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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Good Times

I've been having a really good week, full of good times. Busy, busy, busy -- but good! Here's a little bit of what we've been up to:

Tuesday mornings from 9 am to noon are my usual weekly work hours, and this week S and I shared a very pleasant creative session together. It turns out I married a paper crafting guy! Who knew??? Since starting to play Dungeons and Dragons again (he's a DM for a really fun group) he has discovered the wild and wacky world of card stock creations. Right now, he's been working on a card stock model of an inn where his players will have their next major encounter (i.e. -- big ol' fight) and so far it's looking like this:



I confess I never expected this. But it's been lots of fun to witness! There are some really artistic, creative folks putting out designs for people to play with. My beloved has been having a great time getting layouts just right (so they match the published descriptions) and making things like wee bar stools out of card stock. He's not done with the setup yet -- this one will take something like 80 chairs and a bunch of bar stools! And I'm talking really teeny tiny furniture -- he's holding one of the bar stools in this pic:

As for me, I spent the morning working on Mama's Magic Re-usable Gift Bags. Pics coming soon! Me and the sewing machine are having some really good times.

On Wednesday morning, I went to Open Sing at BJ's school. I love this tradition! Always heartwarming to sing with the kids.


After Open Sing, I visited a local crafting and creativity studio, A Work of Heart in Willow Glen. This place was amazing! BB came along while I met with Andrea, the owner, and we're talking about hosting some SF Etsy team events in the space. It merits a whole post of its own, which will be coming soon at the SF Etsy team blog. After checking it all out, BB and I headed over to a favorite restaurant for lunch.

Special Mommy & BB time! We had a lovely little lunch. Yummy food, good company, and nice weather out on the patio. BB really enjoyed it, too!
On Thursday morning, I was one of the drivers for the third field trip of the year at BJ's school. We visited Full Circle Farm! The kids tasted fresh vegetables, fed the chickens, and walked through the fields.

At the end of the field trip, each kid got to bring home a pumpkin!
Tomorrow is a big Halloweeny day, with parades at both the kids' schools and a carnival for BJ and trick or treating for BB. Like I said -- busy! And all good. Now if I could just figure out a way to get a few more hours each day to work on inventory....

Pumpkin Patch!

We'd hoped to hit the pumpkin patch last weekend, but the weather didn't cooperate -- so we did a "better late than never" visit on Tuesday. Fun!

We went back to the same little school-sponsored patch that we've been going to for several years now. Both kids obviously remembered it. BB had no trouble picking out her pumpkin right away.
BJ, having seen that BB picked a big one, decided he needed an even bigger pumpkin. So he went around looking for the biggest one in the patch and brought them next to BB's to compare.

BB just hung out with her pumpkin, watching him trying to decide on his.
When he'd finally decided which one he liked best, they were both pretty happy with their choices.

After paying for our pumpkins, we walked the "haunted trail." At first, BB didn't want to do it at all, but then she decided it would be OK so long as she held my hand. BJ wanted to hold hands as well. (I love it that my kids still both love holding my hands!)

After we all went through one time, they wanted to do it again. This time, they stayed close to S but were much less clingy.

After we'd done it twice, they declared, "That wasn't scary At All!" And they wanted to do it All By Themselves. So they did.


From where we stood at the entrance, we could watch them the whole time (it's a big loop, and not all that big). I had all the predictable thoughts about how sweet it was to watch them go through together, holding hands, and I had all the predictable bittersweet emotions, realizing yet again how much they are growing up.

And indeed they are! My little "pumpkins" really aren't so little anymore... so perhaps it's appropriate that they would both want big pumpkins this year. Now if only they were old enough to be counted on to help with the task of scooping out all that pulp....



Monday, October 25, 2010

Oceans and a Princess Smile

Humbling moment of the morning:

BB interrupted whatever we were talking about to announce: "Mommy, you have oceans on your head! Will I have oceans on my head when I'm a grown up?"

