Friday, August 31, 2012

makin' lotion + a little giveaway

for the past few christmases, i've made almost 100% of all the gifts i've given.  this started out being partially inspired by little house in the big woods (how refreshing is a kid being utterly delighted with a faceless doll and an orange for christmas?) and mostly inspired by a total lack of money, but i have really come to love the season of handmade giving, especially now that i've figured out how to do it mostly stress-free (hint: start in august).  i have gotten better at this each year, from spending the month of december in a whirl of panicked sewing the year before sho was born, to last year setting up a late-night assembly line in neesy's kitchen, busting out endless bars of soap and jars upon jars of lotion, lip balm, and body scrub.

they were all such a hit that we've decided to start selling them through our little native home shop, especially now that we have tables at three upcoming festivals.  so, the other night we pulled out our supplies and whipped up four quarts of lotion and fifty tins of lip balm like it aint no thang!  no, really, it wasn't.  i thought i'd share the lotion recipe with you -- only five ingredients and all of them pronounceable, plus this lotion is good.  and i say that having worn it through an entire michigan winter, where cracked and bleeding hands from the cold, dry winter air are grimly common occurances.    

to make a quart of lotion (this makes two pints, enough for a family and even some left over for gifts), you start with a cup of beeswax.  then add a cup of coconut oil - you can find this in the grocery store, in the olive oil section.  then add two cups of olive oil.  all of this goes directly into a glass quart jar.

put the jar in a saucepan, and fill it up with water until it covers 3/4 of the jar, being careful not to splash any water into the jar.  put on the stove over medium/low heat, and stir occasionally until it's all melted.

then let the lotion cool - you can speed this up by placing the jar in the refrigerator - and stir vigorously with a fork every fifteen minutes or so.  the liquid will slowly thicken and start to look more and more like lotion.  once it's cooled to room temperature, add one teaspoon (or ten capsules opened and squeezed out) of vitamin e oil, which you can find at health food stores.  this ingredient is optional and helps the lotion keep for longer.  then add forty drops of essential oil, whatever scent your little heart desires.  we used orange for half of our lotion and lavender for the others.  and bam, you made lotion!  it's quite thick, and has truly magical properties.  but don't take my word for a jar!

i'd like to share a little of this awesome lotion, plus a tin of tinted lip balm, with two lucky readers.  just leave a comment below with your contact information, and i'll choose two winners via on wednesday, september fifth.  for an added entry, 'like' us on facebook and leave a separate comment.  and i'll be giving away various body products as we make them, so stay tuned, and thanks a lot for reading!

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012


sara's having emergency surgery this morning, because the blood is not flowing properly to her surgery site.

i think about how she and her husband jason must have felt the moment the doctors told them this morning that yet another day of surgery would be necessary, and i feel exactly like this (somewhat hilarious) picture of shoshi.

your good thoughts are really appreciated.  i'm sorry this is all i've been writing about lately.  it's been on mah mind.

UPDATE: sara's out of surgery and they believe it was a success.  hallelujah!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

party girl

my parents had a party for all their neighbors on sunday, where i learned that i am not much of a party girl these days. (although i really adore all of my parents' neighbors.  they are an awesome part of sho's life in particular.)  sho, however, is enough of a party girl for the two of us.  she even drank pop for the first time in her life (that i know of, that is - who knows what she gets up to with those squirrely grandparents of hers).  my favorite part of the party was probably whipping up a little party dress for sho during the hour that she napped right beforehand.  i adore the fabric of that skirt!  (if you like it too, i have a few monsters in the shop made from it.)

my friend sara's surgery went well.  i was talking to rosie about it late last night (the surgery wasn't over until almost midnight) and we agreed that the strangest part of the day was that sara was unconscious for all of it.  such a super smart and thoughtful person, she would've had tons of opinions about what was happening to her and all the outpouring of love and support from people during the day and she was just...out.  anesthesia is a strange thing.  life is a strange thing.  is mercury in retrograte or something?  today has been bananas.

