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Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Feature -- Nico Designs

This week's featured Etsy artist is also the Etsyblogger of the Month for January. Congratulations to Nico Designs!

Her shop is full of charming handmade goodness. I particularly like her pincushions. Isn't this "Be Mine" lovebird simply wonderful? Perfect for Valentine's Day!

And these pear "LOVE" pincushions are adorable too!

Enjoy the interview!

1. Please tell us about the items in your Etsy shop. What do you make? How did you learn your craft? What is involved in your creative process?

I currently have tote bags, home decor items and I am now adding art dolls. I am phasing out the bags to move into a different direction with the dolls and sculpture.

I first learned to sew as a child when a neighbor taught me how to make clothes for my Barbie dolls. Since then, I have taken a couple of quilting classes but I pretty much go by trial and error. I really enjoy the process of sketching an idea and seeing it unfold with fabric.

2. How did you get involved with Etsy?

Another mom told me about Etsy. I wanted another way to sell my bags and I thought it would be a great experience.

3. What inspires your creations?

The tote diaper bags were derived out of necessity. I needed a bag for my new baby at the time and one to my specifications. From there, people asked me if I could make them one.

My dolls were actually inspired from my husband's favorite chair. I was lost in thought while staring at the chair and I saw an image of a doll that I wanted to create. You know, how you see images in clouds? Now, I get lost in creating their images and stories to bring them to life.

For me, inspiration can come from anything, at any moment. I relish the spontaneous images that burst into my head which is normally at night.

4. What is your biggest challenge related to your Etsy shop?

My priorities are my children so I am not very good about adding more listings on a continual basis. I also took a long time off and I think that hurts when it comes to Etsy and your visibility.

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

My favorite item is currently Savannah the Horse Lover. She is a new art doll and I like her brilliant colors and fancy hat.

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

Well, there are other folks much more qualified to offer up advice. But here is my two cents: tell the world about your shop. Find some form of social marketing, whether it be blogging, Facebook, twitter, etc to share your craft and your items. (I am trying to get better at using Facebook).

7. Tell us two (or more) other interesting things about you.

I like to eat cold pizza for breakfast. I can be bribed with chocolate.

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


Facebook Fan Page:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

From The Pile

One of the many challenges of moving: dealing with The Pile. Or, in our household, Piles. We have paper piles all over, and I've been doing my best to actually sort through things instead of just putting all The Piles in a Big Box labeled Papers To Deal With Later.

Because we all know that "Later" will probably turn to Never, unless (or until) I discover that a sheet of paper with vital information has gone missing. At which point I'll be frantic to find it, desperately sorting through the remnants of countless dead trees. So it's much better to deal with it NOW. Even though we are moving in two days and I have lots and lots of stuff left to do.

Which of course explains why I have time to be sitting here at the computer, blogging, while precious nap time ticks away.... but hey, everybody needs a break now and then. And I just found something in The Computer Desk Pile that was worth recording. It is, as best I can recall, my jotting down of a song that BB made up somewhat recently (sometime in the last 6 months, which is about the last time this particular Pile was dealt with at all). I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be a lullaby. I don't think I ever noted it here, though I meant to some time ago. And if I did, and forgot about it, forgive the repetition!

Across the beach
And dream that there's leaves
And do a dance for them
And do something for eggs and for bowls
Dream that there's stars and clouds
Floating in the sky.
The end is kiss you on the head.

And now back to dealing with the paperwork.... having recorded that here, it's one more sheet of paper that I can recycle and not put in a box! More treasures will be posted as they appear!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kiss it Better

I love how kids truly believe that a kiss can make everything all better. Perhaps my own wee ones have been picking up on my stress levels -- they've both been very smoochy lately. My favorite moment related to that happened this afternoon, when BJ planted a big one on my face and then informed me, "Kisses are microscopic hearts."

He then went on to explain that it was because love was there in a kiss but you can't see it. Not without a microscope.

Not a bad definition, if you ask me!


The more I read about the awful situation in earthquake-ravaged Haiti, the more helpless I feel. Thoughts and prayers (and the sizeable donation that S and I sent to the Red Cross last week) can only go so far. (It doesn't help things that I just finished up Margaret Atwood's Year of the Flood. Wonderfully written, of course -- and terribly depressing. Nothing like reading apocalyptic fiction to make horrors in the news feel that much more horrible.)

So I was interested to see an email from the International Medical Corps in my inbox. I'd heard about them before, and as I read around their website I was impressed with their organization. I've never posted this sort of thing here at Mama's Magic, but the seriousness of the situation warrants it, I think. They've asked me to share with my readers an easy way to help with their relief efforts in Haiti.