Puzzled, I asked her what she meant.

"Oceans, Mommy! Here!" She pointed above my eyebrows.

I was still confused, so we went to the mirror together.

She continued to point to my forehead. "They are like waves!" she explained, all excited.

I looked in the mirror, raised my eyebrows a bit, and saw exactly what she meant. They are, indeed, like waves. Wrinkle waves, lining across my forehead, stamped there for all to see.

But then she told me I have a "princess smile," so I felt a little bit better.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Feature -- The Crocheting Machine

This week's featured Etsy artist is Jennie, a new SF Etsy team member and owner of The Crocheting Machine. As someone who has yet to figure out crochet, I'm fascinated to see all the neat things she's able to make! I especially like her "Infinity Cowl" scarves, like this gorgeous blue one -- love that yummy texture! It looks like it would be super cozy.
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 specialize in crocheted full circle/cowl scarves. My mom taught me how to crochet the basic stitches over one summer in high school. I started picking up the hobby again in January 2010 since then I haven't been able to let go of my crochet hook. I gain my inspiration from my sisters. When I think about something I could use .. my mind starts translating them into stitches.

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

1. I have an interest in language. Cantonese was my first language, then English, Mandarin, and Vietnamese
2. I am completing my last semester in college for my BA in Child and Adolescent Development & a BS in Health Education/Public Health.

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

Promoting myself. I get most of my sales off Etsy. It means that I get to keep more of my profit, but I also want to boost my Etsy ratings.

4. What crafting skill(s) do you wish you had or hope to learn someday?

I wish I could sew straight freehand and knit.

5. What has been your biggest success and/or proudest moment since opening your Etsy shop?

I just sold my 50th scarf today. Unfortunately only two of my sales were on Etsy.

6. If money were no object for just one day, what would you do?

Order tickets for two for a cruise around the world. Before boarding I'd build and stock a walk-in yarn closet and go purse shopping.

7. Tell us about your first sale ever?

My sister wore my scarf to work and her co-worker fell in love with it and made an order instantly .. to this day ... she is my biggest client with over 7 scarves sold.

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

Website: www.thecrochetingmachine.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/iamthecrochetingmachine
Twitter: www.twitter.com/msjenphan
Tumblr: www.thecrochetingmachine.tumblr.com

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

California Academy of Sciences

On Monday, BJ had a day off from kindergarten, so we took a family trip to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. We'd been trying to go for some time now, and it was a real treat to finally make it.

BJ was so excited he could barely contain himself. You can practically see the thought bubble above his head: "I'm at a museum with SCIENCE in the title! THIS IS SO COOL!"
BB had taken a little convincing about the prospect of the trip. ("Will there be any princess things there?") But when she heard that there would be butterflies, she was in. And she wasn't disappointed!
The rain forest exhibit was easily my favorite. So lush and lovely!
And there were definitely butterflies!!! We saw this gorgeous one several times...
Including once right on the path in front of us!
BB knelt down to wave hello:
Up in the canopy, the butterflies were everywhere.

They even landed on us!
The kids were super gentle and really amazed to have them fluttering on a fingertip.
After the rain forest, BJ and S went to the planetarium show while BB and I went to the little kids area. BJ apparently (and not surprisingly) LOVED the planetarium. He's grown up a lot since his first attempt at a planetarium show. S reported that BJ sat in his chair throughout the show, awed by everything, simply repeating, "Wow! Wow!"

It took a while for some space to clear in the kids' area, since they limited the number of children allowed at one time. So BB had fun with the tortoise statue. (So much fun, she insisted on bringing BJ back to visit it later!)
When it was finally our turn to go inside, BB enjoyed the blocks in the Young Explorers area. This little corner of the museum felt very much like a condensed version of the Children's Discovery Museum here in San Jose.
Perfect to entertain BB while BJ was busy in outer space! And clearly the butterflies continued to be of interest -- BB had a great time with this butterfly puppet.

