Save Handmade Toys

I am guessing that if you read my blog, or blogs like it you have an affinity for handmade goods.  Within a few short weeks that may all change.

In wake of the lead paint fiasco that rocked the toy world last year the government is attempting to implement safeguards.

Terribly misguided safeguards that have the ability to decimate the handmade  movement.
Making anything intended for children under the age of 12 will become illegal without costly independent testing.

Testing for lead and other dangerous chemicals.
Chemicals that crafters avoid already.
So, if I wanted to make a blanket or tee for a new little one?
Hair clip?
Soft stuffed bear?

One of the reasons I began to buy handmade was not only to support independent crafters, but to find safer alternatives to toys in the stores.  It seems so insane to me that these same safe, natural and lovingly handmade goods are now considered potentially dangerous.

Let you voice be heard and take a stand for handmade.
Click here for simple things that you can do to make a change.
One person can make a difference.

I am overwhelmed and exhausted, yet tremendously happy. 

So very thankful for my family and friends and the many celebrations we have all shared.
We are trying to do our best to teach our girls 
simplicity in the midst of excess.

It is not always easy.

Before I had kids a dear friend shared with me what her family does for Christmas.
Each of their children receive 
three gifts.
Just like Jesus received three gifts from the wise men.

I knew that would be a tradition we would adopt in the future.
Halley and Lucy are excited about their three gifts (pajamas, a doll and these pettiskirts).  Excited to be like Jesus.  
I have been quietly brainwashing them since birth.  
But, I am sure they would be happy with just one.

Their favorite part of Christmas is making a birthday cake for Jesus.
(Don't underestimate the power of Betty Crocker.)

So as you are putting away the millionth toy that is soon to be forgotten, think of Jesus and and the wise men.  Bad economy or good, it is nice to take the focus off of the "stuff" and put it back upon the real and lasting gift that is our Savior.

Merry CHRISTmas!

My amazing husband is the Christmas card letter writer every year and today he is the honorary guest blogger.

If anyone’s seen the movie “Christmas vacation,” they know that a guy by the name of Clark Griswold put so many Christmas lights on his house that it could be seen from outer space. Now I’ve been called a lot worse in life, but most people that have seen our house this season have walked up to me and said, “Hey, it’s Clark Griswold!” We’ve got a faux tree lot, a 10 ft. blown up archway, a merry go round, a snowman, an animated Grinch and Charlie Brown popping out of chimneys, reindeer, 5 Christmas trees, 3 different manger scenes, music playing, blanketed snow everywhere, a huge Merry Christmas sign, and of course lights. Lots of lights. But I wanted an item that would put us “over the top.” Something spectacular. Something no one else had. Something jaw dropping. Well, thanks to my brilliant, computer savvy wife, she found the item that would take everything to a new level: A snow machine! After attaching it to the roof, I brought the family out and had them stand in the driveway, right next to the manger scene with baby Jesus in it. I told Halley and Lucy that they have to yell as loud as they could, “Let it snow!,” and then it would start snowing. After the most beautiful/ ear-piercing/ shouting at the top of their lungs/ how is it possible for two little children to be so loud scream, I turned it on and... it started snowing!!!... in Southern California!!! This “silly” little miracle reminded me of that special night over 2,000 years ago. After the angel announced to the shepherds that they should be looking for a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger, something MUCH louder than the screams of a 2 & 4 year old made history... At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing and shouting God’s praises:

“Glory to God in the highest! Peace to all 
men and women on earth who please Him!”

Can you imagine what it sounded like? Can you imagine what it would’ve been like to witness the miracle of Christ, and the roar of armies of angels, singing and shouting? Joy to the world! The Lord has come! I’ll bet those shepherds never forgot that night. How about you? Do you remember why Christmas is CHRISTmas? If you stop and listen, you can still hear the angels, and all of creation pointing to a God who loved the world so much that He gave His Son. And oh yeah, you can probably hear our girls screaming too. “Let it snow!”

This is our house.
Just doing our part to keep the electric company in business 
and to keep Christmas cheer alive in our city.

