Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Poe in Heart, Rich in Meaning

There’s nothing wrong with Monet calendars. Nor, for that matter, is it a crime to love Ansel Adams posters, inspirational framed prints of windbreaker-clad climbers rappelling down treacherous rock faces, or tapestries featuring the “Footprints” poem. It is, however, but a day until the new year dawns. Isn’t it time we broke at least a little new ground in our choices of wall art? Meet edge-dwelling genius Vivan Mayser of Dear Dodo, a shop offering art prints and collectible crafts that can scarcely be described without words like provocative, thoughtful, unexpected, or unique. It isn’t only the vintage materials or the unassuming irony of the art, as in Elisa, Autumn Owl, Stork Stockings, and other quietly mirthful pieces; it’s the world in general that is created. Here we find lovely dreamscapes in pencil, Victorian-era child portraits such as Bunny Day, and the curiously entrancing silhouette of the Poe Sisters, raven-like both in raiment and in bearing. And if there’s another place on the internet where one can find a Moth Doll Brooch crafted from a tiny, century-old porcelain head excavated in Germany, it’s not on this side of the time-space continuum.

It’s easy to talk about adding a little novelty to our home environment, however. The difficult thing is mustering the courage to go ahead and do it. As a way of encouraging our Wishing Willow readers to take the plunge and actually challenge their tried-and-tired art motifs, Dear Dodo is offering a free print of the Poe Sisters to the winner of today’s giveaway. To qualify, visit Dear Dodo, then come back here to tell us about your favorite print. Tell us in a second post if you subscribe to Wishing Willow, since our subscribers receive an extra entry in the contest. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends 1/08/09.

We have a winner! JewelryInfusions who said,
"I really love the 'Poe Sisters'. The stark contrast of the two images appeals to me, plus it has that psychiatrist 'What do you see in this image....' quality."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Rockin' the Snow Cap

Not since Rocky Balboa ruled the bitter streets of Philly in a pork pie hat has headwear been as iconic as today. Brad Pitt’s trilby; Toby Keith’s cowboy hat; even the ongoing Ashton Kutcher-Justin Timberlake cold war over who made trucker hats mainstream cool; everywhere, it seems, someone is reaffirming the enigmatic appeal of hats. What’s a parent to do in such a culture? For starters, one might head over to Cite Fuzz, where fashionable hand-knit wool hats for boys and girls are offered in what seems like a thousand different must-have varieties, most sporting a consistent modern Euro-Aspen vibe, yet each in its own right somehow managing to achieve that “it” factor that sets a great hat apart from the rest. Be it the quiet confidence of the cotton Groovy Bebop Brim Hat, the sunny disposition of the cotton earflap hat in Pink with Bright Stripes, or the heart-capturing cute of the mini monkey flap hat in chocolate with red trim, Cite Fuzz makes it possible to cover your undeniably unique child’s head with something equally individualistic.

After all, it goes without saying that all children are cute, but is there anything more rewarding than clothing them in something that celebrates each’s own special kind of cute, and watching the personality, in turn, emerge? In keeping with this value, Cite Fuzz is graciously offering our Wishing Willow readers the chance to own a hat that spotlights that intangible aspect in children that brings smiles to our faces on even the dimmest of days. For those of you who never stop loving to watch your kids “monkey around,” an adorable Mini Monkey Hat (6mo - 24mo) can be yours by winning today’s giveaway. To qualify, visit Cite Fuzz, then come back here to tell us about your favorite style and product. Tell us in a second post if you subscribe to Wishing Willow, since our subscribers receive an extra entry in the contest. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends 1/07/09.

We have a winner! besosforpesos who said, "Ok, so the honest truth is that the monkey hat is my absolute favorite...and that shot that you posted on this blog is ridiculous! That baby is so cute in that hat and I'm sure her hats are flying off the shelves! Ridiculously cute! Anyhow, I know bloggers don't like us choosing the same they review, so I checked her site and my second favorite is this little number Cotton Lipstick Bebop Brim Hat. Very sweet! I love the girly flowers that can be added on too. That's some talent!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Toys for the Moments of Tooth

When it comes to handling a teething infant, there are really two choices: one, take the initiative to provide something firm, chewy, and safe; or two, watch in horror as Junior makes a teething toy of whatever happens to be lying around. Babies don't discriminate when it comes to shoving objects into their mouths. As parents, however, we have reason to be choosy, and thanks to Starbright Baby there are some wonderfully fresh, fun teething toy options to consider, all of which are homemade, safe, and BHT-free (unlike the plastic teethers sold in many stores). The choices are up to you: For your princess type, Stella the giraffe might be the pick, stylishly decorated with retro circles the shade of bubble gum and martini olives. For the gamesman/enigmatic thinker you're sure is already contemplating physics in his crib, Skyler is an inspiring option, thoughtfully finished in checkerboard green to stimulate brain activity. Or, for a twist, one might even consider custom-ordering a giraffe sized for toddlers, clothed in a tailormade suit of your own favorite fabric scrap. The folks at Starbright Baby have made it devilishly easy to find something perfect for your little angel, and these gentlemanly giraffes might just buy you a few more hours of sleep each week along the way.

Starbright Baby is also generously offering a giveaway to our faithful Wishing Willow readers. The winner of today’s giveaway will be receiving an adorable teething giraffe from Starbright Baby's Collection ($14 value). To qualify, visit Starbright Baby, then come back here to tell us about your favorite style and product. Tell us in a second post if you subscribe to Wishing Willow, since our subscribers receive an extra entry in the contest. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends 1/06/09.

We have a winner! Kama @ Today's Housewife who said, "I like Teething Giraffe - Makayla. This would be perfect for my son. He turned 3 months old on Christmas day and has constantly been chewing on his hands lately! I wonder if he's going to start teething soon"

Monday, December 22, 2008

The End of Handmade Children's Products?

