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Friday, January 28, 2011

Etsyblogger Carnvial -- Heart Health & Valentine's Day

This round of the Etsyblogger carnival takes Valentine's Day prep as its theme and asks us to write about Heart Healthy recipes or Valentine's Day traditions. I thought I'd combine the two, since one of my traditions is a fairly heart-healthy gingerbread cookie recipe!

They are cookies, after all, so the aren't as healthy as veggies, but compared to many cookie recipes out there they aren't too bad. I make these every year, in heart shape of course, and they are always a hit. Here's the recipe (which I usually double):

Ingredients:

1/2 cup shortening or butter (One of these days I'll try substituting with 1/4 cup applesauce and 1/4 cup fat to make it healthier -- not sure how that would affect the texture with roll out cookies, though)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (can substitute up to 1/2 cup with wheat flour and/or wheat germ to make healthier)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup molasses

1 egg

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves.

In mixing bowl, beat shortening/butter with electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add about 1/2 the flour. (If subbing applesauce, I'll add that in after the flour). Add sugar, molasses, egg, vinegar, baking powder, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves. Beat til combined, scraping bowl occasionally. Stir in remaining flour.

Cover and chill -- 3 hours or more until dough is easy to handle. I usually chill overnight.

Divide chilled dough in half. Roll each half of dough on lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Place 1 inch apart on greased cookie sheets.

Bake 375 degrees for 5-8 min (depends on shape and size of cookies) until edges are lightly browned. Cool for 1 min before removing to waxed paper or racks.

Can ice with powdered sugar icing: 1 cup powdered sugar, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, and milk added to desired consistency.

Friday Feature -- The Art of Joy

This week's Friday Feature is actually a featurette, but with Big Congratulations! I'm very pleased to present this month's featured Etsyblogger -- The Art of Joy!


I love her printables, especially her printable calendars. I'm all set for 2011 but I'm definitely keeping these in mind for 2012!



Aren't they adorable?

And of course, being an Etsyblogger, she has an awesome blog. She even has some free Valentine's printables up now!

I wasn't able to get a full interview with Joy, because she's really busy expecting a baby and taking a break from the EB team at the moment. But big congrats to her!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

100 Days!

Today was the 100th day of school for BJ -- so hard to believe he's so far along in kindergarten! It's a big deal at his school, with a 100 Days parade and each kid bringing in a 100 Days project. As you can see, he took his project Very Seriously!
100 stars in a galaxy, that's what he decided to make for his project. Only 80 days of kindergarten left. Zoooooooom!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Happy 4th Birthday, BB!

My darling girl turned four today. Yes, this smart, funny, beautiful individual was once the wee baby I held in my arms for the first time four years ago.

I love this picture. She looks like she is wide awake and ready for this wide, wonderful world she's arrived into. Ready to to eat it up! (That or see what my chin tastes like.) Given that she wanted to arrive face first (which led to the c-section that foiled my VBAC) and given her enthusiasm for life during the last four years, that sounds about right!

And here we are today, making her birthday cake together.
This time I let her crack the eggs All By Herself. ("Just like Giki does!" she exclaimed. Yes, Grandma has more patience in general for eggshells in the recipe than I do, so I generally don't let her do the egg cracking. But today was a special day.)
It hardly seems possible that she's the same little person as that tiny baby.


But of course she is -- and she isn't. We are neither one of us the same. Though it's more astonishingly apparent in looking at her, I've grown and changed during the past four years as well. Amazingly so. (And not just in growing out my hair.)

Having kids holds one accountable in ways I never would have imagined, on a daily (hourly! moment by moment!) basis. It distills things to their essences in ways banal and beautiful. (Diapers -- there's frank evidence of distillation for you. And not exactly beautiful.) Life reduced to eating and sleeping, laughter and love. (Eat, play, snuggle, sleep. Repeat.) Nothing more miraculous than the miracle of a baby breathing, that beautiful face in repose, tiny chest rising and falling in sleep. Sleep. Sleep! The essential craving for sleep, and sleep deprivation beyond endurance. And yet one endures!

