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Why I made it: Swaddling Baby

I recently added a new item to my shop. It’s a sweet doll sized swaddling blanket with a miniature baby. It’ s always exciting when you come up with a new idea for your shop. It’s important to keep creating new designs. Why? For one thing, it keeps you from getting bored.Who wants to make the same item over and over again?

Also it keeps your customers excited about your creations when you constantly add new cute products to your shop.

Nk swaddle baby 1

 

I was inspired to create this particular item in my shop by my youngest sister’s pregnancy. I had recently visited her in Germany. I packed a number of baby items that I had saved for her.

When you are only allowed to carry 25 pounds of luggage it’s hard to decide what to bring…So I mostly took things that I thought would be useful and clothing items that my mother had knitted for my babies.

Our mom passed away in 2004. It’s hard for me to think about how she will never get to see or hold my sister’s baby. It must be sad for my little sister, too. But I know these knitted clothes and baby items that my mother sent to my kids will mean a lot to my sister.

Nk swaddle baby 2

So upon my return I realized I forgot a thing or two. One forgets so much…I had not thought about nursing bras in years.  My sister still needed one. They are quite expensive in Germany. I still had one laying around in a drawer. Why does one hang on to those things? Why can’t we let go of stuff? I fondly remember the days of nursing my two children. How can you throw it away? And who would want a used nursing bra anywasy? It’s an item you can only pass along to a sister or very good friend. 😉

NK rosalind with baby 3

 

As I wrapped up the nursing bra and some washable nursing bra pads my eyes spotted a swaddling blanket. I instantly knew my sister would need one of those. I had never seen one in Germany. They are not handed out in hospitals to new mothers like they do in the US. It is probably one of my fondest memories: Recieving my newborn babe wrapped in a little swaddling blanket.

Next an idea hit me: why not make a tiny swaddle blanket for my miniature pocket dolls? That would be so cute gift for an expecting mother or a sibling gift. And I had just the right fabric to do so. The little sweet pea blankets come in a blue-green or pink version.

NK green swaddle baby 3 copy

My sister loved the little green sprout I sent her for practice along with the bigger blanket that will soon hold her sweet new baby boy.

 

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New Raised Beds

Over spring break our family built new raised beds. It was such a fun project, and the whole family pitched in. Our old raised beds had rotted out after about 5 years of use. They were only 7 inches tall. We decided to make the new beds 10 inches higher. Must be the old woman in me – I really appreciate not having to bend down so far. Raised beds are great in that respect.

Building raised beds is a bit of a time and money commitment. But they are so rewarding when you consider how much more produce you get.  We are hoping that the plants will be able to grow even deeper roots in the taller boxes.

 

Nk rotted wood

 

In the photos you can see the boards of our old beds. They rotted because we used plain untreated wood.  I was a bit sad to see my old garden gate getting dismantled. But I am very happy about the new beds.  The new raised beds are made of redwood.

Of course, they are not treated with chemicals either, yet they are supposed to last a lifetime. The wood was a bit more expensive but hopefully we don’t have to rebuild again in five years.

We built a total of four boxes. It cost us about $300 (for planks of redwood, new fenceposts, and screws) and three days of labor. That includes the time it took to take out the old beds.

002

We covered one of the beds with old storm windows we found in our basement. Now the beds work like a miniature greenhouse. On warm days we take the windows off and let the sunshine warm the bed. During the last 3 winterstorms we closed the bed up to shield our small seedlings from the cold and ice.

Jonah with tools 2

NK raised beds

seedlings

The children had fun using power tools to help build them. I am looking forward to the spinach, Swiss chard, and Kale already growing. Check out our first little seedlings! I can’t wait to plant more stuff.

garden fairy 2

I am getting ready to be in a local art show. It’s been a while since I exhibited my work at Madison& Main gallery. It’s a wonderful artist coop, and if you are in the vicinity make sure you check it out. I figured my little garden fairy would go nicely with this post. Maybe she can sprinkle some magic fairy dust to make our plants grow faster. If you would like to meet this  sweet Garden Fairy in person you will find her after May 1rst at Madison & Main. Unfortunately I’ll have to miss the grand opening of this show since I’ll be traveling in Germany by then.

 

 

 

 

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Tools of Trade: Washboard for Wet Felting

Remember my post about my journey with felting? I recently tought myself how to wetfelt. Most of the things I needed I had at home already. Soap, hot water, old towels, roving. What was missing was one of those cool washboards for agitating the wool.

Luckily I finally got a hold of one.

 

You can read the story of how I came across it here.

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Indian Flatbread Recipe

The other day our family made some Indian food. We love to cook together as a family. Now that the kids are turning into teenagers I find it is an important task for me as a parent to teach them how to prepare food. I can’t help but have these horror-images of the children moving away when they go to college living on junkfood and instant soups. They may still end up living that way but as  parent I feel I must at least try to give them the skill set to cook and take good care of themselves…Right?