If the title of this post seems a bit far-fetched and apocalyptic, think again. On November 20, 2008, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), known more generally as the Toy Safety Law. The grim specter of thousands of craft professionals going out of business now hangs like a Damoclean sword as the deadline for compliance, February 10, 2009, inches closer. Why? There are many reasons, but one stands out above the others: In order to comply with this law, most artisans who handcraft products for children aged twelve and under will be required to submit each batch of products for professional safety testing, at a cost of thousands of dollars per test. That’s right, thousands. Considering the fact that the vast majority of “sole proprietors” make less than ten thousand dollars in profit per year from their loving, time-intensive craft, it doesn’t take a CPA to tell you that these testing requirements will force almost everyone who handcrafts products for children to simply close up shop.

Who does that leave standing, then? Ironically, it leaves only the “big box” manufacturers who can absorb such prohibitive costs, the very same manufacturers who are most likely to import products from overseas factories that operate under dubious-to-nonexistent safety standards. Perhaps CPSIA should stand for Clueless Politicians Shafting Independent Artisans, because despite all this year’s political rhetoric about saving America’s economy through entrepreneurialism, it’s obvious who this law hurts most. It hurts you, it hurts me, and it hurts gifted individuals like Amber Dusick of Woodmouse. As someone who creates beautifully nostalgic toys using sustainable wood, non-toxic paint and beeswax, Amber should be rewarded for her eco-conscious ways, not flattened by the bureaucracy of a government that needs small businesses like hers to succeed. If you believe in fighting for people like Amber, and indeed for the future of the entire Etsy community and others like it, please join us in protesting this shockingly myopic law by writing your congressman today.

Learn more about Woodmouse Here and Here.

Please take the time to visit the following links to learn about this law and see what you can do to help:

http://sites.google.com/site/handmadetoyalliance/
www.fashion-incubator.com/archive/cpsia-and-small-manufacturers/
www.coolmompicks.com/savehandmade/
www.change.org/ideas/view/save_handmade_toys_from_the_cpsia

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Carded Optimism

Pleasing to the eye, intriguingly textured, and even a little nostalgia-forming. If the image that springs to mind is that of a sweet holiday treat, you’re getting warm in a hurry. The wordsmiths and graphics wizards of Sycamore Street Press, based in Thomas Edison’s home state of Ohio, specialize in literary soul food cooked on a most unconventional stove, a flatbed letterpress that gives each graphic printed on its greeting cards and prints a textured antique appearance and feel.

From heartwarming cards featuring French felines purring their thanks or artsy elephants trumpeting a birthday greeting to near-the-edges art prints like The Return of the Sea Freak, the team of Kirk and Eva Jorgensen seem far less boxed in to any one genre, and far more squarely in touch with the arrhythmic pulse of vintage printing connoisseurs, than would be possible for any mass manufacturer. That’s another way of saying that these people can take a few chances to make you smile, and they gladly take advantage of that freedom. Frame mats, calendars, even gift tags; the catalog available from Sycamore is a sweet obsession indeed, and well worth the time spent perusing its treasures. To find that card that makes the recipient say “where DID you find this?”, or, simply to browse Kirk and Eva’s eclectic, exceptional work, stop into their shop Sycamore Street Press on Etsy.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Material Witness

It’s no small challenge to weave into words the properties of a scarf that’s been hand-dyed and hand-woven by Debbie Barrett-Jones of Billy Sue Textiles. One might turn to literary allusion, charting the transitional flow of multiple colors in each piece as a kind of Homerian epic, but this approach obscures the very real science behind the art. The name value of cashmere and tencel always loom, but the fact is, these primary materials of hers are only as remarkable as the hand that manipulates them. In the end, we find ourselves borrowing the words of the masters themselves, such as Michelangelo’s: “I saw the angel in the marble, and I carved until I set her free.” This is the glorious tension of all art, really: to capture is to liberate, and vise versa.

Folks around Kansas City might know a little something about Barrett-Jones’ ability to unlock the potential in fabric, being that she’s been commissioned to weave numerous textile pieces for public display, but her scarves, available on Etsy, were and are a Joy to discover. Tabbed with delightfully unpretentious product names such as Turquoise in the Middle with Red, Brown to Navy, and Just Around the Corner with Red and Orange Baby or Me, this line of scarves is every bit as luxurious, practical, and wonderfully unique as the crisp colors of the photos suggest, and considering the intermingling of colors within each scarf, the element of versatility is obvious. After all, who wouldn’t want a scarf that adapts to the fashion whims of every woman? For a larger introduction to Debbie's extraordinary textile stylings, visit Billy Sue Textiles.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cozies for the Toes-ies

We’re born exposed. Our extremities, from the first moment of chilling introduction to the world outside that lovely warm thing called a womb, curl in shock as we realize immediately that someone, somewhere, is going to have to put some socks on those cute little tootsies of ours or we’re in deep trouble. Maybe that’s why craft-savvy moms, such as Courtney Anne Chu of CourtneyCourtney, succeed where many others fail in pinning down the perfect clothing accessories for kids: Whose instinct to better trust, after all, than her own? Of course, to call the fruit of her labor “socks” would be a misnomer. Technically speaking, they’re booties; practically speaking, they’re a versatile and tradition-tested product that inspires even more hip-shaking, slide-down-the-hall fun than the name implies. Parents will love the fact that these booties can serve as socks or shoes, depending on the occasion (thus bypassing the Herculean task of immobilizing one’s children long enough to tie shoelaces). It’s the personality of the product, however, that sells it. With a delightful variety from which to choose, ranging from the nautical/modern flair of Surfer Cool and the pixie sweetness of Rainbow Red to the li’l tyke ruggedness of Mini Rugby and the dapper kid-cool factor of Schoolbus, the struggle isn’t finding a winner, but rather in settling on just one.

