Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gingerbread Contest 2008

I apologize for the lag in my posting these. Christmas was now nearly a week ago and I am just writing this blog now.

This year was the second annual MacDonald Family Gingerbread Contest. I don't want to call it a gingerbread house contest, since there was only 1 house built this year, so I'm leaving off any house reference.

The rules for this year's contest were simple.
  1. You must use gingerbread in your entry.
  2. All pieces of your entry must be edible. (Except the tray you build it on.)
*We decided after the contest to add a few more rules to next year's contest. They are still being considered, but some of them will probably make it into the "rule book" before next Christmas. Next year's rules could turn out to be something like this:
  1. Everything (except the tray) in your entry must be edible. If you are willing to eat it, you can use it.
  2. You must use gingerbread in your structure. It must be part of your main element.
  3. You can work on it as long as you like, but all entries must be completed by dinner on the agreed upon date. Your entry must be able to stand throughout the meal without help to be in the judging.
  4. When you say, "I'm done." You can't touch it anymore. It has to stand on its own.
The voting this year went like this. We each got a piece of paper. We lined up all the gingerbread structures on the dining room table and each was labeled A, B, C, D, or E. The categories we voted on were:
  1. Overall favorite.
  2. Creativity.
  3. Craftsmanship. This is where it's good if your roof didn't split in half, your structure stood by itself, and you don't have excessive globs of icing.
  4. Design elements. This was a new category this year. The design elements that we rated are a little more difficult to explain. I guess you could say that they are the parts of the entry that stand out to you and are worth noting. The way you would vote on them is Katie has 3 and mom has 8, so mom wins my first place vote.
    • Take my Santa's Workshop for example. The design elements on my tray are my:
      • trees
      • curtains inside
      • roof
      • flower boxes
    • The elements in Jason's Train Station would be his:
      • floor
      • train
      • tracks
    • In my mom's Barn, her design elements would include her:
      • pig (that sadly I don't have a good picture of)
      • farmer
      • hay
    • My dad's elements would be his:
      • hockey players on the ice outside
      • trees
    • In Katie's Gingerpunzel's Tower, her elements would be her:
      • tower
      • people
      • horse

The way we voted was we took our sheet of paper and for each category, we wrote down in order which entry we thought was the best for the category. For example, in the overall design category we may have WXYZ. We couldn't vote for our own. After we had voted, we assigned a point system to the votes. Each 1st place got 4 points, 2nd 3 points, etc. The person with the most points took first place.

I indeed was the winner. In a close second was my dad's little house. So, what do we do with these when we're finished? Well, we leave them out in the garden for various people to see and creatures to eat. Last year they caught multiple people checking them out from the alley.

Isn't that a fun way to get rid of them? Set them outside in the snow in a little village for the birds and neighbors to enjoy.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Toy Testing?

I found this article at Cool Mom Picks about how the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) is trying to pass a law to make all toys pass tests.

Yes, this probably isn't a big deal for all those big companies, but what about the little people? Handmade things are great options. This new law is there to protect the kids from harmful things, like lead paint and such, but shouldn't that be something for the toy maker should just do anyway?

If you can't sell a toy that isn't harmful to kids, what are you doing making toys? I think that selling healthy toys that aren't going to hurt a little person should just be something assumed. A parent shouldn't have to worry about whether or not a toy is safe for their child's mouth. When someone sells a product marketed for a certain demographic, it is my opinion that they should be positive it is safe for that demographic. Marketing roller skates to the elderly may not be the best plan. It's just not smart.

If China can’t handle producing something safe, then why did we send our product there to be made? It’s a simple concept really. If what you’re buying isn’t working for you, go elsewhere. If the big companies can’t get their act together to figure out how to make toys, go to Etsy and buy something that the lady down the street made. Chances are high that it’s better for your kid. If you went to a bad restaurant, you would probably go elsewhere next time. I don’t see why the government needs to step in and make it so much harder for small business owners to survive. Just think of all the other alternatives there are and what this law could do to them.

This new law could really put a damper on things for me. What if it does happen and I can't afford to sell baby things I made? If I have to pay $4000 for each toy I sell, that would put me out of business before I even start. My husband and I have been working towards financial freedom and an alternative lifestyle. Quitting my day job to stay home and make things that I enjoy is a major part of our plan. What happens when this law passes and I would now have to pay somebody else a lot of money to test my products for harmful things that won’t exist?