I think I finally caught up on my motherhood-induced sleep debt this year. (Ha! But I'm not kidding!)

Having kids forces you to bend, because breaking isn't an option when such little ones depend so utterly on you. You endure what you thought you could not -- you bend. And having bent, you discover a flexibility within yourself that you never would have believed. You can indeed reach that far. And even farther. Motherhood as yoga. Remember to breathe. Your breath. And the miracle of your breathing baby.

And still the miracle of the sleeping child, when you peek in on her. As I did just now: all tuckered out from a busy birthday, she is sound asleep and beautiful. Dreaming heaven knows what. Even when they don't depend so completely on you, there's still the muscle memory: carrying that baby in my arms, hoisting her onto my hip. Feeling her first fishy wriggles in the womb.

Will those memories still be this strong when she's a teenager, when I peek in on her, seeing the sleeping baby in her dreaming face? I can't imagine them being otherwise, but then again four years ago I could hardly imagine what today would be like. I knew intellectually that she would grow, of course, and having had one child that intellectual knowledge was no longer merely abstract. I had lost the new-parent-naivete somewhat; I knew she would grow because her older brother gave undeniable proof of that. But she was so complete in her tiny perfection it seemed like it would be forever before she was walking, talking, making jokes. And yet here we are.

I'm sure she'll be driving before I know it. (And double all these emotions for BJ. He's only 22 months ahead, but that's a lifetime at this age.) Yes, Mama was full of nostalgia today, watching her little girl open up presents.

She loved her nightgowns from Pop-Pop and Giki (not to mention the stickers in her birthday card! Score!)

Nightgowns were a specific request from the birthday girl because she's decided that pants are "icky ficky" and so she no longer wants to wear her PJs. (Not that she was a big one for wearing pajamas anyway, since she prefers to sleep au naturelle, but the gowns were a big hit during the waking hours.)

She also really got a kick out of the contents of the card from Grandma C and Grandpa D. "Dollar ten!" she squealed. Here she is, showing me the money (but keeping her eyes on the prize, you'll note).
Nana J also gave her some funds in the card that arrived earlier this week, so the girl has some shopping to do! She's very excited. Many thanks to everyone who sent cards and gifts! We appreciate your thoughtfulness.

BJ gave his sister the Prince doll for Beauty & the Beast (since that's the school play he's in, it seemed appropriate). BB wanted nothing to do with the Beast aspect of the doll (it transforms, rather weirdly I agree, from Beast to Prince by way of a removable Beast head and upper torso). But BB approved of the Prince, and she immediately introduced Belle to her beau.

BB had also asked for some "pretend flowers" so that she could have them to keep forever. Here she is with the artificial bouquet that BJ helped me pick out -- in her favorite colors, pink and orange -- and wearing the new dress and hair accessories that S and I gave her today. Happiness is fake flowers, apparently, especially if accompanied by enough sparkles on your dress.


Today, BB wanted to celebrate by going to one of her favorite restaurants for lunch, so she and I got all fancied up (at her request) and headed to Sweet Tomatoes.



S came home from the office to join us -- I'd told BB that it was probably a bit much to expect Dad to dress up as well, and she was fine with that. So we had a lovely lunch together, just the three of us.


The rest of the day was play, with a little fussing (the poor dear was so tired she fell asleep in the car on the way home from lunch, but she Refused To Take A Nap).
Then we had some more play, dressing up (I think she wore 5 different outfits today), and making the dinner BB had requested: spaghetti with meatballs, salad and bread (not that she ate much of the salad, just the shredded carrots and bits of purple cabbage, but hey, that's an improvement for The Girl Who Eats Very Few Veggies). We had the cake for dessert, of course. Chocolate with vanilla frosting. I had the ill-advised inspiration to use up the marshmallow fluff left over from my parents' visit (my mom was on a big marshmallow fluff and hot chocolate kick) by using it as the filling between the two layers of cake. Result: marshmallow fluff leaking out from between the two layers, glopping down the sides of the bottom layer and causing the top layer to slide off repeatedly so that I had to keep pushing it back on and trying to keep it on with more frosting.

