Traveling with Children (to foreign countries)

It’s been a bit too long since last posting.  I am officially a full fledge co-owner of a clothing business with my sister.  Check out the site shugieshop.com, and let me know what you think, because any feedback is super helpful.  We are striving to be as awesome as possible in a really tough climate so we appreciate any support.  Here is my son in one of our robot cardigans.  Alas, this new venture has been occupying the majority of my free time, which is slim anyway being a full time mom to two small and very demanding children.

 

Okay, now that you’ve seen what I’ve been up to as an excuse for my lack of blogging, I’ll carry on with the point of this entry: Traveling with Chidlren.  Holy crap is it tricky!  We recently flew to the UK for a two week trip to see my best friend get married and to have a mini break from our little bubble in Bucks County, PA.  We knew straight off the bat it was not going to be a relaxing time, it’s actually more work, but seeing new things and not having all the distractions you have at home allow you to spend really good quality time with one another.  Plus my parents came with us and they are such awesome travel companions.

Firstly, packing for one kid can be overwhelming, but packing for multiple children is down right torturous.  Seriously, the strain of lugging around all the crap is no easy task.  My husband and I are able to pack relatively light.  For two weeks, we brought a weeks worth of clothes except undies and socks, and just wore everything twice…no problem other than being a bit creative on rejigging outfits.  The children however need new clothes everyday because they have gross habits that involve a multitude of accidents that involve bodily fluids, not to mention using what they are wearing as napkins when they are eating.  So two weeks of small clothing along with favorite blankets, toys, and books make a pretty good sized bag.  Already we have three large-ish bags, then there are two car seats (check them and if you can buy CARES harness to use…it’s awesome), one stroller (bring a Bebo too, I’ll explain later), one electronics carry on, another diaper/food/small toys carry on, and last the passports and wallet.  You can see already that traveling with children is hard work, and that’s not even including looking after them!

The flight is what my husband and I were fearing the most.  We had one night flight and a day flight on our return.  The night flight was way more easy as the children slept most of it.  The day flight was full of entertaining our 22 month old and almost 4 year old as best we could in the confines of the flying metal tube.  Thank god for the iPad, which entertained both children well.  Not only does it have millions of interactive apps for small children, also housed 20 or so movies that the children watched throughout our vacation, and especially at night in our hotel/B&B rooms.  Also, food is a great distraction…..so I brought lots of snacks and sweets.  The small chocolate Easter eggs I whipped out towards the end of the last flight were a godsend for my 22 month old who was just so fed up and restless.  By the time her little fingers managed to unwrap the egg, we were getting ready to land, so eating the egg probably helped pop her ears on the descend.  Oh, how I love it when things coincidentally work out!

After getting there, next is finding child appropriate things to do.  We went to England, full of castles, historical houses, and lots of things little children could care less about.  So we mostly walked outside and indulged in sight seeing and absorbing history that way.  When we could, we found things that were specifically geared towards children.  For example, in York there is the most amazing train museum that my son really enjoyed.  He loved scampering amongst the giant steam trains, plus there was a great play area and a little mini train to ride.  And like lots of museums in the UK, it was completely FREE.  Both of our children really like the Science Museum in London, too, as they have many children specific areas.  When we couldn’t find things catered for children in a town, we’d just find a toy shop or a great park to keep there spirits high.  Keeping them interested was not actually that hard surprisingly.  We also had the advantage of having my parents along with us, AND we were visiting friends and family so the children got an abundance of extra special attention, which they loved.  Having familar faces on the other side was a huge bonus!

Here is a list of things that I think are invaluable for travelling with children:

iPad 2.  It’s an easy option to satisfy bored children.  Airplane travel, car travel, restaurants, hotels, etc,  it keeps both children and parents sane.  Also, we stored maps, really useful information on places we were interested in seeing, and possible hotels/B&Bs.  The iPad is terribly great for traveling.

Bebo baby carrier.   We use this for our 22 month old who can’t walk well enough, and she loves to be close to us.  It was perfect for our England trip….walking around London, and just wandering around places where strollers are too difficult, like fields and castles.  It has a hood so if she falls asleep we button it up so her head doesn’t bobble about or flail backwards.  It also has stirrups for her feet to make it much more comfortable.  Both my husband and I think it’s much more comfortable than our expensive framed hiking child carrier, plus it’s easy to pack as it doesn’t take up much space.

