Saturday, April 25, 2009

making a parent's group

For as long as I can remember, I have always been a night person - happiest to stay up into the wee hours puttering away with my many projects, and then sleep in, then lose the day again until I suddenly realise by 4 pm or so that I'm still in my pyjamas. My partner Charles is like me too, and in many ways Adelaide seems to have inherited our love of the night as well.

In the night routine department we are lousy parents: Adelaide has never really had a bedtime and often it will suddenly become very late and I'll realise that we're all still up - Addie included. But I figure as long as she's happy, content, and there is no real pressure to wake up early then it's ok.. For now!

But then several months ago I began to notice that Adelaide and I have the best days together when we get out of the house. I realised because I am mostly happy inside all day without even getting dressed, that I needed to come up with a way to give me a small push to get up and out.

And so several months ago I became inspired to try and start a community parent and tot playgroup. To gauge interest, I first talked with as many neigbourhood moms and dads as I could, and seemed to get a positive response to the idea. I went ahead and booked the community room for two days a week. I am grateful for that - our community room is a perfect spot - bright and cheerful and basic kitchen facilities, tables and chairs, and lots of toys and books. I kept it simple, bringing some tea and snacks such as crackers and grapes, and also a few craft items like playdoh, crayons and paper. I also made up some mixed cd's of (grown-ups) music to play as well. And I asked other parents to consider bringing some snacks, dish towels, hand soap or the like as well.

The hardest part of this all, besides getting motivated, was putting myself out there and the fear that no one would ever show up! The day of the first group I arrived early, made a pot of tea, put on some music, and waited. I decided that worst off, Adelaide and I would have some nice one on one time together. But then, people began to arrive one by one and soon it was a full house.

making a playgroup by you.making together by you.

And then something I never even expected happened - organising this group has became one of the most fulfilling things I have ever experienced. I have met so many amazing and wonderful children, mamas, papas, and grandparents. I have gone from having just a few mama friends to having dozens. I have met neighbours who live on our block, but I had never seen before in my life! People seem to (I hope!) enjoy coming to the group. It is amazing to me, how doing little things such as this can seem to spread happiness. And now when Adelaide and I walk around our neighbourhood, we know almost everyone by name. 

beautiful grammas by you.

It has now been four months, and about 50 little ones and their parents have attended our playgroup - On any given day anywhere between 5 and 15 children and their parents might come by. Some people are regulars, others have only come by a couple of times. In spreading the word, I have found that word of mouth and inviting people face to face has worked great, rather than relying on more anonymous methods. But I have now decided it is time to finally make up some posters and little flyers to put out around the neighbourhood, too.

make friends, big and small by you.

For the longest time I couldn't come up with an idea, but one morning I was inspired by some of Addie's little wooden people toys that I bought at Daiso ages ago. Sarah Neuburger also makes the most wonderful little wooden people too, which I couldn't help but think of while making this. I began drawing little people, one by one, in Illustrator, but soon I ran out of ideas and so Charles drew up dozens and dozens for me - he's great like that! Once I had made up a big group of characters I arranged them all and added the text information (The typeface I used is Clarendon). Once everything was arranged, I printed them out onto cardstock, some full page 8.5 x 11", and then reduced by 50% and doubled up per page to make flyers as well. Once all printed, I trimmed them down and corner rounded them all. Done!

a card for playtime by you.

Friday, April 17, 2009

a treasure box

This afternoon while Addie naps, I have been finishing up assembling another edition of my Pocket and Journey books. I am now sticking some little treasures throughout the pages of each of the books, for their new owners to find and hopefully be inspired by. For example, I am adding some vintage stamps to each book. I love my little box of vintage postage stamps and thought you might, too.

One of my very favourite things to do is to visit old stamp collecting shops. My very favourite is Chantou International on Fraser street in Vancouver - pretty much right smack dab in the middle of the Punjabi Market. The shop is stacked high and low with all sorts of tidbits, and I can always find some neat and inexpensive little treasures there not to be found anywhere else. Each visit always leaves me feeling happy and satisfied.

Unfortunately, most of these little shops seem to be dying off - a victim of the internet and of changing times, I suppose. Every time I go to visit Chantou International I hold my breath to see if it is still there.

