Thursday, July 29, 2010

Potty Talk

My little guy is about to turn three. I've been reflecting a little bit on what amazes me about him the most. Right now, I'm amazed at how big he is, but mostly that's in relation to the new little TINY arrival at our house. But what's really big about him right now is his vocabulary and his ability to basically carry on a conversation with just about anyone on almost any topic. Take for instance a conversation we had this morning in the bathroom.

Me: "Good job, buddy! Way to go on the potty and not in your undees."
Little Pumpkin: "Yeah mom! I made a poop for you!"
Me: "You sure did! Awesome! It's no fun to poop in your drawers, much better to go on the potty!"
Little Pumpkin: "Look! My poop is like a banana! Yum!"

No kidding. I know, gross, right? Oddly, this is not the first time he's spontaneously made up a poop analogy (the first had to do with a bird's nest). And it's definitely not the only analogy he's made up on his own, either. The others were not so gross, such as "I'm sailing like a ship" when he went down the Slip-N-Slide. I had no idea that two-year-olds could make up their own analogies! Amazing! And with such flair...he really keeps me entertained.

I guess I'll keep up the reading regimen since I can see the rewards in his creative language skills. I can't wait to see what he's talking about by the time he's four! It's sure to be a thrilling year full of bananas and bird's nests and who knows what!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What's in the Mailbox?

Yesterday, this adorable crocheted Penguin bib arrived, handmade with love care of my friend Meggan back in Minnesota. And for mama, a coaster featuring my BF Matt Damon. So hunky. Now I can rest my baby bottles in style on his boy-next-door-good-looking face. Yay!! Here's to handmade gifts from good friends. I can't think of anything more fun to get in the mail.

Thanks, Meggan!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My First Week as Mom of Two

If you ask 10 people whether having a second kid is twice as much work, or twice as hard or whatever, I think you'll get 10 different answers. Some say the bump from one to two is no big deal. A blip. To others, it's 300 times harder and is a relative cataclysm of dirty laundry, dirty diapers and dirty dishes. So, being who I am, I braced for the worst but hoped for the best.

Sure, I've had a well potty-trained toddler who has pooped his pants five days in a row (several of the instances involving turds being left behind in a trail as we ran to the potty). I've had a few nearly-sleepless nights. I've had a few meltdowns and a few voices-raised arguments with my Mr. Pumpkin. But, I have to say, I think I've totally and completely survived my first week, maybe even with a high level of success.

My laundry is done. My house is not in shambles. I have gotten some sleep. My two children are still alive. Despite my tendency toward being a hypochondriac, I have not gone running back into the doctor at every weird ache or pain resulting from my c-section. When I went into the hospital to have this baby, all I wanted was for the first week to be over. And it is! And I'm alive! And I'm happy! Like really, really happy!

It must be the hormones! Or these two ridiculously sweet and adorable kids. Or my amazingly supportive and loving hubby. So I don't know whether is seems as though having two kids will be twice as hard as only one. I suppose it depends on a lot of things. But I can say that for me, right now, it's pretty alright.

Monday, July 26, 2010

She's Here!

Welcome to our new baby girl, Tilly! She's perfect and healthy and loves to sleep -- phew, thank goodness! I'll be back up and featuring some more awesome Milwaukee crafters very soon!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Wish Me Luck!

In a mere 18 hours we'll be welcoming a new little life into our hearts. I can't really even express in words all of the emotions we've been going through over the last week. But when she's here and we're holding her and all is going to be okay, I think I'll breathe a sigh of relief and be ready to start the next part of our lives wholeheartedly.

Enjoy the week and send healthy, happy thoughts my way! Thanks!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

People in my Neighborhood: Jennifer Ladd

I recently discovered another awesome crafy lady in my neighborhood -- Jennifer Ladd. She's got a shop full of the most beautiful bags and purses you've ever seen, often made from original fabrics that you can't just pick up at the local JoAnn's (which, as an aside, I have decided to avoid at all costs).

Not to mention her own adorableness, look at how cute she is with her sweet little daughter! Well, it's almost too much to take, I know.

