Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rent your Toys

My daughter, at around age 2, had already accumulated a generous assortment of toys. Then her brother came along, and the collection grew...and grew...

It's funny how too many toys can be worse than too few. Having too many things seems to overwhelm kids. I found it worked well to pack away lots of them and rotate them so there were "new" things to play with every month or so.

I wish I'd known about BabyPlays. This is like NetFlix for toys. Sign up for the plan that works for you—decide how many toys per box, how long you want to keep them, and how long you want to commit to a plan—and choose toys for your wish list. Then wait for your first box to arrive. Keep toys for the time specified by your plan, and ship back when you want a new box. Drop off postage paid boxes at FedEx. It's simple, it saves money, it's "green" because you're sharing toys with lots of other families. What a cool idea!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What have you taught today?

Once when I was a little kid (preschooler, I think), I was out running errands with my mom. I was sporting a handmade dress and a friendly adult asked me, "Did your mommy make that for you?" I proudly answered, "No, my Daddy did!"

My dad isn't a tailor, and he's no Tim Gunn, either. He loves sailing, and learned to sew so he could fashion canvas into sails. (And, okay, made some threads for the toddlers, too.) About ten years after I bragged on his stitching skills, he bought me a sewing machine and taught me how to sew. I was thinking about him last weekend as I logged the millionth hour on that machine, putting together the first of many handmade Christmas gifts. I thought about how much I enjoy using it, and how thankful I am that he took the time to teach me.

This is no small thing, teaching someone how to do something, but I sometimes think we've lost sight of just how important it is. Of course we understand the practicality of it: think of the Chinese Proverb, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." But it has an impact much greater than the vocational. Imagine how different your life would be if you hadn't been taught to read. For those of us lucky enough to have been taught about music, writing, and art, imagine life without these means of expression. Think about how much richer your life is with all the things that you know about, how your knowledge and skills have shaped who you are. Then think about the people who took the time to share what they knew so you could know it, too.

My brother-in-law lived with his grandparents after he graduated from college. Before he left for graduate school he gave his computer to his 80-year-old grandfather. Then he taught him how to use it. Grandpop stayed in touch with family from all over the world, getting pictures and updates that kept him connected until the end of his life. What a generous gift! Imagine all the things you know that could help someone else, maybe even change their life. What are you waiting for?!

I follow a group of people on Twitter and recently considered dropping it altogether because of scheduling. (I have lots of things to do that require me to Step Away From The Computer, and it's just plain addictive to read what other people are thinking and doing all day.) I realized that what keeps me coming back to that community is the generosity, the commitment they have not only to learning new things but to sharing what they learn. How often does that happen these days? How often have you asked someone a question and received their impatience? Did they put you off—or pawn you off on someone else? How often have they acted like their knowledge was locked away and you needed a special key or magical password to access it? Then consider: how often have you hoarded your own knowledge?

There's a place for company secrets and proprietary formulas. But when the guy in the next cubicle asks you for help, try taking that as a compliment. Try saying, "Thank you for asking!" Remember how much help you received when you were just starting out, how much you still rely on others to learn new things, and how great it feels when someone else offers to teach you. And share what you know. I'm starting to teach my daughter how to sew, and hoping that she'll enjoy it as much as I have. What have you taught today?

Friday, October 24, 2008

REAL Cupcakes!

To round out the Cupcake Week, I figured we had to have some real cupcakes. The only thing better than eating them is looking at them. Be warned: viewing luscious cupcake photos will make you want cupcakes!! Enjoy!

The Cupcake Shoppe Bakery (see photo)

Cupcake Jones

Pink Cake Box

Cake Fetish

Hello Naomi's flickr galleries

Feel free to share your own favorites in the comments below!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

And More Cupcakes...

Johnny Cupcakes, Beyond the Bomb, and Pancake Meow—what do these have in common? They all have super-cool Cupcake Gear! Check out some of my favorites: clothing, bath products, stationery and bling! And make sure to add your own to the comments below.

Johnny Cupcakes: From selling t-shirts out of the trunk of his car to stores in Boston, LA and Hull, MA, Johnny Earle has built a cupcake institution. Check out his t-shirts and other clothing and accessories.

The Baby Bunch: Cupcake Baby Onesies (see photo) Adorable onesies packaged as cupcakes with decorative toppers. Wrapped in a bakery box!

Kee Ka Organic Cupcake Swaddle Blanket Sweetie cupcake blanket!

Catfoxdesign Cupcake T-shirts Is it a critter, or a cupcake? Orange Tabby and White Chocobunny are my favorites. This Australia-based artist has another line of new "flavors," too...watch out for Poop Cake!