Our son loves hot food. Our daughter not so much…

But she really enjoyed making Indian flatbreads we served with the chicken dish we prepared. It’s kind of funny how people on the other side of the world came up with a type of bread that is a lot like tortillas made in the Americas…Since my husband is part Mexican we eat a lot of tortillas in this household. So we were really excited to try Naan.

naan

 

You don’t need very many ingredients to make Naan.  All it takes is 4 different items and a bit of time to rest the dough. That’s always a tough one. Who has time in this fast-paced life? But we try to make time on weekends for our cooking adventures together.

Ingredients:

3-4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups plain low-fat yoghurt

How to make it?

Step #1  Combine all the dry ingredients and mix them together well.

Step #2 Slowly pour in the two cups of yoghurt and stir it until the dough stiffens. When you can’t stir it any more it’s time to knead the dough with your hands. We first worked it into a big ball inside the bowl.

Step#3 Dump out the ball of dough and knead it into a nice stretchy consistency. It shouldn’t be too wet nor too dry.

Step#4 Put a touch of oil in the bowl and put the dough back in the bowl. Roll the dough around in the oil. Cover with a towel and let it reast for one hour or more if you have time…

Step#5 Shape the dough into 10-12 even little balls. Depending on how much flour you use you get more or less bread…

Step#6 Roll out the little balls and shape them into thin flatbreads. We made ours round and of about 1/4 inch thickness. But I remember seeing them in Indian restaurants looking kind of rectangular.

Step#7 Put the flatbread one bread at a time in castiron skillet on the stovetop. Brown it on one side for a minute or two then flip it over and do the other side. Put your flatbread in the oven under the broiler. Leave there until the breads puff up then remove and put in a basket with a dishcloth in it.

This bread is so yummy. It has a slightly sour taste from the yoghurt. And guess what? There was none of Naan left after dinner.

 

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Birchleaf Designs’ Poem

   This awesome diamante style poem was sent in by Wendy from BirchLeaf Designs.  Wendy and her husband  Mojo have been part of the Natural Kids team for many years. They live in the woods of Michigan creating the most wonderful playsilks and toys that spark the imagination.
Wendy is also in charge of our Naturla Kids Team’s  Facebook page. Thanks for the lovely poem and being a valuable member of this team!
              
Silk
 Soft, Colorful
Flowing, Playing, Wrapping
  Sling,   Dress,   Cape,   Knight  
Fighting, Pretending, Protecting
        Brave, Honorable
         Sword
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New Natural Kid on the Blog: JWrobel

My broodbaby collection started rather organically.  It was a seed that was planted long ago and was slowly nurtured into what it has become:  a line of wardrobe, accessories, home decor and patterns all with the comfort of your baby, you and your home, and our planet in mind.

My materials are all either organic, fair trade, eco friendly, and/or recycled, my favorites being the organic fair trade soft and chunky cottons I knit the cocoon style buntings from and the recycled woolens and sweaters I make the Sweet Critters with.
I design and work with many different techniques including knitting, rug hooking, sewing, and appliqué.  Going to work every day is a joy and an unfolding story.  New designs are endlessly twirling around in my head, and I’m always thinking of new ways I can tinker with a current one:  how would the pigs look in a novelty color?  What happens if I shift my perspective on a hooked piece?  And my work is frequently inspired by the materials I find.  Especially when working with recycled materials, I never know what I will discover or what will come out of it.  My need to not waste anything is a driving force behind my design process, too.  Just about everything gets used.  Just about everything finds new life.  Peonies grow from the linings of jackets and tiny pieces of felted wool left over from making the Organic Lavender Starfish Sachets become the appliqué pieces for penny rugs and tooth pillows.

I particularly love creating for commissions and special orders.  What is better than exploring all the design possibilities to create something just for your special cherub?   What will make his or her little smiling face burst with happiness?
What I love most about what I do is knowing that everything I make is going to a special babe and their family.  Through my work, I seek to bring comfort and joy to you and yours through the quality and simplicity of a well made, well loved, handmade life.  From my hands to your home.