Visit CourtneyCourtney for a full “exposure” to these items as well as Courtney's colorful and incredibly fun line of children's clothing.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Because Coffee is (Really) a Girl's Best Friend

As hard as it is to believe we’re closing in on another Christmas, it’s even harder to believe you’re still using that same old coffee mug. You know the one: Chipped at the lip, brittle from a thousand dishwashing cycles, uninspired in both shape and appearance. Before you ring in one more holiday season sipping from that “favorite” excuse for a real mug, it’s time you visited Jewel Pottery and picked out something worthy of your sacred coffee moments. Slip your hand around the curvaceous, just-right contours of the handle alone affixed to one of these beautiful stoneware art pieces, and it’s possible your fingers just might sigh contentedly. Breathe in the café aroma curling contentedly from the barrel belly of such deliciously stein-like mugs and you may well hear your coffee whispering its gratitude with every steamy wisp. Available in tasteful designs including Dragonfly, Guitar, and the unapologetically honest Yes I Will Die Without Coffee, these deep and substantial hand-thrown mugs are as different from the typical drinking vessel as a double-stuffed soft leather sofa is different from an aluminum folding chair. This season, unless you've resolved to give up the morning jolt altogether (yikes), resolve instead to house that morning jolt in something just as appealing as the caffeinated beverage contained in it. After all, your coffee deserves a little love, too.

Visit Jewel Pottery to view the entire collection.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Essence of Escape

A modern log cabin perched in the cleft of a snow-drizzled mountain. A coastal hideaway whose backdoors open to a gloriously unobscured view of the sea. A cottage in the pristine countryside. The dreams that propel our labors almost always center on a place, far from the scenery of our everyday lives, that tantalizes us with its possibilities. We may or may not succeed in fulfilling every dream, but in the meantime we can count on the power of artisans such as Chris of Red Leaf Bath and Body Products to transport us to exotic locales daily through the gateway of our senses. Drawing on an assortment of natural ingredients including many found in the average kitchen, Red Leaf specializes in compact, concentrated products offered in many different varieties, each of which bears its own soothing or salutary essence.

For the traveling man, for example, a rich-lathering Shaving Cube scented with Black Tea or perhaps Basil Lime might serve as a welcome alternative to the harsh motel wakeup call. For the woman who loves to simmer away her worries, a gift of Bubble Bath Dough infused with Lavender or Oatmeal, Milk and Honey may be just what the aromatherapist ordered. The discerning customer will notice instantly the uniqueness of Red Leaf’s offerings: A Very Concentrated Room Spray, a bar that lathers into shampoo, an all-day moisturizer that is sprayed on for superior coverage. Furthermore, one of the most useful aspects of this particular shop is its well-articulated product descriptions, leaving little question that just about anything sold here will be at worst refreshingly unconventional, and at best a revelation. As a clincher, Red Leaf is even offering a freebie to get your stock started: The winner of today's giveaway will receive their choice of Red Leaf's Award Winning Men's or Women's Soap and Shave Cube with a Chrome Stand in your choice of scents. To qualify, visit Red Leaf, then come back here to tell us about your favorite product and scent. Tell us in a second post if you happen to subscribe to Wishing Willow, since our subscribers receive an extra entry in the contest. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends 12/18/08.

**We have a winner! Jennielee who said, "My favorite product is the long lasting linen spray and my favorite scent is the English Coast."**

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Fragments of Self

For a cross section of the human brain, one might turn to a neurology textbook. Any cardiologist, likewise, could diagram the major valves and vessels of the heart in a few hasty sketches. For a picture of the way most of us actually think and feel, however, the closest we can come to capturing the strobe-like flashes of imagination and connection that play against the walls of our minds is to create a collage. It’s no wonder, then, that when someone as artistically inclined as Kathryn of Kitschy Hippo sets her mind to collage, the result is a work of art that sends splinters of memories and dreams through our consciousness, fusing the subliminal, as in On the Fence, with the sublime, as in Lightbulb Moment For a Bird or Cherry Tree. Considering the infinite variety of experiences we bring to the table, it’s a bit of mystery how such compositions can so consistently provoke contemplation among us, but they do, and the thoughts that emerge are often surprising.

Another obvious advantage of collage as an art form is that it writes its own rules. A piece like Sitting Pretty may represent exactly what the artist intends, but then again, it might inspire a flashback to something else: old schoolrooms, the ascetic environs of a factory, your mother’s years behind a secretary’s desk, perhaps. Three Little Birds might conjure the colorful reggae essence of the song that apparently inspired it, but on the other hand, it might just as well evoke the flora and fauna of a mythical world. To the question of meaning there is no wrong answer in collage, only a limitless number of honest answers. And if we are honest enough to admit that we find this art form just a bit irresistible, the following will be especially delightful news: Today's winner will receive the print Wishing For Paris to add to their collection. To qualify, visit Kitschy Hippo, then come back here to tell us about your favorite print. Tell us in a second post if you happen to subscribe to Wishing Willow, since our subscribers receive an extra entry in the contest. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends 12/17/08.

**We have a winner! Marigold said, "As someone who's done the long distance relationship thing, I really love the "What If" print. It's gorgeous."**

Monday, December 8, 2008

Beyond the Paper Crane

By now, provided you’re one of the millions of folks worldwide who observe the odd tradition of hauling a freshly hewn tree into your home for the holidays, you’ve probably already begun to ruminate on the subject of decorating that tree. If you’re the neighbor who yearly sets out to shame the others with that plum and gold, shimmering ball-festooned edifice sprouting with pheasant feathers in the window where every passerby can see it, you might have overlooked today’s featured item. If, however, you can appreciate a more organic, sensible approach, you might consider origami ornaments this year. You heard right. Origami, a lost art, has returned in time for the holidays, courtesy of Suanne of Paper Affection. Employing the elegant movements of such styles as Magenta Arabesque and Lime Star Petite, while also building with more traditional boxy shapes such as Blue Modular Petite, Suanne demonstrates the many possibilities of this art form as yuletide décor and awakens us all to an old/new design paradigm.