If you'd like to find a similar little shop in your town, I've found the best way to find them is to look in the yellow pages under "stamp collecting". Quick, before they are all gone!

treasures by you.

plants need love, too!

Every spring I get this incredible urge to do some gardening, and this year the urge is hitting me hard. I'm suspicious of the lingering cold air, however, and so I am holding myself back for at least a couple more weeks. In the meantime, our indoor plants are doing really well and several of them desperately need larger homes. I finally got around to re-potting some of them this afternoon, with a lot of help from Adelaide... she always enjoys moving any kind of dirt around, and I'm trying to show her how to be nice and gentle in caring for them.

So when we were done transplanting them into larger pots, Adelaide began acting really odd with the plants, doing this sort of bobbing dance and hanging over them. Finally, after a few perplexing moments I realised what she was up to: kissing and hugging them all!

My goodness, how this little girl fascinates, surprises, and charms me more and more everyday with her sweet quirkiness. I cannot wait to know her more and more. And show her this world, us two together.

it's love by you.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

a dream to sleep

bedtime by you.
Last night Charles came home from work just in time to capture our bedtime together: Adelaide, Elliot and I. And I am so glad that he did, for I'd like to have this with me for always.

For a while when I was little, every evening my mom would read a bit the book My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George to my older brother and, without he realising it, I would listen in, too. This book really perked my imagination as a little girl, and if left such a huge impression in my little head. Ever since I've often imagined, when I am about to fall asleep, that I live inside the middle of a very cozy tree in the forest. I dream that I am all safe and warm and cozy falling asleep in my tree. And this little dream of mine can get me to sleep every time.

I am now 32 years old and still I often imagine that I am in my tree, except now Adelaide is always with me, too. The other night I realised that this dream of mine - which has been with me for so long now - has kind of come true. For we live just beside a huge forest in a little house, which although is not a tree, we have made all safe and warm and cozy together.

Often, when I am feeling sad or lost or down, I will pull out my old copy of My Side of the Mountain and re-read it once again, and it usually does the trick and brings me back to that cozy and safe place. It's amazing to me that a childhood book can do that, and I'm glad that it does.

But it's also left me wondering - have children's books left such a huge impression on others, too? Are there any books that you have carried along with you for decades much like me? Perhaps I am just a bit odd, but I suspect (and hope) that others may have these stories, too. And I'd love to hear.

cozy by you.

Monday, April 13, 2009

one week-end

I've had the loveliest weekend in a long time. First of all, my maple address file boxes arrived and they are just beautiful, every one of them! So on Friday with Adelaide away happily - perhaps a little too happily - with her grandma and grandpa for the day, I was able to put my first batch of address files together. It felt so strange yet wonderful and familiar to be able to do this again. I haven't forgotten and my fingers can still fly! I have also found that now that I'm a mama I have even more love and care to put into my work. It feels like my heart is even bigger when it comes to everything in life now. And this is very good.
candy jars by you.
Whenever I am out and about I always keep a look out for storage solutions - because in my experience, you can never have enough storage solutions. I found these two big vintage candy jars at a Thrift shop and had to bring them home with me. Their bright red lids are so happy to me and I am now using them to store all of my +30 card packs, which I made dozens and dozens of up as well so they would all be ready to go to their new homes. It is my hope that they soon be filled with the names and details of people who are loved.
I grew up not celebrating celebrations such as Birthdays, Halloween, or Christmas, and so now it is important to me for Adelaide to have childhood joys in such events. A few of my wonderful neighbours and I planned an easter brunch and egg hunt for Sunday. Of course, it poured rain all day like never before, but it suprisingly ended up being so lovely to head with our brightly coloured children into the quiet damp still of the forest and find treasures all together. This is one of the only photos I took, for it was so wet I was actually frightened for my camera! But to me it somehow captures a certain happiness that we felt all together in the forest on this wet day.
forest hunt by you.
I love my camera (a Nikon D50) but I don't make a habit of bringing it along everywhere. However, I really wish that I did the other day as we took Addie for her very first Dim Sum! It was so much fun - she loved it! Despite me being not a huge fan of Dim Sum - I eat mostly vegetarian, and I also unfortunately find that a lot of Dim Sum doesn't sit well in my belly - I can't wait to take her again. 

