Monday, November 15, 2010

We're Stuffed!

We always have plenty on our plates (so to speak) but are loving taking the extra time to set up productive play dates with a fellow stay at home mom to create personalized holiday tees for the kiddos.

For our Thanksgiving project, I will admit, I saw the words "I'm stuffed" on a onesie for baby's first Thanksgiving, so it is not an original idea. What is original is that we decided it would be extra cute to combine the words with a handprint turkey. (Isn't any handprint project extra cute?)

I did two matching ones for Dicey and her little cousin. I picked brown because there were very few color choices in the infant sizes of blank onesies/shirts and I wanted she and Dicey to match, so it was the one I could find in both their sizes that was Thanksgiving-y. It was a little bit of a hard choice because one typically does a handprint turkey with brown paint. I chose grey as the base color for the turkey's body, as I was going for a somewhat realistic turkey look.

The other moms had lime green and dark purple tees, so they went with the colors that worked for them. It was really fun to see how different they all were and what individual character the actual handprints imparted to the little turkeys. We used acrylic paint (some in squeezy bottles) handpainted and stamped. We used the top of an exclamation point to make a feather shape to fill in between the fingers. One of the moms husbands was over and helped watch all the kids play. Everyone had a great time and now we also have cute shirts for the holiday!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


This blogge has moved and transformed and selahestelle will now be found at

My twin sister and I have decided that with our powers combined, we will have a better blogge and shoppe to send out into the world. Two heads are better than one, no?
So, for my small but loyal band of followers, I entreat you to check me out at these new sites if you want to see what I'm up to these days. Thank you so much to everyone for reading and commenting when I took the time to post. It really does mean a lot.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hooray for Tom Tierney!

I recently went to the much anticipated Paper Doll Party in Smithville hosted by the amazing and gracious Tom Tierney and his niece which I learned about upon first meeting Tom, blogged here. It did not disappoint!

Tom works in a studio that has been fashioned out of the upstairs portion of an old retail space that was built in the 1890s. The 2nd level was for fancy dresses and bridal and whatnot, and the building has an amazing central staircase so the young lady could make a grand entrance to her eagerly awaiting entourage. It has all the original hardwood floors and the staircase has never been refinished! The first floor is a cozy shop space (despite the impressive square footage behind the designated retail area) with every Tom Tierney bit of merchandise any paper doll lover could ever hope for, most of it already signed!

Tom was giving personal tours of his studio space, which was the highlight of our entire trip! First off, just being in the company of such an accomplished and storied gentlemen is a treat on it's own, but getting to see where he works and his incredible collection of antique oddities sends the experience over the edge.

He showed us an amazing music box, super old that played songs from larger than LP metal discs with holes in them that spun much like a record player, but much older technology obviously. There was a drawer underneath that held the discs.

Next to the music box was a delightful wooden mannequin; Tom told us it was from the 1700s, was built entirely of wood (no nails anywhere, just wooden pegs) and was used by artists for portraits. They would borrow clothes from their subject, pad out the mannequin and use that for reference until all that was left was the face, which was the only part the person had to sit for. How practical! I didn't know they did this, and I actually always wondered a little about it. Thanks Tom!

He had a beautiful peacock stained glass piece, which I unfortunately didn't get a picture of

:( and the whole area was set up like a parlor or sitting room. (The best one ever!) He had framed originals of his own work, along with a SIGNED poster from Erte' dedicated to Tom personally! He was able to meet the man in person in his younger days, having done a paper doll book in his style and seeking approval for publishing rights. Erte' was charmed and later sent him the poster. Gasp!

One of the things I noticed was a large embroidery/cross stitch piece mounted in a frame that sat on the floor, and was about 5 feet tall. It was a pastoral scene with dogs and flowers. I love needlework history, so I asked about it. Tom told us the object was known as a "sincere" and was in vogue when women's cosmetics were largely comprised of wax, used as a shield between the heat of a fireplace and any ladies that were in the room, so as not to melt all their hard work!