Cupcake Royale "Legalize Frostitution" T-shirts. I'm enjoying these. A lot.

Shoo Shoos Baby Cupcake Shoes Leather cupcake shoes for the under-six-months-sweetie.

Kreative Karen Designs: Cupcake Hats (see photo) She'll make them in any size, with any color cake or cup, and you can have a different topper, too (though I think I like the cherry, don't you?). Scrumptious!

Webkinz cupcake clothing Had to include these for all those other parents of Webkinz fanatics! (But I'm hiding them from my daughter...)




Beyond the Bomb Cupcake Bath Bombs Love the fragrance options, and special occasion bombs, like the Over the Hill Cupcake (which is a lovely black bomb!!)

Delish Gourmet Bath Bakery Can anyone say, "bubble bath cupcakes?" How about "hot fudge sundae bubble bath cupcakes?" I think I've died and gone to heaven!

Grumpy Girl Cuppy Cake Bath Bombs These gorgeous green-frosted cupcakes (see photo) are from Grumpy Girl. The product descriptions are reason enough to visit this site. Fantastic!

Serah's Cupcake Soap Glycerin and shea butter soap in four colors and creamsicle fragrance. Love the pastel colors of the whippy "frosting"! Yummy!


Fairiesmak Let Them Eat Cupcakes Necklace - Cupcake bling! Clay cupcakes on 18 inch silver toned ballchain.

Pancake Meow Cupcake Charm Clay cupcake charms with fragrance. Cute and customizable!!

Crazy Lady Beads Handcrafted lampwork beads by Kerry...check out the amazing Cupcake Beads!

The Peep Bakery Cupcake Sachet Sets Knitted cupcake sachets (see photo) in a bakery box! Come in lots of colors and fragrances.

Dungaree Dolly's Of course I love her cosmetic bags the best, but Dolly makes lots of different styles of handbags with adorable cupcake fabric!

Happy Day Studio May You Dream in Cupcake Card This is just one of the amazing cupcake note cards and paper designs available at Etsy. Also check out Cakespy, Sunshine and Ravioli, Stampersaurus, and Tucci Paper Company.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

National Cupcake Day

Today is National Cupcake Day, and this coming week is National Cupcake Week, so if there was ever a week to be baking, buying, frosting, decorating, tasting, serving, sharing and enjoying cupcakes, this is the one!

I actually spent a week baking cupcakes in September in order to take pictures for a new product. As you can imagine, it's a really tough job, made even harder by the fact that we can't eat them until I've gotten just the right photo. This took several dozen cupcakes over many days, along with constant complaints from my "staff" who had to keep eating the props: "I can't believe you're making cupcakes again, Mama...didn't you just make them yesterday?" The poor kids.

We all OD'd on sugar that week, but I did find my favorite cupcake recipe (so far). I have to admit that I had mostly baked cupcakes from mixes before (horrors!), but after my cupcake week, I'll never do that again. Here's our favorite lemon cupcake recipe:

Lemon Cupcakes
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tsp lemon oil

Preheat oven to 350°, and prepare your muffin tins with liners. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl, then stir in the oil and milk and beat for 2 minutes. Add eggs and lemon oil and beat for another 2 minutes. Divide into muffin tins, filling each about halfway, then bake for about 15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes in the pan, then place on a rack to cool.

These are delish with no frosting at all, but to make them even more amazing, mix 1/3 cup softened butter with about 2 cups confectioners sugar, a pinch of salt, a tablespoon or two of milk, and 1/4 teaspoon of lemon oil. Beat until fluffy, then frost.

Here are a bunch more cupcake recipes if you feel inclined to fill the week with these tiny bites of sweetness. I'm tempted to start my week with another round of these citrus cakes...off to the kitchen! Happy cupcake week!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cupcakes!!!

Drumroll, please...

For a couple of weeks now I've been collaborating with Dolly at Dungaree Dolly's to put together some new gift sets. If you've never seen her site, you just have to go check it out. Go now. Wait, open a new browser window and then go. I'll wait here until you come back.

Amazingly cool, huh? Could you look through all of those different bag designs and fabric choices and not want five or ten of them?! I think that's a wish list kind of web site. Right after I met Dolly (thank you for the introductions, Heather!), I made my own wish list for her: I really want some special cosmetic bags for my purse-sized gift sets. And just look what she made!!

Just in time for National Cupcake Day (this Saturday) and National Cupcake Week (next week), these Cupcake Gift Sets have everything a gal needs in her purse: travel-size hand cream, lip balm, and purse potion fragrance. All three come in our NEW cupcake fragrance and flavor, tucked into a pink cupcake Dolly bag. Each cosmetic bag has bow detail, zipper top, and is fully lined and sturdy enough to stand up to everything your purse dishes out. Or maybe yours will sit in your desk, cute as a button, to store all your at-work pampering goodies? Maybe you'll even be able to part with this cutie bag and give it to a friend!

