Monday, October 31, 2011

I Have the Coolest Teen!

After we went trick-or-treating tonight, I saw this on Momma Jorje's Facebook status:

"It's Halloween. Tonight a lot of creatures will visit your door. Be open minded. The child who is grabbing more than one piece of candy might have poor fine motor skills. The child who takes forever to pick out one piece of candy might have motor planning issues. The child who does not say "trick or treat" or "thank you" might be shy or non-verbal. The child who looks disappointed when he sees you...r bowl might have an allergy. The child who isn't wearing a costume at all might have SPD or autism. The child who is screaming at the top of her lungs probably can't help it. Be nice. Be patient. Its everyone's Halloween. Make a mom feel good by making a big deal of her special child."
There was one mom who we were able to help a little. She had a little boy who was around 5. I couldn't tell what his costume was, but it was handmade with 2 pieces of poster board - hanging over his shoulders like a sign. She also had a little girl who was around 2. The baby was screaming non-stop. Not the usual "I'm tired" or "I'm having a bad time right now" scream. This was ear-piercing. She kept throwing her candy on the ground and then screaming to have it back.

The poor mom just didn't know what to do. Near the start of trick-or-treating, I heard her say, "If you don't stop, we'll have to go home." The look on that little boy's face was so heart-breaking. I just knew that this little girl probably had more than the usual "Terrible Twos" going on. I could just tell by his face that this would probably be one more time that his little sister's needs were going to come first. (Think of it from a five-year-old's perspective.)

I really didn't want to interfere. That was until one of the other parents LOUDLY made mention of what a terrible parent she must be. This snotty woman made mention of the "shitty" costume and the "bratty" baby. The mama looked like she was going to lose it - even though it was dark, those tears welling up in her eyes were clear as day.

My oldest offered to walk the little boy up to the houses - I was still trying to get my anger under control! So, I just stood with the mom and we talked. The little girl calmed down. It seems she was over-stimulated by all of the decorations and didn't want to go up to the houses. It was just too much for her. Plus, she was extremely introverted and hated going anywhere with people she didn't know around. Every time they started up the walk of a house, she thought they were going to go inside - where there would be people she didn't know. Over and over, they walked up to a house, she freaked out, then they walked away. This repetition caused her to just completely lose it and scream non-stop. My son's simple offer to walk with the little boy fixed it. Two houses down, the little girl stopped crying and was happy to sit quietly in her stroller and observe. She only cried when someone got in her face to say, "Oh, aren't you so cute!" (I'd have cried, too! LOL)

I don't know the mama's name, I don't know anything about them. We didn't get into that stuff. But she thanked me for walking with her - she said it made her feel a little stronger to have "someone on her side." The little boy was so happy with my son. He was holding hands with him and I don't think his smile could get any bigger. He had quite a haul of candy and I just know he was feeling rich!

I am so proud of my son. While I stood there, not knowing what to do, he stood up and did the perfect thing. I'd probably have said something nasty back to snotty woman. Possibly starting a yelling match, most definitely bringing even more unwanted attention to the mama. When I told my son how proud I was of him, on the way home, he looked at me like I was nuts. "What for?" "Uh, helping that little boy have a great Halloween." He just shrugged his shoulders and rolled his eyes at me. "Mom, it's not like I wasn't going to the houses with Little Guy anyway. What's one more kid?" I'm not sure if he was just playing it off, or if he really had no idea how wonderful his simple action was and what it meant to the mama, her daughter, and her son.

I wish I had seen Mamma Jorge's status before we went out. I'd have shared everywhere. Maybe if I'd have done that, it could have gotten to snotty woman before she had gone trick-or-treating...

Tuesday's Giveaway Linkup (11/1/11)

Tuesday's Giveaway Linkup
Welcome to Tuesday's Giveaway Link Up with your hosts Aimee @ Classified: Mom & Karen @ Tots and Me & Alicia @ McCrenshaw's Newest Thoughts!
This link up will be posted Monday at 7 PM est. and run all week long! Make sure you stop in as often as you can to list your latest giveaways.
Here is how to use the Giveaway Link Up 1. Post your reviews and/or giveaways, as many as you have, be sure to add the end date (family friendly please) 2. Help spread the word about the giveaway link up by grabbing our button, Tweeting or posting on Facebook. (Not mandatory- but it helps get more exposure to your giveaways as well!) 3. Take a moment to enter any giveaway that strikes an interest to you! If you would  like to follow the three hostesses, we will gladly follow you back! Simply leave us a message to do so. Thank you for linking up with  Aimee @ Classified: Mom & Karen @ Tots and Me & Alicia @  McCrenshaw's Newest Thoughts! 

Baby Nari Hip Hugger Giveaway Winner!

