Wednesday, April 29, 2009

April, where have you gone?

As with most things in this world, my time and desire to stop and write something here on my little spot seems to ebb and flow. I was wondering this morning in the shower about why that is the case. And the best I could come up with is that we've just been busy lately.

Case in point: as I'm getting ready to prepare my monthly statements for April, I'm discovering that it will go down in the books as my busiest month since turning my professional energies full time to my wellness business 3 years ago. I've taught more classes, in more places, to a wider audience than ever before. Wow! Which is awesome and eye opening at the same time. Awesome to know my services are so well respected. Eye opening to the fact that while I love doing what I do, doing it at this intensity for any length of time isn't going to work physically for my body. I've known this for a while. But the recent flair-up of my sciatica, which I'd been able to keep pretty well in check for a while with changing how I teach (teaching without always demonstrating...which isn't as easy as it sounds, especially when you are USED to doing as you teach. I think this is also the reason I'm finding 5 extra pounds settling themselves in areas I would rather they didn't. The re-opening of Dairy Barn, our local summer sweets shop, has not helped that matter either!), has really driven the point home. I'm finding myself looking forward to my slower summer work schedule more than ever. Mainly with hopes of hurting less and having more energy (physically and mentally) to do fun things outside with the girls once the weather warms up....and dries out! (It's a good thing my work schedule is going to be a bit lighter because our social calendar is PACKED for June and July!) The unfortunate side of a slower schedule is less income, which affects our family and my stress level in a whole different way. (It's admittedly much easier for me to deal with the physical aches of a busy work schedule than the mental stress of financial struggles.) I wish that wasn't the case, but am thankful less summer work coincides with the ease of summer outdoor entertainment options and produce from the garden. I guess it's just one of the compromises I make (fluctuating income) for the freedom of being my own boss and setting my own schedule. (For the most part.)

I have more I'd like to say about this topic, but maybe I'll save that for a later post. One when hopefully I'll have a bit more information to share about the future direction of Happy Daisy Yoga and Jennifer Mavin, Wellness Consultant.

So what have we been up to?

While spring has been mostly cool and wet thus far, we did have a couple of warm dry days which allowed us to clean out flower beds, mow the last of fall's leaves, and mark off our new backyard veggie garden plot. This being our 6th spring in our house it's fun to see the well established flowers coming up stronger and thicker than ever. I'm hoping to be able to split a few perennials up this year to spread around into bare spots. (Budget friendly gardener that I am.) My lavender bushes seem to have made it through another winter (even though technically we're a zone were they shouldn't) and the little hydrangea bush I planted at the end of last season (an end of the year clearance buy) has new growth on it as well. The hostas which we relocated last year have grown like crazy this past week with the cool, moist days and the bleeding heart has gone from a few sprouts to a full blown bush with flowers in only 10 days. The rate at which that thing can grow in only a day's time always amazes me. I'm very excited to finally have a "real" space for our veggies this summer, though there's still a lot of work that needs to be done before the garden is ready for seedlings. I'm eagerly awaiting a few dry days...

The end of school is nearing for Lexi. Last week was the spring music concert for her school. A concert for which I have little photographic record since my camera's memory card decided to freak out and insist it was full even though it wasn't. We have since made peace, though doesn't do me much good since I can't go back in time. As usual the concert was cute and provided much comic relief. Lexi had a short solo on This Old Man, being responsible for verse 4 and the old man's playing of knick-knack on her door. She did a good job of standing up to the mic and clearly singing her full verse, even though she admitted afterwards she was a lot more nervous than when they practiced earlier in the day without an audience. Grandpa Bob was able to drive up for the evening which was such a nice treat as he treated us all to dinner before hand and the girls to lots of hugs and kisses before heading back to KC the next morning. In addition to her weekly gymnastics class, Lexi's summer softball team has started practicing one night a week with her twice a week games getting underway the week of Memorial Day.

Brea is busy being 3. Seriously, that in itself is busy...and on days like today when she's not been able to go run off steam outside for a couple of days, it's also exhausting! So far today I've had to adopt from her 2 dogs and 2 babies; we've cleaned out the entire Play-doh toys bucket (which then resulted in the vacuuming of millions of tiny pieces of dried play-doh off the kitchen floor) in search of a new can of soft doh and her favorite roller and cookie cutters; and now apparently I am her baby who is suppose to be taking a little rest while she runs the animal shelter set up in her room (the pretend play of choice after watching Hotel for Dogs this weekend). I'm glad Lexi will very soon be walking through the door!

