Monday, December 29, 2008

A Foodie in Training

In many ways, my daughter is a typical toddler. She loves to touch everything, she's incredibly curious and she's a very picky eater. If we let her, I think she would live off of cheese, Joe's O's (Trader Joe's answer to Cheerios), Clementine oranges, beans and rice. 

She may resist trying new foods at the table, but she absolutely loves the felt food and shopping cart we bought for her for Christmas this year. Everything you see in her tiny shopping cart was purchased from my favorite felt food grocer, Etsian BeckyM.

Already, my little miss enjoys pointing out each fruit, veggie or pancake for me to name. And she gets a kick out of pretending to eat them. Maybe eating the real thing isn't that far off!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Tiny People Big Adventures

The Etsy community is filled with artists and crafters selling beautiful and unique pretend play items that help parents preserve the magic of childhood. This post is part of my weekly writing series, "Imagination at Play". Stay tuned for more next Friday!

Once again, Christmas has come and gone in the blink of an eye. After wading through a sea of torn wrapping paper and stepping over shiny new toys, most parents are exhausted from the day's excitement and looking for a little quiet time. 

But what if you didn't plan ahead and buy your little ones a few "quiet toys" like coloring books, dolls or building blocks? Take a deep, cleansing breath. There's a place you can go to find a special after-Christmas gift that will transport your little one on fantastic adventures, while at the same time give yourself the gift of a little "mommy" or "daddy" time.

Etsy shop PsAndQs is well stocked with hand painted playsets that are sure to inspire grand fairytale adventures and daring journeys around the world. Shop owner Bonnie breathes life into each wooden doll and playscape, employing an artistic touch and adding a bit of love to each element.

Bonnie's playsets were originally inspired by her son. When he was younger, they'd drop by the local recycling center where they'd pick out a large piece of wood. After heading home, Bonnie would clean up the board, then paper mache a landscape onto it. Her son loved playing with his moonscape and today enjoys driving his tiny off-road vehicles on a desert landscape that Bonnie dreamed up just for him.

Like many artists, Bonnie finds inspiration in everyday objects. "The inspiration for my designs mainly come from seeing that single part and wondering, 'Hmmmm, what could that be?' And before I know it I am rummaging through my craft supplies accumulating items to create a new playset or robot."

Bonnie works as a counselor for children who are struggling in one way or another. Her tiny office is packed with her playsets for use in therapeutic play. At the end of the day, creating these tiny worlds is its own kind of therapy for Bonnie: "Coming home and making playsets helps to keep me grounded. It reminds me what childhood is all about and how wonderfully healing our imaginations can be."

Whether your little peanut loves dreaming up fairy tales or more realistic adventures to exotic locales, I encourage you to take a look in PsAndQs. You're sure to find a tiny fairy, rainbow girl grandpa or grandma designed to make your child's dreams come alive.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Stasis Pods

Where do Transformers sleep? In stasis pods, of course. 

This is one of six stasis pods that I'm making for a friend, whose 4-year-old son loves Transformers. 

Three stasis pods have the Autobots logo on the front, while the other three have the Decepticons logo. Each one has some nifty buttons, and a gauge or screen for imaginative play. All of these goodies have been stitched on by hand. I lined the stasis pods with Transformers fabric and sewed on some velcro to make it easy for little hands to open and close.

I think they'll make a pretty cool Christmas gift. I hope he likes them too!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Handmade Tale - Part 3

Today's post is the third (and final) installment in a fairy tale my mom wrote and illustrated for me when I was 9 years old. 

Didn't catch the beginning? You can still read the first and second installments.

The end! I hope you enjoyed this handmade tale. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Handmade Tale - Part 2

Today's post is the second installment in a fairy tale my mom wrote and illustrated for me when I was 9 years old.

Didn't catch the beginning? You can read the first installment here.

