May 27, 2009

Review: Georgian Wood Toys

After deciding to start Lo a collection of wood figures, I was torn between those that I found made by Buntspechte and those made by Georgian Wood Toys. I like these manufacturers better then Ostheimer and Holztiger mainly for the reasons stated in my Buntspechte post -they are less "boxy" or "squared" and have more endearing expressions. The wood figures that I make myself are made in the same vain as Ostheimer-mainly for lack of better woodworking tools- so I no longer see a need to purchase any from them.

Georgian Wood Toys are made by a group of people connected with the Waldorf School movement in the Republic of Georgia on the Black Sea and are distributed in North America by a small bookstore in Seattle. The Georgian figures that were designed before 2008 are quite colorful, expressive and are much more rounded then the Ostheimer ilk. While I prefer those aspects in wood figures, once I saw the animals that were designed after 2008, I lost interest in most of the older Georgian figures(despite their greatness)! These unique, simple, new figures are even more rounded than their predecessors and are devoid of detail. They are so gorgeously sculpted and buttery smooth, leaving everything up to the child's imagination. I only purchased 2 of the newer figures as I couldn't resist the monkeys and that whimsical snail! You have got to visit the site to see more of these wonderful post 2008 pieces. I think you'll also enjoy reading the very interesting history of Georgian Wood Toys.

I have to admit that Lo was at first perplexed by the lack of detail in the giraffe and unicorn- I found her poised with a marker in hand to add her own! AAAAAAACK!!!!!! I told her there would be no decorating the wood toys! I hasn't taken her long at all to get used to them. I often find the unicorn in her bed in the morning! I still stand behind the theory that simple toys without manufactured expression are catalysts to unbound imagination...

*Photo courtesy Georgian wood toys

May 26, 2009

Soldiers remembered and a fabulous Memorial Day was had by all!

The weather is still most GLORIOUS!!!! Our Memorial Day was so full and spent reveling in the warmth and sunshine. This family is SO blessed to have each other and so fortunate to be living together embraced in this incredible place.

We chopped and stacked some fresh cut wood given to us by friends, planted strawberries and "Croc pots", Huz and I went for a 1 1/2 hr run on the South Fork trail-phenomenal, and I finished my new additions to the polar bear family. Dea and her best friend, K, with Lo in tow, decided to capitalize on the heavy holiday traffic at the trail head and ran a lemonade/baked goods stand. Our rockin' dinner consisted of skirt steak and veggies on the grill. Root beer floats for dessert-hey, we earned it! And after Lo went to bed, Boyz in the Hood.

Someone didn't like her seating arrangement!

But all was well after a root beer float

To our soldiers past and present, THANK YOU for your bravery and service....

May 19, 2009

Please point me to the nearest padded room.....

More schizo Alaskan Spring weather!!!!

THIS was last Thursday:

70 degrees and clear blue skies!

Playing on the deck
Planting the flowers I got for Mother's Day
Makin' sun tea
Fresh sheets drying in the breeze

And this was the next day, Friday:

First, rain. Hey, I asked for it, right?!?! But then, 30 degrees, COLD, WHITE, HUGE, FLAKES OF SNOW.

We got about a half an inch. Picture me racing outside in my PJs to pull all my flowers over to the side of the house out of the snow!

And then came Saturday:

65 and blue skies!

At the Anchorage farmer's market
More laundry and lounging on the deck
Makin' mud soup while the parents plant the potatoes.

And the amazing sunny weather continues! What a difference from last year! ~knocking MADLY on wood...

May 15, 2009

Back from The Dead!

OK!!! SECOND time around!!!! I had just about finished this post when I hit some friggin' key that erased everything...... I finally get to sit down at the box to post, after a busy week, and....gggggrrrrrrr! WASTE of time!!!!

It's been just too nice out with the boomin' sun warming our souls to be inside at the box or catching up on chores. After the solar deprivation of last year, I'm taking it when I can, dammit. Mainlining that stuff. I have my new friend, Exceedingly Long Extension Cord, and I'm not beyond doing my woodworking, ironing, sewing, etc. OUTSIDE. However, I draw the line at dragging the computer outside. I was secretly hoping for a rainy day today(wouldn't want to offend the sun gods) so that I would have the excuse to be inside, do some posting and catch up reading, and get this house in order.

