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.
Our family newsletter is really one of the only traditions we have, so I'm holding onto it -- and tight! Instead of a paper newsletter (because we are lazy and cheap and don't want to pay for postage), we do a digital newsletter that began as an infographic when those were all the rage. They are all graphics that hail to the year they are honoring.
Here's what our family was up to in 2016... It was mostly just me going to bunch of doctor's appointments, but that's not very exciting and it's hard to romanticize so it looks good on a graphic.
For this year's newsletter, I used Canva. Typically I make my own from scratch, but with a new baby and a toddler running around, ain't nobody got time for that!
May 2016 settle in peace in our memories. Welcome, new year. Welcome.
Here are the newsletters from years gone by... 2012 I remember taking forever to make all those wretched circles. Plus, the idea of the Swedish flag morphing into the Finnish flag, indicating we had moved from Sweden to Finland, was completely lost on most people, and all those circles were for naught. Sigh. That was the first time I was really using my beloved Inkscape. But, though stiff and slow, 2012 in Inkscape was nothing like using Microsoft Word to create our first one in 2011. Ah, the memories.
This was me desperately trying to make pumpkins for Halloween. I mean, Thanksgiving. I mean... oops.
Truth be told, this has been an incredibly busy time of year for me here at Victoria Jean because personal life just doesn't go on hold for work (at least not with my priority structure). I'm currently holding 3 official job titles, and I, like many of you, am a woman of many, many hats.
The last few months have brought so much chaos, stress, and struggles that I have had to make a difficult decision. I will be reigning back and only working on digital files from the comfort of bedrest and with my feet elevated.
In a way, my heart aches that I can't physically produce all the wonderful ideas (at least I think they are wonderful) that are floating around in my head. But, this Mamma has been expressly ordered to chill out so that I and the Little One who will shortly be joining us in the real world will be healthy and happy.
So, that's it, folks. I'll still be doing what I can, but it will all be digital and available over at the Etsy shop - great news for those living abroad!
I know. I am using click-bait. Who doesn't like free printables? I mean, seriously. Who? As my shameless advertising for my Thanksgiving and fall digital downloads now up in the Etsy shop, I'm giving you absolutely adorable gobble gobble printables for free!
Head on over to the Etsy shop for more holiday printables, including wall art and holiday invitations for that dinner you've got coming up!
And now, for your free printables. Click on the file links below the graphics for a pdf download.
Happy Autumn, desert dwellers!
I'm learning, guys. Or at least, I'm trying to. This whole business is one of entrepreneurship, and I hope to one day be totally fine with the flexibility it requires. Until that day, may my family be patient and endure my stress...
One of the things I've learned this week is that digital prints are much needed, and I shall be happy to fill that need for you. I'm shifting focus at least while my beloved sewing machine is in the shop.
The other, much harder lesson I learned -- after posting about Halloween decor I've been frantically trying to create (life is busy, yo) -- is that no one cares about Halloween anymore. That is SO three months ago.
It's all about Thanksgiving now.
No, not even. It's all about Christmas.
Silly me, I thought, "That's just the people thinking that. I've got time to get Halloween stuff out, and then even more time for Christmas stuff. One month at a time, people!" But no, that is not what a business is about.
You see, I went to a group all about Christmas at the referral of a friend. And there I saw it. over 100 orders for a product I was planning on making. Yes. ME. I was going to make it and sell it for Christmas this year. Yet this lady beat me to it, because SHE knows what she's doing. She posts a picture of the product she made like 10 years ago - no, actually, she posts a picture of a product she didn't even make; I know because I PINNED THE DANG THING off Pinterest myself thinking, "wow, what a great idea to sell."
Good idea indeed. It's not even Halloween, and I'm working on making Trick-or-treat bags, and she has all the time in the world to focus on her one product that everyone in the world wants.
Don't even try to console me by saying at least I had the good idea. It's too late. I need shoulders to weep on, folks.
So, I'm taking a leaf out of her book. I'm going to post pictures of someone else's work that I know I can make, and I'll start taking orders so I know exactly how many I will need to make. Right? Right.
And about Thanksgiving, I'm taking orders for those, too.
Long story short, go to my fb page to place orders for Holiday products. If you want it, tell me. If you want to see an idea created, tell me. Do it now, because that's when all the cool kids are doing it.
