Birthdays come along once a year. Children seem to enjoy this way more than we do! For us adults? Most would rather skip and just have a nice meal out. Well I would anyway.
But what about kids? Kids NEED stuff. (say that with some whine in your voice!) I thought I would compile some ideas about what gifts are great at what age. Some are fun ideas, some are a bit more practical.
1st, 2nd and 3rd Birthdays
Kids at this age are learning to walk, talk and interact with adults or older children. Keep the toys easy and not a lot of parts or pieces.
So think about things that are easy to hold onto, like a play lawn mower or,other walk behind toy. Board books are perfect, they take a lot of abuse from biting and dropping, but introduce kids to reading. (one book a night equals 1,095 by the time they are 3) A doll with simple features and clothes that are attached work for both boys and girls.
If you are someone who likes to make gifts, Pinterest has age appropriate ideas for busy bags/boxes that promote hand eye coordination.
Here is an idea for a busy box. Many many more out there
4th and 5th Birthdays
What makes a child this age happy? They are starting to read, should be able to dress themselves and ready to enter into some sort of schooling.
How about a board game like Break the Ice or Hungry Hungry Hippo? Drawing and other easy craft have become part of their lives. I found a “cake” that is made up entirely out of markers and paper and other fun crafty things for a perfect gift. Can you see their eyes light up when they see that?
Items that are sports or adventure related. Scooters or explorer kits are great!
How awesome is this idea? Use Styrofoam blocks for the middle part.
6th, 7th and 8th Birthdays
Peer pressure has hit! What are they watching on Netflix? A t-shirt relating to their favorite show would be great! What did their friend get at their birthday party? Get that for them and you’ll be just fine.
This t-shirt is Forever 21, but please look on Etsy first!
9th and 10th Birthdays
In my experince, girls at this age are finding out what they like in clothes, ways to do their hair and yet still like the thought of being a kid. So a day out at the mall or if you don’t want to go that crazy, then a gift card to a store at the mall is perfect.
Boys are a bit different. The ones in my house were still into Nerf Guns, tools of any sort, pocket knives(they don’t seem to be out growing this one!) and oooh flashlights! I know that last one sounds crazy, but they love to play outdoors after dark and always need a flashlight!
Obviously don't give this to a kid who wouldn't treat it correctly. But still it is important for kids to know some basic skills!
11th and 12th Birthdays
So the tweens have hit? I will admit the ideas get tougher as they get older’
Boys want fun! Legos, remote control cars. Do you have one that’s into the outdoors? What about some camping gear and then actually take them camping. Experiences are so valuable at this age. Make a memory before they are grown up!
Girls want headphones, cameras, cute pjs. What about helping them paint their room a new color and a new bed spread?
The Insta camera! cute cute cute
13th and up
….you are on your own! Throw money at them….
One practical thing I have been doing is getting them a subscription box for this birthday. Emily got Ipsy, Anna wanted Bocandy and Josh turns 13 this August so we are looking for his.
Unicorns are a huge craze right now and we have them in any color!
It goes with out saying that the best gift for any age is an animal pillow from our shop!
Do you have any suggestions? I know how difficult it is to make it meaningful, but also something they WANT. Good luck!
A sign of a lazy seamstress is a needle with a long thread.
Several years ago I worked as a cook for a residential care facility.. During break time I would pull out my hand sewing. I’m not one to sit idle for very long and I needed to keep up with orders. My thread tends to be long, I will admit to that. It just seems to make sense so that I wouldn’t have to re-thread as much!
My best advice came from a lady named Tina. She was an immigrant from the Netherlands during WWII. I remember her telling me one time about the trip over on the ship. The each had a suitcase and the baby was in the buggy. That was it for possessions.She and her husband Henry came to Pella and made a life here. Several more children were born (6 in all). They were both cheerful and pleasant residents.
When she gave me the advice about the long thread it was as tho she was repeating what her mother had said to her when she was a young girl. I still don’t make my thread any shorter, so I can’t say I have learned my lesson. But every time I get a snarl in my long thread I think of Tina.
Ugh! Those tangles; someday I will learn!