Scott has been busy with both his jobs lately. The job market in Des Moines seems to have picked up a bit, which keeps him busy during the day. The cool wet weather has kept him busy at his second job renting movies and games. Yesterday Scott's office had a booth at a large job fair in DSM and Scott was "lucky" enough to get a few moments of air time on KCCI's 5:00 news cast. We unfortunately we weren't watching, but you can catch a glimpse of his shining face on their website in both this and this video clip. (Don't might miss him.)

I think that about catches me up on the general news of our family. My brother is set to finish up his bike tour tomorrow. We are looking forward to his arrival here in Iowa in about 3 weeks and are so happy he'll be spending his summer here in Grinnell. We are also getting set to welcome a canine visitor, Baden, who will be spending his summer with us here in Iowa. Saturday Scott will be playing volleyball in the USVBA regional tournament in Des Moines while the girls and I run around trying to find suitable flower girl shoes for the wedding which they will be a part of at the end of May. I am also excited that Tiny Circus activities are gearing up for the summer and look forward to the many friends that will be returning to town over the next month as a result. We have several summer visitors coming in June, a visit to Nebraska to make ourselves, summer art camp, and in amongst all of that I need to find time to train for my third RAGBRAI in July. Like I said before...our social calendar for June and July is already looking pretty busy. Luckily with the return of the sun and the colors of summer, I'll be more inclined to update our activities through photos...another hobby that's been neglected as of late. *sigh*

And now I realize our busy isn't going to be getting any less so over the next few's just going to change shape. The one constant in life...change.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

DIY: Reusable Produce Bags

With Earth Day festivities gearing up for tomorrow, I thought I'd take a moment to post a short DIY tutorial on making your own reusable cloth produce bags. (Tutorial inspired by my favorite crafty mom blog, Crazy Mom Quilts. Produce bags inspired by running into my friend Laura at the grocery store while she was stuffing her produce into these.) This is my next step in the fight against the excessive use of plastic bags.

Our family has been making small environmentally minded changes in our daily lives over the past few years. We use reusable shopping bags. We've stopped buying/using Ziploc bags and plastic wrap. I'm trying to commute around town via bike more. I'm being more mindful about where the food we buy comes from and how it was produced. We more often hang our laundry on the line to dry in the spring and summer instead of just throwing it in the dryer. (Which is convenient at the moment since our dryer has decided to quit drying.) As we use up chemically cleaning products I've switched to using mostly natural cleaning solutions (which means a lot of vinegar and baking soda). I've tried to help us adopt practices that can easily become the norm while doing good for the world around us. As we fully adopt one change, I start to introduce another. With the coming of spring and summer we're gearing up for gardening, the opening of the farmers market, and an influx of fresh produce. We recently staked out a larger area to expand our own veggie garden and I've ordered a cute bamboo compost scrap pail for our kitchen. So it whipping up these cloth produce bags just made sense.

I ended up making 2 sized bags. The large is similar in size to a produce bag you'd find in the store. It's intended to fit larger items like broccoli, leaf lettuce, large bunches of grapes, etc. The other is smaller and perfect for items like tomatoes, bulk garlic, limes, avocados, etc. I used some unbleached cotton muslin I just happen to have on hand down in my fabric stash. It's inexpensive and light weight which makes it perfect for such a project. Though if you wanted to gift these bags, I could totally see them made up in a cute light colored print fabric. I've made use of the selvages in the construction for less need to finish raw edges and have based measurements and cuts on the idea of wasting as little fabric as the case of the large bag you use every bit of fabric!

Fabric required:
Larger bag (Finished size is approx. 13 inches wide X 17 inches tall): 3/4 yard of standard 42-44 in. fabric makes 2 bags
Smaller bag (Finished size is approx. 9 inches wide X 13 inches tall): 1/2 yard of standard 42-44 in. fabric makes 2 bags (With just a small strip left to throw back into your stash.)