Stayed tuned for the final installment of "The Princess and the Dragon"... to be posted tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Handmade Tale - Part 1

My mom loved making special Christmas gifts for me each year. One year, she and my dad built and decorated a dollhouse. The year I turned 9 years old, she wrote, illustrated and bound a very special book just for me. It was a fairy tale called "The Princess and the Dragon", starring me as the heroine. She artfully wove in the names of my friends, family members, favorite toys, dolls and even the places I liked to hang out. 

Since it's nearly Christmas, I thought I'd share this little story over the next few days. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Stay tuned for the next installment of "The Princess and the Dragon" tomorrow!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Maybe It Was the Ninja Turtles

I was 10 years old when I was elected Secretary at Holy Rosary Academy. At the time, it was completely unheard of for a 5th grader to win a school-wide election. School yard politics were dominated by the much cooler 7th and 8th graders.

Somehow, though, I managed to edge out a victory over a popular 7th grade girl. Did my campaign promises of a break-time popsicle/ice cream stand propel me to victory? Maybe.

I like to think my campaign buttons (er... stickers) won over my constituents. I'm sure kids these days make their campaign goodies on the computer, but back in the '80s we still had to make everything by hand. Someone in my family had the brilliant idea to capitalize on every kid's love for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. My mom and I somehow convinced my artistic older brother to draw a few for my stickers. She then made a bunch of copies, which I colored, cut out and sealed between two sheets of contact paper. 

I'd vote for whoever Michaelangelo, Donatello, Raphael or Leonardo supported. Wouldn't you?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Breathing Room

My first craft show has come and gone and I finally feel as though I have some breathing room. I brought my camera with me but got so excited that I forgot to take a picture of my booth. Oh, well.

The show was great. It felt so good to set up my table, chat with customers and sell so many of my fun little goodies. I'm definitely going to be ready for the next one. In fact I'm thinking about applying to be a vendor at an upcoming Indie Sacramento show. And after spending all of my free time at my sewing machine these last few weeks, it feels good to take a break and just be.

Maybe I'll read a book. Maybe I'll spend more time here on my blog... I've been so busy and tired lately that I haven't even had time for my Friday night writing project. Or maybe I'll give in to temptation and sneak a few more moments at my sewing machine.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Last Minute Prep

With only a few days left until my first craft fair, I decided to do a test run on my table set-up to make sure everything would fit. I've only got 3.5-by-4 feet of space to work with so I have to make every inch count. Fortunately, my craft table is exactly the same size as the table I'm going to be using at the craft fair, which afforded me the luxury of doing a dry run at home to see how everything will look on Friday.

The baskets were a Black Friday find at JoAnn's, which wasn't a bad experience... unless you were one of the many folks waiting in the very long line at the cutting table. Thankfully, I was just there for baskets, crayons for my Crayon Wallets, and card stock for my signs. 

All in all, I think it looks pretty awesome and will only need a few tweaks before Friday. It's wonderful to finally see all of my hard work on display. I still have a few things left to do to get ready. One of the diaper change pads for a Baby Care Set needs a snap and I have a pink monster tail to create. And of course, I'm going to see if I can squeeze a few more Crayon Wallets out before the big day.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Yes, Kids Really Do Love Them!

How often do you look at a kids' item and think to yourself, "Yeah, it's cute. But will my little one actually like it?"

This past week I had the opportunity to do some product testing on my own toddler who had come down with a cold. Even though I didn't want her to be sick, I was secretly excited to try out the set of Boogie Buddies that I had made just for her earlier in the fall. 

The result? She loves them! The cute little monkey print appealed to her love of all things monkey, while the soft minky and flannel fabrics kept the dreaded rosy nose at bay. 

Like most toddlers, my daughter will try to flop, squirm and scream her way out of anything she doesn't want to do so I wondered how the nose wiping process would go considering how much she can't stand regular facial tissue – and even baby wipes – touching her nose. Amazingly, she actually requested that I wipe her nose whenever it got too runny. No squirms. No screams. No fuss.

Happy toddlers make for happy mammas. And Boogie Buddies kept my run-down little toddler happy. 


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Free Little Peanut Tea Bags!

