Toys, toys and more toys!!

Thursday, December 30, 2010 | | 0 comments
Was I the only parent who began to have that nauseous feeling in their stomach when the collection of new toys from Christmas hit the toy room? A tornado has hit our toy room...

To avoid tackling this disaster I have walked away from this room mid motivational moments countless times. I have also managed to scrub down our microwave, oven and windows... I'm not avoiding this one bit!

Even as I write this I am 50% finished but have decided a blog break is a must. 

I feel overwhelmed and grateful that my children have so many people that love them in their lives who were so generous this Christmas. It also breaks my heart knowing that there are so many parents out there who would love to give their children over flowing toy boxes but can't. As much as I believe it's important to give back during the Christmas holidays I think it's so important to always remember the need even after these moments.  

All of our unused toys will be packed up and donated to a local charity. Hands on Keepsakes will also be making a donation to Kelowna Community Food Bank as a thank you to all of you who have supported us this past year.

We can't begin to thank you all enough for an amazing 2010! We're heading out tonight to celebrate with the men of Hands on Keepsakes and look forward to 2011!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and wish you a Happy New Year!

Art + Kids= Some Pretty Good Stats!

Saturday, December 18, 2010 | | 5 comments

"The only time I feel alive is when is when I'm painting." - Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night

I could stare at this all day. It reminds me of my sister who is an AMAZING painter and beyond talented.

Recently I came across some pretty crazy stats about kids and art. Side note...I'm a sucker for stats. If you're trying to get your point across to me give me a stat and I'm all ears!

In the January 2011 Today's Parent issue they have an article under their 'Steps & Stages' section called 'Encouraging creative play' (under the 3-5 years on page 93). They make suggestions for different types of creative play (art, drama, music, building and book corners).

Carol Reid, professor of Early Childhood education says creative play is valuale for preschooler because:
promotes problem solving
develops critical and abstract thinking
enhances kids' vocabularies and verbal skills
develops important social skills

Above was taken from the 'Encouraging creative play' from Today's Parent January 2011 article.

    Last winter our 'toy room' consisted of a basketball hoop, a hockey net and a zillion other toys. James didn't touch any toys and only wanted to play sports (which is great but would have been nice for him to pick up Thomas every now and again!). This year he is all about the toys and imaginative play. Sometimes I can hear him acting out each of the toys character's and I don't think there is anything quite like a child's imagination.

    We've been going to Family Sundays at the Kelowna Art Gallery for the last couple weeks. James absolutely loves it. The environment is perfect and the crafts are always much more exravagant that I would ever consider doing at home. It's an amazing program and we've now included it as a permanent weekend plan.

    Another option is 4 Cats Art Studio. I know Jemma (Sarah's daughter) loves this place and had her birthday party there this year. James and I are hoping to try it out in the New Year!

    Then comes the decision of how to display all this art work. There's always that good old fridge door!
    Many months ago amidst my blog reading I came across something that I knew I had to do. It seemed like the perfect solution for us because our 'toy room' is technically our dining room. Clearly we aren't hosting lavish dinner parties at this stage in our lives and quickly gave it a new purpose. Our toy room is an open flowing room to our living room. So I needed something simple and classy.
    I'm so excited with the result and how it turned out!!

    I think he likes it too!
    I custom ordered the wall vinyl and then proceeded to hang it crooked (major ugh!). Found the frames, cork board (thanks Devon!) and James painted them black.

    Got out my trusty glue gun, a little bit of hanging and tah dah!! 

    'James the builder' even helped put his artwork up. 

    I'd love to hear about how you display your children's art and any wonderful art opportunities out there for my budding van Gogh!

    Wishing you all a stress-free weekend before Christmas!

    The Grandparents are coming!

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 | | 0 comments
    Apparently it's -20 degrees C in England at the moment and they're up to their necks in the white stuff - almost literally!  Normally my relatives would be delighted to tell me this, it's the 'Anything you Canadians can do we can do better mentality', a bit of healthy competition never hurt anyone right?  However their weather could put a real spanner in the works for our Christmas plans this year.  My parents are due to fly out a week today to share Christmas with us for the fourth time.  Normally I stress about having snow at this end, never at theirs, they haven't had a white Christmas in living warming?

    The first Christmas they came was 6 years ago my oldest was just 6 weeks old, we lived in a 2 bed tiny condo and they came for a month, everyone said we were crazy.  It was one of the best Christmas's ever.

