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Tools of the Trade: Thread Heaven

I told you how my husband always puts sewing related items in my stocking at Christmas. Stockingstuffer item number 2 I received this Christmas was a product called thread heaven. It’s a tiny square jar with some goopey waxlike stuff in it. You are supposed to drag your thread through this substance to keep your sewing thread from tangling.

Sounds like a lot of work to drag each piece of thread through this tiny jar. It also requires patience and nimbleness. I got it after years of training! =) I tried it out when sewing one of my little miniature dolls. I really liked it. It kept my thread from turning into a knotted mess while sewing on the tiny dollheads.

 

The package also promises that the product “Reduces Hand Fatigue” and that it is “acid free and Hypoallergenic.” The only problem I have with this product is that it doesn really say what it is made of.

Have you ever used thread heaven or something similar to it? I think I will contact the company to find out more. Could it be a trade secret? Maybe just a little bit of softened beeswax would do the job just as well?  I am intrigued.

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The Little Old Lady Whispering Hush…

My favorite place to shop for dollmaking supplies is a little local craftstore. When I go the Country Crafts in Greeley, Colorado, it feels a little bit like going back in time. It is sad to think that there are so few Mom and Pop shops left in our town. Country Crafts is rather a Mom and Daughter operation.

The store reminds me of a tiny grocery store where we shopped as I grew up in Germany. My mom would send us kids with a long list of groceries each weekend. Yes, they still marked down your items in a little book, and you could pay at the end of the month or whenever… Going to the store was ever so much fun. Visiting, was as much about socializing as it was about getting the groceries needed for the week.

That’s exactly how I feel when I shop at Country Crafts. I buy all the floss for embroidering my dolls’ faces from Jean and Sherry Baker. No matter how good a deal big  chain stores might have – I would never buy floss from them.

If only everybody would support little shops like that. Maybe they would stay in business and multiply?

I’ll never forget my first visit to Country Crafts. I wanted to weep for joy. Here is a place where you can talk to people behind the counter who actually know about crafting. Whenever you enter the store you will find Jean sitting in her rocking chair. I am not certain of her age. But her beautiful aging hands – suffering from terrible arthritis – are always working on an amazing piece of crosstitch work.

One Christmas my husband went to the store to shop for a Christmas gift for me. He came back laughing, saying: “You didn’t tell me that the lady from the Good Night Moon story works there.” Remember the old classic? The part about the little old Lady whispering “hush”? If you want to meet her in real life you must visit the Country Crafts Shop! I hope my hands will hold up and I won’t quit crafting till the day I die.

 

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Tools of the Trade: Useless Gadget

I hope you got some good Christmas presents this year. I am very pleased with my loot for sure. Really, my husband and I don’t give each other a ton of presents. It’s mostly for the kids, right? But he always tries to find me small sewing related items to put in my stocking.

Oh my, this year I got 3 different things. Two gadgets were okay. The third item was a bit of a bust. It was called a wrist magnet by Dritz company. You are supposed to wear it strapped around your wrist while sewing.

I found this thing way too cumbersome. The magnet, though very strong, did not hold my needles very well because there is not enough surface touching, I suppose. Then there was my constant fear leaving the magnet too close to my phone or computer. It could really mess up data I am being told…So why not just use a pin cushion for your needles?

Forget it! I hung it on the frige. Maybe hubby can use it when fixing something around the house – so the kids and I don’t have to be the nail- or screw -holders during the project. LOL

I’ll tell you about the other gadgets I got another day…

 

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Natural Handmade Doll Beds

I was looking to buy a doll bed  for our daughter this Christmas. All of her friends have doll beds from the this large well-known doll company. I decided to support a small home based business like my own shop, instead of going with the imported bed, made in a foreign country.

I was not disappointed when I received this wonderful piece of doll furniture by Quietude Quilts on Etsy. It arrived in a simple box with easy instructions for assembling it. Took me about 5 minutes to put it together. All you need is some wood glue and allow about 24 hours of drying time…

Also included was a cute card about the makers of the doll bed. It really made me feel good about my order. Check out the story of Jonathan and Kelsey:

 Welcome to Quietude Quilts, LLC!  We are Jonathan and Kelsey, a young married couple, living in our first new old house outside Boston, together handcrafting heirloom toys and classic photography props.  We are proud to come from creative families – both of Kelsey’s grandmothers were quilters, and both of Jonathan’s grandfathers were woodworkers who built and owned their own businesses, and we love following in their steps with our own creative and miniature twist.
We also are a structural engineer and a very part-time English professor (Kelsey did “quit her day job” in 2011!), an Iron man triathlete and a photographer, and uncle and auntie to our favorite little people.

