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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Closed.... For Now.

As my final Mama's Magic Studio business for 2008, I have made the heartwrenching decision to put Baby Friendly Beads on hold and to close my Baby Friendly Beads Etsy shop.

I am simply spending far too much time fretting about the implications of the CPSIA. I haven't made a single nursing necklace or reminder bracelet since learning about the legislation a month ago. Instead, I've spent many sleepless hours in useless worry.

Enough, I decided.

Part of me wanted to wait until the actual February 10th deadline to make a decision, but I know myself well enough: in all likelihood, waiting would simply add on 41 more days of worry and angst. (Not to mention that leap second that they added in today. Hasn't 2008 gone on long enough?) In all honesty, sad as I am about all this, it actually feels comparatively liberating to make this decision now and to move on.

Of course I will continue to watch developments as the CPSC clarifies the testing requirements, especially as they relate to small businesses like mine. I will continue to speak out against the onerous burden of unnecessary testing, and I sincerely hope that the folks in charge of all this will come to their senses. (Etsy's latest Storque article about this shows some glimmers of hope, but this ain't over yet.) I am deeply grieved and greatly angered by the whole thing -- for my own business, and even more so on behalf of all the wonderful handmade children's items and the artisans who put their hearts into their craft for the benefit of kids and parents everywhere.

I will hope that things settle out such that I can once again open up Baby Friendly Beads for business at some point in the future. But for now, I'm hanging up the CLOSED sign and I will channel all the energy I've spent worrying about this into my second shop, Mama's Magic Studio. Look for new items there very soon!


Here we are again, closing out another year. (Insert your favorite New Year's cliche here!)

Back when I actually thought we'd be sending out a letter with our Christmas cards (which have now turned into New Year's cards, if we're lucky... still intend to send them out! Promise! Today, if all goes well!) I started on some "top 10" lists for the family as a way of summing up the year. Didn't end up working out, though. Since these lists won't be going out in the mail, I figured I'd post them here. The ones for me and the kids, anyway -- the one from S isn't exactly ready for publication. (Which is why we're not sending them out. But I digress. Ahem.)

Jen’s Top 10 for 2008

1. Attending the Summer Conference for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in L.A.

2. Ramping up the crafting and beading hobby into an official business: Mama’s Magic Studio

3. Keeping up with the blog: more than 470 entries here at Mama's Magic!

4. Dancing with S again; we’re pretty rusty, but we haven’t forgotten everything.

5. Reading to BB and BJ

6. Visiting with Mom and Dad when they come to see us all the way from the East Coast

7. Surviving our first family camping trip, a three-day visit to the tent cabins at Big Basin

8. Participating in playgroups for BB and BJ

9. Healing a severely herniated disc – thank goodness for being able to function normally again, after much acupuncture and physical therapy!

10. Having the good fortune to continue staying home with two wonderful kids, the daily privilege of watching them and guiding them as they grow

BJ's Top 10 for 2008

1. Reading books – all by myself!

2. Playing “safari” (or “woods” or “aquarium”) by spreading out my toys all over the living room

3. Playing hopscotch with Pop-Pop and Giki

4. Visiting Nana J and playing with her dogs

5. Dressing up as a “friendly vampire bat” for Halloween

6. Going to the library

7. Going camping for the first time

8. Mastering potty training

9. Bringing Stuxey (my toy snake) with me almost everywhere I go

10. Starting preschool and making new friends on my own

BB’s Top 10 for 2008

1. Figuring out this whole walking and talking thing

2. Going from walking to running and climbing – scaling everything from the dining room table to the backyard play structure.

3. Going to the Santa Cruz boardwalk with Pop-Pop and Giki

4. Visiting the local park

5. Dressing up as a ladybug for Halloween

6. Wearing other people’s shoes

7. Dancing in the kitchen

8. Starting potty training

9. Moving into a “big girl” bed

10. Giggling with BJ

Happy 2008! May 2009 be a happy, healthy year. (Did I mention healthy???)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Better With Wings

BB continues to be a fussbucket, between the cold she's fighting and teething four molars at once (ouch!) -- I think she woke up 10 times last night, poor boo.

But in between the tears and fussing, she has had a few bright moments of fun (when, I think, the Motrin is in full effect). She's especially enjoyed the watercolor paints when she's feeling well. This morning, in the midst of painting, she paused, looked across the table at me (I was reading the newspaper) and announced, "I need my butterfly wings!"

She then proceeded to hop down, find the wings in the dress up basket, and bring them to me. I helped her put them on, and without a word she went back to painting.
Wouldn't it be nice if we all got to wear wings, once in a while? Mebbe I should get a set of my own....

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Recap

Well, we're back from Nana's, all in one piece. Seven hour car trips each way. (Pre-kids, the trip took us closer to five hours.) Felt weird not to be able to be online and wish everybody a virtual Merry Christmas! So let me do that now, for those of you who were celebrating -- a warmest of holiday wishes to you all!

Happy to report that Santa found us just fine at Nana's: the 123 apple tree for BJ and the box sorting toys for BB were delivered without incident.

S and I managed to leave two entire bags of toys from us to the kids here at home. Sigh. And neither of the kids were at their best, alas. Nice to see family, though; in addition to Nana and Nana's friends, she had invited her sister S and their family. So the kids got to meet Auntie S, Uncle J, and their cousins S and R.

Other gift highlights: the desert animal figurines in the stocking were a particular favorite of BJ's. Here he is playing with the scorpion.

BB really liked getting dressed up in the goodies from Nana.

Both kids enjoyed the photo book I'd put together documenting our first family camping trip. (Thanks, Snapfish, for the freebie!)

Unfortunately, as predicted, Santa's elves must have forgotten the disinfectant, because both the kids and I are sick. BB is a fussy mess, and has been for the last two days, though it's hard to tell whether it's from the cold she's got or from the four molars that are coming in all at once. She basically cried the whole last hour of the car trip home. BJ kicked his fever but has a bad cough and came out in a splotchy rash yesterday. (Not that he seems to mind this all that much; when pointed out to him, he said, "Hey, I'm my favorite color!" That color being red, of course.) The advice nurse wasn't all that worried, thankfully, and it seems to be clearing up today. I've got a cold and cough and am generally feeling lousy.

So it's good to be home. Hopefully we'll all be in the pink again very soon, and with any luck S will stay well! It would be nice not to be sick for the New Year, that's for sure.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

CPSIA in the News

Looks like the CPSIA debacle is finally getting some notice.

From the Washington Post:

Yahoo News tells of a glimmer of hope -- maybe some lead-free natural materials won't have to be tested for lead after all! (gasp!)

BabyCenter has a very informative article up as well:

Update 12/28: The Mercury News had a similar article in today's paper, though I can't seem to find the online link. About time this showed up in the local news!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Welcome Winter

Happy day after the Solstice to ya! We had a nice day yesterday -- made the cake that is my mom's specialty (I blogged about it here), and decorated it as a "Welcome Winter" cake.

The kids enjoyed the whole process very much -- the stand mixer fascinates them, and they get a real kick out of "helping" by pushing the on button and turning the dial as directed.

Cake turned out well, which was a relief. I've not made it many times on my own, so I was a little worried. Lit a birthday candle, sang "Happy Birthday," and blew it out, which made for a nice melding of symbols between the Happy Birthday Jesus Cake and the Solstice. All in all, quite satisfactory.