Surf by Hemi Sync. We use this at night in our house anyway, so this helped with creating a familiar environment for bedtime, and also alleviating any stress from being in a new, strange environment to sleep.  This music was recommended by my daughter’s physical therapist and it was also used for firefighters who were in 9/11.  We all slept well during our trip, and when you sleep well, you enjoy your day and the people around you better.

Compact digital camera for small hands.  A camera that children can use to take pictures is a great thing, and not a crappy photo taking toddler camera.  My son is capable of fully using my digital point and shoot camera without any help at all.   It really keeps him occupied and interested in his surroundings, and you get some really great and unexpected photos that last a lifetime.

CARES harness system.  We absolutely needed our car seats for this trip, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need them on the plane.  What a pain they are to lug around busy airport termimals.  If you buy a CARES harness you eliminate having to take a car seat on the plane.  It’s safe and easy to use and also it’s very hard for little feet to reach the seat in front of them, so no more accidental kicking the person in front.  Hugely recommend this.

Children’s Columbia Bugaboo Parka (boy version and girl version).  These coats are great because they are so versatile.  Firstly, they do well in the winter because they have a water proof outer shell, and a detachable fleece coat interior.  In other words, if it’s cold you can wear it all together, if it’s a little chilly out you can just wear the fleece jacket, and if it’s chilly and rainy than you can just wear the outter shell.  It’s so awesome, especially for traveling around the UK when the weather changes every five minutes!  I bought them a bit big because they are expensive so I wanted to get as much wear out of it as possible.

 

I hope these things find to be as helpful to others as what we’ve found them to be.  Anything little thing that makes life easier is worthy of sharing.

 

Moving on, I still have been working on my designs for Spoonflower.  Here’s what’s new:

 

patchwork year of the rabbit

Breakfast Appliances

vampire squid

the future ahead: rockets and stars.

rainclouds

The second to the last design (the rockets) was one of the 75 that was chosen for the Project Selvage contest Michael Miller and Spoonflower are holding to find the next baby boy fabric.  I am thrilled it was chosen, and to be amongst some very talented artists.  This is a very important contest because the voting now is for the top ten to go through to the next round of designing a collection of six pieces.  The winner then gets then gets their collection printed by MM and also gets to design a second collection for baby girls.  Please vote for your favorites….you can have as many as you’d like.  It may make the difference to a very hopeful designer!  Click the Project Selvage link above to do so.  Thank  you.

Take care!

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Inspiration Food Chain

http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMTg3MTkwODEy.html

So I was on the phone with my dad and he was so excited to tell me about the little “prank” the Philadelphia Orchestra did in the Reading Terminal Market recently, that he practically sounded like a chirping bird on the first day of Spring.  When I got off the phone I Googled it so I could figure out what exactly tickled him so pink.  And I found this video http://player.youku.com/player.php/sid/XMTg3MTkwODEy/v.sw0, which opens in a new window.

And that video instantaneously made me think that the Philadelphia Orchestra, or the person responsible for that performance was most definitely inspired by the relatively famous commercial by T Mobil (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=] will open in a new window).

And this T Mobil commercial was most definitely inspired by the strange little phenomena called Silent Disco, and perhaps specifically to the Silent Discos at Victoria Station.  By the way, Silent Disco is when people get together and dance using their iPods or some other personal music device instead of having a singular sound system.  So everyone is dancing to their own music, to their own rhythm, and with their own volume. (click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWQpDaC0T-s for a new window)

And although Silent Disco has been around since the sixties, I personally think it’s present day popularity (especially in the UK) has been inspired by the artist, Gillian Wearing and her video ‘Dancing in Peckham,’ which is a 25 minute video of Gillian dancing to the music in her head in a busy shopping center.  When the song in her head changes, her style of dancing changes.  (see below)

