December 30, 2011

Vintage styled girls' beret cap

Another crafty sewing project I tackled this week was an adorable vintage-styled beret hat for my daughter.  Ok, it started out for me, but I accidentally cut the elastic for the hat band a pinch too small and it ended up being the perfect size for Avi's head. After seeing how lovely the finished piece turned out, I think I'll do it again in my size.

I used inspiration from this tutorial here, although I changed things up. For one, the finished piece is definitely more beret than Garbo.  It's not a floating lining (a sepia toned floral motif cotton), but rather affixed into place within the layers, and I elasticized the hat band, so it's not a simple fold-over as in the tutorial, but rather a tubular casing through which the elastic was drawn and then hand-sewn into place within the rim. As such it stands up more rather than lays down flat.

I finished off with a fabric rosette and a vintage button, which helps keep the beret up on one side so it maintains that "tilted" shape.  The fabric I used was a luxurious satiny pin tuck in a dark copper. I love the look and feel of it, though it's a bit difficult to handle, which is why I hand-sewed it. I've had this home-decor material for a little while, but I've never thought of an apt project for it until I was inspired to try this vintage styled beret.

I've added this prototype to our Bonanza studio, if you'd like to get one of your own!  Send along the desired size for the hat band for a custom fit!

Dress Up Play goodies

Avi is just getting to the age where putting on dress up outfits is fun.  She really got into Halloween this year, having eschewed the Disney princess collections in order to be Bat Girl (her choice).  But she does watch Angelina Ballerina on PBS and does like to dance, so at the risk of offending her tomboyish tastes, I made a little slip-on tulle tutu for her while she was away for a couple days stay at her grandma's.

I made a wand (glittery chenille stems formed into a heart atop a small wooden dowel, painted gold, with shimmery ribbon trim), a head-dress (braided tulle and ribbon with a billowy back and curled ribbon) to go along with the tutu which had two solid and two glittered colors tulle, affixed to a sewn band of elastic in her size.

There are plenty of tutorials online for tulle tutus, but basically it involves cutting MANY roughly 30-inch X 3-4-inch strips of tulle (her skirt for a size 3-4T involved 55 strips).  Each are folded in half and tied onto the elastic band by hand.  It took a couple hours' worth of work for this piece, and another hour for the wand and headdress, including dry time for the wand.

I used rolls of tulle ribbon since it was already the correct width.  To give you an idea on cost and quantity needs, these are $4-6 per roll at Hobby Lobby here in Columbus, Ohio.  I used a total of about 137-feet (55 30-inch strips), or a little over 45 linear yards.

Avi thought the getup was "awesome!  Thank you mommy!" which is saying quite a lot!  She was happy for the accompanying "photo shoot" too.

If you don't have the time to shop for the supplies and DIY, I've added it to our Bonanza studio!  We can do custom color & size requests too.

December 25, 2011

From Pattern-Phobia to... a happy accident.

I'm a novice with crochet.  I can do the basic chains and double chains, and some fillet squares.  But I don't understand how to read patterns, or rather if I'm being honest,  I lack the attention span to count rows and chains and the like to follow a pattern.  Usually when I crochet, it's so I can basically turn my mind off, and let  the rhythm of repetitive hand movements de-stress me. It's my go-to craft for when I feel like creating something but lack the energy to tackle a larger project.  Last night I picked up a hook and a random ball of leftover yarn because I had one child asleep on the couch (she insisted she wasn't tired every time I suggested she go to her own bed, though she'd promptly fall back asleep on the couch) and a baby asleep in a bouncy seat right next to me.  And you know it's bad luck to try to move a sleeping baby.

So against the back drop of low light and a subtitled Israeli film playing in the background, I set about to quietly pass the time and keep me awake until my husband would get home a couple hours later (3am!!) and I could pass off the girls to "the night shift" and get my alloted paltry five hours of uninterrupted sleep.

I started crocheting in a circle, because I nearly always make squares.  And the circle got larger, and started to take on a hat-shape.  I thought, hey, why not try to make a baby hat?  After all this 'thing' that I seem to be making is starting to look like one.  Around and around I stitched, not paying significant attention to what I was doing and not having the slightest idea what I should be doing.  And yet, sure enough, a hat in perfect baby size emerged.

