a kid's day


Waking up. Sometimes I need toothpicks to prop open my eyelids. I don't drink coffee - it never became a habit, and it gives me the jitters. My dad always used to say that cofee tasted like licking concrete. (We always wondered how he found out what licked concrete tasted like.) 

All of this to say that mornings are not the easiest time of day for me. It's always too early. 

Along came boys. Two of them, who are up-and-at-'em, ready to eat and play about three nanoseconds after their eyelids pop open. 


Several months ago, we were fortunate to receive a visual activity chart from A Kid's Day. It has greatly smoothed the wake-up ritual for both myself and Finn.

As we wait for breakfast to cook, I pull out the custom-made labels and hand them to Finn to attach to the tree chart. It gives us a moment to talk about our plans for the day. Transparency in routine has been helpful for Finn, and this little chart has helped me to maintain a predictable rhythm to our days. 


I try not to put *every* little thing we do on the chart - just the bigger "events." On a typical week day, I might pull out the following labels: inside play, outside play, errands, lunch, nap, tea time, art activity, dinner, music time, bedtime. That's plenty for us.

I do find that I need to put the chart up on top of a dresser ocne the labels have been placed, or else the temptation to completely rearrange our day (the labels are magnetic) is just too much for Finn! Here's a video of how Traci, the creator of A Kid's Day, uses their chart - I like how she has it stuck to the wall.

And the good news - A Kid's Day is giving away a Regular Tree Chart with 20 customized activity labels to one of you! Just leave a comment below to enter, and if you love their charts, earn extra brownie points for "liking" A Kid's Day on Facebook. What a wonderful home business, don't you think! Let's help spread the word!

Comments close on Sunday evening, January 29th. The winner will be drawn at random and announced on Monday, January 30th. Good luck!

Comments are now closed!

sponsor giveaway :: backwoods mama sewing camp


Welcome back to Kathy of Backwoods Mama Sewing Camps! Please read on to learn more and leave a comment to be entered to win a spot in the Indian Summer Sew Camp. 

Kathy Stowell is a home schooling mama of two who wishes to inspire others to embrace handmade and simple living. She is passionate about slowing down childhood by crafting a peaceful, bliss-filled home allowing time and room for children to unfold into their authentic, happy and quirky selves.


Meg: How does where you live influence your style and creativity? Explain to us a little more about the "backwoods" in the title of your e-course.

Kathy: My family and I made the move from the big city to a small rural mountain town six years ago. Thus my style is part country bumpkin, part downtown, part Gaia Rainbow Tree Hugger but always handmade or second hand. My mother teases me that from a distance I look like Paris Hilton out in the garden but I think that's due to my love of many colorful layers. And lap dogs in handbags.

The 'Backwoods' in Backwoods Mama is a nod to the desire in many of us to embrace a simpler time when most household items were made from scratch. So even without the immediate need to be self-sufficient the feeling of being able to tap into this instinct and create a tangible outcome such as a piece of clothing is empowering and a wonderful example to our children of the thoughtfulness and warm intentions behind handmade. Not to mention a fun challenge too! 

Meg: What hand sewn item of clothing do you wear the most, and why?

In terms of hours per wear I definitely wear my leggings most. From September 1st to May 31st if I'm without a layer hugging my legs I feel like I'm pretty much standing outside naked! And in terms of putting in on, then taking it off, then putting it back on several times a day, I wear my utility smock the most. I have three of these in rotation; one for spinning, one for sewing and one for milking. They are all decorated in their own unique flavor of backwoods-style debris.

Meg: Tell us about your Sew Camp! What can folks expect when they sign up?

Sew Camp is an opportunity to tackle quick, easy to whip up layering essentials for the backwoods frame of mind mama. These camps  offer perfect layering pieces to play in the garden in or to make a quick run into town for building supplies. There are currently two camps to choose from: Spring or Indian Summer. These e-courses are intended for the advanced beginner sewer (one who is familiar with how to make her sewing machine go and stop) with the need for practical yet stylish staples that will have you waving your made from scratch flag all the live long day.

