Friday, May 31, 2013

The wonderful world of comics (part two)

Last week I shared a little bit about why I really don't mind that my daughter loves superhero comics; you can read that one HERE.  I also admitted that the violence and narrow representations of women do concern me and that I've been on the hunt for more age appropriate and girl empowering options.  As promised, I'm going to share what I've come across. My criteria for selection was based on very few, but very particular criteria.  I wanted to find comics that appealed to Aria's love of fantasy, that featured girls or women in lead roles, and that were interesting enough to hold my own attention.  I think the following comics all fit that bill quite nicely.

Hildafolk is Luke Pearson's debut comic published by Nobrow Press and its a great introduction to the world of comics if the child in your life has never read or looked at a comic before. Pearson tells a great story with few words and plenty of whimsical illustrations. The blue-haired protagonist is spunky and fun; I think most kids will find they relate to her well.  My favorite panel is the one in which she tells her mum she is off to draw pictures of rocks.  I love it because it is something that Aria would totally do.  Actually, I think it is something that she has done.  The comic is listed as intended for ages 10 and up, but I find age recommendations are rather arbitrary.  Aria is five and has no problems following the story line.  *There is one "naughty" word in the comic (specifically the word dammit) so please take note if this is a deal breaker for you.*
The only complaint I have about Hildafolk is that it is so short.  Thankfully, Pearson has already released two other comics featuring the spunky blue-haired Hilda.  Hilda and the Midnight Giant is a longer tale, making it a bit more satisfying.  Readers also get a better chance to really witness Hilda in action as she sets out to save her home.  Along the way, she meets a number of interesting characters and embarks on quite the adventure.  This one is definitely a favorite of Aria's.  And I am not surprised because Hilda reminds me of Aria in more than one way: Artistic, spunky, determined, and curious.  Again, Hilda is billed as intended for ages 10 and up but 5 year old Aria has no problems following the story.  
Hereville: How Mirka got her Sword by Barry Deutsch and published by Amulet Books is probably one of my favorites.  Mirka is just your average 11 year old except she wants to fight dragons and is growing up in an Orthodox Jewish community.  Peppered throughout the story are Yiddish phrases (translations provided) and Jewish traditions.  The characters are believable and likable and the story line is fun and engaging.  This is one of the more word heavy stories.  I was worried that it would not hold Aria's attention but once again she not only likes it but has requested it multiple nights in a row.  Its billed for ages 8 and up, which I find ironic since the Hilda stories are far more simple and billed for 10+.  Again Aria is only 5 and enjoyed it but I'd say this time the age recommendation is a safe bet if your child isn't used to longer stories.  If you buy it and it doesn't hold your child's attention try again in a year and in the meantime enjoy the comic yourself.
Of all my findings, Zita the Spacegirl has to be the ultimate favorite.  Written by Ben Hatke and published by First Second Books, Zita the Spacegirl is a story about an Earth girl who embarks on an intergalactic adventure when her best friend Joseph is swiped by aliens.  She is brave and a wee bit impulsive (but that only adds to her appeal).  There is plenty of action and even betrayal in this fun-packed story of a little girl out to save her best friend in a foreign galaxy filled with interesting aliens.  Aria gives this one two thumbs up; she even wants a Zita costume and THAT is saying something!
Aria loved the first one so much I had to get the second Zita book, Legends of Zita the Spacegirl.  This one follows up on Zita's adventures in outer space as she struggles to contend with becoming a sudden intergalactic celebrity.  All the favorite characters from the last book are here plus you're introduced to a few new ones that provide a hint at the mysterious past life of Piper and Mouse.  The only downside of this one is that Hatke hasn't released the third Zita book yet and he ends the second one with some unresolved issues.  Its hard trying to explain to Aria that she has to wait until the third one is published (sometime in 2014) before we can read it.  But I suppose this is a lesson on patience for both of us.
Just a last thought on comics. If you do decide to pick up a few for the child in your life, its a good idea to run them through how to read a comic.  I're thinking, how hard can it be to read a comic?  It's not hard, but it is different than reading a book.  In a book, the illustrations are typically complementary; in a comic they are absolutely fundamental to the story. A good portion of the story is told through the illustrations.  I pointed out to Aria that facial expressions could tell her a lot about how a particular character is feeling, that bold letters typically indicate someone is shouting, and that thought bubbles mean a person is thinking something rather than speaking out loud.  She probably could have figured this out on her own but I think it made the experience more enjoyable for her since she understood how to read comics from the onset.  Plus, since she can't actually read words yet, it helped her engage in the story more fully.  She carefully examined the panels to see if a character was angry or sad or perplexed and pointed out when they shouting or thinking.