This bed will nicely fit a couple of smaller 12 inch dolls – or one bigger doll that is 15-18 inches. I highly recommend this business. I am sure my daughter will be very excited to find her new bed under the Christmas tree this year.

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Chalica – A Unitarian Universalist Holiday Celebration

This sweet post was sent in by Anne from harvestmoonbyhand on Etsy. I hope you all enjoy her lovely post and photos.

 

During December our family celebrates a variety of holidays or special days. Sometimes, we honor these days in their entirety (e.g., Advent, St. Nicholas Day, St. Lucia Day, Winter Solstice, Christmas).

St. Nicholas Visit - Olivia with her Shoe
Olivia with her shoe filled with treats from St. Nicholas.

Other times we acknowledge the first day of the holiday (e.g., Hanukkah, Las Posadas) by having a special meal, reading books about the holiday, talking about its meaning, and doing an activity.

Las Posadas Meal
Sophia and Olivia eating a meal to celebrate Las Posadas.

This is something that I began doing once my daughters were adopted and they were old enough to actively participate and enjoy different holidays (about 2-5 years old). I did not introduce all these special days at one time. Rather, they were introduced gradually and incorporated into our holiday plans.

This year we are starting a new tradition: Chalica. As a Unitarian Universalist, I was happy to discover a relatively new holiday that was started a couple of years ago. It is seven days long and begins on the first Monday in December.

Each day represents a different Unitarian Universalist Principle. A chalice is lit each day; and actions, gifts, or volunteering that expresses the day’s Principle may be given and received. One can have seven different chalices or one common chalice.

Nature Table Candles Lit
One candle or seven candles can be lit for Chalica.

The days and Principles are:

Monday: We light our chalice for the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

Tuesday: We light our chalice for justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.

Wednesday: We light our chalice for acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth.

Thursday: We light our chalice for a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.

Friday: We light our chalice for the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process in society at large.

Saturday: We light our chalice for the goal of world peace, liberty, and justice for all.

Sunday: We light our chalice for respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

As with the other holidays that we celebrate, we have adapted Chalica to fit our schedule and what is realistically possible to do during December.

So, I decided to adapt Chalica so that we focus on the first Principle during December and do four activities related to it:

=> Send a letter and pictures that my daughters colored to environmental activist Tim DeChristopher who is serving a two-year sentence for nonviolent civil disobedience. He served one year in prison and now is living in a half-way house until his sentence is complete.

Tim disrupted a government auction of public lands in Utah in 2001. As a result, thousands of acres of land adjacent to a national park are still preserved. More information about Tim can be read on the Unitarian Universalist Association’s website or Peaceful Uprising’s website.

=> Visit a person from church who is recovering from being hospitalized and/or someone who is in a nursing home who would welcome a visit. My oldest daughter will bring her harp and play a few pieces on it during the visit.

Sophia Playing the Harp
Sophia playing the harp for her grandmother in April 2012.
Her grandmother was on a short home-visit from the nursing home
when she was recovering from a broken ankle.

=> Make and donate two sensory/activity lap quilts to a nursing home where my Dad was a resident from October 3, 2011-January 5, 2012. The quilts will be designed to be used by seniors who have Alzheimer’s Disease (like my father had) who need to keep their fingers occupied to help reduce stress and anxiety.

Sensory and Memory Quilt
This is the sensory and photo quilt that I made for my father
shortly after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.
It provided comfort to him and gave his hands something to touch
(there are many different textures and types of fabric used).

The remaining six Principles we will work on from January-June. In this way, we are able to put some time and thought into Chalica; and put our faith into action. Beginning Chalica on December 3rd and doing a variety of activities will make our holiday much more meaningful and memorable this year.

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New Favorite Salad Dressing

Our family loves salad greens. If it was up to the children though, they’d just eat one type of dressing: Ranch. I swear they put something in that stuff that is addicting to children and adults…

 

I try every occasion to make my own dressing and convince the Ranch junkies in our family that a homemade dressing is ultimately better tasting and healthier for you.

Recently I  succeeded in finding a recipe everybody likes a lot. I had to make a salad for my women’s bible study group. I found the recipe in the book we used for out bible study. Kelly Minter’s book Nehemia has a couple of recipes at the end of each section.

