Monday, October 28, 2013

Kid's Spider Costume

Hey! Today's not my usual post day, but since I'm sharing a costume tutorial, I thought I should try and get it up as soon as possible in case anyone still needs a costume. Max decided about 2 months ago to be Bob the Builder for Halloween. Cool! Easy costume - I just got him a red plaid shirt and some overalls. He already had the hard hat, tools, and toolbelt. Done! In hindsight, I celebrated too soon. I shouldn't have been surprised when about a week ago he announced he was now going to be a spider. *sigh* Spider it is. It was actually a pretty easy costume to make, so in case you're in need of a last-minute arachnid, here's how I did it...

1 black hooded sweatshirt
2 pairs black pants (one to wear, one to cut)
polyfill (or similar) stuffing
white yarn
white felt
puffy paint or fabric markers
needle & thread

What to do
Take one pair of black pants and turn them inside out. I used a pair a few size too small for Max.
Stitch a long line just off from the middle, then sew a curved bottom to close. Now sew a second long line, about 1/4" from the first, and a curved bottom to close. Now you have 2 spider legs from 1 pant leg! Repeat for the other leg.
I didn't take a picture of this step, so here's a sketch of what you want to do:

Cut carefully between the long lines, around the curved bottom, then across the top. Now you have a nice pile of spider legs. Turn them right side out.

Time to stuff! I went for squishy enough to hold their shape, but not stiff. 

Now sew the legs closed. You could use a machine for this, but I just did it by hand. Turn the edges inside and sew across.

Now sew 2 legs to each side, under the arms. You could certainly make it look nicer than I did, but I had an ulterior motive. I want the hoodie to be reclaimed as a regular hoodie after Halloween, so I wanted everything sewed on enough to last the week, but not really any longer. So it's sewed on tight, but I didn't worry about being very neat. I also only tied the thread to itself, not the sweatshirt  to minimize the disassembly and potential holes.

Now you'll want the stuffed arms to move with the kiddo's arms, so we add some "webbing." For this, I just used some white yarn, and basically made a loop, stitching through top and bottom, then tied it off. I did 2 loops between each arm, er, leg, er, limb.

Ok! That was the hard part - it's pretty quick from here. 

Now for some eyes. You could skip this, but Max was pretty insistent on the 8 eyes. He picked a pattern for the eyeballs, then we each drew a set in puffy paint of white felt. I really love that Max made a set too. When they were dry I let him pick which set we would sew on. He picked his. They may not look quite as neat, but I love how proud he is to have made part of his costume. I mostly only made my set in case he freaked out about his not being perfect, which he totally would have last year.

You could do this with fabric markers instead of puffy paint, and wouldn't have to wait for it to dry.

Ok, now sew the eyes in place! Just add pants and you have a happy spider. :)

Here's my happy spider (minus the black pants - we'll get those on for Halloween though).

I hope you have a spooktacular Halloween! If you need something even quicker, check out last year's Minion Hat Tutorial.


Friday, October 25, 2013

OOOOhoooh baby baby, baby baby

Well, I officially win the award for worst blogger in Tansy Dolls Land. (You didn't know there were awards for the worst? Well, there are. I imagine they look like my shrivelled aspirations for kicking ass at consistency.)

Anywho, Cady and Robin have faithfully brought you interesting stories, recipes, and fun ideas to inspire you week after week - and that's one of the many reasons I love these 2 girls - they got my back.

Did you know that every doll we make (and I mean every) is a collaboration between the 3 of us? Robin sews all the bodies and sweet outfits, Cady crochets the adorable sweaters, boots, and even the wig caps, while I handle all the face embroidering and hair color choices. I couldn't really imagine trying to make dolls without those 2 beautiful gals. We work together so well and I am truly grateful to have two awesomely talented friends I get to dream with.

This brings me to my point tonight (yes, there is one! I know, I'm shocked too.)

A few weeks ago we decided to take our relationship to the next level. We decided to get serious. As we gazed into each others eyes we knew the time had come.

We were ready to make a baby together.

Introducing Scarlett Mae, a baby born from a pattern designed by the amazing Jenn at Lali Doll.
It's Scarlett's birthday, let's welcome her to the world!

