Kate A Playful Day Create

Creative Mother Kate from A Playful Day

Have you heard about The Maker’s Year? When I came across it, quite by accident through an Instagram hashtag — #themakersyear — I followed the hashtag trail and it led me to the creative and inspiring Kate from A Playful Day, what a lovely surprise, indeed! A few months back Kate interviewed Melanie Barnes and I (read it here) about our Slow Living Project. Since our short conversation with Kate I’ve been totally intrigued by her creativity, both the range of her artistic abilities and her intelligent contemplation of the role creativity  plays in (her) life.

Kate is a mother, writer, blogger and podcaster, and as she says “sometimes a photographer.” Kate reminds us to make time for creativity, but most importantly to notice all the small, routine, daily activities in which we create. We are always making and creating to sustain our bodies, minds and souls. The Maker’s Year gives a nod to this making and creating and inspires us to share our creativity with others. In good fashion the Maker’s Year is also focussed on sustainability and seasonal rhythms. The Maker’s Year not only asks us to think about how little creative acts can make a big difference in our life, but also how being creative and in tune with the seasons and sustainability our small acts can have a huge, important impact. (By the way, it is not too late to join in The Maker’s Year, so visit Kate’s site and get involved).

There’s a lot more to Kate than the Maker’s Year, so please read on and hear her story of motherhood and creativity, slowing down and making. Enjoy!

Kate, please tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your background?

I fell into the creative online life almost entirely by accident. When A Playful Day began I was living in London and working an incredibly stressful job. My career had been focussed on helping those in need: families in crisis, teenagers with mental health problems, children with extreme social behaviour problems… so many challenges and so little time to help everyone. Blogging was a way to feel like I wasn’t living for the spaces in between all that noise and activity. I rediscovered my love for writing and explored photography a little again having lost them almost entirely. As the blog gathered momentum, so did my need to make positive changes to my life and rescue my health. I went searching for a playful moment in every day and found a completely new path. I’m forever grateful that I took that risk.

Bowie poses a playful day podcast kate

What part of the world do you live in?

I recently relocated with my daughter to rural Dorset which is to the south of England. We spend our days gasping at big skies and are lucky enough to witness lambing and birds of prey swooping into the sea. It’s as spectacular as it sounds but not without challenges. It’s currently soaking wet and our routes into preschool each day keep flooding. I wouldn’t change it for the world though.

Foggy Durdle Door kate a playful day

How do you spend most of your days?

My weekday life is pretty fast paced. As it’s just my daughter and I, I try to wake a little before her to check news and what’s been happening in the world before she calls for me. We breakfast together, talk about our plans and soon are in the car and driving through the countryside to drop her to preschool. While she’s there I work on commissions for writing or photography. Sometimes I meet with creatives for planning and coaching sessions but for the most part I’m at home with tea and a playlist keeping me company. It’s a varied work day which can be fun but a bit overwhelming sometimes. Before long I’m back in the car to collect my daughter and we often bake and make together until bedtime. Then I work into the small hours on admin, emails and my own blogging and podcasting content.

The weekends though…. Now the weekends are where things get truly wonderful. My daughter and I like to do small chores in our pjs and share a slower breakfast which usually involves one quick bowl of cereal to take the edge off then something delicious we made like granola or eggs and fresh bread. I sip coffee and we pack bags and head out to the coast with waterproofs and cameras. We collect shells, laugh at the wind whipping our hair and reconnect with each other and all the things we love. My daughter and I are true nature babies so filling up on these moments sustains us for the busy week ahead.

lamb A playful day Kate

enscomb 1 kate a playful day

Do you have a favourite quote or words that inspire you?

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style” – Maya Angelou

I never got over my teenage hero worship when it comes to Maya Angelou. Her beautiful words speak to me as a single mother in my thirties as much as they did an awkward 15 year old girl learning her place in the world. Maya understood the need for sass and the deep desire to tell a story. My understanding of feminism feels more complete for reading her words about the value of women, of colour and class in the world. My days are fast paced because I’m living and I always think of the quote above when I’m tired and wondering if I should just lay low for a little while.

What are some of your favourite books?

Anything by Toni Morrison. I think I’ve read most of her books at least once and each time I am touched deeply by her ability to see the twists and turns of life and love. Toni wrote the most beautiful passage about a love that will bring you to your knees in Jazz and her opening to The Song of Solomon remains my favourite start to any novel I’ve ever read.

What were you passionate about as a child? Has creativity always been a big part of your life?

I come from a family of story tellers and book worms. My grandfather made up stories about a naughty goblin named Jerry and through every season he would appear, spoiling our apple pie or hiding my second mitten. I read 3-4 books a week and wrote stories that I sent to my teachers, grandparents and friends. I can still remember the day my father handed me a camera and told me to look for the thirds and suddenly I had a way to express myself even further. However with little encouragement to pursue my interests, I fell into a traditional academic route and the Arts took a back seat.

At University I studied Theatre and English language at a really radical university where we built sets and performed weird feminist pieces in dumpsters. It was here that I realised I had an ability to make and channelled it into costume design and constructing huge installations. Knitting and food didn’t come till much later in my life when I felt my creativity had dried up.

What inspires your work? Can you tell me a bit about your blog and podcasts on A Playful Day?

I love process and creativity that connects us together as makers. I get into a certain meditative state when taking a photo or baking bread and that’s when ideas and thoughts flow. I try to make both my work and A Playful Day feel that way. Whether I’m writing copy for a maker’s website or styling a beautiful process shot, I want the person who discovers that content to feel a story there that they can connect with.

A Playful Day focuses on storytelling and reflection. I blog and podcast about my knitting, passion for food and commitment to sustainable living. I have an open, honest style and I love the way people react both as readers and listeners but also as guests on the podcast. When I invite people on for an interview, I always share 5 questions that we’ll think about but we move so much deeper than this as our conversation evolves. I come away feeling like my need to discover has been sated and I will often have guests write month’s later to talk about the interview impacting their creativity for months. I guess it is important for all of us to find time to reflect and celebrate our choices and process.

swatches upclose with blue A Playful Day Katelulworth cove a playful day kate podcaster

Can you talk about your latest project the Maker’s Year? What inspired this? And how can people join in?

The Maker’s Year came from my need to make every day. I feel overwhelmed by 365 challenges and suspected that if I looked closely enough, I was already making in some form each day. I began to wonder if I could document this for others to draw inspiration from. I wondered if in taking the time to be present and mindful in my making, whether I could cultivate further creative habits that enriched our family life. I’m increasingly concerned with our climate and wanted to develop practices that focused on local produce, sustainable sources and keeping things manageable for me. It all came together as The Maker’s Year and a determination to explore how and what I create on a daily basis. When I shared my thoughts, the response was enormous and one of my favourite wake up activities now is to browse #themakersyear and look at the little changes people are making each day to nourish their need to make and enrich their lives. It doesn’t have to be huge. I finally made some marmalade and felt so accomplished. No more store bought jams!

The Maker's Year Collage A Playful Day Kate

When you aren’t working, what do you love to do?

Get outside! We live in one of the most beautiful areas in the world and I feel as if my eyes become hungry for the colour and texture it provides. Whether it’s trail running, hiking or playing by the sea with my little girl, my day always feels better for just being outside. I get the worst cabin fever!

Also I love to have time to knit. I have so little free time these days. I love it when I find time to curl up with a project, my needles and a yarn that feels like a story in itself. Breed specific wool is a growing passion of mine. It is endlessly fascinating how wool varies between breeds and the different processing methods that create the materials I end up working with.

coastal path A Playful Day Katecow a playful day kate podcaster

Thank you, Kate, for sharing on the blog, you have inspired me in so many ways with what you’ve shared, and I’m sure you’ll inspire many others to live creatively and sustainably.

Readers, you can find Kate on Instagram @aplayfulday and make sure to visit her website, A Playful Day, which is the hub for all her creative activity, including The Maker’s Year. You can also find Kate on Twitter, Pinterest and Steller as @aplayfulday.

This interview is part of my Creative Mother series, find the rest here.

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Artist Profile: Kara Rane and her Cosmic Circles

Sen, by our bedroom window, enjoying the colours shine through two layered cosmic circles by artist Kara Rane. Such a fun, creative, open ended play thing. I always wonder what he’s thinking about. [ Sen’s necklace is from Tribal Dreaming “Earth Warrior” and his leggings are organics from Mabo ]

I remember well what my passions were when I was a child: drawing and arranging things artfully, dancing, playing in the forest, and (as crazy as it sounds) I was passionate from as early as I can remember about environmental protection. But I also remember thinking from very young that none of these passions could be an adult pursuit. (How wrong I was!!) I somehow thought that happiness came from things, from comforts, and that I couldn’t have those things (and thus happiness) without money. Since the statistical likelihood of earning money as an illustrator, artist or tree hugger seemed quite slim, I decided to be practical and enter a traditional, remunerative profession in order to find myself in a context that would afford me things, and thus enable happiness. Well, surprise ending: Things don’t make you happy. Passions do. People do. 