Not that BB seemed to mind. More frosting? What's wrong with that?? Here she is licking the frosting off the plastic decorations (ladybugs and bumblebees, saved from a previous year's cake):
S had a paper to go to this evening, so after cake he left and I got the kids to bed. All told, a very nice day. May every birthday go as well: healthy, happy, and full of sweetness. (Even if some of that was, for me, a little bittersweet.)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Birthday Party Videos

Follow up to the post about BB's awesome birthday party today -- some videos to share!



Excited kids on the way to the party:





video


Popping "bubbles" on the parachute. Whee!



video


Getting "wrapped up" -- parachute birthday gift for the birthday girl! BB had seen another kid do this at the gym quite some time ago, and ever since she was really wanting to have it done to her. Worth the price of the party, as far as she was concerned.



video


And last but not least -- Singing Happy Birthday to the birthday girl!



video


What a great time. Thanks to everybody who came today to help our girl celebrate! It hardly seems possible that she'll be four years old tomorrow....


BB's Birthday Party!

Today we celebrated BB's fourth birthday -- which is officially tomorrow -- with a party at the gymnasium where she takes her gymnastics classes. What fun we had!

We were delighted that one of our favorite teachers, Ms T, was helping out with BB's party. She helped BB flip on the rings (which led to the ecstatic face in the pic above!) and she was kind enough to pose with BB in her pretty party dress, too.
Note the typical expression -- you can practically hear me telling her to smile, can't you?

Actually, BB's attire was the only complication of the day. She needed to wear her leotard to tumble in, but it was a party, so she wanted to wear a party dress. I came upon a solution at yesterday's Costco run for supplies, when I spotted some adorable party dresses and brought one home for her. Leotard beneath, dress on top, and problem solved! Here she is at home, ready to leave for the party.


BB had very clear ideas about What To Do At Her Party. She wanted to play on the rings, her favorite thing at the gym. She wanted to do the parachute.
She had a great time playing with her friends, most of whom were kids from preschool.
We had 18 kids! 16 girls and two boys (BJ and R from BB's class). BB also had fun on the bars.
BB also really wanted to do a craft at her party, and she wanted it to do with princesses, so we had foam princess crowns for the kids to make.
BJ was upset at the prospect of being Forced To Do Something Related To Princesses, so he asked if we could get supplies to make visors. And it had to be yellow, of course.
The other essential: cake, of course!


It was a great time, and we are really pleased that we decided to have a big party at the gym instead of a little gathering at the house. I think it was really good to give BB a chance to do some more bonding with her preschool peers -- things continue to improve at preschool, and starting next week we're going to ease her into staying through naptime. Fingers crossed! Plus, it was really nice to have so much space and so many things for the kids to do. I hope they all had as much fun as we did!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

S is for Solar System

Today BJ presented his second science project to his kindergarten classmates. It isn't surprising in the least that he decided to do a "Solar System" project for the "S" section of the curriculum!

The only point in question was what, exactly, he'd do for his project. His first idea was a mobile, but he soon changed his mind. Finally, he decided: a 3D poster!

So we got styrofoam balls to represent the planets and the sun. (You'd scarcely believe what it costs to buy styrofoam balls individually! $16 for a single good-sized ball! So I ended up picking up a set that was originally intended to make a mobile, which was much more reasonably priced. It worked well, once I convinced BJ that I wasn't forcing him back to his original idea, telling him to ignore the pictures on the box of supplies and explaining that we were simply going to use the enclosed styrofoam balls for his project idea.) I cut the balls in half, and he glued them to foam coreboard. He did some painting and added in the asteroid belt -- packing peanuts that he crushed up and mixed with silver paint. Then he added the labels: names for each planet (including Pluto, of course) and distance from the sun.