Why, hello blue eyes!
Scarlett Mae is a 14" button-jointed baby doll made from the finest clean carded wool and imported DWE cotton.
a nice shot of her fox beanie
She has peach skin and platinum blond mohair wefts that are sewn securely in layers and ready to be styled in any way you'd like. She has big bright aqaumarine eyes, sweet little ears, and warm blushed cheeks.
just look at that hair! Gah!!
Scarlett Mae has a pinch-able lil' bum and also a belly button on her round tummy.

I like doll butts and I cannot lie...
Her orange pacifier is magnetic and will stick to her mouth by itself.

check out those baby blues
She comes wearing this amazing fox outfit as well as an extra diaper in a snazzy blue fox & mushroom print.
here's a close-up of her other diaper - do you see the fox? :)
 Scarlett can sit all by herself and can't wait to play pat-a-cake with you.

Unless, of course, she is escaping her pram again - rascal!
 Our dolls are made with love and special attention to detail by Robin, Lesley, and Cady.
Every Tansy Doll is handmade with care and is unique in its own beauty. Our dolls are loved and come with a teeny-tiny birth certificate with care instructions.

my daughter has already requested (and designed) 3 for Xmas, I think I'm going to be a busy mama.
There will be more babies coming very soon! Hey, making babies is fun! (Can I get an "Amen, sister?")

In the meantime, contact us at: hello(at) if you have any questions or want to make a baby with us. ;)

Our site is: and our fb page is: if you'd like to keep in touch (we do love our giveaways and super discounts, just sayin')

Have a wonderful night everyone,

Toadstools and mushrooms

I'm watching my beautiful niece today so I'll leave you with some fabulous pictures of toadstools and mushrooms from our last family outdoors adventure! Phil thought it was amusing that I took so many pics but I was amazed by the variety!  The shrooms were out in full force.

Anyhow, I have no idea what any of these fungi are, but I'd love to hear if you know!

I don't have a clue what these are but they are rather pretty and interesting. 

And finally not a toadstool or mushroom but just as neat and beautiful.  Aria does ballet in the woods! 


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Giggly Grab Bag

It's another grab-bag day! Mostly I just want to share some cool stuff with you. I hope you find something that makes you smile. :)

There's a lot of cool stuff (and a lot of junk) on YouTube. One of my favorite channels is Geek & Sundry, which I definitely think you should check out. One of the wonderful shows they do is called Written by a Kid, and it's exactly what it sounds like; a little kid tells a story and a fabulous crew of actors, animators, etc bring it to life. Here's one of my favorites:

I also very much love ThinkGeek and would happily waste thousands of dollars there if I could. Here's a few choice bits:

Elemensus: Periodic Table Spelling Board Game Buy

It's like Scrabble but way geekier! Instead of plain ole' letters you spell words with chemical symbols from the periodic table. If that's not geeky enough for you, the board is a picture of the Orion constellation.

Magic Wand - Programmable TV Remote Buy
Look! What a pretty magic wand. But wait! It's not just a pretty wand, it's also a programmable TV remote which you then use to control your electronics. Like magic! I mean, come on - that's seriously cool.

I'm also very excited about 3D printers right now. In fact, I'm in the middle of building one with and for my students. This is pretty much the one we're building:
The Pursa Mendel  More Info
3D printers are really cool. Here's a great article that talks about both the silliness and wonderful potential wrapped up in these printers. I'm having so much fun building it! And I can't wait to print! The hard part is going to be deciding where to start. 

And let's wrap up with a funny. This isn't really a video, it's actually part of the radio program Car Talk.  But it's completely hilarious. Trust me, just give it a listen. Maybe somewhere that people won't mind you laughing so loud you cry. 

Ok, that will do for today. What wonderful stuff are you enjoying?


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Apple Butter and Pumpkin Pie

It's Fall! It's colder out, the ground is covered in leaves, Halloween is coming, and that all means Fall has definitely arrived. We've planned our trip to the pumpkin patch, and I'm diligently working on my holiday gift list.

Fall also means one of my favorite foods, apples, are in season and I'm in the mood for more cooking and canning. Mom has a generous apple tree, so she brought over many pounds of apples, casually mentioning that it would be nice to receive some apple butter for Christmas. Done!

I have a favorite apple butter recipe, which seems to be a crowd pleaser, so I thought I'd share that with you today. Then, once you've got all the apple butter what do you do with it? Now, I like it on toast, or mixed into plain yogurt, or spread on banana bread, but possibly my favorite is to use it in Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie, so that recipe is here too. Enjoy!