I'm all for keeping kids safe, but this doesn't seem fair. What if we alter this proposed law so that the large toy makers are the ones who have to have their toys tested? People who make one toy at a time are probably going to be able to focus on the quality of it a bit more than a company making thousands at once. I think we need to stand behind our small businesses and put our trust in them.

Click on the button below to go to the article I mentioned above and see what you can do to help.
(Save Handmade Toys

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season. Jason and I should be in Omaha at my parents' house by the time this posts.

I made this ball out of a book called Last-Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson. I really liked the pattern. It was VERY forgiving and pretty easy to do once I could figure out what exactly I was shooting for.

We did our Christmas exchange with Josh, Mel, Ella & Lucas on Tuesday night. Lucas is at the perfect age for this ball. He is just starting to really grab onto things and play with toys. He chewed and slobbered all of this thing that night. It was awesome.

I'm glad he liked it. I was thinking this may be something I could alter the pattern and sell on etsy. If I did them assembly style, they'd be really quick and easy to make.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I love Christmas

This is the gift we made for all of Jason's siblings, my family, and friends. We personlized stationary for everyone.

This is a set we made for my friend, Tammy. She's getting into photography, so what would be more appropriate than cameras?

Jason's mom is into noses. I'm not sure exactly why, but last year we made her a nose calendar and she loved it.

We experimented with some Illstrator brushes. This one we did for both Jason's sister Julie and my sister, Katie.

Jason's dad and step-mom are into cycling. This is a totally original image Jason did in Illustrator.

Jason's brother-in-law, Kevin is studying to be an eye doctor. His name is spelled out in the letters in the "eye chart".

Jason's sister, Elle is a nurse.

All of the rest we did aren't original art. For my pregnant friend we did a pair of baby shoes. For my mom a sewing machine, my dad a hockey skate. For my friend with dual-citizenship we did the Union Jack. It was a fun project and so far it's gone over pretty well.

We did our Christmas with Jason's mom over the weekend. She loved her Superman cape.
Stay warm, enjoy the snow (if it fell where you are) and have a lovely Christmas.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I can check one more Christmas gift off the list. I finished this project tonight. It's the superman cape I mentioned a few posts back. I love how it turned out.

It's a hairdresser's cape for my mother-in-law. She does hair and we were talking about how fun it would be to have a superman cape for her to use at her salon. So, now she has a really fun cape to use.
I made it out of a really shiny taffeta type fabric so that the hair should slide or shake right off.
Sally, my duck tape stunt double is modeling for us tonight.
There is a crease down the middle of the fabric from when it was on the bolt, so tomorrow night I'll pull out my steamer and try to get that out.

All People Quilt Challenge

I have finally posted our pictures on the Challenge website. Go here to view our pictures.

I have a blog all written about our Chicago trip over the weekend, but haven't been able to add the photos yet. It will be up soon.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A weekend in the White City

Jason and I went to Chicago last weekend. I've been meaning to post some pictures, we've just been so busy. Sorry about that.

I've been working on building my quilt design inspiration bank. Here are the photos I took while out and about. Most of these images are from our visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, but some are from out and about.
I loved being in Chicago in the holiday season. Everyone seemed so cheery and busy. This was a photo I took while we were out wandering.
Elle (Jason's sister) made these awesome pancakes for breakfast one morning. We turned them into s'more pancakes. They were delicious! These are a few photos from our train ride there. It was an awesome experience and I can't wait to do it again.

One of our missions on this trip was to try a bunch of different foods. Here's one of the pizza places we stopped at. I love Chicago pizza!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Good evening

A few weeks ago I went back home (to Omaha) to work on a project with my mom. We are entering in the Quarterly Challenge at All People Quilt.

I am waiting for the registration page to load so I can upload the photos of our ornaments to enter.
My mom did the girl and I did the boy.
As soon as the page loads we'll have our winning ornaments entered. Well, hopefully entered. The grand prize is a Baby Lock Sewing Machine! How cool would that be. Each of us would get a new machine.

Wish us luck. Wouldn't it be cool if we made it to the semi-final round?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A few new links

Hello. Sorry I've been a little absent this week. It's been so busy!

I've added a few new blogs to my list over on the right side. The blog list is a new feature I've added recently. I will continue to add more to the list when I come across new blogs that I think are worth reading.

