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Friday
Dec192014

Apparently, this matters. Also, Christmas decor, 2014.

Remember when I made those awesome custom mattresses, mattress covers, waterproof sheets, and custom bed sheets for the girls' bed in our studio apartment? 

The girls loved that bed, and so did we. It was the perfect way to give them their own space in a tiny-living footprint. But, apparently people were genuinely concerned when they heard we had moved to a new house. I got six private messages, two emails, and half a dozen people who asked me in person about why we moved.

The gist of their concern, "but you spent so much time making their beds!"

I'm a bit flummoxed, I have to admit. I love sewing for our girls, and at the time I worked on their bed, we weren't sure we'd be moving into a new space. Doesn't everyone want to make the place they are living in feel comfortable for their family? Even if you plan on moving later? We had had enough uncertainty for the year. The last thing I wanted to do was throw some blankets down and tell the girls, 'hey, stick with that for awhile. We might move again..." 

Plus, I love sewing and creating things. Especially unique, custom jobs like their little bedroom.

Our new place has more room for me to spread out and work for Sew Sew Sew Your Boat.

It also has a safe, enclosed yard for the girls to play outside in, and it is small enough so we can keep our minimalist life style alive and kicking.

While the bed project at the old studio was time-consuming, I can't imagine using the work I put into the bed as a reason to not move to a place with a safe yard and a floor plan that lets me do canvas work.

Lo, if you were one of many of the concerned, be ye not worried any longer. Yay, for I have gone forth and conquered our new space and I shall present you with a multitude of images that showeth this abundance.

Damn, I'm good with scripture talk. (Ye can take the girl out of the Mormon, but you can't take the Mormon out of... the girl?)

Also, the mattresses I made for their bed are now temporary "couches" for us until we get around to making a custom couch.

Someday.

Eventually.

I think.

We are keeping things simple, as always, chez Kaufman. 

When we first moved in, a friend gave us an old, dirty ladder. 

Perfecto.

The girls and I cleaned it up and used it to make this:

Bonus? When Christmas is over we have a nice, clean ladder for use around the house.

I'm so enamored with the ladder tree that I think I may never go back to a regular tree again. It's the magic and warmth of the lights that really makes it work. Plus, no pine needles, no dead tree to dispose of afterwards, and I can move the ladder around if I need access to that space.

When we moved on board, years ago, I gave my older brother my large-bulb, vintage-style Christmas lights. He kept them. And this season, he gave them back to me. He also kept my box of Christopher Radko ornaments too.

My brother, Rich, is awesome.

 

My attempts at taking Christmas photos of the girls reinforced how much I love professional photographers, and how useless I am at doing anything even remotely professional-looking when it comes to kids and photos.

I turned my back for a second and she had found Scotch tape and was using it to wrap up everything.

TAPE ALL THE THINGS. I tell you.

See those stockings? They are custom-made for us by Good Wishes Quilts

We can officially not have any more kids, because, custom stockings, folks: the next kid would be totally left out of the fun!

See that painting? Anyone recognize the image? (Hint: Cora, circa Christmas 2012).

That is an original oil painting in board by Kelly Paige Standard. My next blog post will be about that painting, and the other work I have commissioned from her. Needless to say, to have that painting as an addition to our home this Christmas season is a true gift.

We are happily surrounding ourselves with handmade gifts from friends like that Rudolf, from our friends Renee and Dan.

And we're using the Christmas cards sent from friends to make the whole house merry. Thank you, friends.

For whatever holiday you celebrate (or don't) this season, I wish you a happy December full or love and hygge.  

Tuesday
Dec022014

Sparkle Stories | A Sailor Mom's Review 

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, we were a family that was sailing across the Pacific Ocean. We had planned for the trip for years. And as we were doing our final departure prep in January and February of this year, I started collecting things for my little kids to do on what would be a long, and tedious passage, especially for small children.

I talked to other sailing moms and asked in Women Who Sail for recommendations and several moms suggested I pick up audio stories for Cora to listen to. The most frequently recommended stories were 'Sparkle Stories,' so I checked them out, and their site piqued my interest.

I contacted them to see if they'd be willing to send me a series of their stories for Cora in exchange for my review of them, and they agreed. I was amazed at how easy it was to download the stories and start listening. I had purchased two SanDisk Sansa Clip MP3 players for the trip, and I was able to swiftly put the Sparkle Stories MP3s directly on it. I didn't tell Cora about the stories until we were out to sea. I waited until she was getting bored, and had gone through a rotation of the toys we had brought on passage until I pulled out a set of headphones and asked if she wanted to listen.