When he presented it to the class, the other students were very interested in how he'd put it all together -- one girl was convinced he must have made it out of Cheetos -- and they enjoyed the 3D tactile effect. He ended up talking about it for more than 10 minutes, and it was impressive to see how well his peers managed to hold it together. That's a long time for a kindergarten student to listen to another kindergarten student!

I wish I'd gotten a better picture of the project; it's hard to do it justice from the distant shots I got. But he was very proud, as he should be!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Classes

This month, our lives got a little bit busier: both the kids are now enrolled in classes. I firmly believe that it's a mistake to spend the precious hours of childhood running from activity to activity, and I really want to avoid getting on a slippery slope that would lead to over-scheduled, stressed out kids (and, by extension, over-scheduled, stressed out parents). I believe it's my responsibility as a parent to help my kids avoid the pressure (social, cultural, and otherwise) that insists More Is Better. Whether that's more classes, more clothes, more toys or what have you. (Though anyone who has seen our play room would probably take us to task for a little "do as I say not as I do" here... the consequences of having two parents who are avid thrift shoppers and who have trouble saying no to a good deal! Plus, I make an exception where books are concerned. You can't have too many books.)

For now, we're limiting ourselves to the extracurriculars currently on the calendar, and it is working well -- and the kids are having a lot of fun, which is what matters most

BB is continuing with her gym class once a week, and she still enjoys it very much. She seems to be getting stronger and more confident all the time -- doing the balance beam (the high one!) All By Herself, pushing herself towards handstands and cartwheels. It's really neat to see. Plus she got her first Real Leotard for Christmas. I suppose it isn't surprising that the one she picked out is shockingly orange and covered in flowers.
She loves it! Here she is showing off her "pike position."
And of course she wanted to show me how good she was at balancing!
I swear, when she's running around in gym class, all decked out in her new leotard, she sometimes looks about six years old. My little girl ain't so little anymore! (Sniffle!)

She's also taking ballet class now, much to her delight. Here she is at her first class -- she's the one in the center of the picture, looking up at the teacher who is on her right.

The class is very sweet and gentle. It's such a contrast from the blaring, overwhelming energy of the first dance class we tried out more than a year ago now. Plus, BB gets to spend some time with some of the girls from her preschool. (Preschool is going much better, I'm happy to say, and things like this class are definitely helping!) This little clip is a pretty good sample of what the classes are like -- just really calm and flowing, with the girls (and the one boy) enjoying themselves quite a bit. In the video, BB is the one in the middle who gets helped by the teacher early on to correct her foot positioning:

video

Lest one think that it's All BB All The Time, let me assure you that BJ is getitng his fair share of educational enrichment. There's kindergarten, of course, which is going really well. And his rehearsals for the upcoming school play would "count" as extracurricular for sure. But at the moment he's most excited about the K-2 science class that he is taking. (I was excited too when I found it! Thank you, Internet!) This past Saturday was his first session, during which the kids each performed five experiments. He was bubbling with excitement about it all weekend long and can hardly wait until the next class.

So our weekends have become more challenging -- it's a bit of a shuffle to get everybody where they need to be -- but so far, so good!

And something must be catching, because I've really been itching to take a class or two of my own and seeing the kids in their classes is just making that urge more intense. Part of it is New Year, New Stuff -- the annual desire to learn new skills, try new things. Part of it is getting older and having some serious carpe diem moments. Time's a wastin', and there's so much I still want to do and learn: metal smithing, PMC, glass work, weaving, photography, garment design and construction, crochet, accounting, tap dance, web design, writing for children, woodworking, illustration, playing the guitar...

So the question is, what kind of class? (Not to mention, when?)

