Things are changing around here. Have you noticed? I'm changing up my business model, and splitting my business into two divisions. I'm pretty excited, and pretty nervous about change. You know how it goes. So without further ado, here's the gist of it...
Victoria Jean will continue to be handmade toys. However, instead of a full line, I'll be selling things one toy/collection at a time, with only a certain number of items available. You'll have 3 weeks to buy them, and then they disappear.
Elisabeth Ann is the new company. This will operate more traditionally, and focusing on home decor pulling from our family's Scandinavian heritage and this wonderful Dubai we currently live in. Nordic camels, anyone?
Elisabeth Ann will have a Victoria Jean line of Arab-inspired items that will include some of the goodies previously seen from this site, that I've been selling at markets and such.
Stay tuned for more in-depth descriptions of both companies, and I hope to see you along the way!
"It takes a village to raise a child," they say. Well, living as an expat with children certainly emphasizes how right "they" are. Being isolated from family and loved ones, especially in a transient location, makes it hard to rely on anyone for help raising your kids. Your community members are either 10 timezones away, leaving after the school year for a new job, or completely overwhelmed themselves.
So when my husband asked me (several times) if I like doing things like this - the awards, the decorations, the food, and even the lessons themselves, I honestly answered yes. I do enjoy it, but I also acknowledge and appreciate his trepidation at my involvement in these sorts of things - and at my own behest. He told me, as I sat hunched over my computer screen searching for free svg files of pianos and music notes, that I would be a great American elementary school teacher. I understand where he's coming from. I was going beyond my pay, beyond my time availability, and beyond my sanity safe-zone voluntarily and at the expense of myself and my family. If I stay up until midnight making piano award graphics and texting teenagers to convince them to come and play, my sleep-deprived self won't be my best self for my family the next day. I get it. I need to put my own family first; true to survival tactics 101, my family needs to have our oxygen masks on first.
Yet as I was hauling my kids to each week's piano lessons and coordinating childcare, keeping up with the practice charts, getting stuck in traffic with screaming kids in the car past their bedtimes, and all for just enough pay to keep it mildly professional and turn around and spend that money on refreshments for the recital... I have been oddly able to cope. I think it's because deep down, I know that I have been doing this because I'm a mother, and I value music, and I would want someone to do this for my child.
Because as a parent, you hope your child has that teacher who stays up late at night preparing amazing lessons and using their own low wages to do so. Of course you wish it weren't necessary, but you want the best for your child. You want those who are passionate to pass that love on to your child. You want your child to have support from adults outside your family. You want your child to learn new things and learn how to learn so they can become the best version of themselves.
And this is where that foster village They talk about comes in. For those parents whose kids won't listen to them, for those parents who don't know diddly squat about their child's interests (if my kids like science and math, I'm toast), for those parents who have a gaggle of geese running around and not enough arms to juggle it all, we need a village! And today's villages are not very warm or welcoming. Today's society has told me and many other moms that a village isn't needed at all because as a stay at home mom, it's my job to raise my kids myself and have everyone come out of that gauntlet perfect.
I can't do everything. You can't do everything. But we can all do something, mix up our somethings, and soon enough, perhaps a village will develop.
So if you are in my position, scouring the web for awards and such, here you go. Here's a drop in the village bucket from me. Take these and use them so you don't have to stay up late making your own. Use them to make a child feel special, appreciated, and ready to continue learning. Use them to show your kids how to create a village so their generation won't be as screwed up as ours with depression, anxiety, and shaming each other. They are 100% free, no logos, no hitches.
Use them to make your own life easier, for the love of reason!
And in case you missed the caption, here's the link to the program I used - also free. Just edit to include your info!
Inspired by a dear friend who just left Dubai for the last time as a resident (you better come visit!), here are some printable cards for you. Better hurry - they are free only for a limited time!
Each is an A5 PDF. For those of us who are math averse, that means you can fit 2 onto an A4 page. I think. Correct me if I'm wrong! The backs are blank with the Victoria Jean logo.
Just print, fold in half, cut out, write in the (blank) inside, and give it away with tears and lots of hugs.