Big baking days and today: in addition to making the cake, Auntie L came over and I made my annual batch of baklava. Also made the gingerbread cookie dough, which we rolled out today to bake and decorate. Kids LOVED it! I fear they are both fighting colds, so I set them up with their own batches and confined their germs to those ones while I finished the rest.

We leave for Nana J's tomorrow, returning on the 26th. Not looking forward to the long car trip, especially with the kids getting sick. BJ has been running a bit of a fever since starting the amoxycillin, and BB is sporting a runny nose. I'm guessing Santa will bring us all a big box 'o germs for Christmas. Sigh.

Friday, December 19, 2008

ENT Visit

No, we didn't magically transport ourselves into the Tolkien world for an encounter with those strange tree creatures. Though that would probably have been more interesting to the general public than the actual topic of this post: our trip this morning to the Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist.

Was a good visit. The doctor has four kids of his own, so his bedside manner with BJ was much warmer than that of the allergist (who was fine, but whom I'd bet is a bachelor). He confirmed the vasomotor rhinitis diagnosis, confirmed the fluid in the ears, told us we could stop doing the nasal rinse (thank heavens -- a bit of a trial to do, though BJ did his best! apparently the slight benefit isn't worth it, especially given the risk of pushing fluid further up the ears and increased ear infection risk). Suggested we add a run of amoxycillin to the mix, to address any possible infection in the ear fluid and make it more likely things will drain. Said that there is a decent chance that the treatments we're doing will allow the fluid to drain on its own, but if there is still fluid in the ears in another two months or so, then he'd recommend tubes in the ears.

So keep your fingers crossed for us -- I know tubes aren't a huge deal, but I'd rather avoid anything that involves general anesthesia!

Friday Feature -- SoBella Creations

This will be the final Friday Feature of 2008, because I'll be on blog hiatus next week as we travel for the holidays. It will also be the last one I post for a while, because I'm talking a bit of a break from the features. I love doing them, but this one is the last completed interview I have in the queue, and it may be a while after the holidays before I can get more lined up. Stay tuned in 2009!

Today I'm delighted to feature fellow Etsy artist SoBella Creations. Her bows are very cute! Isn't this one perfect for the holidays? Reminds me of sprinkles on a sugar cookie!

Tell me two (or more!) interesting things about you.

I'm a Stay at Home Mom to two girls.
I love sewing and making bows. I would still make bows for my girls even if I didn't sell them.
My husband and I love Disney. Which we get to share with our girls by living in Florida.
I have two favorite things....reading peoples blogs which I find kind of addicting. And I truly love Etsy, I get satisfaction out of supporting handmade designers.

To which Etsy Street Teams do you belong?

I belong to EtsyMoms, EtsyKids and EtsyKids Atlantic Southeast

What do you sell in your Etsy shop?

I sell hair accessories for little girls.

What inspires your creations?

My girls are my creative inspiration. I woud not sell a bow that they wouldn't wear. I love looking at all the different ribbons. There are so many great combinations.

Tell me a bit about your creative process and/or how you learned to do what you do.

I use a bow maker so to speak. I bought it from The Ribbon Retreat. There are a lot of different bows instructions to use. But, I make a very standard bow. I need to work on making different types of bows. I learned by just practicing. I started making bows for my oldest daughter when she was maybe 1 1/2. She is now 5. The only bows I could find in the boutiques were solid grosgrain bows. I wanted stripes, prints, and polka dots. So I started buying ribbon and making her bows. Then when my youngest was born I started making her little bitty bows and clips.

Creatively I lay color combinations together to see what works. I love layering a printed ribbon on top of solid ribbon. To me it adds a punch to the bow. Or if I find a cute embellishment to add as a bow center. I think these things give the bows a special look.

What is your favorite item in your shop?

This one is my favorite. The bow is made from Ribbon by Patty Young. It is from her Andalucia Line.

What 3 words would you use to describe yourself?

Happy, Friendly, and Organized

What do you like about Etsy?

I love that there are so many different and unique items to buy. And I also love how friendly all the shop owners are.

What makes your shop unique?

I think I offer a wide variety of bows as far as prints and style go. I don't see a lot of stripes and polka dots available. I plan to start offering headbands, pony o's and collegiate bows soon.

What advice do you have for other folks selling or buying on Etsy?

(Selling) Make what you love. If your making what you love and enjoy doing it. Then I don't think you can go wrong.
(Buying) Don't be afraid to ask a shop owner for custom work. I have several time and have always been accomodated.

Where else can we find out more about you and/or your creations?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Visiting Santa, Musing on Magic

This afternoon, we visited Santa as a family. First time we've been to see him at a mall -- in previous years, we've gone to playgroup events where Santa has graced us with his presence and with a photo op. Alas, those events weren't being repeated this year, so off to the mall it was.

Both BJ and BB did really well, I'm happy to report. BJ was definitely into the whole Santa thing this year, and he had his request all lined up: a Chicka Chicka 1, 2, 3 Tree. (Last year, he asked for a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom tree. The kid is nothing if not consistent.) BB didn't quite understand what all the fuss was about, though. When asked, she said that she wanted the elephant toy that she had brought with her. (And almost bonked Santa in the nose with said toy in the process!) Her favorite part of the visit seems to have been the candy cane she received at the end; S told her, "Santa makes the best candy canes," and she has really taken this to heart, repeating it back to us many times.

Santa was very kind and gentle with both the kids, as one would expect. His good humor combined with my acute awareness of how much the kids have grown, and those feelings were amplified by a sudden surge of homesickness. I found myself on the verge of tears, an emotional fullness that took me completely by surprise. Much of it was missing my folks -- we just weren't able to coordinate a visit with them around the holidays this year. Alas.

Sitting with Santa, I kept thinking about my own mother and how much she has always been affected by the magic of Christmas. She likes to tell this story on herself: when I was a little girl (maybe 6 or 7?) I visited Santa and told him that I wanted a dollhouse for Christmas. I'd apparently been expressing this wish for quite some time, and my dad had been hard at work on making one for me. Dad walked back to the car with me and my sister, and Mom dashed back to Santa (on some pretense or another) so that she could tell him, breathless from running and utterly earnest, "Don't worry about the dollhouse, Santa. We've got it covered."

You can imagine the expression on Santa's face after hearing this from a grown woman.

I guess part of why I got so choked up was this recognition: I'm the adult, now, but I still want to believe. It felt particularly, poignantly so as I watched BJ chatting up Santa Claus. Yes, Virginia, and all that -- there really is something magical about all of it. Even in a mall.

I'm especially struck by how far Santa's digs have come since my youth. When I went to visit him, it was at his "house" at the Newark Shopping Center, a small wooden structure that appeared in front of the local department store every November. (I think it was a Woolworth's?) My memories of the place are full of charm and candy canes, overlaid with the soft focus of my mother's own enthusiasm, but looking back on things with a clearer eye, I have a hard time imagining how Santa could have stayed cheerful under such conditions. Hanging out through November and December in what was essentially an uninsulated shack, open to the elements. Delaware isn't exactly New England, but it ain't Florida either. I don't care how fuzzy that red and white outfit might be; it had to be freezing in there.
No photo ops back then, either. Ah, how times have changed. Compared to all that, a plush green chair in a climate-controlled mall seems quite comfy! (And yes, as I write this I'm hearing echoes of "when I was a kid, I walked to school in the snow! Uphill! Both ways!") Now it seems that the photo is the main thing, though I was happy to see the posted signs that "all visits with Santa are welcome," albeit in very fine print and with a disclaimer that they didn't want you taking pics unless you'd already paid them money. Sigh.