Today, I’m happy to share with you the story of a woman who knew and followed her passions throughout her life and has been able to provide for herself and her family what they need to sustain themselves and their happiness. Kara Rane is an artist, world traveller, and mother of one, who makes beautiful artwork inspired by her deep connection and reverence for the earth. She and her partner have a small homestead nestled in supportive community committed to sustainable living. What a beautiful environment in which to raise a child! I put much hope in children raised in such an environment for their future contributions to community and sustaining our planet. But I know that us urban dwellers living in the mainstream can also play our part in raising our children differently, it might just be a little harder to drown out the distractions, noise and clutter. But we can do it too!

Whether you are living rurally or in an urban setting I think Kara’s passion for art and sustainability will inspire you to find ways to nourish yourself and your family with creativity and the natural world. I hope so!

Dear Kara, please tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your background?

I grew up at 6,000 feet in the mountains of Southern California, in a log home.  Nature was a huge part of my childhood, and I found my favorite places to be were among the trees, streams, lakes & wilderness.  I also love the ocean so I decided to attend the University of California at Santa Barbara (studying Environmental Science and Art studio) where I could live by the sea.

I am deeply connected to the natural world, but my curiosity compelled me to explore urban life and I lived in San Francisco and New York City.  Having a passion for travel, I also lived for a time in the Caribbean on a tiny remote island, trekked the Himalayas of Nepal, returned to my native Nordic countries, explored Thailand and Vietnam and have road tripped throughout parts of the United States.  All of these experiences I was able to manage on only the money I earned. At times it was a daunting task as often I found myself with nothing other than my creativity to survive.

What part of the world do you live in?

We live in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Northern California on a 6 acre homestead. We have an organic and heirloom orchard of 44 trees, an organic hop yard and small gardens to grow our food.  We love the community, as there are many ‘back to the Earth’ folks. It is common practice for us to trade with one another for goods and this is truly a delightful way to know your neighbors.

at the Farmers Market Kara Rane Cosmic Circles

How do you spend most of your days?

Recently, most of my days and nights are spent caring for our baby.  I have learned to incorporate him into projects via baby wearing, so work continues on. We also make a priority to hike at least a couple times a week, often with other mamas and their babies and children.

Do you have a favourite quote or words that inspire you?

“What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, men would die from the great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected.” -Chief Seattle

This quote resonates so strongly with me as I feel that I am trying to recover a part of myself that has died due to the loss of so many animals, trees, and the myriad of life forms who are now extinct, or are at risk of extinction due to human caused perils. In honoring these beings I feel wholly united. It is my hope to draw, paint, create them back into the world of the living. In nourishing this wildness, I too am trying to resurrect my soul.

Eco-Art cards - Kara Rane
What are you passionate about?

Our capacity to change as individuals and a collective global society gives me hope. Without this, it would be impossible for me to be passionate about anything as I have a lot of concerns for the future of the environment on which we depend. Hopefully, the work I do as an artist can help bring about this change.

Can you tell me a bit about your work as an artist?

Using vibrant, neon, and rainbow colors to layer sacred shapes and patterns, the vision is revealed to me as the lifting of a veil.  Into a dimension of light, a familiar yet brighter and more alive Universe is known. I see a place of harmony, peace and happiness. Through nature and ancient symbolism I glimpse the Divine.

Returning Forward © Kara Rane

Are you able to support your family financially with your artwork?

My art sustains me as a whole person. Throughout my life it has also been a source of income in various ways. Often times, I have been forced to get creative in how this might look. For example: I worked as a studio artist in NYC for a corporate art making company. Although, I was not making my own art I was given a lot of freedom. Currently, I am a full-time mama and have created several eco-friendly product lines featuring my art. They are sold in retail locations, at local festivals and farmers markets and via my website.

Can you talk about your cosmic circles?

The ‘Cosmic Circle’ designs are a kaleidoscopic portal allowing light, color, energy and beauty to fill your Life. I hand create the original designs and Greenerprinter, a business based on the highest standard in environmental printing, reproduces the images. These colorful, transparent clings adhere without adhesive, so they are easy to use, remove and re-use. Better than stickers!!

More ℃osmic ℃ircles © Kara Rane

When you aren’t drawing, what do you love to do?

Working with my hands, in all things!  I am very dedicated to living a sustainable lifestyle, to supporting and growing organic food and to understanding how to best care for the land and creatures we depend on.  This requires a lot of work outside on the land and that is where I love to be, with the trees, birds, sun and sky.

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Thank you, Kara, for sharing a glimpse into your world and creative vision and purpose. How beautiful visually and soulfully! Readers you can find Kara on Instagram @kara_rane and you can read more about her art and visit her shop at www.KaraRane.com.

This interview is part of my Creative Mothers series, you can find the rest here.

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Tropic of Candycorn Interview Erynn Montgomery Travel with Kids

On New Years Resolutions, Yoga, Self-Care and Travel

Since my early twenties I haven’t been much into New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions, yes. But once a year, on a specific date, no. When I was practicing yoga intensely in my early twenties I found an excellent studio, at the time it was one of only two in town that offered a holistic approach to teaching yoga. What this meant was there was a good sprinkling of other lessons within the classes aside from physical practice.

In one practice, when we were approaching December, my instructor brought up the topic of New Years resolutions. Seemed a bit early to me to be talking about them, but inhale, exhale, I listened to his words. Until this time, I had always made a few New Years resolutions each year. However, on this day, what he said was “If you decide you should do something, don’t wait to do it.” He continued “If you know something is right, that it’s good for you, that you want to set an intention for a full year toward it, then it’s pretty important. Right? So why are you waiting another month, week, or day to start?” He was so right! If I know in my mind and heart that I need to do something, change a habit, dedicate myself to a new project that’s so important that I intend to resolve to do it, well, then I shouldn’t neglect it for another day. I need to start now! Since that day, when I’ve come upon a moment of resolution, I’ve not let myself delay.

Because of this perspective, I haven’t been one to write a long list, or even a modest list, of resolutions each new year. I just start on them as they present themselves. Of course, I’m not perfect, I don’t implement my resolutions perfectly, but I think you get the point of what I’m saying: Don’t delay. Nevertheless, being present on social media for the last two years, I’ve read and heard a lot about other people’s resolutions and reaffirmations, and I can’t help but reflect on myself and what I can improve, what I need to change, how I can do more good with my energy, when I read these.

And so, in the context of social media and conversations with a new friend, Erynn, this year I made a few New Years resolutions; one’s I hadn’t made before. First, travel more. I don’t have a budget for travel, but this doesn’t mean I shouldn’t dream. And it doesn’t mean I have to travel far. It could be travelling to new places within my city. But putting the intention out there is important. Second, take better care of myself. No one will question how much I care for my children and family. I’m wholehearted and unconditional, I give them as much as I can every day. I love to. But in this mix I don’t take exceptional (or even good) care of myself. My friend Erynn who is organizing a Yoga Retreat in May, helped me re-evaluate how much attention and care I give myself. I need to be happy, healthy and balanced to be a good mother. But, truthfully, I am a good mother (I’m riddled with self doubt in most aspects of my life, but mothering is not one of them). However, I’m not the best role model when it comes to taking care of myself. In falling in love with mothering, I let my yoga practice slip, reduced to a very light practice, sometimes going weeks, months, without stepping onto the mat. I realize now that I wasn’t modelling the type of self-care I hoped my children would one day exhibit when they left our nest. The environment in which children grow up, the patterns and habits they observe over time become their baseline. I decided that I needed to shift my baseline of self-care if I wanted it to have an impact on them before they left home. So this year, in 2016, I am returning to my regular yoga practice and running more often, and generally taking better care of myself. I’m also going to travel more, even if it’s only within my own city.

I wanted to share an interview with my friend Erynn. Erynn is a creative entrepreneurial mother who maintained her passions in the midst of raising four children. I’m always inspired by women like her. How did she do it? Erynn has a passion for travel and humanitarian work and fortunately found a creative way to combine these interests with work and family time. Erynn runs a high end travel company, but also runs Tropic of Candycorn a great information resource for people interested in travelling with families, especially the more adventurous types of travel. I hope you enjoy hearing from Erynn – I especially love that she knew early on that she wanted to prioritize experiences over stuff! Go Erynn! And I hope that travel and self-care are part of your ambitions for 2016.