That, right there, folks, is a picture of the coveted Mood bag. This crumpled, flight-experienced bag is MY Mood bag. For seamstresses and Project Runway fans alike, carrying this bag and knowing there's something fabulous inside brings a sense of pride, prestige and happiness. You, the magical Mood bag carrier hold your head a little higher, strut a little sleeker, and feel a whole lot more awesome. Because you, yes you, bought something at Mood.
Well, that right there is my highest praise for Mood Fashion in NYC. I was surprisingly underwhelmed. Or do I mean overwhelmed? I don't... I don't even know.
I jumped with glee upon realizing our hotel was less than a 5 minute walk from Mood. YES! I navigated over to Yelp to make sure I could identify the building (and not look like a lost tourist opening random doors), completely excited to fulfill a bucket list item, a dream, a fantasy. Mood, Baby. I was going to Mood.
But wait!! Yelp had some glaringly negative reviews? What?! No way. Imbeciles! Barbarians! This is MOOD. This. Will. Be. Awesome. Grab that credit card, leave the baby and husband behind, and let's DO THIS.
I set out. Excited. Ready. My heart pounded faster as I approached people carrying those beautiful black bags. Hooray!
MOOD! On that sign! On the door! It says MOOD! I swung that door open and stepped inside to... a home fabrics place? Wait, what? I didn't look well enough at the Yelp pictures. This is NOT the Mood from TV. This is... what is this?
The side shoot off of Mood is for home fabrics. And let me tell you what it is:
After grabbing a bunch of fantastic textures for my quiet books, and petting (yes, you get to pet a lot of those fabrics since they are all kinds of crazy) every fabric on display, I thought to myself,
"Self, this is an amazing and inspiring place. And it's not even the real deal!"
And then as I was thinking these things and wishing I had brought a bag to stash my swatches in, I found my way to the real deal. The elevator doors opened and I saw...
It was a jumbled mess of all sorts of fabrics, calling me in. Mood, you Siren. If you insist...
Only upon stepping fully into the store do you realize the happy little welcome sign hanging from the ceiling is beckoning you into chaos. Chaos!
There was floor-to-ceiling fabric, notions, ribbons, laces, sparkly things, buttons, and more fabric covering every square milimeter of the store, leaving only aisles juuuust wide enough to allow the massive rolls of fabrics to be pulled out - by you - and hauled around, dodging the people who otherwise fill the aisles. People were everywhere, fabric bolts and rolls everywhere... I sadly put away my phone. Pictures would be really difficult here without being a stalker. Apparently I shouldn't have come on a Friday afternoon. This is really busy. Already, I was overwhelmed, despite the helpful little ceiling signs labeling sections.
Well, I thought, let's start on one side and loop around... Lace. Let's start with lace. Oh, I wonder if they have tatting! For those unaware, I can make poor man's lace, called tatting, and I've always been curious to see if I could find it in a store somewhere. If there is a somewhere that sells it, it could be Mood, right? I mean, look at all those laces!
I started hefting around fabric tubes, stretching on my tippy toes to see the top layers, and crouching down to catch the bottom ones, receiving and giving bruises as we customers elbowed each other. Within 5 minutes, I was exhausted and concluded there was no tatting in this section - after all, this would be the lace fabrics. Not the trims. Duh. *Later I do search through the trims for tatting. Nada.
I turn my attention to... good heavens. People everywhere, fabric everywhere. What on Earth am I going to... the list! Right! I have a list of what I want! I shall start with the first thing on the list: patterned jersey knit for a maxi dress.
Just then a hurried staff member glanced at me and said, "Hey! Nice to see you!"
"Oh, you too!" Whaaat? Either my fame far precedes me, or I look like someone else he knows.
I walk three steps and decide this is futile. I shout at an employee, "Jersey knits?" to which he curtly responds, "downstairs, far wall." Sheesh. He obviously doesn't know I'm famous. What, what? DOWNSTAIRS? Aaaahhhh.
You can do this.
My wits re-girded about me, I traipse downstairs, bumping and jabbing and clinging to my little shopping basket. Far wall. OK. Wait, there's no jersey knits here! Dang. Must be the other far wall.
Indeed. It was the other far wall.