With age comes wisdom. Take a minute to reflect on these.
To be true to yourself so that you can be your true self with others.
This came from a new friend. Her name is Page. I met her at a craft show about a month ago. She and her husband are working at a local amusement park for the summer. They live in an RV and travel around working seasonal jobs.
Now most of us don’t worry about what we buy or if we have too much “stuff” What about if your living quarters were a bit limited? What would you value? What things could you do without. It was a privilege to know that one of the things Page wanted to have was a gnome pillow. His name is George, the Guardian Gnome and he guards their home while they are at work.
The guardian of the rolling home.
What’s the best advice you have been given?
NEW! Just discovered!
I was sifting through a pile back in the corner of the attic when I came across another field journal of Sir Winslows. As far as anyone knew they were all in the library at Windy Willows. Amazing! Here were fresh stories and new animals that we could learn about.
See how fresh it looks compared to the others. It's like it hasn't seen the light in a hundred years!
The Amazon jungle lays in South America. During Sir Winslow’s exploring years it was vast. It would have taken a lifetime to explore even a small part. Today the rainforest covers 3.2 million square miles, which still makes it the largest in the world. It’s animals are diverse, the waterways immense, and the humidity...out of this world!
The map from Sir Winslow's archives.
Sir Winslow’s Amazon journals talk about such animals as the jaguar, the capybara, and the most annoying Howler monkey. But my favorite story he tells is about the sloth.
A wood engraving of the Amazon Jungle from 1875.
The cecropia (pronounced sa-crow-pee-uh) tree is the main diet of the sloth. Well it’s leaves are anyway. It is a tree that is also home to a certain kind of very fierce ant. Sir Winslow was sitting near one (trying to stay ant free) and trying to spot a sloth. They of course move very slowly and to make it even more difficult to spot they blend in very well with the surroundings. The fur of a sloth is grayish, might have algae growing from it and tends to be the habitat for other bugs too.
Well anyway, as he was sitting under the tree looking up, when a sloth came crashing down on him! Both of them were stunned! Looking back up to see where it had come from, was another sloth. They had been fighting up in the branches….very slowly Sir Winslow adds here...and one had lost it’s balance.
The sloth picked himself up and sauntered over to the tree, then began to inch his way upward. About halfway up the tree he looked down and appeared to wave to Sir Winslow as if to say “thanks for breaking my fall”.
There are many other stories about Sir Winslow’s time in the Amazon. Check back again to read more of his adventures and see what we have going on at Sir Winlsow’s Zoo!
By the way...I’ve been accepted by Handmade at Amazon and am working on building my store. More on that later...
I just watched the 2016 Jungle Book movie and the monkey population was quite large and varied. My favorite will always be the old cartoon from the 70’s but this was fun to watch too. I realized I had not talked about this animal and it seemed like a good time. As a side note, when I was in Ghana, we had a pet monkey named Abu. (of course)
So...monkeys. Not everyone’s favorite unless we are talking about the curious one from our childhoods. I mean, who could resist George? Flying with balloons, playing with puddle ducks, calling the firemen. Trouble, trouble trouble.
This was one of the first times I was asked to create an animal from a story book.
There are 264 known living types of monkeys. That is a lot! The groups are called tribes or troops. A tribe consists of 3 - 12 members.They are found almost everywhere, from very warm climates to bitter cold, but strangely enough not in North America. Our climate is just not quite right for them. It turns out the the Caribbean Islands are fine, but alas there were no monkey boats to bring them over from the mainland. There was a monkey loose in Miami for a while but it was not wild.
A female Angolan Colobus monkey, holds her newborn offspring. Colobus monkeys share the responsibility of caring for the young with other females in the group. This benefits the mother, as well as the other females who gain maternal experience. Photo credit Lowry Park Zoo
Monkeys from Africa and Asia are called “old world monkeys”. In contrast “new world monkeys” are from South and Central America. The smallest of these creatures is the pygmy marmoset. That monkey is 4 and half inches tall and weighs 3.5 ounces. A mandrill is the largest of the species weighing in at 79 pounds and 3 feet tall. That’s a good sized child! Most however are somewhere in the middle.
