Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Our Granola Recipe

Every few weeks in our house we make a big batch, sometimes two, of granola. I enjoy making this with HG because the quantities are so flexible. The granola is going to taste just as good if some of the oats end up on the floor instead of the mixing bowl and your sous chef eats a large amount of the coconut. And it's incredibly easy and fast. We eat ours on top of plain yogurt, which Martin often makes for us, with raisins or berries. A really delectable treat is Belgian waffles (again made by Martin) topped with yogurt, granola, and strawberries. Strawberry season is still a long way off around here, though.

HG wears one of my early sewing projects--an apron I made when she was about three. Even then she could put it on herself because of the elastic neck strap and the velcro waist strap. It still fits her just fine now that she is nearly six. When she was littler I think wearing the apron made her feel like a big girl and a big helper, but now I'm pretty certain she wears it because she knows it's practical. There are quite a number of chocolate stains on hers.

We mix our granola in a mixer with the bread hook, but you could use a really large bowl. I did that for years before we got our mixer; it works fine but it's harder and more time consuming. 

HG's apron fabric is from a designer called Unison and was handprinted at the textile mill near my house. I bought the pink fabric before I opened my Etsy shop, and I haven't seen it at the mill since. I really like it, but I don't have any more in that colorway. I have it in a forest green/mint green combo and in a light grey/red-brown combo, but no more pink. The child aprons in my shop are identical in style except they have a sweet little pocket in front.

After we mix all the ingredients we spread it out on a large sheet pan. And then we sweep up the floor under HG's stool!

Here is the recipe.

Mix thoroughly:
4 or 5 cups rolled oats
1 cup sesame seeds
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup chopped nuts (we use pecans, but some folks might like hazelnuts)
1/2 cup oil (we use coconut now but have used canola in the past)
1/2 cup liquid sweetener (honey, agave, and maple syrup are all good)

You could also try adding flax seeds or pumpkin seeds. I have made the recipe above, substituting the nuts for the pumpkin seeds so HG could take it to school.

Pour into a large sheet pan and bake for 1 hour in a 300 degree oven. Every 15 minutes, take the granola out and turn it with a large spatula. Let it cool before storing in an airtight container. Doesn't it look fantastic? Too bad you can't smell it!!

It make a great holiday gift in decorative containers and it's brilliant to serve at brunch--so easy. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Visit to Earth Care Farm

Last Friday HG and I visited Earth Care Farm, which is run by the grandparents of one of her Waldorf classmates.

The farm opened their fences for families to take a short tour and see some of their animals. At the end of the tour Farmer Jayne (the mom of HG's classmate) read a story to the kids and passed out cookies and apples. It was a chilly morning but terrific fun. Several of HG's classmates were in attendance, and I enjoy connecting with their parents.

I'm writing about the visit because it is the kind of thing we Waldorf families go nuts for. It was outside, it was smelly, it was muddy, and it was hands-on. Who goes to visit a farm when there's a foot of snow on the ground, it's kinda raining, and it's 37 degrees outside? We do!

HG taking a turn at turning the newest compost.
Earth Care Farm is most known for their compost production. They take all of the manure from the Roger Williams Zoo in Providence! They have gigantic piles of compost almost as big as a house and an employee known as the "compost manager." I think he spends his entire day driving the front loader around and turning the piles.

The seagulls are after the bits of clam meat and other ocean goodies the farm receives for its compost.

All that foggy stuff is steam. I learned today that the inside of a compost pile reaches about 160 degrees. That's the heat produced by the microorganisms eating and and being eaten inside the pile. It takes about a year for the zoo animal manure and everything else to break down into garden-ready compost. The benefits of using compost in your garden rather than artificial fertilizers are significant. AM did a science experiment a couple of years ago where she grew plants in different media. The plants in organic compost won.

I liked the compost piles the best, but we also saw a week-old angus calf, some piglets, and even a tiny little garlic shoot coming up.
The cow shelter (the calf is hiding inside).
I didn't realize until the end of the visit that we were under surveillance.

The spotted piglets are actually called "Cheetah Pigs."

Farmer Jayne's glove is pointing to the tiny little garlic shoot.
At the end, we enjoyed the cookies and the story. Thanks to all the farmers for getting us outside and giving us such a great time.