Santa's helpers were very nice and actually managed to get some decent pictures. A minor miracle, that -- especially given BB's teething and BJ's orneriness today.

We're going to use the family shot for our Christmas cards this year.

Speaking of magic, some serious sorcery was going on in the evening, since everything lined up just right to get me out the door in time for a lovely girls' night out with my good friend A! Thai food, intelligent conversation, and a visit to the bookstore. What more could one ask for, huh? Fun as it is to hang out en famille, it was really nice to have some adult time. Big thanks to S for making that possible.


BJ visited the audiologist yesterday, and she officially confirmed what we've been noticing: he is far from deaf, but he is definitely experiencing some reduction in his hearing. All the fluid in his ears is muffling what he hears. For someone with normal hearing, the tympanogram (which measures how the eardrum moves) should show marked peaks; BJ's lines on this test were almost flat. The doctor said that she's looking to see numbers of 20 or less for the other hearing tests, and his were all in the high 20's and 30's.

So there's a reason he's been giving us that "Huh?" look so much of the time!

Happily, she was able to do a test that measured his hearing directly, bypassing all the fluid (she put a little doohickey behind his ear, on the skull) and those measurements came out great, all 10 or less. This means that once the fluid in his ears is taken care of, his hearing should return to its normal excellent state.

Tomorrow we go in to see an ENT specialist to get their feedback on the vasomotor rhinitis diagnosis and to see if they have other suggestions for treatment. Between all this and the visit to the allergist, I'm really feeling like we're getting our money's worth for our health insurance. So, yay for that! Kind of a pain to be spending so much time at the doctor's office, though, especially during this time of year when there are SO many other things that need to be taken care of.

It was interesting to see how they did the actual testing for BJ at the audiologist. At the pediatrician's office, when I said I was concerned about his hearing, they took him into a room to do the usual test, the kind I remember from when I was a kid: put on the headphones and raise your hand when you hear a sound in the corresponding ear. I had BB with me, so I waited in the hallway with her. I was happy to see that he did his best to cooperate and did not fuss at all -- given his separation anxiety issues, I'd worried that he'd be distressed that I wasn't there. Through the closed door, however, I could tell that things weren't going as planned. The tech kept saying, "No, I haven't done any sound yet. No, not yet. Wait for the sound. Wait, please. Did you hear that? Honey, raise your hand if you heard that...."

So after that experience, I was intrigued to see how they would get him to cooperate this time around. It helped that I didn't have BB to worry about (it has been SUCH a relief to have S done teaching for the academic quarter and able to help out through all this!) so I was in the booth with him on my lap. Basically, they used the same earphone setup, but made it all into a game. For one "game," they gave him a big card with different pictures of common items (an airplane, an ice cream cone, a sun...) and asked him to point to each item. This was testing his ability to process speech. Then they did the whistle sort of test, but instead of raising his hand he used a buzzer that was connected to a toy. For one set, whenever he pressed the buzzer it made a toy dog bark and walk. For the other set, pressing the buzzer made a toy bear play the drums.

Pretty clever, I thought. Gave a kid the incentive to cooperate while giving the doctor the information she was after. Somebody was thinking! So nice to see that kind of imagination and attention to detail, especially when caring for kids is involved. Certainly made this Mama happy.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Good Times

This morning, instead of the usual BBC newsflash, we had some lovely BC time -- BB and I visited with our good friends A and C while BJ was at preschool. (Didja follow all those initials? LOL!) It was really fun to see the girls together, laughing and playing. Rocking together in the overstuffed rocker was a particular hit; they were thrilled that they could move the chair All By Themselves! (Thanks, A, for the pic!)
I sometimes worry because BB doesn't have as many friends in her peer group as BJ did at her age -- I have simply been much more active with BJ's playgroup than I've been able to be with BB's. But then again, at this point in his social development, BJ had not made anything like the sort of friendship that BB seems to have with C. Quality vs. quantity, I suppose. And if BB is anything like her mother, she'll choose quality every time.

A fun afternoon, too. Did a Skype call with Pop-pop and Giki so that they could watch the kids open their gifts. We'd decided not to lug all the presents to Nana's house for Christmas proper and instead to spread things out over the next bit. Definitely the right choice, especially given my folks' generosity. For BB: an adorable Corolle doll and doll bed; for BJ: a nifty dictionary and an automoblox car building set; for both to share: dado blocks, bristle blocks, and a wonderful play set of cookware and dishes. BJ was quick to inform us that his play kitchen suddenly has a dishwasher, since he now has play dishes in the kitchen.

Hope your day was as nice as ours!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Rainbows and Playing Preschool

Two really nice moments today (on top of a very good day, all considered):

-- walking out of Best Buy with BB (went shopping for Christmas presents for S) and seeing an enormous rainbow. BB didn't notice it, but she was very excited after I pointed it out. First one for her, and it was a beautifully vivid one. (Took some time to get her looking in the right place, since to her a "rainbow" is the shard of multicolored sunlight that dances around our living room, thanks to the prisms in the window. I don't think she expected something so big!)

-- giving BJ his bath this evening, he continued his ongoing game of "school" with the bath toys. For the last few nights, on his own initiative, he's been setting up a "school" in the tub. Tonight he was really into it. The assorted aquatic animals did circle time, story time, snack time, outside time, and rest time. Not a hint of the angst he's been associating with preschool; instead, he was delighted to be running the toys through the schedule. "I'm a good teacher!" he announced as he got out of the bath.

I think he's finally working through much of this preschool anxiety, and games like this can only help. Of course, I fully expect his first words tomorrow morning will be, "Is this a preschool day? I don't want to go to preschool!" But this is progress, and that's a good thing.

Thank goodness for days like today when I feel like a pretty competent Mama. It's been a rough week, so the respite is especially welcome. The meteorology of motherhood seems to be like that: after the storm, the blessing of a rainbow. (And the more intense the storm, the more vivid the arc in the sky!) May the break in the clouds continue into tomorrow!

Vasomotor Rhinitis

BJ was such a trouper today. He's continued to have constant nasal congestion (for about the last two years now) so our pediatrician had referred us to an allergist. Our appointment this morning ended up taking nearly two hours, and after that marathon appointment we had to visit two different pharmacies on the Kaiser campus. Total time spent at Kaiser this morning with a preschooler: almost 3 hours. Total time spent fussing by said preschooler: less than 10 minutes, and really nothing more than a little whining.

Especially given what the poor kid had to endure, this is astounding!

We started off with a bunch of questionnaires and an interview with the doctor. BJ sat in my lap through all that, allowed the examination of his nose, throat, ears, and eyes with good humor, and even answered the doctor's questions with some level of coherence. Granted, he spent a fair amount of time on tangents, wanting to talk about his toy snake Stuxey: Stuxey likes chocolate and opens the door for Halloween trick or treaters, but he has to use his tail because he doesn't have any hands; Stuxey has allergies, too; Stuxey is a helpful snake and pulls people out of mud ponds; Stuxey is a friendly snake and doesn't bite.... the doctor didn't quite know what to do with all this information, but he was reasonably tolerant of the wandering nature of preschooler conversation, which I appreciated. (The nurses were more appreciative of BJ's whimsy.)

