Thursday, December 27, 2012

Its the most beautiful time of the year!

I hope everyone that celebrates had a beautiful Christmas filled with love and good cheer!  We have yet to celebrate since Daddy worked Christmas.  His next day off is this Saturday so I had to add four whole new days to the advent calendar so Aria wouldn't notice.  I'm super excited to finally have our Christmas.  Aria is getting a 16" Tansy Doll.  Originally we were going to design one just for her but I fell in love with Lily from our shop and after checking in with Aria to make sure she'd be okay with getting a pink/green haired doll, I pulled Lily from the shop and stashed her away in the closet.

Isn't Lily such a cutie?!  :)  The dress was made by Judy Southwell of Robin Christie Collection.  She makes doll clothing to fit a variety of dolls so be sure to read the description to get the right size to fit your Tansy Doll.  Aria actually has quite the stash of clothing made by Judy.  The minute I stumbled upon her doll clothing, I fell in love with her classic dresses.  I especially love the ones that utilize vintage hankies.  Click to check out her Facebook page and Etsy shop.
We like to keep Christmas rather low key and try not to buy too many things.  I feel like it just overwhelms Aria.  She seems to enjoy her presents best when there are only a few under the tree.  She did request a special Baby Sister doll from Santa so I had to whip one up last minute.  I knew I had to make her dollie from Santa look quite different from our Tansy Dolls since she is pretty smart and would figure it out very quickly. I created a new little pattern for a slender 11" doll with wacky fake fur hair.  I'll let you know what Aria thinks of her on Saturday via our Facebook page.

I think with her fake fur hair, she looks rather like a mischievous little brownie. :)
In the meantime we have been having daily advent calendar fun.  I love this tradition.  It really forces me to prioritize mindful family fun.  Sunday, Grandma Shellie, Aria, and I saw the Nutcracker Tea production put on by the Northwest Dance Theatre. It was actually the first ballet for all of us.  I wasn't sure how Aria would do, but the Nutcracker Tea is an abridged version of the Nutcracker Ballet and is intended for youngsters as young as 4.

Checking out a pack of Nutcracker glitter stickers with Grandma Shellie.
She ended up loving it.  It helped that we arrived early so to kill time I bought a Nutcracker Ballet book they were selling at a booth outside the performance hall and read it to Aria while we waited.  It was a good refresher on the story and about 5 minutes into the ballet she exclaimed, "Its my book, Momma!  Its my book!".
Waiting for the show to begin with Mommy.  Psst: the dress Aria is wearing is by my favorite designer...The Measure.  She makes the loveliest clothing.  Check out her Facebook page and shop.
Monday, her advent calendar event was to draw Emo (Korean for Auntie) a picture.  She spent all morning pretending to be a mouse from the Nutcracker, creeping about on all fours and whispering, "Skitter skatter!" over and over before jumping out at me.  So I wasn't too terribly surprised when she insisted on drawing a nutcracker for Emo.  She has also been twirling about pretending to be a ballet dancer so I am thinking she really enjoyed the Nutcracker Tea.

She had a little help with the spelling, but she drew the nutcracker all by herself.
The next time I write, it will be a new year.  Its hard to believe that 2013 is right around the corner.  Aria actually has something planned that Tansy Dolls will be revealing in the new year.  Yes, you read that correctly.  My four year old has plans for 2013 and my good friends Lesley and Cady have agreed that Tansy Dolls can help Aria realize her BIG dream.  Stay tuned to find out more about it.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Traditions and changes

The holidays are a time that seem to both collect traditions and invite reflection, so today I have a little of both to share. I was looking through pictures today and saw some great traditions, but also plenty of things that have changed over the last year.

First, some of our traditions I love.

Zoo Lights - I love visiting the Oregon Zoo during zoo lights. The kids get bundled to their eyebrows and we explore the zoo after dark, which is completely decked out in lights. These hanging ones were a favorite this year.

Board Games - We always end up playing board games on Christmas. This year's winners were Geek Battle, Impossible Machine, and Community: a cooperative game for preschools.

Cookies - Santa (and mommy) need cookies! This year, Max said Santa wanted gingerbread men. Last year's were pretty fun, though. These melted snowmen cookies were inspired by Pinterest, and were really entertaining.