An added bonus is that Aria is suddenly showing an interest in learning to read.  She loves story time but at 5 years of age she hasn't shown a true interest in learning how to read herself.  Since I introduced these comics, she has become very insistent that she be allowed to read some of the words, typically sound effects like BOOM, WOOSH, and BANG, but I'm going with it.  I think this summer we'll incorporate some basic reading lessons as we locate and enjoy more kid appropriate, girl empowering comics into our lives.   

As I come across more comics, I'll be sure to share them with you.  In the meantime, if you check out any of these recommendations, come back and let us know if you or the children in your life like them.  If you know any comics that meet my criteria that you'd like to recommend, I'd love to hear about them!


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Felt Hair Clips Tutorial

Hey Folks!
I have a nice quick tutorial for you guys today; felt hair clips! These are quick, easy, fun, and inexpensive, but still wicked cute. They'd be great as favors, batch gifts, something fun to spruce up your accessories rack, or a good project to do with kids. They can be for adults, kids, or even your Tansy Doll!

Ok, enough chatter. Here's the how-to.

Snap hair clips (like these)
Embroidery floss and/or puffy paint
Sharp scissors
Glue (I like Tacky Glue)

How To
We start with felt. Here I've used recycled Eco-felt, but any with work.

Now we cut our shapes. For this batch I made leaves and flowers. Cut 2 of the shape per clip.

Now we add details to the top. For the leaves, I did veins in backstitch on one, and a chain stitch on the other. The flowers just got a nice yellow star for the center. I also cut a smaller green leaf to go with the flower.

If you're doing this with kiddos who aren't quite up to stitching yet, you can give them puffy paints instead. Just be aware you'll want to let them dry completely before finishing the rest of the steps. Here are some puffy paint examples:

Ok, now we can get back to construction. Take the shape you didn't decorate, and snip a small slit in the back.

Now slide in the top of one of the snap clips, then click closed.

Spread glue on the top surface...

...and the small leaf if you're going to... sandwich the decorated top onto the gluey shape and pinch to help set.

Now just let dry and you're done! If you need to trim up the edges a bit you can do that too.

Look how pretty!!
Hopefully these will bring you some color and smiles. If you try it out let us know! And share your pictures!

Before I forget, did you guys know we're having a giveaway this week? Head over to our Facebook Page to enter to win one of our new Mermaid Sprouts or a felted sea creature - your choice!! We'll draw a winner Tuesday, June 4. Good luck!!


Monday, May 27, 2013

Summah Time Summah Time SumSum Summah Time

Oh, I've been a lazy blogger. hah.

In my defense, I did have an incredibly weird, long, and sad month of unexpected family emergencies, so I guess I need to give myself a break with the guilt. Sometimes we just can't do everything.

It was so nice to see all of our family and friends, have good conversation, and spend time together - but, man, it feels good to be home. Did I tell you that I came home to a CLEAN one, btw? If you didn't know already, Robin and Cady are amazing people, really the only people I'd ever want to be in business with and incredible friends to boot. So these sneaky little house fairies crept in and cleaned our house for us while we were away! My hubs and I were so touched. I'm pretty sure I saw tears in his eyes, I know mine were damp. Putting away 3 weeks worth of suitcases is much nicer when your house doesn't look like the state of disaster you left it in.

It's Memorial Day today in the US, and I have such respect for all service men & women, so thank you for all that you do. And thank you to your families as well, I know that the sacrifices are numerous and multifaceted.