Please share any ideas you may have for getting out in the cold and wet!  I know we'd all appreciate more thoughts, as one can play chutes and ladders for only so long!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Promise of Product

I am a product person. I have known this for quite some time. Exhaustively democratic meetings where people do not come to conclusions or develop action plans at the end make my skin crawl. I sometimes struggled with teaching what's called "the writing process" to middle schoolers not because I disagreed with the steps needed to develop good writing skills but because if the goal, in the end, is for students to learn to be good writers, I believe at some point they need to actually turn in polished pieces and stop working on them. Writing texts intended for publication, which I did at the Choices Program, was quite satisfying. Every few weeks there was a shiny new book in my hand that I had participated in creating. And I love lists! There is nothing better than a whole list of things crossed off! These days I even write down "take a shower" just so that I can cross it off later and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. I know we're all supposed to live by the Life's a Journey, Not a Destination mantra, but truthfully that approach just doesn't work for me. Think about it, ruminate, consider, ask advice, do more research, but hey, at some point, whatever it is needs to get done. That's where I'm at.

Raising children is most definitely a process thing. If there are any grandparents out there who would like to chime in on when they thought, if ever, they were "done" with their parenting job, I'd be interested to hear it. My husband Martin and I have just embarked on a new discipline strategy with HG that will probably be a forever kind of thing, given the way it works (check out the books on the left column over there if you're interested in what we're doing). It's daunting and will likely be frustrating for me at times, but I'm most definitely willing to suffer some discomfort in order to give HG what she needs to grow into a confident, kind, inquisitive, and independent adult.

I'm now coming to the realization that sewing is a way for me to complete something regularly, and this is probably why I am so addicted. I can conceive of a new idea, turn it around in my head for a while, draft it out, choose fabrics, and then sew it up, and ta da! it's done! I even get to take a picture of it for all to see! Here are some pictures right now, in fact! First up is the bag I made for Christmas for HG's older sister, AM, which I thought would work for her knitting projects.

And here's the small comforter cover that was the first project I made with my new serger a month or so ago. This was a wonderful project to complete as it had been in the works for years. It took me forever to find the blue/green geometric fabric on the back to coordinate with the Sister Parish floral on the front. Now I sit under it most evenings on the couch after HG goes to bed and eat bon bons. Well, sometimes.

During periods of time when I can't sew much, such as school vacation (that's right now!) I really miss the satisfaction of being finished with something. I try to find peace in accomplishing those showers.

What about you? Process or Product? 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

My Life Before Sewing

I mentioned in my first post that I used to be a teacher and a curriculum writer. I thought I'd share a little bit more about my life before my addiction to sewing took over.

After graduating from college I started a middle school teaching job in a K-12 school about 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia. To be honest, I wasn't thrilled at first to be hired to teach middle school. I'd hoped to land a high school job, but since I had majored in Cultural Anthropology/African Studies, many schools didn't think I was prepared enough to teach high school level English. This turned out to be a good thing, though, as my college career and my summer jobs did prepare me well for working with middle schoolers, who are a lot like some exotic cultural group that outsiders (ie, adults) are encountering for the first time. I actually used my ethnographic training quite often, and I think I was pretty successful. I also came to really, really enjoy middle schoolers. Much more so than high schoolers, whom I did have an opportunity to teach later on. After my stint at my first school in Philadelphia, I got a master's in education, taught middle school history again at a different K-12 school in Providence, RI, and then turned in a slightly different direction.

For a year I worked in what most people would call an "inner city school." I headed to Boston to lead one of the school-based programs funded by a US Department of Education grant which was designed to give underserved middle schoolers (again with those young teens!) an early start on preparing for and gaining awareness of college. There I hired a staff of afterschool tutors to offer extra academic help to all the students I could get my hands on at that school, developed an academic summer program, and took students on college visits around the city. While I think we were helpful and planted some good seeds, I found the bureaucracy of dealing with the US Dept of Education, the Boston Public Schools, the school in which I worked, and the local college which was my official employer to be just too much. It was hard to get things done with so many different entities to report to and satisfy all the time.