The Birds - I don't really plan on ever not making the birds. They're just so pretty and festive and fun! Did anyone try making them yet? How'd it go?

Traditions are great, but things change and we roll with it.

Pets - Two years ago we had a wonderful black lab named Sonny, one year ago we were petless, and now we have our two wonderful bunnies, Otter and Zoey. They got thoroughly spoiled this year, not to worry.
Sonny photobombing Max at the park in 2010.,

The Food - We don't tend to do traditional Christmas food around here. This year I think we went with pork tenderloin. Previous Christmases have included turkey, lasagna, meatloaf, pizza, etc.

The Tree - This year we switched to a fake tree. This is partly because I kill plants. We love the idea of a potted tree that then goes out to the yard and/or gets reused, but man, I can kill plants like no one's business. Between that and the bunnies, we went with something unkillable.

The Family - This is not to say that we're swapping out our family members. And indeed, family is a very important part of our Christmas tradition, but it's an ever-changing cast. Who we manage to get together from one year to the next is always different. With multiple families, in-laws, traveling, holiday and work schedules, and a million other factors, we just gather everyone we can, have multiple celebrations, and call everyone else. We definitely try to plan for flexibility.

So how about you guys? Traditions you love? Things that are always different?

Whatever you celebrate, I hope your holiday season has been wonderful. We're wrapping up this year already! Can you believe it?!?


Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night

Hi friends,

My blog post tonight is short and sweet as my day today was very long and also very sweet.

I wish you all comfort and kindness, courage and love. Here's my special lady doing what she loves, serenading anyone in earshot and spreading joy. Because, you know:

"The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear." - Buddy the ELF

Wishing you warmth and wonder,

Friday, December 21, 2012

What the world needs now...

Like many people, I spent last week in shock and sadness.  All death is sad, but senseless death leaves us in the state of confusion and despair. The tragic loss of 27 lives, 20 of them so young they had yet to experience much of life, shook me to the core.  I mourn the death of those 27 lives.  I mourn for the victims' families who must carry on without the smiles and laughter of their loved ones to warm their hearts.  I mourn for the children and teachers who survived the tragic shooting as they attempt to rebuild some sense of normalcy. And yes, I even mourn for the family of the young man responsible for these deaths as they struggle to find some way to carry forward.

This week was also tough for more personal reasons.  Sunday was the 13th anniversary of the death of my friend Barry. I'm not a stranger to senseless death.  13 years ago, Barry killed himself leaving behind friends and family.  His son, now an intelligent and thoughtful young man, was only a month old at the time. If there is anything that Barry's death taught me it is that no amount of searching for answers will ever yield ones that will satisfy my broken heart.  Truth be told, I don't know that there are answers to be found.

Barry was like a big brother to me. I miss him with a fierceness.
But I do know that I believe that we should not let tragedy define us.  Allow space and time to be sad and angry; mourn, cry, scream, shake your fist at the world, but do not let it consume you.  It is what we choose to do in our everyday lives that ought to define us.  When I have left this world, I want the legacy I leave to be gentle and kind.

I tell my daughter that there are two things the world needs more of: compassion and courage.  We need the compassion to reach out and embrace our communities both locally and globally, but we also need the courage to be compassionate when the world seems anything but. Its easy to be compassionate when our world is soft and gentle, its much more difficult to be compassionate when it seems hard and jaded.  And yet, compassion is needed the most during these times. Aria is still so little and I'm not sure she completely understands but I hope that the choices I make in raising her lead her to these two truths.

Since the weather is getting colder, we focused mostly on items that would provide warmth.
Day 17 on our advent calender was a brick in the pathway to compassion and courage.  It was already on the list before the Sandy Hook tragedy but it seemed even more important after.  We needed to be able to do something to connect with our community and our sense of humanity, I needed to be able to do something.  Grandma Shellie, Aria, and I put together a few care packages that included socks, gloves, handwarmers, and trail mix and gifted them to people living on the streets. Aria was so excited to play her important role of gift giver.  And I was excited to share with her the importance of giving to those less fortunate.  I have no idea what led these people to the streets, but I don't believe it is my job to judge and speculate.  It is however my job to raise my daughter to care about the world and its inhabitants and that includes those who are not in our immediate circle of family and friends.  We are not wealthy by any means. We rent a small two bedroom apartment, we don't own a car, we literally make it month to month.  BUT we do have clothing, food, a roof over our head, running water, warm beds, and most importantly we have each other.  And while we may not have a lot of money, we can share the little we do have.  So I've decided that this will become a monthly family tradition.  I want Aria to know that compassion is something that should occur year round not just at Christmastime.