This week I asked her a few questions about herself and her life here in Wisconsin. I also read an article she wrote for Esty about Milwaukee Esty artists and felt glad all over again that I've moved here. My interview with her follows...

You're so crafty! Tell me a little about yourself.
I have been crafty all my life. It probably all started when I was a baby and spent my days watching my grandma sew in her basement (she has her own company making and tailoring clothes). I picked up a needle and thread very early, and I haven't put it down since! While sewing is probably my favorite craft, I love to try out any other craft I can. I love to work with glass (glass fusing and glass blowing whenever I can get access to the facilities, stained glass, glass beads). I paint. I make jewelry. I embroider. I make baskets. I work with metal. In college, I even spent quite a bit of time woodworking (although my pink tools received lots of snickers from the men in the shop). I'm always searching for some new outlet to help me create.

What inspires you? What other artists/crafters do you admire?
I am inspired by beautiful color combinations. My brain just feels happy when I see beautiful colors together. I admire artists who are either very good at what they do (locally: RosyBird, Papavier) or very good at what I CAN'T do (locally: UrbanTurn, Kilsook). And I admire anyone who can knit ... I have tried and tried, but can't seem to get the hang of it, so anyone who does is my idol!

So you're a mom of one, and soon to be two. What kinds of crafts do you do with your daughter, or look forward to doing as she gets older?
She is a crafty little girl, too, so we are always digging into our overflowing art closet and working on some kind of project together. She's only 3, so we are still a bit limited, but most afternoons you will find us either painting, stamping, drawing, cutting, folding origami, or stringing jewelry. AS she gets older, of course, I am looking forward to sewing with her (and luckily, she has already expressed an interest! Yay!).

What are some of your favorite local shops?
Since I do have my daughter and another baby on the way (hopefully soon!), I spend most of my time in kid stores / toy shops - I like Sprout, the Learning Shop, Winkie's in Whitefish Bay, and Downtown Toy Store in Kenosha. If I ever want to do some window shopping for myself, I will always head to the Third Ward ... Anthropologie and Broadway Paper always provide some great eye-candy!

What's a perfect Milwaukee/Wisconsin day to you?
I love Milwaukee in the summer - there's always something to do (and the weather is FINALLY perfect)! My perfect day would be a picnic at the zoo with my daughter (followed by a nice walk through the zoo, a train ride, and even feeding the goats (to make my daughter extra happy!). On the way home, of course, we'd stop at Kopp's for Turtle Sundae custard. Maybe some shopping in the Third Ward. Dinner at Coquette's Cafe. And then an evening at South Shore park. Perfection!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Yummy Caramel Cashew Ice Cream Recipe

It's such a cliche, I know, but a pregnant woman loves ice cream. And I'm no exception. I've only been making homemade ice cream for a very short time, but I really love it. I am missing my favorite ice cream place Izzy's in St. Paul, MN so maybe this helps make up for it. The Milwaukee, WI area is really all about frozen custard, and I'm just not as much a fan. I have yet to find a single ice cream place anywhere around, so if you're from the area, do fill me in if you know of a place. They have this flavor at Izzy's, I think it's called Coffee Break, which I seem to remember being a coffee ice cream with Oreo cookies...dreamy.

But I took some liberties with a Caramel Cashew recipe I found online and it turned out great. Keep in mind that I didn't measure all of the ingredients when I made it, so I'm approximating here.

If you make it, tell me how it turns out.

Pumpkin Girl's Caramel Cashew Ice Cream

--1 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
--2 C. heavy cream
--1/2 C. diced unsalted cashews (salted if you like a saltier ice cream)
--1/4 C. cashew butter
--1/4 C. butterscotch caramel ice cream topping (or plain caramel would probably work, too)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, until cashew butter and caramel topping is well mixed in. Transfer to ice cream maker and freeze according to maker's directions. Move to covered container and freeze in your freezer for 24 hours. ENJOY!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Vintage Awesomeness

I have to admit that I probably love going to thrift stores and garage sales more than any other store there is. Yep, yarn stores, fabric stores, even bakeries (did I just say that?!) come in second. I have very, very fond memories of childhood when EVERY Saturday we loaded up in the car and headed out around 8 a.m. to see what sort of bargains we could rustle up. Then, tired and money spent, we'd hit Donut Land, a little donut joint on the south side of Madison, Wisconsin near where I grew up.