Erynn, please tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your background?

I love raising my four daughters. Before children, I served as the President and CEO of a humanitarian organization helping impoverished South American communities. I traveled a lot and loved meeting different people in many cultures. As my husband and I awaited the arrival of our first child, we swore we would continue to make travel a priority. We started a boutique travel company that designs custom trips for top-tier clients. I find the most joy traveling with my daughters and inspiring other families to go places together.

Tropic of Candycorn Interview Erynn Montgomery Travel with Kids

What part of the world do you live in?

I live in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of the United States.

How many children do you have and what are they like?

Rather than list their unique qualities – because they are each so different and special, but changing constantly – I’ll share their names and how you would know who is who if you met them for the first time. Cora is 11. She would be the first to engage you in conversation, which would typically have a lot of smiles and giggles involved. Hero (age 10) would give you a steely gaze at first, disappear into the pages of a book, and then engage your son or daughter for hours of physical play. Philippa (age 6) is a sprite for whom you will willingly offer anything sweet you may have brought with you. Finally, Minerva (age 3) will listen carefully to everything you say so long as you don’t look directly at her. She will occasionally interrupt our conversation with hugs and kisses on my cheek in order to secure my attention.

Tropic of Candycorn Interview Erynn Montgomery Travel with Kids on www.hippieindisguise.com

What are your core family values?

We value time together – near or far. We value an exploration of the world with open hearts. We value learning and experiences. Above all else, we value kindness.

Kindness is the trait I hope to instil most in my daughters. I do not want them to be naïve, or docile, or even sweet. No. Sweet people, especially women, can be taken advantage of. What I want is true compassion—for them to be mindful of others and to understand a wide range of life circumstances. I want them to barter fiercely for something, but leave a little more behind than what was agreed upon. I want them to see the beauty in different ways of life, compare it to the life they have, and then create something new based on their own ideals. I want them to reach out to others and make a difference, and then allow people to reciprocate.

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What do you love to do as a family?

We love to spend time together. We love to experience things in nature. We love to read and bake and have tickle fights. We also love to travel. Travel has a way of condensing life lessons. We decided early on that we would rather buy experiences than stuff.

Tropic of Candycorn Interview Erynn Montgomery Travel with Kids on www.hippieindisguise.com

What are you passionate about? And what inspires you?

I love the world and I love people. As an introvert, it’s sometimes challenging to reach out to others, to allow myself to be vulnerable. When traveling, you’re in a constant state of vulnerability – new places, new people, new languages. It can be very overwhelming. Before we make lasting friendships, I typically spend a few days observing people in their own environment. Witnessing what makes them happy inspires me. It’s always the simple things.

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Can you tell me about your work as a travel planner?

I think so. It’s kind of a weird gig. Ha. Ten years ago, I co-founded a boutique travel company called Mosaico Travel. We provide custom travel to top-tier clients. Most people, especially in the US, have short vacations. Time is their most precious resource. They want vacations to be special, but they don’t have a lot of time to research the best places and activities for their family. Getting to know people and designing something that will become part of their family heritage is very rewarding for me.

However, I miss my humanitarian roots. I love it most when I can introduce some of my travel clients to the communities that I have served and loved. These experiences always end up being what they remember and cherish most.

Tropic of Candycorn Interview Erynn Montgomery Travel with Kids on www.hippieindisguise.com

Tropic of Candycorn Interview Erynn Montgomery Travel with Kids on www.hippieindisguise.comWhat is Tropic of Candycorn?

As Mosaico Travel grew, I noticed something that concerned me. People wanted to travel, but they weren’t sure how to make it work well with children. Unfortunately, as a culture we tend to focus on the difficult parts of raising children: painful childbirth, sleepless nights, crying babies on the plane, etc. Although I admit parenting requires resilience, I have found it to be incredibly rewarding.

I began answering questions, even from very seasoned travellers, about what they should bring or do on a vacation with kids. They didn’t understand how I would travel with my daughters (often without another adult) for weeks at a time and love it!

Although I consider myself a private person, I began to share. I wrote stories that I hoped would inspire. I wrote tips on how to make things easier or less intimidating. I wanted to create an online resource, Tropic of Candycorn, where people could come and learn from our community and discover what works for them.

Most of all, I wanted travel to be accessible to a wide range of families, not just the top-tier. I know that most children’s happiest memories will be away from home and I want those memories to be spent together.

Tropic of Candycorn Interview Erynn Montgomery Travel with Kids on www.hippieindisguise.com

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Top three places to travel with kids and why?

Oh wow. I’m not sure I could narrow it down. We love places where we can explore in nature, relax, and have fun. And eat ice cream! I often get asked the question, “Where’s the best place to take children?” My response is usually a variant of “wherever there are children.” Some places are easier than others and some destinations are better geared for individual families, but if the local children are happy, healthy, and safe, I think it’s a destination worth considering.

Don’t be afraid to stretch yourself. Most places on your bucket list are safe enough that you’re considering them. If a destination doesn’t make you a little nervous and a lot excited, you might not be trying hard enough. Go for it!

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You’ve organized a retreat catering to moms. Can you tell me more about it?

I would love to. This motherhood thing is awesome. But it can be exhausting too. I realized I was giving everything I had to my children, my husband, my work, and had little (if anything) left for me. As I began to talk to other mothers about my struggle, I discovered I was far from alone. We jokingly said, “Someone needs to plan a vacation for moms.” I got some lovely, genuine women involved who I knew needed a break – a way to recharge themselves so they are better prepared to care for the people they love.

The retreat is a way to replenish body, mind, and soul. There will be daily yoga and surf lessons. There will also be daily workshops geared to inspiring mothers: letting go of fears and insecurities; making magic every day and inspiring wonder in  ourselves and children; owning your expertise and sharing it with others; living simple, beautiful lives full of meaning and mindfulness.

It will be from Monday, May 2 – Saturday, May 7 at the JW Marriott Guanacaste in Costa Rica and we would love for any mothers who need this to join us. It will be the most epic Mother’s Day.

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Did your priorities and life goals change once you had children?

Not drastically. I always enjoyed helping and serving people, which made my transition to motherhood easier since that’s the bulk of the work.

What’s next for you, do you have any fun projects or vacation planned?

My oldest daughter turns 12 on April 2. Long ago, before we realized how quickly our children would grow, we told them they could choose a parent-guide and a destination for their 12th birthday. They would be required to work within a budget, and plan their adventure with some parental input. When Cora realized that I needed to attend a work conference in Switzerland in mid-March, she asked, “Well, if you’re already in Europe, then your airfare doesn’t count toward my budget, right?” She figured out that she could take a direct flight to Paris to meet me. She shopped for the best price and then nervously stood by as I finished the payment. We’re both excited. For Cora, it’s a right of passage – learning to navigate the world with more independence. For me, it’s a chance to spend one-on-one time and create memories that I hope will buoy us during the teenage years.

We’ll be sharing a travelogue on Tropic of Candycorn about our experiences including a daily breakdown of how she’s working within the budget.

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What are your dreams for yourself as a mother?

I dream of raising four women who become strong, independent forces for good in the world. I hope to embrace my imperfections so that they can too. Ultimately, I want to leave this world a bit better than I found it.

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Thank you Erynn! Readers you can find Erynn on Instagram @tropicofcandycorn or on Facebook here.

THERE ARE STILL A FEW SPOTS LEFT IN The Tropic of Candycorn YOGA & SURF RETREAT IN COSTA RICA, MAY 2-7, 2016

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Creative Mother: Sophie Isobel Asher

I have a beautiful interview with writer, artisan, stylist and designer Sophie Isobel Asher to share with you today. Sophie is a woman of many talents and careful reflection. She has always lived a creative, passionate life, but pursuing her interests and living an intentional life became her centre after a life-changing event. Sophie’s story is like others and yet is uniquely her own. I’m so pleased that today she is living passionately and creatively, and has translated these into a business that supports her family and her spirit.

I know that many of my readers will know her from her beautiful blog and her creative projects she shares on Instagram, but I thought you might like to hear more about her and her story.

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Sophie, please tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your background?

For as long as I can remember I’ve lived creatively. Since I was a child, I’ve always been making, writing or dreaming up wild ideas.  These days, I’m a writer and an artisan, some days I write, some days I make and on wonderful, inspired days I do both.  I work as a stylist and writer for a lovely regional lifestyle magazine and I run a bespoke sacred jewellery & decor label, Wilde Asher with my mum and my sister.

