Hey, babe. Look up.

I cooked all day yesterday for my dig holiday party. I felt like a real, official businesswoman hosting a dinner for my employees and their families. It wound down and just as my tired head hit my soft pillow I remembered I hadn’t written my column. For a hot second I considered rallying, getting it together but instead I emailed an apology and fell asleep four seconds later. Mama digs will be up on Wednesday.


The fact that I did one thing well and failed at another is something I am experiencing on a daily basis around here. We just have a lot happening. Good stuff, yes, but I still feel overwhelmed. It is possible to feel happy and bananas at the same time. It is possible to feel thankful and stressed at the same time.

One thing I really love about my relationship with my husband is how in synch we are when it comes to tuning the different spokes on our wheel: family time, recreation, alone time, creative time, friend time, work time. When one of us is grumpy the other beams with bigger perspective. Like last weekend when I was in a tailspin about the one million things I needed to do and Andy suggested we go skiing. It was like I stared into a hole in the ground searching for sun and Andy said, “Hey babe, look up.”


It was Ruby’s first day on skis and Margot’s first day tearing it up without any help at all. Nearly four, she does laps on the rope tow, makes turns and giggles the entire time. More than once I teared up witnessing such joy in my kids.

Both of our kids started skiing at two on strap-on toddler cross country skis. At that age, it isn’t about skiing. It is about scooting around and having fun on snow, getting ready for next year!

I seriously didn’t take any photos of Margot skiing because I was so busy chasing her. Watch out Picabo.

She fell and her edgie wedgie slipped off. She said, “Oh well, I am done with that thing anyway.” And that was that.

Andy carrying Ruby up the rope tow. It is a little blurry because just as I snapped the photo, I heard Margot’s trailing voice, “Come on mama!” and I turned to catch my girl. 

Followed by hot chocolate in the lodge while papa took a run. We really really love that big bag

The girls and their rosy cheeks fell asleep the moment we got it the car. When we got home I was energized and clear. I decided to use that good stuff to make my kids an advent calendar, something I’ve wanted to do for a few years now. I didn’t even change out of my ski clothes, I didn’t have a pattern or an idea and I walked into my studio and started.

My cousin sent me an incredible pile of fabrics a few years back. I have been afraid to cut into them–all hand-dyed or hand-woven or just generally amazing. She collected them on her travels to Africa and South America. I used some to make Ruby’s birthday frog (that same fabric is used as a table cloth in the top photo) and that gave me courage to cut into one of my favorites.


My “pattern” was super simple and I used the fabric repeat to determine size. Two pieces 11×34″, wrong sides together (and two 2×10″ hanging tabs inserted at the top), stitched. Six 11×3.5″ pieces spaced evenly, horizontally the bottom of each piece stitched to the main panel. And then I stitched each horizontal piece vertically, into quarters creating pockets. I didn’t hem or turn anything. This fabric will certainly fray but I like the rough edge and it will likely rarely get washed. I decided not to do numbers because I couldn’t quite sort out how to do it best. I am thinking white felt circles and I wish I embroidered…Ideas?


The girls were still napping so I set about running all over our house searching for 24 trinkets to fill those pockets. Andy may have raised his eyebrows at me several times. No need to buy a thing, the magic is in not knowing what each day will hold. I found seashells, old jewelry of mine, nail polish, carousel tokens, beads, gum, lip balm…

PhotobucketA reader pointed out that I sewed three pockets in each row, instead of four. Oh, typical. I was all set to seam rip and restitch when another reader said ‘who says 24 is the rule? Why not stop on the solstice?’ You all are so smart. 

So the day turned out pretty dang great. There is still a lot to do this month. I still have frenzied, uncomfortable moments. But it is so encouraging that the simple act of looking up can often spin me right into the place where I thrive. And, allow me to enjoy that big ol’ to-do list.

ps I loved your comments on the last post! I am pretty certain I have the best readers on the planet. 
Congrats to the randomly selected calendar winner: Bikini By 30 said…After almost seven years in a day job I hate, I am finally doing the “what day do I end this” dance. It’s time, and every other minute I teeter back and forth with what to do. Ultimately I know that I need to stop being riddled with Sunday blues every week, and finally feel “Christmas-y” for the first time in a long time. Dig, your rallying/roll-with-the-punches attitude is very real and inspriational to this struggling artist, and I am so glad we get to read all about your adventures.