I know I'd rather feel full of enthusiasm and possibilities than otherwise, but it does get frustrating... happily, as a professor's wife I get tuition remission and there is a wealth of opportunities for classes, here on campus and elsewhere. Just gotta decide what, and figure out how to make it happen.

Monday, January 17, 2011

It's the Little Things

At a playdate recently, BB was given half a pad of post-it notes by one of her friends. You'd scarcely believe how much she treasures these little pieces of paper. And now she's taken to leaving us little notes, like this one I found on the wall of my bedroom:
Here's the close up:
This note is a keeper. If only to remind me in years to come how much simple joy my little girl could get out of a marker and some blue squares of paper -- and how much joy she could give by letting us know she loves us.

People say the memory is in the mind, not in the relic. These are the same people who ruthlessly organize their own closets, discarding shirts not worn for years even if it was the shirt worn when first they snuggled up to their beloved. Me, I kept that shirt. (For 20 years now.) Because for me, there's magic and emotion in the thing itself. Even if it is merely scribbles on paper.


Yes, the little things add up -- and you can't save them all. Shouldn't. But in the midst of the organizing frenzy that is sure to hit home in the near future (because I'm starting to get overwhelmed by the chaos) I'm giving myself permission to keep the little things. At least some of them.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Feature -- Sew Smashing

Today's Friday Feature is a new SF Etsy member -- Alexis of Sew Smashing!

I received some of her beautiful butterflies for Christmas this year, and they are my new favorite hair accessory. I love her eye for color and her exquisite designs!


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?

It's funny to me that the origami I did as a child would influence me as an adult, and allow me to create wearable art. Origami was first introduced to me by my parents when I was a child. It was one of the many activities that would keep me entertained during summer vacation road trips.

A couple years ago I had first noticed paper origami being turned into wearable jewelry. I thought how lovely it would be to try and make the origami creations out of something more durable. It so happens I had just bought my first cuttings of silk fabric, and I had this epiphany of "Well, why not?" I searched through dozens and dozens of origami patterns until I found one that I thought would work well. And this is how I started my line of silk origami butterfly accessories.

What started out as a brooch available in a handful of colors, has quite literally morphed into a full line of accessories available in over 70 colors of silk!

My creative process isn't much of a process...it's a series of random epiphanies. I suppose I get the most ideas right before I fall asleep. I started keeping a pen and paper beside the bed. I'd roll over in the dark and write down my ideas, and with luck I was able to decipher my writing the next morning. However, I do have a new creative tool. I never thought staring at sunsets would be included as a tool of my trade, but it has been quite helpful! I've found wonderful color combinations in various sunsets that I never would have thought of on my own. The end results has been beautiful multi-color butterflies.

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

Hm...interesting things about me? Well, I used to do taxidermy as a part-time job in college. My first task was to make a study skin of a donated deceased bird; it was going to be used by an drawing class.

After I was finished preparing the bird, which entailed removing all organs and tissue, I couldn't eat chicken for a month! Each time I did afterward I realized I could identify which part of the bird I was eating and what joint it was located next to. That took a while to get over.

Before I started my own small business, I got a master's in Museum Studies and for a few years I worked with the collections at a natural history museums. I loved the idea of preserving the past for the future generations to see. However, I loved even more the idea of creating something from nothing. When I think of a new item to make I quite literally get this little tingly sensation in my brain! I once told this to a friend of mine who was in medical school, he laughed and said "Yes, when I think about what I'm working towards, I get that same little tingly feeling too. It means that what you're doing is right for you."

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

The creative process in developing your shop or your business takes so much time, and can feel discouraging. It took me a year to find my niche. I started out doing hand bags and scarves, but found it difficult to get noticed. I started out with my silk origami butterfly line and when people took notice it made me thankful I didn't give up.

Something else I realized is the importance of appealing photos; quite literally the need to create a pretty picture. I still haven't figured out the best way to photograph all of my items, but with time I'm slowly finding better angles or more interesting props. And I can tell when I have a good photo, because that's the item that I will repeatedly sell.