With purchase of the course, you will receive the patterns in a pdf downloadable format, a password and link to a private blog where instructions, complete with photos and videos, to piece your Green Acres staples together. There is  also a flickr page to share your finished pieces with other backwoods mamas. As well, you are invited to contact me via email at any time with any questions if you get stumped. My backwoods door is always open to you!

Kathy is giving away three spots in the Indian Summer Sew Camp. Winners will be drawn at random and announced on Tuesday, November 1st. Good luck, and thank you, Kathy!

The winners have been drawn; congratulations to Milena, Dana and Sandy!

sponsor giveaway :: bella's casa


Bella's Casa is a learning community for parents, as well as an Etsy store selling hand made Montessori materials for infants and young children. Jae Jun, the creative force behind Bella's Casa, is a Montessori teacher and a monther. She created Bella's Casa as a resource for all parents who want to create (or enhance) learning spaces and activities that will grow a child's mind and instill confidence. She offers mobile-making classes in the Atlanta area, as well as offering an e-course for parents on creating a Montessori environment in the home for babies and very young children.


Meg: What is your background as an educator, and how did you come to love the Montessori philosophy?

I have my Montessori training for ages 3-6 (AMI certificate), and I have taught this age group for over a decade in Atlanta, Georgia, and New York City.  In my classroom experience, I experienced first hand the privilege of supporting the children’s education as an “aid to life” as I partnered with hundreds of families to best support the unique needs of their child.
I am passionate about all aspects of Montessori.  I am especially inspired by how Montessori encourages responsibility, nurtures self-discovery, promotes independence, inspires a love of learning – all with a foundation of respect.  Above all, I honor Montessori’s vision of creating “a peaceful world through the children.”
Meg: Bella's Casa is such an inviting space - how did you start it and what plans do you have for the future?

As a teacher, I worked closely with parents.  The longer I taught, the more I saw the importance of the parents’ role in their child’s education.  I came to see that the parents had a dynamic effect on their child’s experience in the classroom – and that connecting and partnering with the parents was equally important as educating the children in the classroom!
In my work as a teacher, part of my role included consulting with and educating parents. Just over a year ago, I decided to leave the classroom to focus on raising my daughter, Chelyn.  As a parent myself, I fully realized – now more than ever – the role the parent plays as their child’s teacher.  I have observed (and experienced firsthand) the struggles and concerns that parents encounter.  My training and experience gives me a unique and helpful perspective as I support and partner with parents to best support their child. 
My ultimate goal in the future is to provide phenomenal support to parents  with information, resources, inspiration, and material-making gatherings.
Meg: What is your favorite learning material to make?

It has to be the visual mobile series. I remember seeing my daugher's facial expressions, having an absolute blast watching them. It's a must for all babies! 
Meg: If you could recommend three books on early childhood education to parents, what would they be?
3. Joyful Child/Child of the World- These are beautiful catalogs/books available from Michael Olaf. I used these catalogs as a valuable resource when consulting parents. My parents love them!!!
Leave a comment to be entered to win! Winners will be drawn on Monday, September 19th. Also, Bella's Casa is offering free shipping on all orders! Coupon code: AUG 2011. Thank you, and good luck!
Comments closed! Congratulations to Jessica.

playful learning - thoughts on crafting a space

our new studio

Our studio bustles with activity in the mornings. After thirty minutes of uninterrupted time to myself, spent cleaning up the joyful mess of the previous day's gathering, I peek in to find Finn totally immersed in art. He doesn't notice my presence, his concentration is so deep.

When we moved in to our new home a few weeks ago, I knew setting up this space would be a priority. Just as having a functioning kitchen is a necessity for mama, the art area is a necessity for the two year-old.

Fortunately for me, Mariah Bruehl's treasure trove of a book, Playful Learning: Develop Your Child's Sense of Joy and Wonder arrived on my new front porch just in time to provide plentiful inspiration.