All seam allowances are 1/4 of an inch and back stitched at each start and stop point during construction. Instructions and photos will be for the larger sized bag except where noted. (I apologize for the crappy photos. My sewing space is kinda dark...hence the dark pics.)

Start with your fabric folded selvage to selvage. (Notice my lovely job of ironing...the nice thing about this project is it doesn't to be exact so one can fudge a few things here and there.)

From the FOLD, measure in 3 inches and cut a strip. Set the strip aside as it will be used later to make the drawstrings for your bags. (For the SMALL bag, measure in 6 inches from the fold and make the same cut.)

With each rectangle created after cutting off your strip, fold in (toward the wrong side of the fabric if you are using a print or fabric with definite right and wrong sides) the 3 raw edges approximately 1/2 an inch and iron. I began with the bottom edge (that opposite the selvage) and then did the two ends.

From the selvage side, sew down each side approximately 2.5 inches. This will secure the raw edge inside the drawstring pocket created in the next step and will blend with the top stitching done later.

Fold down (again toward the wrong side of the fabric if your fabric has right and wrong sides) the selvage side of the rectangle approximately 1.25 to 1.5 inches and iron. Sew (using 1/4 inch seam allowance from the "raw" selvage edge, not the fold) to create the pocket for your drawstring. This is a pretty generous sized pocket, but I hate fighting a small allowance when I'm threading through the drawstring and again...not a project that requires great accuracy so why not make it easy on yourself later!

With your drawstring pocket made, your ready to fold (wrong side to wrong side) your rectangle, pinning to make sure all your ironed edges stay folded and lined up. Starting towards the top of the bag (where your top stitching forms the drawstring pocket) top stitch closed your two open sides. I like this option for two reasons. First I feel like it offers a bit of extra strength since your sewing through 4 layers of fabric instead of just 2. (Raw edges left inside are small and shouldn't cause too much trouble as they fray.) Second it allows one to use fun thread colors to jazz up the plainness of the muslin. I used a variegated thread in "fall" colors (red, orange, yellow, and brown). Clip any stray threads.

With the body of your bag finished, it's time to retrieve the strip you cut away earlier. Unfold the strip and iron it out flat to remove the fold crease. Cut the strip lengthwise into 1.5 inch strips. You'll use 2 strips to make the drawstring for one bag.
Sew together 2 strips to make one long 1.5 inch strip. (Do this twice so you end up with strips to make 2 separate drawstrings.) Iron the seam at this joint open for less bulk as you create the drawstring. Lay the strip on your ironing board wrong side up. (This part gets a little steamy for your fingers so be careful!) Fold each end in approximately 2 inches and iron. This will hide the raw edged inside your drawstring, giving the ends a nice finish without bulk. Fold the whole strip (wrong sides in) length wise in 1/2 and iron. Re-open your strip. You now have a crease down the middle. CAREFULLY fold each side in towards the crease and iron. Then refold down the center line and iron. (Basically making a very narrow strip of bias tape.) If you iron good with steam at this point you shouldn't need to pin. Back stitching at each end, stitch down the middle of your newly created drawstring.

Using a handy dandy safety pin, thread your drawstring through the top casing on your bag.

Viola! Project complete.

With 2 yards of muslin today I was able to whip up 4 large bags and 2 small bags in about 2.5 hours...though that included design time and snapping photos as I worked (and tending to the needs of a ornery 3-year-old), so I imagine actual work time needed was only about 1.5-2 hours to make up the 6 bags. I think these are going to be very handy and I'm excited to grab some more muslin and make a few more to give as gifts.

This project would also be great to do WITH someone else, dividing the ironing and sewing duties, which would cut down time from first cut to finished that much faster. Besides, then you can chat as you work which always makes creating that much more fun.

Happy Earth Day to us all!


Monday, April 20, 2009

School Bound...

Me: (Giving Lexi a hug before she heads out the door to walk to school.) Just a little over a month left of school and then it will be summer. And then you'll be a second grader!

Lexi: (Smiling) And soon I'll be a colleger!

Who taught her such foul language? (Sigh.) But yes, before we know it she'll be a "colleger".


Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Human Connection...

