December 23, 2008

Save Handmade Toys

From the Handmade Toy Alliance website:
In 2007, large toy manufacturers who outsource their production to China and other developing countries violated the public's trust. They were selling toys with dangerously high lead content, toys with unsafe small part, toys with improperly secured and easily swallowed small magnets, and toys made from chemicals that made kids sick. Almost every problem toy in 2007 was made in China.

The United States Congress rightly recognized that the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) lacked the authority and staffing to prevent dangerous toys from being imported into the US. So, they passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in August, 2008. Among other things, the CPSIA bans lead and phthalates in toys, mandates third-party testing and certification for all toys and requires toy makers to permanently label each toy with a date and batch number.

All of these changes will be fairly easy for large, multinational toy manufacturers to comply with. Large manufacturers who make thousands of units of each toy have very little incremental cost to pay for testing and update their molds to include batch labels.

For small American, Canadian, and European toymakers and manufacturers of children's products, however, the costs of mandatory testing will likely drive them out of business.
  • A toymaker, for example, who makes wooden cars in his garage in Maine to supplement his income cannot afford the $4,000 fee per toy that testing labs are charging to assure compliance with the CPSIA.
  • A work at home mom in Minnesota who makes cloth diapers to sell online must choose either to violate the law or cease operations.
  • A small toy retailer in Vermont who imports wooden toys from Europe, which has long had stringent toy safety standards, must now pay for testing on every toy they import.
  • And even the handful of larger toy makers who still employ workers in the United States face increased costs to comply with the CPSIA, even though American-made toys had nothing to do with the toy safety problems of 2007.

The CPSIA simply forgot to exclude the class of children's goods that have earned and kept the public's trust: Toys, clothes, and accessories made in the US, Canada, and Europe. The result, unless the law is modified, is that handmade children's products will no longer be legal in the US.

If this law had been applied to the food industry, every farmers market in the country would be forced to close while Kraft and Dole prospered.

Please write to your United States Congress Person and Senator to request changes in the CPSIA to save handmade toys and children's products. There's a sample letter here, or you can write your own. Find your Congress person here and Senator here. You can write directly to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission by clicking here.


December 22, 2008

Custom Vinyl & Earle's Departure

I was searching through my iPhoto library for a particular picture and stumbled upon these photos of the custom vinyl show Jerry took part in back in October. It was at one of our favorite stores, Monkeyhouse Toys, here in Silver Lake.

Jerry contributed six pieces to the show. These two, the devil and angel, are my favorite.The two just above Jerry's head are his as well. They're called "Robber" and "Space Cop."
The artists that make these things are so creative.
It's amazing to see what people come up with.
Some of them are hilarious.Most of the artists are adults, but the store owner, Myra, always tries to get a few kids in her shows.
Okay, onto the real reason I was searching through my photos this morning. I was looking for a picture of my grandma's husband, Earle. Earle turned 92 last week. He and my grandma met late in life, lived together for a long time, traveled the world (or part of it, anyway) and finally married, maybe ten years or so ago. Earle was one of the original California surfers. He continued to ride the waves well into his seventies. He's loving and sweet and so good to my grandma (who went through more than her fair share of not-so-good-guys in her life). Earle has been in the hospital for the last week and a half (with a brief layover in a nursing home), but last night the doctors sent him home for hospice care. His body is shutting down.
So today we'll be going down to spend the day with him and my grandma. We're bringing soup and cookies, and maybe some surf music. We'll reminisce and hold hands and surround him with love, so that his journey out of this world will be just as wonderful as his journey through it.