Apple Butter in the Crockpot

5-6 lb. apples (any kind, but I tend to prefer the sweet and crunchy ones - not granny smiths or red delicious)
1/2 cup apple juice or water
1 cup sugar (brown or white)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp nutmeg

Peel & core apples. Place all ingredients in crockpot/slow cooker and cover.
Heat on high 1-3 hours. Turn to low and heat 8-12 hours more.
Remove cover, blend with immersion blender or in batches in a stand up blender. (Careful! It's really hot!)
Cook uncovered on low another 1-2 hours.
To store, either process pint jars in a water bath canner for 10 minutes (see Canning with Kids for instructions), or cool to room temp, then refrigerate or freeze. I usually put at least a few 2 cup portions in the freezer to have ready for the pie that's coming up next.

5-6 lb. apples, peeled & cored. Dump in slow cooker. 

Add everything else. I always use fresh grated nutmeg 'cause you just can't match that smell. :)

This goopy mess is about half done.

Time to get the blender!

Finished and waiting to be eaten or stored!

I know pumpkin pie is a Fall and especially holiday tradition for an awful lot of people, but I've never really been a fan. I've made and tasted plenty of versions, but it's just not my thing. Or at least it wasn't until I tried Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie. I tried it on a whim a few years ago because I was making a nice traditional Thanksgiving dinner and felt there should be some pumpkin pie, even if it's not my favorite. I came across this recipe by Paula Dean and figured it was worth a try. I made a couple of adjustments, but not many. The biggest one is that I always make 2 pies. The second one is good for gifting or freezing! Here's my version. Enjoy!

Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie

2 cups Apple Butter (that's a 1 pint jar)
2 cups pureed pumpkin (bake and mash, or use a 15 oz. can)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp salt
6 eggs, lightly beaten
12 oz evaporated milk
2 pie shells
* If you use plain apple butter, you'll want to add some spices. 1/2 tsp cinnamon  1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 ground ginger is a nice combo, but adjust to your tastes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine apple butter, pumpkin, brown sugar, and salt.
Stir in eggs.
Slowly stir in milk. Be gentle with it as you want a smooth consistency, not a mixture full of bubbles.
Pre-bake crusts for 5-10 minutes. (This is optional - I just can't stand soggy crusts, so I hedge my bets.) Remove and pour mixture equally into each shell. You can cover the crust edges in tinfoil if they tend to burn.
Bake 40 minutes, or until set.
You really don't want to over-bake these. The standard test is to insert a knife between the edge and center - if it comes out clean it's done. But I never do this, because now you have an ugly knife cut in your pie! Instead, I place it on the counter and shake the pan gently, or tap the side. The filling should look like custard or jello, not liquid. There should be a bit of jiggling in the center, but that's it. If it's bubbling, turning brown, or pulling away from the edges it's starting to get over-done - cool immediately!
I like to serve it room temperature with fresh whipped cream.

To go Dairy Free, you only need to sub out the evaporated milk. You can make a lactose free version by simmering soy milk until it reduces and gets thicker. Just make sure to start with way more than you need so that you have enough after evaporation.

To go Gluten Free, just sub out the crust for a GF version. There are some readily available mixes these days, or you can make your own. You can also skip the crust entirely, bake the filling in ramekins and serve it as a custard instead!

This is just the apple butter, pumpkin, sugar, and salt. It should be smooth and dark brown. 

When you stir in the eggs it lightens in color and the consistency gets a lot thicker. 

Add milk slowly while stirring to minimize bubbles. 

2 pies are better than 1!

These have a tiny bit of cracking on top, so I probably left them a few minutes too long. I also should have followed my own advice and covered the edges in tinfoil. Oh well! Plus the extra went in ramekins to be baked custard instead. 