I often think about why I continue to blog. Why I spend time maintaining this little spot. Why I continue to take time to read the words of other bloggers out there...some close family and friends, some distant strangers. Of why social networking sites are the biggest business on the internet these days. Some may see that time spent as a waste. Time that could be spend reading my girls a book. Making improvements to our house. Working on my latest crafty project.

But just like so many life activities, I see my choice to blog as just that...a choice. And while my initial interest came from wanting to have a place to play around online and learn a little more about how it all works, both for personal information and because at the time it was useful for my job, I choose to continue updating because of a very unexpected thing that I've found blogging (and in general the boom of social networking applications available these days) creates...a human connection. A reminder, sometimes gentle and cheery, sometimes sad and real, that the world is a very small place full of people just like me. Just like you. People with thoughts, dreams, passions, families, problems. It has helped me be more compassionate to the whole of human kind. It has given me faith in the goodness of people when our media is so focused on the issues that create division and destruction. In a world where friends and families are spread around the globe, blogging has allowed me to share the little everyday joys and struggles of our family. It connects people with common interests where they can exchange ideas, collaboratively problems solve, and share their latest accomplishments. No matter how successful, how technologically advanced, how affluent a society becomes, we all still have the need to make basic human connections.

The weird thing about the internet is it breaks down some of the common social filters many of us choose to employ during our face to face interactions with people. I often feel safer sharing my honest thoughts and feelings through the written word than in conversation. For good or bad. In many ways blogging has deepened relationships I have with people whom I regularly interact with in a face to face manner. It's sparked conversations that may otherwise not have been had. It's allowed me to learn a little more about friends with whom I just don't get enough "coffee time" because of our busy schedules or the miles between us. It has connected me to people around the world whom I might never have otherwise crossed paths.

And on mornings like today catching up on what my blog roll has to say, it brings tears to my eyes reading the very real account of a very real struggle in a blogger's (and Dad) local neighborhood, and the thoughts of his young daughter, a little girl close to Lexi's age. (I suggest reading the entry with a tissue close at hand.)

It's a reminder just how precious life is in each and every moment. Just how connected our hearts are regardless of where we live. Of the importance of making connections with those around us whether it be in our family, in our neighborhood, or in the greater connection of humanity. A reminder not to wait until a more convenient time arises, as that time may be too late. It reminds me of how lucky and how thankful I am that our family sits here this lazy Sunday morning safe and healthy. And how that can all change in the briefest of moments.

I'm a worrier. Mostly in regards to the safety of those closest to me. I read this story and my heart broke thinking about the little boy left to grow up with only memories of his Dad. And I immediately wanted to pull my own girlies close "just in case." But most of all it reminds me to cherish and celebrate and notice each and every moment of our lives. Good. Bad. Exciting. Boring. Hard. Easy. The fact we get to experience each of those moments together is such a blessing. And no amount of worrying can protect us from our futures. As hard as it is in practice, I again make the intention to move forward living with less worry. To enjoy life fully for what it has to offer, not for what may be lurking in the shadows.

I wish you a day full of present moments, free from worry, and full of life.


Friday, April 17, 2009

The Other Kids...

I realized it's been awhile since I posted about our other kids. You know, the dogs. Seriously, with the welcome of Tilde into our family, we've become "those" people. You know, the ones who treat their dogs like people. There's something about her neurotic personality that requires extra pampering and patience which has somehow boosted both her and Jasper's status in the fam. The girls adore the dogs and spoil them rotten. (And honestly so do Scott and I, so it's not all their fault.) I can't even begin to imagine our family without them and their endless shedding and scattered bits of soggy, half eaten raw ride chews strung about the house.

So having explained how important the dogs are as members of our family, imagine my horror yesterday when the couch swallowed Tilde's head!

ACTUALLY, Tilde was cleaning the cereal bar crumbs from between the cushions after Brea's morning snack. She's helpful that way. But it struck me funny and luckily I had the camera close at hand.

Jasper is totally loving the onset of spring and sunnier floor spaces in which he can nap.(Being that he's 11-12 years old, napping is a pretty big theme in his life.) During the winter months there's only a short period of time each morning when he can usually find a sliver of sunlight in which to curl up. But now in addition to ample morning rays, the dining room window offers up some late afternoon sun in which he can hang out while I'm making dinner.