December 19, 2008

Urban Chickens

I've been thinking about getting some chickens. We have room in the backyard. And it would be so cool to have our own eggs from our very own chickens. I've looked at designs for building simple chicken houses. I've read numerous articles on chicken care. But today I read something that stopped me in my tracks. It's from the Poultry chapter of The Encyclopedia of Country living by Carla Emery, in the section titled "Chicken Injuries, Diseases, Parasites."
Egg-Bound - The chicken squats, strains, maybe spends all day in the nest looking constipated. Treatment: Pour warmed olive oil into her vent. Feed her castor oil. Then gently try to maneuver the jammed egg out.
Now I don't know for sure what a vent is, but I can guess. I can also guess that the warmed olive oil doesn't flow freely into said vent. I'm thinking it will need some help. But then I suppose if you're prepared to "maneuver the jammed egg out" you're not going to think twice about maneuvering the warmed oil in. Anyway, this has got me thinking that maybe the fantasy of owning chickens is better than the reality. Still, I guess I'll never know 'til I try.

My neighbor did purchase a flock of chickens in our honor from Heifer International this year for Christmas. Maybe I should be satisfied with giving chickens to someone else. But that's just not the same.

The truth is, I want to live on a farm. Just a little one. With a goat and a cow and a couple sheep. And horses. And a ruggedly handsome stable boy (Warren has already nixed that part of the plan, though). I do like urban living. It has its perk, to be sure. But I'd like to live on a farm at some point during my life--just to try it out. Even if it's only for year.

For now I'll just have to pretend. Now that the deck is done, the vegetable garden can go in and (maybe) the chickens can come to roost. Hmmmm. Maybe we could find a ruggedly handsome veterinarian to take care of the egg-bound chickens. That could work.

December 16, 2008

Photoshoppin' With Jerry

Jerry's been messing around with photoshop...

Now we know why the soon-to-be-ex-prez (35 days and counting!) stumbles over his words at times. He's got other things on his mind.

Jerry wants me to give credit to his friend Jackson for showing him the ways of photoshop's healing brush. Jackson's instruction enabled Jerry to make this picture.

Snowball Soap-Prize

Ta da! There it new do. And that's my friend Poliana with the identical haircut. We didn't plan it. Poliana used to babysit Jerry back in the day when I was taking acting classes twice a week and working out with a personal trainer and Warren was slaving away under James Cameron's iron fist on Titanic (over a hundred hours a week!) and our marriage was on the brink of collapse. Ah, the good old days.
We love Poliana. Look at Jerry--he's so happy in her arms. He didn't want to leave her house. We had stopped in for a visit on our way home from Violet's (after the super fun cookie swap party and sleep over) and I think he could have happily stayed with her for a week.
A few weeks back our homeschool group had a holiday craft sale and Jerry and I made some "snowball soap-prizes" to sell. I meant to post the photos back then but never got around to it. So here they are...We bought some Ivory soap bars (12 for $4.99 at Ralph's!) and ran them through the food processor's grater.
Then we added a quarter cup of water for every one cup of shredded soap.
And mixed it up, shaped it into balls, and stuck a little surprise in the middle (bouncy balls, marbles, polished stones, a few playmobile pieces--all stuff we had around the house).Here they are drying in the sun. The only snowballs we're bound to see in Los Angeles this winter.
On Friday I finished making the gifts for my sister's family in Ireland. This is the cape I made for my niece. It goes with the cute little skirt I posted the photo of last week (or was it the week before?).
And instead of wrapping the gifts in paper, I used unbleached muslin (50% off at JoAnne's!) and these furoshiki instructions which I found at (my new favorite site). Using fabric is a bit more expensive than paper but I figure it's easier on the earth and it can be used again and again. The next step will be to look for organic muslin, I guess, since cotton farmers typically use a ton of pesticides on their crops.I really want to show you what I made my sister--I love it!--but I don't want her to know what it is so I'll have to wait. Instead I'll post the picture I took last week (or the week before?) when the moon and Venus and Jupiter formed a perfect little triangle in the night sky. Cool, huh?
And here's Patsy, being forced to wear yet another hat.
And this is Charlie showing off his six fingers. We thought of naming him Count Rugen after the six-fingered man in the Pricess Bride but that just didn't roll off the tongue the way Charlie does. We think he's the next evolutionary step in felines--doesn't it look like he has opposable thumbs? Before you know it he'll be using them to pry open cans of cat food when we're not looking.