My little force of compassion and courage.  Aria is actually very shy so it can be tough for her to approach strangers, but she took her role of gift giver very seriously and wanted to be the person to gift the packages.
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy I saw many faces of humanity.  Some that made my heart soar and some that pained me.  I don't pretend to know the solutions but I do know that our world is in sore need of more love.  Let's make compassion and courage an everyday part of our culture.  <3

May you find peace, love, and happiness in your lives and the courage to bring compassion into the lives of others.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Choosing Wonder

I'm not the first, and surely not the last, to feel somewhat at a loss for words over the events of last week. It's so hard to understand any sort of random violence, but it becomes even less comprehensible when that violence is directed at children. My heart is sore for all of the families involved. I spent plenty of time over the past several days feeling as if the spark of life was being smothered with a dreary wet blanket. At some point, however, I decided that those feelings were a way of letting the bad guys win.

If violence and terror are used as a way to lash out at the world the best response must be to react with joy. Now, I'm not advocating we be in any way happy about terrible events. I am not crazy enough to pull that off. I still grieve for all the losses. But I have to choose to celebrate life as well. There is beauty all around us. Even in the midst of tragedy there were stories of courage, of friendship, of love. So while I will remember these tragedies, and will support legislation that I believe will help prevent more from happening, I will otherwise choose to move forward.

It's too easy, especially in our media-saturated culture, to dwell on the negative. To turn tragedies into soap operas. To immortalize the criminal instead of the victims. I choose instead to dwell on the small and beautiful things that happen everyday.

It snowed yesterday morning. It didn't last long, but it was beautiful. It made everything look newly painted and clean.
(Not my house, but lovely, yes?)
My son insisted that our bunnies needed their own Christmas stocking, so yesterday I made them a little stocking they can eat come Christmas. Santa will stuff it full of hay on Christmas Eve, I'm sure.

Speaking of bunnies, they've had their first vet appointment and grown so much bigger! Here's Zoey:

And Otter chowing down on some carrot tops:

And no list of amazing things would be complete without Max. Here he is proudly showing off the edible Christmas tree he made at school. Moments before devouring it with Aria. 

Even in the face of dark days there are examples of wonder all around us. What wonderful thing happened in your life this week?


Monday, December 17, 2012

So shines a good deed in a weary world

Looking back at my post last Monday after the events that took place this week is humbling.

Last Monday was written with carefree joy and anticipation of the holidays with my family and friends; this Monday my heart is just so heavy. I have been hugging my little (and big) ones closer and longer, and in the quiet spaces of my day a new idea is forming inside of me.

I've had to let a few facebook friends go. Somehow (miraculously I suppose, heh) we survived election season - but not this.

Something deep inside of my consciousness won't permit me to include thoughtlessness and selfish agendas in my 'space' anymore (online and out in the world.) And though I struggled with the notion of respecting others views through hearing and listening to their opinions, however disagreeable they are to me, my inner self has decided she needs to set some boundaries.

And so, though my head is stunned and my heart feels shaken - my resolve is anything but.

Gone is my quiet tolerance of pettiness. But rather than a fierce fire brewing inside of me - a quiet promise to myself has emerged. It feels light and soft and wise. Adjustments are being made.

I leave you today, friends, with a quote from one of my favorites Sages, Mr. Fred Rogers. He was truly a shining light in this world, as so many are. I highly recommend reading a quote or two from Fred when you need a little uplifting. Surround yourself with quotes and people and events that fill you up and inspire you help you hold on to that lightness, to hope, to connections and community.