My thoughts are also with the everyday Heroes helping out in Oklahoma and all the people that were affected last week. It never ceases to amaze me when I see the goodness of people coming together for a common cause. It's what it's really all about, isn't it? Our time here.

Well, in the midst of my rambling and lack of real planning for this post (hah - but at least I'm here, right!?) I thought I'd throw in some fun things we've been working on, in celebration of Summer (drum roll, please) :
ocean, mermaid doll, bamboletta, tansy dolls
MERMAIDS and OCEAN critters!!!
Um, and did I mention we're doing a FREE giveaway tomorrow? Ahhhhhh yeah! Here's the link to our fb fan page so you can enter: Tansy Dolls!

Oh, how I love Mermaids.
mermaids, bamboletta, dragonflys hollow, waldorf doll, tansy dolls
detail where you can see their cute little tails
I remember endless summer days swimming in pools & the lake pretending to be Daryl Hannah (clearly I had watched Splash one too many times). I was pretty convinced my tail would come in any day. So, I'm excited to meet some more mermaid enthusiasts out there and connect them with a special snuggly friend.

Alrightie folks, I hope your week is filled with family, fun, and gratitude.


Friday, May 24, 2013

The wonderful world of comics (part one)

For those of you who follow our Facebook page or blog or those of you who know me in real life, you are well aware that Aria is a superhero fanatic. Ever since, her dad first let her watch The Hulk she has been hooked. She's mostly a Marvel gal, though she does dabble a bit in DC. She is well versed in the Avengers and the X-men. She loves Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, Rogue, and Wolverine. Thor has to be her favorite right now though. She even knows some of the more obscure characters. Last year she dressed as Domino for Halloween and Portland's first Rose City Comic Con. This year she has plans to dress as Rogue from the X-men for Halloween and Wasp from the Avengers for the Comic Con. PS: She was pretty upset that the Avenger's movie didn't include Antman and Wasp.
DC meets Marvel at the Rose City Comic Con in Portland, Oregon.
I actually love that Aria is into superheroes and comics because its something that our entire family can enjoy together. That said, the superhero geek world is not without problems. Women are often depicted in ways that are highly sexualized and violence is heavily prevalent.  I am well aware of both and yes, they are concerns for me.  The geek world, while a sanctuary in many respects for some, is not a sanctuary for all and let's be honest with ourselves, its not completely removed from general society.  Its impacted by the same crappy misogyny and obsession with domination and violence that we see in the wider world.   

But here is the thing. I'm a firm believer that parents have to make decisions that best fit their parenting styles, values, and children. There is no one size fits all approach to raising children.  Its what makes parenting both interesting and totally terrifying.  I have friends who avoid the superhero franchise because of the violence and I think their concerns are perfectly reasonable.  For my family though we enjoy reading comics together.  I also think it is important to note that despite having a passion for superheroes, Aria is really good at separating the fantasy from reality. We made it very clear early on that if violence became a problem, we'd nix the cartoons and comics immediately.

I do wish that women were not represented so narrowly, but there are examples of strong women peppered throughout the stories.  But even more frequently are opportunities for what I consider to be important discussions.  For example, despite all the misconceptions that comics reduce the world into good vs evil scenarios, that simply is not true. Sure, if all you know are the general story lines, you might get that message but read the actual stories and you'll find that the comic book world is just as complex as reality. The “Good” guys sometimes make bad choices that hurt people and the “Bad” guys sometimes turn out to be not as bad as you originally thought.

Why is this a selling point for me? Because that is exactly what you see in the real world and I think the biggest thing we can pass onto our children is that the world isn't black and white. If you really want to change the world you have to understand why people make the choices they do and you have to stop perpetuating the myth that people are born benevolent or evil. I truly believe that if you foster the belief that people are born "bad," then you're paving the road for hatred.  After all, it feels good to hate the bad.  But the truth is that we are all born into this world imperfect but with open hearts and the potential to be amazing.  
Aria dressed as Wolverine, circa 2011.
Okay, but do children pick up on these subtleties? I believe they do. And I have an example from The Avengers: Secret Wars II series. In The Avengers Issue 260: Secret Wars II (part 2), the Skrulls and the Avengers have built an uneasy alliance to stop Nebula, a common foe.  For those of you not familiar with the Avengers, the Skrulls have long been considered an enemy of Earth.  Needless to say, Aria was a tad confused as to why the Avengers were pairing up with the shape-shifting aliens.