I studied Creative Arts at University focusing on fashion and cultural theory and later completed postgraduate study in secondary school teaching.  I’ve always been passionate about sharing knowledge and ideas, so I think I came about teaching as a natural progression.  After five years of teaching and giving that career path everything I had, I was starting to feel burnt out and at the same point, I experienced a major life change which led me to find my true passion, start our family business and work creatively everyday, on my own terms, doing whatever nourishes my soul.

What part of the world do you live in?

My husband, my daughter and I live in a little white cottage close to the Murray River in rural Victoria, Australia.

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How many children do you have and how would you describe them?

I’m mama to our little girl, Tallow Frankie Bluebelle (Tali for short), who is the most wonderful, kind and passionate two year old. I’m also mama to our angel baby Cohen Littlewing who was stillborn at 20 weeks in 2012.

How do you spend most of your days?

I really enjoy slow days and taking things gently wherever possible.  I mainly work from home and usually while Tali is having an afternoon nap, so I really try embrace those few hours of time alone, to nourish my soul with whatever I’m working on.  During the day if we’re not playing at home, crafting or in playing in the garden, we visit friends, play at the park and go exploring by the river.  Our little town has a beautiful slow pace, so we like to meander along with it. My creative work often comes along with me and I often add a few rows of crochet, write ideas or gather leaves for natural dyeing while we enjoy the sunshine.

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What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

My husband and I are both avid gardeners and we spend most of our free time outside, in the garden or down by the river.  We love to go on picnics and bushwalks and explore some of the ancient landscapes near where we live. Along the way we gather local fruit and veggies from the farmers markets and farm gate stalls and dream about our own someday off-grid farm.

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What inspires you?

Foremost I’m inspired by the natural world, particularly my local surroundings, wherever that may be. I am truly nourished when I’m outdoors, noticing the details, revelling in the sunshine or the moonlight. At the moment I’m particularly inspired by the plants around me, especially the vast eucalyptus trees that grow in abundance in the region. They share such beautiful stories and every time I gather their leaves or bark for natural dyeing, I feel I’m capturing a little part of this beautiful land. I’m also totally enchanted by the moon at the moment, connecting with it’s cycle and understanding it’s incredible affect on the natural world.

I’m also inspired by change and the wonderful revolution I’m seeing unfold every day through social media. People are standing up, changing their lives, their habits, realising that life is not all about buying and consuming.  This revolution makes my heart sing and makes me work a little harder everyday to make changes to my life and my families lives, to lighten our footprint, to slow down, live simply and consciously.

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You have been blogging for a long time now. How did you get started? And how has your blog evolved?

I began blogging in 2008, before blogging was really even a thing to do.  I began as a way to keep in touch with my family when my husband and I moved interstate.  I never expected my blog to be read by others, I was just really documenting my days.  Over the past eight years I’ve always documented my life and my creative world. In 2011 I was blogging once or twice each day, before Instagram really started and I look back now and wonder how on earth I kept up. I think I started to feel overstretched at the thought of ‘keeping up’ and in 2012 when we lost Cohen, I stepped away from my blog and really reassessed every aspect of my life. I came back to blogging a different person, passionate about sharing only what I loved, rather than what was on trend, passionate about the changes I’d made to live a more conscious and heartfelt life.  I’m so grateful for this evolution and today my blog is more like it was back when I first started, it’s a journal of our lives and the seasons, a documentation of my creative journey and how we live and love.

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What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about life and living every aspect of it with my whole heart. I am truly passionate about simple, conscious living and shifting the current paradigm we live in.  In every area of my life, I am working towards treading more lightly, living more harmoniously and finding that balance each day.  When our lives were forever changed by Cohen, something ignited within me.  I realised I never wanted to take another moment for granted.  I used to have this world around me that I was filling with stuff and all of a sudden our world shifted and I just wanted to let it all go, strip back to the bare essentials and really search for who I was and what made me truly happy. I’m forever grateful to my journaling, yoga and meditation practice, which enables me daily to explore and delve into what this happiness is for me.

Can you tell me a bit about your business, Wilde Asher?

Wilde Asher is the heartbeat of our family.  It brings together myself, my mum and my sister, to create, beautiful and ethical, sacred jewellery and decor made especially to adorn your soul and sacred space.

We first began Wilde Asher back in 2012 and since then it has evolved with us to become not only a business but a very special manifestation of our collective dreams.  We all collaborate together on the jewellery in our collections, sourcing ethically from around the world. We find stones and charms that resonate on a high frequency and contain beautiful energy, especially for personal growth, manifestation and balance. My mum Annie, is our incredible jeweller and works from her studio by the beach in Queensland to create each of our pieces. My sister also creates beautiful, hand written art prints and I make a range of one off fibre artworks, including wall hangings and coiled baskets. We are really excited to be working on new pieces this year that truly reflect our philosophy for beautiful, unique, ethical creations, made from the heart… Soul nourishing pieces to enjoy for a lifetime.

Did your life goals and career aspirations change once you had a child?

In my previous career I was a high school English and Literature teacher.  I loved my job and it really inspired me to see my students go on and achieve their dreams, but I also realised in the process I was not achieving my own dreams. Becoming a mama actually allowed me to step away from teaching and reassess what I really wanted to do with my life.  It was the breathing space I needed to find myself.

Being a mama has given me the opportunity to truly connect with each day.  I love being able to work from home, to play in the garden, to wander the neighbourhood and collect treasures with my girl.  I feel truly blessed and constantly inspired by the journey of motherhood.

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What are your dreams for your life?

We would love to one day move back closer to our families who live interstate. We’d love to purchase a small property and live off the grid, raise animals, grow vegetables and truly live in tune with the seasons. I’d love to unify my ideas and dreams, write them down, turn them into books, share them with others, run workshops, collaborate and spend time with like minded people. Of course ultimately I’d love to ensure that as a family we are able to spend as much time together as we can, doing what we love to do and exploring the beautiful moments of our everyday, with love and gratitude.

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Thank you so much Sophie! Readers you can find Sophie in a few places: on Instagram @sophieisobelasher, her shop Wilde Asher, and her inspiring blog www.sophieisobelasher.com

  • This interview is part of my Creative Mother series, find the rest here

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Creative Mother: Artist Erin Wetzel

It’s obvious I love doing interviews, showcasing other’s special talents, whether these are creative talents, parenting talents or otherwise. It’s hard to know where to start with Erin Wetzel. Erin is an illustrator and portrait artist living in Washington state with her young family. She is certainly a talented artist, with a unique and humble point of view. But as I’ve gotten to know her, I’ve found layer upon layer of wisdom and intelligence that I had no idea were there from the little snippets I gleaned from her Instagram gallery. Her writing is beautiful and honest, unpretentious, and always stirs you in ways that you need to be stirred. She makes the everyday exquisite in its simplicity, or rather shows us that it already is. What a gift, because our perception is everything.

Dear Erin, please tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your background?

While I have been creative my whole life, it wasn’t until about three years ago that I started exploring my current style of watercolor and ink portraiture and illustration. Most of the things I’ve learned have been through trial and error or from talking with other artists. I am most inspired by The Everyday, finding extraordinary beauty in the humdrum of ordinary moments.

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You can see a compehensive gallery of my work on my site: http://ekwetzel.com/artwork/

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What part of the world do you live in?

Tacoma, Washington.

How many children do you have and how would you describe them?

Phoebe is a 4-year-old with a big heart for dancing, slugs, and being a big sister. And Baby Wetzel is our newborn (birthdate & name TBD). [Erin’s second daughter, Clementine, was born shortly after she gave this interview].

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What are your core family values?

We believe that the virtues of God permeate the world in ways that are accessible to anyone.

We believe in grace, generosity and humility.

We respect the beautiful power of the individual and believe that people are naturally creatures of connection and creativity.

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How do you spend most of your days?

There is no typical day for us, but there are rhythms we move between from week to week. We do lots of cooking and baking, but I’m a terrible gardener and our yard is more often than not a tangle of weeds. We read a lot, but we also love video games, like the Toca Boca games on the iPad, or Bioware games: Dragon Age and Mass Effect. We love to explore the outdoors, especially Tacoma’s rocky beaches or our Pacific Northwest woods.

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What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

Mostly, our favorite thing is to just be, at home, together. Sometimes we goof off, or play a game, or dance…but as long as we’re all engaged, that’s what fills us with joy.