I hope these goodies help round out your holiday meal, or at least make your house smell like Fall. :)


Friday, October 11, 2013

Mental Health Awareness Week

It's Mental Health Awareness Week.  If you follow Tansy Doll regularly or know me in real life, you might know that I'm a full time doctoral student and that I focus on mental health policy. Follow this link to Kimchi Mamas where I talk about mental health and my struggles with social interactions.
Cranes in a window sill of a bus on a Rainy Portland day.  It brought a smile to my face. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Drama on the toy aisle

Yesterday I linked a great article over on our Tansy DollsFacebook page. The article is from the New York Times and called “Why Are There Still So Few Women in Science?” written by Eileen Pollack. In the realm of online news bites, it's pretty long, but it's very worth the read and I hope you do so. The article looks at why women are still not pursuing STEM careers in the numbers we might hope for. We like to think that gender discrimination is falling by the wayside, but there is insidious bias that is still causing lots of problems for lots of women. 

It starts young. Go to The very first choices listed on the left are Boys' Toys and Girls' Toys. Because evidently they can't play with the same things? There are many of the same categories in each list, like Arts & Crafts, Building Sets, and Musical Instruments. However, boys get Vehicles, Hobby & R/C, while girls get Bath, Beauty & Accessories. And once you enter the categories they both have, the differences remain stark. 
This hexbug set is in the Boys' Hobby section, a category that Girls' don't even get.
Why wouldn't girls want to play with little robots? Link

Boys' Building Sets have 45 results, with lots of Lego, K'Nex, even a solar-powered vehicle. The Girls' Building Sets come up with 18 results, the page awash in pink, with results from Lego Friends, Barbie, and Hello Kitty. Boys' Pretend Play includes tools, spy gear, trucks, bugs, and pirates. Girls' Pretend Play has kitchens, play food, dress up, shopping, baby doll accessories, make-up, and jewelry. 
This light up runway is one of the "building sets" in the Girls' section. Link
Those are pretty clear messages about what we expect from boys and girls. And the messages don't stop in the toy store. Clothes, activities, books, everywhere you look we're sending very different messages to our boys and girls about what they could and should do and learn. How can we be surprised if they start to take those messages to heart?

The article also talks about how we've internalized these messages ourselves. Even the women researchers tended to rate females below males. So while we're trying to send the message that all our kids can be whatever they want to be, we have to look pretty critically at ourselves too. That's never easy. It's hard to believe that we would ever act on discriminatory views, but if we don't keep such things in our thoughts that's how it happens. 


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Money Matters

Today's post is titled money matters and I don't mean that money matters although it certainly does if we are talking about paying the bills but rather that today's post is about money, teaching Aria about fiscal responsibility, and other related issues.

We aren't rolling in the dough over here.  In fact, Aria is on Medicaid because our income is relatively low and while we are doing better now, it wasn't too long ago that we relied on SNAP benefits to keep groceries in the house.  That said, we also have it pretty good compared to the majority of the folks living in the world and a good portion of the low income families living in the U.S.  Aria doesn't want for toys, food, clothing, or extracurricular activities.  And actually our problem isn't that she doesn't have enough; its that I think she has too much.  To be fair, the same could probably be said of her mother...ahem, who has accumulated so many craft supplies that there isn't room in the apartment to stash it all away neatly.  

I've been working on destashing and getting more control over the clutter.  Its a work in progress, but every few months I attempt to purge the house of a few boxes of stuff.  My favorite donation organization is Vietnam Veterans of America.  My pops is a Vietnam veteran so there's that connection but they also pick up the stuff you want to donate.  Seriously, how cool is that?  You schedule a pick-up online, put the stuff outside the morning of your scheduled pick-up date and sometime during the day these marvelous folks show up and haul it all away for you.  

Of course controlling output doesn't do much good if you don't control input as well.  So, I'm working on that currently.  I've been more critical about whether I truly need more fabric or if I something in my stash that will suffice.  Again, its a work in progress and I have a LOT more work to do in that particular arena.

My other challenge though is getting Aria on board.  She's a kid so getting rid of toys is not exactly high on her list of priorities.  I could sneak into her room late at night or while she is with Grams and purge her room myself. I have a pretty good handle on the toys that she actually plays with but something feels not quite right about that for our family.  I know parents that do it and by all means if it works for their family, who am I to judge?  For our family though, I truly feel that Aria has a right to know that her stuff is being sent away and more importantly that she should have a say and some amount of control of what, where, and when stuff that belongs to her is sent off.  
Somewhat gratuitous photo of my sweet child.  Awesome legwarmers made by Kam Pierce.
By the way reasoning with a five year old about this is a lesson in futility.  Heh.  Anyhow, I stumbled across something that is actually working fairly well for us.  So, I thought I'd share.  It doesn't necessarily mean that it will work for your family or even that it is a good fit for your family values but that this is what works for us in this moment and while I despise judgmental, you must do it this way if you want to be a good parent, posts...I absolutely love posts where people simply share what works for them.  