Whatev. On to the The Dead show at the Forum. The show was sick! SICK, I tell ye!!!! First, we had a friggin' blast with our friends Chantel and Rob who moved from Alaska to Cali a few months ago. We're feeling bummed about the distance. I don't know too many people who can make waiting at midnight in a parking lot outside the Santa Anna airport with a flat tire sans jack wrench for the repair guy to come fix it, a ripping story and laugh fest! The next morning we lounged, talked, swam in the pool , and dipped in the hot tub in their paradisical back yard before the temps hit 100 degrees +.

Did I mention they have awesome kids?

Then is was off for the 2 hour ride to the Forum. We got there about an hour early so that we could peruse Shakedown Street-the vending section of the parking lot-for unique t-shirts for the fam, beer, and handmade goodies.

I was hoping to end my search for a wicked hand blown glass pendant but there wasn't much there. I don't know if the "pro" vendors from years past are holding out for bigger venues or multi-day festivals, or if lot vending is just a dying thing. I'm glad I got to have a taste of it, though.

As I said, the show was phenomenal. Origionally up in the nosebleeds again, Huz managed to sneak us past security into the lower teir and better "seats"-a spot on the stairs next to some seats, actually. The sets included a 50 min. long jazzy, bluesy, rockin' improv, their older songs- some rarely played in the past, and a mindblowing soulpounding Drums set. They were just hot, tight, and jumpin'. Warren Haynes did a fantastic job stepping into Jerry's Garcia's shoes.

Huz , feeling skeptical about how the band would do after so many years and without Jerry, thought it was one of the best shows he's seen. And he has seen tons over the years. I am SO grateful(no pun intended) to have finally seen a show before they all go onto different journeys in life, and to have been able to experience it all with my Huz, my bestest friend. No better person to see a show with. Or anything, for that matter.

And a huge shout of Gratefulness to the folks next door and to the Nature Lady clan for taking on our kids while we were gone!

May 10, 2009


May 8, 2009

Review ~ Bundspecht wood figures via The Puppenstube

Guess where I'm going today????!!!!!!!!! Run over to We're Not That Stupid to find out!
On to the toy review.
When I was a little girl, I just LOVED playing with little animals. My first collection consisted of these weird clear plastic animals like this one(remember these?!?!)

that I collected from the Ben Franklin's near my Grandma in Connecticut. From there I graduated to a collection of adorable Hagen-Renaker Hand Painted Miniature figures at a gift shop by my other Grandma. Those things saw the love, man. I played the bejesus out of them-each one wound up with chips and missing appendages but we continued to play together for years. I think I still have 2 or 3 at my Mom's house... A few years ago I saw them in an Anchorage shop and decided to start a collection for Dea. We didn't get too far! Those things disappeared so many times in the bowels of her room! We still have 3 of them. A mama kitty and her kittens-the ones that were my favorites when I was a kid. Here they are, all chipped up!

I had thought of starting a collection for Lo, and still might, ... But these figurines would have to wait a couple 3 years until Lo's a bit older or else she'll have them pulverised in no time. Very loved but destroyed!
I shifted my focus to wood. Lo enjoys playing with the wood animals that I make her, and I love making them, but I wanted her to have something of a more collectible quality. Something that could hold up to rigorous play and still look good. We have some Ostheimer woodland animals that I've always thought were great, but I had also been seeing both Buntspecht and Georgian wood toys online and at Lo's school. The Puppenstube, an online store featuring handmade dolls and Buntspecht toys, keeps popping up on various blogs I read like A Small Tribe. I went over to the Puppenstube take a look and was very impressed with what Christine has to offer! A nice variety of animals, people, trees and buildings(not to mention her dolls and knits!). I also perused the official Buntspecht site.

I decided to order any array from both The Puppenstub and Georgian Wood toys. The figures you see below are the Buntspecht and I'll post about the Georgians another time. These were birthday gifts for Lo between Huz and myself and my mother. Christine was great about notifying me when certain animals had arrived in her store and her processing and shipping was fast! Definitely check out her site!
What impresses me about these toys is the minimal details and coloring. They are so smooth, rounded and organic. They just feel so "right" and natural in your hands. They are painted with just a wash of colors-everything else is left up to the imagination...

Lo is ADORING these new additions to our toy store</, <> livingroom!
I just love the mother and daughter bathed in colors like a typical Waldorf water color painting!

Wolf pup. Can't wait for the Mama to come available!

May 6, 2009

Review ~ CROWNS by Susanna Wallis Design Shop

We had so much fun with Lo's Birthday gifts this year! In keeping with our tradition of giving gifts handmade by US, I wanted to take it a step further and patronize some talented artisans and shopkeepers that I have stumbled across over the last couple months. These next few posts will showcase some wonderful handcrafted or non-box store treasures!
The first is Lo's amazing birthday crown made by artist and author, Susanna Wallis of London. Susanna has been selling her crowns and wands since 2004. Her other talented work includes felt wall hangings, cards, collages, mosaics, restyled vintage treasures and more. Susanna has also authored the wonderful book , Beginners Guide to Needle Felting .