"What's a Sparkle Story, mommy? Are they all sparkly?!!"

She was hooked. Cora listened and listened throughout the voyage and I'm so grateful we found these audio stories to bring along with us. But this review isn't about how handy these are on a long ocean passage. Because as most of our readers know, our voyage was cut short, and we found ourselves back on land with our lives turned upside down.

Like a true class act, no one at Sparkle Stories contacted me to ask, "hey, so...about that review you promised..." and I'm grateful they didn't, because I can now sit down, after almost nine months of experience playing Sparkle Stories for my daughter and give a very complete description of my feelings (and hers) about their product.

They have an entire series called 'Stories for Helping and Healing,' with themes like dealing with childhood fears, grief and loss, resilience, gratitude and moving (to name a few).  These topics resonated with Cora during the months after our world turned upside down in April.

When we drove back to San Diego, in a new-to-us car, and all the possessions we owned crammed in the back, Sparkle Stories came with us. Cora listened in her car seat as Eric drove and I looked forward toward an unknown plan for our family. After each story Cora would loudly start talking about what she heard. (Loudly because she had those big ear phones on).

On that drive we all got to know Sparkle Stories more and it gave us an excellent platform for discussing the changes going on in our life.

Now that Cora doesn't nap, I have found Sparkle Stories to be a handy parenting tool for when I'd like her to have some quiet time while her sister sleeps.

I tell her it is story time and she jumps up and down and runs to assemble a "comfy, cozy" place to listen:

Sometimes she listens with head phones on. She endearingly calls them 'phone ears.'

But after buying this nifty speaker that plugs directly into an MP3 player, she mostly asks for me to put the stories on while she plays and putters.

Cora is like her father when it comes to getting things done; she can actually listen to music and audio while she works. I cannot. So if the choice is for her to play with or without music or stories, she will always pick listening to Martin & Silvia.

Organizing my fabric scraps while listening to Sparkle Stories.

Building while she listens, dress up while she listens, lunch while listens (see the ever present speaker and Sansa Clip in the last photo?)

Sometimes she clips the Sansa player to her and walks around with her head phones on listening.

When she is sick, she wants to listen to Martin and Silvia:

And when the girls go outside to play, she asks me to hang the speaker up so they can listen while they play.

If Lyra isn't napping, she is listening too:

Coloring while listening.  (Lyra's adorable dress is from Alexa Idolina on Etsy).

Rough-and-tumble while Martin & Silvia are on.

Tinkering while listening. (Those are GoldidBlox she is working with.)

While I can't ask Lyra what she thinks of Sparkle Stories, I can tell you that she starts to dance at the start of every new story when their signature jingle begins.

Cora, can tell you how she feels. After I took this video she told me that she wanted to get some books on magic from the library the next time we went. Sure thing, kid!

Another bonus of Sparkle Stories? If you are feeling guilty for your kids having too much screen time, this is yet another parenting tool that can ease that guilt. When I tell Cora that her time on the iPad is done, she immediately asks to listen to Sparkle Stories instead. This is a switch I am perfectly happy making.

Adult to adult I will tell you that I don't personally find Sparkle Stories very interesting. They move slowly, the narrator explains everything in painful detail, and I drift quickly from active listening to tuning the stories out.

This is both handy and makes sense. It is handy because I work from home, so what my kids are listening to, I am listening to, and it makes sense because the stories are perfectly targeted to their audience. They also have different story sets for different age ranges.

Right now, Cora listens to At Home with Martin and Silvia on repeat. She adores them, and that is all that matters. If I want to have my mind stimulated, I'll turn on NPR. 

Thanks to Sparkle Stories for introducing us to the world of audio stories and Martin & Silvia. Our kids will be growing up with their stories for a long time.

You can check out their website here: SparkleStories.com

They currently have an advent story series that we are enjoying as well. Info here (scroll down to find it). 

If you are looking to buy children in your life a gift that is not a toy, Sparkle Stories are a wonderful idea.

Enjoy!

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We received about 15 audio stories from Sparkle Stories in exchange for this review, but all of the opinions in this post are my own! 