Taking the time to brand your shop and your business is also important and well worth the invested time. By branding you literally create the identity of your business and give your business a presence. I feel the same way about packaging. How you present the item to your customer is a direct reflection on your business and matters just as much as the quality of the item.

I'll get off my soap box now...


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

I would love to crochet! My mother in law has sat down and tried to teach me, but I always get the tension wrong and get the different chains confused. I would love to get it right one day!

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

My proudest moment came one day via an Etsy Convo. It was written by one of my previous international customers. She wrote to tell me how much she loved her custom silk origami butterfly hair barrette. Her son was in the hospital and it was the one thing she wore every day when she went to visit him because it made her happy to wear it. It was that moment when I realized the potential that something I make could actually positively affect someone. It was in that moment that I actually felt I was a real business. To have an item I made, now halfway around the world, bring joy to someone's life...well, it was an incredible feeling. Since then I've had similar experiences with my customers, where I was able to make items for them that held special meaning. It's the interaction with my customers that gives meaning to the things I make.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Happiness Is Your First Bean Bag Chair

Just before Christmas, I came across a steal of a deal on junior sized bean bag chairs and couldn't resist bringing two of them home. One for each of the kids.
As the kids have been growing (and they sure have -- I swear they each grew two inches in the last month!) our living room seating was getting really crowded whenever the family gathered together. Our futon can seat three, if everybody is feeling cozy, and the rocking chair can do two in a pinch (if one of the people is a kid on our lap). I'd hoped that the floor pillows might solve the problem, but not really -- so it was time to try another way to give the kids their own places to sit and relax in the living room.
Happily, the bean bags have been a huge hit. Here's BB nestled in hers along with some of her most favorite friends:
And not that we watch much TV around here, but of course the bean bag chairs are perfect for some tube time. I was highly amused that one of the first things the kids wanted to do after I gave them the chairs was to watch a Peanuts cartoon video. Why? Because, they pointed out, Charlie Brown and his pals all have bean bags, and they sit in them to watch TV!
Nice paying attention to detail, huh? So of course I couldn't resist the synchronicity of a pic of the kids in their bean bag chairs, watching the video of Charlie Brown watching TV in his own bean bag chair.

Ah the simple pleasures of childhood....

Saturday, January 8, 2011

My Other Little Performer

In three weeks, the school play at BJ's elementary will have its first performance. Beauty and the Beast is the play, and the kids have all been working hard to learn their parts. BJ is cast as a village child, and over the holidays I took advantage of my mom's expertise to work on his costume. I'm comfortable doing the actual sewing, but interpreting patterns is not my strength, so it was a huge comfort to have my mom's help figuring out what went where and how it all went together.

Today was the costume review, and the directors were totally charmed by BJ's costume. It did turn out really well, though I say it myself!

I sewed the shirt, knickers, and belt. Lace up brown shoes were requested, and I was very happy to find a pair for $3 at Savers. Socks courtesy of Target.

I'd originally been tempted to leave off the laces on the shirt, because I was terrified to punch holes in the fabric.


Me giving BJ a hug as thanks for trying on the costume in progress. For about the twelfth time. His patience was running a little thin by that point!

But after my mom left, and I had BJ try on the whole costume thinking it was done, the shirt just didn't look quite right. To Jo-Ann's I went, in search of an eyelet punch. Mustering my courage, I made the holes and inserted the eyelets. Who knew it would be that easy! And the results were worth it.

Here's BJ "acting" for the camera:


Now that's one fine looking village boy! I'm so excited to see him in the play. My guy is growing up, that's for sure! And thanks again to Giki for all her help with the costume!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Friday Feature -- Nadene aka Even Howard

This week's featured Etsian is Nadene *little dreams becoming string* a long time SF Etsy member who is also known as Even Howard. The exquisite delicacy of her work takes my breath away. My favorite item in her shop is this lovely Tide Pool Bracelet.