So I made another small adjustment and moved back to Providence to work at the Choices Program at Brown University. Choices develops curricula on world history and current international events for use in high schools. What a brilliant place for a person like me to work. Every time I explained what I did to teachers they swooned. About half my job was teaching teachers how to use the curricular materials we wrote, and about half was actually writing those materials. I had a very cushy office in a brand new building, really wonderful and incredibly dedicated colleagues, and I got to research and write about interesting world topics ALL THE TIME. Two of the biggest projects I worked on while there were a unit on South Africa

When my daughter was born I decided it was best for my sanity and her early childhood for me to stay home. Sooner or later I will go back to working in education, but working full time and managing a household of five while commuting three hours a day simply doesn't work. So now I'm a full time mom and a part time business owner. The deadlines I impose are my own. HG doesn't even realize I have a job besides her, which I think is good, although pretty soon she is going to start wondering why there are so many piles and piles of fabric! Certainly she will figure out it's not all ending up as clothes in her closet!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

It is Valentine's Day and I wanted to share with you the lovely handmade cards HG received from the children in her class. They celebrated on Wednesday because not all the children come to school on Fridays. Her class is mixed age and many younger children come only three days, which is M-W at her school. 

In HG's Waldorf classroom there is a special emphasis on handing out the cards. Each child has an opportunity to play postal carrier, and the other children sit facing the outside of the circle, according to HG. I'm not completely clear on how or why the distribution works like that--it's not always easy to get the full story from a five-year-old, but like everything else in Miss Nancy and Miss Jane's classroom, I trust them to have a reason supported by years of experience and love and knowledge of young children. In any case, HG was very excited about the day, and when I asked her whether she preferred giving or receiving her valentines, she wholeheartedly said "giving!"

Here are some of the lovely cards HG received from her classmates.  

Those two mulitcolored 3D hearts are made from melted crayons. This child must have had a lot of fun making his valentines! 

I admire the dedication it takes the children to do these--imagine the effort this nearly-six child expended writing the same thing on 12 cards. Keep in mind that at Waldorf schools children are not introduced to letters at this age, so while some children have some familiarity, they are not used to spending time writing every day!  

This child baked little clay hearts. 

Here is a younger child's exploration with letters (back), and a gorgeous softly watercolored heart (front). 

More cuteness with lettering and cutting.

The children also spent time in school the last couple of weeks making valentines for their families. According to HG, Miss Nancy's husband carved these beautiful hearts from a fallen tree in their yard. Someone at school folded the boxes from paper, and the children sanded and then oiled (waxed? I'm not sure what they put on the wood) their hearts. Each heart came placed in the box on a bed of natural wool roving. 

The teachers' valentine was homemade strawberry jam, quite possibly made from the strawberries that grow in the children's play yard. HG enjoyed an awful lot of hers on her toast this morning! 

We enrolled HG in Waldorf because of how often the children go outside, the dedication to educating the whole child, and how beautiful the spaces are, among other things. While the emphasis on community and on teaching life lessons like the joys of giving wasn't entirely unexpected, I am always amazed at the depth of care the teachers and children show. 

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Love, Maude Embroidery

Hi everyone, 

It's late here and I need to get to bed, but I really wanted to show you something I bought on Etsy for my daughter. It's now hanging in her room by her bed and I smile every time I see it. I love slowly filling the spaces in our house with handmade things. We have a lot of gadgets, too, like a zillion computers and phones (don't get me started on the phone thing) and a toaster and a soda stream and the list goes on. But there are some very special pieces, like this one, that took someone (in this case, her name is Sandy) with a careful eye and a nimble hand a great deal of time to create. 

Here it is, an embroidered hoop. So pretty. HG likes to finger it a little each night when she gets ready for bed. I'm pretty sure that even though she's only five she recognizes the work that went into it and appreciates that someone made it for just for her. 

You can find more of these gorgeous pieces, including headbands and bookmarks, here, at Love, Maude

Monday, February 10, 2014

Hot Water Bottles are so Yummy!

For many of us, winter rages on. We had snow yet again this morning. I thought I'd share the hot water bottle cozy I made a little while ago. The cozy slips on and off with a simple pillowcase-type closure in the back. There aren't any buttons or anything, just fabric from the top of the cozy laying over fabric from the bottom. To change the water you just slip your hand in and pull the bottle out a little. 