Thursday
Nov272014

A Very Kaufman Thanksgiving 2014

Thanksgiving 2013 | Dinner and dancing at Philo's Bar in La Cruz

Last year for Thanksgiving we had just sailed across the Sea of Cortez and attended the cruiser's potluck Thanksgiving at Philo's Bar in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Mexico.

And the year before that? Well, for Thanksgiving 2012 I was in Albuquerque, New Mexico on a modified bed rest and about 12 hours away from a kidney stone attack while in my second trimester of pregnancy with Lyra.

Eric at the impromptu cruiser's 2012 Thanksgiving ashore in Turtle Bay, Mexico.

And Eric was in Turtle Bay waiting for a good weather window to continue solo sailing our boat from Ensenada to La Cruz, Mexico.

--------------------------

Now it is 2014; it feels like a lifetime since our time in Mexico, and since we lost our Rebel Heart. We are in San Diego, and regrouping, still. How long does it take to regroup after something like what we experienced? I'll tell you later, like 20 years from now.

While the East Coast braces for a freezing Nor'easter, my children don sun hats and kick their feet in warm, California waters. Day before Thanksgiving 2014.

If you follow our Facebook, then you know we recently moved out of our darling studio apartment. More on that to come, but I give you now the snapshots from our land-based Kaufman Thanksgiving 2014.

Eric knocked his portion of the cooking out in the morning. He peeled and cut all of the sweet potatoes. He is awesome. (I hate both of those jobs and he has an incredible love for sweet potatoes, so this really works out for us both.)

This year was the first time Cora went with me on my annual Thanksgiving morning run. I've been going on a run like this for maybe 17 years now? There is something so comforting about jogging the streets of my neighborhood on Thanksgiving morning. The yards I pass by are quiet and sleepy, and the smells of cooking waft on the air, making me hungry and fueling my energy. "Run harder, run faster, eat more," I tell myself.

I asked Cora if she wanted to come along and she was thrilled. She chose her own jogging outfit (you can't see the leggings under her skirt, but they were there too). Who am I to tell someone what to run in? After our high-five photo she said, "How about a hug picture, mom?"

Don't have to ask me twice, sister.

And so we headed out. Only, our yard is very shady and our place is nice and cool. When we stepped out onto the street we had a rude awakening. It was HOT. Almost 90 degrees out, and Cora and I looked at each other and turned right back around. There was no way either of us were going running the way we were dressed.

I derail the story line to share this picture, because Lyra.

Annnndddddddddddddddd we're back:

Now we were ready for some seri0s business!

Do you have any idea how cool it is to go running with your kid? And Cora is really quite a good little runner. I was elated to share my tradition with her. I hope I get to do it with her, and Lyra, for many, many years to come.

Dancing to NPR's 2014 Thanksgiving playlist

After the run it was time to actually get cooking. I was already hot and sweaty; better to get all the cooking done like that and then shower before the guests arrived.

But not before....

Yes, not before our sink clogged and Eric had to fix it. I had to laugh at this. It wouldn't be a major holiday without something breaking or going wrong, and it made me ache for the boat, because boat life is just a continuous series of fixing things when you least want to. 

There was a lot of garlic to chop, and homemade vinaigrette to shake up (I make all of my own dressings. So.much.tastier.)

There were actually two pots like this; one for Eric and one for the rest of us.

I swear.

Farmer's Market Skillet | Recipe by Iowa Girl Eats

Our full 2014 Thanksgiving Menu included:

  1. Pre-cooked turkey breasts purchased from Trader Joe's. I have zero interest in cooking a bird.
  2. Trader Joe's turkey gravy (also zero interest in making gravy.)
  3. This mouth-watering Garlic Spaghetti Squash with Herbs via Pinch of Yum
  4. All-time family favorite, Farmer's Market Skillet via Iowa Girl Eats
  5. And sweet potatoes with butter and salt. Nothing else, thank you.

Then the guests arrived, and they brought dessert!!

Mele is the girls' godmother, and pretty much their favorite person because she does things like let them lick the spatula.

My brother, Rich, made some kind of ridiculously awesome peppermint chocolate, frozen pie thing. Mele made these mouth-watering coconut macaroon thumbprint cookies with raspberry chia seed jam via Oh She Glows. And I'm sincere when I say they are mouth-watering. I actually salivate when I think of them. TMI? Eh, try them. You will love me, and Mele, forever.

The girls sat at the kid table and yes, yes, Cora is wearing a pint-sized Home Depot apron to Thanksgiving Dinner.

