Resolutions and Reflections

This past year has been a bit of a blur…and I’m determined to make this my last blurry year. I’ve spent my whole life being caught up in doing this, doing that, going here and going there, and I so rarely sit back and reflect on what I’m doing NOW.

Thus, my resolutions this year is to be content. To be at peace with what I have, and what I don’t have, what I’m doing, and what I’m not doing, and not to really care what anyone else thinks.

Sounds simple, right?

I wish it were.

I have a feeling this is going to be a toughie, but I’m going to make it happen. I rarely make resolutions, because I cannot stand resolving to lose weight, eat less chocolate, or buy fewer things and have it last only a month, leaving you feeling empty and weak for not being able to stick it out. My last good resolution was many years ago, when I resolved to be nice.

I know, those of you who know me are thinking, but Katy is always so nice. Well, no, I’m not, and I certainly haven’t always been like this. Those who’ve known me a long time (like, very long) know that for a long time, I was not nice. At all. To anyone. I took great pleasure in making people cry, and it came back to me big time, and in big ways. Karma’s a bitch, right? So I resolved in, I believe 2000, to be nice. And like a switch, once I’d made that shift in my head, I made it in life also. And I’ve since had much better luck in life, and been a much happier person. Sure, I’m still snarky, and I can be downright nasty, but by and large, I’m a nice person.

So, I want to be a content person as well. Why? For one, I have nothing to NOT be content about. A great husband, a sweet daughter, a fun dog, a lovely home, clothing, food, internet access: the basics. For another, not being content is costing me, in both money and time. I spend time discontent with that I have, so that I have less to appreciate what I do have. I spend money trying to fill my life with things I think might make me content, but they never do. I spend energy wishing for a larger house, a quieter life, less debt, and none of that is going to change unless I (we) change it. And, I think, the first step to that is being content with what we have.

Resolution 2009: Be Content.

What’s your resolution?


It’s melting!

Finally…I love the snow and all, and it is pretty, but I’m so glad it’s melting away. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still cold up here, but the snow is such a pain to get around in, and not at all fun to drive in, and while I would have loved to hibernate the days away, alas, we needed to eat, and get out, because I was going insane (as was the kiddo). So, we frolicked outside one last time, built one last snow castle, and mommy took pictures of the snow melting from the trees.

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What’s up next?

Well, RE’s birthday, that’s what.

And what’s on the list for the little monkey?

A new mei tai (her old one is awfully small)
A wee wonderfuls doll
A black apple inspired doll
A table fort
Some doll clothes

And as for the rest of my list?

A blanket for Abby
Napkins for the S family
Hemming sleeves on an old shrunken sweater for RE
Gabe’s bday present, just a little late

Oh, and RE’s birthday party, which will be rather low key this year. At least, the Seattle one will be. The Cali party will no doubt be nutty.

Present Orgy 2008

Breakfast. Mommy and daddy need coffee.
Woohoo! A camera!

The doll house. A big hit.
From Santa…a GAME!
A green sweater for mommy.
A green shirt for Ryan.

A green sweater for daddy.
And nope, this was NOT planned.
I do love the holidays. I’ve been alternating coffee and champagne all day, and eating croissants, eggs, sausage and potatoes. For dinner: chicken pot pie, a specialty of the Afro house. RE is thoroughly enjoying her new toys, including her new art supplies, so she can go “arting”. She also got a tutu, a cute new sweater, a dollhouse, and some clothes (which she was less than thrilled about). Michael got me a Zune, which rocks, and I’m super stoked to download new music and even some movies. All of my handmade gifts were super well-received, and I know RE will enjoy the ones I am planning to make for her upcoming birthday.

I hope you all had lovely holidays, and are enjoying the time spent with family, and if you’re having one, a white Christmas! We are, and with our fire in the fireplace, and cozy feeling inside, we’re enjoying barely stepping outside!

Merry merry and a happy happy to you all!

Hand-painted Scarves

I plotted out this project months ago, found knit fabric on sale and bought a ton of it. My current favorite scarf is a jersey knit, and I’ve been thinking about painting or stencilling on it for a while, but couldn’t decide what to do. So, for a holiday gift for a few family members, I decided to dye this fabric and use the freezer paper stencil technique. The tree, to me, represents the bareness of winter, but on a scarf is all warmy and toasty and comfy and cozy.