Jason and I have been taking dance lessons. Monday night we learned the Cha-Cha-Cha at our group class. It was a lot of fun. We have a private lesson tomorrow night, so we'll probably learn something new. It's been a ton of fun. We can now do the basic steps to the Cha-cha-cha, single step swing, merengue, and the waltz. I could be leaving one or two out. It's been a really good activity for us to do together. It's a little pricey, but so much fun. We've even each gotten a pair of boogie shoes, so we have to stick with it; right?

Last night we watched Christmas with the Kranks. I just love that movie. I started embroidering some handkerchiefs for my papa for Christmas. One has green and brown circles. The second one I have on the hoop now has a tree. I'm not sure what else I'll add to it. Last night I was thinking it needed a tire swing, but I'm not sure about that today. I want to do a third, but I'm not sure what it will be yet. I'll post photos when I finish them.

I taught myself how to embroider last night using Aimee Ray's book titled Doodle Stitching: Fresh & Fun Embroidery for Beginners. She has a lot of really cute projects in that book and it's really easy to pick up.

I've also been working on a cross-stitch project for my mom. My mom's kitchen is all done up in Mary Engelbreit wallpaper borders, art, and rug. It's really cute. Her tablecloth and curtains are even out of Mary Engelbreit fabric. So, I found a M.E. Christmas project book at the library (I get a ton of projects out of library books) and started on a mouse in a tea cup. It says "Not a Creature was stirring..." and the mouse is asleep. It's really cute, but taking a lot longer than anticipated. I'll post photos of that when I finish it as well.

We've been working on making our Christmas gifts for everyone. We're doing stationary this year for everybody. Last year it was cd case calendars, so we're mixing it up this year. Jason worked on them last night during the movie.

Over the weekend we did a lot of Christmas shopping. I got some fabric for a project for Jason's mom. She's a hairdresser and has requested a superman cape for cutting hair. It should be kind of fun and easy to do. She lent me an old cape to use as a pattern. Stay tuned for photos soon. I might try to work on that tonight. I think I'm about done with my purchased gifts. I was so excited when I got home after shopping I was running around the apartment telling Jason all about what I bought.

We watched our nephew, Lucas part of the weekend. He's a sweetie. He's 4 months old. That was a lot of fun. He's starting to really chat and interact with us. It's fun to watch.

Tonight, Jason and I are joining his dad for pizza and pinball moving. His dad just got the Lord of the Rings pinball machine. He's driving to Arkansas today to pick it up. Jason and I used to play this game occasionally when we were in college. It's my favorite pinball game. Sometimes we'd go to the laundromat just to play the Monopoly one. We had our own washer and dryer, but we'd go just to play. The monopoly is probably my second favorite.

So, the next couple of weeks might be a little sporadic in posts. We're headed to Chicago this weekend to see Jason's sister and "eat our way through Chicago". Jason's come up with this plan for our trip. We're going to try a ton of restaurants. We're just going to walk through town and stop at any restaurant that looks good and order one item for us to share. I think it sounds like fun. We'll do some shopping and hanging with Elle & Kevin. It should be a good time. We're taking the train there. It's our first train ride, so we're excited. Hopefully, it's not too terribly cold there. A little snow would be nice, though.

Stay warm and bundled up! "Baby, it's cold outside!"

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Quit your day job?

Jason sent me this article a while back and I've just gotten around to writing about it.

It's about a husband and wife who have a full-time etsy business. I found it really interesting because this is exactly what I'm dreaming of for Sewbot's Laboratory.

It would be ideal for me to be able to stay home and make things to be able to support my family. I love that their business got successful enough that the husband was able to stay at home and work on their etsy business, too.

I think it's awesome how they have the freedom to take a nap, or take their daughter to the park whenever they feel like it.

This is exactly what I hope Sewbot will turn into. A family business that allows us the flexibility we need to be able to live and be a family together. Next year I'm hoping to be able to really push it, so we can see where it will end up. Hopefully, it can turn into something successful like the people in this article.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Isn't it amazing?

Isn’t it amazing what kids will play with?

Ella, my approximately 2 year old niece comes over every once in a while. Her favorite things at my house are this doorstop I made a while back and my cat.

Lily, my cat could entertain her for hours. Lily is really good about finding a place to hide where Ella can’t reach her. Ella will pull out all of Lily’s toys and run around throwing them towards the last place she saw Lily in an attempt to bribe her to come out and play.

The doorstop totally throws me for a loop. We have a whole bucket of toys for her, but she always seems to move the doorstop several times each visit.