“You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are. ”
― Fred Rogers
A hero of mine.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Life with Aria: Advent Day 11

We've been up to all sorts of advent fun.  Day 7 was a trip to Alpenrose Dairy where my skeptical child was won over by their Santa.  Before arriving she was insistent that Santa did not exist and by the time we were leaving she was excitedly telling me how the real Santa was going to bring her a baby sister for "Little Sister" (the doll I made her last Christmas).  It was cute until I realized that I suddenly have a last minute Christmas craft to whip up.  Heh.  Day 8 we made orange slice ornaments, Day 9 we made Grandpa Baker (my pops) a Christmas doodle art, Day 10 we roasted mini marshmallows on toothpicks over a candle, Day 11 Aria got her library card. Day 12 we were supposed to make a jar of love, but Aria came down with the flu.  Thankfully her Grandpa Baker sent along a special package for her and it arrived that day so she opened that instead.  By Day 13, Aria had turned the corner and was feeling much better so we finally got to make that jar of love.  Great fun!  

But Day 11 is very special to me because it was a first.  If you're a parent, you probably know what I mean.  Even if you're not a parent, you've likely heard parents gush over their child's first smile, laugh, tooth, food, step, or what have you.  Firsts are special because they mark how our children grow over the years; they remind us that life is a journey full of firsts just waiting to be realized, and perhaps most poignantly they give us pause to reflect on our journey through our own lives.

Day 11 was Aria's first library card.  When I was little, the library was my safe haven, my mecca if you will.  As a young child, I spent quite a few summers at my grandma's house in Clinton, Indiana.  Clinton is an old coal mining town off the Wabash River.  Small towns can be tough; all the kids had known each other since they were running around in diapers plus I was pretty shy so I never made very many friends.  Summers could have been terrible if it hadn't been for the Clinton Public Library.  It was only about 4 blocks down the street from Gram's house.  I would walk to the library every single day to check out 5 new books and return the ones I had finished. Those beautiful shelves stuffed with books provided endless opportunities for adventure and exploration.  I'd slowly scoot down the aisles, pull the titles that caught my eye the most at the moment, and make a mental note of all the books I wanted to get to before the summer was over.  That beautiful library made my childhood sweeter than it could have been.  They filled my memories with warmth and comfort and companionship.  It was there that I fell in love with the musty smell of old books, that I would come to appreciate the quiet stillness of the library, and that I would find solace in the cheerful rows of bookshelves.

The library was remodeled in 1994, but this is how I remember it.  It really is a beautiful library. Picture from
Some of my favorite books I discovered when I was a just a child.  When I was 8, I read the only three books of the Dark is Rising series that I could find.  It wasn't until I was an adult that I stumbled upon the entire set at a big box bookstore. I stopped in my tracks, instantly remembering how much I loved the books that I had read nearly 11 years earlier. I bought every single book in that series that day.  Fast forward another 14 years and those same books sit on my bookshelf. 

Getting Aria her very own library card was a monumental event. We actually started the day off with an amateur photography session because I needed nice photos to send to family and friends for the Holidays.  So Aria was dressed to the nines, which somehow made the day even more special.  We took pictures on the outside patio area on the fifth floor of Portland State University's Recreation Center.
Oh yes, she had a blast.  Of course I had the hard task of  picking just ONE photo to send around.  I settled on the bottom middle one, but I printed several of the others for me.  ;)  Psst: In case you are wondering, the gorgeous outfit she is wearing is by The Measure, a fabulous designer.
By the time we headed to the library, Aria had already had a super exciting day.  She was literally bouncing with joy as I filled out the appropriate paperwork.  When the librarian handed her the card and told her she could sign it, she first clasped it to her chest like she had received a special treasure before carefully penning her name.  I wanted to lean down and whisper to her that I understood but I restrained myself. She didn't need my help to make her own special memories about this day. 

The Central Library in Portland is gorgeous.  Okay, so I think ALL libraries are gorgeous, but this one has marble columns, an intricate carved staircase, and a whole separate room for the children's books.  While we browsed for books, Aria clutched her new library card in her little hand.  It made my heart smile.  

"Inquire" These steps are carved with a lovely motif and lead the second floor of the library; this picture does not do them justice.  Three words adorn them: seek, inquire, become.
Beverly Cleary moved to Portland when she was 6 years old.  I actually used to live off of Klickitat Street here in Portland, you know the Klickitat Street of Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins fame
This is a portion of an amazing tree sculpture in the middle of the Children's Library.  Aria was quite taken with it.
Here' a better shot of the tree.  Amazing, yes?!
Our selection of books.  I was mostly looking for books that talk about a variety of winter holiday traditions.  By the way, Bunny Wishes turned out to be a sweet little story about love, friends, family, and being thankful.
Books..they give us so much; comfort, adventures, escape; they have the power to teach us about ourselves and others; they feed our souls.  Right now, Aria loves story time.  One of her favorite activities is snuggling up with Momma and enjoying a few good books.  As she gets older, I hope her love of books grows.  In an increasingly digital world where people can download books at the drop of a dime, I hope she comes to appreciate the feel and smell of real books and that she recognizes the amazing service that libraries all over this country offer to adults and children alike. 