These ones, in a way, represent my desire for spring (I know, today is only the first day of winter; it’s going to be a long few months)…they started out with just the green grasses, then I decided that they needed blooms, and for some reason, orange just felt right. I used the bottom of a paint bottle for the big blooms, and a crayon dipped in paint for the little ones.

I’ve really been enjoying creating these gifts for friends, family and the little people in my life…I feel like these gifts mean more to me to give because I’ve actually spent tons of time on them, and infused them with a little bit of me. And really, they’re pretty much one of a kind…or in a series of sorts…wearable art!
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Kid Mei Tai

I made one of these for RE ages ago, and then another for our friend’s daughter whose little sister has now requested one for her birthday, too! This one was made with velcro at the waist, and on the body and straps, in the hopes that this 3 year old will be able to do it herself (or at least mostly). RE wouldn’t wear it long enough to try it herself, though she did deem it “comfy” and told me that she really liked it and needed to share it with Ann (which to her, means, she should get to keep it). Maybe, if she’s good, she’ll get one for her birthday, too.

For those who are playing along at home, measurements are:
Body: 11×14″
Top straps: 3×35″
Waist straps: 3×14″

Once it’s all sewn together, grab your favorite 3 year old to decide where to place the velcro. I just winged it, as I do most things, so I don’t have specific measurements on this part.

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Holiday Memories

So, at this time of year, I always get to musing about holidays past, and the tales that go along with them…as I search for the perfect gift for RE, I realized that I cannot recall a single actual gift given to me for the holidays as a child. Not a single one. But what I do recall is the moments, and of those, I recall so many.

I remember my little brother, every year, running up and down our long hallway shouting “it’s Christmas, it’s Christmas”, usually well before the sun was up.

Our handmade, by my mom, stockings that all coordinated and matchy-matchy…and always one for the dog, too.

Our Christmas tree…each year, brought down from the rafters the day after Thanksgiving, the wire branches fluffed and filled out. Decorated with a melange of ornaments made in school by my brother and me, purchased here and there, each with a story, made by mom when she and dad had no money and need to decorate their “charlie brown” tree, but so many had stories to go along with them. Topped by the “Pregnant Angel”, whose irony I didn’t fully understand until I was much older…she perched atop our very fluffy tree with her skirt poofed out, making her look quite preggers.

Midnight mass, with my mom, singing Christmas Carols with the Catholics at St. Josephs and looking for Santa’s sleigh in the night sky.

Going to Gran and Pappy’s and trying to hard to sleep while Pappy watched John Wayne movies at top volume and Granny’s tree with the real tinsel on it that was so pretty and so messy.

Hanukkah menorahs, lit and sparkling, each night and latkes, so yummy and served up with applesauce and sour cream. Picking wax off the menorah and playing dreidl with Mike. Hanukkah parties with all of our friends, and Jay taking a picture of his butt.

Jammies, sleepy parents, and a few very excited kids…I couldn’t ever understand why my parents were so tired on Christmas morning. Now I get it: no presents until mommy and daddy get coffee.

Watching White Christmas with mom, singing along to all of the songs. Watching The Nutcracker with the whole family…only to have daddy come out dancing just like Mikhail. Only not as good. 😉

And now that we’re on our own, we have new memories. Our first Christmas tree, purchased at a lot on Aurora Ave, followed up with a trip to K-Mart for a tree stand. Lights all over our apartment, making our Coors Light wallpaper border shine and sparkle. Our disco ball perched jauntily atop the tree (it’s there every year!).

Our teeny faux Christmas tree, in a pot, sitting on top of our fireplace in our second apartment, which was too small for a real tree. And our Hanukkah party, complete with drunken friends, brisket and latkes. YUM!

Our new home, our first “real” home, and a real Christmas tree, shoved into the trunk of the Civic. Finding our own ornaments with stories…making our own little memories. The year after we were married (holiday 2004), we wrapped all our gifts with silver paper with white stars (still using that damn paper, damn Costco) and Pottery Barn green cotton ribbon. When we joked that we had enough of that ribbon from wedding gifts that we’d be using it, a friend who worked for PB snagged us a whole roll of it! We STILL have green PB ribbon coming out the wahoo.