This morning, I tackled adding little ear flaps, again wholly without direction.  I "free-styled" ear flaps into existence, by making a length of chain stitches the approximate outline, double crocheting it to the rim of the hat and then "filling in" the open space, if that makes sense. If I had tried to read a pattern on how to do this properly, I probably would have had a WTF? moment and blew off the addition.

With ear flaps installed, I then realized I had a cute little hat in a shade of green that I wasn't particularly in love with.  It was just a random scrap ball I pulled out of the yarn drawer, and when I started, I didn't have a plan to make anything in specific, but now I had something in a color I wouldn't have picked if I had actually set about to make the hat.  Bummer.  Well, what to do about that ex post facto? I consulted my Tub o' Buttons for inspiration.  I found a little packet of felt buttons in assorted sizes in light spring green, teal, and red-violet.  Did I actually buy these?  Why??  No matter, there were enough to stick on here and there, they were lightweight, and they at least sort-of matched the green hat.

Off I went sewing them on-- a matching pair for each ear flap, a symmetrical pattern on the front. And then the gestalt of all these random unintentional decisions, 'happy accidents' if you will, I stepped back and realized, 'hey this thing is pretty cute now!' And even cuter on a sleeping baby. My husband said she looked like a little woodland gnome.

So patterns? I'm sure they work for most people.  But if a fear of patterns has kept you from trying actually make something specific (that wasn't a patchwork of squares) just try to go for it anyway.  You know what a hat looks like, right?  Shoot for that. Maybe it will work, maybe not, but starting is usually the biggest obstacle.

Merry Christmas to all my Christian friends, family, and readers!

December 23, 2011

Change the Play: modify a too-old toy into playable fun

My almost-4 year old daughter just got a Play-Doh Pizza Shop kit from her grandparents for Chanukah.  It has a little dough pressing "oven",  little molds to make various toppings, and a swirling cheese "grater".  Now Avi is a play-doh-aholic and we go through this stuff like mad, but she doesn't quite have the fine motor manual dexterity to work all the bells and whistles with this toy, and worse, became frustrated as a result.  This turned into a marathon of "you do it mom!" and swiftly became Avi-watches-mommy-play-with-Play-Doh-gizmo.  And telling me what topping to mold got pretty boring for her rather quickly.
Play-Doh brand Twirl and Top Pizza Shop kit.

Still she really wanted to play with it, so I got a little creative and turned it into a make-believe experience.  I hopped on Word, hunted down some simple clip art that represented the "toppings" she has on her mold tray, and created a very simple Menu.  I created 'recipe' cues by adding a row of three topping pictures to create a pizza for the menu, for a total of three combos.  This I printed on card stock.  Then I downloaded some play money, and printed a few sheets of this on regular copy paper.

She picked out the colors she wanted me to make the toppings with, and I made a few piles of toppings--they have to squish Play Doh into a small mold square (about one-inch squared) and then gently peel the molded item out of the mold, and then very gently cut away the excess Play Doh from the molded part.  Not easy for toddler hands.  Neither is the swirl locked cheese press.  So I made some of the grated cheese and toppings for her, and we played Restaurant with the menu and money.  She still got to play with the Play Doh toy ("bake" the crust, add toppings, cut it with the pizza wheel, use the server to put slices on a plate, etc) without the tricky parts.  I "ordered" my pizza, she built it and served it to me, I "ate" it and paid her, etc.

This little modification gave her a solid 2 hours of entertainment, while just the toy itself had managed to frustrate her (and annoy me) inside 15 minutes just because parts of it were a little "too old" for her.  And think of all the useful things she's learning from the dramatic play aspect:  following directions, role play, etc.

If you have this toy or something similar, you can check out and download my menu template, and the go get free play money templates here.

December 19, 2011

Hebrew Name Graffiti Art Project

This morning's mom & daughter art project: Hebrew Name Graffiti Art.

Avi fell asleep on the couch watching her daddy play Skyrim, which is where I found her still this morning when Chad concluded the 'night shift' of hanging out with the baby while I got some undisturbed sleep.  He works until 3am, so we're on opposite sleep cycles, he takes care of the girls until the morning, then I resume mommy duties.     Avi woke up early with my morning clean & tidy ritual and was instantly harping "I want something to do!"