Tonight I got around to finally making ornaments.  They can stay on the tree for about 24 hours.  Nice planning.  But I am so happy with them that it could be 24 minutes and I would still be happy.
I bookmarked this tutorial in October from Sycamore Stirrings.  I had grand plans to make dozens of these little cuties for all of the relatives.
Didn't happen.
I finally got around to taking pictures a few days ago.
I didn't have any printable fabric.
I didn't have time to hand embroider each one.
What I did have was one sheet of dark t-shirt iron on transfer paper.
Fun pink zebra fabric.
Ribbon and dingle balls (not the technical name, but that's what I call them.)
I pulled the pictures into Picnik to write their names and the year, printed them out on the iron on transfer paper and sewed away.

If only I knew how much I would love making these.  I could literally make dozens and dozens.  There is always next year.

Welcome to my tree.
Enjoy a tour of a few of my favorite ornaments.
Stay until the end and watch me mock my innocent daughter.

Crystal made us these girly pink snowglobe ornaments.  Love them.  This tour is inspired by her post here.

A precious family from our church sends us a crystal star every year.  They look so gorgeous with the lights.

My personal favorite for so many reasons.  The girls want to use it to give their dolls coffee.  Hands off kids!  It's mama's!

This is from a zillion years ago to commemorate our first Christmas.  I am the nerd with the book and Jason is the one playing drums.  15 years later, it is much the same.

It couldn't be Christmas without Star Wars represented!

If you haven't read Olive the Other Reindeer you simply must.  Just whatever you do, don't watch the movie.  (Sorry Drew Barrymore, you were awful.)

One of my first experiences at a photo studio and thankfully my best.  Love these girls in their red dresses.

The year we moved into our first house, the city sent these to all of the residents.  Our tree was pretty bare, but this ornament meant so much to us as newlyweds.

Ditched the photo studio for a little beach shot.  Lulu still doesn't have hair, one year later.  Poor girl.

Joy is represented in so many ways on our tree.

This appeared on our doorstep one year.  I still don't know who left it, but I am so thankful.  It is such a wonderful reminder when we are missing her.

Both of the girls got these mouse hats from their aunt to commemorate our near weekly trips to Disneyland.  

Do you like this tree?
Stop laughing!

I was foolishly lured into the Wal-Mart "portrait" studio while shopping with Lucy one day.  The "photographer" had just bought some new costumes and wanted to try them out.  Since I am overly concerned with hurting complete stranger's feelings,  I obliged her.  She stuffed my 8 month old daughter into this hideous Christmas tree bunting mess and began snapping away.  Luckily for all parties involved, Lucy hardly complained.  You know who complained?  The pushy photographer who was horrified that I wouldn't throw down $100 for a picture package.  All I could handle spending was $4.95 for a sheet of wallets to document this random and laughable experience.  Too bad the studio was recently replaced with a McDonalds.  I wonder if they make the tree costumes in adult sizes.  That would be a Christmas card that people would talk about!  

No, it isn't these two's publicity seeking faux-mance and faux wedding...
(Yes.  They are "volunteering" at Taco Bell to fight hunger.  Seriously.)
Can you tell that I just watched the season finale of The Hills?

It's me.

I have a nasty cold and my first line of attack is always garlic.
Stinky, potent, pungent garlic to fight the germs.
Call me crazy, but in college when I had no health insurance, a pre- med student (who probably dropped out and became a personal trainer) gave me advice (not sure if it is medical or not) that has worked miracles for me since.

Med school guy:  "Dude, just go over to the bagel shop, get a garlic bagel with garlic cream cheese and you'll feel it kicking the @#%& out of the bacteria."
Me:  "Um, thanks.... dude..... I will give it a try... I think."

Because doctors always call girls "dude" and cuss unnecessarily.

 I strangely took his advice.  A $3 bagel sounded like an easier investment than a pricey doctor's visit.