This happens to be a rare moment when Tilde was not close at hand pestering him...a fact which both annoys him AND gives some youthful spark to his normal quiet, "nap a lot" demeanor.

As I type this, all four of the kids are crashed out. 3 are asleep...the 2 furry mutts and the youngest monkey. The 4th is chllin' watching a movie. How lucky am I to have such a great bunch of munchkins to love!


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Brea: How fancy do I look?

Fancy...especially with your mac-n-cheese and cherry Popsicle goatee!

I spent the day yesterday cleaning and reorganizing the girls' room. (That's the disassembled crib in the first picture waiting to go its new home and a new baby!) They are thoroughly enjoying being able to find and reach all their favorite play the whole basket of Mardi Gras beads and dress-up accessories!


Friday, April 10, 2009


Austin (TX) to (South Lima) New York.

On a bike.

Approximately 1800 miles.

Self supported. (Carrying everything you need to, besides food, on the bike with you.)

This is the current adventure on which my brother has embarked.

It's the first of what I'm quite certain will be several (if not many) bike tours Jason takes in his lifetime.

You can follow along on he and Ally's (his riding partner for the trip and general friendly gal) trip on their ride journal or through his frequent updates on Twitter. The ride journal is a few days behind, but includes pictures and more information about their adventures than the short 140 characters that Twitter allows. I personally love the Twitter updates. I have them sent to my phone so that several times a day I get a little Tweet updating me on their location and general well being. For a worry wart like myself, it's a nice little connection afforded by technology.

I have so many emotions, so many things I wish I could articulate about Jason and Ally's adventure. But without rambling on and on, no doubt through a flood of tears, let me just say how thankful, excited, envious, and inspired I am by this undertaking. Thankful that after a less than kind year of events (the cancer, the suicide of a very close friend) Jason has the strength, physically and mentally, for such an adventure. Excited that even though he's been told more than once his decision to leave a good job (with full benefits) to take this trip and spend the summer figuring out where life will lead him next was not "smart", he chose to follow his heart and live his life in a way that truly feeds his spirit. Envious and inspired that generally in life he weighs his options and then moves forward in the direction that speaks to him, not allowing fear or uncertainty stand in his way, and being totally OK with the outcome, good or bad. His example has lessons for us all...especially those of us who tend to live on the "safe" and "sensible" side of life because it's comfortable and predictable. In my own case, fear of the unknown, the possibility for failure, often plays much more into my life decisions that I would like to admit.

Check out the journal. Send him your thoughts, encouragement, and prayers for a safe journey. And think about what your next adventure might take you...


Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Private Tour...

Even though the weather doesn't seem to be cooperating with the calendar, spring is here and end of the school year activities are starting to signal that summer is not far away! Lexi had a piece of her art work chosen to be in the all Elementary Art Show which goes on display each spring in the community gallery for a month. This year, unlike last, we actually made it in to see the instillation before it was taken down to next make room for the High School Art Show.

Lexi had walked down with her class last week and she she was so eager to give Brea and I a personal tour of the exhibit, pointing out her favorite pieces. Scott unfortunately wasn't able to join us as the gallery hours are during the hours he's working away in DSM, so Lexi asked to make a short video to explain to him her piece.

Lexi has always enjoyed making art and spends a lot of time drawing, coloring and creating pictures to illustrate the stories she writes. She is always excited when it's art day at school and is once again looking forward to Art Camp this summer. Plus there will be plenty of sidewalk chalk coloring to be done and frequent trips to Tiny Circus work sessions. It seems as though 2009 is shaping up to be The Summer of Art!


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

3! How can that be?

In so many ways it does not seem possible for us to have celebrated Brea's 3rd birthday last month. Yet I watch her entertain herself during the day as she colors, "reads", and imagines her own little worlds, and I often have to remind myself that she is ONLY 3!

She has an incredibly fun imagination, cheery personality, and thanks to her older sister's teaching skills, she regularly amazes us with how much she has learned about numbers (a direct result of her new favorite card game, Go Fish), letters, and even math. (Lexi's favorite subject. She's always been a numbers girl, even when she was little before she started preschool, numbers have always been her thing. Brea has definitely benefited and has already helped solve a fair amount of math equations with sidewalk chalk in the driveway.)