The mandrill is a primate of the Old World monkey family, closely related to the baboons and even more closely to the drill. It is found in southern Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and Congo
The habitat of the monkey is as varied as they are. Some live high in trees while others stay closer the ground. Studies show that the monkeys habitat has been reduced by 30% in the last 25 years. Not good! Their diet plays a big part in where they live. Nuts, berries, and flower seeds are spread around as they move from tree to tree. This also allows them to adapt to new territories as needed.
Because, well I had to put in a Proboscis monkey. I mean who wouldn't?
Female monkeys will teach their young how to floss their teeth. It has actually been observed by scientist. Flinging their poo, yes they do….also observed, maybe by you.
My favorite - or close to it!
At Sir Winslow Zoo, we love custom orders! I love taking your ideas and making unique gifts for you and your loved ones! One of the first animals custom orders was a purple monkey! My customer was purchasing it for her 8 year old daughter who LOVED the color purple and monkeys. I played around with some fabric combinations until we found the perfect one. It’s really easy to communicate with Facebook or email to make this happen.
Think of the possibilities!
Another way to make a custom animal is a memory animal. We will take your loved ones clothing and turn it into an animal of your choice. I have worked with flannel shirts, sweaters, t-shirts and jeans. Then to top it off a poem is embroidered on the back of the pillow. You can choose to create your own saying or we have a special poem that is very fitting.
These penguins where made using sweater sets from customer's grandmother. What a happy penguin family!
One more way customize your animal is to add a name or other item. I hand cut each of the letters so it is truly unique! I have also added kites, cupcakes, balloons, pockets, little hats and zippers. I did a sailor bear for a Navy mom as a Christmas gift.
My daughter was telling me jokes as I was writing this post and I lost all train of thought so I have nothing to say about this bear. Thank goodness it is cute!
Bethany recently started making quilts with the animals on them. The first of the quilts came about with an extra animal front and Beth wanting to finish up some quilts she had started but never finished. Her first custom order for a quilt was from a craft show. Both the animal and the colors were chosen by the customer. It was made for a boy with autism whose favorite animal was a dinosaur. We also added the name to make it just a bit more special for him.
Any of the animals can be used for the quilts.
Overall I think that custom orders are my favorite. It challenges me to create new animals. (wolves, squirrels) It gives me new ways to think about fabric since I don’t know what I will be given to work with. And finally I love that each of my animal pillows are special and individually made.
I need one shirt per animal, but there is usually enough left over for a baby or 2.
Need some new ideas for spring? Now that we can tuck the bunnies away till next Easter what are some things you can do to create a breath of fresh air until summer?
I would start with fresh cut flowers. If your apple trees are in bloom, or the peony bushes are ready to spring open those are great ones to start with. And choose a white vase. I love milk glass for this. It looks fresh and inviting. Perfect for having some spring in the house.
Pillows in soft colors are another way to add some spring to the family room. The easiest way is to run to Target and see what they have. But let’s not do what everyone else is doing. Here is a quick pillow that just takes a few steps. (and a sewing machine)
Find a free spring printable on Pinterest. Print it out. If you want better quality than your home printer, send it to your favorite picture printing place and for just a few dollars, they will have it ready in a jiffy. Buy a white frame and hang it up.
Grow some wheatgrass in a container. You can find the seeds (wheat) in the organic or baking section of your grocery store. Make sure they have not been heat treated. Get some potting soil and sprinkle seeds on top. Water, put in a sunny location and watch them grow.
There are a million more ideas out there. These are just a few I have used over the years. Enjoy!
This may sound like an incredibly odd title for a blog post from a sewing blog about stuffed animals. What in the world do Dutch Costumes have to do with pillows? Well the short answer is ‘they don’t”. The longer answer is really more interesting I think.
As many of you know my love of sewing goes back to my childhood. My childhood also include growing up in the wonderful town of Pella, Iowa. We LOVE our Dutch heritage. Just love it. Our downtown has a feel of being in the Netherlands. In the spring the streets are lined with rows of tulips. We have a wooden shoe shaped pond. There are windmills all over the place. (just come visit - we have a spare bedroom!)