About an hour into the visit, we headed to the station to get BJ's skin tests done. (Our other choice was a blood draw, and after talking over options with the doctor and considering BJ's probable reactions to both, I decided on a bunch of little pricks and test results today instead of one big visit to the phlebotomist and waiting for the results.) The doctor had told me they would probably do the skin pricks on BJ's back and afterwards BJ would have to be still for 20 minutes. OK, I thought. Challenging but do-able.

Well, it turned out when we got there that the nurse doing the tests wanted to do them on the inside of BJ's forearms. I didn't fully process just what this difference would mean until it was too late: instead of just being asked to sit still in one place, it meant BJ had to hold his arms straight out in front, rested on a table, palms up. For 20 minutes. No wiggling, no scratching his nose, no turning pages of a book....

Amazingly enough, it worked out fine. (I still can't quite believe it!) I'd settled him into my lap before the test, and I'd already been helping the nurse to hold his arms in the proper position. He didn't like the pricks, but he was remarkably cooperative. No tears, no fussing, just a good healthy wince each time. I'd brought a bunch of books along in my bag, so I fished them out and we got along pretty well with one of my hands holding a book and the other hand draped across his palms to help him stay still. (And I'm sure the other folks in the office were entertained by my reading Winnie the Pooh stories aloud, doing the voices and everything.)

Interesting to find out that he had no reactions for any of the allergens in the test: dust mites, cat, dog, feathers, cockroach, molds, a wide variety of pollens.... nothing! He got a mosquito bite sized bump for the control, so we knew the test had worked, but nothing else showed any sort of change.

The doctor was pretty surprised -- I'm sure that he suspected the whole gamut of allergens, after my description of our home environment: constant dust from the vintage 1920's dirt basement and floor heater arrangement, two cats, mold and mildew in the bathroom.... ah the joys of an older home. Clearly, though, something is going on with the constant congestion. It had gotten really bad since stopping the Zyrtec five days ago as directed in order to set up the allergy testing; nights were especially difficult, even to the point of some sleep apnea. Yikes.

The doctor's diagnosis: vasomotor rhinitis. (For a more technical discussion, see here.) Sounds yucky, and it is. But as chronic conditions go, it could certainly be worse. With a child as young as BJ, it is a bit of a trick to identify whichever specific irritants might be his triggers, but we'll be keeping an eye out for sure. Going to start up with the Zyrtec and Flonase again, since it was clearly helping. Adding in a nasal rinse, which sounds great in theory -- no side effects, low cost, can be repeated as symptoms dictate -- but in practice tonight it was challenging. (Does a reluctant child insisting, "I'm going to run away! I don't like this!" count as a "side effect"? How about Mama's headache after finishing the procedure?) Doing a five day run on Predisone to hopefully reduce the inflammation and swelling in his nasal and sinus tissues so that the meds and rinsing can get up there to do their work. Not crazy about that, but the doctor recommended it pretty strongly, so I figured we'd give it a go.

We'll give all this a month and then head back for a follow up appointment. Fingers crossed that it gives him significant relief. It's heartbreaking to hear him snuffling and snorking all the time, and it made my heart stop and squeeze with fear when I realized the sleep apnea stuff was going on. For all the hassle that Kaiser can sometimes require, I'm incredibly grateful that we have decent health coverage through them. I can't imagine what it would be like to see my child suffering like this and not be able to address it.

We go in on Wednesday for BJ's appointment with the audiologist. Sure hope that one goes as well as today!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ideas for Change: Amend the CPSIA! Vote Here To Help

Friday Feature -- Spotted Cow Soaps

This week's featured Etsy artist is also the featured Etsyblogger shop for the month of December: Linda of Spotted Cow Soaps!

This Kitchen Soap especially caught my eye while I was browsing around her shop this morning. Splurged on a few things for me and a few more for the stockings. I'm sick and tired of my hands being all dried out from the cheap liquid soap we're using! Sounds like these yummy soaps are just what I need.

Plus, they were on sale! Spotted Cow Soaps is running a special right now:

SNOW DAY SALE ~ We're in the midst of our first big winter storm of the season, and I just got the call that I don't have to report to work ~ SNOW DAY! WOOT!!! To celebrate, I'm offering 10% off everything in my shop today ~ December 12, 2008. AND ~~~FREE DOMESTIC SHIPPING effective 12/9/08 until 12/15/08. Simply pay for your order and the sale Discount & shipping fees will be refunded when we process the shipping label.

Enjoy the interview!

Tell me two (or more!) interesting things about you.

By day & School year I am a School Food Service Manager. In February 2008, I was selected by the State Child Nutrition Director to attend the training session "Healthy Cuisine For Kids". As a result of that training, I now help teach the course to other School Food Service Staff and Child Care Staff around the State of Vermont. In October 2008, I was part of the first class to complete the Child Nutrition Culinary Certificate Program that the State of Vermont offered.

To which Etsy Street Teams do you belong?

Vermont Made Team
CYA (Clean Up Your Act)
Team Pluggers Unite (newly formed)

What do you sell in your Etsy shop?

Handcrafted Soaps & Toiletries, Crochet Bath Accessories

What inspires your creations?

I gain great inspiration from other soap makers as well as soap suppliers. I've aligned myself with a great group of people who are willing to share their knowledge and talents with others. Nothing can be more fun than getting together with a group of soapmakers. And sometimes I gain inspiration for my soaps from something else I have made. (ie: Spring Fling Soap
was inspired after I created this felted bag...
Tell me a bit about your creative process and/or how you learned to do what you do.

I was looking for unique gifts to make family, friends and teachers when I happened across a soapmaking website. I spent several months researching suppliers and lurking on various soapmaking forums before placing my first order for supplies. I was hooked from Day 1. I spent a lot of time reading articles about soapmaking on the internet, reading books about soapmaking, and talking one on one with other soapmakers who were seasoned in their skills. Then it was time for me to jump in and test the knowledge I had gained and try my hand at formulating my own soaps. I learn something new every time I make soap.

What is your favorite item in your shop (currently for sale or previously sold)? Why is it your favorite?

Gingerbread Whipped Sugar Scrub. It is my favorite because it is yummy goodness for your skin. I'm a big lover of sugar scrubs but not a very big fan of the oily tub and skin that most leave behind. After a bit of experimenting I developed this scrub that cleanses, exfoliates and leaves your skin feeling fabulously silky smooth afterwards. The sugar is fine enough that the scrub could be used on your face.

What 3 words would you use to describe yourself?


What do you like about Etsy?
I love the close knit community of Etsy. It's a great marketplace that brings buyers and sellers together in a unique shopping experience. Several years ago I tried to market my products on a women's webhosting location that put the burden of locating customers and marketing solely on my shoulders. If you don't have a lot of experience on the web, it can be a daunting task to market your products and draw in customers.

What makes your shop unique?