BJ got to see his first T Rex skeleton. Very impressive!
He also got to see a Real Live Anaconda. It was HUGE!
We spent some time in the aquarium area after lunch.
BB managed to hold it together quite well during her usual naptime, and we headed home about 3 p.m. We didn't manage to see everything, but we had a lot of fun with what we were able to explore. The day was definitely a success!

Signs of the Season

It's definitely fall -- and the house is full of signs of the season! A big thank you to Pop-Pop and Giki for their autumnal care package. The kids had great fun putting up the window clings!

And BJ loved his science kit. (We knew he would!)
BB was over the moon to see her pink princess dress. She immediately knew what it was for: "My Ariel dress!" She put it on immediately and danced around the house. Are my folks great or what for finding the perfect princess dress -- two years in a row?!?

BB had decided she wanted to be princess Ariel for Halloween, but not in mermaid form, and I didn't want to just get a standard Ariel dress, so I was a little worried about how this would work out. She told me she would need a pink dress with flowers and a red wig. Well, the dress was perfect, and now that her red wig has arrived, she is thrilled!
It's good to have the kids' Halloween settled. After some discussion about being a scientist (which would have been really neat) BJ decided he needed to be something "more scary." Mad scientist was out. He settled on a skeleton. But not a gory one or one that was tooo scary.

This is more difficult than one might imagine! He's a size 5/6 right between the cutesy toddler costumes and the scary bigger kid sizes (which seemed to start at size 8). I won't even get into the rant I have forming about the challenges of shopping for Halloween with a smaller child. I'm beyond disgusted by how Halloween has become so commercialized and gory, with so much of an emphasis on what adults might find entertaining. (Dismembered zombie babies, anyone?) Our visit to the "Spirit" store was distressing, but we finally managed to find something OK.

Except the size 4/6 (the largest one they had) was much too small in the rise. So last night I got brave and altered it, adding in a new and larger panel in the crotch. Managed not to ruin it, at any rate, and when he tried it on this morning it seemed much more comfortable. Still not great, but better. Didn't manage to get a pic, though, so you'll have to wait to see my skeleton son!

Rain Rain, Come and Play


We had our first real rain of the fall season, much to the delight of the kids. They put on their new rain jackets, found last year's rain boots (time for new ones!) and pulled out the umbrellas. "Hooray, Hooray! A Rainy Day!"
video
Granted, it wasn't a ton of rain, but enough for puddles for splashing.
All too soon, the showers had ended.
But we had a great time while it lasted!

My First Rings!

On Friday night, I learned how to make wire wrapped rings, and I've been making several a day ever since!
I am having such fun! I really think sometimes that my favorite part about being a crafter is learning new things. It's been a while since I tried something totally new to me like this. (Well, not completely new, since I had a fair amount of experience with wire work, but it required new tools and new skills, so it counts!) It's very refreshing.

The recent ring making spree began at last weekend's SF Etsy Meet & Make. The evening was hosted at the beautiful Knit One One Studio in Oakland and organized by the talented Ros of Scottish Lily Jewelry. Ros posted about the evening here at the team blog. Thanks again to Ros for a fantastically fun event! I made my very first ring that night, crafted from sterling silver wire and garnet beads. I've now made a dozen in various styles and using various stones, and I think this one still might be my favorite! They remind me of bubbles.

I was so into my latest project, that I insisted on making one for my dear friend M when she came to visit! Hers was garnet, tiger's eye, and agate.


When I asked if I could take a pic of M's ring, we had a funny discussion about hands and which kinds of hands are good for what kind of modeling. She informed me her hands are good for a Pine-Sol ad. Given that M and I have very similar hands, I don't quite know how to feel about that! I love the look of sturdy, working hands. Strong and capable! And definitely worth of adornment.