I used some leftover luxurious felt that my mother had in a drawer in the attic for the main cover. It's a lovely dark grey color and is a substantial but pliable wool. For the circles I used some lightweight wool felt I had purchased in tiny swatch sizes a couple of years ago. 

It was kind of daring of me to use contrasting thread to sew on the circles, since you can see every stitch that way. Sewing the little spiral on the littlest piece of felt was not easy. But the wobbles are whimsical and cute.  

Here is the cozy with a little friend, a gnome doll I made from my daughter's teacher's pattern. That was mostly hand sewn from flannel scraps, and I stuffed it with wool roving that I purchased from another Etsy seller. I hadn't intended for the two of them to match, but they look really sweet together! 

I bought a new hot water bottle for this project. I find that the heat it puts out is very soothing, nicer feeling than a heating pad, and safer, too. We keep our house pretty cold because we like to conserve energy as much as possible (our big kids will tell you it's because we're crazy and we like to torture them), so getting into bed with a hot water bottle is kind of a necessity for me. It's also lovely for healing small tummyaches and for snuggling with on the couch under a comforter. I'm off to sew up some new snack bags with my serger now! 

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Hi! And welcome to Lila Creates. I am Sarah, a self-taught sewer and owner of the Etsy shop LilaKids. In my previous life I was a teacher, a teacher trainer, and curriculum writer, but after my daughter was born I took up sewing. I don't really know why I turned to sewing, but I find it therapeutic and I love the feeling of taking something flat and turning it into something beautiful and useful. 

I've started this blog as a way to communicate with customers and potential customers about my work. When I purchase things from artisans I always appreciate knowing a little more about the person who made the item and the story behind it. If I wasn't that interested I could always go to some big box store and get something anonymous, right? But the heritage of the item, even if it was just made yesterday, adds value to it and is fun to learn about. So this is where I'll be able to tell more about how I decide to make the items in my shop, how people use them, and I'll be able to share more about me. 

I'm also really looking forward to the conversations blogging enables. I would LOVE to hear from people about how they're using Lila products, ideas you have for improving them or new items to make, or any tidbits you'd like to share about your life and any creative adventures you may have. 

So today I'm going to share with you some photos of my studio. Yikes! It's not always very neat, and I didn't tidy it up before taking these because I thought you'd rather see the real me, not some House Beautiful version. So here's photo one, of my beloved machines: 

my laptop, my standard sewing machine, and my new serger
My camera is missing from the photo but that's an important machine for me too. In the back are some artworks from my daughter, who'll be known as HG here. Way off on the bottom right you see my reading glasses. Those became necessary last year, to my dismay. 

the needle and thread drawer
Above is the drawer that holds my needles and threads. Different sewing projects need different kinds of threads and machine needles. There are also a bunch of sewing machine "feet" which make it possible to do different kinds of things, like add zippers to things. Let me know if you'd like a tour of the specifics in this drawer and what everything does! 

here is what I mean by "it's not House Beautiful"
Next up is the natural state of my unironed fabric. It looks dreadful. Or maybe we should say it's just waiting to fulfill its destiny. That sounds a little more charitable. At one point I had an actual system, where linens were on bottom and solid cottons on top, but clearly that is no longer the case. Below is the ironed fabric, all nicely hanging. I've had to triple and quadruple up the yardage since I don't have enough space in the closet for everything to have its own hanger. 

All fabric needs to be prewashed and ironed before it can be cut and sewn. This can be a really lengthy process, actually. Sometimes I wash linen several times to get it softer before I work with it. And ironing huge long pieces of fabric is not easy. 

Finally, a nice photo of my belts all in a row. I like looking at these beauties all together. They don't sell well in the shop, and I haven't figured out why. I've tried them on both myself and HG and they work fantastic. Mine is an adult version of the pink one at the end, and hers is the one with the green circles. They're easy to put on, pretty, really sturdy but also flexible.... Plus, I toss them in the wash when they get a little dingy looking. If anyone has any ideas about either design or marketing improvements I could make to help them sell better, I'm all ears!

 LilaKids Belts

I noticed I forgot to take a photo of my cutting table. I'll have to do another post about the rest of my studio. Stay tuned! And in the meantime, please let me know what kinds of things you'd like to me to write about in the future! Thanks for reading!