If the ornaments are unique and fresh, however, the earrings that Suanne manages to produce are downright striking. Since origami is essentially papercraft, it’s expected that these earrings would have a delicate, almost weightless bearing to them. Even so, the precision and inspiration of the Aqua Brocade Earrings, Blue and Green Flipped Cubes, Origami Cherry Earrings and so many others in this collection prove that Paper Affection’s catalog is as long on substance as it is short on wasted material. And say this much about origami accessories: You will never lack for a conversation piece with such a lovely conception dangling from your lobes. Finally, to encourage us even more to explore the boundaries of this ancient Asian tradition both in our fashions and by our firesides, Suanne is offering a very special giveaway: The winner will receive a generous $25 Paper Affection Gift Certificate, good toward the purchase of any item in the store. To qualify, visit Paper Affection, then come back here to tell us about your favorite product. Tell us in a second post if you happen to subscribe to Wishing Willow, since our subscribers receive an extra entry in the contest. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends 12/16/08.

**We have a winner! Crystal said, "Awwww, How sweet the Winged Heart Necklace is...Love it:)"**

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Golden Touch

Children, don’t discard those secret hopes and not-yet-jaded spirits just yet. Your parents may not admit it, but there’s a significant element of truth to the fantastical stories of toys rising to life, as they do in legends running the gamut from Pinocchio to The Velveteen Rabbit. Here it is: Sometimes, we choose the toy. Sometimes, the toy chooses us. The fuzzy, felt-skinned friends offered by Kata Golda serve as a splendid sample group through which to test this theory, laboratory-style. Go ahead little girl, pick up the hand-stitched dog, spring-pretty in her skirt and blouse, and see if her tiny dark eyes like chocolate chips don’t implore you to take you home, best friends forever. Don’t be afraid, little boy, to hold that bear in the buttoned jumper close to your believing heart, and see if he doesn’t softly whisper a plea that he might be the toy that wins your smile this Christmas. Give Kata’s characters a window of opportunity, Mom and Dad, and that lamb with the beguiling eyes, rabbit in Sunday best, or darling little peep just might capture you as well.

Of course, any review of Kata Golda’s work would be remiss without a mention that it isn’t just her stuffed animals that carry this magic. With the same enviable ease with which she turns a few mousy bits of felt into a full-fledged finger puppet, she turns tea sets etched with animal life, cards announced by unassuming snowmen, journals sung to life by carefree birds and a score of other products into the kinds of keepsakes that never lose their place in our lives. The fact that Kata donates a percentage of every sale to elementary schools is really just a second layer of frosting on an already-delectable treat; these toys are appealing enough as examples of the kinds of toys that all of us as parents wish we could make. Well, maybe you don’t have Kata’s golden touch, but if your luck is golden, that might be enough: The winner of today’s giveaway will be receiving an adorable Mouse Finger Puppet from Kata’s collection ($24 value). To qualify, visit Kata Golda, then come back here to tell us about your favorite product. Tell us in a second post if you happen to subscribe to Wishing Willow, since our subscribers receive an extra entry in the contest. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends 12/11/08.

**We have a winner! Jenna who said, "I really like the Kid’s Messenger Bag. It is very cute!"

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Orchid Soul

It’s often said that a little piece of the artist’s soul is left in every work of art. If that’s true, we can deduce that Karen Faulkner’s soul is one awash in vibrant ideas, passionate as the blushing pinks and plunging blues that invigorate her floral watercolors, and guileless as the straightforward, original designs for which she is known. While favorites such as True Blue Orchids, Purple Rain, and Holiday (anyone missing the 80’s pop theme here isn’t paying attention) present as uncomplicated renderings, they’re nothing simple about them. In fact, Faulkner’s gallery on the whole represents a kind of journey, building on the momentum of slender roses, clovers and peonies to finally peak with gorgeous radials such as Winter Maple and fascinating compositions such as Gourd Love.



James Whistler, himself no slouch when it came to watercolor, once said that "to say to the the painter that nature is to taken as she is, is to say to the player that he may sit on the piano." There can be no question that artists such as Karen Faulkner are unafraid to interpret the splendor of nature, as in Glorious Blue, in shades of ethereal mystery and often fascinating subtlety. In the end, however, it's the atmosphere that a watercolor flower creates that seals the deal. Nothing, after all, speaks peace to a home better than the feathery brushstroke that gives flight to the soul's visions.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Makeup that Makes (Perfect) Sense

Assembling the ideal makeup palette for one’s own skin tone, eye color, and personality is vexing enough . (Perhaps that’s why those smartly-smocked faux cosmetic scientists prowling the aisles of department stores are so effective in persuading/commanding us to let them experiment on us.) Throw in the qualifier of using only makeup that’s proven organic, natural, and pore-friendly, and suddenly the challenge of being properly made up for a day’s socializing reaches the level of quantum mechanics. Hope, however, is not lost. Thanks to the forward-thinking of Kate of Luire Mineral Cosmetics, it’s no pipe dream to imagine dipping one’s fingers into a makeup that’s mineral-based, meaning it’s actually therapeutic for the skin, while at the same time enjoying the confidence that comes from choosing a truly stylish and cleverly formulated product.

Engineered by a Missouri-based cosmetic craftmatician (not a real word), Luire is firstly well-marketed, distinguishing its bold yet complex eye colors with a-luire-ing names such as Shrinking Violet and Wishful Thinking, and appealing to our senses with fluidly poetic descriptions of each product. Secondly, however, and more importantly, these lovely little pockets of makeup magic are energized with hues that work to bring out the best in all of us. Whether your personality is Belly Dancer or Slow Burn, Fool’s Gold or Midori (my personal favorite), chances are you’ll find at least one tone that’s quintessentially you in this beautiful and unpretentious collection. You'll all be excited to enter this giveaway! Luire is kindgly giving away Four 5g jars of Peony Petal, Silver Sea, Under the Bridge and Lilypad, plus a full-size tube of Garden Party Gloss, all giftwrapped in a pretty silk bag. (A $25 value.) To qualify, visit Luire Mineral Cosmetics, then come back here to tell us about your favorite product. Tell us in a second post if you happen to subscribe to Wishing Willow, since our subscribers receive an extra entry in the contest. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends 12/10/08.