Before my coffee even, geesh!

So I prepped this quickie wall art project by simply masking off her name with painter's tape.  I did her Hebrew name, her English name Avigael is a slight derivation of its Hebrew counterpart, Avichayil (pronounced Avi-hai-eel, with the ch pronounced with a guttural "hah" in Hebrew) but we were pretty sure that would be butchered so often she'd curse us for a lifetime of mispronunciations.  It means "father's joy," and Chad was instrumental in selecting it from my finalist choices, because he had said he wanted a girl from the start.  You could use your own child's name in whichever language you like!  If you'd like to try something different, you can find many sources online which will generate a given name into a different language.
Acrylic on paper, with Hebrew "Avichayil" having been masked off with tape.

This wasn't quite as easy as I expected, since various bits of masking tape had to be trimmed to approximate the calligraphic-styled Hebrew letters.  Because they aren't perfect, it contributes to a graffiti styling.

Then I covered to coffee table with newspaper, grabbed a palette, and squirted a narrow selection of acrylic paints out for Avi to go hog wild with on the paper.  I chose greens and yellows because I figured in the 4-year-old creative process they'd get pretty muddled and I'd rather have a monochrome than a yucky brown mess.  It didn't matter to her, she was just happy to be painting.

When she got done with her layer, I just filled in the white spots with a light wash so I could make sure paint covered the paper.  I let it dry for a bit, and then very lightly sprayed and dripped some white and black spray paint here and there. When the paper was totally dry, I carefully peeled off the masking tape.  Some color slipped under the tape in a couple spots, but the good thing about graffiti styled art, there's no such thing as a mistake!
The Painter.

December 18, 2011

Quick Recycling Project: Girls' Bathroom Organizers

My 4 year old came home from a couple days away with a long time family friend, where she got to help decorate a mountain of cookies with her honorary big sis, a wonderful teen (yes, they exist) named Autumn.  She also came home with a large stash of girlie jewelry-- a big stack of plastic bangle bracelets, plastic beaded stretchy necklaces, princess lip gloss "watches" and the like, as well as a supply of little girlie hair stuff (to add to our growing collection of little girlie hair stuff).  This presented a minor organizational challenge: where to stash such goodies which are too small to toss in the toy box and too easily strewn around the house. Easy fix: make a pretty container for her to store her collections.
Recycle a cookie tin and a formula (or coffee) can into cute girls' hair and jewelry organizers
with scrapbook paper and spray adhesive, and easy word art labels. 

I just wanted to share this quick project with you--and I mean quick.  I grabbed some goodies from our Potential Craft Stuff tote (I've mentioned before that I save random things that would otherwise be household trash like boxes, tins, paper towel rolls, egg cartons, etc. and in a big plastic storage bin to raid for crafty recycling projects) which included a baby formula can and a cookie tin.  To spruce these up, I consulted the Big Box o' Scrapbook Paper and had Avi help choose some pretty prints.  To be honest, I steered her towards a carefully chosen selection of paper that a) at least somewhat goes with the whimsical garden-themed bathroom of hers, and b) wouldn't make me sad to chop it up (if you are a collector of papers too, you can relate, if not, well you'll have to take my word).

From here it's pretty straight forward:  trace the lid onto the back of the paper, cut, and adhere.  I used Scotch Super 77 spray adhesive, because I was gluing onto metal and because it is quick, bonds to practically anything, and lays down nicely...Super indeed.  I whipped up a label in a Word document and printed it on card stock, cut out, glue down.  I decided I didn't need to cover the sides of the tin as they were a solid color without any markings, but to break up the solid aluminum inside, I traced another circle in a plain sparkly green card stock to lay down in the bottom.  For the little pony tail holders and hair clips, I peeled the label off the formula can, and traced twice it onto another piece of scrapbook paper, sprayed adhesive to one piece, and carefully wrapped it around the can.  Then I used the other piece to line the interior.  I merely changed the word "jewelry" to "hair stuff" on my Word label and reprinted it, then glued this on too.

Total time: 20 minutes for two organizers.  Total cost: nothing--everything was recycled or was on hand. Tis' the season for cookie tins and to go through coffee canisters so set aside yours and turn them into something crafty.