Apparently jersey knits aren't on other people's lists, so I grabbed my phone and took a few pictures to show you the massive scale of this tiny place. Yes, massive, tiny place...
...in which I found NO suitable jersey for my vision of a dress for myself. Oh no! Mood doesn't have it! Well, I need a Mood bag. I have to find something to buy. Let's dig again. After another10 minutes battling with the rolls, getting smacked in the back of the head with fabric, and being greeted by another employee (who do they think I am??), I give up. Boo. Next on the list? Shirt fabric for my husband. The list reads:
I spent 30 minutes shuffling through the massive selection of shirt fabrics, and was not overly impressed. The black was easy enough to find, the red continues to be impossible, and the white was elusive and I ended up going back and forth between 4 different ones, determined to get SOMETHING. Ugh. This one. Fine. I hauled it over to the counter, waited for forever to get it cut, and crossed my fingers it's enough fabric for a shirt because I of course didn't check. Oops.
Feeling slightly less anxious, now that I will have a mood bag, I checked the list again and saw materials for a skirt for me, a dress for Victoria, a fun cotton for Victoria Jean, and "something just for fun" for myself.
I'll shorten my narrative at this point, and tell you I was disappointed on all fronts. I either couldn't find it, or what I wanted wasn't there, or I was looking in the wrong place, misguided by the employees. Had I wanted any silk chiffon, I'm sure I would have found it. I didn't know so much silk chiffon exists in the world...
I ended up 3 hours later in the top corner section of the store looking at scuba fabric, remembering that one season in Project Runway when that person did all those things with scuba fabric, and maybe I could... No. Amanda, you really have no need for scuba fabric for no reason. You have no idea how to sew scuba fabric.
Somehow a beautiful blue spandex ended up in my basket, because there was NO WAY I was going to leave NYC having been to Mood with nothing but upholstery swatches and blazee shirt fabrics for someone else. The color is gorgeous, and the drape should be lovely. Plus, I don't have to hem it... It will do. For me, my Mood fabric.
At the checkout, after waiting, I asked the cashier if this was a particularly busy day, and she responded, "Oh, no! This is really slow! I wish all days were like this!" She was the only friendly employee I came across. At least her happiness distracted me momentarily from the expense of these fabrics I wasn't even that thrilled about. Sheesh. Pricey, pricey!
I can understand why someone who had to shop in the store on a timeline for the show would just get something close enough to what he/she wanted and paint it or alter it or something. It's just impossible to find anything specific.
So, in conclusion, I will summarize in a bullet list. Sorry, dear husband and all other concise-minded people. He would prefer I'd have started with the bullet list. No, actually, he would have preferred I only write the bullet list and skip this whole story thing. Well, in case you are more the bullet-list-type, here you go. Mood in bullets:
...But at least I got to walk for less than 5 minutes carrying that Mood bag, with my head held high.
I know, I know. You've been itching to hear from me. What exactly was Victoria Jean doing during this period of radio silence? Can there possibly be an excuse good enough to neglect the blog? Perhaps...
You see, I was traveling! And SHOPPING! And turning green with envy at my mom's Bernina... but let's focus on the SHOPPING!
This is good for you guys. by mid-August, I will have replenished my supplies at the cheapest rates for the best quality I can find, which means shipping things in and hauling massive (and slightly overweight) suitcases around multiple continents. Just for you.
OK, not just for you. Because I'm pretty obsessed with fabric. You got me, I'm one of "those" people. I just. need. more. Actually, it's not like an addiction that renders withdrawls, it's more like an obsession to avoid non-buyers remorse. You know, the regret you'll always have for the rest of your life because you didn't buy that one thing that you thought you didn't need but really, you will need therapy to get through the grieving process of your loss when you realize just how much you DID need that thing.
Some fabrics are that thing for me. I mean, anything can be that thing. I will always regret not buying Tanzanite on a cruise ship 3 years ago. That's another thing. When I was in Italy a decade ago, I only bought one set of fancy tire air cap thingies for my beloved car, and I should have gotten two. Another thing. But we are talking fabric here.
In fact, this is all the fabric I brought back with me from my trip to the US. And this doesn't include the felt for my wretchedly taxing quiet book project. I'll rant about that sometime else.