The winner of this giveaway is one lucky person! I have been using my Hip Hugger for Little Guy often and it sure has made a difference in how I feel after going for long walks. And you can be sure that I'll be using my Hip Hugger for Trick-or-Treating tonight, too!
So, without further ado - CONGRATULATIONS to Shirley! I'll be sending you an email soon...
 I'd like to thank Baby Nari for sponsoring this great giveaway. What a great and useful product!!! If you didn't win, you can still get a deal: Sign up for their newsletter and receive $15 off your order with the code: BABYNARI15 plus, you can get FREE shipping on orders over $50! If you consider how much a storller costs and remember that the Hip Hugger pretty much eliminates the need for one, the cost of this product is a great investment. (Plus, you can use it for many kids, pass it on to someone else, etc. without worrying about it breaking or needing to have replacement parts - wear & tear is minimal!)

(Not Really) My Personal Mission Statement {Mindful Parenting Collaboration}

Note: I’m not going to spill the whole can of beans in this post, so there will be some things left unexplained. If I were to open up and just dump everything, this post would be an eBook and I’d probably send Blogger offline due to the amount of memory it would take. So, the loose ends are there only because there’s just not enough time and space to explore everything I’d like to in this post. Also, I’m going to start off somewhere out of the ballpark, then make a bee-line through left field Stay with me… I’m zeroed in on home plate and will get there!

I’ve had over a week to really concentrate on some of the questions that were asked in The Parenting Passageway’s first Mindful Mothering post. The problem is that, though I write “I” at least a hundred times a day. “I think/believe/feel that …” Yet, when it came time to really examine who I am now, I couldn’t find any definition(s) that were accurate. You see, my husband became physically disabled a few months before Little Guy was born. At the time, I was taking online classes and had a very specific goal in mind: I would earn my degree in education in June of 2011 and start the 2011/2012 school year as either a teacher or a substitute in an elementary classroom. And, up until early this year, all was going as planned.

Then I had to start dropping classes. You see, along with chronic pain that was slowly and steadily increasing, my husband started to have mental problems. I don’t know if it was the constant pain that caused it, maybe the medications that he’d been on (Lyrica is poison – do not ever take the stuff, please!), or (most likely) a combination of the two. I have a good understanding of the reasons behind many of his screwy behaviors, but understanding doesn’t make those behaviors more bearable. He’d be up for days on end, unable to sleep. He’d forget if he took his medications… so he’d take more. He’d wander down the stairs and outside in search of the bathroom at 3am. He’d turn on the oven to make God only knows what and then forget it was on. Then, when he’d finally pass out, he’d have terrible nightmares that would cause him to yell out, hit, push, kick… he’d sleepwalk doing this. Sometimes, these nightmares would wake him after only a couple of hours of sleep and he’d be back up and wandering around. Add the fact that he has problems with his bones that cause severe throbbing pain that is barely touched by pain medications and rubs. Now, he’s wandering around - sometimes banging into things, sometimes trying to carry heavy items – he’d end up hurting himself even more… This is still going on and it’s getting worse by the day, I don’t know why it’s all in past tense. Just go with it for me? (I need to add in here that he's not like this 24/7. He has good days and bad days. Sometimes we get 2-3 good days in a row. Other times, we have hours that are good and some that are bad. I just never, ever know what's coming next.)

Anyway, take the problems with my husband and add a two-year-old with a lot of moxie. Little Guy is not an easy-going kid who lets others make decisions for him. He’s full of self-esteem & pride in his “I do it myself” abilities. He can be very stubborn (got that one from me – my motto was “I’m Always Right” up until just a few years ago!) He feels that if he is physically or cognitively able to do something, then he should always be allowed to do it. He needs to be watched every minute he’s awake. I’m not kidding. I can’t even run to the bathroom to pee without coming back to a child who’s poised on the edge of a bookshelf or covered on black Sharpie. Therefore, everywhere I go, he goes. I have to take showers with him. I tried taking them at night or naptime, when he’s asleep. No – he has a little guy in his ear who yells, “NOW!” over and over until he wakes up. There’s some kind of intuition in him where he just knows.  With my husband wandering around all of the time and Little Guy just waiting for my attention to be diverted, I really need to be on my toes. 

Then there’s my oldest. I really can’t say enough good things about him. He helps me out with Little Guy. He helps keep tabs on hubby. He does his homework (all A’s and B’s!), he on the cross-country team and working hard. However, he’s also a teenage boy. I understand his frustrations, I really do. But this is his family and I need help sometimes when he’d rather sit around doing nothing. He’s never talked back to me; he’ll eventually take out the trash… My problem with him actually lies inside me. I can’t be the mom I want to be to him. He’s relied upon too much for someone his age, yet I can’t do it all by myself. We rarely get one-on-one time, I feel the chasm between us widening, and I panic. But what can I do? 