Anyone who takes a bath/shower needs soap. I have learned over the years to never assume or categorize customers (ie: some women like the more masculine fragrances). I have worked hard to make sure I have a fragrance that meets the needs of all ages. As I have grown as a soapmaker, my product line has increased to include more variety and I will continue to expand my product line in the coming months.

What advice do you have for other folks selling or buying on Etsy?

As a seller, don't give up. Align yourself with teams and get involved with them. You gain more exposure for your business if you participate and interact with team members. Keep active in the forums, chat rooms, and Virtual Labs on Etsy. And just remember that not everyone knows about Etsy, so be sure to use marketing opporunities on social networks around the internet. If you keep a blog, find means to advertise your blog, many are available for free. Carry business cards wherever you go and hand them out to everyone you meet.

Where else can we find out more about you and/or your creations?
Spotted Cow Soaps Blog ( )

Happy Birthday Jesus Cake Recipe

Last year, I posted about our family tradition of the Happy Birthday Jesus Cake (see this post). This year, since we won't be able to be with my folks around the holiday (sob!!!) I'm going to make a version of this on my own. Alas, it won't be possible to make it on Christmas proper -- not going to impose myself on Nana's kitchen, and the cake doesn't keep well enough to make it here on the 22nd and expect it to last that long. So I'm planning to have it on the Solstice and make it a combination Welcome Winter and Happy Birthday cake.

Since this round of the Etsyblogger carnival has the topic of Christmas traditions and recipes, I figured I'd post the recipe. (Thanks, Mom, for sending it along!)

Happy Birthday Jesus Cake.

1 Duncan Hines WHITE cake mix (somehow a yellow cake mix just doesn't cut it) Prepared according to package directions. I've taken to making it in 2 9" cake pans.

Lemon Filling

2 slightly beaten egg yolks

3/4 C sugar (use egg whites for the icing)

2T corn starch

1 t grated lemon

dash of salt

3 T lemon juice

3/4 C cold water

1 T butter

In a sauce pan combine sugar corn starch and salt. Gradually add water. Stir in egg yolks lemon zest and juice. Cook and stir over med. heat until thick and bubbly. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add butter-then cool without stirring.

Fluffy White Icing

Combine 1 cup Sugar, 1/3 C water, 2 teaspoons light corn syrup (Karo). Bring to boiling-stirring until sugar dissolves. Slowly add mixture to 2 unbeaten egg whites in bowl-using electric mixer. Beat egg white and sugar mixture constanly until stiff. About 7 minutes. Add 1 teapsoon vanilla.

I'm sure my attempt won't be quite as good as my mom's, but my mouth is already watering just reading the recipe!

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Today I'm feeling worlds better. 99% over whatever flu or food poisoning made yesterday so miserable. (Thank GAWD.) And really trying to take a step back from the all-consuming angst caused by obsessing constantly about the CPSIA. (I've taken to reading the acronym thus in my mind: Crappy Politicians Screwing Independent Artisans. So there! Petty, yes. But it helps. A little.) In short, it's well past time to refocus.

Sometimes the best way to turn that lens is to look back over the pictures I've taken that week. (Gotta love digital photography and the moment by moment record it allows!) Really helps to remind myself that we've been having a lot of fun:

Finding caterpillars in the backyard

Playing "Safari" in the living room

Discovering new ornaments for the Christmas tree -- who knew that maracas worked so well? Has kind of an Easter Egg effect, dontchathink?

Discussing the various sounds made by various animals -- do you know what sound a beetle makes?

Going to a "Pump It Up!" party with BJ's playgroup -- not surprisingly, the bounce house with the letters was the hit of the evening.
Took a while to warm up to the slides, but after I agreed to go down with him, he loved it! (Elephant apparently had a great time, too.)

So basically, I've been trying to refocus my energy on my wonderful family and what I can do, instead of just feeling pissed off and powerless. Being who I am -- I haven't earned the nickname "Symbol Girl" for nuthin' -- it also really helped that I received my latest shipment from Fire Mountain Gems today.
The day after I learned about the CPSIA, I consciously made the choice to put in a big bead order. I needed some specific supplies for some custom work that I'm doing under the auspices of my Mama's Magic Studio shop (thanks again, Miri! The earrings will be done soon!) and for some time now I've been wanting to purchase nicer jewelry boxes for packaging my finished pieces. When it came time to decide how many boxes to order, I was really tempted to go with only 10, the smallest amount possible. But I didn't.

I hope I don't regret it, but I ordered 100 jewelry boxes! Even splurged a bit for the sleeker looking black ones. I think they look pretty nice with my "Mama's Magic Studio" labels on them, don't you?
So while Baby Friendly Beads may have to be discontinued -- which would make me very, very sad -- I vow that Mama's Magic Studio will keep making Handmade Magic, in one form or another. Here's to filling up each of those boxes and sending another bit of beauty into the world! (And yes, that did kind of sound like a toast, didn't it? With the way this week has gone, I think we all could use a drink!)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


As if it weren't enough to be agonizing about the CPSIA and the future of my business, this morning I woke up with either a bad flu or a serious case of food poisoning. Thank heavens S was able to only go in for a half day to work. I suspect it's food poisoning -- specifically, the ill-advised California sushi rolls from Trader Joe's that I had for lunch yesterday.

I just pray this passes soon. Both the physical illness and the malaise of the heart. Wish me luck and healing.

Etsy's Open Letter about the CPSIA and Artisan Businesses

Thank goodness -- after much outcry on the part of Etsians, Etsy has spoken. You can read their Open Letter about the unintended consequences of the CPSIA here:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Speaking Out!

After agonizing over the draft for several days, today I'm sending off letters to Zoe Lofgren, Diane Feinstein, Bobby Rush, Ed Whitfield, Nancy Pelosi, the Small Business Ombudsman for the CPSC, and Mr. Barack Obama himself (why not?) -- will be interesting to see what sort of a reply, if any, I receive.

Here's what I wrote:

On February 10th, 2009, unless you can help, hundreds of thousands of small businesses like mine are going to be forced to close. I am the sole proprietor of a new small business. I am also the mother of two young children, and it is from both of these perspectives that I write to you to express my concerns about the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

I am very much in favor of reasonable efforts to protect children from toxic products, but I cannot support the CPSIA as it now stands. As I understand it, this legislation in its current form is not good for consumers or for businesses, especially small businesses like mine. It is well intentioned, but the testing requirements will decrease consumer options for children’s goods, increase price significantly, and put me – and many other handcraft artists like myself – out of business.

In my little handcraft business, Mama’s Magic Studio, my primary product is Baby Friendly Beads breastfeeding jewelry. Each of my beaded jewelry designs is one of a kind, because I enjoy the creative process and because my customers like having unique creations. Additionally, when I opened my business this year, I planned eventually to branch out into making jewelry, dolls, and other items for children.

The CPSIA will have dramatic consequences for businesses like mine. My main concern is the requirement that all units of children's items be tested for lead content and phthalates. The problem, as I understand it, is that every “unit” created must be independently tested by the manufacturer, the artist making the item. It is not sufficient to rely on testing done by suppliers, and there are no exceptions or considerations made for smaller “micro” manufacturers like myself. For artists like me who make small runs or one of a kind items, the testing required by this legislation is simply not economically possible.