And this performance piece by Gillian Wearing makes me think of the book ‘Being and Nothingness’ specifically when Sartre writes about our perceived relations to one another, and (without getting my college notes) when we make observations, we tend to see ourselves as an object in an attempt to get an insight to how we are being perceived by others.  If you get a chance to see the Gillian Wearing video, you can see the video isn’t just about Gillian dancing by herself with no music in a shopping center, but also about the people (passer-byes/background folk) sharing that space with her and their relationships with one another.  It turns out that the people in the background are more important than Gillian.  The Sartre-esque question, who is being observed and who is the observer, becomes prevalent in the video because ultimately the audience starts to pay more attention to the people in the background and how they are observing Gillian and observing each other in relation to Gillian.  Then in terms of gallery voyeurism, this question becomes more complicated because not only do you have the relationship with the viewers in the gallery and the video itself, but also the relationship of the gallery viewers to one another and how they observe each other watching the video, becoming more or less like the people in the background of the video.

I guess with all of these videos, in a Sartre sort of way, people are observing other people, who in return are observing them, and everyone ultimately reduces each other to what subjectivity they perceive in themselves.  (Insert thumb-twiddling here)

I’m not about to be a complete a–hole and compare my textile designing to Sartre’s philosophical thought, but making art for people on a commerical level, artists have to be conscious of different relationships during the creative process, which inevitably is reflected in the success of the artwork.  If you go into a shop, the items for sale are not as important as the people looking at them.  The artist has to be sensitive to the desires of an audience (or buyers) and be in tune to what is visually appealing for them. The artist has to be aware of the relationship between him/herself and the design, the design and the object it is for, and the object to the person who buys it.  I can’t just sit around designing what I like, or else, I’d forgo drawing cupcakes and owls, and would be making things that only a few people would want.  The masses seem to love cupcakes and owls, and lots of artists are competing over their interpretations of owls and cupcakes to please the masses.  Even the trendiest of shops like Anthropologie/Urban Outfitters who appear to be unique with their vintage inspired stuff have, yes, cupcakes and owls rolling around on their clothes and housing decor.  Anyway, to get back on track, artists have to rely on their audience, just like the performances in the videos above, and the content of their art work reflects this dependancy.

(This is where I edited my rant on how people do not really want to be different and support individualism, even though they think they do, thanks to the marketing world stuffing capitalism in our faces and making people feel inadequate without looking a certain way or having certain things.  Ugh, nevermind)

At any rate, here are some new samples of fabric I designed from Spoonflower I recently ordered.

(This image is a total of all the fabrics I have printed so far, thanks to Spoonflower.com.  For more information on these fabrics click http://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/babysisterrae)

And below are new ideas that perhaps will become fabric.  These past few weeks, I have been mainly designing for the Spoonflower competitions (a mild addiction), not to mention breaking all the rules and designing for no one else other than myself, and what I think would be cool to see on people, tables, chairs, notebooks, lampshades, pillows, and just small token things that would make a person or a space that much more special (in the eyes of me of course).

campersforweb
iloveyouporgyforweb
summerflowersforweb
sweptawayforweb

The campers got 6th in the ‘travel’ competition on Spoonflower….so that’s a small woo-hoo.  I just received some of my upholstery tools today, so I’ll work on the old chairs I have soon.  I’ll upload pics about that little adventure next time.

Next are my ‘shout-outs’ to cool people, books, movies, blogs, and things to do:

Firstly, I have tattoos, and I think most tattoos are amazing.  It’s a form of dedication to self expression that tells a story and reflects more character than most things people wear, including clothes, make up, jewellery, etc.  If you, too, like tattoos, you should check out the book Body Type: Intimate Messages Etched in Flesh by Ina Saltz.  Also, Heidi Kenney (www.mypapercrane.com) is an artist who is super creative and quirky, and she also uses tattoos for inspiration .  Here is a doll pattern Heidi created that you can buy at Spoonflower called ‘tattooed together’ (http://www.spoonflower.com/fabric/260973).  Also, a photo from Heidi’s site of one of the completed dolls.

Two movies that are a must see (both documentaries) are Gasland by Josh Fox (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZe1AeH0Qz8)and Capitalism: A Love Story by Michael Moore (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhydyxRjujU).