A huge thank you for all who came to help! We had a lot of fun sewing some adorable dolls to give to children who need some extra love. What a great group! I hope everyone is on their way to making a lot of these little girls or guys and that you enjoy making them as much as I do.
I'll keep this post nice and brief since I will be posting a youtube tutorial (my first ever) on these dolls soon. How soon, I don't know. How quickly can one learn how to edit videos? Hmmm... Until then, here's a free printable in honor of my husband, who lives with my sewing projects cluttering the house and loves me anyway. This last week our place was especially messy, given my laziness at cleaning between classes. Oops. Maybe I should make something for him one of these days. What do husbands like sewn for them, anyway?
Download the free PDF here!
We had so much fun today at a free little demonstration/class I held for people to learn how to make a fast, simple teddy bear. This bear is perfect for giving to a child who needs a smile, and I hope that all who attended are on their way to making lots of these little guys to fill the world with some much-needed bear hugs.
Things I learned from my first-ever teaching experience:
If you'd like to make your own bears, here's the site I used to get the pattern. I use cotton instead of a knit + interfacing (faster), and I flatten out the belly just a touch because if you use cotton, it kind of looks like the bear has a beer belly - or should I say bear belly? I also use pinking shears all the way around the edges, and would recommend putting just a little stuffing in the ears before stitching across them. I've been tinkering with a rabbit pattern adaption, and will post the results when I get the ears figured out.
Thanks again to everyone who came today! Next class: rag dolls; I'm so excited!
My little Victoria loves the show PJ Masks right now. I actually have no idea why, since it's not really my cup of tea (all things relative when we are talking about shows geared for toddlers...). No matter her reasoning, she gets so excited when she hears the music playing that she runs in place and squeals in delight and shouts, "GECKO!!" right on cue when her favorite character appears on screen.
Typically the shows in our household are a bit more, shall we say, educational. But what's a mother to do when her child shows such enthusiasm she starts crawling around on her hands and knees chanting, "gecko! Gecko! Gecko!" all day long?
Make her a gecko, of course. I looked for a cute but simple pattern (I didn't want to invest too much time into this thing in case the PJ Masks only last one more nighttime of crime fighting before becoming old). I couldn't find any that I loved, so I used HoppShop's geckos as my inspiration and when I was drawing it out, decided 5 toes are far too many to deal with on each foot, and do I really need separate fabrics and feet attached via buttons and all that such? And eyes? Do I really need eyes that she will rip off?
No, I decided. No I do not.
Thus was born a very simple, very easy and fast (done in one naptime!) gecko.
3. Cut out the fabrics together, in a rough shape around the gecko. No need to be precise, and leave at least 1/4 inch around the edges.
4. Sew around the gecko directly on the line you drew, starting along the "straight" side of the tail, going around each and every blasted toe on each and every blasted foot, and leave a couple inches gap for turning and stuffing. Be a little generous on the gap size - it's easier to ladder stitch an extra inch than it is to turn and stuff all these toes (have I mentioned how many toes there are?) through a tiny gap.
5. Grab some pinking shears and cut around the whole gecko, and cut wedges out of the corners and V shapes between the toes - I wasn't very careful with this, so if you want a decent gecko, do as I say, not as I do...
6. Turn it right-side out using a chopstick, stilletto, eraser end of a pencil, whatever. May you have super gecko strength with you. And patience. Stupid toes. Good thing I only did 4 toes on each foot instead of 5. I won't even allow myself to Google how many toes geckos are supposed to have. I have a feeling I don't want to know the answer.
7. Stuff the gecko, starting with the toes furthest from the gap, using painfully small bunches of batting. Once you stuff all the toes, stuff the tail tip in similar fashion and then the main body. I was running low on stuffing, so don't judge my lumpy gecko. He'll compact down anyway, right?
8. Ladder-stitch closed the gap, freeze, and stop making any noise. Did your toddler just wake up? Congratulations - you just made her favorite super hero while she slept! The irony of saving the day while in the night (or in this case, nap) is not lost on you or me. You're the real super hero. Yes, you.