Monday, August 27, 2012

surgery day

these pictures are from a little celebration we had for sara on friday, a bon voyage party before her twelve-hour mastectomy surgery today.  twelve hours!  today!  i have butterflies in my stomach, and they're not the fun kind.  if you think of it, could you keep her in your thoughts today?  

i know i already posted about their fundraiser, but man, if you had a friend who was this kind and just so worth it, you'd get all annoying about it too.  the cancer has already rung up a $16,000 bill that sara and her husband just don't have.  not cool, cancer.  you shouldn't have to worry about suddenly having that much debt when you're also worried about your survival, you know?  so i'm throwing this link out there because i know that sara would donate to your cause -- she really is that kind of ridiculously generous person.  it would be cool to give her a surprise that doesn't suck upon waking up tonight, like some added help toward their wildly stressful medical bills.

the girl above is brittany cutie, and she is the funniest cat around.  when she moved to seattle, kalamazoo got 22% less funny.  she's back in town for two weeks and has a drawin' date with shoshanna mary, whom i suspect may have inherited britt's mad art skills.  i predict shoshi's skills drawing kitties, poop, and "shrunken daddies with wigs on" are about to go through the roof!  

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

sewing as casserole

due in large part to my midwest upbringing, my immediate reaction to the birth, death, illness, or heartache of a loved one is to make a casserole.  or some cookies.  my recipe book is chock full o' amazing recipes for casseroles, most featuring varying ratios of butter, sour cream, and cornflakes.  this is a pretty universal human instinct, i think.  when confronted with the unspeakable, it feels good to make something basic and elemental, something that will nourish those you love through a difficult time.

over the past few years as my love of sewing has grown, i find myself increasingly replacing my white-trash symphony of hashbrown-cornflake casseroles with something i've sewn.  new babies get reversible pants, stuffed monsters, and bibs embroidered with their names.  when sho's dad had hernia surgery a month before she was born, i made him patchwork ice-pack covers and a microwavable neck pillow.  and as we count down the days to my friend sara's mastectomy, i have been sewing pockets and pockets on all her button-down shirts, a place to tuck the drainage bulbs from her surgery site as she heals.  i pretty much begged her to let me do this sewing for her, and was slightly obsessed with making sure each pocket matched the shirt it was being sewn on to, even the ones that were sewn on by hand so they can be easily removed once she's better.  there is just something about sewing, especially by hand with a needle and thread while your daughter sits in your lap, that brings new meaning to the words "made with love."  whenever i make something for someone in particular, i make a conscious effort to think about them and all the good things i wish for them as i sew, so they're pretty much walking around with a love-bomb from me to them.  and during a time when you are pretty much helpless in the face of cells, cancer, and modern medicine, it is really satisfying to do the mindless work of cut, sew, iron, stitch, knot, repeat. 

i've sewn a big pocket on the inside of all my winter jackets since i was in high school, and while the contents of these hidden pockets has definitely changed in the years since my outlaw days, my love of sewn-on pockets remains undiminished.  here's how i do it:  cut out two squares (or rectangles) of fabric, and sew them together, right sides facing each other, leaving an inch or two unsewn.  then turn right side out, stitch up that final inch, and iron.  you can sew a little strip of bias tape along the top if you'd like to get fancy.  then stitch the pocket by hand to the inside of your jacket - you have to do it by hand, because you're only sewing it onto the lining of the jacket (otherwise it would look stupid to have the stitches show on the outside of your jacket).  there you have it!  perfect for stashing all kinds of treasures.

speaking of sewing while feeling helpless, sho found a pair of pajamas i'd forgotten about that i made for her last winter when we'd just moved in with my parents and she was quite sick.  i remember staying up really late one night, feverishly sewing and sewing these ridiculously warm scraps of fabric from a blanket my mom had made into pajamas for my sick girl.  it's funny to look at them and see all the things i'd do differently while sewing them nowadays...guess i'm learning without even knowing it?  anyway, that was also a time when i needed to do something tangible with my lack of control in a situation, and sewing helped.  they ended up being way too big, but it was still good to make them, somehow.  shoshi found them again when she was sick earlier in the week, and bam!  they totally fit now.  how does that happen?