And if your out and about in Philadelphia, then stop by the Franklin Institute (because it’s cool anyway) to check out the Cleopatra exhibition and look at the artifacts that are mind boggling old, and learn about the history and complicated politics of that time (www.fi.edu/cleopatra/index.html).

And lastly, if you like cakes and architecture, then you might enjoy this article about the tallest cake in the world www.dwell.com/articles/tower-without-hunger.html.

Ahhh, take care 😛

14 June (pregnancy dance video here)

Wow, so much to write about. Above is a really cool desk that nanna bought Ade for his birthday.  When it’s not in use, it fits together in a cube, and the chair can store lots of bits and bobs.  Awesome.  By P’kolino.  Check out these weather ponchos (below) I found Parmalee, at a native american cultural festival we perused memorial weekend.    All the way from Ecuador, not so much native american, but cool comes from anywhere.  (Buffalo!!)

Vegan much?  Probably not.  But just incase, you may think that vegans can’t get their cake on, well, I have news for you.  This great cookbook (or cakebook) titled ‘Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World’ has given me the ability to make the best cupcakes…..and I’m not saying vegan cupcakes, I’m saying best cupcakes ever full stop.  Generally speaking, I have the talent for making an error when baking, and it was no surprise that I would mess something up in this recipe, which I did.  The sugar stash was low so I also used molasses and they came out cracking anyway…..seems foolproof.  I made them for my son’s third birthday.  My fancy flower cake pan was finally broken in, too.

So here’s the recipe=
Ingredients: 1 c. soy milk, 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar, 1.25 c. all purpose flour, 2 tblspn cornstarch, .75 tsp. baking powder, .50 tsp. baking soda, .25 tsp. salt, .50 c. non-hydrogenated margarine, .75 c granulated sugar, .25 tsp. vanilla extract.  (.25=quarter, .50=half, .75= three quarters)
directions:
preheat oven to 350 F, and sort out tin with cupcake liners.  whisk soy milk and vinegar and set aside a few minutes.  sift flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into large bowl and mix.  in a separate bowl, use a handheld mixer (or blender as i did) to cream the margarine and sugar for 2 minutes.  beat in vanilla, then alternate beating in the soy milk mixture and dry ingredients.  stop to scrap the sides every so often.  fill cupcake liners two-thirds and bake for 20-22 minutes.
for icing:
bring .25 c of soy milk to a gentle boil in a small sauce pan.  immediately remove from heat and add 4 oz semisweet chocolate chopped and 2 tblspn of pure maple syrup.  use a heatproof spatula to mix the chocolate until smooth, and set aside at room temperature until ready to use.
These recipes are from the book ‘Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World’ by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.
The equivalent to being a vegan is better than driving a hybrid car, and as we count down the weeks we have tons and tons of oil gushing into our ocean, perhaps being a little more earth friendly and eating a bit more vegan stuff is worth it….especially when it tastes exactly how it should.

Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World 75 Dairy-free Recipes for Cupcakes That Rule

Not long ago, my friend Diane posted a youtube clip of James Brown tearing up the dance floor, and it inevitably led to me thinking about pregnant women dancing, so I did a search on youtube and I found some genius clips.  I took my favorite bits and made a little movie of these women dancing to no one other than James Brown.  It’s rough, but too bad I don’t have the hours to edit seconds.   You get the idea 🙂

Even though this is pathetic and small, it felt great to make a little video, as it’s one of the things I focused on in art school.  And using youtube clips was like using the old super 8s and found photos I primarily worked with before motherhood.  So it felt, just a little bit, like I was wearing old comfy shoes.  Unlike the new weird shoes of design, which I am learning more and more about each day.  Here are some new fabrics and designs.

(the last one is a design from a drawing of a robot my son did back in January.                                                                                        all of these can be seen on http://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/trebligrachel)

It’s one thing to design fabric, but what next?  Well, I am putting the fabric to use, and I am learning how to upholster traditional style.  No foam, no rubbish, just good old fashion upholstering with the real long lasting materials.  I have actually found my tools from the flea market up the road, and I have purchased three chairs to work on.  Two are a set of hand made wrought iron bistro chairs that are level one in terms of difficulty.  The other one is a bit more tricky because it has springs and shananagins going on inside.  I’ll post their after photos next blog.