Handy with a crochet hook? You can try your hand at making one yourself, with a DIY bracelet kit! Even says, "This kit contains the materials, tools, and full color instructions you will need to create your own version of my signature design, the tide pool crochet bracelet. The only thing you'll need is a pair of scissors."

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'm inspired by daydreams and experience. My aim is translating the natural world into a microcosm of colors and patterns that become a reminder of present moment awareness and appreciation. The things we choose to wear and surround ourselves with can become an expression of identity, including connection with local landscape and personal values. I like to reference history, as crochet is bound to do, but bring it into comfortable modern accessories that are easy to wear and enjoy.

I learned to crochet first from my mother, but I was very challenged by watching her quick movements and have learned most of my advanced techniques from library books. When I was 11, two books I had checked out were chewed by my dog so my family had to purchase them. This was a hardship at the time, but I decided to appreciate them for the gift they were! These became the staples of my crochet library and the fodder for many future ideas. They were from the '70s so I also spent a lot of time observing which ideas were timeless and only needed a color update and which ideas were truly trendy. With the effort involved in handwork as well as a mind towards 'slow living' I strive to create those timeless treasures with only a wink towards the fashion of the moment.

I currently sell bracelets and necklaces as well as a few housewares. I have been a published designer of crochet patterns in the past and I'm now celebrating the joy of the finished product as it travels on to its new owner. It's more immediate gratification and I love knowing my designs are out there being gifted and worn.

2. To which Etsy Teams do you belong?

sf etsy, cccoe, and etsy old timers


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


Hmmm. I lived in Japan for two years, and because I was in a rural area I was offered the chance to learn many of the traditional crafts. I've always been a 'renaissance woman' and so I jumped to learn to sew and wear kimono, write calligraphy, and learn macrobiotic cooking. My national shuji (calligraphy, also called shodo) school gave me a license to teach in my last few months in Japan, I became the first foreigner to gain this level.

My beautiful and patient kimono sewing teacher took me on without knowing a thing about me and I not knowing any Japanese. But as soon as she saw me sew we had a common language and the rest came over two years of spending afternoons in her sewing space. I learned a lot of small town gossip and traditional protocol from the lovely ladies of the sewing group. I was by far the youngest and it was truly an amazing experience to learn from women who had been in Osaka during world war two and had not interacted with any Americans since. I'll never forget when I had learned enough Japanese I could understand my teachers' story. I listened quietly as she told me of her childhood, the bombs falling, her family life, and how they made-do. On that day, I had asked her if she knew how to make the traditional straw sandals and, at nearly 70, she said I was the first person who had ever asked her. Her own children and grandchildren had no interest. As she showed me how, the memories came out. That group gave so much to me, but I also appreciated being able to give them the gift of taking on their stories and history. I can see their smiles and shining hearts in my mind and it gives me much hope.

Even Howard in Kyoto in kimono she made.

4. How did you get involved with Etsy?


I was an original member of www.craftster.com and heard about Etsy through them. I joined right away, now I'm the 'oldest' etsy member other than the CEO. I was living in Japan at the time with no camera so it took me a while to actually open a shop, but I've been following and participating in the community since the 'beginning'.

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


I like to be an involved partner in every venture in my life. I care about the future of the Etsy community and probably spend more time than I should evaluating changes, trends, and the direction of Etsy as a whole. On the plus side, I love to help new sellers get set up and make beautiful shops that highlight their creativity. On the minus side, I spend a lot of time in the forums discussing the finer details of the Etsy model and its paths to success.

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

The handsome tear necklace.


My favorite because it embodies the ideas I'm obsessed with~easy to wear but unique and with a reference to the past. Add in some custom colors depending on the mood and place and that's pretty much my ideal design aesthetic.

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

I'd love to work in wood. I have a new line in progress right now using gorgeous wood faceted briolettes that I had made by another Etsy seller. I wish I could do this kind of small work, but really I would be so happy to make some awesome furniture.