Neither should it be necessary. Almost all the handcraft artists I know use commercially available supplies to create their products or work with materials that are inherently nontoxic. Do beads suddenly contain lead because I have strung them together on cord? Does a baby blanket mysteriously turn toxic because I’ve knitted the yarn into a different shape? Of course not. If the materials were safe before I worked my “magic” on them, they should still be safe once my product has been finished. Why require an additional round of redundant testing on the finished item, at a cost of hundreds of dollars per item? All of my products cost less than $50 retail. Most of them are one of a kind. This is the case with many of the handcraft artists I know: moms trying to make a little extra grocery money, grandmas knitting for the church bazaar, proud-but-small businesses trying to make the world a little more beautiful while making a living. How on earth can we test our products as required by the CPSIA and remain profitable?

While my jewelry is not a toy, and is intended as costume jewelry to be worn by adults, I am very concerned that the new CPSIA regulations might apply to my product because it could be interpreted as something that is “used” by children under 12 (namely, babies grasping the jewelry while nursing, instead of pulling at mama’s hair). I have submitted a question to the CPSIA website asking for clarification on this, but I have not yet received a reply. Even if my product is found to be exempt, however, I cannot support the testing requirements as stated in the law. Because of these requirements, I have put on hold all plans to start making any children’s items, because it seems impossible for a small handcraft business like mine to comply with this law. Essentially, my business plan for future growth has been entirely undermined because of this legislation.

It has been challenging enough, as a new business owner, to deal with with the California Lead in Jewelry Law. Of course, being a mother myself, I absolutely understand the need for safe children’s items – and to date I have erred on the side of caution and considered breastfeeding jewelry to fall under the category of children’s items in terms of compliance with the law. I have made every effort to use only nontoxic materials that are lead-free and to take safety into account with my designs, even though my jewelry is technically costume jewelry for adults. So I sympathize with the CA law, the efforts to keep children safe, and I am doing my best to comply.

As I understand it, the CA law allows the manufacturer some wiggle room to use information from suppliers in order to be in compliance with the law. (From the online FAQ: “Although the law does not specifically require a person to conduct compliance testing, the only way to know for certain if an item is in compliance with the law is to have it analyzed by a laboratory using the methods specified in the law (EPA Methods 3050B or 3051). DTSC highly encourages businesses to obtain certificates of compliance and other detailed information about the composition of materials purchased from jewelry component suppliers. The law specifies various factors that will be considered when assessing penalties for violations including whether good faith measures were taken to comply with the law and the time these measures were taken.” This seems to be a reasonable approach. To me, it makes a lot more sense to require a supplier of materials to do testing and certify the safety of their materials, and I appreciate knowing exactly what I’m using in my jewelry. However, once this testing has been done by my supplier, I do not see a need for additional testing. I find it baffling that the CPSIA would not allow for a similar approach to the CA law, especially where small businesses and handcraft artists are concerned.

As a mother of two young children, I am well aware of the need to protect children from toxic substances. I also cherish the wide range of choices and the entrepreneurial spirit provided by the handmade community. I have befriended several handcraft artists in my shopping for my children, and it is such a joy to see my kids using and wearing items made with love by someone that I know. While well intentioned, the CPSIA goes about protecting children in the wrong way. The testing requirements place an unjust and unnecessary burden on small business and handcraft artists. I fear that the if the CPSIA goes into effect as written, the only ones who will be able to legally sell their stuff for kids are large businesses, places like Target and Walmart, places selling mass-produced goods from manufacturers that can afford the testing. And it’s likely that their costs will be passed on to consumers, so we will all be paying more for less. How sad that would be!

In a time of economic crisis, the last thing I want my government to do is make it more difficult for me (and small businesses like me) to survive. But that’s exactly what will happen once the CPSIA goes into effect. As you may be aware, more and more people are expressing concern about all this, and a movement is beginning. “National Bankruptcy Day” has been declared for February 10th and the regulations going into effect:

I certainly don’t want to close my doors as of February 10th. However, given the way the Act is written, and the broadness of its scope, I fear that it may come to that. I know that it will come to that for many of my colleagues in the handmade community. Surely this is not what the CPSIA was intended to do.

Here are my specific suggestions for amending the legislation:

  • Waive the testing requirements entirely for small volume manufacturers, those of us in the small handcraft businesses especially. The Handmade Toy Alliance has suggested businesses with revenue less than 1 million dollars in the USA should be exempt. Requiring this testing really will put us all out of business.
  • If a waiver is not possible, the CPSC should provide free testing to small businesses that produce children’s products.

  • If the CPSC does not have the means or inclination to offer free testing, the burden of testing should be borne by the manufacturers of materials used in handcraft businesses (fabrics, beads, paints, etc.). If their product could potentially be used to make something used by a child under the age of 12, the manufacturer of those materials should certify them as lead and phthalate free. The manufacturer should then make those certifications available to their customers. Shouldn’t these folks be making safe products anyway?

  • Allow third party certifications from the supplier as sufficient proof of items being lead and phthalate free. If the beads in my necklaces have been tested and certified by the company from which I purchase them, I should be able to obtain those certifications and not have to re-test those same beads simply because I put them on a piece of string. Same goes for somebody making children’s textiles: if the fabric and thread are certified as safe, why must they be tested again simply because they’ve been rearranged?

In my experience, it has been very difficult to obtain any “certificates of compliance” from suppliers (as suggested by the CA law) most likely because of their own concerns about liability. So if the CPSIA were to take this approach, more would need to be done on a national basis to require suppliers of materials to provide those certificates to us so that we can be fully informed about the materials we use in our own products. In the case of handcraft artisans and small businesses like myself, it is our suppliers who have financial capital for these tests, access to the material in bulk (so that only a relatively small portion of the material needs to be tested; in comparison, with my small inventory, a very large percentage would be required for testing purposes, creating another financial hardship). It is simply unreasonable to put the burden of testing on small businesses like mine. Additionally, even if I had the money (which I certainly don't), how would I find a lab to do the testing, and will they have the capacity to meet my needs? It really puts a small business owner in a bind.

I am just one of hundreds of thousands of small businesspeople in the US who will be adversely affected by the testing provisions of the Act. I know that the Act was conceived as a well-intentioned effort to safeguard children against lead and other contaminants in toys, primarily from overseas. Unfortunately, the way it's written, the Act will simply drive American small manufacturers of children's goods out of business, thereby increasing our reliance on imported toys and goods. Is this really the best way to ensure our children’s safety? No. Is this a good idea in these times of economic crisis? Absolutely not. Unless it is changed to address the concerns I have outlined, the Act will not help and will certainly do harm in our economy – the last thing it needs at this time. Please help make sure that February 10th, 2009, does not become "National Bankruptcy Day" for myself and countless others like me.

I am not a lawyer, nor does my very small business budget include enough extra money to pay for legal counsel, so I have come to my understanding of these issues by doing my own research, reading the text of the law, and talking with other handcraft artists. Folks are in a panic about this. Perhaps I have misunderstood how this law will affect me and the hundreds of thousands of other business owners like me; if so, I would be delighted to know and I will certainly spread the word. I look forward to your timely reply so I can make educated decisions about whether or not I can comply with the new standards.

Without your help, my choice come February 10th will be to close up shop, continue business illegally, or radically change my business by ceasing production of any and all items for children or related to children’s needs. I sincerely hope you and your colleagues will work together so that folks like me don’t have to choose between closing shop and becoming a criminal.