     My Dad with a 6 week old Jemma

    Two years later I was the size of a small house and only 4 months pregnant!  I  remember so clearly writing Christmas cards and wondering what extra name I'd be adding next year.   We had oodles of snow and even at 2 Jem knew better than to wear gloves in the freezing cold!!

    My Mum and Dad and Daddy with helper.

    Fast forward another 2  years and Anniekins Anniebins is on the scene, 18 month old and already in charge of giving the pressies out.

    Christmas morning

    Another 2  years on and Annie is 3 1/2 and Jemma 6 and once again Mum and Dad are making the journey over.  We've been in Canada for 11 years now and we've lost count of how many times both sets of grandparents have come to see us.  On the years my parents don't come for Christmas my husbands parents do.  My kids have never had a Christmas without a Grandma & Grandpa visiting, unbelievable considering how far away they live.  We enjoy every moment with them, conscious that it might be the last trip they make, we have to be realistic after all.  I've been saying that for the last 11 years though, and, thank goodness for me they still keep coming.   All we need now is a big thaw in England!!

    I hope you're enjoying the season, have a wonderful week.

    The Newest Member...

    Monday, December 6, 2010 | | 2 comments
    The thought of designing and introducing a new item to our Personalized Silver Pendant line at the beginning of December during our busiest time of year is not the smartest idea I've ever had. But I couldn't help it and just had to make this...

    and the most exciting part...

    it's DOUBLE SIDED!!

    I have always loved the "O" necklace...

    and knew we could easily put a personalized spin on it!

    The circle is purposely an imperfect circle for an organic feel. Both sides are darkened to highlight your choice  of names and words. The pendant doesn't include a jump ring for easy access to each side (easily flipped). Of course if you prefer a jump ring we're happy to include one with your pendant.

    I made this pendant with two names on the front and an all time favorite line from the children's book Guess How Much I Love You. Many other options are available and as always we're excited to hear some of your ideas and designs! Our NEW Circle of Love Silver Pendant is available for purchase on our website and in our Etsy shop.

    I was beyond excited to not only get this design created that had been on my mind forever but to make it for a wonderful friend. The moment I knew this friendship would work was when I found out she's just as addicted to Etsy as I am (just kidding... well not really!).

    It's one of those friendships that is easy, enjoyable and refreshing! She's an amazing cook (Quail/Kale caesar salad and quinoa!!), Mom and friend. I'm so thankful and lucky to have her in my life!

    Another thing I'm thankful for (and Sarah too!)... the amazing and busy Christmas season Hands on Keepsakes is having!! We are so thankful for all of the amazing support and orders! The Holiday Decorations are a hit and we can't explain how much it means to be a part of your Holiday Season. We are so grateful!

    Wishing you all a wonderful Holiday Season!

    Do you Kiva?

    Saturday, December 4, 2010 | | 2 comments
    For Mother's Day 2 years ago I got an I-Pod, it is definitely the most used gift I've ever received, I'm not sure my husband is as thrilled with the success of his present!

    I am a podcast junkie.  Whenever I'm on my own (or think I'm on my own), I am, as my better half calls it, 'podded up'.   I find it brilliant for keeping up with UK sport, especially football and at the moment how we`re (England that is) doing in the cricket in Australia.  One of the other podcasts I`ve got a little obsessed with is `Stuff You Should Know`, or the catchy abbreviation SYSK! ( This is their Facebook page ) They cover a different topic in each program, (the podcasts come out on Tuesdays and Thursday) and they vary widely.  Last week they covered `Male Circumcision` and `How the Rules of War Work` but if you go back further in their back catalog you might come across `How Growops Work` or the inside scoop on `Freemasons` there is no topic they are not willing to get their teeth into, they did a fabulous one on the octopus and equally as interesting on how prisons really work.

    SYSK also brought to my attention a really cool charity called Kiva .  Simply put any money you donate is lent to entrepreneurs in countries of need, they then use this money to start their own approved business.  It might be to buy a sewing machine so they can make or repair clothes from home or a bigger project like opening a store, a bit like podcasts the opportunities are endless.  The amount and length of the loan are agreed and as a donor you can chose to get your money back at the end of the loan period or put it back into the pot so it can be loaned out again.  It`s like the saying goes `give a man a fish and he`ll eat for a day, teach him how to fish and you`ll feed him for life`.