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

I try to keep a good presence going and love it when my customers keep in touch!
home: http://www.evenhoward.com
fan page: http://www.facebook.com/evenhoward.art
tweets: http://www.twitter.com/evenhoward
blog: http://www.evenhoward.wordpress.com
other etsy shop (patterns): http://www.evenhoward.etsy.com






Thursday, January 6, 2011

My Little Performer

On Saturday, BB starts ballet class. This week, we went out and bought the required ballet costume and ballet shoes. She LOVES them.

Here she is on tippy toes, "Just like a real ballerina!"




She is really excited about ballet class. And I think she's ready. She certainly enjoys dancing and performing, as evidenced by this little video:
video
She does little performances almost daily -- more often than not, her "quiet time" involves singing and dancing to kids' music CDs. She'll set up a little stage and arrange her dolls and stuffies as an audience. One of these days I'm going to catch it on video....

It was her idea to take a video and pics of her in her new ballet outfit to share with her Giki, since Giki wasn't able to join us for the trip to the dance supply store. (My folks left early yesterday morning; we all said our goodbyes on Tuesday night.) So here you are, Giki! We miss you and Pop-Pop very much!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Crafty Christmas

Now that the presents have been given, I can share a little about how we made this year a Crafty Christmas. I've long been a fan of handcrafted gifts and since the kids arrived I've tried to include them in making gifts every year.

This year, we had two big craft projects that we worked on: one for the cousins and one for the grandparents. Given how crazy things were with me doing three craft shows during the holidays, I'm amazed that everything got done. But it did!

For the cousins and some of our most special friends, we made recycled crayons.

I had lots of broken crayons on hand, between the bits we'd accumulated since having kids and the stash of used crayons I had from when I was teaching (yes, I moved a box of broken crayons from Arizona to California and then through two moves here in CA; I am my dad's daughter after all!)


It was a lot more work than I'd imagined, but it turned out pretty well. BJ was a big help, especially with sorting the crayons and peeling off the labels. He took the job Very Seriously.
BB helped some, too, but she mostly assisted by entertaining us with Crayon Making, The Interpretive Dance.
Here's how to make your own Recycled Crayons:


1. Collect broken pieces of crayon. (You’ll need quite a few.)

2. Remove wrappers.

3. Sort crayon pieces by color (or combine several colors for a rainbow effect).

4. Break into smaller pieces if needed. Crayon bits should be about ½ inch long or smaller.

5. Fill muffin tins or other shaped molds about ½ to ¾ full with broken crayon pieces. I used silicone molds which made it very easy to “pop” out the finished crayons.


6. Melt crayons completely in the oven.
If using silicone molds, be sure to support them on a cookie tray. Temperature and time will vary depending on size of crayons and manufacturer, and size of mold, so check frequently. You don’t want to have the crayons catch fire! 250 degrees for about 15 minutes seemed to work pretty well.


7. Remove from oven carefully (no spilling!) and let cool completely before removing from pan/mold. You can put them in the freezer to finish cooling and also to make it easier to remove them.

8. Color with your new recycled crayons!


For the grandparents, the kids painted wooden boxes -- and while they turned out well, I am a Bad Blogging Mommy for totally forgetting to take pictures of the kids working on the boxes. Or even to get pics of the finished products! It's a testament to how busy things were in December that this happened. (Heck, it's miraculous that I was able to document the recycled crayons project as well as I did.) Frankly, I was just happy to get everything finished.

But I did get some snaps on Christmas day when Pop-Pop and Giki were opening theirs. BJ decorated the one for Pop-Pop with pictures of the solar system.


BB decorated the one for Giki with flowers and clouds. And she wrote "I Love You" inside, too, as well as dotting the letters in pink on the side. Or at least a good approximation thereof. She's really having fun with learning how to write! (More on that in an upcoming post!)

It's really rewarding to help the kids make gifts for the folks they love. I'm already brainstorming ideas for next year's Christmas!