You can also click here for more information. As they say, every little bit helps. But it's still hard not to feel helpless in the face of something like this -- I can only imagine how those folks working on the ground with relief efforts might be feeling. Blessings on them and on the people of Haiti.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Passing Grades

Stolen from S's facebook -- I was not there to witness the conversation in question.

"Latest announcement: BJ loves his mom 100, and loves me 99, which, he tells me, is still a lot. And he loves his sister 77. He loves himself, however, 500. That all sounds about right for him."

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Feature -- Studio M.M.E.

This week's featured Etsy artist is Studio M.M.E. I love her "modern take on classical illustration" -- her work has a unique look, and I find that her images really stay with me. Especially this one, which she calls Fear's Uncloaking. I find it very striking in composition:

I also love that she offers so many of her images in the form of note cards. It's a great way to sample her work!

Enjoy the interview!

1. Please tell us about the items in your Etsy shop. What do you make? How did you learn your craft? What is involved in your creative process?

Right now my shop is bursting with fine art archival prints of my pen and ink drawings and photographs taken with a 60-year-old Kodak Duaflex II I found in my grandmother's closet. My father used to paint in his free-time so I would bet I received my gift from him. I taught myself pen and ink techniques on day while looking through an art book. For some reason, it just clicked with me. Each illustration takes around 30 hours to complete but I love every minute of it.

2. How did you get involved with Etsy?

I started a blog in January and a few of the artists I was following had shops on Etsy. I checked it out and was instantly hooked.

3. To which Etsy Teams do you belong (if any)?

Currently I don't belong to any teams. That's not to say I haven't looked, but being a full-time student with a part-time job and my business doesn't leave me much time to be an active member of a team.

4. What inspires your creations?

When I was little my father would read the Grimms' fairy tales and Gorey's alphabets to me before I went to bed. I know that had a large influence on me. I'm also extremely interested in the psychology and symbolism in fairy tales and how they have shaped our culture. My boyfriend is also a huge inspiration now because his imagination is even wittier than mine.

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

For me, my favorite item in my shop is the 'Time Traveling Tourists' print. Others probably don't like it as much as I do, but it's a personal portrait of myself and my boyfriend. There are so many things hidden in it: Hokusai prints on the walls, a map of Sicily on the table (which is where we might have met had we not been a month off in our travels), and our vintage cameras.

6. Tell us two (or more) other interesting things about you.

I received a national pen and ink award last year from a jury of MoMA curators. I'm also blind in one eye due to a birth defect. It has always amazed my parents and teachers that I can draw as well as I can. Just don't make me draw in perspective! Haha.

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

You can find me a lot of places online.


Website/Online Portfolio:



Thursday, January 14, 2010


Lest I get too caught up in my own petty frustrations -- and to give perspective on my own fears after the recent local 4.1 tremor -- I offer a moment of prayer for folks in Haiti. I'm not usually one to Pray in an organized fashion, but I've found my thoughts turning again and again to them. (As, I'm sure, is the case with many other people; the horror is all over the news.) I was proud to see that Etsy has posted some suggestions for ways to help. S and I will be sending aid to help the victims as soon as we have a moment to sit down together and talk about how much we can afford. Hopefully tonight.

Boxed In

Ah, what I wouldn't give for an empty room right now -- a room in which I could start stacking boxes! The packing process has begun, and there are boxes everywhere: full boxes, empty boxes, boxes still flat and awaiting their contents. It's cardboard decor, and it's not exactly pretty!

But much of why we're going through all this is to move from the 2 bedroom home to the 3 bedroom apartment, so that empty room just ain't available yet. Happily, the kids have been pretty patient with everything so far. To them, it's all fodder for fun and games. BJ spent quite some time arranging his cardboard fort yesterday after we brought a bunch more boxes home (thank you Craigslist!) and then declared he wanted to live there.

Packing is a very slow process when you have "helpers" who are 2 and 4 years old. As you can imagine, things are pretty busy over here. We get keys a week from tomorrow! So the blog will probably continue to be fairly quiet until we're settled in.

BB has come down with a cold and a touch of fever, which is making the packing even more challenging today. She only wants to be cuddled, poor boo. I don't think it's anything more serious than a virus, but it's no fun to see her feeling unwell. She went down for nap early and only drank some apple juice for lunch. I hope she gets a good long rest and wakes feeling better.