Bryan's favorite had to be a small table that looked simple enough at first, but we came to find it had quite a story to tell. Tom happily told us that he had only read about them for the longest time and was thrilled to finally own what he referred to as a "Witch's Chair". For those witches back in the day, who, obviously, could not flaunt their witchy ways, it masqueraded as a mild-mannered table during the day, but by night...flip the table top part up and a chair with an wide, arched back is revealed. (Not to mention the wee beastie complete with yellow eyes carved into the underside so that it is a little witchy surprise!) The perfect thing for all your seances and witch meetings where you really want to make an impression.

He also showed me some of the prints and originals that he's currently working on. He's sending a proposal to Ellen and Portia with their ensembles from their wedding and different awards shows. I can't imagine anyone not wanting Tom to do a paper doll version of them. His work is so true-to-life and idealized/finessed at the same time. He makes everyone look glamorous! I got to see some original oil paintings he was working on too. It's amazing being in anyone's creative work space, and getting to be in Tom's with him was an experience I will never forget.

We also received hefty gift bags and souvenirs for coming, packed aplenty with glorious paper dolls! The actual "Paper Doll Party" was a group of vendors selling PDD and PDD related items; mostly older ladies with some collectibles, some nostalgia and some original works. Bryan found me She-Ra and Katy Keene paper doll books (yee-haw!). I bought an 80's Barbie coloring book, a twin set of colonial paper dolls, two fat-quarters of adorable paper doll pattern fabric and a few other little goodies. I was also pleased to see a previous co-worker of mine vending her super cute wares!

We had a great time also at the luncheon which was made by Tom's great niece. It was held in the rec center of the town and I want everyone to notice the dummy in the corner; it's the kind that you beat up for self defense or martial arts. You've gotta love a small town. It actually kind of works for a doll theme too, so that's a bonus. :D*

Also included in the ticket price was a "train tour of Smithville", which was actually a short trolly jaunt to the two houses in town that have been settings for movie filming. (Hope Floats and Tree of Life). An utterly charming event, all told.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

If you give a SAHM a vanilla bean...

My wonderful mother-in-law presented me with some whole vanilla beans as a present this past Christmas. I was delighted, as I had been having wistful thoughts already about what I would do with such an ingredient. The ones I received were from the lovely Penzey's spices company, from which we also received some fabulous cooking spice blends that we have to replenish as they are all used up!

My husband loves vanilla. I'm a fan, but am more of a chocolate person. Reading up on vanilla and ultimate recipes and true appreciation and what not, I came across a blog that posed what was deemed as the definitive question for those of us who are not sure where we stand on such an issue: "if confronted, decide whether you'd choose a bowl of best quality vanilla or chocolate ice cream, and "both" is not an acceptable answer."
I think this is a pretty good test, but I can see how some folks would disagree, vanilla ice cream is just so basic a representation of the flavor and ties in with a lot of nostalgia for most folks. It doesn't really play fair. I think I would still pick chocolate though. How about you?

At any rate, I wanted to make the most of my vanilla boon and proceeded to research what I thought would be some ultimate expressions of vanilla recipes.

I naturally went with vanilla ice cream first, thinking that if we really loved it, I could just make more with the rest of the beans, as the recipe only called for two and I had four.
I settled on Alton Brown's version, though the recipe as transcribed does not match the recipe if you watch the show segment. It makes a difference!
This ice cream was great, but not the ultimate expression of vanilla that I was looking for. The husk of the beans were leftover and I'd read in my research that you could make vanilla sugar with just the husk, so I set that aside for a few weeks (it doesn't take that long, but I figured it wouldn't hurt!).

The Vanilla Loaf that was so lauded in the aforementioned blog (I halved the recipe) called for vanilla sugar, so I figured this loaf's time had come this morning when I felt the need to cook. It tastes great and was easy enough to make, but the texture of the cake is not my favorite.