Aria: Momma? But the Skrulls are the bad guys.
Me: They do make a lot of bad choices don't they? And they hurt a lot of people, huh?
Aria: Yes, because they are the bad guys.
Me: Do good people make bad choices?
Aria: Well...yes, the Hulk has made bad choices.
Me: Is Hulk a bad guy?
Aria: No.

We read on until the end and started in on The Avengers Issue 261: Secret Wars II (part 3) and got to a part where (Skrull) General Zedrao says to the Avengers:

My race has waged war across the stars for millions of years -- we have made few allies.  Our races have been hated enemies, yet you fought alongside us against Nebula as though we were your own kind!  I do not fully understand such selflessness, but I feel strangely honored by it.  May your courage endure!'

At this point, Aria was silent and I could tell she was wrestling with something in her mind

Aria: Momma, is General Zedrao a good guy now.
Me: Well...I think he is thinking about the choices he has made and he is definitely questioning what he thought he knew about humans.
Aria: Why do the Skrulls hurt people?
Me: I don't know. We'd have to understand more about them, but they don't seem to think very well of anybody that is not a Skrull. Maybe if they actually took the time to learn about others, they might respect them more. I think its harder to hurt people when you know them and see them as equals.

General Zedrao contemplating Captain America's words about the potential they may work together again in the future right before they go their separate ways.
Now did Aria walk away understanding why people do hateful things? No, certainly not. I don't even understand it so I don't expect her to get it from one talk, but it opened the door for a very tough conversation and more importantly it gave her reason to pause, to think, and to question. Critical thinking is a skill that will serve her a lifetime so I'll take the lessons where I find them.

In addition, being in a world that seems to insist that my daughter aspire to be a princess, I feel the need for a bit of balance. Phil (Aria's daddy) and I are not Disney princess people. We just aren't so it didn't make sense to shove it down her throat before she could talk and personally I cringe when I walk into a big box toy store and see what I have come to refer as the “WALL OF PINK!” I see no need to introduce any of that to Aria because the world does a good enough job for me.

Besides it just made more sense to introduce Aria to our likes. I love my fantasy books and comics as well (I highly recommend Fables, Y: the Last Man, Lucifer, and Sandman.). Phil grew up reading some of the exact same comics Aria enjoys reading now. If she had hated it, we would have backed off, but it just so happened that she fell in love with them as well. Don't get me wrong she likes princesses and fairies as well. And I love that she flips back and forth between them comfortable and confident in HER choices about how to express herself.
Choices.  That's all I want for my girl.  Real choices so she can decide for herself who she is and how best to express herself.  On the left, Aria plays the role of a fairy princess complete with flower scepter.  On the right, she does an odd little victory dance in her Marvel tee from her buddy Max.
That said, I've been on a mission to find more age appropriate and girl empowering comics for Aria and I have stumbled upon some lovely choices.  Tune in next week to read about my current top picks.  For now, I'll just say that I'm really excited that Aria loves comics.  It's a lot of fun having common interests to share with her.  We are super excited about the 2013 Rose City Comic Con.  If you are in the area, be sure to stop might just see a tiny Wasp flitting around.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Awesome Dairy Free Alfredo Sauce!

I'm about to rock your world. With cauliflower. I know, right?

Let me back up. I love love love alfredo sauce. So delicious. Matt loves it too. Max has also recently declared that chicken alfredo is his favorite food in the whole world. Even over pizza and chicken nuggets, so this is serious.

But this poses a few problems. First, that wonderful traditional alfredo sauce is basically butter, cream, and cheese. This is not the healthiest rack of ingredients out there. Yummy, yes, but not healthy. It's not the sort of thing you can feel guilt-free about eating every night, for instance. Second, Matt is lactose-intolerant, so alfredo sauce is like sickness-in-a-pan for him, no matter how much he loves it.