Jess Wrobel
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Farm Fresh Eggs Breakfast

Please enjoy this recipe sent in by Natural Kids Team Member Wendy from Birchleaf Designs. It sounds really yummy. Maybe I can get some eggs from the farms around here to make it.
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Here on the BirchLeaf Farm, our chickens are laying eggs  like crazy…even in this cold, cold weather!
Go Ladies Go!
When we have an over abundance of eggs, we like to bake  up this tasty lil’ breakfast dish:
Egg Cake
10 eggs (beaten)
1 1/2 cup flour
2 Tsp baking powder
4 Tbl butter
1/2 cup milk
little bit of sweetener (optional)
Beat eggs in a bowl, add flour and baking powder and mix  well. In a small pan, heat up butter, milk and optional sweetener – we do not  add sweetener because we like to add maple syrup on top when  eating!
Take heated mixture and gently fold into the egg/flour  mix. Pour into a greased and floured 9×13″ baking pan. Bake at 375 for about 25  minutes or until golden brown.
Serve while hot and add your favorite toppings! We like  to add maple syrup and blueberries, but the options are limitless!
Enjoy!
Love,
Wendy

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Best Chicken Stock

This wonderful recipe was sent in by Natural Kids Team friend Beccijo Neff from the Enchanted Cupboard. Our family composts. I never thought about using the scraps in such a way. Now we must give it a try.

=====================================================================================================================Best Best Chicken Stock

The best part about this recipe is that it is free (depending on your garden and pantry). This stock is made from thing you would have just thrown away and a few herbs. If you grow your own herbs then there is no up front cost. I must warn you I am not a measure kind of cook, it is all about smell and taste to me. Cooking is a craft and act of love and that is how I cook. This stock can be done quickly if you buy the items or you can save the items over a few weeks and make this on a rainy day!

 
You will need these cooking tools:

 

1 Stock Pot Strainer/Colander Canning jars
While you are doing you every day cooking do not throw away the cut off ends of veggies. Here is a list of things to save skins and all: Onion Garlic Carrots Celery
Add these items to a large freezer bag or container to store in your freezer. Once you have collected enough to fill your stock pot ( for me about a months worth) then it is a good night to have roasted chicken for dinner, save the bones and make your stock the next day. If you want to do this right away then you can buy some of each item and cut up into large chunks and put into your stock pot and you can always get a rotisserie chicken from your local grocery store, remove the meat for another meal and add the bones to the stock.
Herbs to add: Handful of Parsley 1 bay leaf 1/2 Handful of Thyme 1/2 handful of Rosemary A few peppercorns
Read to make stock: Put all ingredients into a large stock pot, fill with water, and slowly bring to a boil. Skim foam that floats to the top during this slow heating process and discard. Reduce heat and simmer for four hours.  Skim often. Let stock cool and skim of extra fat. Strain the stock from the solids and discard all the other items. Stock can be used right away or frozen in jars for later use.
Cooking: This is an unsalted stock, once you are going to add the stock to your soup I add salt to taste then. You can use this stock in and recipe and soup that calls for chicken stock. To make a vegetable broth just omit chicken.

Beccijo http://www.theenchantedcupboard.com http://www.theenchantedcupboard.etsy.com

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Tools of the Trade: Pretty Handmade Stamps

I received a new studio shot by NaturalKids Teammate Beccijo Neff from The Enchanted Cupboard this week.

I love getting a glimpse into another artist’s studio and see what they are working on. Looks like our friend from the Enchanted Cupboard is working on some mushroom stamps.

It is always so much fun to see a project emerge…

 

Can you guess what Beccijo is making with these cool stamps? Please, go visit her shop to find out!

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My Journey with Felting

It’s never too late for an old dog to learn new tricks, I say. I love to learn new techniques and teach myself new crafts all the time.  For example felting is fairly new to me. There are many different types and styles of felting.

I started needlefelting about 5 years ago. Did you know that this craft has only been around since the 1980s? I learned that in a book about felting from the library (See Complete Guide to Felting p.133). I discovered needlefelting at Christmas time 2007 when my husband gave me this neat kit with a beginner’s handbook.

Needle felted Bunny in Wet Felted Egg

I loved this craft right away because I could take it places in a small bag. Just think how much time people waste these days, playing silly games on their phones when they could be crafting? I take my felting needles and make the most adorable critters while I wait for my daughter in the hallways of her dance studio. I get to hear all the Oohs and Ahs of little kids who can’t believe what I can accomplish with this funny looking needle.

This year I wanted to try something new: wet-felting. Unfortunately hubby did not come forward with a wet felting kit this past Christmas. But being a clever girl, I found some great books at the local library and some cool tutorials on the internet. There is one right here on this blog.

I discovered I had all the materials needed in my house already!

  • wool roving
  • plastic Easter Eggs
  • natural soap
  • hot water
  • bubblewrap
  • old towels

My first eggs turned out pretty nice. I found that it was a lot of hard work though. You have to scrub and rub for a long time to get the wool to felt and stick together. My respect for wet-felting artists grew by a mile or two.

The other drawback is that I can’t take this craft with me. So I don’t think I will make too many wool treasure eggs for Easter. So if you want one better snatch them up early.

Or maybe you want to learn how to make felted eggs yourself? Here are some great books to start with:

Beginner’s Guide to Feltmaking by Shirley Ascher & Jane Bateman

The Complete Guide to Felting by Ruth Lane