Right now most of my work is going towards prepping for my first November show, so I'm not sure if I'll get any of these new beauties listed in my Etsy shop. Mostly because I'll need to find time to get good pictures (exhibit A for such a need and its challenges -- the less than ideal ones above!) But if you have a special request let me know and I'll see what I can do!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

BUSY!

Yes, it has been a full week since my last post -- Mama has been busy! In addition to the usual household stuff, I've been:
  • working on inventory for three upcoming holiday craft fairs (Made with Love at SCU on 11/5, Event California's Holiday Boutique in San Jose on 11/21, and SF Etsy's Winter Wonderland on 12/4!)
  • learning new skills (how to make rings! more fun with my sewing machine!)
  • spending great time with the kids (playdates! learning about dinosaurs in kindergarten! gym class!)
  • making yummy food (Grandma's gingercremes! banana nut muffins! brownies!)
  • figuring out the kids' Halloween costumes (a skeleton for BJ, the princess Ariel for BB)
  • spending time with friends (so nice to see A on Wedneday and chat for a bit! and thanks, M, for driving down to see us last night! lovely to see you!!!)
  • watching some baseball (go Giants!)

It's gonna be a busy 7 weeks, so there will probably be fewer posts in the near future. So much to do, so little time to blog!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ren Faire 2010

On Saturday, we made our third annual family trip to the Renaissance Faire. In years past, we've always had a good time -- and this time was true to tradition. I had fun going about in garb, and BB dressed up as a princess, to her lasting delight. Mostly because almost any time anybody in character noticed her, they did a courtesy and called her "Princess" quite respectfully.
(Though in that picture, she looks more tired than delighted. She was a real trooper, holding out until almost 3:30 p.m. For a girl who usually naps right after lunch, that's huge!) It turned out that BB and I had to be the family representatives for the costumed set. She wore the dress she used for her Cinderella costume last year, which worked out perfectly. Here's a better picture of mine:

BJ had absolutely no interest in dressing up (not even once we got there and he saw so many other folks in costume) and alas S wasn't able to wear his own getup. (He'd dressed up the day prior for Pirate Day at BJ's kindergarten, and wearing his fancy top boots to school gave him bad blisters, it being the first time he'd worn them for any extended period. So they've got some breaking in to do before he can get dolled up in proper style. Bummer.)

S certainly contributed to the success of the day, doing more than his fair share of wagon duty!
He also accompanied BJ into the Fool's Maze (which, interestingly, was officially called the Labyrinth last year, but BJ called it the Fool's Maze and persisted in that prescient misnomer. If you know to look for it, you can see where they hung the new (red) sign over the old (grey) name.

S took some shots of them in the maze. Clearly BJ enjoyed himself.
Boy on a quest! The labyrinth has made quite an impression on him. He still asks me to "tell the story about the two boys who tried to trick us in the Fool's Maze!" Nothing quite so exciting happened this year, it seems, though he wasn't going to let any angle go unexplored.

BJ also wanted to do the maypole carousel, and since I get horribly queasy on the thing, S got the job of accompanying him. They seemed to enjoy themselves!

BB wanted nothing to do with it this year. At least not when she had her chance to go. As we watched them, I realized that she was under the impression that the swing would wind all the way up to the top. "Oh! That's as far as it goes?" she asked, when they twisted it up about 6 feet high. Clearly, this was do-able, in her opinion. So we decided that next year she would give it a try. (S is good, but two times in a row was a bit much even for him.)

Instead, BB blew some amazingly big bubbles while we waited for the boys to finish up.

I love the look on her face. This bubble stuff was serious! So serious that she was still into it after S and BJ were done. They were very patient about waiting until she had done just one more big one.