Playful Learning Book

And today, I'm honored to be sharing this space with Mariah as part of her blog tour! Read on to find out how you can enter to win a copy of Playful Learning or a spot in Mariah's e-course Playful Learning Spaces.

I'm pretending that Mariah's actually here with me now ...

Meg: Hi Mariah! Welcome to my new house! And please excuse the five-foot-high pile of books to your right as you walk in the door. ;) 

our new studio

Mariah: Thank you for having me. I feel so honored to be able to get a sneak peek into your studio!

Meg: I feel so shy showing our new playing/learning space so early in its (hopefully very long) life. I spent many, many hours dreaming about this space - making lots of lists and rearranging furniture in my head. It still feels like it needs so much tweaking. It was easy to feel overwhelmed at the beginning of the design process, but it was only in the (finally ... ever so gingerly) stepping out of the dreaming phase and into the hands-on arranging of the space that it really began to come alive properly.

our new studio

Some of the design came directly from those pictures in my head, and some of it came from the singularity of the space itself - its own idiosyncrasies combined with those of my toddler which made the space into a functional living area. I'd say that embarking on creating a playful learning space in your home is an exciting, yet nearly paralyzing process if you let yourself get too bogged down with all of your ideas for the space. It just kind of has to develop of its own accord. Has this been your experience with creating learning spaces both in the home and in the classroom environment?

Mariah: Most definitely! I am often overtaken by analysis paralysis. You are exactly right. The best way to break out of it is to dive-in and start experimenting.  When I view the process of creating spaces for my children as being experimental, it takes the pressure off of me to make things perfect. I find it helpful to take breaks and watch the way the girls interact with the space for a bit (you should see the piles outside of the atelier door!) and then make more changes. Taking the time to observe how your children are responding to a space can spark a lot of ideas. I also find it helpful to focus on one area at a time. I usually find that one one area falls into place, things start clicking all around. It is important to remember that small changes can make a big difference and everything does not have to be accomplished at one time. 

our new studio

Meg: Playful Learning has a very helpful checklist for items to include when setting up your space - be it the art area, writing center, or nature/science corner. I found myself referring to these pages quite often as I dug through my closet of supplies. (Oh my. That's another subject for another time - but eventually I need to have a super organized closet so I can find the supplies that I need when the inspiration strikes!) 

our new studio

Mariah: The checklists of supplies in the book are a good place to start when thinking about setting up different areas in your home that encourage reading, writing, science, art and so on. It is always fun to tune into your child's new interests in topics or materials and then create a space for further exploration.

our new studio

For example the play dough sculpting activity you put together for Finn was the right activity for him at the right time. You picked up on his interest in play dough and took it to the next level by providing him with interesting tools and modeling for him how he can independently take out and put away the activity. I will never forget the video you shared of Finn doing just that!

our new studio

our new studio

The same is true for the cutting exercise you created. Learning to cut is a developmental milestone for children Finn's age and they love to repeat it over and over again until the skill has been mastered. I am sure that Finn is loving that you created such a lovely tray for him with everything he needs to work on this important task. I loved seeing that Amanda Soule is experiencing the same phenomenon with her toddler. She shared a photo here (third picture from the top) and stated that she is "loving Harper's love of scissors." 

Meg: Playful Learning's ideas and activities, while written with the 4-8 year-old in mind, are certainly applicable for younger children as well. For Finn (27 months), art and writing are one and the same, so I have an art area set up for him. Eventually, as his interest words continues to blossom, I will begin to put together a writing center. That said, I found your suggestion for creating a "Mailing Station," complete with address labels for family and friends, as well as envelopes, stamps, and place for outgoing mail, totally ingenious! I have plans to set up our own Mailing Station in the near future, so Finn can send his artwork to his great-grandparents in California or to his friends who live in town. (As a sidenote, another cool feature of Playful Learning is that Mariah includes SO MANY book suggestions - the guidelines for setting up a Mailing Station are accompanied by mail-themed books to pique interest in the subject.)