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What are you passionate about?

Helping people. Making the world a better place. Leaving things a little more beautiful, a little more whimsical, a little more connected than I found them.

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What inspires you?

Attachment.

Can you tell me a bit about your work as an artist and illustrator?

I focus on portraiture and scenes of relationship and whimsy. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot with animal/human hybrids. I think that putting an animal face on a person’s body helps make people laugh, but, on a deeper level, it also pulls at an innate need for connection inside of us.

Let me explain what I mean.

We are all separate beings, moving through life, surrounded by “others.” When you see something beautiful in an other, that draw towards beauty is like your spirit saying: “I see something inside of you that echoes within me. We are not alone. We are the same.”

Art is all about speaking the language of Beauty. It connects us. With my art, I take people (others) and give them animal faces (which makes them really, truly others, because animals aren’t humans). Even so, people STILL identify with these visual representations and find connection and beauty in them. I think they help us realize on some intuitive level that we are all connected to something bigger, stronger, and more beautiful than any one of us alone.

This is why I believe art can bring hope: because it reminds us how beauty permeates even the most innocuous of moments; art reminds us how to look for it; and, when we carry that beauty inside of our hearts, it connects us to an underlying faith that goodness will conquer in the end.

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Did you life goals or career aspirations change once you had a child?

Absolutely.

When I became a mom, I started asking myself all sorts of hard questions about what it looks like to be a good parent and spouse. It was a winnowing experience for me. Parenting with a wide open heart threw me into the fire and burned away a lot of fears and inhibitions.

I never used to think about what my dreams were or what my purpose was…I was content to just bob along through life. When I became a parent, I started to realize that, in order to support my child as she becomes the person she’s meant to be, first I had to have the courage to do the same. I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. I wanted to be a role model.

So, in a way, parenting opened me up to deeper love than I ever realized before, both for my daughter, but also for my husband and for myself.

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What are your dreams for your work as an artist?

Abstractly: I want my work to give people hope. I want it to make them smile and remind them of the ever-present goodness in The Everyday.

Practically: I’ve always wanted to make a children’s book, ever since I was a child. Most of my life, I thought that just meant finding the right story to tell. But, now that I’m an illustrator, I’m exhilarated to find the right pictures that speak even more poignantly than words.

Some day. When the story is ready, it will find me, and I will shepherd it as best I can.

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Thank you Erin! Friends and readers you can find Erin at ekwetzel.com or on Instagram @ekwetzel and on her art account @ekwetzel_art on Twitter @ekwetzel, and her Etsy shop Ekwetzel (briefly closed while she welcomes baby Clementine is now open again. Use code: KISSES until January 23, 2016 for 10% off). She is a must follow!

This interview is part of my Creative Mother series, find the rest here.

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HAVE YOU SUBSCRIBED TO THE GLOBAL GUARDIAN PROJECT YET? THESE ARE MONTHLY LEARNING CAPSULES FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES TO LEARN ABOUT GLOBAL STEWARDSHIP. EACH MONTH FEATURES A DIFFERENT COUNTRY’S WILD LIFE, LANDSCAPE AND CHALLENGES, AND INCLUDES ART PROJECTS, ACTIVITIES, MEDITATION, RECIPES AND MORE! USE MY DISCOUNT CODE: HIPPIEINDISGUISE FOR 10% OFF, YOU CAN READ MORE ABOUT IT HERE

Flowers for Your Health: Calm-a-Mama

Probably around the time when I started practicing yoga, 18 years ago, I started seeking out natural remedies and health supports in place of conventional medicine. Over the years I’ve researched and tried almost everything from herbal tinctures to homeopathy to essential oils. Personally, herbal and floral remedies along with essential oils have been the best health supports for me and my family. When Ro had a very hard time sleeping more than 45 minutes straight at the age of 1, I used lavender essential oil in combination with flower essences to support her sleep. It felt like a miracle to see these simple natural supports help her sleep longer and more soundly. Since then I’ve sought out more knowledge and increasingly used essential oils and tinctures with my family. These days when the children are feeling sick or not themselves they will ask for an oil or drops — they’ve grown up thinking of these first. In fact, I’m not sure either of them knows what Tylenol is.

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A few months ago I met Hannah Garrison who recently started a business Calm-a-Mama that specializes in herbal and flower supports for children and adults. I was really excited to find a company making blends to support common family needs like “sleep” “focus” and “calm”. We’ve been using Hannah’s drops for a month now and absolutely love them. The only trouble is that they are so tasty the children are coming up with symptoms so they can “have a few drops” everyday! It’s the same with essential oils, once you start using them, you find you are using them everyday for something, but it feels good to be reaching for this sort of bottle.

As usual, I wanted to interview Hannah to learn more about her and why she decided to pursue this business. I learned that Hannah is a very energetic entrepreneur with multiple projects and businesses on the go and that she has a passion for supporting mothers (she reminds me of two other great mothers I’ve interviewed Heather Mudry of Mama Malas and Alyssa Kerbel of Mini Mioche). I hope you will enjoy meeting Hannah and please feel free to ask me questions about natural supports I use with my family, I’m always happy to share.

Tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your background?

Well, I went to four colleges after growing up in NYC.  I danced ballet, seriously, for years and then majored in anthropology.  I always cleaned my room without prompting and have always been slightly scared that something terrible is about to happen.

What part of the world do you live in?

I live in an imaginary world, where everything is clean and organized.  Oh wait – you mean for real? My family and I (and my businesses) are based out of Providence, Rhode Island (USA).  I grew up in NYC and I have to say, at this point in my live Providence suits me better!  It is beautiful, small enough to master and yet large enough to have good art and smart people.

How many children do you have and how would you describe them?

I have two kids – Camilla is 5 and Isaac is 2.  I get nervous about describing them because I don’t want to pigeonhole them. So right now, today, Isaac is giving me a run for my money.  He is amazing and hysterical, but a total and complete handful. Camilla is the best big sister he could ask for and in general she is a shining light. She is very precise and determined and all about mastery and planning. But emotional, so emotional.

What are your core family values?

That we show up and stay honest. My husband and I try to set the tone for this by really being open communicators about our feelings.  I want our home to be a safe space where the tricky stuff can still arise and be handled.

How do you spend most of your days?

Feeling guilty that I should be with my kids more or feeling guilty that I should be at work more.  I am totally stuck in the trap of nothing is right. But at the same time, I know it is all okay.  I know I cannot be a stay at home mom and work full time. I know this is only temporary and I am really doing the best job I can.

What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

I’d say anything outside. We pretty much get along well and are happy doing anything. But, I’d say that as a unit we are out best outside. That can be yard work together, gardening, going to the beach or hiking– anything that gets us in touch with nature.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about moms.  And moms helping moms.  So I’ve recently had a trickle down interest in feminism,  I recently read Wonder Women by Debora Spar.  At one point she says, “…she could not do it all. No one can. No one does. Yet women today are laboring under an excruciating set of mutually exclusive expectations: a double or triple whammy of hopes and dreams and desires. To be madonna and whore. Mother and wage earner. Smart but not arrogant.  A leader but not a bitch. And because they can’t possibly be all those things at once, women are retreating to the only place they can, the only realm they have any chance of controlling. Themselves.”

And I don’t want to be that person, at odds with all the other women and in the position of impossible. So I am passionate about empowering women.  And right now that’s about putting some healing back into their hands.

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 8.07.13 PMWhat inspires you?

Right now I am mostly food motivated…But in general, everything inspires me. Which can, honestly, be a bit problematic.  Mostly though, I am driven by helping other women…seeing other people thrive is my passion and my inspiration.

Can you tell me a bit about Calm-a-Mama?

Calm-A-Mama is my newest baby.  I have run other businesses before but nothing that I felt so strongly and passionate about.

Calm-A-Mama drops combine two gentle methods of plant healing. First, we make USDA organic botanical water extracts and then add flower essences to them.We preserve the tincture in glycerin, resulting in a USDA Organic, alcohol-free supplement that is gentle enough to be taken by infants and yet incredibly effective on the emotional and physical bodies. Safe for the whole family and made from the highest quality organic ingredients

You advocate for simple everyday self care for mothers. Can you talk more about this?

Generally, I take something that I am really interested in and I make it into a business.  I assume, that being human, a lot of other people out there will also dig what I dig.  And I figure if I am so fired up about something and excited and passionate, that it will come through and entice others.  Right now the world is busy, stressed and overwhelmed – and a great counterbalance to that is slowing down and paying attention. Essentially, intentionally caring for one’s well-being amidst this madness.