The women in our group take turns cooking. This weekend was my turn. Since the family had nothing to eat for lunch I thought I’d make another batch for them while I was at it. Turns out they really loved the salad dressing.

They even ate second and third helpings… So here is the recipe:

  • 2 teaspoons Dijon Mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons real maple sirup
  • 1 Shallot diced very small
  • 1 clove of garlic diced small
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 6 Tablespoons vegetable oil such as canola

 

Mix all the ingredients except for the oil together. Then whisk in the oil.

The recipe suggested to serve this dressing over cut up Romain lettuce with some maple glazed pecans and blue cheese sprinkled on top. This version is super yummi but kind of pricey…

Now I just use this as an everyday dressing for all kinds of greens. It is simple to make and the kids love it!

 

 

 

 

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Tools of the Trade: Dollmaker’s Tool

I recently received this brand new tool in the mail. I am sad to say that I have been too busy to use it much.  My fingers are itching to make a new doll but these days I am mostly occupied with shipping and finishing off other products. Maybe in the New Year?

What is this curious looking tool that kind of looks like a little hedgehog? It actually is a miniature brush for fluffing up doll hair. Looks so cool, doesn’t it?

If you want to see some samples of dolls with fluffed mohair wigs you can find them in my shop on Etsy.

 

 

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Tools of the Trade: Upcycled is Beautiful

Our family attends a Lutheran church where we live. Sadly it’s a church that is rapidly aging and not enough young folks are joining to replace the older generation. Maybe it’s because the trend in churchgoing in the US is more towards big evangelical churches with large screens and rockmusic being performed live. It’s not my cup of tea…

I am more of an oldfashioned kind of gal. I enjoy a good hymn, and I like to be soothed by old rituals. But Church is mainly a place to reflect, relax, and hang out with family.

One of my best friends at church is an elderly lady named Dorothea. Like me she is of German descent. Dorothea is in her late 80s and talking to her on Sundays feels like being home talking to any other granny in my village back home in Germany. She always asks me about my dolls and if I am still making them. In her younger days Dorothea used to sew and craft quite a bit.

So recently this friend bestowed a wonderful gift to me. I still can’t believe that she chose to give me this amazing box filled with goodies to make doll clothes with.

Want to read the rest of the story and see more photos? Please visit my blog over here.

 

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Book Review: Sweet Dream Pie

Finally fall is here, and I am so glad for it. Fall means that we can enjoy baked goods again. After a long hot summer in Colorado where nobody wanted to turn on the stove for fear of adding more heat to our non-airconditioned house we can finally cook and bake again.

 

Have I told you? My husband is a Weld County Champion pie baker. He has won many blue ribbons for his pies at the Weld County Fair. So one year some neighbors down the street gave us the book Sweet Dream Pie by Audrey Wood. Maybe our neighbor was hoping my husband and I could make such a pie? It’s an amazing book that our family has enjoyed tremendously over the years. I can’t tell you how many times I had to read it to the kids when they were little. I think I will have to buy the hardcover version of it since it’s coming apart at the seams…

Sweet Dream Pie is the story of an elderly couple who likes to bake magical pies together. They make the biggest, sweetest, and most yummy pies. But it’s been a while since they did because their pies are a bit dangerous.  The book starts out with a dire warning about the dangers of overindulging. I don’t want to give away too much of the story. I hope you can find the book at your local library or order it on Amazon. It would make a lovely Christmas gift for the children or grandchildren.

The artwork by Mark Teague is quite stunning. I love the brightly colored drawings that defy all rules of perspective and proportion. Maybe it will become a favorite in your household too?

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Book Review: The Best Homemade Baby Food on the Planet

I recently stumbled upon this cute cookbook by Karin Knight and Tina Ruggiero. My kids are all grown up, and I don’t see any more little ones in my future. But I think The Best Homemade Baby Food On the Planet would make a lovely gift to someone who is expecting a baby. I wish I would have had a book like this when my kids were infants.

My husband and I hardly ever bought food in a jar for our babies. I pretty much made everything from scratch because you never know what goes into those commercially packaged jars of baby food. But I surely could have used some inspiration at times when our kids decided that they were going to be difficult and not like our simple cooking.

The book is devided into six chapters. It is full of simple recipes that make me hungry. It also provides many great tips and nutritional information for first time parents. Even seasoned parents who are kind of running low on energy and ideas might find some inspiration in it.

So check it out at your local library or buy a copy for a friend or parent to be!