**We have a winner. Congrats janetfaye!**

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Girl Loves A Sale

Here are a few sales from our Wishing Willow Friends:

Simple Me Boutique: 20% off any purchase of $50 or more. Use promo code: friday. Sale ends 12.2.08

Queen Baby Bean: 15% off any purchase. Use code: willow when checking out. Sale ends 12.15.08

Belle and Boo: 20% off all products from now until Monday 1st Dec 9am GMT.

Oh So Sassy: Orders made Nov. 27 to Nov. 30 will receive free shipping!! and any orders more than $75 will receive 10% off!

Whimsy and Spice: BLACK FRIDAY SPECIAL! All sampler gift boxes are reduced 15% off till 5pm!

Polkadot Papoose Baby Slings: Celebrate Thankskiving Weekend by Saving 25% on all orders. Use the Promo Code: thanks when checking out. Sale ends 12.05.08.

Helene's Dreams: 20% off the price from 11-25 through 11-27-08.

Moody Girl Aromatherapy: Enjoy 10% off the product price from Moody Girl Aromatherapy. Be sure to mention Wishing Willow to get your discount. Discount expires 12/31.

**Don't forget to enter our giveaways here.**

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

From now until Monday the 1st of December, Wishing Willow will not be posting new reviews. We encourage you to join with us during this time in celebrating God's blessings, enjoying the gift of family and friends, and honoring the importance of good old fashioned rest. :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Reviving a Forgotten Art

It’s hard to believe there was time long ago, before e-mail, instant messaging, posting and texting swept through our culture like an electronic nor’easter, that people actually sat down and wrote out messages by hand. The evidence is there, of course, in the carefully scripted, exquisitely crafted letters you might find in your grandparents’ attic, but even so, the concept is so foreign to us that letter-writers are now revered as specialists. If Avie Designs has anything to say about it, however, the practice of sending one’s love in longhand will not go gently into that good night. Offering a line of tasteful yet chic cards for any occasion, Avie encourages us all to take that extra moment to communicate with true class, utilizing such designs as the Shady Afternoon, Mayson, and Chevron Valley stationery sets to dress our messages with both flair and care.

In addition, Avie's shop features a number of items that speak volumes about one’s social savvy, with no need to inscribe a single word beyond those printed. For example, an up-and-coming artisan or independent reviewer might announce herself on Flourish Website Cards. A mom who appreciates the value of networking with other moms might carry a few Apple Calling Cards with her, for those squeezed-between moments when numbers are hastily exchanged. Or, someone giving the gift of literature to that prodigious young nephew might personalize it with a Trees Bookplate, and affix a Sparkle Holiday Card to the present. Whatever the occasion, it’s clear that Avie has your image in mind with these thoughtful and inspiring ideas. And as for ideas, entering today’s giveaway might be the best yet. Today's winner will receive their very own Bright Stripes Stationery Set ($20 value.) To qualify, visit Avie Designs, then come back here to tell us about your favorite product. Tell us in a second post if you happen to subscribe to Wishing Willow, since our subscribers receive an extra entry in the contest. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends 12/03/08.

**We have a winner! CutieFruity/TaylorFam who said, "I like the Blue Tiles Stationery Set. It sure would come in handy!"

Monday, November 24, 2008

Darling Babies, Darling Moms

From the Kenyan tribal mother lovingly toting her newborn in a sling as she goes about her daily work to the California socialite strolling the boardwalk with her one-year-old slung to her hip, babywearing is fast becoming a more or less ubiquitous practice around the world. Slipping away are the days of padded, buckled contraptions with Swedish names; replacing these well-intended but complicated devices are simple, lightweight slings that emphasize comfort and imitate the natural feel of the womb. Polkadot Papoose, an independent maker of handcrafted baby slings and matching burp cloths, affirms a belief in the beauty of motherhood by specializing in products that honor the value of practicality without sacrificing an ounce of style. After all, a mom is still a lady.

With baby slings named for literary figures and authors, and a commitment to ending the scourge of human slavery (a portion of every sale goes toward freeing child prostitutes in India and worldwide), as a brand Polkadot Papoose enjoys a noteworthy uniqueness from many other babywear manufacturers that factory-produce their slings for profit only. With a full range of styles including those as gracefully understated as the Adele; as boldly feminine as the Sylvia; or as exotic-yet-versatile as the Sayuri, that same quality of uniqueness extends to each and every sling as well. And with three gorgeous new styles in the mix (Scout, Holly, and Anita), the collection just keeps growing. If choosing a favorite seems difficult, fret not: Should you win today’s giveaway, Polkadot Papoose will be giving you a Baby Sling and Burp Cloth Set of your choice ($76 value.) To qualify, visit Polkadot Papoose Baby Slings, then come back here to tell us about your favorite style. Tell us in a second post if you happen to subscribe to Wishing Willow, since our subscribers receive an extra entry in the contest. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. If you're so ambitious to earn a third entry, tell us what kind of products you would like to see more of on Wishing Willow. Contest ends 12/03/08.

Polkadot Papoose Baby Slings is offering a whopping 25% off all purchases made by Wishing Willow readers through 12/31. Use the promo code: willow when checking out.

**We have a winner! Mommy Instincts Reviews who said, "I would have to say the Ophelia would be perfect for me and my new daughter who is due March 2009."

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Rare Bird Indeed

The small-but-growing cult of gocco print artists presents an interesting phenomenon. Could it be the antiquity of the method (dating back to the ancient year of 1977) that attracts so many of today’s most talented individuals? Is there some appeal in the mystique of a process not fully understand by the majority of art lovers? Or is there something intangibly delicious in the very tangible, hands-on aspect of gocco that captures the heart of the artist? Whatever it is, Bridget Farmer of Bridbird is one of those “rare birds” who know how to bring a vision to life through the magic of a Print Gocco machine, be it a pair of diametrically balanced, generously plumed birds bowing, or a classic Victorian house in Melbourne that reflects the inviting earthiness of the Aussie coastal character in olive and apricot tones. Bridget's subjects, at turns as singular and stripped-down as a writhing haddock then suddenly festive as a decorated owl, suggest a thematic approach that respects the power of everyday images, and a practical habit of choosing color with discernment, at times dispensing with color altogether.