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Why did you decide to start a business?

I’ve never had a choice.  It is just what I do.  Business is in every cell of my body.

Did you life goals and career aspirations change once you had a child?

Yes and no.  They didn’t change so much as they adjusted. They shifted. They made space.  I assume they will continue to do so as we cruise out of toddlerhood.  My goals are like koi – adjusting to the available waters.

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What are your dreams for your professional work?

To keep going.  To live through it.  To keep the balance.  To keep helping people.

What are your dreams for your family?

I want my family members to be full, to live their fullest, to feel their fullest, to try and to seek and to soar.

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Thank you Hannah! Readers you can find Calm-a-mama online here and on Instagram here or Facebook here and Twitter here.

Hannah also keeps busy with these other projects and businesses: www.wearyourmusic.com, www.OMstack.com and www.hannahgarrison.com.

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Let’s be friends! Please come find me in other places…

Creative Mother Rebecca: On how children inspire design

I had another intro written for this piece…but in the wake of the Paris attacks yesterday, I keep asking myself what should I be doing differently, if anything, to raise my children to be open and loving, to be peaceful especially, in the face of what seems like perpetual conflict across the globe. The values we instil in our children are what they take to school and into the future. The core of what they experience at home is what they will come back to in times of struggle. Feeling at one with peace, peace in our hearts, peace in our thoughts, peace toward others, peace toward ourselves, this becomes their home base. The more peace we experience, the more it radiates from us, the more people it touches. I think these small gestures can be huge. Thinking peaceful thoughts won’t solve clashes between abstract ideas, but their energy and intention will not go unfelt.

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I want to introduce you to Rebecca. Rebecca is a mother, artist and social entrepreneur and the creative woman behind Children Inspire Design. I first met Rebecca when we worked together to raise funds for Free2Luv, an anti-bullying organization. Rebecca has combined her artistic passions into a socially responsible business that supports charities, all while creating educational art for children.In addition, all of her products are made sustainably, including using eco inks and biodegradable packaging. Rebecca aims to develop a sense of compassion for the earth and all its inhabitants and diverse cultures through her art for children.

It seems eerily fitting that I had this post planned for today. Peace and love start at home, cultivating compassion for the earth, all its people, cultures, and ways of life. Whether this happens through conversation, play, storytelling, or modelling, we are raising the next generation. Let’s raise one that has mutual respect and peace at its core.

Thank you, Rebecca, for making such thoughtful art that can help us have critically important conversations with our children.

Tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your background?

I am a nomadic artist at heart. I’ve been living back in the [United] States with my family for 10 years now, but we are always on our way to a new place to discover. I’m married to a lovely Italian, we have two children and currently call Southern California home. I created Children Inspire Design while living in Mexico with my very young family. I saw a need for global inspired nursery decor, specifically art that supports multi-cultural families. So I started designing alphabet and number prints in different languages and things just grew from there.  Children Inspire Design is now 10 years old (yikes)!

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What part of the world do you live in?

We’re currently in Southern California, but have kept our nomadic roots. While at home we have a lovely charter school our children belong to that allows us to homeschool while on the road. We’re currently packing our bags for a visit to Nicaragua and Costa Rica. We’ve worked hard to find a community to belong to that also supports our desire to travel and after a long road we’re grateful we’ve found it.

How many children do you have and how would you describe them?

We have two boys, now 12 and 9. In a blink is an understatement. My kids are my muses, the whole reason for my business. I have this deep seeded need to show them the world, all the beautiful parts, the scenes, the colors, smells, tastes. The diversity and similarities. I want them to discover for themselves and get a sense of where they belong in this big, beautiful world. And they are eager. They’re at such a ripe spongy stage. The world is still a gorgeous mystery to them and they are optimistic and eager. It’s my job to do my best to maintain that for them. And to be able to create art for like minded global families who see the importance of this type of education.

What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

Travel.  Of course

What are you passionate about?

Experiencing new places as a family.

What are some words you live by?

“It comes and it goes. As it should.”

“A smile does wonders.”

Can you tell me a bit about Children Inspired Design? What are your products and how are they produced?

I’m the artist behind Children Inspire Design (CID).  I create the majority of the art designs in collage form using recycled papers. Simple cut and paste. Even my method is childlike and I like that.

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CID shares profits with charities, how does that work?

Yes, in two ways. We donate 10% of proceeds from our sales on ChildrenInspireDesign.com to women and children-focused initiatives. We also partner with non-profits by designing exclusive art and donating 100% proceeds for a designated period of time. In the past we worked with global foundations such as Gain Health and raised enough money from our world map design to provide nutrition for 8,000 Rwandan mothers and children for an entire month. That was an amazing project to be a part of. I would do that forever if I could!

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Who designs your graphics?

I do 90% of the designs. Every now and again I pull someone in to finish up an idea I just can’t put together on my own.

What is the ethos of Children Inspired Design?

Inspire Children. Change The World. If we can teach children how to care for the earth now, carrying that responsibility into the future will be second nature for them. Teach the littles compassion for the Earth and all who inhabit it. I think that’s our best hope to get them out of the mess we created.

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Why did you decide to start a business?

Before Children Inspire Design, we were living in Isla Mujeres, Mexico and I owned a little coffee shop. From that experience I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I loved the feeling of my baby on my hip while running a business. I knew I could do it.

Do have any projects or collaborations coming up?

YES!  I haven’t made the official announcement yet, but I’m partnering with travel blog Global Munchkins as a contributing family travel blogger, so there will be lots of traveling in our near future. Together we’re launching the Global Guardian Project, which is a resource blog for global minded parents looking for educational projects/deep travel tips/videos on how kids can help care for the earth in everyday life. Each place we travel, I’ll be partnering with environmental organizations and my kids will be interviewing them and creating videos for kids teaching how you can help in everyday life. It’s a HUGE educational opportunity for my family and for Children Inspire Design. My hope is to be able to grow as a global resource for parents and inspire adults and kids alike to create change.

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What are your dreams for your professional work and your family?

I just want my family to keep traveling and learning and to make art that help parents educate their littles.  That would be a true gift.   If my family is proud of me, there’s nothing else I need.

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Thank you Rebecca! Friends: you can find Children Inspire Design online shop here and on Instagram @childreninspiredesign. Her other shop is Kindred Sol Collective.

I will be hosting a one-day sale on my Instagram account on Sunday, November 15, 2015, where you’ll be able to purchase our favourite piece from Rebecca’s collection: the Our Earth interactive map, with reusable stickers.

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Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset   The Ro Dress: Raising Funds for the Jane Goodall Institute

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Label Love: Mountain Honey Clothier

“Everything sweet about childhood can be summed up in a bonnet”

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A few months ago I won a giveaway with Mountain Honey Clothier. The prize was an organic, reversible bonnet, with removable ears — one hat, four ways to wear it. I loved the simplicity and versatility of the design, making it fun for a young child and mature for an older one. Not to mention, it was beautiful and the sort of item you knew you’d save for your grandchildren.

After exchanging a few messages with Deidre, the woman behind the brand, I learned about her unconventional path to starting her business and more about all the care, consideration and research she puts into her craft. I was also really impressed with her efforts to source her materials and produce her heirloom clothing line in the most sustainable way. She even uses her scraps to the fullest by making adorable soft toys and treasure bags. I asked her if she’d share her story and she happily obliged. Thank you, Deidre.

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Tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your background? How has it influenced your creative pursuits?

I’ve been sewing since I was a little girl. Creative expression has always been a huge part of who I am, as a young teen I actually covered every square inch of my bedroom wall with little doodles, I spray painted my door one day while my mom was at work, I stepped in paint and walked on the wood floors of my room. My mother was ever tolerant of my need to express myself. She was also the one who taught me to sew, starting with Halloween costumes. She supplied me with plenty of fabric scraps and odds and ends and was generous enough to allow me to use her nice sewing machine, even when she wasn’t there to supervise. I made little pillows and stuffed animals.

When I had my own children I began to sew even more. Creating clothing, toys, and blankets for them. I loved seeing them play with or wear something I made with my own two hands, and I loved that the items were quality and would last.

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Five years ago I began a degree program in Biology. While in school I participated in some research and I was keenly interested in molecular and cellular biology. I aspired to go on to a PhD program and perhaps become a researcher. While I was in school I had a few odd jobs to help support our household. We are very lucky to have a devoted and hardworking husband/father who supports our family, but I wanted to be contributing to our livelihood as well. However, being a full time mom, and running a household while attending college full time, especially in such a challenging field, required flexible work. Not to mention the fact that I was pregnant and delivered my third precious little boy during this time. So one day I was contemplating odd jobs, I was more in love with sewing than ever before, and I decided I would just google “how to earn money sewing”. That sounds silly, but it’s the truth, good old Google.