There are times when you just can't pass up that fabric. You have no idea what you'll do with it, but you must have it. These are those for this trip (plus my clingy cat, who's very happy we're home):
So don't worry, I will rest easy knowing I did in fact purchase my favorite fabrics. I know, you were really concerned.
And now that I have returned to the desert, fresh goodies through customs, and new research in my head, I'm ready. For what? TO WORK. OK, first I have to clean my desk. And fix my sewing machine. But guys, I have so many ideas! I just can't wait to tell you all about the future of Victoria Jean!
I know. There's an order to all things. Well, while I continue to get my ducks in order (I have a whole raft of ducks to organize before they can take off and soar as a flock), I'll provide you with some reviews of my 2 main stops for fabric this trip.
Coming soon: Click on the links for in-depth reviews if it catches your fancy.
Please enjoy these while I tackle the organizational nightmare that is my workspace as I struggle to accommodate my newest additions, and will someone just give me a Bernina, please? Thanks.
You know that Hamilton in Missouri? No, not a waay off-off-broadway show, but the town, Hamilton? You don't? Well, if you quilt, you definitely, definitely, SHOULD. Because that's where Missouri Star Quilt Company lives.
North of Kansas City is a slightly-hidden gem of a quilting empire in Hamilton, Missouri.
A quilting empire?... Really?
I hear your skepticism. Yes, you. I hear it. But you've obviously not been there, you naysayer! Because Missouri Star Quilt Company has taken over this once-forgotten town and turned it into a burgeoning dream destination for anyone who likes heavy-weight cotton. The entire town is being transformed -- as I type this, I'm sure the cogs are turning -- into the must-see quilting mecca of the USA.
Once you find your way there (yes, keep driving even if you think you've missed it), you'll want to stay. To me, the town is such a huge inspiration. On your drive to get to the main street (no signs in town direct you to the quilting, so just keep going until you hit the old main strip), you see houses that have seen better days and forlorn buildings. You think, "Yikes." Then you see lines of tour buses parked on the side of the road. There's NO available parking along the street. All the seating is filled in the diners. People are strolling along with bags, their noses perusing a map of the town.
Then you go into any of the shops, eat any of the food (especially, I hear, from the restaurant Blue Sage), hang out in the man lounge, take a peek into the behind-the-scenes action... and you totally understand why there are the buses, tourists, and extra parking lots.
To me, this is part of the inspiration. For an entrepreneur, this reaches a certain level of poeticism akin to a pheonix rising from a crumbling town. I would really like to create a CGI of a phoenix with the head of one of the founders, Al Doan. If only I were that talented. My attempts (which were embarrassingly many) resulted in something looking either demonic or like a really hairy bird catching on fire. Yet, it was too funny for me to pass up putting just one on here...
Anyway, I'll cut to the chase. Missouri Star Quilt Company is one of my "must" stops - a place I shoved my screaming, wailing, crying, sick-of-the-carseat toddler into her buckled nest of sweaty safety for an extra 2-hour drive. Sorry, I need to add some emphasis and pluralize.
THE quilt shops.
There are (correct me if I'm wrong) 14 quilt shops. Guys. That's a ton. And all from the same company, so there's no competition, just SELECTION. It's beautiful. Literally.
OK, so I'm far from an expert on this place when placed next to the literal busloads of people who travel from around the world to eat, sleep, shop, and breathe quilting for several days or weeks or however long these quilters marathon for. I've only made two treks, once this week, and once 2 years ago. Here's a short review. I'm only slightly biased because I know Al Doan from those college days gone by. Mostly I'm just JAW-DROPPED in awe at what this amazing, fun family has done with quilting.
Here's what I know. There's a system to the madness. If you start in the main shop, the one in the first picture (next to the burger place), you'll be able to pick up a map of all the stores, see a sampling from each shop (smart idea, guys!) of what they carry, and register for emails and to accumulate points throughout your shopping. You can sign up without talking to anyone at the desk by using touch screens, and then just grab your card from the table. Great system! I believe one of the reasons they are so successful is their ability to blend modern technology and business models with the traditional style and supplies needed for an old craft like quilting. This creates a space for everyone, old and young, who want to try their needles - take a stab, if you will - at quilting.