We only found out about Matt's trouble with milk about a year ago, and have been trying out dairy-free white sauces ever since. It's been like our grail. I came up with several half-decent sauces, but no good ones, and none that actually tasted like alfredo. So when I read about this healthy alfredo alternative, a glimmer of hope shone again. I realized it would be very easy to turn dairy-free so all that was left was to try it out.

I made it for Max and I one evening, and had a container of the real stuff on standby (we've been burned by internet recipes before). But it was amazing! Max didn't even know there was anything different! So then I made it for Matt and he loved it too! Spectacular!

I've now made it for several other people who have all been similarly impressed. Now it's your turn!
The original recipe is from Lindsay over at Pinch of Yum. She's used it in a bunch of wonderful and delicious ways which I also highly recommend. Here's the recipe link to her site: Healthy Fettuccine Alfredo. She has way better pictures than I could take and is a pleasure to read, so definitely go check her out. But below is my dairy-free version. Enjoy!

6 cups cauliflower florets (one big head or a few small ones)
6 cups vegetable broth or water
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
6-8 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 soy creamer (or any other milk substitute)
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large saucepan, simmer cauliflower florets in vegetable broth for 15-20 minutes.
2. Transfer cauliflower to the blender. Puree until smooth, adding enough of the broth to let is blend easily. Add more if you prefer a thinner sauce.
3. In the pan, saute the minced garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until soft but not too brown. (Alternatively, it's super delicious to use roasted garlic instead, but requires you to have thought ahead enough to roast some garlic. Your call!)
4. Add garlic and oil to blender along with salt and pepper to taste. Blend until very smooth. At least a few minutes.
5. Return to pan, add soy creamer (or other milk substitute), and simmer until ready.
6. Enjoy!

This certainly works as an alfredo-alternative over pasta, but could work anywhere else you want a white sauce too. Lindsay has some great ideas about that.

I'm also happy to report it freezes well! Make a big batch, serve some, and freeze the rest! I like to freeze sauces in an ice cube tray, then pop out the cubes into a plastic bag. Then you can easily warm up exactly as much as you want!

Seriously, it tastes totally indulgent but has almost nothing to feel bad about! I hope it's as big a hit at your house as it's been at mine!


Friday, May 17, 2013

Flaming Hoops

Its been a month.  No seriously.  Its. been. a. month.  The doctoral program is full of huge flaming hoops.  I swear that half the battle is to simply make it through the hoops without falling completely a part.  The past month has been about making it through one of those hoops: the field exams.  I'll spare you the gory details but the gist of it is that I had to write three 12-15 page papers in five days. If that wasn't tough enough, I then had to sit in front of my committee (three professors from my department) and respond to their questions and feedback about my papers in what they call an oral defense.  Let's just say the whole process is a bit intimidating, a whole lot overwhelming, and altogether exhausting.  The good news is I came out on the other end of the hoop in one piece.  I am proud to say that I not only passed but I passed with honors!  Woohoo!

An old photo of Aria from my first term in the doctoral program back in 2010.  She is contemplating  the concept of  law...obviously.  Heh.
Being a mom and a full time doctoral student is tough.  Some days I feel like I simply don't give my daughter the attention and time she deserves.  But I also know that she is learning about hard work and the importance of education and I have to take comfort in that.  Aria has always been a bit spunky and spirited from day one, but for all her spitfire and grit, she just seems to get it sometimes.  When I'm stressed or under a lot of pressure, she almost intuitively knows not to push too hard and to give me a bit of space. The day of my oral defense I took her to school in the morning.  Aria knew about the oral defense because I had talked about it.  She wanted to know if I was scared so I told her the truth, that I was scared but that I had also worked really hard and I was trying to be brave.  She patted me on the back, assured me that I would be okay, and then gave me a kiss for bravery and sent me on my way.  My little girl.  Sometimes she seems so much older than she actually is.