Well, little did I know where that would lead. Before long I was doing private label work for a children’s clothing designer. Soon I was doing product photography and taking on clients who needed me to do prototyping work. All along I was amassing a little collection of my own designs and selling them here and there to friends and at small craft shows.

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Time flew by and in May of 2014 I graduated cum laude with a B.S. in Biology from Castleton University in Vermont. I absolutely love science, I love research and problem solving. Despite this and all I had invested in my studies I was feeling more and more pulled towards my children’s line. I dreamed of making a go of it, of building something amazing. But Leaving something certain, something everyone expected me to continue in and that I had worked so hard at for something utterly uncertain and completely new was a frightening possibility. I convinced myself it was an amazing daydream but a scary reality. So, I continued to grad-school. I didn’t get far though, halfway through my first semester I took a leave of absence for personal reasons and that was when I finally decided to be brave enough to pursue this dream.

Here I am now, a year later. I have learned so much. I’ve refined my brand, stuck to what matters most to me, and created what I feel are some really special pieces. I am ever inspired by my children, by the natural world, and by a drive to build a company that is different than your average children’s line. I’m very committed to sourcing responsible materials and due to my background in the sciences, I feel I am acutely aware of the environmental, humanitarian,and health impacts of the products we bring into our lives. I’m striving to make sustainable and healthy choices down to each little detail. I am beyond excited to continue this journey and grateful for the ability to be there for my family and to have them be a part of this little company.

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What part of the world do you live in?

Vermont, USA. The green mountain state.

How many children do you have and how would you describe them?

3 boys. Maxwell, 16, is an overachiever like his mom but the most gentle soul. He is the principal bassist of the Vermont Youth Orchestra and an extremely talented musician. People are surprised to find out he’s 16, he has the maturity of an adult at times and is over 6 feet tall. Max plays on several school athletic teams, including the Varsity football team. But perhaps the most memorable thing about Max is his laugh, he has the most wonderful infectious laugh.

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Jacob, 10, the saying “still waters run deep” well it was written for this kid. My Jake is a bit of an introvert. He is the intelligent, quiet type. Those that know him best get to see his more relaxed side, and wow is it magical. He is passionately loving of his friends and family. He is full of emotion and so good at articulating his feelings. He doesn’t rush nor does he allow others to rush him and sometimes I really need his reminders to stop and smell the roses.

Derek, 3, this kids lights up our lives! He is doted on by the whole family and being the center of attention doesn’t bother him one bit. For his age his vocabulary is impressive, and he cracks us up on a daily basis with the things he comes up with. He has a habit of nicknaming people and the nicknames tend to stick. Derek is obsessed with helping and is so proud when the opportunity arises for him to use a tool or fix something with Daddy. He is my little sidekick and a HUGE part of Mountain Honey, you’ll always find him wearing a pair of ears!

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What are your core family values?

I’ve matured a lot over the last 16 years as a mom. The world has become a scary place for parents and I feel this has resulted in a tendency to overprotect a bit, honestly, it’s really hard now to balance keeping kids safe while giving them the space to discover who they are. This is what we are really working on as a family. I feel the best way to show someone you love them, is to do them the honor of trusting their judgement and allowing them to make decisions and to deal with any consequences that come. Our core values are honesty, responsibility, acceptance, and love. I’m working really hard to honor the difference between guidance and direction, to model these values instead of reciting them, and to give my kids opportunities to model those values as well.

How do you spend most of your days?  

Hahaha…October-December = wake, sew, wake kids, sew, make breakfast, sew, brush hair, remind boys to change underwear, sew, pack lunches, sew, drive kids to school, sew play play dough with Derek, sew, feed Derek lunch, read  with Derek, play with Derek, sew, pick kids up, sew, clean house, sew, cook dinner, sew, eat a family dinner, sew, cuddle kiddos, bedtime routine and kids to bed, sew, sew, sew, sew, sew, pass out, sleep 4 hours while dreaming about sewing. Repeat. Sprinkle in football games, concerts, playing outside, and family outings.

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What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

Discover new places.

What are you passionate about?

see novel above 😉

What do you design and how do you source your materials?

Designing is one of my favorite aspects of my job. Drafting patterns allows me to use my brainy side. Pattern drafting is as much engineering as it is creative. I make each and every one of my pieces myself, starting with the pattern design. Often, I am inspired by a fabric to create a new piece.

I have a deep love of fabric. While I buy some materials wholesale I also really enjoy patronizing small, locally owned fabric shops. Everywhere I travel, I find a shop to pop into and buy some treasured fabric. I’m also passionate about sourcing organic fabrics free of synthetic fiber. Not everything I source is organic but a really good percentage of it is. I haven’t done the exact math but I’d estimate at least 80% of the materials I use are organic and sustainably produced. My packing materials are all 100% recycled and I am extremely conscientious about energy use and waste in my studio.

Beyond the material there is the aesthetic piece. I think my aesthetic is best described as nature inspired with a vintage/heirloom charm. I love simple designs, that are timeless and a bit whimsical.

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What’s your favourite piece you’ve designed?

My bonnets, by far. They are my baby and are really unique to me. There is just something about putting ears on a baby, then combine that with an heirloom quality and styled piece, and you’ve got magic.

What are your dreams for your business and motherhood?

My biggest dream is to be a strong role model for my kids. It’s hard not to have some guilt about the little sacrifices we all have to make in order for this business to take off but I think the payoff is worth it. I dream that my kids will look back one day and appreciate that I showed them how valuable hard work and creativity are and that these efforts are reflected in the adults they become. My dreams of motherhood have less to do with me and more to do with what my kids experience, I hope that they feel loved and valued.

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My dreams for my business are that it will continue to grow and be successful. I wish for it to not only be able to sustain my family but that hopefully it will grow into something that can benefit my community and perhaps one day reach even farther. I don’t want to lose that handmade touch though, mass production will never be for me. I’d would love to be able to provide some flexible well paying jobs to other parents and to pass on my love for sewing.

Thank you, again, Deidre! Readers you can find Mountain Honey Clothier online shop here and on Instagram @mountainhoneyclothier_.

GIVEAWAY: To enter to win 2 bonnets from Mountain Honey Clothier, follow them on Instagram and leave me a comment here. For two extra entries subscribe to my blog by email, WordPress or Bloglovin. Contest closes Sunday November 8, 2015.

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image   Mother Nature Gown: How to make a dress from real leaves

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Creative Mother: Sophia Smeekens

Growing up my mother was always sewing up one project or another. She spent many years working in the evenings, after her day job, and after taking care of us three kids, hand sewing dolls, first for friends and family, and then later trying her hand at making a business of it. Because of this experience I feel very nostalgic when it comes to handmade dolls. I love most handmade things, heirloom quality products, that can be passed through generations: a hand knit sweater, a hand sewn quilt, a hand carved wooden spoon — they are time travellers of sorts, since their aging is not in step with the human passing of time.

When it comes to handmade toys and dolls, these are extra special. Unlike clothing, home goods or tools, which can be very useful, handmade dolls often become objects of love. Children adopt dolls into the family, taking them on family trips, carrying them from place to place, dressing them, feeding them, sleeping with them. Over time they become deeply invested with emotions. There is something very special about being a dollmaker, knowing and wanting to make something that will become an integral part of the child’s life story.

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Sophia Smeekens is the owner, designer and one-woman-show behind studio-escargot, and I also happen to think she is a very special woman. In her signature style, she handcrafts whimsical dolls of all sorts that are not only beautiful but ignite the imagination. While Sophia makes beautiful dolls, it is her energy and story, that make her a person who inspires. Sophia has taken her life experience and channelled it to craft an intentional, slow, creative life, and through this shows us one way to find purpose, overcome obstacles, and live a fuller life. Because of this, I think there is a little something extra special in her dolls. I can’t wait to add one to our story.

Please read on to hear from Sophia, herself.

Tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your background?

Coming from a normal Dutch family with two brothers and parents who both worked as teachers in primary school I had a simple and carefree youth until my mother was diagnosed with cancer and died 1.5 years later. I was 14, a critical age for a girl to lose her mother. Looking back it felt like an earthquake had taken everything away from me. I was rootless, lost. It took me 20 years to get back to who I really am: a mother and creative, but above all a human being, trying to let go of fear and all rules society has taught us. I feel very connected to nature (even though I am not living in a deserted reservate) and living in simplicity and am slowly peeling off all extra baggage I have, to eventually live with only what I essentially need.