An added bonus to my trip: I'm unsure if this is a permanent or temporary incentive program, but for every $50usd I spent in one store, I got to chose a charm to add to my free charm bracelet. $30 gets you a bookmark. If participating, you collect your bracelet from the main shop, and choose the charm on the spot. I won't remind my husband of how much I spent here by telling you how many charms I got... But I will admit to hacking up a bookmark to turn into a charm because one does not need that many bookmarks with a sewing machine charm.
And now, to really make this short and sweet:
As a quick summary, this is your one-stop town for quilting. The vibe is a great blend of traditional and modern, and when you're shopping with Missouri Star Quilt Company, you're really joining a huge network that covers all your needs (and wants!) for creating beautiful, simple, and fast quilts that look amazing!
And IIIIIIIIIIIII whale always love yoooooooouuuu...
Boy have I got a whale of a tale for you today!
Too much? I whale stop. Ha. No I won't. You're stuck with a whole blog post of whale puns.
I'm working on a tutorial for a giant bean bag chair, but this is turning into my first tutorial instead of the beanbag chair because Sharjah. If you live in the UAE, you will understand why things are taking a bit longer for the bean bag chair because I'm sourcing from and have to drive to Sharjah. So, while we put a pin in that (several, actually), here's a different tutorial, instead! Hooray!
That's whale Victoria Jean comes in, to SYW (that's obviously for Save Your Whale)!!
So, this pattern proved easy enough for me to figure out, but likely because I ended up making several. The first was for a baby shower - for little Jack, who whale have a nautical-inspired nursery to drift off to sleep in each night.
Guys, is it just me, or is my imagery today on point?
Here's my first whale, for little Jack, who was still swimming in his mamma's tummy:
DIY yourself a whale!
3. Fins - Pin your fins right sides together and sew around them, leaving the "top" open. *I used a 5mm seam allowance for the whales* I figure that's the standard stuffed animal seam allowance, and it sort of worked. I will get to the mouth later... If using cotton or a non-stretch fabric, cut notches in the curve or use pinking shears so your whale is nice and curvaceous. You can press your seams if you want, but I like the fluffier, less formal feel for stuffed animals. Stuff to your desired stuffiness, leaving enough space at the top to sew it inside the whale. You can stitch the top closed, if you want. This to me makes it easier to sew inside.
4. Pin the sides of the whale together (right sides together) and sew from the V part of the tail to the nose. Make sure you secure your stitching, and if you do follow me down the dark (but oh so loveably soft) jersey path, use a zig zag stitch so your seams have some give and don't pop from lots of lovin'
5. Match up the mouth piece to the belly of the beast using those handy notches you were definitely supposed to do in step 2. Right sides together, now! Pin the curvy part to the notches, and sew from notch to notch around the lip of the whale. Do whales have lips?
6. After googling whether whales have lips (they don't, which apparently makes nursing whales more of a squirt n' go process), you get to pin all the pieces together, right sides together. If you're putting in safety eyes, do that before you pin so your life will be easier. I'm not really sure I can explain this very well, so I'm hoping you can figure it out when the pieces are in your hands, and you can see the pictures. Just make sure your fins are going the right way (pointing back toward the tail) and if you used different colors for the belly and the back make sure they match up. It's a tight squeeze to fit the fins there together, so I kind of shove them inside the sides. Again, hopefully you can figure this out despite my explanation. There's no notch on the fin pattern pieces, so I just started the fins at the fin notches. The "bottom" of the mouth will be sewn to the belly, and the top to the sides. If you're putting in a tag, now's the time to do that. Whales don't have noses like teddy bears (didn't even have to Google that one). So I probably wouldn't put in a nose... blowholes are totally acceptable.
Aaaaand for the mouth. Despite trying my darndest and asking several other seamstresses, I couldn't determine the need for the extra fabric on the mouth. If you cut your piece according to pattern, you'll notice it doesn't match up on one half. One matches perfectly with both lipless lips. I tried putting the smaller side of the oval on the top, on the bottom, with jersey, with cotton, with courderoy, with a big gap for the world's largest stuffed whale jaw... I just cannot make it make sense. Instead, I ended up cutting off all the extra fabric, creating an oval with the darts in the center of the oval's sides, and stitching it up. It also works fine if you cut out the paper pattern, fold it in "half" where the darts are, and cut off the extra paper so when you unfold it the darts are centered. Then your fabric oval will be the same and you won't have to cut off the extra after sewing it together.