The Festival of Lights

The Christmas shopping season started as early as August in some stores I frequent-- I recall snapping a photo on my phone of an entire aisle of Christmas decor at the local Hobby Lobby, lamenting the creeping of the shopping frenzy even earlier into the year.  Black Friday came, and the yearly "tradition" of crazed deal seekers engaged in wonton mob mentality resulted in subsequent headlines of pepper sprayed crowds, injuries during stampedes, robberies, theft and more.  Even after, the heavy traffic and long lines bring out the worst in folks and tempers are short, and manners forgotten--all set to a tune of constant pop remakes of assorted Christmas songs at play in most establishments.  A few months of this really can make a Jewish girl cringe.  I sympathize with those Christians who call for a return to spirituality during the season, hoping to pull their principal holiday from the extreme commercialism with which it has become associated.

My DIY wintery Chanukah tablescape--slate sheets
taken from the river, upcycled baby food jars painted 
with glue and rolled in epsom salt "snow" to make tea light 
holders, painted popsicle stick Star of David candleholder 
base, sprigs of pine boughs lightly "frosted" with white
spray paint, and cinnamon scented pine cones all set 
atop a white sheet of butcher block craft paper.  
Both my husband and I grew up in households that were generically "Christian" in the sense they espoused Judeo-Christian ethics and nominally celebrated standard Christian holidays, albeit in a secular fashion.  "Christmas" meant digging the artificial tree out of the crawlspace, pulling down musty-smelling boxes of decorations, getting into more than one argument associated with the decorating process, frigid cold fingers and noses spent attaching the once-tangled multi-colored strands of lights to the awnings and large outdoor trees and shopping for, wrapping up, and (finally!) opening presents.  It entailed no formal church services nor at-home discussions of anything biblical in nature.  

The irony of the celebration of holy days completely devoid of any spiritual significance whatsoever was not lost on me.  After much exploration and research, I ended up seeking something more spiritually rewarding which could also mesh with my philosophical beliefs, and converted to Judaism at the tail end of my undergraduate studies (alas, that is a story meant for another post).  With this transition came new holy days and with them, the opportunity to develop my own traditions. 

As with many young families, about the time children arrive into the mix, the sense that holidays should be celebrated "for real" seems emergent.  If we were lazy as single adults about getting into a festive spirit, the presence of children inspires us to create wonder and excitement around our holidays, as well as to reflect on how we should best model the spirituality of our chosen beliefs.  My husband is concerned that Jewish holidays just aren't as "cool" as Christian festivities when it comes to big decorations, cartoon movies, the Santa lore, the gift-giving bonanza, and the like.  He worries it will be a buzzkill for her when she is in school and her little classmates are giddy about writing to Santa, working on their wish lists for months in advance, Christmas cookies and parties.  What he's describing is missing out on the secular "Christmas" festivities.  My opinion is that such is a blessing--not to have your special days corrupted by massive consumerism and derailed from their intended meanings. But I get what he means: how do you get your children excited about such holidays without all the associated, if off-message, content?

Our Menorah in the warm glow of some tea 
lights on the tablescape. 
I don't have the answer to that question, and as we grow and mature as a family, our concept of our holiday traditions will undoubtedly grow too.  Chanukah is not a major holiday in the Jewish faith.  It's a celebration of a miracle that happened long ago when a feisty family of Maccabees defied the odds, beat the Greeks, and rededicated a defiled temple.  Families spend a nice dinner with some traditional fare, like the ubiquitous latke,  the menorah is lit at sundown, stories told, blessings recited, and the kids get a little present each night as they play a few rounds of dreidel.  It's low-key and a time to spend with family and good company.  

There is not the enormous pressure to buy stuff for everyone in the family, friends, co-workers, and everyone else from the newspaper carrier to the baby sitter. This is a tremendous relief in this economic environment, but it also prevents us from having to attach a respective commercial value on our friends and family as to how much we should be spending on them.  We'd love to bestow the best gifts to our loved ones, but as many are just barely making ends meet, it's an unrealistic and unattainable goal foisted upon us by retailers and social expectations, and it's simply unnecessary.  I'd rather show my friends how much we care by making some tasty treats or crafting a one-of-a-kind token of my appreciation, and I'd never want them to feel bad about not being able to return the favor. 