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

pink night light

the kiddo's been sick since sunday, her blazing hot body glued to mine for listless hours of maisy at a time.  she'll have these bursts of health, running around like her normal nutty little whackaloon self, then a night like last night where she's burning up, talking raspily in her sleep and nursing for approximately eight (hundred) hours straight.  every time sho gets sick, i send out some major thanks a) that my mom (best sick day caretaker ever) watches her while i'm at work and b) that it's just ordinary kid sickness and not leukemia.  i can't even really begin to start imagining what that would be like before i get all panicky.  everyone talks about how being a parent makes you more selfless, but in a weird way that's not the case.  her pain is so much my own pain, that i would rather take on any of her suffering than watch her go through it -- because that would ultimately be less painful.  does that make sense?  my brain is all scrambled.

there was a crisis last night involving shoshi's night light; anywhere i plugged it in, the shadows were too scary.  "shoshi want dark!  not dark!  NO shadows!"  it was a confusing time for us both.  so i hauled out this pink night light that i got for a dollar at the thrift store and had originally planned on giving her when we move, along with a mama-made silky pink nightgown and matching pillow with trim from my grandma's 1970s trim collection (i got big plans).  sometimes you just have to bump up a gift's arrival date, though.  i'll pretty much always remember the time my parents gave me my ninja turtle pajamas early, so i could have the perfect costume for a ninja turtle-themed thespian production directed by moi that pretty much rocked the little town of kalamazoo, michigan to its very core in 1991.  anyway, maybe it was the fever, but she lovvved that night light and kept rolling around with it in her arms, then setting it down in order to throw her skinny little arms around my neck and say, "i love YOU!".  this i-love-you business just started about a week ago and it is pretty much better than thai food and t. rex combined.

also, how crazy is it that somehow i, the crustiest of all known pink-haters in the galaxy, am now out giving pink the time of day of my own volition?  i find myself browsing through pink fabrics, reaching for sho's pink bowl before all others, even ordering her the pink play kitchen for christmas even though it's PINK for god's sake and the pale aqua blue one's about eighty times better.  it's just a hunch but i do believe that somehow this pink business and the arms-around-neck-i-love-YOU!s are connected in some fundamental way...

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Friday, August 17, 2012


i went to the university of michigan for college, and after my boyfriend michael and i went our separate ways and moved out of our awesomely tiny little apartment with big storefront windows, i lived in an old house with my friends emily and kelsey for our senior year.  it was good times.  emily and i started a zine project called zeitgeist, with about twenty contributing teams from almost as many states, wherein everyone made a zine within the same seven-day period and mailed a copy to each contributor.  it was quite awesome.  below are polaroids of emily and i up late finishing our submission, circa 2006.  

i don't remember the exact words i used when writing the introduction to our zine, but it was something along the lines of: "emily can most often be found wearing elegant cashmere sweaters with xxl basketball shorts, moroccan necklaces and ratty white sneakers."  she would make these elaborate gourmet meals with imported spices one night, and eat a box of cocoa puffs out of an old cool-whip container the next.  she is a whole pile of fun, and often sends me great packages full of books and her latest crazy craft projects and long letters written in her characteristic cursive scrawl.

emilia lives in new orleans now, and is getting married to her perfect-for-her man jon in october, so she's back in town this weekend for her bridal shower and so i can help plan her wedding (psyched! i pretty much looove planning weddings).  i'm always so happy when she (and our other roomate kelso, too) are back in town.  so is shoshi, evidently, who kept chanting "em-ly, em-ly, EM-LY!" the whole way over to her house last night.  it was good to see that nothing has changed.  she wore this gorgeous silky red dress topped with an enormous u of m hoodie, and made us oven-roasted salmon with kale-and-pesto pasta, which she insisted on serving in green tupperware containers from 1987 which she called our  "troughs."    ah, em-ly.  it's good to have you back.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

sno-cones & cancer

this morning was one of those awful working-mother moments when it was time for me to leave and shoshanna kept sobbing, "pwease mama, don't leave me! stay, pwease!"  yup, that is officially the worrrrrrst.  i've felt a little off all day.  the worst part is that she's not old enough to really understand that i'm not off gallivanting round town having the time of my life when i'm gone all day, that this separation is something that i'm doing for us.  it doesn't even really make sense to me, so how is she supposed to get it?