Jennifer Johnson
Owner, Mama’s Magic Studio


For information about what you can do to help get the CPSIA amended, and for more information about the act and what folks are saying about it, please see my earlier post here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Do You Love Handmade? Have kids of your own? Buy for kids? Then the CPSIA could change life as you know it.

IMPORTANT UPDATE 12/10: Etsy has spoken out against the unintended consequences of the CPSIA in an eloquent open letter published in the Storque:


Sorry for the radio silence, folks, but I've been utterly heartsick since Saturday. Why, you ask?

I learned about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act and its ramifications for my little business. And for handcraft businesses like mine throughout America. This law goes into effect in February, and as written it is a death knell to the handcraft movement for children's items.

Remember last December, when folks were freaking out about lead in children's products and toxic toys? This legislation came out of those concerns. It purports to protect children from lead and pthalates by requiring rigorous testing for all products intended for use by children under the age of 12.

Good thing, right?

Not as the law is written, unfortunately. While I sympathize with the sentiments behind it -- of course I do! I'm a mom with two small kids! -- the CPSIA is feel-good legislation at its worst. It slaps on a bunch of regulations and requirements in the broadest of manners, without thinking through the details.

And did I mention it will put me out of business? At least the Baby Friendly Beads part of Mama's Magic Studio. That or I'll be operating illegally.

Why? Because the CPSIA requires end unit testing on every product intended for use by children under 12. It is the responsibility of the manufacturer to do this testing, regardless of how small the business. These tests run into the hundreds of dollars. And every piece of my jewelry is one of a kind, so would require a separate set of tests. It isn't enough to test a single prototype. Since each piece of my jewelry sells for $50 or less, the math just doesn't add up.

It isn't enough to test the components, nor is it sufficient to rely on your suppliers' certification of the safety of the materials. Apparently, according to the CPSIA, simply knitting yarn into a baby blanket or putting beads on a cord mysteriously changes the composition of said materials and requires a whole 'nother set of tests, because they might have suddenly turned toxic. There are no exemptions for small businesses and "micro" manufacturers like myself and most handcraft artisans.

Yes, it is that ridiculous. I'm no lawyer, so I had a hard time reading through the text of the act, but I've been researching this ever since I heard about it on Saturday, and enough savvy folks are coming to the same conclusions. The CPSIA will either virtually end the production of handmade childrens' goods here in the USA, or it will turn the large majority of artisans producing children's goods into criminals.

With hefty fines and the possibility of jail time. As of February 10th, 2009.

There's even a movement starting to designate February 10th "National Bankruptcy Day" Not just because of all the businesses that will be forced to close their doors, but also because those manufacturers who can afford to test their products will almost definitely be passing on their costs to consumers. Get ready to pay more for all sorts of children's goods, and to have much fewer choices. Ain't that grand, in this moment of economic crisis?

The whole thing is a big mess, and folks are just in a panic about it. Myself included. Perhaps the biggest irony is that during the toxic toy scare which started it all, many people started to turn to handmade, American-made items for their children, because they felt (rightly, in my opinion) that these were safer. Instead of trusting the big companies and their Made In China labels, many consumers looked to individual artisans who were personally responsible for their products, who put their love and care into every item they made and did their very best to make safe products with integrity, everything from clothing to toys to furniture. If CPSIA goes forth, that handmade option will likely no longer exist.

Our representatives need to hear from The People on this one, folks. (Write your representatives here and your senators here). If you support the handmade movement, if you like being able to buy handmade childrens' goods, if you support small businesses, if you have kids or buy stuff for kids, please speak out. Loudly! Tell the CPSIA the legislation needs to include testing waivers and/or reasonable consideration for small businesses (you can use this online form here), contact the media, tell your friends.

Here is one way to express your support: American Apparel has put together a very easy to use form letter about this issue, including a section for you to express your own opinions if so desired. Use this link to send it to your representatives and senators in a matter of moments:

If you want to read further about all this:

Here is the original text of the CPSIA as it now is written:

Here's the gist of it in the FAQ section:

More about National Bankruptcy Day:

The Handmade Toy Alliance is speaking out loud and clear against the legislation. Here are their suggestions for how you can help:

Kathleen over at Fashion Incubator has been working hard to get this law changed, and her site really has the lowdown on the law in general and also how it would affect the childrens' apparel industry. (Remember, we're not just talking babies here; this is anybody under age 12!)

Cool Mom Picks has spoken out against this legislation here:

Here's what some other bloggers are saying -- the first, Smart Mama's post, is especially helpful in giving an overview:

Mom-101: In support of work-at-home moms, and other reasons to defeat the CPSIA act

Here are some Etsy forum threads discussing the CPSIA and its impacts on handcraft businesses. So far no word from Etsy about this other than to point to their Terms of Use and say we're each responsible for acting legally. Sigh.

Other articles about this:

From the Online Wall Street Journal:


From BoingBoing

From CBS (about the current state of the CPSC)

If you know of other resources, please let me know! I will be continuing to update this post as other folks speak out and share their knowledge and opinions about this potentially disastrous situation.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday Feature -- Meaghan Marie Pretties

This week's featured Etsy artist is a fellow Etsykids member, Jenn of Meaghan Marie Pretties. Her charming shop is named after her two daughters, Meaghan and Emma-Rose Marie. I just love that she calls hair accessories "pretties," because that's always what we called them when I was a little girl, and I'm continuing the tradition with my BB. Her pretties live up to the name; they are very pretty! Enjoy the interview!

Tell me two (or more!) interesting things about you.

*Hmm... two interesting things... well I am a crazy cat lady. MmmHmm. I work at a veterinary clinic in town and I'm frequently bringing home strays, recoveries, etc... home from work. They don't usually stay forever because we try to rehome them through the clinic, but we do have 5 of our own. We've had up to 15 though. Yikes.

*I love felty balls. That's right. Felty balls. Now that you've collected your minds out of the gutter, I mean hand felted balls. I just love them, there's something so adorable and unique about them, I could collect them if my husband would let me!

What do you sell in your Etsy shop?

*At Meaghan-Marie's we sell no-slip hair pretties, tutus, and once in a while the odd sock monkey just because I love them so much.

What inspires your creations?

*Fantasy images. Especially for my tutus. I just love it when the little ones put them on and they look like they could just sprout fairy wings and take off at any given time. Childhood should be about being fancy free and having fun, and that's exactly what I want them to feel when they pop that tutu on and slip into the realms of their imagination.

Tell me a bit about your creative process and/or how you learned to do what you do.

*Sometimes I get a little TOO creative with my clips. I'll make something because I'm having such a great time being unique and then I'll have it critqued and they'll say 'I'm going to wear this on my what?! No, no, that is far too bazaar for anyone's head!' so I have to tone it down. Alot. I learned how to make clips from a fellow Etsian and I learned how to make tutu from my good friend Google one day when I desperately needed a boutique tutu for Halloween and was not about to pay $70 for one. Not that it wasn't worth it, it totally was, I just didn't have it and was convinced I could make it cheaper. Guess what? Not really...

What is your favorite item in your shop? Why is it your favorite?