Our Chanukah Bush at night
Right now we have co-opted the tree, which I call a Chanukah Bush after a childhood book entitled There's No Such Thing as a Chanukah Bush, Sandy Goldstein, about a Jewish girl having the same longings for the festivities and decorations of her friends.  I don't feel particularly bad about this since the Christians stole the idea (and many others now associated with Christmas) from the pagan tradition of celebrating yule in this fashion.  So we have a white tree with blue lights and silver and blue ornaments (blue and white are the colors of Israel), and in preparation for an all-are-welcome Christmahannukah get-together we're hosting, I've attempted to make our home look more festive with some shiny dangling things here and there.

Ultimately, the "point" of Chanukah that I wish my daughters to understand: that people are more important than stuff, the awe of miracles, the warmth of gently flickering candlelight, the buzz of laughter and conversation of friends and family. It is inconsequential if having a lighted tree isn't "Jewish" enough, or not having the equivalent of Santa and his pile of presents isn't as "fun" as Christmas.  

Whatever your holiday of choice this season--tell your family you love them, let your friends know how happy you are they're in your life, make your childrens' eyes grow wide with wonder, tell the story of your holiday with a sparkle in your eye.  Be kind to people who take your orders, and check you out at stores. Smile more, curse less. Yes, give gifts, but remember it's about so much more.  

Learn more about Chanukah here at

Don't Miss All the Newness of the New Year

This morning, after a challenging night of fussy baby consoling and few hours of uninterrupted sleep, I begrudgingly fumbled around to get dressed and bundled up to take my increasingly anxious dog outside.  He could barely contain himself as I made several half-starts at the door-- oops, forgot to grab a bag, now where did the leash go? I better grab a real coat not just this flimsy hooded wrap, etc.  But as we finally got out the door he bounced around wagging and sniffing excitedly while my eyes struggled to adjust to the cold, bleak brightness.  How could my furry friend be so giddy to frolic around at this wee morning hour (besides the obvious opportunities to urinate on about a dozen different 'special' spots invisible to me) while I shivered and lamented the season's utter greyness?  To him, the first morning walk signals a new day--a comforting, reliable beginning of a daily routine that will be shortly followed by a refilled food bowl, refreshened water bowl, and at least a third of whatever I make myself for breakfast (he hopes it's a cheese omelette with turkey sausage, he told me so).  I can practically hear him chanting "Oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy!" from his body language, overjoyed that these things have been put into motion as soon as I start groaning about getting up to take him out.
Garrett, my always-happy mutt

Even to a dog, the freshness of a new day is recognized.  How often do we get out of bed and feel that way about a new day?  After all, days keep coming, and more often than not, there is nothing all that spectacular about the next one.  And yet, we're primed to be excited about all things new.  As I stood in the courtyard of our new apartment community, a quirky vintage French Quarter themed establishment, the giant multi-tiered fountain with its ornate French styling looked gloomy rather than inviting, as it stands empty against the grey sky--dead leaves lie where bubbling water will run in several months.  The courtyard itself, missing the humming of activity since the adjacent movie theatre is now on its limited winter hours, and the restaurant and night club are perfectly silent this cold morning. Not one sound of children running around despite it being a clear weekend day, nor dogs barking as people walk past their windows--just the sound of Garrett sniffing, and my own breath puffing a billow of fog in the chilly air.

Today it's 33-degrees here in Columbus, Ohio, and I thought for a moment on how 33 will feel so much warmer later, in the depths of winter, after a big snow has left a blanket of sparking white everywhere, when the wind stops and the sun hangs low--when I step out I will undoubtedly remark about how warm 32-degrees feels.  But today, on the back of a string of days in the upper 40's and into the 50's, 33-degrees with a chilled wind in the air, surrounded by a grey bleakness, it feels absolutely inhospitable.

 I couldn't help but anticipate the surge of energy the new year will bring to this atmosphere--when life in general will seem renewed with fresh ideas, goals, and "newness" even as the greyness of winter persists.  This got me thinking-- how powerful is our concept of time and our associations with designations of 'newness' that in the middle of winter, with nary an environmental clue to anything different (a stark contrast to the sense of newness that comes with the emergence of Spring, and the symbolic triumph of  bright green seedlings sprouting through frost-hardened soil) we can attach a feeling of freshness just because our calendar year will switch to a new numeric value.