Browsing Bridbird’s gallery of images, it isn’t difficult to envision these lovely prints occupying space on your own walls: The Peacock, for example in the living room; Kitchen Utensils, or perhaps I Do Not Think There Is Anything Wrong With Pear Shaped in the kitchen; Three Female Satin Bowerbirds in the sun room, should you be lucky enough to have a sun room. Bridbird prints are instantly accessible, and delightfully conversational. The only question, after bringing one home, is whether you’ll be able to resist bragging to friends about your latest rare find on Etsy. Generously, Bridbird is also offering one free gocco print, of the reader’s choice, to the winner of today’s giveaway. To qualify, visit Bridbird, then come back here to tell us about your favorite print. Tell us in a second post if you happen to subscribe to Wishing Willow, since our subscribers receive an extra entry in the contest. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends 11/29/08.

**We have a winner! SeahorseLady said, "Very nice work. I like the Gocco Screen Print, Fancy Bird no. 1, Blue the most."***

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Postcards from the Age of Innocence

A question to ponder: If, like the scientists who recently figured out how to bring wooly mammoths back from extinction, we could manufacture a product line that embodied all the qualities we loved in our storybook characters, what would these include? The irrepressible optimism of Christopher Robin? The gumption of Curious George? The adventurous spirit of Beatrix Potter’s loveable woodland protagonists? Fortunately, there are certain artists and artisans of exceptional talent who are already in the business of such engineering, a wonderful example being Mandy Sutcliffe of Belle and Boo. Belle, a lively, charming little brown-eyed girl, and her bunny friend, Boo, are oft-appearing subjects in the prints, cards, tags, and other items sold at this delightful shop, but it’s really a community of children in general who inhabit the fluid landscapes of these images, and especially girls.

Consequently, just about anyone who’s held on to any part of the “little girl” in her will instinctively gravitate toward the likes of Serenity Pink and I Like Your Bow, the Belle and Blue Fly a Kite print, or Little Belle Hugs Boo Pink. The object that sends you back to that special place might be something as simple yet precious as a Boo Tag for the birthday party gift you’ve been wrapping, or something as transcendent as My Favorite Place in Winter/Spring/Summer/Autumn. Whatever memory you care to recover, you can be sure the art of Belle and Boo will send you there with a touch as personal as the cup of tea Mandy offers on her Etsy page to anyone who cares to drop by the flat. And to get your collection started, Mandy and Kate of Belle and Boo are offering a set of Meet Me at Mike’s Badges to the lucky winner of today’s giveaway. To qualify, visit Belle and Boo, then come back here to tell us about your favorite product. Tell us in a second post if you happen to subscribe to Wishing Willow, since our subscribers receive an extra entry in the contest. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends 11/28/08.

Visit www.belleandboo.com to view the full collection.

**We have a winner! windycindy who said, "Hi, I love her site. The "Ella and the Now Dove" Tags are adorable!The "My Favourite Spot in Autumn" Picture is also a favorite of mine!"**

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hopes and Hearts Adrift

The subject of Seafaring Heart stares impassively, her mind absorbed in a world none of us can see. Her look is classic enough, a 1920’s bob haircut and a dark, nondescript dress accentuated by a green bow; in expression, however, she is the anti-Mona, mouth and eyes conveying neither mischief nor humor but only a disconcerting vacancy, leading us to wonder if we’ve even a right to be privy to the moment. This, like the path of the blood-red cardinals that flow like corpuscles from her ship brooch, past the sentry fox and into the hazy coastal horizon, is the flow of Sarah Blank’s work. The women refuse to betray their own hearts through some slip of the tongue, and yet seem to trust the artist to tell their stories for them. While in some of Sarah’s paintings, such as Wandering Heart, the theme might seem to be a childhood memory, a forbidden love, or both; in others including One Misty Morning the direction is less clear but the emotion perhaps more telling (in this case, a wistful, almost painful longing for something out of reach).

Sarah Blank can haunt us with macabre compositions the depth of which would give Edward Munch chillbumps, as in The Bear, Moth, and Ghost Wolf; she can cleverly amuse us with rich ironies, as when The Bumblebee Sisters Buy a Bird; or, given the chance, she can move us to sighs with the power of her own personal visions, as she does so capably in Heart Strings and Woodsy Things. Mostly, however, she simply inspires us to minimize our diversions while maximizing our horizons, the message of her endless ships and birds and finger-waved curls seeming to be that meaningful life is lived not along the information superhighway, but in the wild, inexhaustible possibilities of a trolley in the snow, a fox in waiting, a cryptic stare, a book. And here’s a bit of good news that might even make one of Sarah’s stoic ladies lose their sobriety: The winner of today’s giveaway will receive his or her choice of one of the following prints: Seafaring Heart, One Misty Morning or Wandering Heart. To qualify, visit www.sarahblank.etsy.com, then come back here to tell us about your favorite print. Tell us in a second post if you happen to subscribe to Wishing Willow, since our subscribers receive an extra entry in the contest. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends 11/27/08.

**We have a winner! Deb who said, "So unique and evocative!! I really like The Bumblebee Sisters Buy A Bird. Adorable!!"**

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sass Meets Class

There are two schools of thought when it comes to designing and sewing children’s clothes. One is that the perfection of a child, like the perfection of a pearl, needs no dressing up. Designs from this school are simple and functional. The alternative school, however, argues it is no crime to craft a clothing piece that honors the beauty of children with a little beauty of its own. Michelle of Oh So Sassy, obviously a graduate of the latter school, believes so strongly in the importance of hand-stitching her love, her playfulness, and a generous dose of “sass” into each Whimsy Dress, Little Abigail Apron, and Oh So Dapper Tie she makes that it’s very possible you’d find yourself cooing in admiration over the pieces alone, even if no children were in the picture. Incidentally, children are in these pictures, however, and the photographer’s success in capturing them in moments of natural innocence is positively praiseworthy, proving once again that an Etsy shop equals exposure for more than just the seller.