To show how much we love it for three days in May we have a town festival. It’s called Tulip Time. Thousands of people come to see it. There are parades, Dutch Dancing, plays, eating pastries and of course the obligatory craft show.
And to top it off we wear traditional costumes from the Netherlands. One part of the parade is just school children dressed in costume. And who do you suppose makes all those outfits for everyone to wear? Me of course! Well not by myself, I am just one of several in the community who do. Grandmas and moms will occasionally make them for their kids, but sewing is becoming a lost art. Especially when it comes to things like this.
My first “authentic” costume was back in 2001. A friend had just had a baby and wanted a costume for her. It was from the village of Staphorst in the province of Overijssel. The fabric has a dot pattern that is hand stamped by locals. I am afraid that my first attempt at this fell short.
As time has gone on I have branched out to doing many of the villages and provinces of the Netherlands. I have an arrangement with a shop owner for selling the costumes in her store. It is an arrangement that works nicely for me. I do also take orders from her if there is something special a customer might be looking for. This costume is from the Village of Marken. The little girl wanted pink and purple which are not traditional but I was willing to bend a few rules for her.
The costumes for my family are from the village of Best in the province of Noord Brabant. My great grandparents immigrated from there in the early 1900’s. It very common in Pella for a family to choose costumes of their Dutch ancestors. The most striking part of our costume is the hat. It really has 3 pieces. A black underhat, a white fine lace overhat and then a poffer on the top.
The “Dutch Costume Season” is very short. It goes from late February right up to the festival in May. It’s a crazy time. Last year I sewed 83 costumes. Average is anywhere from 40 to 80 so I was definitely on the high side! It’s a completes change from the animal pillows so it makes a nice break for me. But then it’s right back to the fuzzy fabrics and cute patterns of the stuffed animals!
Step by step
Sitting here on a blustery Saturday afternoon it occurs to me not too long ago I was developing my first pattern and shaping the first animals. Then I wonder if you, my faithful fans, would like to see some of the process involved in the making of an animal pillow.
Decide on the animal you want to make.
Sometimes it’s what I think is running low in stock. It might be a custom order or I want to use some really cute new fabric. I was just in a quilt store today - hubby and I were playing tourist - and now I can’t wait to get to my cutting table!
Find the fabrics.
This is almost the best part of the process for me. Last year I “inherited” my aunt’s stash of quilting fabric. It was sooo extensive I don’t know if I will ever get through it. Thankfully my sister Beth loves to quilt so between the two of us we may make it! I also love to go buy from my local quilt shop. Todays find was tiny sheep, tiny pigs and tiny cows!
Pin on pattern and cut out.
I actually don’t do this one so much anymore! Beth does a lot of my cutting for me of the basic animal shapes. I injured my wrist several years ago and it flares up if I do a lot of cutting. Teamwork at it’s best! But what I do cut is the details for each animal. This is where I get to play with mixing and matching the fabric.
Sew on noses, eyes, and wings.
Each animal takes different parts to make it unique. Cows get slightly different noses than a pig for example. One at a time each layer is sew on. Some animals have multiple layers. Sometime the ears are separate from the body and then it’s an additional step.
Add any hand sewing bits.
Many of the animals have button eyes. If this is the case each eye is sewn on by hand. (felt eyes can be requested) The dolls and gnomes have mouths that are stitched on by hand too. Cat’s get whiskers added at this point also.
Sew front to back.
Now I get to stitch the front to the back. Most of the time the two parts are cut out in step 2, sometimes it is done here. Especially if I am using denim for the back. I also add the ribbon tag at this point. Mostly I started adding it as a place to hang a price tag for craft shows, but now I think it adds a nice touch.
This is also the part that the feet and wings for penguins get added. Yes those are a whole bunch of penguin feet waiting to be added.
Is this step even needing an explanation? Well it’s what makes it a pillow, right? Soft and cuddly!
Sew up the hole.
I use a ladder stitch for this. It allows the thread to be hidden inside, which I like! I also discovered that certain fabrics need a different knot to hold the stitching in place. Practice makes perfect!
Embellish the pillow.