I first saw this crown on Waldorf Mama's site. It looked as though it was made of a fabric in a rainbow gradient and was I planning on attempting to make one like it for Lo's birthday. I think the birthday crown is a lovely tradition and Lo really enjoyed wearing one in her Waldorf class last year. When I followed the link to Susanna's Esty shop, I was delighted to find that her crowns are hand felted- with silk and merino fibers! This one was just so pretty that I went ahead and bought it! RunninL8 as usual, I ordered it alarmingly close to Lo's party and I was quite relieved when it arrived so promptly! And it was wrapped beautifully with a tiny flower and lavender sachet! As you can see in this detail photo,

Susanna has blended gleaming and enchantingly curly silk fibers in with the wool adding to the lovely texture. The crown holds it's shape very well when worn and is so light and warm to the touch.

I could have taken the pan to my head when I realized after the party as I was cleaning up that I had FORGOTTEN to give Lo the crown! Bang, Bang, Bang! I gasped and brought the little package out of the hiding spot in our bedroom and handed it to Lo. She unwrapped it and I explained that it was her special Birthday Girl crown. I apologized for forgetting about it and told her she could wear it for the rest of the day! Then I could have taken the pan to HER head! Let's just chalk it up to the after party let down and energy loss...she was thankful, but just not that into it! I couldn't believe it! She sighed and said it was a "kings" crown. My eyes rolled. You have to understand that we are going through quite the girly pink foo-foo phase HARDCORE right now! Went through this with Dea and we all survived.... Her indifference to the crown is in NO WAY a reflection on the craftwomanship of this gorgeous piece!!! It's just that my kid is stark ravin' mad.

I'll wear the fabulous thing!!!! I am, after all, QUEEN. But I think I may have to pick up Susanna's book and learn how to make a pretty flower to add on the crown to make it fairy princess worthy. ~Rolling my eyes again.
She's coming around! ;)

May 5, 2009

Happy Birthday my little one!

I don't think I ever have felt more gratitude for 2 warm, cloudless, sunny days than I did this past weekend! 2 days of 70+ degrees! In Alaska! In MAY! At the beginning of May!!!! For the last 4 years I have lamented the fact that Lo can't have an outdoor party with games and fun in the sun like the awesome shindigs we had for Dea's July birthday when she was younger. That she was destined to indoor parties with a slight chance of it being fare enough to do a little running around outside. We could not have asked for finer weather for Lo's birthday party, yesterday! It had actually called for rain yesterday and when I woke up to blue sky, I prayed that it would hold for the party. Lo's friends started arriving around 2 with not a cloud in sight. They had a great time-as did the parents-enjoying the sunshine out on the deck and on the property. The teens set up a fun scavenger hunt resulting in a treasure of wood butterflies that I had scroll sawed. They then got to transform them with the watercolors. What a beautiful colorful bunch of butterflies they created and the kids loved it! Then we played a game of What animal am I? Tape a picture of an animal onto one kid's back and then that kids asks the others YES and NO questions to figure out what the animal is. Such a simple game but the kiddos are SO into it! It got quite raucous with all the kids mimicking animals! Then it was on to eating some munchies, singing Happy Birthday, devouring butterfly cupcakes and opening prezzies. And then more running around amok in the yard and swinging in the play garden, while the parents conversed, the teens kibitzed and all seemed to relish and bask in the day.

Lo has received some amazing stuff -handmade from me, Dea and Nature Lady, some ETSY crafters, as well as from some other great online shops...all of which I would like to showcase in some posts later this week!

I LOVE putting together "Party Bags" for the party goers! I'm always searching for unique stuff and I really enjoy making things as well. I try to lean toward a Waldorf toy approach in the hopes of catching the interest of a non Waldorf parent. Always a pleasure to introduce someone to natural non-Disney, Non-plastic toys! This year we made ribbon wands, story dice(something we did with the spec. ed. kids I used to work with to spark ideas in writing for our fairy tale unit-except we used paper. Boring!), Billy Bob teeth, the butterflies, Stockmar multicolored pencils, a bag of soil and Alaska wildflower seeds, all packed up in a terracotta pot that they can plant the seeds in.

She'll be 5 years old next week...time is going by too fast, folks....