In other news, while I have this moment to post during her nap, I wanted to record the fact that we have (hopefully) settled on a kindergarten school for BJ. Never mind that it seems almost impossible that he'll be starting KINDERGARTEN next year! Golly. I toured the school on Tuesday morning, and I was very impressed with what I saw. Won't go into details about what and where, this being a public blog and me having some sense of internet safety! Suffice to say that it seemed a joyful place with strong community, strong and well-established teachers, and lots of opportunities for the students. Now we just have to get lucky with the enrollment lottery. Send us your good-luck mojo for a lucky lottery, if you have any to spare!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

It's Her Party (Or Lack Thereof....)

In two weeks, BB will celebrate her 3rd birthday. (Which I'm still in denial about, frankly. How IS that possible?!?) In 13 days, we will be moving into our new place. We finally got our move-in date on Friday!

This means that having a birthday party for my daughter poses a wee bit of a challenge. Lucky for me, more than a month ago BB started saying in no uncertain terms that she did NOT want to have a party for her birthday. She did NOT want to have friends over and (perhaps most importantly to her) did NOT want to share her cake with anybody other than her family.

When she first started saying this, I found it odd and did my best to figure out why she might feel that way. Other than the bit about sharing the cake, she couldn't come up with a reason. At the time, we had no idea that we would be moving the day before her birthday. So I did my best to convince her that a larger party would be fun. Nothing doing. She just didn't want to!

I'd thought that the recent spate of birthday parties might change her mind. In the past two weeks, we've been to a bounce house party and a gymnastics party. But she remains steadfast in her refusal. And frankly, now that we've been told we have two weeks to pack up and move, I'm OK with that. Certainly simplifies things!

After all, it's her party -- and if she wants it to be a small family affair, that's fine! We'll have a cake, get some helium balloons, and call it done.

Though I have to say, it was mighty fun to see the kids at the gym party. BB was all over the equipment and especially loved the trampoline and the hanging bar. BJ was pretty enthusiastic as well, though he was also more cautious.

Exhibit A of the difference between my boy and my girl. She got right up on the balance beam and pranced about. S was right there (that's his hand in the photo) but she was happy to do it by herself.

BJ declared that even the short one was "too tall!" and wanted to crawl down it. Had a great time doing so, though!

Exhibit B: Contrast BB on the trampoline with BJ in the videos below. Guess who paid attention to the explanation for how best to use the trampoline (be in the box and only one kid at a time). But again, the most important thing is that they are both clearly having a grand time, in their own unique ways.

Side note: Take a look in the background of the video and you can see the high bar that BB was hanging from in the first pic of this post. It's right above the "ENCORE" sign. The first time she hung on the bar, the "coach" caught her on the way down when she fell and helped her to land. (A bit odd to call a "PARTY ANIMAL" a coach, but ah well.) The second time she did it the coach was still right there but not holding her, and she dropped all by herself into the foam pit below -- and was happy as could be! (Even though my heart was in my throat!)



After the success yesterday, we are considering enrolling both kids in gymnastics classes. The place we're considering has a free trial class, and we'll try one out soon. Because between moving and celebrating birthdays and enrolling in kindergarten (!!! don't even get me started on that one!!! talk about Mom in denial....) Not to mention Everything Else -- clearly, we don't have enough to keep us busy! HA!

The neat thing is that both kids now know about the impending move (we told them on Friday) and they are VERY excited about it. They want to box everything up NOW. They don't seem to quite understand that whatever is boxed up NOW will not be accessible for at least two weeks and probably longer. It makes trying to pack with their "help" a wee bit challenging. But it's cute to see.

Wish us luck in getting through the next two weeks. 'Cos we're gonna need it!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday Feature -- AngieHandmade

After a break for the holiday season, I'm delighted to share the first Mama's Magic Friday Feature of 2010: AngieHandmade!

This Colorful Felted Ball is definitely one of my favorites from her shop. Other folks clearly like it as well, since it's been featured on Etsy's front page! (Congrats for that, Angie!)

I just love all the textures and colors in Angie's shop, and it's always fun to learn more about a fellow local Etsian. Enjoy the interview!

1. To which Etsy Teams do you belong?

I belong to the SFetsy team, Schooling at Home Etsians (Sheteam), and the Crafting in Color (CIC team)

2. Please tell us about the items in your Etsy shop. What do you make? How
did you learn your craft? What is involved in your creative process?

My newest and favorite items are my textile collage scarves. They're made of yarn and other textiles, but sewn together into one thick, soft, warm little bundle, rather than knitted or crocheted. I also have crocheted bracelets, some dainty, some chunky, and upcycled textile rings. And let's not forget the beads and buttons. It's quite a variety of items, but they're unified by my love for bold, interesting color combinations.