Now, with all three of these people who I love so dearly needing so much from me, doing anything for myself just became a luxury. I mean, I can’t go to the coffee shop downtown by myself and sip on a latte while reading my favorite book. I haven’t done a girls’ night out (or even “in”) for so long that no one even asks me anymore. The last time I did any artwork for myself was… LOL – I don’t know! I’m not feeling sorry for myself about these things. My family comes before the luxuries. I just don’t even think of my wants anymore. It's not as if I have no happiness. Read my posts – I can look at the good in my family and enjoy it so thoroughly! 

So, I attempted to do my schoolwork late at night. I’d be so tired that my papers looked like something a sixth-grader would write. I’d figure out which assignments were worth the most points and only do those to save myself time and frustration. When I got too far behind, I’d have to drop the class…Finally, it caught up with me. My student financial aid package was so screwed up from all of the drops that, this past month, I was told I’d have to wait at least until next June to take any more classes without having to pay out-of-pocket. We now have no money coming in. I am currently in panic mode

Getting a job is out of the question. Without a degree, my education means nothing. I can hope for waiting tables or some other minimum wage job. With earned income, we’ll be cut off Medicaid coverage, meaning my husband WILL die (he has many other health problems that require a doctor’s constant supervision, testing, and medications.) My husband would need to be supervised by someone (?) and I don’t see him agreeing to one of those adult care facilities. Little Guy, who has only had two vaccinations, would need to be “brought up to code” and sent to day care – both of which I am very much against. My oldest would be forced to take even more responsibility and I’d see even less of him. Oh, and after paying for medical bills, day care, and someone to watch hubby, do you think there’s be enough to even buy a single decent meal for my family (I know there wouldn’t be money for rent and utilities!) I’d be working 40+ hours a week while other people (or no one at all) care for my family and for absolutely nothing in the end. (*Check out Bowling for Columbine's part about the little boy who shot a classmate in Flint, MI. The Michigan Works program hasn't changed one bit.]

That’s where I am right now. Trying not to freak out, trying to keep everyone safe AND happy, trying to decide for all four of us what the next step will be. That’s when I realized what my personal mission statement should be


Okay, I should explain a little more. I need inner peace. My mind goes around and around. While spinning (yarn) the other night, I managed to find some peace. My thoughts just stopped and I wasn’t anywhere in particular. This is what real meditation is, right? No thinking, just being? Peace = A quiet mind. 

I get very angry with many people. At doctors who just write my husband a prescription for whatever the last drug, rep was selling. At my oldest for begrudgingly slamming the door because I finally lost it and told him to take out the garbage (NOW!) rather than asked him nicely (again… and again…) At Little Guy for running to the computer and opening 1,000 tabs the second I head to the kitchen to get a refill of coffee. And, especially, at my husband for not being my husband – just another (very big) kid that I have to watch over. The last one is very, very hard for me. I get extremely infuriated with him. Sometimes, it just feels as if he acts the way he does because he can. As if he has a license to not take any responsibility for his actions and not even try to change them because a doctor gave him a label: ADHD, memory loss, insomnia, depression, bipolar – pick one, he's been told he's got them all. Oh, and there are more, too. (Just one more reason for me to not care for most doctors!) 

Anyway, this anger builds and builds in me. I usually blow right about the time PMS sets in. I just lose it – I let everything go and no one feels good about anything afterward. I’ve tried to write my thoughts down to just get them out of my head to keep this ferocious wife and mother from surfacing, but it doesn’t help. I need to tell someone about it. I would LOVE to head to a psychologist’s office once a week just to unload my tensions and anxieties. I can’t. Nowhere to put Little Guy and hubby for the hour or so that I’d be gone. I can’t talk to my family about this. Hubby was NOT welcomed into the family when we married to begin with! The news of Little Guy was received with more tsk-tsk’s than smiles. Moreover, these people seem to think that my oldest is a slacker who needs to learn how to be a man. I do not know where to get my Peace from on this one, but it is something that I will think about as often as possible. I know the answer is sitting right in front of me… 

Revenge is toxic. I do not wish to “get even” with those who have done me wrong. It’s just not right. And, hey, there’s always karma to even things up, right? Well, I thought long and hard about karma this past week and have decided to look at it in a different light – the one I believe it was meant to be seen in. You see, saying, “What comes around goes around,” is just another way of feeling vengeance. A person who says this feels good in knowing that the person who has wronged her will end up getting paid back eventually. I don’t want to feel that spiteful. I still believe in karma, but I’m not waiting to see what happens to so-and-so after they’ve treated me badly. Peace = Letting go.

I have a few more peaceful revelations that I’ve come across this past week, but I’m going to close up that can of beans before someone around here knocks it over. I’m going to brainstorm the anger thing… I really feel that if I can get it under control, things will look so much better for all of us. PEACE isn’t going to solve any of my problems – I’m not going to disillusion myself! Nevertheless, it sure will make me strong enough to deal with whatever is coming next. 