I was in Wisconsin at the Yoga Journal Conference on Brea's birthday, but Grandpa Bob, Daddy, Auntie Pammy, Uncle Chris, and big sister Lexi did a great job making Brea's day special. Brea informed me that Grandpa took her to the coffee shop in the morning (her favorite hang out), to visit Great Grandma and Grandpa Higg in the afternoon (where she received a Dr. Seuss book and a snuggle puppy she has named Casey), and then a whole crowd gathered at our traditional birthday dinner hangout for Mexican food and birthday celebrations involving a sombrero. Doesn't get much more fun that that!

Scott played photographer for the event in my absence. I was thankful as it was fun to see some pictures of the party later that night while I was chillin' in Wisconsin.

I watch my girls grow and am repeatedly amazed at the little people they have become. I feel as if their little kiddo years are passing right by without near enough time to tuck safely away all the memories I hope to carry with me from this point on. I try as best I can just to enjoy today, everyday, as our time together is such a precious, precious gift.

Thanks Brea for sharing our lives for the past 3 years. You have brought so much joy and happiness into our home with your sunshiny personality, your silliness, your imaginative mind, and your love of snuggle time.

Happy, happy 3 to you!


Friday, April 3, 2009

Celebrating LOVE...

Today the Iowa Supreme Court made a ruling (unanimously) that will result in the legal recognition of same sex marriages in the state of Iowa. Score one for love!

I feel so fortunate to be a resident of this little progressive state here in the middle of the USA. To be raising my children in a place that (for the most part) celebrates having an open mind...and an open heart.

As many of you know, normally I'm not one to make much mention of things political OR controversial. But I couldn't let this one pass.(I'm probably opening a big ol' can of worms here, but sometimes you've gotta get your hands dirty to get any work done. And I'm lucky to live in a place that allows me to have and express my opinions! Feel free to comment and let your thoughts be known too...even if you disagree with me.)

No matter how I look at this issue, I can't understand the opinion held by opponents of the legalization of same sex marriages. With most issues, I think I'm pretty good about understanding both points of view. Truly having an open mind, and an open heart, means being respectful of every one's opinions. Especially when they don't align with your own. We are humans after all and sometimes we just have to agree to disagree.

Lexi has a classmate who has 2 moms. Lexi is well aware of this fact. In her 7-year-old mind there is no reason that having 2 moms should be any different than having a mom and a dad. Or only a mom. Or only a dad. Or two with a mom and one with a dad. All she cares about is that her friend is nice. Her moms are nice. And their family is a safe place full of love. End of story.

How beautifully simple is that? I wish we could all have such a simple view of life. And on this particular issue I don't see why we can't.

Whether opponents of same sex marriage cite their religious beliefs, or simply their own personal values, I feel as if their view is based on a foundation of fear and hatred. I can't honestly understand why anyone should think the law should be able to set the parameters for recognition of a loving, committed relationship. I get laws like bans on smoking in public areas. Or laws against drunk driving. Our world is a healthier, safer place as a result of such measures. But laws that limit personal rights on issues that ONLY affect the individual(s) involved? I can't get behind such measures.

Even if I wasn't accepting of same sex relationships, recognition of same sex marriages has absolutely no affect on my personal rights as a heterosexual. My "traditional" marriage to a man is of no less value to me or to the state. As for religious beliefs, I'm not even going to go there. We're talking about the laws of man here...not of the divine. And as far as I'm concerned any religious teachings and "evidence" can always be slanted to support the opinions of our egos and justify our actions. It's not my place to say which slant is the correct one. I can only know which nurtures my spirit and hope that those of you reading this know which nurtures yours.

So from where I stand, this ruling really only has positive implications. Nobody loses. However, homosexual couples have tons to gain. Gain is good. Especially when it's made in the name of love.

As a world we too have much to gain. We get to celebrate love in all of it's many, many forms. We get to embrace the differences that make us each unique why championing an emotion, a basic need, that we share as humans. We get to foster loving relationships and families regardless of their core constitution. We get to take one step closer to a world based on love and acceptance, and one big step away from fear and hatred. How cool is that!?!?