Now, you think to yourselves, well that's all the beans, what else could this have led to? The loaf called for a vanilla syrup to be made, and there was leftover - which I couldn't just throw out. I had thoughts of sweetening tea or some other beverage with it, like my sister does, but I also felt that the cake needed something to accompany it. (Ice cream!)

I didn't want to go out and buy any, and I didn't have the ingredients in house. But I did have the ingredients to make frozen yogurt! So the syrup was used quite successfully in a frozen yogurt (vanilla) and I still have half a bean left! My ultimate vanilla dreams have not been realized; whatever shall I do now? :D*

Thursday, March 18, 2010


When my daughter decided to wake up from her nap super early, my husband had the idea to go to a little old cemetery that is close to our house, Pond Springs Cemetery. I used to go when I was younger and feeling very sensitive and artsy with my friends and do rubbings and think soulfully and what not, but had not been since.

I had forgotten how many children's graves there are in this particular graveyard and it hit me especially hard now that I'm a mother of a 15 month old, imagining what life must have been like for mothers long ago who had to accept their childrens' mortality as a fact of life.
Most of the graves that drew my attention were from the 1870s-1920, partly because I was obviously attracted to the oldest stones for their aesthetic, but also because there were so many. It was really sad and made me want to do something to honor the women and children, which I know is silly, but as a mother, I felt oddly responsible for their memories, even though they are strangers to me.

I started to brainstorm about the thoughts and emotions swirling around in my head. Am still not sure what will come of it, but, at the very least, I'm pursuing more information and finding inspiration.
Doing research about the time period organically led me to my long standing love of embroidery history. Having always been curious about the history of embroidery samplers, I was really interested to come upon samplers that served as memorials as well as a quote from Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus: "Fair Philomel, she but lost her tongue And in a tedious Sampler sewed her mind."

Just imagining the lives of these women that I strive in vain to be more like with my bread-making and craftiness humbles me and makes me so grateful for the life I'm privileged to lead.

Anyway, I'm a little consumed right now with symbolism and sisterhood, thought I would share.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Fashion Backward!

I think I’ve inadvertently started a collection of fashion/grooming/etiquette books from the 50s & 60s. I just love every one I see.

Even though it’s a lot of the same information and concepts, they’re all a little different and charming in their own ways. It reminds me of when I read every book in my elementary school library about Helen Keller and Harriet Tubman. I loved finding the small details unique to each version.

In these days when Home Economics classes are basically relics, I’m fascinated by a time (not that long ago) when our culture had such a regulated idea of attractiveness and hygiene. On one hand, as my readers will already know, I think we have paid a hefty price for taking these concepts out of curriculum and propriety. On the other hand, I’m not sure what I would have done in high school/college/now if I weren't able to dress/present myself the way I chose. In many ways, I wish that we retained more of the formality from days of yore, but I do enjoy the freedoms and individual expression/diversity we have now. At any rate, I love everything about these books.

My most recent acquisition: Dress: The Clothing Textbook (Third Edition).

Favorite quote so far: The joy of making something that expresses one’s own personality is radiated in this girl’s smile.”

Isn’t that just a mantra to live by?!

Every photo has a charming caption, some with pretty compelling questions!

Fun at the seashore! Which hats and dresses are fads? Which ones would you expect to be in style another year? Why?

Which of these blouse and skirt combinations would you select for a girl with prominent hips and a small bust? Which for a girl with a tiny waist, small hips and average bust? Which would be good for a large busted girl with small hips? Which would be suitable for most figures?

I love that there are obviously clearly correct answers to each of these questions in the mind of the authors.

This incarnation of vintage appearance laws has a great collection of vocabulary concerning garments of the day. With my education in costume history and design, I’m thrilled to find terms I’m unfamiliar with and thought I would share!