Check out the other Mindful Parenting Collaboration posts below and, please, if you’ve written a post about inner work and/or a personal mission statement, I invite you to link it below! Collaboration means group effort – we’d love to hear your opinion on the subject.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Real Quick...

First of all, I wanted to remind everyone that to enter all of the great giveaways for the Made in Michigan Hop. The linky is below. Also, there is one blog that has a giveaway, but hasn't met the $25 minimum prize value. Her giveaway isn't on the linky, but it's REALLY cool: Mommies and Beyond is giving away Wild White Mini Pumpkins from a local Michigan farm. Think of the possibilities that these pumpkins would have - centerpieces, bases for a turkey kids' craft... Oh, and the only entry is to follow her by GFC and leave a comment. How simple is that? (Psst... So far, I'm the only one who has entered!)

Next, I need to remind you that the Baby Nari Hip Hugger giveaway is ending tonight at 11:59pm EST, so if you've been meaning to enter and haven't, don't miss out! This is the coolest thing ever - if you have kids (or know someone who does) between 5 months and 3 years old, you NEED this. Trust me!

The Star Box - Review and Extra (Easy) Enrty {#MadeInMichigan}

This is a review for one of my sponsors of the Made in Michigan Blog Giveaway Hop, which will take place from October 28 – November 2. I will be offering my readers the chance to win a (Hand)Made in Michigan prize package worth nearly $200! Please take a moment to read about this wonderful Etsy shop and then fill out the Rafflecopter form below for a very easy extra entry into the giveaway.

I've been waiting for the item that The Star Box sent me to review, but it is in the hands of the USPS and I'm just not sure when it will arrive, so I'm going to tell you about this really cool Etsy shop right now and, hopefully, I'll be able to add my own review later!

If you are crafty in the least (or know someone who is), The Star Box is a shop to check out. Debra, the shop's owner, creates these stamps by hand, carving the rubber for each and hand sanding the wooden blocks they are mounted to. Now, I don't know how many of you have ever attempted making your own stamps, but I can tell you it isn't easy! I always skip over those neat and creative kids' crafts that I come across that include the word "stamp" in them - whether you make them from potatoes or Styrofoam, I cannot got them right. In high school, I had the opportunity to try to create stamps from rubber. Yeah. That didn't go well, either. One wrong move and the entire thing is ruined! And the time I put into very slowly and carefully carving them was too much for me to want to pursue the art any longer.
Look at how intricate the carving is for these Dragonfly Wings!

So, I have the utmost respect for anyone who has the skill and patience for making stamps. You really have to love your work when you do this! While I may not care for the actual making of stamps, I do love using them! Stamps aren't just for adding a little embellishment to a handmade card or scrapbook. I've seen tutorials that use rubber stamps to decorate clothing, for handmade wrapping paper, and to include as images in art. Check out the use of this Fancy Bird Cage Stamp, for instance:

In addition to single stamps, The Star Box offers stamp sets. These can be used in any number of ways. For this review, I'm waiting on a set of Art Doll Paper Doll Stamps. The set includes the five stamps pictured below, along with an entire kit to make a ton of little paper dolls for playing with or using for crafting:
  • (4) 4"x4" squares of light weight, up-cycled cardboard for the doll body parts

  • (10) 4"x4" sheets of assorted decorative papers

  • (4) metal bottle caps ( these are real used, clean bottle caps, not the shiny new ready made caps for crafting)

  • Assorted Paper Ephemera - this can include book pages, vintage images, tags, paper stubs, tickets, etc.

  • Assorted Embellishments - this can include tinsel pipe cleaners, metal letters, assorted beads, assorted buttons, fabric pom pom ribbon, small amounts of jewelry wire in various colors, sticky back label strips in various colors with words punched on them, etc.

  • (12)- mini brads for moveable arms and legs
I cannot wait to get my hands on this kit! I'd love to make my niece a set of paper dolls with family members' faces on them. I'm thinking of even creating a diorama of a dollhouse from a big box so she can play with them like that. The Star Box has this really cool set of Retro Kitchen Appliance Stamps that I think would be really neat to use in the background of the kitchen section of the house. Think of it: a pretty much flat dollhouse in which she can store all of her dolls and slide it under the bed when she's through! Not only would it be a gift, but a much-needed creative venture for me, too. Check out what Debra has done with this kit:
Today only (ends 10/30 at midnight EST), if you're a Twitter follower of The Star Box, you can get in on the Buy 1, Get 1 Sale! Buy one stamp or set, get one of equal or lesser value ABSOLUTELY FREE! So, head over and follow and get your order in ASAP. Oh, and if you follow, make sure to claim your entry in the Made in Michigan Blog Hop. You can win one of the above Art Doll Paper Doll Kits (including all of the extras!) or a $35 gift certificate to The Star Box as part of the HUGE prize package! 