Mariah: The mailing station is a big hit in our house! The goal is to provide children with what they need, so that when they  have the desire to reach out and send something they have made to a loved one, they are able to act on their idea. Once they realize that they can be successful at tasks like mailing letters, it becomes a part of their routine. We want our children to develop lifelong habits of heart and mind—children who write because they have something that they want to share, or they want to capture an idea or they want to connect with someone in their lives. When we create an environment that provides them with the tools they need to act on their natural inclinations, writing becomes a valuable medium for self-expression, rather than an end in itself.  

Meg: I really believe that a space will evolve with the child, and that we, as parents, must often take a step back and evaluate the current set-up to see if it meets the needs of the little people who move through it and use it in their play and creative exploits. The designer/artist in me wishes that I could just create a beautiful space and leave it at that, but that's just not the reality of life with a child who is constantly learning new things both about the world in which he lives and about himself and how he moves in the world. I know that this studio of ours will change with time, while keeping a familiar and orderly backbone so my boys can use it with confidence. A few tips I have for creating a studio space:

our new studio

- Rotate, rotate, rotate! The older a child gets, the more materials you can have available (i.e. collage materials.) This isn't the case for a toddler. Keep a collage tray on the shelf, but rotate out the materials every week or so. Our art area is very much a Montessori set-up from my own background, and I think this balance of having a limited number of materials on display with which the child can explore freely fits the 2-4 year-old age range quite well. The older the child gets, the more access they can have to all of the family art supplies. Currently, Finn can use everything on the red shelf, but can't yet reach the supplies on the white shelf. He can see the paints and ask to paint with me if he wishes, though.

Mariah: Yes! You just brought up some really important points...

Less is best. Over the years I have moved towards leaving out less and less in terms of toys and materials for the girls. I have found that when there is less to choose from, they make better use of their things. With that said, I make sure to have everything they need for the activities that I do make available. I love creating theme based baskets and trays, that rotate as the girls interests change. For example, my youngest daughter loves to paint so I leave out a tray with a blank canvas, paints, brushes, a color wheel, and a color mixing palate so that she can create whenever the mood strikes her. I love how you have done the same thing with Finn—making age appropriate materials available to him that he can access and use independently.

You are never "finished." The spaces we create for our children are never “finished”, but are continually evolving as our children grow and develop new interests. We can create a useful “infrastructure” but the materials and activities need to be revisited and rotated on a regular basis. I like to take a fresh look at our atelier approximately every six months to replenish, reorganize and update the materials and displays according to where the girls are both developmentally and interest wise. It never ceases to amaze me how a few little tweaks can inspire the girls to move right into the fresh space filled with new ideas and projects.

Meg: - When it comes to envisioning the perfect space, there's no better way to store all of your ideas than on a Pinterest board. Mariah has very inspiring boards. Try keeping one board for "spaces for kids" and one for "activities for kids." 

Mariah: Being a visual person, Pinterest has opened up a whole new world for me. I have found it to be a wonderful resource for inspiration, especially in terms of creating spaces for children. It also gives a glimpse into the thought processes of some of my favorite bloggers. It is a really fun way to connect, share and become inspired.

our new studio

Meg:  Make a wish list. For example, the area to the left of the red art shelf and pin board is where I will eventually put a big, black chalkboard - I just don't have the time to do that right now. I'm also on the hunt for a child's rolltop desk and a just-right shelf for our writing area. I have a list that I take with me thrifting, and when we have some cash to spare I search Craigslist, Ebay or Etsy for a specific item. For example, I had a pastry stand on my wish list for displaying materials and recently found one for just a few dollars. 

Mariah: I definitely have my fair share of wish lists! I also find it helpful to add general things to the list, like "ribbon storage" or "glitter management". Then I try to look for unconventional ways of storing and displaying those materials. Often times I already have something that can be repurposed to meet our current needs.

Congratulations on your truly helpful book, Mariah. I know that it is a resource that parents of young children will reference over and over again. 