I honestly can't tell if mine look the same as the whale in the picture, or if they are different. So, if anyone figures it out PLEASE tell me, because I've actually lost sleep over trying to figure out why the pattern is the way it is. What can I say? I take my mammals seriously.
You may notice you'll get a Y seam at the mouth, sort of. Since the mouth piece is an oval, it's not quite like sewing a hexagon quilt or something, but make sure you don't have holes, and readjust as you go so you don't sew layers together that shouldn't be sewn (sorry, Jack's whale).
PS, make sure you leave a hole that's a couple inches wide for you to stuff your whale, making sure your fins fit through the hole. I did 4 inches.
PPS, using a stiletto really helps when trying to get the fins through the feed dogs (especially if using jersey), and I love using one for the curving parts.
7. Cut notches, wedges, use pinking shears, etc for the tail and Y seams. Press seams if you want.
8. Turn right-side out, and make sure there are no holes in the seams... Sorry, Jack's whale. Redo as necessary... And then start stuffing that bad boy! If you want stuffing advice, I like this post from While She Naps. Unfortunately, I don't have access to great filler here in my neck of the desert, so I butcher IKEA pillows. Use the fluffier ones, NOT the kaktus pillows. I have to really squish it around so it's not lumpy. And you will use a lot more than you think. One whale takes me a little more than 3/4 of a 50 x 50 cm pillow. Unless it's Jack's whale, in which case I couldn't stuff him like I should. Stretchy jersey. Grr
9. Stitch up your hole, add eyes if you please, and TA-DA! You've got your own whale of a tale!
Finally, because I was in the mood, here's a cute little printable to go with your nautical baby! Size A4 Click here to download as a pdf.
This week has been full of trips to the bathroom, cleaning floors, couches, and car seats, lots of baths, and a whole package of diapers. Stomach bugs are the worst. OK, I can imagine worse things, like a dragon infestation or something. But stomach bugs are NO FUN. Especially when your spouse is traveling so you and your sick one are just there. Alone. With cats who poop on the floor in protest of you not cleaning the litter box every day while puking your guts out. Zero fun, Sir.
Last week, riding a surge of frustration, I decided to shut the door when I went to the bathroom. It was the first time in my 16-month old's life that I've done that when I'm home alone with her. I just wanted to pee in peace, alright?! Well, she banged on the door, screamed, cried, and then all went silent. Completely silent. In the 15.5 seconds it took me to shut the door and sit on that porcelain throne, my attempt at a peaceful trip of relief turned into a frenzied panic, "What are you doing, Victoria?!" "Victoria, where are you?!" WHY CAN'T I PEE FASTER?
I launched out of the bathroom, pants down, toilet unflushed, to find my daughter had scaled the bedside table and was milimeters from her tiny fingers pulling a huge framed picture down on herself. She had managed to get her foot stuck inside a toy, and when she saw me, started screaming bloody murder. I mean, WHAT THE?! HOW DOES SHE?!
May we all find the perfect balance between rotting our baby's brains and finding our own happy place. Good luck, Mammas.
1. Super Simple Songs - cute, cute, cute videos! This is by far and away my favorite channel to watch. Songs are well-made, catchy, and overall great. They don't crank these bad boys out as quickly as I (or my toddler) would like, but it's a fair trade off for the quality. They have adorable original songs, loveable characters, and different artistic styles. They started off to specifically teach English to second-language learners, and I really appreciate the resulting grammar control and variety of vocabulary. They have my favorite holiday songs, too. Halloween and Christmas are covered pretty well. This is also where we got our cleanup song we now sing for our bedtime routine every night.Some of Victoria's current favorites are: Who took the Cookie from the Cookie Jar? and What do you Hear? and Yes, I Can and Wag your Tail. I wish I had the talent to return the favor and sing them an ode of gratitude, but instead I will just type, Thanks for being so awesome, Super Simple Songs!