It’s amazing to me that Ella could live in a toy store, but Lily and the doorstop would be the things she’d go for.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A sick day well used

Today I was home sick. I've got some sort of bug that's starting to go away. I slept until 10 this morning! I so needed this day off to recuperate.

Because I was home from work and taking it easy, I spent most of my day in front of the laptop surfing the Internet. I read quite a few blogs I was behind on and discovered some new ones.

After all my research and surfing today, I think I should start making burp cloths to sell. It would be an easy project to make a bunch of them to list at once. I don't want to start up an Etsy account with only one or two items, so I think a bunch of burp cloth sets would be a good start up item.

I wish I could stay home and work from the studio everyday. The quality of light in this room is amazing. It's so cheery and cozy. I love being home and able to snuggle Lily, the cat. I turned down the heat in the apartment, closed the door to the studio, and cranked up the space heater. It was so nice to be here today. I'm almost hoping I can be sick again tomorrow so that I can sit in my pajamas and research some more.

Being able to stay home today really helped me realize what I want for and out of Sewbot's Laboratory.

In other news... I found out today that a very good friend of mine is pregnant. I'm so excited for them. That was also inspiring for me, too. I don't know a lot of people with babies who would really be willing to try things I make out. This gives me a great opportunity to make things to share with her and see how well they actually work. I can't wait until the little one gets here!

Another Rearranged Studio

Since our apartment was pretty rearranged from Thanksgiving, and I needed some more room after Black Friday’s sales, Jason and I decided to move some things around in the studio.

When he set his desk back up, he gave me a few more inches than what I had before.

I switched my large drafting table for his smaller one. This now gives me a desk space that I didn’t really have before and a much better arrangement.

I’m excited to have a better functioning space. Hopefully, it stays this way and it provides me with a good work space that I can make a lot of stuff in this coming year. I’m planning to try and really get Sewbot’s Laboratory up and running in 2009.

Keep checking back for more things to come.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Black Friday

This year was another successful Black Friday for me. Even though I’ve been feeling icky, I went out early to stock up on some good deals.

At Kohl’s I got a Christmas sweater and slippers. That started at 4 a.m. I then came home and climbed back in bed for about 30 minutes.

At 10 until 6 I headed to JoAnn’s. They had flannel on sale for $1.49 a yard. $115.08 later, I came home with 16 different new flannels, a new 15” square ruler for rotary cutting, a scissor sharpener, new scissors, 4 bags of fiberfill, some new bobbins, and some basting gun tacks.
My darling husband went to Target while I was at JoAnn’s. He snuck up behind me after he was through with his shopping and says, “Excuse me miss. You dropped this.” Normally I would have recognized his voice, but since my head is pretty congested, things don’t sound the same. I turned around and looked at what this man had in his hand for me, and knew that I could not have dropped that pack of Reese’s. I didn’t have one to begin with. Isn’t he wonderful? He stopped by to make sure he didn’t need to stick around to guard my cart while I continued shopping.

I had already been through the flannel aisle and had a number for the cutting table. We walked the store together to shop for any other things we needed and then he left me to head home.
After 3 hours of shopping and waiting in line, I was done. While waiting in line for the check-out with my cart filled with stuffing and flannel, I had this conversation with the woman behind me.

She asked, “What time did you get here this morning?”

I responded with, “I was in line a little before six.”

She said in a fairly rude tone, “Was it worth it.”

My response was, “Yes. For me it’s worth it. I got 16 different flannels for $1.49 a yard. I plan on making several pajamas and lots of baby quilts. Three hours to stock up for cheap once a year is worth it to me because all the time I would spend later choosing the right flannel would add up to more than 3 hours. It would also cost me a lot more money later on, too.”

It always amazes me how annoyed people seem to get on Black Friday. I love the rush I get from trying to compete with other people for that really special sale item I got up super early for. I’ve been doing this shopping since I was sixteen and able to drive. I love going out with all the “crazies” on this day. It is always amazing to me that on this day while waiting in line, you can listen to everybody complain about how annoying it is that the store isn’t prepared for the number of people there, the line is too long , or how early it is. It’s funny to me that these people chose just like I did to come out for the deals, but try to make it sound like an inconvience to them. This society never seizes to amaze me.

I love Black Friday. I was only out for 5 hours total and was home by 9:30 and got everything I wanted. I now have a fully stocked studio closet.

*A little of the flannel in the photos is left over from last year's Black Friday sale.