I remember there were various eras of our garage-saling traditions. The year we bought nothing but weird stuff like owl lamps and wicker chairs to outfit the cabin "up north" my parents bought with some friends. Then, later, the era in which I bought every piece of vintage jewelry and clothing I could get my hands on, including the sweater I eventually wore in my own wedding.
So it's no wonder, I guess, that I spend a fair amount of time thrifting now. And if I'm lucky to be off work on a Thursday or Friday (the best days for 'salin' in my opinion), I hit up my share of yard sales. Last weekend, we hit some local places and struck gold. Most of this stuff I'll be selling in the I Love Vintage Stuff Etsy shop I run with my mom (gotta make some extra diaper money, don't come cheap). But I did stash away a few things for myself. Even wee one came home with a cache of new books and a giant Thomas the Train floor puzzle. Bonanza!

Friday, July 09, 2010

People in my Neighborhood: Sugar and Flour

If I'm not crafting, I'm baking. That is, if I'm not at my full time job, or taking care of my cutie patootie kid, or whatever. You know, my spare time. Baking is something that I love so much in this weird therapeutic way. Like, if I need to "turn that frown upside down" I'll bake. It clears my head. And don't get me wrong, I have a sweet tooth. Oh, do I have a sweet tooth.
I recently came across this awesome shop called Sugar and Flour, and what to my surprise, it's in my own backyard -- Franklin, Wisconsin. I decided I had to know more. Granted, I haven't tasted these cookies yet, but they're on their way to my house. I ordered some trains and dump trucks to be delivered to my son while I'm in the hospital with baby #2. Hopefully he'll save me a bite! Here's what I learned about Sugar and Flour...
Tell me a little about yourself. When did you start baking up such beautiful cookies?
My name is Karen Herrera and I live just outside of Milwaukee WI with my husband, our two young girls and our dog Charlie. Before becoming a stay at home mother I was a baker at a few different places. I quit my job to stay home with the girls but now one is in school full time and the other is in preschool so it is time for me to get back into the swing of things. I started Sugar & Flour last year to give myself something to do while still being able to be at home with my girls when they need me. It's worked out well.What are some of your influences/sources of inspiration?The inspiration for my cookies comes from a few different places. Sometimes I might see a neat cutter that I feel I just MUST own and the design comes from that. Other times I will see a pretty picture that inspires me. Sometimes it could also be just a color combination. I try very hard not to copy cookies that other people have done. They've worked hard to be original and I don't think it's right to take that away from them. I know how much it bothers me to see my work copied.
I see you make some of your cookies using cutters you've made yourself. Tell me more!
There's been many times that I've had to make cutters from scratch. My first one, the Choo-Choo Train, was designed to match a boy's party invitation. I do actually make a working cookie cutter out of metal - it's not just a cardboard picture that I cut around. I like being able to customize the shape of the cookie to suit what a client needs. It makes the cookie that much more special. The custom shapes that I chose not to have available in my store I show on my Flickr page so that they can still be seen. I'm proud of them.
Your Etsy sales have been great! Do you have any tips for other Etsy sellers?
Etsy has been very good for me. I actually found the site through my sister (hi Diane) when I mentioned to her that I wanted to somehow sell cookies online. Her suggestion was to start on Etsy and see what happened. I had no idea how successful it would become. There's a few things that I think are essential for success on Etsy and can also cary over to any online business.

*** The most important thing would be ORIGINALITY. What's the point of doing something that someone has already done? I do look at other cookie makers online to see what they're up to but your ideas need to be your own. Originality is key. When I came out with my Itty Bitty cookies last year it was to draw people to my store with something they could try inexpensively without needing a special occasion to buy for. They were a HUGE success. Now there are a couple other people selling their own version so I have to share that success with them. Oh well.