Aria loves to dress up.  I'm not sure what she is dressing up as but I like to think its her very colorful version of  Gothic fashion.  Her sense of style reflects her imagination: Colorful, fun, with just a touch of the grim.  I think I have a writer or artist on my hands here.
So here I am.  I've passed my field exams and the summer is almost here.  I promised myself that if I passed this flaming hoop I'd give myself a little break.  I envision plenty of sewing for myself, for Aria, my sweet niece, and of course Tansy Dolls. I also see reading, lots of reading...all those graphic novels and fantasy books that have been collecting dust on my shelves are waiting for me.  Oh and adventures. My little Aria is growing up into such an imaginative and creative young lady.  I want to spend time this summer nurturing her natural creativity with plenty of adventures.

Summer beckons.  What do you have planned for this summer?


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Great Max Day

Matt's been out of town on business. It's impossibly hard. I'll admit we tend to be one of those clingy co-dependent couples who can't stand being apart, which has certainly contributed to how hard it's been having him gone. Of course, the other part is that I'm trying to be both parents at once. I have no idea how single parents balance it all - I feel totally fried. And that's with the wonderful support of my friends and family who have all been helping out! It's been an excellent illustration of the old "it takes a village" adage.

In all this craziness it's easy to lose track of the important stuff. Rushing from school and work to errands and dinner, then bath and bed and cleaning and everything else I feel like Max doesn't always get the dedicated attention he deserves. So yesterday we played hookey. We hung out for the morning, read lots of books, and played some serious trains. One of Max's new favorite things is to have me tape him playing trains. He considers this making movies, though they're still a little light on things like plot.

We also went out to get my Mr. Shaggy a haircut (at his request!). 

Then some errands (are those sorts of things inescapable or what?!). But then we went to a family favorite: Powell's Books, the Beaverton campus. 
We happily browsed books for quite awhile before Max settled on a Thomas book (of course), a Bearenstein Bears book, and an human anatomy book. 
Then we went out to dinner together at Pastini. Max's new favorite food is chicken alfredo, so it seemed pretty perfect. 

He insisted on taking my picture as well:

I gave him my card so he could pay, which he thought was awesome. 

It was a pretty great day. It's really hard to find time to give him all the attention he deserves and it's easy when life is busy to get distracted by the inevitable battles, behaviors, and routines. It was great to get to reconnect. 

What do you do to connect with your kiddos?


Monday, May 13, 2013

Snuggle Time

Hey everyone,

Our family has had quite a month: emergency surgery, a death in the family, a beautiful wedding, and lots and lots of traveling with children. A whirlwind, to be sure. I'll probably find it in me to blog about the more personal aspects of the month later on, but for now I'm still pretty exhausted. hah.

So for my post today, I thought I'd share some snuggles, since it IS my favorite perk of the job - getting pictures from happy doll mamas & papas.

Do you remember our 2000 FB Fan Giveaway from a couple of months back? Well, here's a little peek at our winner, a lovely little lady with her new custom Tansy Doll, "Leaf."

Bamboletta, Waldorf Dolls, Tansy Dolls, Dragonflys Hollow
Her and her mama chose warm brown skin, green eyes, and earth tones for his curly boucle hair. It was kind of hard to part with him, he turned out so stinkin' cute. Me thinks another brown skin/green eye beauty is going to have to be in the works for the shoppe soon.

And look at those curls (the little lady's)!!! Is she adorable, or what? I think they'll be fast friends soon, if not already.

I hope everyone has a great week, full of family, and hopefully lots of snuggletime.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Hexaflexagon fun

Is that title a mouthful? Maybe. But it's also super fun to say. Try it: hexaflexagon. Hexaflexagon. Hexaflexagon! Sounds like a cool magic word to me.

In fact, hexaflexagons are these cool paper creations that you're going to love. Remember those fortune tellers (or cootie catchers) you made in grade school? These remind me of those, but more mathy and mysterious.