I’m going to end this by saying it’s true what they say about inspiration, you can find it in odd places.

This drain has got me thinking pretty things.

Take care.

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20 May

I’ve been focusing on helping my big sister, Jess, and making children friendly fabric designs.  She’s been creating really cool tees, and twirly skirts for girls.  As of now she’s on a hiatus from her business but will be back in full force for the fall.  And right now we are experimenting and working towards making the most righteous designs.  Here are some of the things I’ve been playing around with.

Above are Parmalee and Evie in the number and initial tanks my sister created, and the images below that are the fabrics I designed, which my sister made into a reversible twirly skirt and then a pair of bloomers for Parmalee.  These little clothes have given me much to think about.  Love the bloomers but I’m not feeling my designs so much on the twirly skirt.  The roller skate disco design above could be a cool twirly though.  The roller skates will be definitely be on some tees.

I also submitted this cocktail design to one of the Spoonflower competitions……which placed in fifth.  Nothing to brag about really.  It’s an A-Z of cocktails and recipes.  I think it would work for napkins, place mats, or perhaps an apron.

In terms of normal life, which I do not seem to write about often.  I am going to shift direction to something that makes my life, as a mother with two children, much easier.  When something makes my life easy, I think it’s important to spread the love in hope it may make someone else’s life easier, too.  This item as of now is my Phil&Ted’s Dash pushchair/stroller.  It truly makes getting around, especially in cities and shopping centers, easy and most important, enjoyable.

If you haven’t read the Visual Miscellaneum by David McCandless, then you should because it’s a really great reference that relates really interesting facts in different graph like charts, which are very aesthetically pleasing.  This book truly makes information beautiful.

Here’s a peek:

click here to purchase Miscellaneum: A Colorful Guide to the World\’s Most Consequential Trivia

This blog is greatly about exploring inspiration and creativity in the midst of motherhood, and also the things I find along the way that make life easier or add just a bit of mental nourishment.  Hopefully it is!  Until next time, take care.

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18 April

Well, I cannot believe how long it’s been since I’ve updated my blog.  It seems like I added the gnomes a couple of days ago and it’s been over a week.  The everyday grind seems to consume some days more than others, and as of late I’ve mostly been keeping up (barely) with the daily grind.  This past week I have abandoned the computer and have just been sketching in my sketch book, which I enjoy more than anything at the moment.  I can just turn off and draw.  I have been working on a design for yet another Spoonflower competition.  The newest theme is shoes, and so I was looking at shoes from the Victorian era for inspiration.  I am going to write about my creating process, because it’s really awesome when artist show there methods to their maddness.  For this particular project, I started with a simple mechcanical pencil and my sketchbook and I drew some shoes.  Then I scanned my drawing in the scanner and went straight to my best friend Photoshop.  In photoshop, I changed the brightness/contrast to make my drawing lines much bolder and then I used the photocopy filter to give it more of a sketch feel (believe it or not).

You can see my other sketches, too.  (I am also working on a paisley design as well.)  Anyway, I cleaned up the shoes with the eraser tool to get rid of the noise.  Then I switched from Photoshop to Illustrator to make a pattern tile.  I used a 21 inch squared box for my tile.  I changed the view to show the grid so I can accurately match up the tiles when they repeat, and then I worked from the outter edge inwards until it’s as full of as many shoes as I wanted.

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9 April

I like kitsch things, and I think garden gnomes are super kitsch.  So I created a design I think would work well for a pillow or a duvet, or even a little sleeping bag….all for children.  Or a cool dog bed, or a tote bag for non children items.  God I wish I had a sewing machine, more time, and more money.  I love Spoonflower, but they charge so much to use their services for custom fabric.  They must be absolutely creaming in the profits.  I also wish there were a company that could print your designs on other non fabric surfaces.  I know of Zazzle, but I don’t know if my stuff is right on mugs either.  Will search for other companies.  Here is the fabric swatch for this design.