So what about you, does the library hold a special place in your heart?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ribbon birds tutorial!

Hey folks! How's the holiday season treating everyone? I'm feeling very holiday-happy after finishing half my handmade gifts for this year and listening to some rockin' holiday tunes on Pandora. 

Ok, after last week's crafty failure I felt the need to do a tutorial this week. So today, I'm going to share with you how to make ribbon birds. When my husband saw that I was going to share this on the blog he was fairly scandalized. 
"What?!? You're sharing the birds?!? But that's, you know ... a family secret!!"
Given that reaction, you know these are good. I won't pretend they're the easiest things in the world the first time, though. So if you decide to give this a try, just stick with it, ok?

Now, my mom taught me how to make these 20 years or so ago (gulp!). She learned from my uncle, who I've heard learned while working at a department store gift wrapping booth. All you need is scissors, a tiny bit of tape, and some plastic ribbon like this. (You'll want the non-metallic type or they look a little funky.) I usually go with 3/4" or 1" ribbon.

Right. This is going to be pretty picture-heavy and hopefully I'll even add a video later. Here we go...

Cut 3 feet of ribbon.
Fold in half and cut into 2 equal pieces.
Fold both pieces over, about 3" from the end and crease both.

Cut each ribbon into 4 equal pieces, but only up to the crease mark. I recommend cutting in half, then each of those in half.
Hold the uncut part of the ribbon facing you, curling down. Take the far left piece, fold it away from you until it's perpendicular to the other strips and pinch it flat. Now weave it so that it goes over the strip next to it, under the second, over the third. Now take the new left strip, fold it away from you the way, pinch it perpendicular, then weave it over the strip next to it, under the last.
I'm now going to use one white ribbon, one blue, to show the difference. Take the second ribbon, hold the uncut part of the ribbon facing you, this time curling up. Repeat the above instructions.

Lay the two ribbons over each other, so the wings are perpendicular and both curve up.

Weave the strips into a square, following the pattern started near the uncut sections.

Put a small piece of tape over this square.

Ok, this part is a bit tricky. Take the opposite pairs of strips, curve them back towards each over in an oval. Weave the strips into a small square and secure with a tiny piece of tape.Make sure you're following the same weave pattern, so if a strip just went under in the large square on top, it now needs to go over in the little square.

Another view of the square formed.

Hopefully you can see how the strips curl around and meet each other. Repeat for the two opposing pairs of strips.

Now overlap the squares and weave the strips into an over-under square.

You can put on another piece of tape here if you feel the need.

Ok, now this was hard to get pictures of, so read the description then look at all the pictures. Take each strip at a time, and weave it toward the neck or tail (depending on what it's near). Each piece will curve a bit, then go through 2 strips.
In this one, the two blue ones on the right curved down and were woven through the two white ones.

Here's what the bottom looks like after you've woven in all eight strips.

So, now you have two sets of four strips; one set coming out of each end.Now carefully remove all the tape.

Gently pull the strips tighter, together and one at a time, until the bottom tightens up and the strips are close together with no real gaps.

Here's the view from the top after tightening.

Stack up the four strips at the front, then wrap around your fingers as shown.

Tuck the ends through. This is basically a simple knot.

Pull until mostly tight, then pinch tightly.

Trim excess strips off into a beak.

Hold the wings up together and trim. (Either direction.)


Here's one all in white. It also has the wings trimmed in the other direction.

Another view.

Another on the tree shot.
Whew! That's it! I make tons of these during the holidays. I put them on my tree, top gifts with them, and even give them as presents. It's one of my favorite Christmas crafts (though I make them all year) and I don't think a tree is complete without them.

I hope some of you give it a try! I'll try and come back with better pictures, and maybe a video later. Bonus points to the reader who can name what other post they've seen one in!

I hope you've been enjoying our crazy holiday sales, and that you've got some holiday magic running around your house.