In addition to The Star Box's Etsy shop and Twitter account, you can find the business on Facebook. Also, if you didn't make the connection, Debra is the owner of Michigan Spinning Company! You can find out more about that on my review post HERE (it was my favorite review so far!)

Disclosure: I will receive an Art Doll Paper Doll Stamp Set and Kit, as described above, for the purpose of review. No other compensation will be received. All opinions are 100% my own.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A "Real" Post! {Finally!!!}

Man, my whole week has been nuts! It would seem that I got in way over my head. Well, actually, things wouldn't have been so screwed up if I hadn't caught a nasty cold a couple of weeks ago. You never realize how great it feels to be healthy until you're sneezing, coughing, and trying to keep up with a little one - all while trying to let a fever do it's work to kill the germs inside!

Had all gone smoothly, I'd have managed to write one giveaway sponsor's review and a "real" post everyday. That was the plan. But, I found myself writing nothing, then trying to get all of the sponsor posts up before the hop. I was up until 5am on Friday morning putting the finishing touches on the Made in Michigan Giveaway Hop post - just in time. I still have one more review post to write and another great Etsy giveaway to post by tomorrow. Then, things will calm down around here. I'll be able to get the Mindful Parenting Collaboration post written (I did manage to get my inner work done while sick!) and a few other posts that I've been meaning to write taken care of. Hopefully, I'll be able to get back on track soon!

Other than being sick, I've been getting ready for Halloween! Last weekend, our town had a really great Harvet Festival - complete with Trick-or-Treating at the small businesses downtown. It is so neat to watch Little Guy's eyes light up at every single Tootsie Roll and Twizzler. He smiled HUGELY at every stop (I don't think he could stop smiling!) and his "Thank You" to everyone was so genuine! You see, we don't do a lot of candy around here, though I don't completely outlaw it. Up until this summer, in fact, fruit leather and raisins were referred to as "candy".

Today, the farmer's market held their own Trick-or-Treating! So, Little Guy got to dress up in his really cool Thomas costume again and get FREE CANDY from the vendors he's come to know all over the summer.

Oh, and we decorated pumpkins last night. Check out this post to see how we do pumpkins around here. It's more economical - and safer - than carving!
Showing off how strong he is!
And, finally, here are a couple of pictures I managed to catch this morning that ended up being nice little surprises when I uploaded them from my camera:
The River Raisin this morning. I really like getting photos of the river when the reflection in the water comes out so beautifully.
I love this one! The flower vendor has a blue tarp over her stall this morning. I just love how everything in the picture has that blue hue to it except the flowers.

Super-Easy Pumpkin Decorating!

The last few years, we haven't carved pumpkins. I always hated paying for a pumpkin, only to throw it out after Halloween. Yeah, we got pumpkin seeds from those carving pumpkins, but they weren't very yummy. So, I started to buy pie pumpkins and we do this to them:

It's so fun and easy for the kids to cut out eyeballs, mouths, and noses from magazines. Then, with a little glue, we make some pretty creepy pumpkins. I mean, really - Which is scarier? A pumpkin with triangles carved into it, or these weird-looking faces that just aren't right?

Plus, it's safer and everyone can participate. I mean, I know that my oldest is 13, but his knife skills aren't all there. I don't want him showing his kids a scar on his hand one day, saying, "You see this one? I got this while carving a pumpkin. Twenty-three stitches!" And then there's Little Guy who is at a point where, "I do it myself!" translates into: "If you don't let me do exactly the same thing as everyone else, I'm going to flip out into a pool of tears and ear-piercing screaming!" So, letting him try to figure out how to use scissors, then giving him a paintbrush and a bowl with some white glue it such an easy solution.
Just checking out the pumpkins.

This is a great way to explore some creative options in facial features!

We're planning on gluing on some marigolds and autumn leaves for hair tomorrow.
On Tuesday, I'll cut up the pumpkins and bake the seeds and cook the pumpkin in the crock pot, then puree it for pies, cookies, etc. No wasted money - and some healthy fall treats, too!

Do you have any good pumpkin recipes we might want to try? Let me know!

Michigan Spinning Company - Review and Extra (Easy) Entry {#MadeInMichigan}

This is a review for one of my sponsors of the Made in Michigan Blog Giveaway Hop, which will take place from October 28 – November 2. I will be offering my readers the chance to win a (Hand)Made in Michigan prize package worth nearly $200! Please take a moment to read about this wonderful Etsy shop and then fill out the Rafflecopter form below for a very easy extra entry into the giveaway.

We all wear clothes, right? (Well, most of us - Little Guy has decided to venture into nudist territory lately.) Did you even consider the fact that everything we wear - from wool to cotton to synthetics all start with spinning fibers together to create a thread or yarn, which is then woven into some kind of fabric and put together into clothing. Now, consider how long people have been doing this. These are the kind of thoughts that are akin to contemplating how insignificant one is, while laying on a hill and looking at stars on a warm summer night. The thoughts that come rushing in can be mind-boggling. Well, at least, that's how it's been for me for the past two hours.