:: :: ::

all photos taken with a Canon Digital SLR from Vanns.com

26 Responses to Hey, babe. Look up.

  1. Marty says:

    That looks almost like Kente cloth. Beautiful! And don’t worry, I’m spacing things, too. This is a busy time of year. The girls keep getting cuter and cuter.

  2. Bikini By 30 says:

    EEEEP I am so excited!

  3. Kelly says:

    “It was like I stared into a hole in the ground searching for sun and Andy said, “Hey babe, look up.”

    Yep. That was it…the thing I’ve needed to hear for a long time. So simple. Thank you!

  4. Minnesotagal says:

    Gorgeous advent calander! Guatemalan fabric? I have some precious fabric stashed away too and have been terrified to cut into it – I think you’ve just given me the courage. Between your blog and craft gawker I’ve got a whole month of homemade gifts to make and wrap! We made rinky-dink ornaments today – they look like jewels -and made by a two year old make them even more cool. Thanks for the idea last year!

  5. Minnesotagal says:

    Ps – the way I count it you’re a few pockets shy. You could sew some small metal rings along the bottom hem to tie gifts to (my Oma mde me a calander like that once).

  6. OK, Minnesotagal, that is hilarious. I meant to sew them in quarters! Ah, nothing a little seam ripper and resew can’t fix. Thanks for pointing it out before we counted up to 18 and thought, huh, what now?

  7. Oh the two of them skiing – sigh.

    During this time of year, it’s the only time I am glad not to have an Etsy shop. I really don’t know how you balance finishing orders and making things like housepants for all of your family members. You are a super hero!

    The advent calendar is simply so you! We use a material one that was Ben’s (and his siblings) from decades ago. This will last! At first, I thought of sewing on golden sequins and seed beads into a shapes of numbers. But you strike me as someone who could do numbers with multiple mediums – beads for one, sequins for another, wire wrapped copper in the shape of a number, hand carved wood, cording/ribbon buttons. felted sweater pieces, hand painted – you know, a huge variety of upcycled elements.

    Keep breathing and looking up.



  8. My husband is also great at those “look up” inspirations. An amazing husband is a pretty great thing. S cool that your little ones already ski. Mine is obsessed with snowmen but he’s never made one, we live in sunny California :)

  9. Ahhh, skiing. And your calendar: I’d almost hate to see it marred by numbers.

  10. Jaim says:

    I am SO jealous of your ability to go skiing. We lost our local ski hill this year(Teton Pass) and I was so excited to take them up on Fridays for a girls ski day but alas no more 20 minute drives to the ski hill for us. We have decided thought, since we all got outfitted this year, that we will be making the rounds of the regional ski hills. Maybe we’ll see you at Discovery or Snowbowl. Do you have a preference between the two?

    I love the advent calendar and have been thinking of making one for years too but maybe I can make one for next year. Great fabric too!

    Enjoy looking up and then looking at that cute family of yours.


  11. Fantastic idea for the advent calendar , I have some travel fabric from vietnam tucked away some where – now you have given me the idea it would be the perfect use for it. I like Jennifer’s idea for various upcycled elements for the numbers.

  12. Sarah says:

    I love this and feel stressed and thankful all the time at the same time. BEAUTIFUL posts….So glad I’ve found you. now, I need to go back and read that last post. XO

  13. Kelly Cach says:

    Yay! I love Advent Calendars!!! We have a wooden, triangular tree that has miniature doors with painted on numbers. I say go for the embroidery thread….I love a rustic imperfect stitch :)

    May I share a few ideas I hide in our calendar? (Not that I’m going to wait for the okay or anything 😉

    Here goes: (they are written or typed notes)

    *Choose a Christmas story at bed time. (I have a basket of Christmas stories next to our tree)
    *Check the Santa Boot (I have a ceramic boot that holds candy canes)….Let’s make hot chocolate with candy cane stir sticks.
    *I’ve got all the ingredients! Let’s make a tasty treat & take some in our lunch boxes. (We made peppermint bark last night)
    *Choose a special drink or a rare piece of fruit when we go grocery shopping today.
    *Eli gets to choose what’s for dinner. (& Gabe the next night)
    *Let’s play a card or board game.
    *Let’s surprise someone–or a stranger–with a plate of goodies.
    *We’re going for a drive in our p.j.s to spot the BEST Christmas lights.
    *Watch a Christmas movie with popcorn.