2. Little Baby Bum - Arg. Little Baby Bum is often the bane of my existence. My toddler loves these videos but they more often than not drive me BONKERS. The pros: lots of ultra-traditional English songs, constant additions to the channel, my kid loves them. Cons: graphics are not as good as some of the other stations, many of their characters drive me crazy (here's lookin' at you, Itsy, Papa Bear, the astronaut Ba Ba, and that creepy Bingo dog they started with), and they use the same music tracks for multiple songs, so the obnoxiously simple melodies just sit in your head. Forever. Also, since it's a UK company, pronunciation often drives me crazy (wheels on the BOOS? No. Bus. BUS), and they completely, utterly, totally butchered Yankee Doodle. He rides into an Old West town riding a British royalty horse and then feeds the horse chocolate? I can't even... And, the kid who sings one version of "Mary had a Little Lamb" has a lisp or pretends to have a lisp. I don't fancy my kids learning that Mary is pronounced "Mawy." To be fair, I have seen improvements in their choice for singers, and they also produce a lot of American English versions these days. Anyway, rant aside (thanks for enduring) the quality of the videos and music suffers, no doubt due to the rate at which they come out with new videos. But, really. Who needs 11 versions of a terrible rendition of Wheels on the Boos?
3. Baby Signing Time - The BST videos and the later Rachel and the Treeschoolers aren't videos we watch aren't from one channel, unfortunately. You can do a search, or FuntasticTV has them in a lot of their playlists. This one has been one of my favorites because the woman who sings them can actually sing (Emmy nominated), there are a lot of educational and original songs, AND it teaches sign language to you. So many good things in these videos! They are well-made and professional, too.
6. Classical Baby - I wish there were more videos like this. Classical Baby has animated "music videos" to accompany well-known classical music. If there's one thing I don't mind having playing in the background while I'm trying to get something done, it's classical music. I would love to link to it, but Classical Baby is from HBO Kids, and they are very good at pulling their videos down when they find someone posted it on YouTube. Never fear, though. It will go missing for a while and then pop up again, posted by someone else. There are three "episodes" - The Dance Show, The Music Show, and The Poetry Show. Classical Baby is our go-to for our Sabbath and "chill" days.
7. ABC Kid TV - Perhaps not an aesthetic for everyone, I like this channel because it has videos of songs not covered by the others - American folk songs! I like being able to share songs like Skip to My Lou and She Will be Coming Down the Mountain with my kids. There's something very homey about it. They have John Jacob Jingelheimer Shmidt, and other classics that if I don't expose my children to myself, they will not be guaranteed to hear since we are out here in the Middle East - not that I couldn't live with my kids not knowing about John Jacob, but, tradition! Legacy! My kids are already at risk to not know a thing about how I grew up or the countries to which they are citizens, so every little bit counts! And the songs are done "right." For example, Take me out to the Ballgame has the classic old organ piping away. Just makes you want to go to IKEA for a hotdog and watch a game of cricket while pretending you're watching a comprehendable sport like baseball...
10. Baby First TV - There's a paid subscription app for Baby First TV that has a few free videos each month. That's how I thought to look for this YouTube channel. Overall, I am fairly neutral on these. I can't say I feel much smarter watching them, and the music is quite repetitive. I will say they are professional and polished. While I find the crayon coloring videos to be the sort of thing that is likely killing brain cells at a faster rate than other videos (if I'm going to kill my kid's brain, I at least want it to feel like I'm making her smarter), some of the videos are quite fun for Victoria. She enjoys the peekaboo acorn video, and when she was younger, she really enjoyed the Looi the Cat videos, which I didn't mind, since the music is pretty peaceful. They had a very calming effect on her. Nowadays, though, her favorites are Harry the Bunny and VocabuLarry - a parrot who learns new words. I have videoed her watching this one because she was laughing so hard. To each her own, I suppose...
*Bonus!* Here are some random choices to also check out:
American Folk Songs for children by Muffin Songs
Albi Lumiukko (Albi the Snowman) - no words, and was great for 8-13 months or so
Baby Sensory Video - this one was great for her as a newborn. Not that she was really watching TV from the first stages, but this was a good way for me to break up the day when she was really young. Music repeats, though. Bummer, dude.
Now off I go to change another nasty diaper, because as you know, moms don't get sick days.
I love herbs & spices, cats, low brass instruments, international relations, culture, traveling, writing, and most of all, my family.