To enter to win a copy of Playful Learning or a spot in Mariah's upcoming e-course Playful Learning Spaces, leave a comment with your favorite idea (include a link for inspiration if applicable!) for a child's Playful Learning Space. The winners will be drawn on Sunday evening, August 21st. 

Comments are closed! Congratulations to Misha and Christine.

sponsor giveaway :: nido

Read on to figure out how you can win a yard of the luxurious Nani Iro jersey fabric that "Fighting Lachlan" is sporting! Thanks to Phiona of Nido for hosting the giveaway!

Nido 1

From Phiona: Nido is a unique fabric & yarn shop that offers a hand picked selection of modern fabrics and local yarns. If you haven’t already checked us out online I encourage you to take a peek.

Nido 2

Nido 3

Nido 4

Nido is proud to offer fabulous Japanese fabrics, including Nani Iro by Naomi Ito. Not only do we carry the gorgeous Anniversary 2011 double-gauze line; we also have the jersey knits! Need a reminder of how cute this fabric is? Check out Lachlan's outfit! The jersey is lightweight and oh so soft.  In fact, we love it so much that we would like to share it with YOU. We will be doing a giveaway this week of one yard of the Nani Iro Uchu knit in the color of your choice. Just leave a message in the comments section of this post letting us know what you would make and/or which is your favorite colorway & Meg will announce a winner on Wednesday, July 6.

Don’t forget to stop by Nido’s blog for a bit of sewing & knitting inspiration & to keep up on our new arrivals.

Good luck to all!


Comments are closed! Congratulations to Tara who said:

Oooh, I love the Fuccra Rakuen Yellow on Purple!

sponsor giveaway :: garden laundry


Thank you so much to Cara of Garden Laundry for putting together this little post. Do check her fabulous selection of vintage sheets at her Etsy store, and leave a comment on this post to win a $30 gift certificate to Garden Laundry. I'll close comments on Wednesday, June 22.

Comments are now closed. Congratulations to Jill K! And thanks to Garden Laundry!

P.S. Vintage sheets are PERFECT for the lining of the Bohemian Carpet Bag!


There are so many projects floating around using repurposed vintage items. I am over the moon with dresses like this:

il_570xN.250160457by naughty shorts

What can I say?  I have a soft place in my heart for upcycling. It first started with our upcycling furniture blog, Twice Lovely. This gave way to repurposing with vintage linens, such as using printed floral sheets for upholstering, throw pillows, and slip covers.


And so, Garden Laundry was born to land all our lovely vintage finds.

I’m a contemporary floral artist and mom of 6 little littles, (don't worry, I have lots of loving help with the scrubbing, and lots with my laundry, too). Here’s an example of my mainstay, which is currently not listed online:


Provence Lavendar oil on canvas

Anne Marie is the main contributor to Twice Lovely, continually breathing life into old, throw-away furniture. She is currently pregnant with her 4th child and is taking it easy on the furniture for a while. Together as friends, we have fun collecting and trading ideas. One day, I came across this folk quilt that has repurposed vintage sheets and prints worked into it as a most beautiful piece of art. I fell in love.


I was going to give it away on here, but Layla from the Lettered Cottage scooped it right out of my humble little shop this week (and actually featured it on her big fancy blog)! Imagine that! So, we’ll just have to settle for a $30 gift certificate, and I’ll let you guys do the picking and repurposing for yourselves. Don’t worry, there’s other garden laundry bouncing around in the shop right now for all your upcycling needs.


Like this crisp vintage sheet for 10 buckaroos.

And if you are interested in unique vintage bedding, we collect that as well.  

Simply ‘heart’ our etsy shop and “like” Then comment here on a favorite Garden Laundry item, and you will be entered to win! Here’s to lovin’ your laundry!

sponsor giveaway :: sew fun patterns

From my sponsor Jennifer of Sew Fun Patterns:

Getting ready for baby means carrying a lot of stuff and Sew Fun can help you to stitch up a nice solution with the new Boho Shoulder Bag sewing pattern. This pattern is a reversible, sling style bag with bottom pleats to make it nice and roomy. It features lots of stylish top stitching, a toggle button closure and pockets inside & out.