    Kiva also sell gift cards which can be redeemed on-line, perfect for that difficult to buy for person on your list, my mother-in-law is down for one this year.   It may not be buying `handmade` but it is letting someone else make handmade and surely that`s as good a gift as you can give.

    You may not be able to open it but a Kiva gift is still very special

    Enjoy your holiday preparations and have a wonderful weekend.

    Black Friday/Cyber Monday

    Friday, November 26, 2010 | | 0 comments
    OK I'll admit it, I'd never heard of either of these terms before the beginning of the week, ( I blame it on being English) when you couldn't move on Facebook, Etsy in fact pretty much anywhere on any kind of media without them being mentioned.

    Some research revealed that Black Friday's name originated in Philadelphia, where it originally was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic which would occur on the day after Thanksgiving.  Later an alternative explanation began to be offered: that "Black Friday" indicates the period during which retailers are turning a profit, or "in the black."  Which is pretty depressing, imagine only having 5 weeks of the year to make all your 'gravy'.

    Cyber Monday grew out of the observation that millions of otherwise productive working Americans, fresh off a Thanksgiving weekend of window shopping, were returning to high-speed Internet connections at work on Monday and buying what they liked.

    Whatever their origins it means big spending for lots of people and hopefully it'll signal a stronger US economy than of late.  For Hands on Keepsakes it means we're offering FREE SHIPPING for 4 days, from Black Friday to Cyber Monday AND........drum roll please.... For the first time ever we've slashed the price our our keyring/decoration in half.

    Holiday Bronze Keyring/Decoration with Names

    Normally $ 70.00 this beautiful bronze keyring is now $ 35.00 'till midnight on Cyber Monday.  This decoration comes ready to hang with beautiful green and red ribbon and is also packaged with a 'split ring' to convert the decoration into a keyring after the holidays.

    Just as a sample here are some of the delectable items you can get free shipping on from now 'till midnight on Cyber Monday - at least you know why it's called that now!

    Baby's First Christmas 2010
    Custom Holiday Decorations
    (or tree tags as Rachelle and I like to call them.)

    We love you Grandma keyring/decoration

    Happy shopping and have a wonderful weekend.

    GUEST BLOG: The Mommy Crisis

    Sunday, November 21, 2010 | | 0 comments
    I'm so excited to have Jen Sencar from MomcafĂ© Okanagan as our Guest Blogger today! This blog is hitting close to home for me as guess who's Maternity Leave is up in two months!!

    The “Mommy Crisis”

    I was out at one of my first networking functions in years and I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time. We got to talking about work, family and balancing it all, and my friend admitted to me that she didn’t simply identify herself as a mom.  Her love for her daughter was obvious but it was more about her identity… who she was. While she was a mother, she was also a career woman. She needed to have that adult stimulation in her life.   At about 8 months into her maternity leave she was starting to feel depressed, so much so that she went to her doctor thinking that it maybe she developed post partum depression.  The doctor said no and she began talking to all of her mommy friends about how she was feeling.  To her surprise they all said “Don’t worry about it.  It is just the Mommy Crisis”.  To which she replied, “What the heck is that?”  You know your maternity leave is almost over and you are wondering now what? And the questions keep coming: Do you go back to work? If so, how much? How do you deal with the guilt of wanting to work instead of staying home or the guilt of leaving your baby with childcare because you have to go back to work?  She checked all the books and couldn’t find a thing about it anywhere.  

    After talking to her, it got me thinking if this “Mommy Crisis” truly existed. And if so, how are moms dealing with it?   I began to informally survey my mommy friends (secretly….they had no idea they were my guinea pigs J) and realized that it is the crisis most of us go through when we are faced with the possibility of returning to work.  Another fellow mom described it best as the anxiety and guilt you feel when it is time to leave your child and return to the work force. It seems that our maternity leave dwindles to a close just as we are getting a handle on our new identity as a mother and BAM! There it is staring us in the face - who are we now? How do we make the career parts of our former selves fit into motherhood?  Do we stay home or work part time? How do we manage it all and not have any guilt?  That my fellow mothers is the “Mommy Crisis”.   Most of us experience it to some degree and like our children there is no manual on how to deal with it. My advice is recognize it, talk about it and realize that it is part of the constant learning and evolving we do as mothers.  It too shall pass and we will be onto the next “Crisis” like potty training!