Not to be outdone by the likes of the Sassy Flower Hair Clip, Adri Michelle Dress, or Pink Dahlia Dress in her collection, Michelle also delves into the world of accessories with great aplomb, turning out gotta-have-it items such as the Dafina Bag and the Sassy Strings Apron, both of which feature decidedly grownup-friendly prints. Her Sassy Diaper Clutch, another favorite, is day-trip sized and dashingly discreet. One of her sweetest creations of all, however, the Splash of Red Boutique Dress, is also the one most immediately accessible to you (in your choice of sizes 6mo - 6T), should you be lucky enough to win it in today’s giveaway. To qualify, visit www.ohsosassy.etsy.com, then come back here to tell us about your favorite product. Tell us in a second post if you happen to subscribe to Wishing Willow, since our subscribers receive an extra entry in the contest. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends 11/26/08.

**We have a winner! Abigail who said, "I love all of them, but the Whimsy Dress is my favorite!"**

Monday, November 17, 2008

Orwell’s Animal Charm

One hasn’t truly explored the outer regions of irony until she’s tucked her capitalist credit cards and currency into a shiny dog-shaped leather clutch named for the novelist of history’s most famous satire of Communism. Of course, George Orwell was a clever Englishman, not a seer, and though the latter suggests he’d have had no idea that decades later Tsurubride Arts & Crafts would celebrate his legacy in leather, the former quality assures he’d have found such humor deliciously rich. And here’s something else that’s rich: finding a world of offbeat, lit-smart flights of fancy, a world occupied by ipod cozies with gaping monster mouths, whales and snails who swallow business cards, and whatever else crosses the capacious imagination of the maker.

Don’t have time to appreciate the literary value of Tsurubride’s line? No need to fear the thought police. Just tuck your Silver Kitty Purse under your arm knowing that you’ve done something to further the cause of independent crafting. And by the way, a little birdie tells me Tsurubride will customize by animal or color for the right price, so don’t be afraid to let your own imagination run wild. While you’re at it, imagine this: The winner of today’s giveaway will receive one cute’n’compact Silver Whale Curiosity Card Holder free from Tsurubride. To qualify, visit www.tsurubride.etsy.com, then come back here to tell us about your favorite product. Tell us in a second post if you happen to subscribe to Wishing Willow, since our subscribers receive an extra entry in the contest. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends 11/25/08.

**We have a winner! Roberta who said, "I love the sad panda change purse - adorable!"**

Friday, November 14, 2008

Another Little Piece of My Heart

“Silver threads and golden needles can not mend this heart of mine,” Austin, Texas native Janis Joplin sang. There may be truth to the lyric, but most ladies would agree that silver and gold make rather nice pick-me-ups when blue days come calling. In today’s economic era, with shopping malls closing their lights to all but a few elderly mallwalkers and the cleaning crew, lovers of handcrafted accessories tend to fill their “shiny object” needs online, browsing the virtual aisles of independent jewelry artisans like Chris of Carolina Bleu to locate something truly special. An Austin native herself, the craft professional behind this unique business lures the eye with the subtle graces of her work, as in her Full Circle earrings, their shape emblematic of life’s cyclical loves and losses. She inspires the spirit with neckware made to dangle, like promises, close to the heart, exemplified in the Loved Ones locket. And she stirs the soul to imagine its possibilities with captivating crystal the likes of Petite Champagne Billy.

In fact, if it’s true, as Paul Simon wrote, that there are “fifty ways to leave,” there must surely be fifty ways to love as well, and at least that many choices of ways to express it through the Carolina Bleu catalog. Our favorites would have to include those of the Economic Crisis Sale, a line of tiny, delicately charming jewelry priced at a mere ten dollars per item. And speaking of affordable, Carolina Bleu has even agreed to go one better: The winner of today’s giveaway will receive one free pair of beautiful Amy Earrings, courtesy of the artist who conceptualized them. To qualify, visit www.carolinableu.etsy.com, then come back here to tell us about your favorite product. Tell us in a second post if you happen to subscribe to Wishing Willow, since our subscribers receive an extra entry in the contest. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends 11/22/08.

**We have a winner! Shauna who said, "I love the abundance necklace. Its definitely a piece that needs to be added to my collection!Love the paul simon comment as well...its so true"**

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Resistance is Futile

When it comes to desserts, I like to think of moderation not so much as an angel on the shoulder reining in our lower nature, but figuratively as a prudish aunt rationing out her cake in wafer-thin slices and serving each with a tiny dollop of whipped cream. If you can more readily identify with the uncle who carves up for himself a colossal wedge of the same cake, buries it in a mountain of ice cream and tops off the formless mass with a cascade of hot fudge, the ethos of Delectable Delights is for you. Located in Kansas City, Missouri (an underrated venue for gourmet sweets), this is one business that puts the devil in delicious, tempting us with, among other vices, a patented line of one-pound-weight Sundae Cupcakes in drool-inspiring flavors like Cherries Jubilee, Cinnamon Apple, Boston Cream and something called El Pastel de Reyes that looks like it fell right out of the ecstatic three a.m. vision of some raging chocoholic with a culinary license.

For those of us who eat and drive at the same time (not recommended, by the way), this dream factory of desserts also offers a number of more easily handled treats such as Red Velvet Cookies, traditional Sugar Plums, Russian Tea Cakes and Chocolate Pecan Bars. Lest you think these goodies are served up on the end of a pitchfork by someone hell-bent on destroying every dietary resolution you’ve ever made, rest assured there’s a very real human behind these amazing creations, who humbly profiles herself as “a young single mom” (but fails to mention her supernatural ability to make mouths water). We’ve sampled a couple of the products made in her kitchen, and we can vouch for the fact that they’re every bit as tasty as the names would suggest. Next step: figuring out how to keep my family’s car from heading in her bakery’s direction this weekend…

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Fragrant New Frontier

We’ve come a long way since Marco Polo. Today, with the same flourish that the proud Italian must surely have employed in showing off his “exotic” Eastern wares to an audience unaccustomed to cinnamon, cloves, fennel, and anise seed, not to mention noodles, our modern bath alchemists manipulate ever-bolder blends of flavors in their quest to create an original, irresistible body-pampering product. Some, such as uber-spice girl Dana Eskes of Moon Maiden Soap & Sundries, have plunged further along the bath merchant’s trade routes than others, as evidenced by her serendipitous discovery that goat’s milk soap works quite wonderfully in off-the-map flavors such as Turkish Mocha and Basmati Rice, lip butters with the essence of Gingersnap and Almond Biscotti, and body lotions in Kumquat and Coconut Lime Verbena varieties.