And this year, with RE, taking out our little faux “charlie brown” tree and lighting it up in her room, decorating it with ornaments from Michael’s holidays past, and lighting up her tiny face that the elves came and brought her a special tree. And pulling out all of our special ornaments: the ones Tammy sent us while she was in Germany, the ones we purchased the year she was in Iraq, so she could be “with us” on our tree, and the Gabriel and Ryan ornaments I have from their first Christmases. Just need one for miss Izzy! The “2004” ornament with our wedding picture, the vibrant red, orange and yellow chuppah glowing against the blue sky. The “2006” ornament with Ryan in candy cane striped leggies sitting under the tree. Maybe there will be a “2010” ornament with another sib? We’ll see. The “peace” ornament Alyssa gave us one year, my “snowbabies” ornaments that I so treasure. Our beautiful, silver, modern menorah that glows to prettily with all eight nights lit up.

And in all this remembering, what I remember most of all is that feeling…that the holidays really and truly are about spending time with friends and family and those who mean so much to all of us…Our friends ARE our family, and they mean as much to us as though we were actually related. I know we all know it, and I know we all get caught up in the gifting, and partly, it’s because of how much so many of us enjoy an excuse to find something fun for those we love, but in the end, it really IS about that feeling. And as Mastercard so eloquently puts it, that is “priceless.”

To all of you, no matter what you celebrate, whether it’s Hanukkah, Solstice or Christmas, we wish you a very happy one, and a very merry one, and may your homes be as warm as your hearts.

An icky, sick to my stomach feeling (CPSIA legislation)

This letter is in response to a piece of legislation that will go into effect as of February 12, 2009, and will seriously affect all small businesses, and customers of small businesses. If you truly value the ability to shop locally, shop small, and buy unique, handmade, handcrafted, or mama-made products for your kids, you should be up in arms about this. I urge you to write to your legislators about this. Please feel free to alter this letter to your personal needs and be sure to send a snail mail copy. You can see how your Senators voted on this bill here. This is very real, and could rather lead to a National Bankruptcy Day. As if the economy needs more trouble. I’m all for eliminating lead in childrens’ toys, but for God’s sake, this is a ridiculous piece of legislation that was poorly thought out and hastily passed. For more information, and a whole lot of legalese about this, you can see the info page from the CPSC.

Also, to those of you with blogs, facebook, myspace, twitter, etc, please forward this along. I urge you to help me keep small businesses (including such fun things like Etsy artists, afloat).

To my Senators, and beyond.

I writing to you to express my deep concern for the impending enforcement of the new Consumer Product Safety Commission Improvement Act. While I realize that product safety, especially for children, is of utmost importance, this particular legislation is reactionary and holds potentially devastating economic ramifications.

I personally operate a very small business selling baby carriers and other baby accessories – some made by American companies and some imported from Europe. Under these new regulations, small manufacturers (and crafters who sell as a side business) would be required to submit each piece or lot to prohibitively expensive government approved third party testing. From what I understand, each test would cost anywhere from $100-400, for each COMPONENT of the of the carrier, doll, clothing, cloth diaper, etc.. That’s a test for thread, buttons and each fabric. Considering the fact that each piece is made from completely different fabrics, it would effectively eliminate the ability of small manufacturers, and those trying to make a little extra money for their families, to do business legally in the US.

I have read the CPSIA and there is no exception for quantities made, where the garments/products are made or anything else. To me, this means that grandma selling handmade baby blankets at the church bazaar is selling contraband if she is unable to produce the required safety certificate. It means that for artisans and small business in America one thing… unless you are a multi-million dollar company, you have no right doing business in the U.S. So much for the American dream.

February 10, 2009 is being dubbed “National Bankruptcy Day” by many experts in the apparel and toy industry. I expect that if this legislation is allowed to be enacted, it will affect everyone from port workers to parents looking for legal products. Millions of pieces of merchandise will be destroyed because it can’t be legally sold, causing not only environmental problems, but impacting charities that can’t accept donations without a safety certificate.

As you can see, this legislation is dangerous. I imagine that it was originally written with good intention. However, I can only hope that you will take action in defense of hard working American business owners and help us continue our ethical practices of making safe products. Please help to defend entreprenurial America!

Katy Afruma
REgarding Peanut