Debra, owner of Michigan Spinning Company on Etsy, sent me a handmade (in Michigan!) Maple & Birch Top Whorl Drop Spindle and some beautifully hand-dyed Shetland Wool Roving (also from Michigan!) to try out. Now, the closest I've ever gotten to working with roving was when I was about 10 years old and visited Greenfield Village. One of the displays had a basket of freshly-washed wool, some carding supplies, and a giant spinning wheel all ready for inexperienced visitors to try out. I think I made the biggest ball of fuzz on a string in the history of humans spinning!

So, you can imagine my apprehension when I opened the package from Michigan Spinning Company and had the weird spindle thingy in one hand and a giant roll of loosely-braided roving in the other. How in the world can I use this stick with a circle and hook on it to turn this fluffy stuff into something I can knit with?! Then I calmed myself by remembering that someone, a very, very, very long time ago, figured out hoe to do this without the benefits of having the roving and spindle delivered by USPS and the Internet with Google and YouTube videos! Now, I don't have sound on my computer, but just watching a few of these videos and the various techniques people use made it possible for me to feel confident enough to get started. And, you know what? I MADE YARN! Really!!! All by myself - for TWO hours. Debra warned me that it was addictive, but I really had no idea it would be such a great feeling. Oh, and meditative, too. For those two hours, I was able to just stare at the spinning spindle and contemplate all those ideas I mentioned above.

Now, I have to share Michigan Spinning Company's Mission Statement because they've succeeded 100% by simply sending me these things to review.
"Michigan Spinning Company is dedicated to promoting and preserving Fiber Art Traditions, including but not limited to, the art of natural fiber processing, hand dyeing, handspinning, knitting and weaving. We have a hands-on approach to learning and eagerly share our experience and enthusiasm for the Fiber Arts through informal informational videos, audio/video podcasting, newsletters, and participation in local Fiber Festivals and Events. We believe in the importance of introducing young people to the Fiber Arts, educating them in the traditions of earlier generations, fostering their love and appreciation for things handmade, and encouraging them to pass on their acquired knowledge and enthusiasm to future generations."

Did you take note of the mention of "young people" and "future generations"? My kids will be learning how to do this, too! My oldest has the most agile fingers and I just know he's do well with it. And, even at three, Little Guy could do this. Just think of the education and pride they'll get out of learning this. And, as kids who've been taught to ask questions, I know that we'll probably end up heading to the library to learn more about different fibers used for clothing, the science behind spinning, how clothes are made... the possibilities are endless!

You can find Michigan Spinning on Etsy, Facebook, and Twitter. You can also follow on their Blog!
Disclosure: I received one Drop Spindle and +/- 6 oz. Wool Roving from Michigan Spinning for the purpose of this review. I have received no other form of compensation. All opinions are 100% my own.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Made in Michigan Blog Hop #Giveaway $200 #Etsy Prize Package! #Rafflecopter (Ends 11/2)

I am extremely happy to be part of this Made in Michigan Giveaway Hop. As I said in a previous post about the hop, Michigan really needs and deserves this type of spotlight with the economy the way it is right now. Yes, everyone is hurting, but it just amazes me how badly Michigan is doing economically with all of the wonderful resources we have. Most people know the the "Big 3" car makers are located here, but jobs with them are hard to come by. Where I live, Ford used to be the largest employer. I swear, probably 80% of the people I know are either laid off from Ford right now or their spouses are. There are other large companies here: Kellogg's, Jiffy (you know, the corn bread & other mixes that you can still get for less that $1 a box?), Better Made Chips, Meijer, Jiffy Lube, and even Eden Organics! Then we have quite a bit of agriculture here, too. But, with large agri-business taking over, it is hard for the family farmers to stay in business. Do you know that, though I live in a semi-rural area, I've never seen two of Michigan's main crops at the farmer's market - blueberries and cherries? In fact, it's rare that every stall at the farmer's market has a vendor!  Finally, we have some amazing outdoors areas. I don't think I have to tell many people how fantastic the U.P. is. Western Michigan is known for its beaches and sand dunes. And, you can go pretty much anywhere and find some great camping (you know, the kind that isn't basically a huge parking lot for campers? I think people call it "roughing it"...) As I said, I just don't understand how, in a state with so much to offer, the financial situation of the majority of its residents is so dire. So, I am extremely happy to be able to spotlight a few of the items that you can get that are made right here, in Michigan.

My giveaway consists of a TON of amazing prizes offered by Etsy shops based in Michigan. At the top of this page, you will see links to reviews of some of these shops. After you enter in the Rafflecopter form below, I strongly urge you to click on those links and read about these wonderful shops, their products, and rack up an extra entry into the giveaway by completing the very easy Rafflecopter entries at the bottom of those posts. (I'm telling you, they are EASY - no commenting/following/liking necessary!)