    I would love to hear if you have ever experienced the “Mommy Crisis” and if so, how did you deal with it?

    Jen Sencar works in the Public Service and is the Regional Owner of Momcafe Okanagan.  Momcafe Okanagan is an organization that connects inspired moms through events, seminars and online resources.

    Thank you so much Jen! It's always nice to know you're not the only one going through these emotions! 

    Momcafe Okanagan have an event coming up this Friday, November 26th. You can find details here!

    Hope you're all having a good weekend!

    Happy Holidays

    Saturday, November 20, 2010 | | 0 comments
    Last week it seemed people finally realized that Christmas is only 5 weeks ago.

    We had loads of inquires, orders and numerous 'phone calls between the 2 of us, sorting out who's going to make what piece for which customer.  Lots of 'discussions' too as we both want to make EVERYTHING only because we know how busy the other is looking after 2 kids, house, etc. etc.  It was great, we've been anticipating and preparing for this rush for ages and it was finally here.  But (you just knew there was a 'but' coming right?)  It was also one of the few weeks my hubby could get time off work and decided it would be perfect if we took the kids to Vancouver for a couple of days.

    I wasn't a happy bunny, but we went, (mental note to self that 2 nights is not long enough to take 2 small kids on a 5 hour journey each way).  I was allowed to take the lap-top - big concession. We went to Science World (in the rain) and took the kids swimming and went out for a nice meal and it was great to have some family time. And, I hate to admit it but my husband is right in that there never is a good time to go, he's studying and working full-time, I'm trying to look after the kids and the business, time is a commodity in short supply.  Which is probably why the highlight of the weekend was watching a DVD, from start to finish, including out takes, with him.   It's a long time since we've done that, we even had a beer too, push that boat out!  More importantly it was a movie he'd chosen, without me knowing, because he knew I wanted to see it......Sometimes it's the little things.

    It was a brilliant British film with loads of new actors written  by the genius that is Ricky Gervais

    A big thank-you to Rachelle for holding the fort for me while I was away and just to prove we did have a good time here`s a few pics of us in the Big City!

    Jemma and I enjoying something naughty
    Slither the snake came too!
    They`re loving the fact they can use their brollies

    As you can see.

    So thanks to Rachelle and bye to Vancouver `til the next time the timing is really bad!

    Opposites Attract

    Monday, November 15, 2010 | | 1 comments
    Meet Jacob

    He is without a doubt our wild child. As each day passes we become more and more uneasy about the future this kid has in store for us.

    Jacob is passionate about his bottle, bath time, screaming at the top of his lungs, eating dirt, eating plants, spitting out his food while his Mother is watching and biting. He is aggressive, enjoys being the centre of attention and will not sit still for a quarter of a second.

    Meet James

    He is the exact opposite.

    Both born into the same family. Same Mom (that's me!) and Dad. But why so different? When do their little personalities begin?

    I of course turned to my reliable source of information when questioning things (Google) and found an incredible amount of information. Many mentions of birth order, sibling rivalry and parenting books. Where do you even begin with parenting books? There's so many!

    Here's my hope... both personalities will meet in the middle and rub off on each other... again that's the hope.

    But for now they do have one thing in common...

    they adore each other... opposites attract I guess!

    We've got some exciting things coming up:

    NEW Silver Product COMING SOON
    A guest blog post!

    Happy Monday!

    Christmas Lovin'!

    Monday, November 8, 2010 | | 0 comments
    I have to admit I'm getting into the Christmas spirit a little earlier than normal this year! I'm thinking all of the Personalized Holiday Decorations we're making is the source. The tree tags have been a huge hit and we're looking forward to making more!

    I made a huge mistake allowing James to go through the Toys R' Us Christmas Catalogue and pick out what he'd like for Christmas. Let's just say it was a little too early for that!

    On his list this year:

    As you can tell we're headed for some major headaches! James has been interested in skateboards for a while. I thought I could avoid this activity and buy myself some time by getting him the smaller version Tech Decks. Nope... it's only added fuel to his obsession and we've added to that over flowing toy box. 

    And this becomes a serious conflict when remembering I've taken the Handmade Pledge. I'm thinking this will only apply to myself! 