My favorite item in my shop right now are my KrazyKaboodle Klips! These are way too much fun to be healthy and feature the infamous caboodles from KitandCaboodles shop. These clips are totally fab because they can be worn by adults! I love little girl clippies, I do, they're the cutest. But, I am constantly looking for something to pull those stray hairs out of the way, and I'm getting just a little tired of using naked alligator clips. Nothing naked or alligator should never be in ones hair, thus the KrazyKaboodles were born of no slip alligators (covered ofcourse) and silver plated flat bobbies. The thing I love the most about KrazyKaboodles klips is that they're completely functional but look totally adorable in your hair without screaming 'Hey! You There, the one eating the hotdog! Check out my Big Bird hair clips!' unless ofcourse you're wearing Big Bird clips, in which case, have at it!

What 3 words would you use to describe yourself?
*Sometimes-Witty (Does it count as one word if I hyphenate it?) *Girlie

What do you like about Etsy?

*What don't I like about Etsy? Oh yes, that I can't pay my fees with PayPal... but that's a whole 'nother can of worms. I love the melding of so many great products, so much hard work, and the common bond of creating that everyone shares. I personally adore craft/artisan shows and this allows me to visit on every single day!
What makes your shop unique?

What advice do you have for other folks selling or buying on Etsy?

* Give. It. Time. Seriously. People join up thinking they're going to be selling out in a week. Then they're really surprised when it's be four and they haven't had one sale. It takes time. Get on the forums, hear what other Etsians have to say. Have your shop critiqued, check out other sellers with similar items to see how you compare. And one word? Kijiji. It's your best friend. If you have a local Kijiji site, try listing your Etsy items there with a link to your shop, if nothing else it gets you exposure and traffic which are both great things to build on.

Where else can we find out more about you and/or your creations?

* I'm a blogaholic. You can read about me (If you're not scared away already!) at but here's fair warning, I don't always blog about creating/crafting/etsying. That was my plan, but, I failed. Miserably.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Etsykids Trunk Show!

Tomorrow night (Thursday) at 8 p.m. EST, the Etsykids team will be hosting a Virtual Trunk Show in the Etsy Labs. I wasn't able to sign up for the show, since it happens right at the busiest Mommy time of the day: dinner time and bed time, and on a day that S has to work in the evening. But today I found out the lovely news that one of my fellow Etsykids members is going to include some of my Baby Friendly Beads in the show!

A huge thank you to the amazing Shannon of The Clever Kitty for her generosity and kindness in choosing my shop. Each of the sellers in the show got to choose one other Etsy shop to show, and Shannon chose me. Isn't that sweet?

For more information about the trunk show, door prizes, and the Etsykids team, you can check out the Etsykids blog. Many talented sellers will be showing off their goodies, and several folks will be offering discounts to those folks who "attend" the show. (Myself included!) Scroll down to the end of the post for directions about how to get to the Virtual Labs, where the show will take place. Hope you can make it!

Discount Divinity

After years of not having a Nativity scene as part of our decorations, this year I started looking around for one. We aren't practicing Christians, but we do celebrate Christmas, and last year we started teaching the kids the story of the birth of Christ. (Tomie dePaola's Little Christmas Pageant is a lovely little book that we've been using; I really like how it presents the story without being dogmatic about it. Just sweet and simple and beautiful.)

I don't do much in the way of mall shopping these days, but over the weekend we needed to head to the children's shoe store to get BB a new pair. We go to a wonderful, family owned shoe store, located in a local mall, and every time we go it involves walking through Macy's. As we passed the display of Christmas decorations, a Nativity caught my eye. It looked uncannily like the one from my childhood.

I almost didn't get it. Made in China, mass produced. And labeled 50% off. (On November 30th; yes, it's a bad year for retailers.) Call me a snob, but something there doesn't quite sit with me in terms of representing the divine. But there was something about this set that really spoke to me, in spite of all that. So I brought it up to the counter.

Turns out it wasn't really supposed to be on sale yet. But when I pointed out the sign, which clearly stated that all the Nativity sets were half off, the clerk was very polite about it and gave me the discount. (Yes, there is something a bit hypocritical about asking for the sale price and yet still remaining snobbish enough to be bothered by the fact that it's on sale and produced in such a way that it is as inexpensive as possible. I'm fully aware of that contradiction.) It also turns out that Macy's is offering $10 off when there's a discrepancy between the price that rings up and the posted price. (Or at least that was his story; news to me.)

Final price: $4.33.

Now that's what I call a divine discount. Or discount divinity. Take your pick.

Upon closer examination, it doesn't have all the charm of the one belonging to my mother. Part of this, I realized, is that the pieces in this set don't fully have that "vintage" feel, especially the Christ child. But as I thought about it, I realized that it was probably because the edges haven't been worn and chipped. When I was growing up, our cat had a habit of playing hockey with the baby Jesus, batting the figurine out from under the Christmas tree and underneath the bookcases: Goal! At which point it would be retrieved and put back under the tree.

But I have faith that after a while with the kids and the cats, my set will be just as "charming" as my mom's. Either that or it will be busted to bits -- mine is ceramic and hers is made of some sort of pressed plaster or wood or something like that. If I recall the story correctly, her nativity set was one of the first things she ever purchased with her own money, sometime back in the 1950's. Would be interesting to know how much she paid for hers! (Any idea, Mom?)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Trimming the Christmas Tree

Much to the kids' delight, we decorated the Christmas tree today. It was fun, but I confess that it's still a little hard for me to put up our artificial tree instead of a "real" Christmas tree. Last year we made the switch, after much debate on my part, and I took the "if it's gonna be artificial, then it's not even gonna TRY to look real!" approach in choosing our tree. Hence the white crystal "branches" with blue lights.

I miss the smell most of all, but I also miss the lovely green of the needles, the symbolism of bringing a tree inside -- I even miss the sticky sap on my fingers. (Don't miss the mess of needles everywhere, though; for all my pagan tendencies, I'm not that much of a purist.) And I have to admit that the fake tree does a good job of showcasing our ornaments.
Not that we have that many ornaments to showcase, this year. We left off 99% of the fragile ones, and the ones we did use aren't exactly artfully arranged, since the kids did most of the decorating. BB hung these white pinecones, and as you can see, she takes the same approach to hanging ornaments that she does to applying stickers: the more the better, especially if they are the same sort and right on top of each other.

But as even the most cursory analysis of my current home decor would show, I've pretty much given up on things looking "right" at the moment. Ours is a house with children, and almost everything in it shows as much. Including the tree. Sunset Magazine we ain't. (And that's okay!)

The kids got a lot of practice using the "one finger rule" (as in, you can touch it but only with one finger; a useful rule for dealing with fragile things that simply beg to be touched).

BJ took great care to be sure BB was doing it correctly, both the "one finger rule" and the decorating itself.

She soon got the hang of it:

For the most part, though, the kids were very sweet about sharing the decorating process. There was very little squabbling over ornaments. In truth, they are really getting along well these days. (Knock wood!) BJ insisted on giving BB a hug when we'd finished.

And he even managed to do it without knocking them both over into the tree! A minor Christmas miracle.Everyone was smiling when we were through, including BB (in spite of her teething; she's cutting the first of her 2 year molars, and she constantly has her fingers in her mouth!) I wish we'd been able to arrange things to put the tree in the living room, where we could all enjoy it more, but there just wasn't room. Ah well, maybe next year.