Whatever floats your boat, kid.

Mele and Rich.

Rich and Jesse.

Me and Eric.

And that was it. It was a tiny Thanksgiving and it felt just right. A first holiday meal in our new home and a way to celebrate and give thanks for the abundance of things we feel grateful for right now.

Of course, we had to have that pie. Cora's face above is exemplary of her feelings about the pie.

"Can I have some more, please?

Please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please?" 

Cora snapped this as we headed out for an after-dinner constitutional.

Our evening ended quietly after the walk, with coffee and amaze-balls cookies, oh, and introducing the girls to Animalia by Graeme Base.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends <3

Friday
Nov072014

Studio Living | Custom bookshelves for a closet bedroom

When we moved into the studio in May it quickly became apparent that Cora wanted a special place of her own. A place where she could keep her personal treasures safe from Lyra "the destroyer" as she so lovingly calls her little sister. 

Angelic she may seem, but this kid is a whirlwind of the best kind of little kid trouble.

We had all the leftover paint from this hanging wall organizer project, so the girls and I went to Lowe's and got the wood and trim we needed to make custom shelves in their closet bedroom.

First, I explained, we needed to sand the wood.

Cora is an earnest kid, "Is this good, mom?" She kept checking.

"Don't worry, mom, I'll sand yours too."

Thanks, bud. I've got a lot of work to do, after all, sitting here taking pictures of your adorable-ness.

My heart!!

Okay, I digress.

We worked on this project over a couple of days while Lyra napped.

Next up? Painting:

I let Cora pick the colors from the rainbow assortment we had on hand. She picked pink, pink, yellow, and green. (Hey, at least it wasn't ALL pink!)

Her painting was meticulous for an almost four year old (we did this project way back in May/June when she was still three).

Fabulous!!!

Once they were installed I drilled holes on the front left and right sides and strung thin bungee up in lines from top to bottom. This way the girls could easily get their books in and out, but if there was an earthquake, the books wouldn't fall forward and down onto their sleeping noggins.

Cora can't reach the top green shelf so I reserved that shelf for some of my things.

The hot pink shelf is Cora's "special shelf." Lyra can't reach it and Cora places all her treasures there.

And the bottom two shelves hold a lot of their books.

I loved doing this project with Cora. That afternoon on the steps sanding with her is a stand-out favorite Cora memory for me.

Cora, when you read this one day, know how much I love you. And how much joy I get creating things with you, and for you.

Wednesday
Nov052014

Studio Living | Custom Sheets for a Closet Bed

View Part One here | View Part Two here | This is Part Three

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At last, the third and final post in the my-girls-sleep-in-a-closet-series!

I give you the custom top sheets I made for the cushions in their "bedroom:"

Hello lovelies!

After cutting the foam to the right shape, and sewing custom mattress covers and waterproof sheets, I finished the custom top sheets.

I bought a queen-size sheet set at Target on clearance. I use the fitted sheet for our bed up in the loft. I used the flat sheet and the pillow cases to make the custom sheets for the girls.

I even undid the seams on the pillow cases to use every last usable bit of fabric to create these.

I made the top portion of the sheets fit like a sheath on the cushions, and the bottom part had elastic like traditional fitted sheets. This assured that the sheets stayed on nice and tight (and looked good too).

I used every scrap of fabric from the sheet and pillowcase to make TWO SETS of sheets.

If you are just skimming through this post looking at pictures, let me repeat:

PRO TIP: MAKE TWO SETS OF SHEETS.

If you are going to go through the trouble of making custom sheets, remember that kids get sheets dirty. Things happen. Have a spare set on hand while the other set is in the laundry.

I also used spare fabric on hand to make the bottom pieces (of the sheath bit) and the sides as well.

I grabbed some spare blue flannel to finish the sides and for one bottom piece.

Only problem? When I put the cushion in the bed, you could see the blue peaking out, and the perfectionist in me couldn't handle it.

See? See the blue peaking out?

Just no.

So I went to a thrift store (because I was out of spare white fabric) and found two white curtain panels originally from Ikea, and bought them both for...wait for it....three dollars.

WIN!

Whew. So much better.

:random adorable photos of Lyra I took while sewing this project:

And the finished product:

Happy girls showing off their new bed.

This post would not be complete without an adorable video of Cora (and Lyra) as she shows off her bed, her special shelf, and Lyra the "Destroyer."