my son[s and daughters], I would that ye should repent and forsake your sins, and go no more after the lusts of your eyes, but cross yourself in all these things; for except ye do this ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. Oh, remember, and take it upon you, and cross yourself in these things."
Even the older grandchildren had assignments of providing activities for the younger grandchildren and coming up with a grandchildren dance.

Uncle Craig was in charge of the water sports.  And Uncle Craig is the epitome of adventure and fun, despite Eli's laissez-faire attitude below.

And if you dared to fall asleep in the common area, you were subject to me accessorizing your slumber.  Fair game.
One of the sweetest moments was when the grandchildren got up to sing "Sandman", a song that was sung to my mother by hers, and her mother by hers, and back another couple of generations.  There is no music actually written down, but one of those sweet lullabies that has simply drifted from loving lips to little ears down through generations of mothers singing to their children.

Another highlight was the lip sync night.  I have never laughed so hard, watching my parents sing Pink's duet to each other with such gusto.
There were costumes and dances and props.  My kids now believe that Aunt Ashley owns "Shake it Off".  Sorry Taylor. Her pink lashes put it over the top.
I was in charge of the family photo.  Which reaffirms the inkling that I never want to be a professional family photographer.  Whew! This is super Uncle Jacob while I test my settings.
It's really quite amazing that we got a decent one with all those little people.
Ages 13 years - 4 months. I'd even venture to say it's a miracle. Bonus points if you can find Drummer below. ;)
Little Ivy.
Getting the red shoe line-up was almost as much work as the family photo, but it really needed to be documented.
Us. :)
We were also able to hold Azure's baptism at the lake, surrounded by the people who love her most.
She wore the dress that I cut the stain out of.  It's in this post, as is Clover's outfit.
She was a bit nervous, but I loved this contemplative look.  She's a smart one, that Azure.  She doesn't miss a thing, and she's got fire in her spirit.  A fire that will take her wherever her heart desires.
And this photo of Ryan and Azure melts me to a puddle.  A happy, content, proud puddle of a mother and wife.

I feel like it all went by with a whoosh of the lake wind.  Not enough time to chat with everyone for the proper amount of time,
not enough time to share matters of the heart, both good and bad,
but we laughed, loved, and kissed on each other's children.
We will just have to get together to do it more.

Outtakes are always the best.  Haha!