December 13, 2008

Stop Motion Holiday

Yes, I know I said I would post photos of the hair and deck. I haven't taken them yet. Back off! Oh, sorry. I guess I'm a little stressed. Thanksgiving came so late in the year this time around that I'm feeling all out of sorts because Christmas is just around the corner and I've vowed to make most of the gifts this year and, naturally, I couldn't start making them before Thanksgiving (that would be way too organized) so I'm feeling a bit of a time crunch. I did manage to get the gifts mailed off to Ireland yesterday. So now I can start on gifts for the stateside people in my life. But first I have to finish the newsletter I edit for the writers group I belong to and then I have to write an article for our neighborhood paper. And do laundry. And wash dishes. And finish the robe I started making for Jerry. And--you get the picture. Stress.

The good news is that we're going to a cookie party/sleep over at Violet's house today. So I can forget about all of those things until Sunday afternoon. Last night we baked a bunch of chocolate chip cookies, ate a bunch of dough (which I seriously regret now) and we're baking and decorating sugar cookies this morning. Then we're off to--well, I don't actually know where it is. It's far. And it's close to San Diego. I do know it's going to be fun and that's all that really matters!

Which reminds me...we had another great "Family Fun Day" this week. It was Jerry's turn to choose how we spent the day so we stayed home and put up Christmas decorations, made some origami ninja stars (in red and green, of course), made paper airplanes and threw them off the deck to see whose was best (Jerry's) and worst (mine). We watched "The Cat Returns" and an episode of Total Drama Island--Jerry paused it frequently to give us a rundown on all the characters. We baked and decorated cookies; did some reading; Jerry made a Christmas stocking for Patsy (our dog) and Warren made a cat toy for Charlie and Ravenpaw. I was the consultant for both projects. It was really fun. Jerry captured the putting up of our tree in stop motion and, later, Warren edited in some music and titles. Have a look:

And have a great weekend!!

December 8, 2008

Danger! Overload!

Not me. My computer. I keep getting a message that says I don't have any more space on my computer. It's mostly because of pictures but I'm afraid to take them off. I have an external hard drive (Warren bought it for me last time I started getting this message) but I'm afraid something will go wrong and I'll lose my photos if I try to move them!! I did move some the last time and I guess it worked so I should just shut up and get to work moving those photos. I have 21 gigs of pictures on this thing!

Anyway, I'm telling you ths to explain why there is no photo of the double-decker deck or (drum roll please) my fabulous new hair cut!! That's right. I did it! I cut it all off. Well, I didn't cut it off. Osmond did. Usually when I go to the hairdresser and say "Cut it all off," they talk me out of it. But Osmond did no such thing. He just snip, snip, snipped. It's just above my shoulders and even though I got it cut on Friday I haven't washed it yet because he blowdryed it and straightened it and I know it will never look this good again.

Jerry hates it. He actually cried. I can't remember if that was before or after he told me it made him "want to barf." To which I replied "It's not very nice to tell someone looking at them makes you want to barf." "I didn't mean looking at you," he said, "I meant your hair." Ah.

In his defense, my hair has always belonged, in part, to Jerry. He never had a blankie or a binkie--he had my hair. He used to hold it in his little hand while he nursed and then, when he was older, he'd wrap it around his fingers while he slept. So I understand. But, I explained, I needed a change and hair is just about the easiest (and cheapest!) change a girl can make. And it'll grow back. He still misses it, though.

By the end of the day I will have made some space on my computer so I can show you some photos. Now I'm going to make a second cup of tea and sit on the deck and enjoy our view!

December 5, 2008

Photos & Family Fun

Here's a quick photo round up of what's been going on in our house since my last post.