I really want to involve more Chinese culture into Adelaide's world, but being a white girl it feels a little - contrived on my part. I'm not completely ignorant, for I grew up in Vancouver and it has a huge Asian population which has very much influenced what this city has and will become. We have a lot of Asian friends and neighbours, and Addie has many little Chinese friends and even more little bi-racial friends around our neighbourhood to spend time with. However, Adelaide's dad Charles is really laid back, and he's not the type to plan out cultural events or drag his daughter to Chinese School (he despised and loathed it). Charles also works a lot and so Addie spends the majority of her time with just plain old me. Her yehyeh and mahmah live far away so she won't really be able to learn from them either. I just hope that Addie doesn't grow up and feel alienated from such a big part of her heritage. 

Do you have any experience for such a matter? Did you grow up the child of Caucasian and Asian parents? Do you have children who are part Asian too? Do you have any thoughts on what else can I do - besides reading books like Yum Yum Dim Sum to her, and taking her Aberdeen and to yummy restaurants like Peaceful Noodle every so often? Are you aware of any Cantonese speaking programs for little children in the Vancouver area? Or do you know of anyother Chinese-type storybooks to recommend? Any thoughts or suggestions you have I would greatly appreciate.

sweet adelaide by you.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

beautiful boxes

Isn't he lovely? Jack seems to be as proud as these boxes as I am!

Yesterday I approved the final samples... I am so excited to have my my address files available again. And relieved! And very proud to have done it with integrity - it took me forever to find the right craftspeople to work with on these - each and every beautiful one of them had been crafted by hand and produced by a local family business that promotes sustainable forestry practices and primarily uses residual wood from small, local mills. And finished with an environmentally-safe, non-toxic, water-based finish to keep them beautiful for years and years to come. I still have and use mine everyday: numbered 000081 and dated April 25, 2002.

samples all go by you.

My craftspeople have also been putting any and all of the solid wood waste from these address files in a bin labelled “Free Wood” outside of their workshop. At the end of each work day they see a line up of people sorting through the bin. They have found that any waste is especially popular with local teachers who use the small pieces of wood for classroom projects. And their sawdust waste is sent to a nearby co-generation plant where the waste wood is used to generate heat and power. Every single scrap from these address files is put to use - from the woodworking to the paper scraps which I repurpose into other products or even use as cushioning for packaging.

It took so long to get this all sorted out, and it would have been so much easier for me to scrap my best intentions and simply get my boxes made for me overseas in China. (My partner and love Charles has dozens of relatives there willing to help me out with that!) But these address files really feel like another one of my babies. I wouldn't of felt good not knowing if they were created fairly or sustainably. It is important to me to always make a products that I can always be proud of and love.

And, it is my sincere hope that you may, too.

To all of my customers, past, present, future, and waitlisted: Thank-you so much for your support of my work - it means the world to me! And for your understanding and patience in the long wait for my products. Thank-you always for supporting the original creations as made by their original designers. It is my hope that I can continue to make the things I love to make, old and new, for a long time to come. But this would never be possible without you. Thank-you.

stacks by you.

oh! and if you are interested in ordering an address file from me, please send me a note to sharilyn at lovelydesign . com and I will add you to my waitlist. I have already contacted everyone that I have on my waitlist, but if I somehow missed you and you did not hear from me please let me know!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

pyjama day

i work, she plays by you.

Today Adelaide and I woke up - April 1st - to a snow falling everywhere. Again! I suspect that today is one of those days that will be spent indoors, except for a quick trot out to give our little bird friends some treats to eat.

So it is almost noon and here we are both still pyjama clad. Recently I've been feeling fraught with cabin fever and have been waking up a little bit anxious. Feeling like I need some sunshine, and quick! But today, we are both in cheerful and calm moods and I've been working away, making calls and sorting out many pocket and journey books, while Addie plays happily with Numno (her much beloved doll) and her felt markers at my feet.

It's funny how it goes, sometimes, that some days can be just awful and so frustrating, yet other days can be peaceful and lovely, for what seems like no reasons in particular.

I hope that you are having one of the peaceful and lovely days today, too.

pyjama day by you.