February 13, 2010

my funny valentine

I know that a lot of people feel that Valentine's Day is a sham holiday created by greedy fat cat corporations to eke more money out of us.  That may be, but why turn your nose up at an opportunity to celebrate love in all of its various manifestations?  And this is one holiday where handmade always says it best.  There are few things that I find to be as heartwarming as watching my little boy create presents for the people he loves, and he had a great time making these snowmen for the ladies in his life (aka his grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and aunts).  If your child can do some very rudimentary cutting, gluing, and drawing, he or she can easily mass-produce these sweetheart snowmen for their valentines.

We happen to have a lot of toilet paper and paper towel rolls stockpiled because Bugsy, the pre-school's class gerbil, has a pathological cardboard addiction.  We invaded his supply and used one toilet paper roll per snowman.  We ran out of toilet paper rolls, so we cut a paper towel roll into two smaller pieces.  Other than that, all we used was red, white, and black construction paper, child safety scissors, a glue stick, and crayons.  As you can tell, I helped by cutting the three circles, hat, and heart needed for each snowman, but the rest was simple enough to be done "all by self," as my son says.  He even cut the scarves himself!

The assembly-line technique that we used was to line all the heads up and draw all of the faces at once.  Then we lined up the bodies to draw "buttons".  I pointed out exactly where the glue needed to be applied and handed him the right pieces as he worked, and we had a little army of snowmen in no time.  The toilet paper roll makes them stand up, but I thought it would be adorable for an older child to tuck a heartfelt note into that space.  I have to say that I was more than pleasantly surprised at how much of this my two-and-a-half year old could do on his own.  I am sure a three-or-four year old could truly do this all by self.  And the product would probably look a little more "Frosty" and a little less "Nightmare Before Christmas", but hey, these valentines are the genuine article.

If you have not tried crafting with your very young child because you think they are too young, please, please, please go ahead and do it anyway.  There are so many things that tiny children can do beyond coloring and fingerpainting, and it just feeds their imaginations and self-esteem in such a wonderful way.  The end product will not be beautiful in the classical sense, it is true, but it will look perfect to them, and, I am willing to gamble, to you.

February 6, 2010

one for the record books

Well! What a week it has been in our corner of the hamlet!

First, we got a brand-new washer/dryer.  We went with LG frontloaders.  You know, I really thought my old ones were just fine until we got the shiny new ones.  They practically sparkle in our laundry room, and the kids love to stand right in front of them and watch the laundry spin around.  I have absolutely no idea how to work them, but they play a jaunty, high-spirited tune when the cycle is done, and that's enough to keep me happy.

Then, we had the snowstorm of the century.  It is not too often that we are the epicenter of anything, but we were the epicenter of this storm, baby!  We are just buried up to our eyeballs in snow and loving every minute of it.  It is literally too much snow to play in.  Really.  My son tried to head out, sort of dug at the wall of snow for a moment, fell over, then gamely made a snow angel. 

Also, this week I finally took the plunge, followed the advice of many friends and, of course, my mother, and opened an Etsy shop.  I am now obsessed.  Etsy is the most fascinating universe and I could spend hours and hours looking at all of the fabulous things people make.  I know that I am fairly late to the game on this one (that became abundantly clear when I tried to select my username), but really, it is fantastic.  I fancy myself moderately crafty, especially for someone with no training who uses only scrap materials found about the home, but these people just blow my mind.

Take this crafter, Rosie, for example.  She makes these charming little amigurumi dolls, apparently by the dozen.  What is amigurumi, you ask?  I did ask, because as soon as I saw these I just had to know how she did it.  Amigurumi is a Japanese art of crocheting small dolls or animals using a single crochet in the round, worked in a spiral.  Have any of you ever done this?  I am now dying to give it a try.

If felt is your bag, then you would probably love all of the stuff that FeltloveCymru is churning out over in Wales.  Get a load of this totebag.  Is it not gorgeous?  This made me want to clean all of the lint out of my brand-new dryer, wash it on hot, and make myself a throw pillow.  Maybe that is not the exact technique, but you get the idea.

And (listen up, Rosie and Feltlove Cymru), if you wanted to send a thank you note to someone for, say, promoting your craft items for free on their awesome blog, you need look no farther than Sycamore Street Press.  Sycamore Street Press consists of, according to extensive research I have done by consulting the "profile" section of their shop, some sort of adorable husband-wife letterpressing team who appear to be awash in artsy friends who love to provide cutting-edge graphics for their cards.  The resulting cards are perfection.

I strongly encourage you to check it out if you have never visited Etsy.  And not just to purchase my whimsical items.  The idea of a legion of super-talented crafters busily creating all over the globe is enough to warm me to the bones.  Even in this snow.