You just don’t hear anymore about necklines such as the “gumdrop” and the “ponderosa”, collars called the “middy” and “pointed club”, skirts called “pert”, as well as three different titles for pleated ones, not to mention shorts called “jam-kinis” (is that what “jams” is short for?!? I had no idea!). Also, there are pants styles and collar styles with the names “Jamaica” and “Bermuda”. We’ve presumably all heard of Bermuda shorts, but Jamaica? With coordinating collars? I think not, tater tot! (Note to readers: these oh-so-importantly differentiated collars and short pants are represented by virtually identical hand-drawn sketches. Love it!).

I’m just at the beginning of my exploration, but feel it’s noteworthy that page 66 has the question “Would you prefer sneakers, suede pumps, or satin sandals to wear with jeans to a picnic? Why?”

While page 67 has this one: Can You Explain These Terms?

Unity, balance, formal or symmetrical balance, informal or asymmetrical balance, proportion, emphasis, vertical line, horizontal line, diagonal line, form, texture, harmony, variety, structural design, decorative design, realistic design, stylized design, abstract design.

It doesn’t just ask for a definition for these terms, it asks for the student to explain them! With a college degree in a related field, I would balk at this task, yet it is given to high school students of the 50s in Chapter 2 of this textbook!

Ooooo! I just noticed a jumper pattern suggestion in the back of the book! Gotta go!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

In the Pink!

Despite waking up with the headache that I went to bed with and grousing with my husband, today is definitely moving in the right direction.

My husband and I made up and decided to be nice to each other again after a few days of general crankiness.

I have a baby shower to go to this weekend, and had grand fun putting together a little gift basket for the occasion. Was able to find this lovely pristine basket at a thrift store and had hung on to the pink wired ribbon from a Christmas past, so felt downright resourceful as well as getting to be uber girly!

I have a spa day to look forward to on Friday, with a facial and massage giving me a glorious 2 full hours of me time at the lovely Avant Salon where I get my hair cut.

I just shipped off a pretty little package to Florida of one of my favorite Etsy items, which is going live on a handmade feather tree (squeeee!).

I also received a package from Bobo's Oat Bars this morning of three of their delicious and nutritious coconut oat bars to replace one that I found mold in prior to opening. You've got to love the smaller independent companies! These bars are great food for babies, organic and yummy and soft and oh so portable!
My headache is starting to get better and my baby is asleep, so I'm going to see what else I can do with my burst of positive energy!

Friday, February 26, 2010

What kind of project will this be?

I have this vintage table runner that I've been hanging on to for God knows how long. I've never used it for a couple of reasons. 1. Wasn't really in the place in my life where I had occasion/desire to put it out 2. It has a somewhat unsightly stain in a conspicuous spot.
Now that I have my little girl and Easter is just around the corner, I have lovely notions of putting out my little bunny figures and sweet, festive decorations. I pulled this out by chance and felt it might be just the thing.

I've hand washed it in Woolite, using Grandma's Secret Spot Remover on the stain, and hung it to dry. This did wonders for generally livening this little linen up, but did not do anything for the stain, and has made me aware that one end of the runner is a shade darker than the other.
With the prospect of simply not being able to do anything about the stain, I'm entertaining camouflaging it with coordinating embroidery motifs. I've found some really good candidates/inspiration here. If I were to do this, I'm also considering tea dying it so that the color fade is not so obvious.

It's vintage, but I don't know where it came from and have no sentimental value to attach to it other than I think it's very sweet.

Is it passe' to add your own embroidery to a vintage piece? Are there stain removal secrets I'm not aware of that are suitable for this task? Should I tea dye the whole thing, or will the discolored end just dye darker than the rest? I'd love to get some input!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Product Rant

I have enough issues with the whole Wii phenomenon already, but I was willing to look the other way because I know that it's an argument I will never win. I know that it supposedly does people good and gets gamers up out of their chairs and what not. I know all this and understand why people like it. That said, it still smacks of wrongdoing to me. It just seems backward and all Brave New World-y.