*** Beautiful clear pictures are also a must. It's not like someone can walk into your store and see your cookies. Your pictures are what they're going by so they need to be perfect. I like to have a few close-up pictures to show the texture and finer details and also some farther away pics to show the whole cookie. I also like to use pretty bowls and plates. For me, white props look best. They make the cookies look pretty without being a distraction. Also, consistency between listing pics is important. I think you can tell just at a glance which listings are mine on Etsy because they're all done in the same style. Find something that works for you and stick with it.

*** Have a quality product. Be known for something spectacular. I'm a trained baker and I can make all sorts of wonderful things but I've chosen to focus on just sugar cookies. Over the past year and a half I've figured out the best way to make, ship and store my cookies. I've also learned new techniques for decorating. I'm sure things will evolve over time... I'm always looking for ways to improve my product.

So, neighbor...tell me about your perfect Milwaukee-area day (I'm new here, I need ideas!).
I suppose a perfect Milwaukee day would be packing up the kids and going out to Barthel's Fruit Farm in Mequon. Doesn't matter what time of year... we go for strawberries in the spring and apples in the fall. We'd spend time goofing off there and then head home to have some lunch together. Maybe have friends over later for the girls to play with. We don't do much... we just like to relax at home.

Thanks, Karen! And best of luck!

Friday, July 02, 2010

Celebrating the 4th of July

photo from

We're strangers in a strange land, so we haven't had anyone other than family or neighbors over to visit our new house. So we're particularly excited to have a couple of friends over today to celebrate Independence Day by eating a ton of food and hopping in the kiddie pool. Did I mention the sparklers? Good fun for the under-2 set. I have been too preoccupied to do much by way of July 4th crafting, but I did scope out some cute ideas if you need them, like these great pom pom centerpieces from Martha Stewart. I probably love them because I'm just generally a sucker for anything in a mason jar. Flowers, drinks, whatever. I just love them.

Martha, in all her crafty wisdom, also has a cute project if you've got some patriotic colored ribbon around. Basically you shape it int0 a little star, glue it on a sucker stick and voila, instant cute cupcake topper or drink stick. Or, string them up and you have a neat little banner to hang in your backyard.

Most years, I also have spare tomato cages laying around, but this year all hands are on deck for our awesome garden, so I'd have to go buy one for this project. It's a really cute paper tomato cage lanterns with stars that would light up the backyard so cute for your outdoor party.

I wish I could say I whipped up a fab little BBQ party this year, but alas I did not. I whipped up Roseanne Cash's Potato Salad (which is the closest substitute I've found for my mom's recipe, for which there is no recipe) and some beer cheese dip and some chocolate cupcakes. I did go buy some little flag toothpicks to stick in the cupcakes, so at least they'll be a little festive.

Tomorrow I think we might have another wee Pumpkin first -- fireworks!

What's going on at your place this weekend?

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Some New Things / Old Things

I whipped up a couple of new items for my shop this week. I've been going gangbusters sewing lately I think mostly because I know I won't have time soon. I've been saving up quite a stash to list on Etsy little by little. This past weekend, I decided to part with two adorable pieces I've been saving for the perfect project. I'm sure they were intended for a quilt or something, but I think they look pretty cute appliqued on these, too.

The first is a little 4T tee shirt with a kitty cat, and the second is a little pink onesie with a cute little girl in a bonnet. I see these little bonnet girls around a they have a specific name? I just think they're sweet. Maybe I'll make some more... it's been fun trying to come up with girly things for the shop. It's given me a little time to adjust to the idea of being a mama to a girl.

I don't know why, but having a girl freaks me out a little. I'm not much of a girly-girl myself, so hopefully I do right by her. I haven't bought her a doll yet. Am I a bad mom? Ha! This girl better like diggers and trains, or none of us will know what to do with her!

Anyway, here's to hoping I can crank out a few more projects before I'm deep in diapers again!