I do so many different crafts, it's hard to sum up how I've learned them all. Mostly I get inspired by things that others have done, or ideas from books. If I don't know how to do something I'll google an online tutorial. Often I'll take an idea and change it to make it my own. And my favorite part of the process is choosing the colors. So I tend to gravitate toward crafts that are big on flexibility of materials, making design decisions, and making it up as I go. But it's hard for me to stay focussed on pattern intensive projects like knitting or sewing with patterns. It's no fun for me to follow the directions!

3. How did you get involved with Etsy?

One day I told a friend, "I would love to have a shop on Etsy." That Saturday I started my shop! Sometimes I ask myself why I'm doing it, and the answer always boils down to the fact that I just love it. I get a charge out of showing my work to others, and getting positive responses.

4. What inspires your creations?

My biggest inspiration is beautiful, bold colors. But I get ideas all the time. I love to upcycle and to create from things I already have around. My kids also inspire me. I home school my kids. As part of their schooling, I often plan art and craft projects for them. But I almost always get involved and enjoy coming up with my own twist on whatever we're doing. That's how my buttons and beads came about.

5. What is your biggest challenge related to your Etsy shop?

My biggest challenge is time! Home schooling my kids is a full time job. I have so many ideas, but I can only try a few of them in my limited crafting time.

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

My favorite item is this scarf:

They have been so much fun to make. I spend a lot of time deciding on colors and choosing yarns and other textiles to go in it. And each time I have no idea exactly what the final result will be, but it always turns out fantastic. The first one I made was for me. I've never worn a scarf before, but now I can hardly wait until it's cold enough.

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

I don't feel experienced enough to give out much advice. But I do know that when I'm browsing Etsy as a buyer, great photos are really important to me. When photos are bad it's really hard to tell for sure what the item looks like. And poor photos make me wonder if the item is made poorly, too. Learning to take a decent photo is doable for anyone. I read everything on Etsy that I could find on the subject. I also found a photographer friend who was willing to swap a home cooked meal for photography lessons.

8. Tell us two (or more) other interesting things about you.

One of my favorite projects last Spring was participating in a yarn-bombing in the SoFa neighborhood of San Jose. As part of an art festival we wrapped and decorated trees with knitted pieces of all kinds of colors and designs. A lot of them are still there!

And I love to travel. Last Summer we went to Honduras. The islands there are like heaven. Next Fall we're planning an extended trip to Europe.

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


For more Friday Feature interviews at Mama's Magic, click here! And if you're an Etsy artist who is interested in being considered for a feature at my blog, send me a convo through my shop, Mama's Magic Studio! This is my 90th Friday Feature interview to post, an accomplishment of which I'm rather proud. They are such fun, and I look forward to doing more in 2010!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Little Miss Sensitive

Today BB gave me more evidence (not that I needed it) that she is just as sensitive as her brother, just as likely to be noofy about a certain place or particular situation. By 9:30, we'd already had a bit of a challenging morning. This quarter, thanks to a change in S's schedule, I have to drop of BJ at preschool on Thursday mornings, which means BB has to tag along. S is usually the one to drop off BJ, while I often pick him up in the afternoon.

I'd worried that it might be difficult to get BJ settled while also having BB there, so I'd anticipated a challenge. Surprise -- instead of BJ not wanting us to go and leave him there, he was totally fine; it was BB who didn't want to leave! BJ had started playing with nifty vinyl animals, setting up a play zoo, and BB wanted nothing more than to hang out and arrange the play dinosaurs next door. BJ was even being flexible and not complaining about the fact that one would not find dinosaurs at the zoo (he's apt to make this observation).

We hung out a bit, but then we had to get going because we had a playdate scheduled with C, BB's best buddy. Usually we have a great time with C. She's a totally sweet little girl and pretty much the only peer that BB sees on a regular basis. The girls are only about a month apart in age.

On the way to C's house, BB started making noises that she wasn't happy about going there. She said she wanted to just go home. Uh-oh, I thought. "Are you sure?" I asked. She vacillated. Then, as we drove, she stopped complaining and instead started asking about C's 9 month old brother O. (Side story: BJ has been playing matchmaker recently. He's decided he will marry M, a girl who attends his preschool. He's also decided to arrange BB's prospects. He told her, with an air of divine revelation, that she could marry O! BB's reply: she really wants to marry C!) BB was upset because she'd forgotten to bring a rattle for O to play with. I assured her that he has his own age-appropriate toys at his house, and she was greatly relieved.

We got to their house, and all was well, but we hadn't been there 15 minutes before BB came wailing to me: "I want to go hooooooome!" Nothing would dissuade her, not even the idea of playing with C's amazing new dollhouse. So we headed home. I was very disappointed, mostly because I'd really looked forward to hanging out with C's mom A (whose company I really enjoy) and also because I think it's very important for BB to have some time playing with kids other than her brother. But nothing doing, not today.