Check out the EtsyMom Street Team blog for a chance to win this set of my Little Peanut Tea Company tea bagsYour little goober will love "brewing tea" using these miniature faux tea bags designed for pretend play. 

The contest ends tonight at 11:30 p.m. EST so be sure to place your entry soon! 

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mother, sewer, teacher

"Nah nah. Nah nah. Nah nah!" To the untrained ear, those "words" uttered by my 17-month-old daughter probably sound like gibberish. But I know better.

At some point each day my little one runs into my craft room and points to the sewing machine. She looks at me expectantly and says, "Nah nah. Nah nah. Nah nah!" over and over until I ask her if she wants to sew. I'm rewarded with a big smile as she dances in place while I get my machine set up.

I pull up my chair and we get out her fabric, a little leftover swatch of chocolate colored cotton duck that I couldn't bear to toss out. She helps me put the fabric under the presser foot and watches as I sew line after line of stitches.

Sometimes, she shows her fabric to Daddy so he can see what we've done. Other times, she'll carry it around for a while then drop it somewhere in the house. It usually turns up later that night on the floor of her room or covering one of her "babies". Seeing it always makes me smile as I think of how my baby is growing up.

When she gets a little older, I'll buy her a tiny sewing machine just like my mom did for me. And I'll give her the gift of sewing, creativity and sweet memories.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sweet Little Jane

The Etsy community is filled with talented artists and crafters selling beautiful and unique pretend play items that help preserve the magic of childhood. This post is part of my weekly writing series, "Imagination at Play". Stay tuned for more every Friday!

Mix one part overstocked shelves and two parts over-commercialized licensed characters and you have a recipe for overwhelmed parents. Yes, the Christmas shopping season is already here, despite the fact that we haven't yet celebrated Thanksgiving. So what's a parent to do when faced with a sensory assault by an army of noise-and-lights toys?

Head on over to Etsy shop bluebirdblessings and breathe a sigh of relief. 

No licensed characters. No overly made-up plastic dolls. Just a whole bunch of adorable little guys and girls waiting for a home.

Every Sock Buddy and Jane Doll is made with love and care by shop owner Danielle who transforms ordinary socks and fabric into a child's best friend. "I love watching a sock or plain fabric turn into a doll with personality," she said. "It is such a good feeling to know that my dolls are brightening a child’s day and hopefully helping to settle them down at night even. How does it get better than that?"

Danielle got her start on Etsy after her daughter was born. Like many parents of young children, she was concerned about the many toy recalls that were happening a few years ago. But instead of simply buying other "safe" commercially made toys, she took a step back and really thought about what she wanted from a toy. "Obviously you want safety and entertainment, but it also made me see that simple play created learning," she explained. "It's usually not the 'bells and whistles' toys that keep a child's attention. We all laugh at the fact that the box is usually what they like most about a gift, but really why is that? I think it's because it leaves room for imagination that sets no limits on what a 'box' can be."

Take one look at Danielle's Sock Buddies and Jane Dolls and you'll agree: simple is definitely better. The sweet little faces and chubby bodies of the Sock Buddies are perfect for young children still learning how to care for their "babies". The Jane Dolls, with their hand embroidered faces and felt Mary Jane shoes, will be a cherished best friend for an older girl. Jane, of course, loves tea parties, grand adventures or anything else your little girl is interested in.

Ultimately, Danielle has one wish for each of her Jane Dolls and Sock Buddies when they are sent to their new homes: that they bring endless hours of play to the children who love them, and perhaps even a little bit of soothing when it's time to wind down for bed at night. 

Danielle knows that her dolls are also there to help parents teach their children how to interact with others. "Relationship skills start at home, but I do believe dolls really open the door for teaching about relationships and caring for others," she said. "You can see how your child perceives you when they play with their own 'baby'. My daughter loves her dolls and I love to watch her with them. It's neat to see her mimic what I do with her."

I encourage you to check out bluebirdblessings this Christmas season. Perhaps your little one will find a "baby" to love and cherish, a doll that will be passed down from one generation to the next.