The thing to love most about this pattern is that it takes just one yard of two different fabrics (one each for inside and out – it’s reversible)… a perfect opportunity to justify all those “I’ll just buy one yard!’ moments at your local fabric shop.

The pattern calls for the outside fabric in home dec weight or similar fabric. It looks and feels just lovely in the Japanese linen/cottons from Echino. If you are feeling more ambitious and you have the perfect quilting weight fabric, you can apply a light to medium weight interfacing to the exterior fabric like our friend Carrie did with this gorgeous Laura Gunn Dogwood Stripe in Olive from her Poppy line of designer fabrics.


The Boho Shoulder Bag can be worn over the shoulder or across the body, messenger-bag style - perfect for keeping a busy mom’s hands free. Use it for baby’s things, yoga, market, books, knitting – just about anything!

What can you do with your Boho Shoulder Bag? Please leave a comment below… Sew Fun is giving away three Boho Bag Patterns to our Sew Liberated friends!

Thank you, Jennifer! Please enter your comment to be added to the name draw - I'll be choosing a winner at random on Tuesday evening, February 15th.

Getting ready for baby means carrying a lot of stuff and our friends over at Sew Fun can help you to stitch up a nice solution with the new Boho Shoulder Bag sewing pattern. This pattern is a reversible, sling style bag with bottom pleats to make it nice and roomy. It features lots of stylish top stitching, a toggle button closure and pockets inside & out.

playful learning spaces e-course giveaway


By now it should be clear that I have a bit of a passion for designing spaces for children - both in the home and in the classroom setting. I know that's one of the reasons I'm so drawn to Montessori education, with its emphasis on the importance of the physical (and emotional) environment in the child's development. First, of course, comes the joy of creating spaces and activities that inspire young children. Nothing beats seeing the twinkle in the eye of a child happily engaged in play or learning. Another reason is purely personal, but oh-so-fulfilling: designing these spaces for children provides me with my own creative outlet! As someone who needs a healthy dose of creative work in order to recharge, this is the perfect match for me (a busy, work-at-home-mama) as it allows me to fulfill two needs at once - the needs of my child(ren) as well as my own need for creative rejuvenation.

Imagine the "woohoos" and "awesomes" that came from my mouth when I realized that Mariah Bruehl of Playful Learning will be offering a six-week e-course on the topic of Playful Learning Spaces! Imagine my continued delight when I emailed Mariah about the course and she generously offered a free spot in the course for one Sew Liberated reader! Here's what Mariah has to say about the course:  

Comments are now closed; thank you to all who entered!

Playful Learning Spaces is a six week online course that is designed to guide parents and teachers through the process of designing thoughtful spaces for children. Throughout our time together we will explore and share ideas for creating areas that invite children to engage in reading, writing, science, art and so on. We will also discuss organization, storage, and selecting materials for different ages and stages of child development.

Each week participants will receive a video that contains basic educational principles, simple guidelines and helpful photos. You will also receive weekly assignments and links to relevant research, products and inspiration. As a community we will have the opportunity to look at the spaces we create for our children, tackle overdue projects, post before and after photos, and receive practical feedback and support.

Leave a comment on this post to be entered to win a spot in the Playful Learning Spaces E-Course. I'll draw a winner this Friday night, January 28th.

The course starts on February 9th and continues until March 16th, although Mariah assured me that course content will be available to participants well past the end date for those of you who need to work at your own pace. (I'll certainly be one of those people, as Lachlan's arrival will likely happen smack dab in the middle of the course!) So please don't hesitate to sign up if you don't win the free spot - I'm certain that you will find Mariah's expertise, tips, and guidance to be invaluable assets in your parenting bag of tricks.

Good luck!

P.S. I just noticed that Mariah's book, due out this summer, is now available for pre-order!