First off, I figured out probably a year ago that when it comes to Aria having too much stuff, the problem isn't Aria...its me.  I was buying her little toys here and there, not truly stopping long enough to realize that she was accumulating a mass of material goods.  So I instituted an allowance and our general rule of thumb is that if Aria wants something she has to buy it herself.  The exception I make is food and the occasional frozen yogurt outing.  If Aria wants a toy or candy, she has to pay for it with her own money.  This succeeded in accomplishing two things.  First, I stopped buying things for her randomly and second, she is a lot more discriminate about how money is spent.  Oh wait...there's a third...our outings to stores are a lot more pleasant.  Very rarely do I have to listen to her whine incessantly about wanting or needing some toy or candy bar.

I am pretty happy with how it has controlled input but we were/are still sitting on a huge stash of toys and books, most of which she largely ignores.  Then one day Aria fell in love with a 10" Blossom Doll named Rosy.
The doll that won Aria's heart.
I imagine that sometimes it must be hard to see your moms craft up all sorts of wonderful things that you aren't allowed to play with.  All of our kids are pretty good about it.  They each have their own Tansy Doll so its not like we deprive them but still...there are a lot of dollies they see but know full well don't belong to them.  As per our new shopping rules, Aria was told that she would have to save up her allowance if she wanted Rosy or a doll like Rosy.  Except if you do the math even at $5.00 a week, it would take her almost 5 months of not spending a dime to be able to afford the doll. Five months to a five year old might as well be five years or fifty.  To help her reach her goal sooner, I decided that for certain chores (not the ones she is responsible for already) she could earn a little money. Its been working well.  BUT the best idea I have come up with yet is that for every medium sized bin she fills with neglected toys to give away, she can earn $10. So essentially its a buy back program.

And so far I love how its working.  Aria has a lot of control over what she keeps and doesn't keep.  She gets to decide if a toy she hasn't played with for 10 months is worth keeping or putting in the giveaway bin to help her buy Rosy or a Rosy look-a-like.  She's happy.  I'm happy.  And 2 months after starting this whole adventure, Aria's toy stash is getting smaller and more manageable AND she's only $15 away from reaching her goal.  I have a feeling that by next week, she'll be snuggling up with Rosy.

How do you teach your kids or the kids in your life about money and fiscal responsibility?  I'd love to hear as I'm always open to trying new things.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Chili Night

I don't know about where you are, but fall has definitely arrived in Portland. Leaves have changed, temperatures are dropping, and the rain has rolled in. Max is pretty happy. He's definitely a Pacific Northwest kid - dancing in the rain, stomping in mud, and thrilled about it.

It's also brought my first cold of the season, which is less exciting, but the weather is making me crave warm and hearty meals. In case you're in search of the same, I bring you a delicious recipe!

Kindergarten has made Max more adventurous with food. Last week he came home and demanded to know why I didn't make him chili. I decided not to mention that the last time I made it he refused to try a bite, and instead ran out for ingredients. This recipe is from my Mom (thanks Mom!) and is both easy and delicious. It's not very spicy, but you can probably up the spice kick if you want. Enjoy!

2 lb. ground beef
1 onion, diced
1-3 ribs celery, chopped
1-2 carrots, diced
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp salt
1-2 tsp cumin
1-2 tsp coriander
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato soup
1 can red kidney beans
1 can pinto beans
1 bottle beer

In a large pot, cook the beef and onion, covered, until no pink remains.
Add the celery, carrot, and spices; cook until dry.
Add remaining ingredients and simmer for at least 1 hour.

This is even better made ahead and then reheated. At my house we then serve it over rice with your choice of toppings. My favorite is a bit of sour cream and sliced avocado. Here are some topping ideas:

Grated cheese
Sour Cream
Tortilla chips
Green onions
Black olives
Roasted corn
Hot sauce

When the meat and onion are done, add the veggies and spices.
Add everything else!
All done and being served over rice.   :)

I hope this one's a hit at your house too! And happy Fall!