I'm also a big fan of Vi Hart, of YouTube and Khan Academy fame. Here's her video on hexaflexagons:

I did a lesson that included these a few weeks ago. Max saw me watching the videos and was completely fascinated. He insisted we make some. We ended up making quite a few, of both kinds. He colored the different sides and practiced flipping them inside out. He even had me cut one open after coloring so he could see the patterns on the inside. He proudly took one to preschool the next day and showed everyone how there were these cool hidden sides. So freakin' cute.

I love that he was so excited about it. And I love the reminder that kids can get excited about things they don't totally understand. To him, the hidden side is a magic trick; to me it's a math demonstration of some pretty weighty topics. Either way, it's fun!

Here's a link to some instructions on making your own hexaflexagons (seriously; say it out loud).

When you're done playing and amazing your friends, check out some of ViHart's other videos. You don't need to be a math geek like me to enjoy them, but an appreciation for art or puzzles or talking really fast might help.

And then go give your brain a workout at There are so many kinds there you'll certainly find something you like.

But first; hexaflexagons...


Oh, don't forget to go check out the Sew Mama Sew Giveaway going on! We've got an adorable little mouse Sprout up for grabs!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day - Sweet Little Waldorf-inspired Mouse

Okay, I LOVE Sew Mama Sew!  They have provided me with plenty of crafty inspiration and joy over the years so it is an honor to participate in their super popular Giveaway Day! If you don't already follow Sew Mama Sew, you should seriously add them to your blog roll.  They are just fabulous and they link to all sorts of wonderful sewing blogs full of tutorials!

Tansy Dolls is offering up one of our sweet 5" Sprout Dolls.  We'd like to introduce Estrella, an adorable and cuddly Mouse Sprout who'd love to find a home where she can get plenty of snuggles and love.

Also in honor of our fans and all the lovely folks at Sew Mama Sew, we'd like to offer our readers (the new and old) a 10% discount to anything in our shop.  Enter SewMamaSew to receive 10% off your entire order.  But hurry, because the coupon ends on May 17.  Visit our shop at

Giveaway detail:
This giveaway closes on May 10 at 5pm PST.
We will ship internationally.
For one entry, please tell us what other animals you'd like to see in Sprout form.
For a second entry, please like our Facebook Page page or tell us if you are already a fan!
At the end of the giveaway, we'll put all the entries in an Excel file and use to pull a winner!


Friday, May 3, 2013

On Birthing

I made it to the other end of the field exams tunnel.  It was just about as awful as I thought it would be.  But just as I hit the submit button, I had to dash off to the hospital to support my sister as she delivered her first baby.  I would post a picture but I want to honor my sister's privacy.  You'll just have to trust me when I say my little niece and Aria's "sister cousin" is just the sweetest little baby imaginable.
This photo of my daughter is here just to break up the text, but it was taken outside the hospital.  heh.
On another note, watching my sister deliver a baby had to be one of the most amazing experiences ever, next to holding Aria right after birth, probably at the top of the awesome list.  For those who are close to me, you know that I had a very traumatic birth experience.  The short story I hemorrhaged following delivery and wound up in ICU for 2 days.  Being in ICU meant that I was separated from my newborn daughter, scared, in pain, and isolated. It took me years to be okay with talking about it without crying. There is more to the story but today is not the time to tell that story.

Today is the time to talk about the wonder I got to experience.  Having the privilege to be present at the birth of my niece moved me closer to a place of peace about my own birth.  It was powerful and beautiful at the same time.  I was simply amazed at my sister's strength.  Earlier during labor she had been in pain and maybe a bit scared but when it came time to push, she was in the zone, concentrating on the task at hand.  After the baby was delivered, I hovered like a worried mother hen watching the doctors intently.  I am sure they felt my icy cold gaze as I bore holes into the back of their heads.  I wasn't able to relax until I saw them sit up and bring the baby back to my sister.

Anyhow, the birth of a human is awe-inspiring.  All I can say is if you ever have the opportunity and honor of witnessing a birth, do not miss out on it.  It. is. amazing.