I have played Wii games at a party, so I can speak from at least a little experience. I know people are more likely to play a game in their home than actually get out of the house to go play softball or whatever. I'm sure that this technology is doing wonders for the fitness video industry and don't really have any issues with it in that application. I think I just don't have a game personality. I actually enjoy going bowling in real life and have no desire to do it virtually. (Board games are excluded from this rant. I love them). The whole getting amusement/exercise/information/education/cultural experience etc. from the glowing box in the middle of your living room just can only go so far with me before I start to get really creeped out.

I have my mother to thank for never letting me go down this path in the first place. She would give us bags full of quarters to go to the arcade and play whatever we wanted, but would never purchase a game system for us and grumbled about the few computer games (King's Quest, Monkey Island etc.) that my Dad would bring home. I never got in the zone of sitting and playing games, squandering countless hours of valuable time. I also have my non-gamer husband to be thankful for. The only games he ever cared about are the super old Infocom text based games. He spends any free time he has drawing and playing with our daughter. I love him so much.

This new product, Splatster, officially marks my point of being totally creeped out/angered by this phenomenon. I won't have any kind of Wii in my own home, but that's my concern and my opinion only. It's a free country. The Splatster, however, crosses the line and makes things personal. This is where I have to step up on to my soapbox and say that I object.
Art is supposed to be messy. It is not about convenience. If you want your children to actually develop the motor skills required to become an artist, or the thoughtfulness to express themselves creatively, do not purchase this item. I can't say that I don't like computer art, or the programs therein. I use the computer for art stuff all the time. I learned how to use Deluxe Paint when I was fairly young, but I was already comfortable with tangible art-making, and was learning the computer as an additional tool. There's the rub, folks.

I have worked with children from birth to teens for 10+ years. I was a preschool assistant teacher in an accredited private school for 4 years with 4 yr olds and 3 yr olds. I am a mother. I am an artist.

This toy is not a tool that will help you to do art things that you couldn't otherwise do. This toy is not going to inspire a child to become an artist. This toy, to me, comes across as a no-fuss, no-muss REPLACEMENT for sitting down with actual paper and being CREATIVE. The manner in which this is marketed and the target audience (3-8 yrs.) seriously makes me so angry I start to well up. Children are in the prime of their motor skill development during these years. Actual art making is an amazing educational, developmental and emotional experience/opportunity for these young people who have so much to figure out in the world. A motor skill development expert told me once that a child's fine motor control is like cookie dough: you can keep adding ingredients and mushing it around for awhile, but once a child hits the age of 7 yrs; they're cooked when it comes to this area of development. Your fine motor abilities stop being able to really get better once you pass this point. A child's development (in all areas) is like building a pyramid. You may be able to get to the top and put that last block on, but if you are missing pieces along the way, your pyramid will have insurmountable weakness and problems. You only have one opportunity to build these pyramids. Why would you want this valuable, shrinking window of time to be filled with anything but the best?

Why anyone would want/encourage their 3-4 yr old to use a computer for fun/education is beyond me personally. I'm a believer in getting dirty and learning about tangible things (it's such an awfully big world to see!) while they're young and their sense of the world and themselves in it is still taking shape. We all spend so much time in front of the TV or the computer. I know our children want to do what they see us do, but "plugging your child in" is a huge missed opportunity for togetherness and learning.

Sunday, January 31, 2010


Lately I've been so occupied with family/home life and have had so many occasions that have led me to making crafty gifts for loved ones that I haven't had the time to make anything new for the shoppe in ages. Much of the time I've been busy at work on some art project that I have to keep secret for gifty purposes, but these are a couple of new(ish) things I can share. I started this rose ball and finally finished it just before Christmas, but am only now finding the time to photograph and list it.

This is another ornament that I just finished as a 1st birthday present for a friend's daughter, The Bears and I, kids in tow, attended her party today. It was crazy and crowded, but the kids had fun.

Friday, January 29, 2010

What's on my wall: Inspirado

This little darling has always been in my life. It hung in my mother's room when I was growing up and she was nice enough to let me have it when I moved out. I don't know where it came from, or who it was made by.