The last step is the finishing touches. It is really what makes them one of a kind. If requested or I decided to, each animal pillow gets either a bow tie or a flower. They never look quite finished until I have done this part. And now they are ready to come live at your house!
Ta Da! And that's how the magic happens!
The black and white of it all
Zebras are now found all over the world today in zoo’s and sanctuaries, but they all hail from the African continent. There are three main types of zebra’s, the Mountain Zebra, Plains Zebra and the Grevy’s Zebra. The first two are more closely related to the horse, but the Grevy’s Zebra is more like the donkey. The Plains Zebra is the most common and the other two are endangered.
Each type of zebra had a stripe pattern that is unique to it’s family. The experts know this because the types do not interbreed. It has been tried in captivity, but not very successfully. There has been more luck crossing them with actual horses and donkeys, creating zedonks and zorses. Zebras are actually black with white stripes in case you have ever needed that in a discussion. Foals are born with brown and white markings that turn darker as they age. Stripes are also believed to be used as visual illustrations to create confusion for predators.
Most zebras live in groups called harems. The stallion will have up to 6 mares and her foals in a harem. The bachelor males will live in groups with other males until old enough to challenge the breeding stallion. They are also very protective of the mares and foals should wild dogs or hyenas be on the prowl.
To warn each other they will whinney or bark. Their ears also signify if they are tense, happy or afraid. They will also rear up and kick if backed into a corner by a predator.
People have tried to domesticate zebras almost since they were discovered with very little luck. In England Lord Rothschild had a team of zebras that would pull his carriage around the city. There are other accounts, but it proves to be more skittish than our domesticated horses.
Zebras continued to be hunted for their skins and for meat. They also get into cultivated land and so are culled in those areas. However all types of zebras are protected in the national parks in Africa.
Many zoos around the world have zebras in them with successful breeding programs. The downside to this is very few are returned to the wild. Most are sold to other zoos, traveling shows and other forms of entertainment.
And one last fun fact: Recent research has shown that TU-103, a strain of Clostridium bacteria found in zebra feces, can convert nearly any form of cellulose into butanol fuel. (pulled from Wiki)
Thanks again for taking time to read! OH! By the way...when was the last time you saw a zebra? Let me know by commenting below.
Winter days here in Iowa need some cheer. It is finally snowing - finally! Mud and gray and mushy brown be gone! And that means we need some hot cocoa to celebrate. So let’s talk about how to go about that the right way! Consider throwing a party using these ideas.
To drink the hot cocoa properly it should be in a mug, don’t you think? (This will need to be done in advance of the party if you are having one)
1.Go to the dollar store and buy a white mug for everyone! Yes! ALL the peoples!
2. Sharpies in black and orange (or for what you want to draw)
3. Draw a nose, eyes and and mouth for your snowman. And your name too. Make it cute!
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 2 hours. Place mug in a cold oven, then oven was turned on, and the timer was started from the time that the oven was fully heated. Leave mugs in the oven to cool for 1 hour or more to prevent cracking.
Here is a list of some goodies that are great for making a hot cocoa bar really fab!
Crushed candy canes
Peanut butter cups
Rock Candy Sticks
Use a variety of containers to really dress it up. Make it fancy!
Consider adding some good eats to your party. Let’s start with a Hot Cocoa Cheesecake Dip. Oooh think of the yummies you could “dip” in it!
4 (.73 oz) envelopes hot cocoa mix without marshmallows
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, room temperature
4 oz. cool whip, thawed
2 -3 T. vanilla mallow bits
It’s not a party without cake. I’m sure that is a rule! I’m also sure there is no such thing as too much chocolate, so go ahead and indulge. The gym will still be there tomorrow!
Ingredients1 package (3.4 oz) Jell-O™ chocolate-flavor instant pudding and pie filling
1 1/2 cups milk
1 box Betty Crocker™ SuperMoist™ chocolate fudge cake mix
4 cups miniature marshmallows
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons dry hot chocolate mix
I hope you have a splendid party! We are planning on doing this for a Valentine bash for some teen girls. Won't that be fun?
Comment below if you had a party too!