i don't know.  there are always the good things though, like how yesterday shoshi had her first ice cream truck experience when my friend sara and i took her to the park.  and then how she just wanted to eat sara's apple instead. and the way she skinned her knee really hard and was a total badass about it.  and definitely when she started chasing the seagulls and trying to catch them, but like really seriously trying to catch them.

and then there's also how sara's having a mastectomy in eleven days, so it's pretty beside the point to worry about much else right now.  i don't really know what the words are yet, to talk about the cancer and mastectomy of your dear and hilarious friend of twenty-one years, who is only seven years older than that.  everything else seems small.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

young, old, and in-between

for some reason, i didn't think much beforehand about what it was going to be like, living under the same roof with my daughter, my parents, and my ninety year old grandma. although my grandma has been living in other cities with her two daughters since last fall, shoshi was immediately obsessed with her upon her arrival yesterday.  she kept following her to her bedroom and pushing me out, saying "no no no mama, just me and gwamma," then shutting the door firmly in my face.  oh, okay.  she asks my grandma for a ride on her walker approximately every five minutes, and whenever she finds something of interest, whispers to herself, "show gwamma....GWAMMA! GWAMMA!"  i imagine that after my aunt's serene home on the shore of lake michigan, this has all come as a bit of a jolt to my grandma, but when shoshi climbed up onto her lap last night to watch the evening news with her, i think she was pretty psyched about that part, anyway.

when you think about it, it's strange the way all of the generations are so segregated in this culture of ours.  we spend the vast majority of our childhoods in classrooms with children who are the exact same age, while our parents work with others roughly their own age.  the elders are, for the most part, sentenced to live in homes with other old folks.  it seems like we could all have a far richer experience by mingling the ages a little more, younguns learning from elders -- on a daily basis, not just thanksgiving and christmas.  after all, that's how humans have lived for many thousands of years, up until a mere hundred years ago or so.  i don't know, we're only one day into this whole four-generational home thing, but for now i am so grateful that shoshi is having this experience of living with her grandparents and great-grandma, all at once. 
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Tuesday, August 14, 2012


yesterday was the day to wash my grandma's car inside and out and return it to her, beginning my new life as a real live car owner.  i just got it registered and plated at the secretary of state this morning and cannot wait to drive that glorious goddess of a car into the sunset.  maybe i need a name for the ol' beaut, any suggestions?

anyway, the cleaning process was a little rough, as it was rainy and cold out and i had a bad headache (wah wahhh, first world problems), but my little trouper of a kiddo was totally down to help.  she sprayed the carpets and scrubbed them, washed the hubcaps and even started scrubbing the driveway on her hands and knees once she was done with the rest.  i started thinking about all the chores that my brother and i had to do when we were kids, which always felt like a lot more than what our friends had to do.  i'm glad about all those hours of yard work and laundry now, because i learned something fairly important.  if you're doing something that kind of sucks (raking endless leaves, i'm looking at you), it is totally a good move to not bitch about it, even in your own head.  by flushing out all those grumbly thoughts, you're making it a lot easier for the good ones to fill their really feel the crisp fall air and cornflower-blue sky, the capable pull of muscles working hard, the splintery wood of the rake handle against your palm.  and as a bonus, you don't feel like a total brat while doing it.  it was interesting to me that sho didn't have to work at this happy work philosophy, she was just straight-up delighted to be washing a car by hand in the cold rain.  maybe it's a byproduct of that toddler live-in-the-moment zen thing, who knows.

i just hope shosh hangs on to her cheerful work ethic...if only because she's going to be an awesome little slave to have around.  her only word of complaint toward the end was, "shoshi cold!"  (maybe if you hadn't insisted on removing your rainboots and hoodie...)  so we went inside, took a warm bubble bath and got in our coziest jammies, and cuddled up together watching "mr. tickle."  (i don't even know.)  it was about a hundred times (approx) better to relax so luxuriously after working hard together.  it's the little things, i tell you.

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