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4 April

Happy Easter…..or for us at least, happy egg hunting and chocolate eating!  I have been a bit MIA in my blogging, however my design creating is alive and well.  I have been working on my England theme collection a bit.  Right now I’m working on a design using the icons of London, primarily using pastel outlines.  I have so far made an image for: a London telephone booth, a British guard, Tower Bridge, Big Ben and parliament, a double decker bus, a black taxi, St. Paul’s cathedral, and Nelson’s column.  I don’t know if I’ll use them all, but I will start working on the pattern tonight.  It’s taken a bit of time, especially as my son sabotaged a few of my drawings because I left them out and exposed next to my drawing materials, which he helped himself to and the rest is history.  I do get side tracked in other ideas, too.  This is a sketch of a garden gnome I’ll be working with in the near future.  He clearly looks like he’s from the Gilbert side of my family.

Also, I have been preoccupied with the Spoonflowercompetitions, which is the reason I created the tessellation (on the top) that I titled, ity-bity birdies blue.  It’s a layering, sort of like roofing tiles, where the one bird is layered over the next to create the previous birds tail.  I was inspired by the cartoon Peppa Pig where the animal faces’ have a strange perspective where both eyes seem to be on the same side.  My son adores Peppa, so it’s crept into my creative world where the artist and motherhood lines blur.  Fish status (from ‘feeling rather inadequate’ entry): we named them Sid and Nancy.  Nancy is thriving very well, but Sid on the other hand, is struggling.  Perhaps this is will be the methaphor for my mother/artist balance.  Let’s hope Sid pulls through, as I really want to be a flourishing artist.

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29 March

So, I am plugging away with painting, something that I have found to be rather therapeutic, despite my lack of skill.  Today, I created this design of pears and blossoms using water colors, and I find them pretty difficult because there is little room for error.  I decided it’s best to go for a loose and messy approach.  Not that I have any choice in the matter.  As I finished painting the pear, I skyped my dad and he gave me the idea of including blossoms in the pattern, so thanks Dad!  This one is for you.  I have just submitted it to the Spoonflower competition, so hopefully the voters find it appealing.  I’m not sure when voting actually starts, but the site is full of amazing and talented people, and you can also check out past competitions, www.spoonflower.com.  If you want to check out this design in more detail, just click on it.  Who-ha!

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28 March


‘this isn’t the typical art i do, but it’s they typical way i feel about you.’ well, this is my new painting, inspired by one of the Spoonflower competitions, and i think it will make a great fabric (but a bad tile). I finally got my brushes out and painted with gauche, which is my favorite type of paint. I also added some pastels at the end to give it a bit more depth. I need to find better pastels. I like the ones that are more buttery and less crayon like the ones I used here. I am not sure how well it works as a tile, because it doesn’t blend as well as I’d like, but it’s not too shabby. I can’t wait to buy a sample and see what I can do with it; I love the colors. I decided to paint wildflowers because I think they are so delicate and wonderful. There is a beautiful wildflower garden in the Priory park, Reigate, Surrey, England. Close to wear we lived, and a place I miss terribly. Well, I miss Surrey in general, and I do still consider it to be home. Perhaps the only way to keep it close to me is to keep it in my art work.

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25 March, fruition via samples


I photographed my fabric samples and here they are, in the flesh. The metamorphosis of an idea, to something printed out for you to hold, see, smell, and feel is quiet magical. It also gives you a quick self gratification feeling of accomplishment. I can see ordering my own designs will tap into my freudian narcissistic side. The fabric above, called daffodils around, has been submitted into the Spoonflower design competition. You too can vote in any Spoonflower competitions (http://www.spoonflower.com/contest_voters/new?contest_id=22), and should only vote for the best fabrics, which is not me. I only do it to force my work upon people to see it, so then I can call myself an artist. Below are other samples I ordered which can be seen on my Spoonflower site http://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/trebligrachel. Some are up for sale there, too. I put one of my son’s matchbox cars in it just for scale. I like all of them, but I need to tweak scale sizes. I knew I’d like the Suffolk beach house print so I bought a yard and I think I’m going to make a pillow. These may not seem ambitious but I have no sewing skills, so for me it will be Everest.






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