BB's big memory of prior Ren Faires was having her hands painted. Last year, she'd had a butterfly on her hands. This year, she got one on her arm. (Last year, the weather was much cooler, so we had long sleeves! Saturday was downright balmy.)
BJ went for the moon and stars.
This year, finally, my hair had grown out enough to get it braided! The last time I was able to have it done was 2001. (I vividly remember the surreal experience of going to the Faire the weekend after the attacks -- we'd planned the trip before they happened and decided to go ahead with it -- and sitting in the braiding booth, talking about 9/11 with the folks in costume. Not exactly in character, but who could blame them. It was all anybody could think or talk about.) This time, it was much more relaxing.

I've always loved having my hair braided. It's really relaxing for me. And the gal who did mine had exactly the right touch. Not too tight but firm enough that it held up beautifully.



I even slept on it (wrapped in a scarf) and it looked great the next day!

While I was enjoying having somebody play with my tresses, S took the kids to do some painting and play some games.
For BJ, the highlight of the day actually happened first. Last year, S and I had noticed the "Dragon petting zoo" and hustled by without bringing it to BJ's attention, because we had just had his hands painted, and so it would be impossible to wash hands after handling the animals -- salmonella, anyone? No thanks! But this year, we planned to point it out to him, knowing he would love it. It turned out it was right next to the entrance. And indeed, love it he did.
He got to hold a snake! But wait, it gets better!

He got to put a boa around his neck! The lady who helped him was very sweet, and when BB was too scared to follow in brother's footsteps, but obviously still interested, she offered to pose with the snake and hold it so BB could just pet it. BB was very proud of being brave enough to do that. (Me too!)
(This year, apples seem to have supplanted pickles as the cleavage snack of choice. Not only for this lass. Don't ask me why.)

Now the snakes were super cool, but BJ was perhaps even more impressed by the fact that there was a real tarantula. Walking on somebody's hand!

And then they asked BJ if he wanted to have it crawl on his hand! He barely even hesitated. My kid has almost no fear about the creepy crawlies, no doubt about it.

Apparently when he went to kindergarten on Monday, they started out the day by asking what people did over the weekend. BJ reported to us (in the afternoon) that he told his class about holding the boa. "But I didn't say anything about the tarantula. Because they wouldn't even believe me!" So there's your baseline for kindergarten credulity -- snakes, yes, but spiders, not so much.

There were also lots of lovely tortoises, which BB found charming.
And here's the "dragon" -- pretty clever, eh?
After such an exciting petting zoo, the farm animal encounter area had a lot to live up to. But we enjoyed it anyway. The goat tried to eat the flower on BB's dress, which is always good for the entertainment quotient!

Plus there was a kid who kept getting into the purple food bin, which amused BB and BJ quite a bit.
If BJ's highlight was holding a spider and a snake, then BB's was equally impressive in its own way -- she met the queen!
It was probably a huge breach of Ren Faire etiquette to ask for a picture with the queen, but oh well. They were out on parade, and BB was very interested, so she and I moved to get a closer look while the boys finished eating their ice cream. There were several folks with kids on the sidelines when the processional came to its halt and the queen descended from her litter. And all the other parents (all four or five of them) had been beckoned over with their girls and offered a photo op.

So when it was clear that they were getting ready to move on, after having watched all this and seen that BB really wanted to go over as well, I hustled over and tapped one of the queen's attendants and asked if we could have a turn. The queen was kind enough to even bend down to BB's level! She had to be helped up by two of her attendants -- little wonder in the elaborate gown she was wearing -- and was ever so impressively graceful doing so! (Further proof that my klutzy self was not meant to be a queen.)

So I'll content myself with pretending to be a lady, getting my hair braided, and parading around with my family while enjoying the fun. I'll bet that next year BB will want to dress up as a princess again. She though this dress was very elegant.

And BJ makes a pretty fine knight! Maybe next year the boys will join in too.

The princess was pretty tuckered out by the time we headed home. But not so tired that she would remove her crown.Here's to family traditions -- and this one has a long history, in truth. After all, one of my lasting memories of early times with S is of going to a Faire with him when we were dating -- back in 1992!
Traditions, indeed! Huzzah!