We spent Thanksgiving at home with Warren's mom, his sister, and her family. Rock Band was a big hit.
The day after Thanksgiving I got very crafty. I made this skirt for my niece.
And this knight outfit for my nephew. I've vowed to make as many gifts as I can this year and I'm off to a good start.
Jerry made a hat for the dog. She didn't seem too thrilled about it.She resigned to herself to wearing it, though. She's so good.
The Sunday before Thanksgiving a little box of bolts
and a bigger box of steel cablesbrought us to the end of the interminably long process of building a deck (two, actually) off the back of our house.We just had to string the cables through the holes
and screw on the boltsand voila! The deck was finished!! Yippee!! Hooray!! Wahoo!!Jerry and Charlie relaxed on the rocking chair after all the work was done.Warren and I poured some 1988 Perrier Jouet for ourselves (and milk for Jerry).
But guess what? It turns out champagne doesn't stand up too well to many, many years in a hot kitchen with no air conditioning. It tasted like vinegar. Sweet vinegar. But still...vinegar.
We were not to be deterred, however. We opened a bottle of wine instead and the celebration continued.Of course, I haven't managed to get my butt out back to take a picture of the whole deck (it's a double-decker deck) in all it's glory but I will. It's a beautiful thing. Now we have loads of landscaping to do. I've been pouring over books about California natives until my eyes are ready to pop out of my head. I think I might go down to good old Theodore Payne today for some face to face help deciding what to plant next to the deck. There are waaaay too many choices when it comes to plants.

However, there don't seem to be any choices at all when it comes to living a dairy-free life. Two days ago I decided to cut out dairy and (horror of horrors!) wine from my diet. Honestly, I don't know which is worse. At least I don't miss wine until dinner time, though. I miss dairy all. Day. Long. The thing is, I'm tired of blowing my nose every three seconds (Warren has threatened to make me a tissue holster) and I think dairy is the culprit. Also, I've noticed that when I drink wine (especially red wine) before bed, the stuffy nose gets worse. And it's keeping me awake at night. And then once I'm awake I can't stop thinking about things like the fact that I probably have cancer and will die an untimely death, forcing Jerry to go to school and Warren into complete despair because then he'll have to sort through all the crap that's piling up in our office and garage without me. And also because he'll miss me. For the record, I have not been diagnosed with any kind of cancer. It's just a general feeling of cancer that's keeping me awake.

In other news, as soon as I posted about Jerry's excessive screen time he started spending less time in front of the screen. How does that happen? Also, we've instituted a new weekly event called "Family Fun Day." The idea is that it happens once a week. It's screen-free. And each of us takes turns choosing how we'll spend the day. I know what you're thinking. You're imagining me standing over Jerry shouting "You will start having fun right this instant! It's Family Fun Day God Dammit!!" And to be honest it could have gone that way. He woke up on the wrong side of the bed and said he was boycotting Family Fun Day.

Instead of panicking, however, I just sat with him on the couch and we talked. Not about Family Fun day. Just about stuff. And then he was fine. And the day was great. We visited our 93-year-old friend Sol (he had a job offer for Jerry), then went to JoAnne's for fabric for a robe I'm making for Jerry, then went to one of our favorite state parks, Will Rogers State Historic Park. We played frisbee, and walked around and sat in silence, then headed home where we ate dinner and sat in the living room reading. At the end of it Jerry said the only thing he didn't like about it was the no screen thing. But when I asked if the day would have been as special if we'd had screen time (it was no screen for all of us) he said no, it wouldn't have. So I think it was a success, and I think it was right to make it screen-free. Next week it's Jerry's turn to pick the activity. He's decided we'll all stay home and decorate the house for Christmas. If he wants to do a screenish activity together that's fine but the idea is that we do it together. I hope all the rest of the Family Fun Days go as well as the first. Of course, with a name like Family Fun Day, things could go horribly wrong. It's almost like we're tempting fate to make it something other than "fun." Still, I'm optimistic.

One final thing. I'm cutting my hair. Short. I think I might do it today. It's all because of Skype. I talk to my sister in Ireland via video chat on Skype. If you've never looked at yourself on a video chat, let me tell you, it's not pretty. Well, for you maybe it's pretty but for me, definitely not. Anyway, looking at myslef on Skype has become too much to bear. Today I actually turned the camera backwards, but my sister said it was disconcerting to be looking at my stove while talking to me. So I think the solution is a hair cut. Yep, I'm pretty sure a hair cut will solve everything. Hopefully it'll cure that cancer, too.