Besides, I love garlic.  It involves no suffering on my behalf.  I could eat it every day.  He might as well prescribed ice cream.  Jason on the other hand feels differently.  He hates it.  
All winter I have been fighting colds and eating garlic bagels.  He has been silently (or not so silently) suffering.  But today while I slept in, he went to the bagel shop and brought home a bag of stinky bagels and garlic cream cheese.  (Although immediately upon returning he double ziploc bagged them and put them in the living room.)  He really, really loves me.  But that doesn't mean he wants to get too close to me either.
To make me even more cuddly, my ears hurt like crazy, so what do I reach for?  Garlic oil.  It is magical.  Instant relief.  I even use it on the girls.  Nothing like a toddler who smells like an Italian restaurant.  So I might sleep on the couch in all of my garlic glory, but at least I know that I will wake up a little bit healthier.
Maybe I should light some candles.

My goal of making every present this year isn't going exactly as planned.
But, other people can help right?
Imagine my happiness when I came across Little Brown Pen late last night.
Amazing.  Brilliant.  Charming.  Perfect.
All you need is a printer, cardstock, a paper cutter and ribbon.
Instantly I can make fun calendars without all of the graphic design knowledge that I lack.

Head over here to watch a charming video on how to make and assemble all of the goodies from Little Brown Pen.  They are also having a mix and match sale of three items for $10!  Insane.  My printer is going to be running all night. I might just be printing myself a calendar.  Can you guess which one?

As the girls nap and I am making 
cake I am so thankful.
The Christmas cards are in the mail.
I am letting myself be lazy.
I fixed the broken van door by myself.  Take that Toyota dealer!
I am not going to cry about my malfunctioning lens.
The sun is shining, but it is still cold enough to wear a scarf.

Best of all...
We will be celebrating Jesus' Birthday in only five days.
I simply cannot wait.

No wait, I am a huge liar.

Today was the opposite of amazing.
But instead of listing my drama, I am posting my favorite picture of Jason and Halley ever.
Because they make me happy.  Because they are happy.

Halley has suddenly realized that the girls in this family will soon outnumber the boys 4 to 1 (or 4 to 2 if you count the dog).
So she shouts "yay girls!" and follows it by "oh, poor Daddy!"
He didn't sign up for a house full of girls, but he has an amazing way to make even the girly-girliest Halley interested in Star Wars and USC football.  It's a gift.

I am not a real bow maker.

I wish I was, but some things come easy for me and other things, well, not so much.
But I love bows and I have learned enough to fake it.
I would love to share some tricks that I use, but there are billions of others who are so much more amazing than me.

But, you kindly asked so I will share the reality of my bow experiences.

Here's the deal:

Making your own bows does not save money.  Ribbon is expensive unless you buy it in 100 yd. spools and you will never use up a spool that big unless you are a full time bow maker.  I usually use at least four types of ribbon per bow, so if I am lucky each pair costs me about $10- $12 for the ribbon alone.  Then I have a bunch left over. I used to make bows for gifts with the extra ribbon, but you need to know if the recipient is a"bow girl" (you are or you aren't).  I made the mistake of giving bows to non-bow girls and have never seen them worn.  Lesson learned. At least Halley can pass her bows down to Lucy (if she ever grows hair) and then Lucy can pass them down to Janey, so the investment isn't so crazy when looking at it that way.

Sorry for that trip to Debbie Downerville.  
I just want to be real and honest and share my experiences.  So many tutorials have grand claims of how you can have an instant bow business and be the most unbelievable bow maker ever with a few easy steps.  
I dare you to type in hair bow in the Ebay or Etsy search box.  There are thousands and thousands of listings.  There are also thousands and thousands of instructions you can buy.  I foolishly bought one, didn't like it, bought another, ditto, bought a third, same problem... before figuring out that I could Google "hair bow instructions" and get them for free.  Oops.

If I haven't scared you off yet, here is how I make Halley's bows.  I use a few simple tools (legit bow makers would call them "crutches", but I am all for whatever gets the job done) that will be a small initial investment, but will help keep frustration at bay.  I have tried sewing them, wiring them, measuring them, but nothing has been as easy and reliable as this method.