    My goal this year is to have all Christmas shopping DONE and Christmas cards mailed out by December 1st.  Then and only then will I start the Christmas decorating process (yes I'm one of those!). For some reason I can't stretch Christmas before or past December. Last year I took the decorations down on December 26th. I know... it's an issue! Anyone else out there like that or am I the only one who refuses to decorate in November?

    Don't forget TODAY (Monday) is the last day to enter our giveaway on A Few of my Favorite Things.

    Happy Monday everyone!

    6 Years Old Already!

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010 | | 2 comments
    Pirates of the Caribaen is not a good trilogy for me.  I tried to watch the first installment on Halloween 6 years ago and about 10 minutes in labor contractions started.  My husband and I sat there in the dark (it was before kids so we saw no reason to disrupt our viewing to give out candy), what we hadn't realized was a child much closer to home wanted some Halloween action of their own.

    12 hours later I was so relieved I wasn't going to have a Halloween baby, I swear I spent the whole night with my legs crossed - I was not going to have this baby on the 31st!  My best friend Teresa came to hold my hand,  my waters broke and I got the giggles because she was so hyper, about ringing the hospital, about going to the hospital, about getting my hubby back from work, about checking I had everything I needed for the hospital.  She couldn't understand why I wasn't worried and stressed about the events to come.  Rachelle will testify I've always been keen to keep my babies on the inside for as long as possible, there they cause the least fuss and I get the maximum sleep plus I loved being pregnant.  I knew I had the rest of my life to worry and care for them, the next 24 hours was going to be the tip of the ice-berg.

    Snowing on the way to the hospital
    It snowed on the way to the hospital.  My husband decided it'd been a really tough 18 hours for him and he needed a snack to keep him going - nothing you can say to that really!  I'm not going to go into gory details, just to say that Jemma was born by emergency C-Section at 6.20pm on the 1st Nov 2004.  She weighed 7lb 10oz had jaundice and I couldn't believe she was mine.  She was breech, with her legs 'round her ears, poor wee thing, she wore a brace on her legs for the first 3 months of her life as both hips were dislocated (the first of many dodgy genes handed down to her with love from Daddy!). Another thing of note to happen on the same day in history is the voting in of George W Bush for a second presidential  term, I guess I should keep this blog politically impartial so the less said about that the better.
    Ist photo of Jemma Mary Read 
    Jemma sleeping, I'm still drugged up!

    Proud Daddy, Jemma with her leg brace on 

    Jemma chilling.  She has her eye mask on she wore under the jaundice lights.
    We got through those first few nervous weeks, as all new parents do, although you may look back and wonder how?  Now we've done the crawling, walking, talking, preschool and kindergarten stages, Jem is now a big grade one student, there are still challenges and problems although they vary greatly from when she was a baby, still it happens that as you solve one another micracously appears.

    Jemma, 'A Good Witch' at Halloween, a day before her 6th  birthday
    And not to be left out Annie the 'Baby Tiger'

    We went to her favorite restaurant to celebrate her big day and she chose her favorite dish, ribs with prawns. Men be warned, she is not going to be a cheap date!  We ate cake and opened pressies and I thought about that eventful day 6 years ago, as all mothers do when their little ones celebrate being another year older, and wondered, again as all mothers do, how has that time passed so quickly?

    Welcome AFOMFT & GIVEAWAY Details!!

    Monday, November 1, 2010 | | 0 comments
    We're so excited to be kicking off A Few of My Favorite Things Holiday Happening!!

    Welcome to all of the new readers from AFOMFT! Starting today (Monday, November 1st) simply visit AFOMFT and comment here and you have a chance to win four Custom Holiday Decorations:

    These holiday decorations can be personalized with names, Christmas 2010, Family, Love, etc and hung on the Christmas tree! Once the Holiday Season is over simply remove the ribbon and slip on the keyring (included with your order) and voila:

    A keyring to keep with you! 

    We also have Baby's First Christmas decorations and many more that are perfect gifts for new parents, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and many more.

    To order you can visit our website or our Etsy shop. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact us via email: or 

    Order deadline is December 1st. This deadline includes receiving prints back to ensure you receive your order in time for Christmas. For a little motivation to get your Christmas shopping going we're offering FREE SHIPPING in our Etsy shop. Simply convo us prior to ordering and we'll set up a custom listing for you or leave a message at checkout and we'll reimburse you via paypal.

    Happy shopping!

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