On the back of the frame, in two places, is written B 350. It almost looks like a price, but I don't know if it is, or even if it is, if the price refers to the frame or the entire piece. My good friend KatinkaPinka used to have a storefront in South Austin with a couple of other ladies and they would have initials on their price tags to indicate who made what; that's my best guess for the B.

It hangs on a little strip of wall just big enough for it right outside my bedroom door. I look at it a little bit every day, some days more than others. I never get tired of getting up close and examining the variety of careful stitches that are so much more than they even needed to be. The extra touches of detail in the stitches is what gets me every time. I love to embroider and it seems to be somewhat of a fading art.

Someone doing a piece like this today is probably a fractional likelihood compared to when this was probably made, but even if someone were to take the time to do it now, I doubt that they would include all the nuance and care that went into this. I look at it and think, well, I can do that stitch, or I could probably figure that one out, or how did she do that? But I'm almost always struck by how the artist "went the extra mile" in a way that I'm not sure I would have. This is somewhat sobering, as I pride myself on being someone who "brings their A-game" most of the time, especially on craft projects. I have to imagine that it came from a time when there was simply less to occupy yourself with. No computers, TV etc. It must have been quietly lovely, but I won't get all romantic about times past, there's no point to it really. At any rate, it wouldn't be as inspiring to me if it were more on my level. My mother, the art teacher, summed it up with "If their work is better than yours, learn from it. If it's worse, feel better about your own."

That's not entirely fair though, because artists who are less practiced or comfortable with a medium than you can still inspire with their ingenuity, style, spirit or sheer drive to create.

Anyway, was taking another look at it and thought I would share my little moment.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

moment of dork

Yeah, yeah... but don't you agree that Kristen Stewart bears a striking resemblance to Joan Fontaine? Just watched Suspicion, but would've preferred Hitchcock's alternate ending where Cary Grant did kill his wife.

Monday, January 25, 2010

I'm still here

I have sadly fallen off the blogge wagon in a big way; but I wanted to assure you all that it is a temporary situation. Still having major issues finding a balance that I can achieve on a regular basis of family/housework/art/on-line business/cooking/yard and house maintenance. I'm at a loss as to why this isn't every person's constant concern.
I am feeling pretty good today about it all. A little more Stepford than usual. I cleaned my floors today (mostly) with my new Shark steam mop. I was pretty happy with the Swiffer WetJet, but unhappy with the disposable pads that get used up pretty quickly and the cleaning solution that I didn't know was totally safe for baby or not. The Shark one uses steam, so no chemicals, and has washable pads. It seemed to do the job pretty well and was easier to scrub with than the Swiffer because the steam loosened the gunk up better.
I haven't messed with my Etsy shoppe in a long time either. I guess I've just been super focused in on my home/family life. The holidays were necessarily so, and I've just had a hard time getting back into a groove that isn't all about family and personal projects.
We've been busy with some much needed home improvements (though what we've done only scratches the surface of all that should be done!). We got new light fixtures for the kitchen, one which necessitated replacing part of the ceiling, which necessitated a "kill room" set up a la Dexter (Bryan's and my latest obsession, we're finishing Season 3 tonight!). It's pretty exciting after years of a ceiling with stains and holes and inadequate light, then months of a ceiling with stains and more holes and a fluorescent light nailed to the wall in my kitchen to finally have appropriate lighting. Don't have an "after" pic yet, because we haven't finished the ceiling off yet. Planning on getting the imitation pressed tin ceiling tiles. My inspiration for the kitchen since getting the new (old!) pantry has been the old free-standing Swensen's Ice Cream parlor.
We also put up a coat rack and curtains in the living room. Part of the wall is officially up in my studio-to-be. I finally got some bins for my laundry room shelf too. All the projects have been small, but those little things really add up!
Been working on art for present-type items, so no pics right now of that, but am excited to get back into the swing of things again soon. Thanks for reading and being patient with me as I figure out this whole life/motherhood/artist/wife thing!