When we arrived home, BB immediately plunged into some solo play, driving toy cars all around the rug. Just delighted to be in her own space with her own stuff. I think I'd neglected to realize the effect on her of all the craziness of the holidays -- plus having BJ around all the time, with preschool being closed. Tuesday was his first day back, and we spent that time running family errands -- I did mine and S took her along for his, then we met up for lunch at Sweet Tomatoes. A very nice day, but not exactly relaxing. For the past two weeks, she hadn't had a lot of unstructured solo time at home, where she usually gets some at least twice a week. Today would have been her first opportunity. Apparently, she needed it more than I realized, enough to demand it.

Either that or she had turned into Little Miss Sensitive because an earthquake was on the way! A 4.1 at 10:09 this morning. Very shortly after we got home from C's house. Hmmm. They say pets can sense earthquakes when they are coming. If that's true, I wouldn't be surprised if a 2 year old was tuned in to the same thing. After all, dogs are supposed to be as smart as a 2 year old child! (Though I'd put my own 2 year olds up against a canine any day, no matter what the science says.) Actually, when it hit BB didn't even seem to notice it. She was too deeply involved with playing with her bristle blocks. I felt it and had that typical instant acceleration of my heartbeat. Took me a while to calm down. In fact, more than 2 hours later now, I'm still a little shook up.

I don't think I'll ever get used to earthquakes. But I have learned to suppress my anxiety about them. Because that's what you do when you're a parent -- you act in the best interest of your kids, and it would not be in their best interest to have me freaking out in total fear because of a rumble that might seem like nothing more than a truck going by. In truth, I don't have to look far to see where both my kids might have gotten their sensitivities (because BJ is just as prone to it as BB, if not more so). I'm Mrs. Sensitive, myself. As my mother would say, "Crows don't raise canaries." Though we may try at times..... because that, too, is part of being a parent. Wanting your kids to turn out better than you did, to be able to sing when all you can manage is a squawk.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Warm and Fuzzy

One of the more vivid-yet-ordinary memories from childhood: sitting on the living room floor in front of my mom while she dried my hair. I can tangibly recall the whoosh of the hair dryer, the tug of the brush on my tresses, the pressure of her knees against my back. I remember fussing about it now and then, but mostly it was a soothing and relaxing time of closeness.

Just this week, BB decided she likes me to blow dry her hair. And now BJ has followed her lead so that they are both asking for it as soon as they get out of the bath. I've found myself smiling about all this several times over the past few days as we sit together in the living room -- because that's where we can find an available electrical outlet! Just like at my childhood home, I guess! -- the roar of the hair dryer, the warm air, their silky hair under my hands. It's all so very warm and fuzzy, and I love the full-circle feeling of connected motherhood that I get as we are beginning our own little versions of this ritual. I hope it continues for a long time to come.

Party Like a Preschooler

This morning, for no reason that I can discern other than the general New Year-ish vibe, BJ announced, "Mommy! We should have a party to celebrate the New Year!"

"Sure!" I said, a little hesitant about what such an activity would involve but trying not to show it. "What should we do?"

"Let me check my book," he said as he dashed to the bookshelf. After a brief search, he located the book he wanted to consult: The Magic School Bus Inside A Hurricane.

OK, not the first text that would occur to me when party planning, but he seemed to have something specific in mind. By this time, BB was interested in the idea of a party and so we sat back and watched him flipping through the book.

"Here!" he said, pointing to the last page of the story. I read over his shoulder: After the field trip, we needed some time to relax. Ms. Frizzle said we could have a party. We had great games, crazy dancing, and yummy snacks.

I laughed. "Well, we just finished our sweet treat after lunch, so I think we've taken care of the yummy snacks part. But we can do some crazy dancing and play great games. What do you think?"

A resounding, "YEAH!" from both the kids was the reply. So we put on TMBG's "Here Comes Science" (which has already become a family favorite; we gave it to the kids for Christmas) and rocked out in the living room. Then we played hide and seek and musical chairs. Both BB and BJ were delighted.

I need to remember that impressing them doesn't always (or even usually) take a lot of work. Conversely, I can spend all sorts of time and energy (and, sometimes, money) setting up Something, and it won't necessarily mean all that much to the kids. Mom's enthusiastic participation is usually enough -- if we're all genuinely having fun and I say, "What a great party that was!" then, to them, it was a great party. I'm sure it won't always be that way, so I should take advantage of it while I can!