This year Mother's Day is on May 12.  I have a host of mother's day gifts to get and this year I want to get something special for Shellie (my momma-in-law), my mother, and of course my sister.  So I'm asking you to help.  What handmade gifts would you love to get or give for Mother's Day?
And another photo to break up text.  ;)  This flower arrangement was made by Aria and her friend Sanjana.  Isn't it pretty?  It reminds me of Spring.   
I'm thinking something that encourages Shellie to take time for herself.  That woman is the most giving lady I know and she really needs to pamper herself occasionally.  My mother is a beast when it comes to finding the perfect gift so I am thinking a framed photo of her two granddaughters.  My sister...I'm drawing blanks on...perhaps something to help celebrate the birth of her daughter.  But what?  She isn't a big jewelry person although she isn't opposed to jewelry.  But it needs to be bigger than promises or offers of babysitting; I already plan on doing that.  Help!?!


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Train Rack Tutorial

Max has many loves. Race cars, stuffed animals, his Tansy Dolls, cooking, digging, construction vehicles, dragons, and Legos all rank very high. But Max's first love is trains. Steam trains are his favorite, but he also loves modern freight trains, super-fast bullet trains, monorails, streetcars, trams, the zoo train, and pretty much anything else somewhat train-like.

He has several different sizes and types of train toy, but by far his favorite are his wooden trains. They are mostly Thomas the Train toys, with some Brio and other compatible ones mixed in. When he was about 2, Max received a huge hand-me-down train track collection from his Uncle David. Since they're his favorite toy, he's been adding to that collection steadily since then. Birthdays, Christmases, special treats, allowance money; most of it goes towards train stuff. The collection is massive by now, which poses some cleaning issues. One of the biggest challenges is the trains themselves. He wants to be able find the specific one he wants so he dumps the bin all over the floor. Constantly. It was finally driving me crazy, so I decided to make some nice display shelves for them. Now you can too! Here's how...

Train Rack Tutorial

Supplies (per rack)
8  8" straight wooden train tracks, Brio compatible
~20" wooden trim board 1.5" wide, mine was 3/8" thick
wood glue
16 #18 3/4" wire nails (or similar)
picture hanging mounts and nails for hanging final rack

level (for hanging)

Maybe an hour, start to finish

Total cost if you buy all supplies new (instead of stealing tracks from the kiddo's collection) is about $20 per rack, give or take. Much less if you find used tracks.

Here's how...

 Start with 2 of your tracks, like this. Cut the little nub off one end of just one of them.

You could toss this, I suppose, but I glued mine into the other end of the uncut track so it wouldn't have a big hole in one end of the shelf. So apply your wood glue to the nub...

...and glue it in to the end of the uncut track.

Now apply glue to the other end of the uncut track.

Connect it to the cut track and set aside to dry. Repeat with your other pairs of track until you've used all 8. Obviously, I was making more than one rack here.

Now, get your side pieces ready. I cut 2 lengths of 9 1/2" out of my trim board.

So that I could line everything up nicely, I made marks at 3", 6", and 9" to line up my shelves.

Apply glue using the marks as a guide, then lay out the shelves.

This is what you're going for at this point.

Once everything is spaced nicely, glue the side pieces onto the track shelves. Hold in place for a few minutes or use a big wood clamp if you have one. (I just held everything for 30 seconds of so, then let it dry for another 5 minutes.)

Here's the hardware I used. 

Once the glue is dry, put the rack up on one end, and nail each shelf in place through the side pieces. I used 2 nails per shelf per side. 

Now secure you hangers. I used picture hangers attached to the side pieces (it is wicked hard to nail into those tracks!), then secured with a nail. 

My 5 finished racks.

Hung and waiting! Don't mind the messy room. :)

Racks full of trains! Trains not on the floor! 

Max loves them. The horrible part? I have to make more! Ack!

Anyway, there you have it! Now, I think if you tried hard enough you could find the wooden track material without the male and female ends so you wouldn't have to do the cutting and gluing, but I went with what's readily available. You could also make these with just flat boards, but I know from experience the trains don't stay on very well. They also make road-style tracks if your little one is car-crazy instead of train-crazy. 

I hope you enjoy this and it helps your house as much as it's helped mine! Send us pictures!