Though it will be hard for ME to part with them (they really are adorable!), I think I have one here with your name on it! Order yours today!

(And keep your eyes peeled...we have some holiday gift sets coming, too!)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Little Prince Baby Shower

This is what I worked on today. You've heard of princess parties and showers--well, now the baby boys are in on it! Who doesn't want to be a little prince?

Not interested in princes and princesses? Here are some other popular baby shower themes:

Noah's Ark
Ducky
Teddy bear/Winnie-the-Pooh
Nursery Rhymes (Hey Diddle Diddle, for example)
Stork
Peas in a Pod
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star/Stars & Moons
Pink or Blue (or both if you don't know the gender!)
ABCs or Books
Scrapbooking
Butterfly or Ladybug

I have to admit, many of the showers I've attended didn't have a theme at all (unless there's a name for the "get all the things the parents need for the baby" shower!) I am partial to using a color for the theme, though, because there are so many options for designs and it's so easy to find all of the flatware and decorations you might need.

What is your favorite theme for a baby shower? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Update


Last April I wrote about my cousin Stewart, who was planning to travel with Up with People. In case you missed it, you can read about him here. Well, Stew is three months into his trip and I've been following his amazing journey on his travel blog. Check it out here. You'll love his descriptions of Mexican checkpoints where machine-gun-toting guys checked the bus for drugs and fruit.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Nostalgic Holiday

I've been feeling nostalgic here. In the midst of all the negative news and dire warnings, I've been longing for a simpler time. I've always looked forward to the holidays as a time to reconnect not only with family but with the traditions and customs we share, started by family who have long since passed. I think remembering makes me feel more grounded in a world (and a time) that can feel confusing and disconnected!

These Limited Edition balms are inspired by the old-time calling cards and Christmas cards my great-grandmother used to collect. She was born in 1892 and lived well into her 90s, so I was lucky enough to spend a childhood listening to her stories and looking at the collected memories of her life. While she pored over her boxes of greeting cards and talked about times long gone, I would admire the elaborate lettering and beautiful designs of her handwritten greetings. These lip balm tins remind me of her, and her stories of a simpler time. I hope these designs and flavors will take you back, too! As always, please let me know what you think!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Cure for What Ails Me

That's a grandmother phrase, I think. "What ails you?" she might ask. I was sitting here this morning at my desk trying to get things done but feeling restless and unproductive. My legs were cramping up, my back was sore. What ails me can be cured by a change of scene.

So I took off for the afternoon with my family: husband, kids, parents, grandparents, brother's family. We all went to Ricker Hill Orchards and picked apples. In fact, we picked sixty pounds of apples. Then the kids picked out pumpkins, got lost in a corn maze, and played in the hay. Then we came home and made applesauce. It's a lot easier to go back to work when I've taken a little time to play!

Applesauce
3 to 4 lbs apples, peeled, cored & sliced
different varieties (about 8 to 12 large apples)
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar, depending on how sour the apples are!
1 to 2 tsp cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 cup water

Put all ingredients into a big pot, cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick if you've used one, then use a potato masher to smooth out the bigger apple chunks. Serve hot or cold, over ice cream, with yogurt and granola, whatever you like. Also can be frozen for up to a year.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Personal Body Confidence


I found this column a week or so ago and thought what a cool goal Carol Whitsett has: "...just to have every woman leaving here able to walk into a room like a powerful woman." Wow.

The column is Violet Blue's "Feeling Sexy In An Unsexy World." Carol Whitsett is the founder of Sedusa Studios, the largest pole dancing studio in the U.S. And this is perhaps one of the coolest ideas for a bachelorette party that I've seen in a long time.

Do a search for "burlesque studio bachelorette" and you'll see a long list of studios offering classes in pole dancing, burlesque, exotic dance, stripteasing, belly dancing, and more, in cities all over the nation. These are private (did you see that word?) classes for small groups, perfect for bachelorettes.

I've written before about "shrinking brides" and the lengths they go to to be perfect for the day, sometimes doing dangerous things to achieve a certain look or weight. Carol Whitsett decided to start her studio because she was "driven by realizing how much having personal body confidence was changing the rest of her life." I love, love, LOVE the idea of people of ALL sizes and shapes finding "personal body confidence."

If you're planning a bachelorette party, do a search and see if there's a studio in your area and give it a try! And then please let me know what you think! I'd love to hear all about your experience!

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