When she woke up from her nap (I wasn't kidding about that whole done in one nap thing), I presented her with the gecko. Her face lit up, and she said, "Gecko?! Mamma, GECKO!!!" And she grabbed it and promptly threw it across the room. Hmm. Mixed signals, right?
That night she refused to go to bed without it with her, and she was pounding her fist on the mattress yelling, "Super gecko strength!" Apparently absence makes the heart grow fonder, and gecko's time across the room did their relationship a bit of good.
So, if you want a quick gecko and don't care about anatomically correct feet on said gecko, here you go. Enjoy!
I've been playing with one of my Christmas gifts - a Wacom drawing tablet. So with a mix of media (some drawn by hand, some via tablet... blah blah), I give you a free printable camel maze!
I know, the crowd goes wild! You're welcome. May you find your way through the maze - no, really. I am far from a professional maze designer, so I hope there actually is a way to get through it.
Download link is at the bottom of the page!
Here comes Peter Cottontail, with his bulky baskets, cheap plastic eggs, insane amounts of horrendously expensive sugar, and oh - yeah, this is actually a religious holiday! How are you expected to haul all that around with you, you globetrotter, you? Are you supposed to buy it all over again every time you move? Nay! Here are some suggestions for an Easter worthy of expat celebrations - bunnies and Christianity included.
Here's how our Easter 2017 is shaping up. Fresh flowers (especially if you never splurge on them other times in the year), paint chip bunnies, window clings, Easter grass, and our own little crafts are all contributing to what's going on in our household for the Easter season this year. Everything fits in a shoebox if I want to keep it, or if I don't, I won't shed any tears as they disappear.
Not pictured are some things like our growing Easter grass (still hidden in the dirt), and we haven't boiled and painted eggs yet. Not quite sure how we will do those this year with our little artist.
And here are some lovely ideas from other sources!
Not so religious
There you have it. Just a few ideas that you can hopefully make out of things already laying around. They are all small or flat, disposable, or better yet, edible!
So hop to it!
A lot has been happening in our household, including a few pretty major things. In addition to the birth of our second, beautiful baby girl, I finally finished a project! For the first time in a long time, I was able to wrap up all loose ends and make something. While a baby was on my lap. Literally...
This was a trial run for a possible new product in the shop. I used a combination of tutorials from Happy Together By Jess and Sugar Bee Crafts. The letter pattern is from the latter. Go there to download the template for free.
Unfortunately, I don't think this will be possible for me to make economically for Victoria Jean unless you ask me really nicely and are willing to pay a rather pretty penny. So, I'll pass along what I did in case you want to create your own.
Instead of using scraps, I used a charm square pack from Missouri Star Quilt Company (my favorite fabric source) that I just love. This made the whole process incredibly easy since it was all matched and coordinated already. You can also use scraps, but let's get real, here. If I had to dig through my scraps to find enough that were big enough for letters... I'd still be digging. I used the same stripey fabric for the back of each letter, with a layer of batting between. I'd use a thinner batting for round 2 (though perhaps this will flatten out with time). I didn't iron the letters, but I may give it a whirl one of these days if I feel like it.
Ha. You just let me know if you iron yours and tell me how it went. But only if it's not worth it, since I will never iron these things.
I just stuck the letters on the adorable fabric, right side up, traced, then pinned it in strips with the backing fabric and batting (wrong sides together, batting between). I sewed a line of letters production line style, cutting the length off after a letter here and there to make it a bit easier to work with the strip. I definitely got to know the knee-lift feature of my new Bernina. There's a lot of curves and turns in the alphabet!
I used pinking shears to cut out the letters. I'd change the font for another round or edit the letters a bit so that the holes in them (especially the A's) would be larger - easier to cut and more visible.
One more change - I thought an alphabet would be more useful if there were multiples of the letters, so I made 2 of most letters, and 3 of the ones I'm guessing are used the most in English or Finnish. Only time will tell if I correctly guessed what words we will be spelling in our home...
The finished product is both cat and toddler approved! It was overall a fun project for me, too. Hopefully this will be a great toy to help us all learn spelling for years to come.
I love herbs & spices, cats, low brass instruments, international relations, culture, traveling, writing, and most of all, my family.