    Goodness, I could go on. It was fun to come up with things that are FREE and most of them are! I loved your idea of finding little trinkets from around the house :)

    Have fun with your Advent!

  14. Emily says:


  15. Brandi says:

    I’ve got one friend, with her two year old, out on the ice rink skating; another, with her two year old, at the bowling alley; now you on the slopes, with your two year old! I’m definitely feeling inspired to get OUT there with my two year old and have some fun!!!

  16. Christal says:

    FYI, I was bopping around to other posts and ran across a recycled skirt to a Margot dress & wanted to let you know some of my best kid clothes/dress-ups came from old prom dresses or holiday skirts. All it took was a criss cross ribbon tacked in front to tie halter style or put buttons on the back to fit into loops on the back (you can do 2 or 3 levels for “adjustment”). My girl always went for the glittery, sparkly, sequins, or the soft cuddly fabrics.

    Princess/queen/goddess/faery/bride/party person were all characters inspired by the clothes. The velvet cape was a big big hit – all it needed was a collar (fake fur) and ribbon ties.

    Bonus points if they get to pick them out themselves. I like to let them know they can spend “X” dollars, but that “green” tags are 1/2 price so they can get more for their $3 or whatever. Then they’re thinking color matching and adding. And BTW, if you have scuffed shoes, I’ve used spray adhesive and added my own glitter. I didn’t mind glitter everywhere… my 27 yr old still does it with makeup and hair.

  17. Lillian says:

    LOVE your Advent calendar! That fabric is perfect:)Maybe instead of seam ripping, you guys could just start a few days late?? I kind of like that idea, actually! It’s not like we don’t have enough going on this month anyway;)

    Good post – especially this time of year! The skiing makes me want to get out and do some winter sports this year, especially with the little ones.

  18. rebecca... says:

    ,,,without fail, your words keep me steady and focused on the sunshine. thank you, for sharing your passions, family, and life with me the reader. “dig this chick” is my necessary “fix” each week!,,,please send snow my way. cheers and an abundance of fa-la-las to you and yours!,,,

  19. TRB Holt says:

    LOVE the calendar! How about beads? number of beans that correspond to each day…you could string them on yarn;could use some of the beads that are on your Campfire Girls vest I gave you…a good way to teach the gals to count as well.

    Such fond memories of you and Trav learning how to ski…age 2 as well. Remember when you earned your poles?!

    Love you tons…..Mom

  20. Nici,

    Love the balance and sweetness in your marriage. A dear friend who spoke at our wedding said something along those lines, about how when one is down, the other is up, when one is frustrated, the other is full of perseverance. That rings in my mind from time to time and feels luckily true.


  21. Tara says:

    I just got the best present ever, a “dig” potholder from my bestfriend:). Love it!!!

  22. FinnyKnits says:

    THAT is a beautiful Advent calendar! I love how it came out with the pattern. You cut into that treasured fabric just right. The girls will love it and I bet you will enjoy having it hanging on your wall, all hung from a nice piece of wood and everything.

    Good job Andy, getting you guys out skiing and enjoying the moment. Sometimes that’s what these pesky to-do lists need anyway, a little spontaneity.

  23. exactly what emily said. still loving your blog. i read every one :)

  24. I feel like every time I leave a comment I start with, “So much good stuff here.” But, babe it’s true. Can’t get enough our little ladies on skis. Powerful stuff when they get it, indeed. Your fabric for your company dinner blows me away. Wow. Yippy to *that* powerful celebration. And maybe I just need to hang my calendar up high since my ladies keep devouring and hiding the bounty of the 25 days of the holiday season.

  25. ctb says:

    loving that fabric, and good for you for having the courage to cut into it. i can relate to your hesitation.

    who needs numbers? who needs 25? maybe it ends on soltice? i think it is perfect just the way it is. keep us posted on what you decide to do with it. either way, its fabulous girl!

  26. Holly says:

    Oh how I miss the days back in college where we’d decide to go skiing and be on a massive hill an hour later. Not so much around the Twin Cities, the cost of a lift ticket, to ski what is essentially a bunny hill, doesn’t do it for me. I also love that you’re teaching your kids to ski so young, my 5 year old will be attempting his first snow board this year!!