For all her adventurous offerings, however, it would be unfair to say she strays too far from the homegrown goodness of breadbasket America. Anyone who uses free-range goat’s milk fresh from her neighbor’s farm, and remembers to pay tribute to our collective Main Street memories with childhood flavors like Dreamsicle and Gooey Caramel, clearly hasn’t forgotten her roots. Shucks, there’s even a Candy Corn-scented candle in the mix. In summary, then, the Moon Maiden avatar is two parts aromatherapist, one part alchemist/adventurer, and 100% agreeable. And speaking of agreement, I’m certain we can all concur that those things which are free smell sweetest, which makes the following announcement all the more exciting: one lucky winner of today’s giveaway will be receiving a sample box of goodies which includes: one 4-ounce jar of the Vanilla Sugar Satin & Silk Body Cream (incidentally, one of the most luxurious substance we've come across) ; four 1-ounce bars of Goats Milk Soap in any scent; one 2-ounce bottle Shea Body Lotion in any scent; and one tube of Lip Butter in any flavor. To qualify, visit www.moonmaidensoap.etsy.com, then come back here to tell us about your favorite product. Tell us in a second post if you happen to subscribe to Wishing Willow, since our subscribers receive an extra entry in the contest. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends 11/20/08.

**We have a winner! Starshine3 who said, "I would like to try the Dragonsblood Goats Milk Soap. Thanks for the great giveaway!"

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pinning a New (Fashion) Statement

A brooch is something like the maraschino cherry that completes a classic ice cream sundae: It may seem extraneous at first, but once it’s been added, imagining the ensemble without it is impossible. In American culture the lapel area is a virtual battlefield, with causes from breast cancer awareness to patriotism constantly competing with traditional jewelry for the same three to four square inches of pin space. In Europe, apparently, the brooch is not so much a statement piece as it is a thing of gratuitous beauty, the madly appealing brooches handcrafted in Denmark by Mette of The Brooch Boutique serving as a splendid case in point. "Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity," said Plato, but don’t tell that to Mette, who with a few sequins and glass beads can turn the cut remnants of Indian saris into an accessory so marvelously textured and complex that passers-by are unable to resist taking a closer look.



Aristotle’s quip that “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work” is probably more apropos, considering that examples such as Mette's Chocolate Crochet Flower Bobby Pins and Ivory and Fuchsia Crochet Flower Brooch demonstrate such a patient attention to detail that a love of craft can not be far behind. Really, once one has spun through this gallery, encountering the spring-soft hues of Chic Chiffon, the crocheted floridity of Baby Pink or Beaded Ivory rising like "puffs of colored smoke" (Hemingway), the soothing comfort of Strawberry Vanilla or the upturned optimism of Yellow and Turquoise to name just a few, resisting the urge to fall in love with this craft right alongside the crafter will likely be futile. And where love is concerned, here’s something you’ll love even more: The winner of today’s giveaway will receive an Ivory and Cream Crochet Flower Brooch courtesy of The Brooch Boutique. To enter, visit www.thebroochboutique.etsy.com, then come back here to tell us about your favorite product. Wishing Willow subscribers earn an extra entry; be sure to let us know in a second post if you’re a subscriber. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends 11/19/08. Good luck!

**We have a winner! beartifix who said, "So romantic and pretty! I like the sparkling ivory crochet flower brooch. Thanks for the great giveaway!"

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wooly Whimsy

whimsy (hwim’-zee), n., a fanciful or fantastic device, object, or creation especially in writing or art

Strictly speaking, of course, the above definition is not usually the one intended when craft artists such as Anne, the creator behind Murdock Designs describe their work as having in it a touch of “whimsy,” but in this case, it works as beautifully as does the art itself. Our six-year-old, Aedan, himself a fanciful/fantastic creation, confirmed the elusive “it” factor, the magic, of Anne's vibrant handiwork when the Blue Leafy Super Bug became his favorite wooly appendage from the first moment he snatched it away from the three-year-old brother for whom it was intended, but by no means is the Murdock Designs charm lost on adults. Just the opposite: while critters the likes of Dotty Super Bug or Diagonal Busy Bear might hog the spotlight with their heroic costumes and disarming smiles, the mod-magnetism of accessories such as the Periwinkle Appliqued Linen Tea Towel and the Blue and Red Button Magnet Set is rather arresting in its own right.

If you’ve been in the market for pillows, you might not find a more adorable, versatile set than those found in the Murdock Designs shop. With varied themes from factories and antique bombs to cashmere suns and stars, these pillows strike the perfect balance between bold style and accessibility. In other words, you won’t be able to help showing them off, but you certainly won’t mind your guests enjoying them, either. In keeping with the “whims” of the designer, Anne's repertoire also includes wool felt hair clips and flower pins, a lovely messenger bag, and a number of other items. Whatever your preference, however, one thing we can all agree on is that nothing tops free, and free is exactly what the Red Flowery Busy Bunny will be for the winner of today’s terrific giveaway. To enter, visit Murdock Designs, then come back here to tell us about your favorite product. Wishing Willow subscribers earn an extra entry; be sure to let us know in a second post if you’re a subscriber. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends 11/18/08. Best of Luck!

**We have a winner! ThreadBeaur who said, "Dotty Super Bug is so cute. The linen tea towels are also fantastic. I like the red and the orange ones. Great shop, thanks for introducing us to murdock design!"**