Yeah, yeah... you want to know what you can WIN, right?! Well, here you go:

Andrea, owner of 4th Street Candle Co. (that's "4th Street" in MY town, by the way!) would like to offer the winner an 8oz hand-poured, dye-free soy candle in the scent of his or her choice (see this post for the full list.) Let me tell you - her candles ROCK! The scent is so real. And these candles last a long time! Though I have burned my candle for an hour or so every night since I received it three weeks ago, there's maybe only 1/4 of it burned down. You can visit 4th Street Candle Co. on Facebook, Etsy, Twitter, and Andrea has her own blog ~ Stumbling Along Faithfully.
Courtney, owner of Beatifical, makes little creatures of all kinds by hand. Based in Detroit,she says that she started making them one day and just never stopped. Sometimes she has a plan in mind when she starts a new creation, but most times, she works off the cuff and a new addition to her shop is born! Aside from making the creatures by hand, she also makes her own buttons for the eyes - now that's what I call 100% handmade! Courtney is offering the winner a $15 gift certificate to use in her shop, Beatifical.
I cannot find enough words to describe the beautiful pieces of woven bead jewelry that is made by MelJoy Creations, located in Sebewaing (it's in the "thumb" of Michigan). Each gorgeous handcrafted piece is made with quality in mind, yet kept at affordable prices. (If you use the coupon code BOO20 at checkout through October 31, you can even get an additional 20% off your entire order!) I absolutely love that, if you see a woven pattern you like but not the colors you want (or the other way around), you can request a customization and MelJoy Creations will be happy to work toward creating you the perfect piece.  MelJoy Creations is offering the winner a hand-woven beaded bracelet worth $30! You can stay updated on MelJoy Creations' newest items and sales via  Facebook and their Blog.
You could probably find a gift for everyone on your list at 8daysOfTreasures. This shop has "A Little Bit of Everything" and that's no joke. From beautiful moss terrariums to breathtaking Michigan photography to vintage and antique items, you really could browse this shop for eight days and still find something new! Stephanie is a very talented photographer who has managed to capture some awesome scenes on film. If you're the lucky winner, you can expect to receive (4) - 4" x 6" and (2) - 5" x 7" photographs depicting colorful Michigan autumnal scenes and Lake Michigan beaches (you can see the autumn photos here and the beach scenes here and here.)  And, yes, 8daysOfTreasures is offering you a discount code, too! From now until November 30, you can receive 20% your entire order by entering the code: AUTUMNSALE11 at checkout. To stay updated on Stephanie's newest items and sales, connect with her on Etsy and Facebook.

 So, PETfection (located in Grosse Pointe) saved my life! Well, they probably saved it, plus they kept my family safe and made my kitty cat very happy. How? This is the very first time I have managed to find a company that makes natural, organic, non-toxic pet supplies that really work! In Michigan, especially in the wetland area where I live, fleas and ticks are terrible. Once your pet gets them and they get into your home, you have to pull out the big guns - chemical-laden flea killers. Not good for people, nor animals. But, PETfection's Cat Bug Spray really repelled the biting insects and it even making out cat's fur really, really soft. You can read more about this and some of their other products here. In addition to the bug spray, you can find shampoos, treats, pet beds... a ton of safe & natural pet products at their online store. Oh, and the prices aren't what you'd expect! You won't be re-mortgaging your home or mailing them and arm and a leg just to get Fido's funky odor under control. I suggest heading to their Web site. There, you'll get to see all of their wonderful product (even great gift baskets) and, if your order is shipped to a Michigan address, shipping is free - no coupon code needed! PETfection will be sending the winner one 2oz. jar of relaxing & healing Peppermint Paw Cream! You can find PETfection at their Web site, on Etsy (free shipping is only good on orders through their Web site), on Facebook, and on Twitter

Michigan Spinning, located in Grand Rapids, offers a wide array of hand-dyed and naturally colored fibers and yarns and even handmade drop spindles! In wanting to help the local economy, the shop's owner, Debra, tries to buy fibers from Michigan Farms first. The materials that she cannot find locally are purchased on Etsy, so she's still supporting those vendors that matter most! I have always been impressed and in awe of anyone who could take a fluffy pile of wool and turn it, first, into yarn, then into a functional item. I received a package recently from Michigan Spinning that will enable me to learn to do just that! You see, Michigan Spinning's mission is to preserve these traditional skills through education, especially the younger generations, in the hope that these will not become lost arts. And, to help pass the traditions on to a wider circle, the winner will receive the same items I got to review: a Top Whorl Drop Spindle and 4oz. Wool Roving in their preferred color(s) or, if he or she prefers, a $35 gift code. You can find Michigan Spinning on Etsy, Facebook, and Twitter. You can also follow on their Blog!
Also owned by Debra is The Star Box, an Etsy shop that specializes in  hand-carved rubber stamps. Have you ever tried the old "simply use a potato to make a stamp" art project? How did it turn out? Yeah, mine, too. Stamps are hard to make and, looking at Debra's intricately carved stamps, I can't help but wonder how she does it! Each stamp is carved, then mounted on a hand-finished block of wood. The winner will receive an Art Doll Paper Doll Rubber Stamp Set from The Star Box. You can find The Star Box on Etsy, Facebook, and Twitter.