I use this wooden bow maker every time.  It keeps the loops even and consistent, even when I am not.  The white plastic clip is called a Gator Bite (expensive but worth it) and it has made a world of difference.  I wrap the ribbon around the wooden dowels, cut it where it seems long enough, and then clip it with the Gator Bite.  I usually make 3 of these with different 1.5 inch ribbons for each bow.

This ribbon is the best.  Affordable, semi-invisible and holds like crazy.  I get it at Jo-anns but I am sure you can find similar ribbon anywhere.  You will want the 1/4" size.  This is the step that I used to hand sew and it took forever.

I take the bow off of the dowels and thread the organza ribbon through the Gator Bite.  One quick knot and viola... bow!
Simple, even, cute, quick.  Now make two more from your other ribbon.

Then I stack the three bows on top of each other, hot gluing in between.  I then take a 1/4" coordinating ribbon, thread it through a fabric covered button and wrap it around all three bows.

More hot glue to attach it to the french clip and then run a bead of glue along the whole clip and press it onto the bottom bow.  Watch out.  It's hot!
I clip the ends of each bow so they are even and then run a lighter along the raw edges to seal them.

The top clip is called a french clip.  I strongly recommend them for any type of big bows.  You need the extra hold, especially if your daughter's hair is fine.
The bottom clip is an alligator clip and is best used for tiny clippies for baby hair or to hold bangs back.  They really can't support the big fluffy bows. (I learned the hard way.)
Lastly, if you want to be super fancy, stuff each loop of your bows with white tissue paper and spray the heck out of them with this stuff.  I found it at Michael's in the the glue aisle.  They will be very full and look like you got them from an expensive boutique.  I don't do this step very often, but it makes a huge difference when I do.

So that's it.
Are you going to try to make a few?
If not, head over here, here, here or here to have some fabulous pros make them for you.

Meet my new BFF.

The one thing that gets a huge chunk of my time two times a week.
More than my friends, more than just about anything else.
One of the reasons that I am behind on so many projects.

Just me and the machine.  Spending a ton of quality time.  Listening to baby's heartbeat and clicking her wild movements.

Can't find me?  I'm not answering my phone?  Chances are I am rocking a non-stress test.  All while nestled in the extraordinary comfort of a mauve pleather recliner.  

We only have a few more meetings.  Until then, thanks for helping take care of my little girl! 

Movie tickets in my hood are $11.50.

That means for Jason and I to go see a movie it is $23 dollars.

$23, assuming that we get fabulous free babysitting from the grandparents and accidently bring our own food and drinks. (What, we would never!  There is no way I have an actual purse that I use specifically for the movies.  That would be wrong.)

Is it worth $23?
Actually, is it worth $22?

Each time we think about seeing a movie we ask ourselves this question:  $22 or Red Box?

With a little patience and $1 we can see the same movie while the girls are quietly sleeping and not break any "outside food or drink" rules.

Besides, has there even been a movie worth $22 lately?

What I would rather spend $22 on...
2 lbs. of Starbucks Coffee 
A new purse
Anything from Etsy
10% of this lens

Count me in for a Red Box!  Count me out on the $22 wasted dollars.

Okay, so I didn't invent this.

It isn't rocket science.
But it is so easy and adds simple charm all year round.

Take a mason jar (I love me a mason jar.)
or spaghetti sauce jar,
or wine bottle.
Stuff in a pack of Christmas lights with the plug sticking out the top.
Plug it in.
Add wire or ribbon to the top to be fancy.


You can probably find everything you need right now and have your own little firefly lamp without spending a penny.


I have a friend who is a math teacher and thus passionate about numbers.
According to her strange theories there are ugly numbers and pretty numbers.
She convinced her OB to schedule her c-section on a Saturday so her daughter's birthday would be 06/07/08.  Seriously.

She thinks 11 is an ugly number.

I am not a math teacher, and I happen to love 11.
Because it is my birthday.
It is also exactly two weeks from Christmas.

So in honor of number 11...

hooray for

For leaving the 11th comment.

Email me your addy QUICK!
I am finding it really, really hard to resist the Candy Cane Jo-jo's.

Thanks to all of you for sending your sweet birthday wishes.
I had an amazing day.
Lots of love, presents, and chocolate.
I love birthdays!