We've taken an entirely man-made concept of time (our own calendar having been constructed not too terribly long ago in the grand scale of human history) and attached deeper meanings to the passage of one day which marks the end of one year into another. And yet, once the festivities conclude, many of us view (however briefly) the New Year as a time for self-improvement.  Perhaps it's the feeling of a fresh start, a clean slate, when we can forgive ourself for the failings of last years' resolutions, and which motivates us to try again.

 It would be a shame to waste all this positive energy on just New Years though.

Since we can see that there is really no significant difference between the last day of 2011 and the first day of 2012 except that which we choose to bestow, we can harness that power of the mind to create 'special' times throughout the year as well--imbuing this new year with many new Fresh Starts filled with that same productive energy.  We already have many cues in place to remind us of all the Newness spread throughout the year, and if we pay attention, we can find more.

The calendar year may start in January and conclude in December, but if you have children or are still a student yourself, you are on another calendar which begins sometime at the tail end of summer and concludes just at the end of spring--the school year.  A new school year can mark exciting transitions in academic, social and personal growth, and we make it special with a fresh lot of school supplies, some new clothes, and perhaps even a new organizational system and some new goals, or new year resolutions, if you will.

Then there are other calendars in which that you may participate.  If you are, or have friends who are, of a non-Christian faith, such as myself, there is undoubtedly a different calendar involved.  Since I'm Jewish, our spiritual New Year (Rosh Hashanah) falls at a predictable date on the Hebrew calendar (which is a lunar-based calendar) but on different days each year on the Gregorian calendar (usually sometime in September).
Rosh Hashanah symbols: the shofar horn,
which is blown to signal the new year, and
pomegranates, for luck and prosperity.

You might know someone who celebrates the Chinese New Year (usually between late January and late February-based on a lunar cycle) or the Hindu New Year (usually in April-when the Sun enters a special position).  In fact in many other places in the non-English world, calendars and holidays are tied to lunar phases, and equinoctes and solstices, or on indigenous ancient calendars, or just when spring arrives.  The more you learn how the concept of time is strictly a product of where you were born and the cultural or religious 'tribe' to which you belong, the more January 1st seems rather arbitrary.

On the Jewish calendar, each new month is special.  We even have a special name for the transition from one month to the next, Rosh Chodesh; it's like a mini-holiday at sundown of the last day of the month, which means a new moon is arriving, and has significance in a variety of biblical passages.  And if you consider the oft-cited suggestion that new habits take 30 days to form, a special recognition of each new month can mean many new opportunities to improve yourself throughout the year.
The lunar phases

 Indeed, one tidbit of the Hebrew lexicon that I find so inspiring, is that the word that approximates sin, chet, is derived from an old archery term which roughly means 'to miss the mark.'    As there is no condemnation to any firey pits of hell in the Jewish tradition, the overall concept of sin is that people are typically good, and "sin" is the product of our 'missing the mark'--bound to happen with imperfect beings.  And every time we 'miss the mark' (any time when we were not as good as we could have been) we are afforded a new attempt to hit that target.

So celebrate the Newness of the New Year, come up with all those lofty resolutions.  Clean your house, organize your life.  But as the year drags on, don't forget to observe all the other signs of Newness that pop up throughout the year.  Each one can have the same positive energy--the permission to forgive ourselves for missing the mark, the courage to pick up and shoot again;  That fresh start, the blank slate--a new shot at hitting that target.

Open source, copyright-free images courtesy of Dream Time

December 14, 2011

Free Shipping Day, Dec. 16th!

More than 2,100 retailers are offering FREE SHIPPING on December 16th.  Just in time for the holidays, head over here to see the full line-up, including yours truly, Sine Metu Designs!

Free Shipping Offers!

You can find SMD on the FIRST box following this link, which takes you to our brand spankin' new Bonanza booth!

If you prefer the Etsy platform, our studio is offering free shipping with orders of $20 or more with the code: FreeShipWith20.

See our Etsy studio NOW!