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What part of the world do you live in?

I live in the Netherlands in a suburb attached to Amsterdam.

How many children do you have and how would you describe them?

I have two children, age 12 and 3. Mike and Isa. Mike is a sensitive loving soul, Isa is a little rebel, takes over and knows shes gets away with a lot of her behaviour because she is the youngest…

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Isa wears a charming corduroy jacket by another creative mother, Katie, the woman behind Red Creek Handmade, and her skirt is from Yellow Pelota

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What are your core family values?

Live conscious with an open mind and a warm heart.

How do you spend most of your days?

My days are spent creating (dolls) and making (mostly raw) food. Isa is not going to school yet so we still spend a lot of time together. We love wandering outside, picking flowers, gathering nature’s treasures, picnicking and visiting playgrounds. On rainy days we snuggle up to read or watch a movie.

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What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

Really just being together, talking, laughing and cuddling.

What are you passionate about?

Creating

What inspires you?

Nature, simplicity, wholehearted living.

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What is studio-escargot? And what does the name mean? 

Studio-escargot is the name of the label I set up 3 years ago. Escargot is french for snail. As I feel related to snails: I move forward slowly 🙂  Also the work I make takes time, I put love and attention into it. I hope my dolls are there to last a lifetime.

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Can you tell me a bit about your work as an artist and doll maker? How did you get started making dolls?

I have been creating things all my life and can not imagine my life without.  I studied artisan classic upholstery and interior styling. After my studies I worked as a visual merchandiser for 10 years. When figures and profit started to pass the creative goal I resigned from work and went back to school where I enhanced my styling skills. But the urge to create never stopped.  When pregnant with Isa I started to make things like blankets and pillows as well as a doll… A friend of mine liked it, as did others and I started to make some for friends. A friend of mine told me to try and attend a Christmas fair, there a doll was bought for Reva, Madelon’s daughter (the famous @madebylon) who posted it on Instagram…the rest is history, as they say.

Did your life goals or career aspirations change once you had a child?

Yes, Isa inspires me so much. Her stories and her imagination, her books get me to make new stuff! But she also made me realise that working at home with a child takes good planning, patience and discipline!

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What are your dreams for your work as an artist and as a mother?

I am working on some ceramic doll heads and would love to complete them with a body, maybe make some more sculpture like dolls… I would love to make dolls for theatre as well and write that children’s book….if only I had more time! As a mother I hope I will be able to see the profound needs they have and that I will be able to assist them to get healthy, conscious, open minded and loving adults.

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You can find Sophia on Instagram @studioescargot or on her website www.studio-escargot.com. Follow her! I promise you will be inspired by the intentional life she leads and your eyes will thank you for all the beauty she shares.

 

Let’s be friends! Please come find me in other places…

mama mala meditation

Malas and Human Connection

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Before I launched this blog I thought about what I wanted to use my teeny tiny platform for. I knew I wanted to have a space where I could share what the children and I were up to, mostly our city adventures and our art projects. I knew I wanted to share my passion for sustainable living and the arts. But I also knew that I wanted to make it a space that celebrated other mothers, other creatives and entrepreneurs, and so I started a series of interviews with inspiring and creative mothers.

I am excited to share my second interview in my Creative Mothers series. Through this series I am hearing from women who have been able to translate their passions into meaningful work. Today, you will hear from Heather Mudry, owner and designer of Mama Malas. I first met Heather through Instagram, a little while later I got one of her malas and was astounded by the energy it brought into our household. I felt so strongly about its positive impact that I asked Heather if she would share more about her malas through my blog. In talking with her over email, I got to know much more about her and her lifestyle and how it all fits together in a holistic way. It was music to my ears! I hope Heather’s story will inspire you too.

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Tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your background?

My name is Heather Mudry and I’m a mom to one squishy, energetic almost three year old, and wife to a funny, handsome man named Mike. I love bonfires, coffee and the mountains.

What part of the world do you live in?

I’m originally from the Canadian Prairies, but am very happy to call Calgary, Alberta, my home.  I love being nestled into the foothills of the Rockies and being able to take day trips to the most beautiful places in the world.

How many children do you have and how would you describe them?

I have one son, Owen, who turns three in June (2015).  He is the funniest, most thoughtful and pure soul I know.  I can’t believe how in tune and observational he is, he blows me away daily.

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What are your core family values?

Be nice, live in the moment, and make time to play.

How do you spend most of your days?

Every day without fail, I am woken up at 6:00am by my son Owen (I swear his internal clock is unstoppable).  We laze in bed together for a bit and then head downstairs for some breakfast and coffee.  Most days we will do a quick 5 minute yoga session which he loves to direct, and then I fit in a quick meditation when he plays.  Twice a week when I drop him off at his toddler yoga class, I head to a coffee shop and work for a few hours, otherwise we head to the forest and go for a walk or just hang out and play at home.  After lunch Owen goes down for his nap and I work for a few hours.  After nap time I put my work away and we play outside, and prep dinner.  We always try to have dinner together as a family when my husband gets home from work, and then all three of us head upstairs for a bath and bedtime stories (probably my favourite time of the day).  After Owen is in bed I do some yoga, and spend some time with Mike talking or catching up on our shows.

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What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

My absolute favourite family activity is to take a day trip to the mountains. I always feel so at peace there, and once we are there it feels as though we are in our own little world.  It’s like a mini vacation and we always come back refreshed and connected.

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about staying present and keeping healthy boundaries with technology.  I think it’s so amazing that we live in this age where we have so many advantages, and technology that should allow us more time to connect with those we love, but it’s amazing how easy it is to jump at every beep and ping from your phone or iPad, and forget about the people right in front of you.  I’m passionate about being engaged with those around me when I am with them, especially my family.

What inspires you?

My son, my husband, my friends and community, the forest, the mountains.  Whenever I feel uninspired I go within and sit in meditation. Works every time.

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What are malas and when did you start making them?

The thing I love about mala beads is that they can represent whatever you want them to.  They are traditionally used in mantra meditation to keep track of the number of times you repeat a mantra, which traditionally is 108 which is why the malas have 108 beads.  They represent your intentions in life and are a tangible reminder of the person you want to be.  I made my first mala when I realized how easy it was to be distracted from the mother I wanted to be for my son by the unimportant things in life.  I needed to create something to bring me back to my core intentions and desires, and since I’m such a tactile person a mala was the perfect solution. Every day when I would put it on I was reminded to meditate for a moment on my intentions and then it served as a reminder throughout the day whenever I felt it tap against me.

Why are malas important to you? And for mothers?

My malas are important to me because I find it so easy to be distracted by the unimportant things in life, especially as a mother.  With digital devices taking over our lives, it can be hard to put everything aside to just play with our kids, take some time for ourself, and to remember that we are a spiritual beings.  As a society, we feel the need to fill every moment with distractions, and for me my mala beads bring me back to the moment and remind me that I want to be able to sit with my son without checking Facebook, or compulsively researching something online.  It helps me disconnect, go inwards and live in the moment.

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Why did you decide to start your own business?

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to have my own business, although throughout the years none of the plans stuck. I achieved some level of success with some of my previous ventures, but lost interest and felt like something was missing.  I had actually decided after closing my previous business that I wouldn’t open another.  It was almost a little embarrassing telling everyone that, yet again, I was starting something new, but I had such a strong belief in how much the malas could help other mothers that I couldn’t not do it.  I had finally found a business that I felt could make a huge difference in the world, and in turn it has become successful because it comes from the heart.

Did you career aspirations change once you had a child?

Absolutely. The biggest change was that I had this powerful need to do something that would make the world a better place for him to live in, money was no longer important.  I have learned that success comes when you set out to be of service to others, not yourself.

What are your dreams for your business?

I would love for Mama Malas to reach as many mothers as possible, and to create a supportive community of women that celebrate and encourage each other to live a life that is authentic, intentional and fully present.

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What has made you the most proud of what you’re doing?

By far the most rewarding part of this adventure has been the emails I receive from women telling me how much of a difference their Mama Malas have made in their lives.  I’m so touched by the number of women who take the time to thank me for giving them back time they would have otherwise missed, or to let me know that their Mama Mala has helped them become more engaged and present with their kids, or served as a reminder to be still and take some time for themselves. I’m so grateful that Mama Malas can play a small part in these women’s lives.

You can find Heather on Instagram @mamamalas and to learn more about her malas or to purchase one visit her website Mama Malas and make sure to check out her BLOG page, there are some lovely posts over there.

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