Amore Vivo is located in South Lyon. You have to go check out this Etsy shop that is just filled with beautiful floral arrangements, wreaths, wine art, and upcycled cork art. What really gets my attention, though, are the fresh holiday arrangements that shop owner, Michele, creates from Michigan evergreens (juniper, blue spruce, cedar, pine, and more) each year for a limited time. And, that is the prize that she's offering to the winner of this giveaway: one Fresh Michigan Evergreen Centerpiece (this prize will be available to the winner between November 20 - December 18.) Check out Amore Vivo on Etsy and Twitter!

Whew! That's a LOT of prizes! Be sure to hop on over to the other blogs participating in the Made in Michigan Giveaway Hop, listed below!

(BTW - I have kept all entries optional. Please take the time to check out these great shops and let them know which items you like the best. It is very helpful to them to know which items people like the best. Also, please don't "like" a Facebook page only if you're going to "unlike" it the day after the giveaway ends. It's rude. I haven't asked you to follow, like, subscribe, or vote for me in any of these entries. If you like my blog, please show me some love!)


Thursday, October 27, 2011

MelJoy Creations - Review and Extra (Easy) Entry {#MadeInMichigan}

This is a review for one of my sponsors of the Made in Michigan Blog Giveaway Hop, which will take place from October 28 – November 2. I will be offering my readers the chance to win a (Hand)Made in Michigan prize package worth nearly $200! Please take a moment to read about this wonderful Etsy shop and then fill out the Rafflecopter form below for a very easy extra entry into the giveaway.

MelJoy Creations is located in Sebewaing, MI - right in the "thumb" on the edge of Saginaw Bay. I've been to the general area just a few times and it's just beautiful! It is the perfect inspirational place for the gorgeous pieces of jewelry that the mother-daughter team (Melissa & Joy) create.

I can't tell you how excited I was to hear from Melissa that she would be interested in participating in this giveaway hop. Just one look at the thumbnail images at MelJoy Creations will tell you how much creativity goes into each piece. I'm finding it hard to resist showing you each and every bracelet, necklace and set of earrings! Each piece of hand-woven beaded jewelry is made with such craftsmanship using quality beads, crystals, and gemstones. You'll be able to find the perfect item for any occasion - from wedding to everyday - here.

For this review, Melissa created a beautiful bracelet for me. She asked me what colors I like and I just didn't know what to say. My reply was something along the lines of, "Natural colors - green, brown, blue. Just anything natural." Um, yeah. THAT certainly must have given her a lot of help! But, somehow, she managed to send me something that is perfect. This bracelet goes with just about every piece of clothing I own - no kidding! And I absolutely love the Flat Spiral Weave because it looks casual enough to wear with jeans and a T-shirt, yet it would also fit perfectly with a formal dress. Oh, and I feel confident that I'm not going to break it while playing Hot Wheels - LOL!
This is my bracelet!

I just cannot fathom the amount of time that must go into a single bracelet, let alone a necklace! It turns out that each piece can take anywhere from hours to several days. And, when you consider the materials, time, and concentration that must go into each, it's hard to believe that the prices are so low. And, until October 31, you can use the discount code: BOO20 to receive 20% off your entire order from MelJoy Creations. Just look at this gorgeous Woven Spiral Bracelet with Swarovski Pearls and Crystals below and consider that it is only $24 ($19.20 with discount!) And, then, consider how much time it must have taken to complete and try to think of the cost of the materials added to that. Someone is getting short-changed here, and I don't think it's the buyer! I cannot imagine anyone who wears jewelry would not be able to find a piece that suits her at MelJoy Creations. Customizations are welcome and they will work with you to find the perfect piece, almost always at *no additional cost*! So, if you see a color combination that you like, but not in the patter you like (or vice-versa), just ask.

And one more thing before this post gets too long! You can order children's jewelry, too. Made with Fireline, the kids' pieces have added strength to keep the bracelets in one piece and looking pretty. Sizes for children range from Newborn to Teen, so you're sure to be able to find a bracelet that is the perfect fit!
You can also find MelJoy Creations on Facebook and their Blog. Make sure to follow both to keep updated on discounts, new pieces, and to learn about how the business of jewelry-making and bead-weaving works (check out this really interesting post!)

Disclosure: I received one custom flat spiral weave bracelet for the purpose of this review. No other form of compensation has been received. All opinions are my own.