Thursday, October 21, 2010


i think i may have caught up with my coursework. maybe. here's hoping it holds! this week we were to give a basic summation of what we've learned thus far in the course. we were to look at how our views have changed (or not), and talk about what we plan to do with the information in our ministries. i've still not figured out exactly what my ministry will look like when i finish this journey, but here's my reflection for the week. blessings!

The most radical change in my wee brain is the thought and feeling surrounding the people portrayed in Genesis. As a child, I was taught in Sunday school to revere the “fathers of faith”. They were glossed over versions of themselves, and we only spoke of the good things. They became unreachable in my mind…I am certain my teachers were attempting to instill respect, but instead the shiny, infallible men were so slick and unreachable that they had no real impact on my faith. In college, we covered the entire Old Testament in one semester, so no real attention was focused on individuals. We paid more attention to sweeping themes.

It was not until this course that I really looked at these characters and saw their humanity…warts and all. I tried to imagine these men in the 21st century. I am certain I would not be able to tolerate Jacob’s tomfoolery for long. Abraham is so thickheaded that at times I want to shake him a little bit. Isaac seems to be such a wallflower. Yet, God called each of them for a purpose. God asked that they be faithful. God gave them the strength and the means to follow God and to do what God asked of them. It did not matter (and does not matter still) that these people are fallible, warty, and rough. God chose them, real people no more equipped or worthy than I am, to bless, to lead, and to receive God’s promise.

The idea of God’s promise and plan has not changed for me, but it has been underscored in a new way. This happened just last week as we read the Joseph narrative. God was at work behind the scenes in the story all along, but it took the humans years to be able to see it. God has a promise and a plan for Israel, for humanity, for creation, and for me. We goof it up plenty, but God uses our mistakes and our evil doing to push us along God’s path and plan. Undoubtedly, it takes longer this way, but God does not revoke our free will. God allows us to be, and God works with what we give God.

The Bible is not just a moral guide full of interesting stories and weird rules. (However, its value as moral code should be neither dismissed nor assumed). The Scripture is vital to our understanding of where we have been and where we are going. The texts help us to understand that we are not the only ones to be called by God for God’s purpose and plan and yet who are so utterly unworthy.

Genesis is a microcosm of the Bible in its entirety. All themes of humanity, Christianity, creation, and life are right here. Even some of the very words Christ uses are found first here. Yet this book has been treated as an afterthought in Christian education for years…something to be dressed up in finger paints and glitter and to be talked about on rainy days. My personal challenge for ministry will be to pull these themes of relationship, off the shelf and into the light in a way that makes the people in Genesis seem real and relevant to God’s people today. No need for such good news of promise, blessing, and relationship to be hidden behind rainbows and elephants.

Monday, October 18, 2010

meet Elaine of GrannysKnits

i've struggled with writing about Elaine for an embarrassingly long time (this feature should have run in early September). it's a tough one for me not because i have to dig to find something to say, but because i have TOO MUCH to say.

i *met* Elaine about 2 years ago through Team EtsyBABY on Etsy. she seemed like a nice enough lady, and she surely was passionate about her work. so, when my 6th nephew was born, i ordered a sweater for him in black, gray, and gold (only time i'll say *Go, Army!* is for my brother-in-law's children). when it arrived, i was BLOWN AWAY. see, my guilty pleasure is knitting...and Elaine's knitting is the finest i've ever seen. nary a stitch out of tension. all ends invisibly woven in. absolutely incredible. then, i found out, Elaine does all her knitting...wait for it...WITHOUT A PATTERN!! she pulls this stuff out of her head! seriously.

read this interview. then read this article from the Storque (Etsy's blog). then, go to Elaine's shop. purchase warm wooly goodness with abandon. you won't regret it. i promise.

and when you're done with all that...leave a comment on this blog post. i'll use a random number generator to giveaway one of Elaine's superb doll sweaters...i'll show you 2 tomorrow...if you're the luckiest gal/guy on the planet, you can choose which one you'd like.

~When did you begin knitting?
I was six, and bought needles, yarn, and a "Learn How to Knit" book.

~Why did you choose your type of knitting to work with?
until Jordan and my grandson were born, I made a variety of sizes and items.
When I became mom to then 2 year old Jordan, my knitting time was sharply cut!
I started making baby sweaters here and there, and then decided to try to get enough together for a craft show.
That didn't happen, then five years ago I found out my older daughter was pregnant.
OK, GrannysKnits started to take shape.

~Do you have a favorite design of your own creation?
the blankie that I made four years ago, when my grandson was's his FAVorite!

~Do you also collect dolls?
I have a collection of one; my sweet sassy Willow!

~At what point did you realize your gift was more than a hobby?
Probably in the 80s, I was doing a few craft shows while raising my two girls.

~Describe your workspace.
oh boy, that's funny! ;)
You name it, it's a workspace. I carry knitting in my purse!

~What is your favorite part of the process.
Choosing what I'll make from a particular yarn, and the actual knitting!

~What is your least favorite?
finishing, finishing, finishing!
did I say finishing? ;))
ANYthing that requires me to sew, I'm NOT good at it.

~What inspires you?
more often than not, I buy a yarn, and then later decide what to knit from it.

~What is the best time of day for you to create?
morning (as long as I have enough coffee!)

~Tell me about your biggest fan.
at this point, I'd have to say my 4 year old grandson.
He loves the sweaters, and other items I make him, and since he's 3000 miles away,
I love that I'm the person who knits for him.

~What is your strangest request?
I was knitting at a craft show, years ago, and a woman stopped to ask if she could borrow my pattern.
I explained politely that I was using it!
she told me "Well, I'll photocopy it, and mail it back to you in a few days!"
(She was not nice about my turning this request down, either!)

~What is your favorite request?
Any request that Anna makes!

~Which similar artist do you most admire? Why?
Wow, there isn't just one. Anyone from whom I can learn .............
and grow, but not copy.
The late, great Elizabeth Zimmerman is a perfect example.

~What do you know now that you wish you knew when you began? (Or what piece of advice would you give to someone first starting out in your field?)
When I actually decided to try to sell my creations?
I wish that I had the time/ability/brain power to learn the world of cyberspace, and how to take wonderful photos ;)

~Tell me an artist you’d like to have subjected to these questions (someone you’d like to know more about)?
Jackie of Totzhatz

~What is your favorite flower? Why?
I love the color, and the fragrance ;)

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Week 3 of course work. our text is still Genesis 1-11. we were answer: "how does Genesis 1-11 shape your conception of humanity and how does that conception relate to your culture's dominant construal of human nature?"

easy-peasy. HA!

anyway, these are my thoughts for the week.

blessings to you!!

Humanity is the climax of creation. What joy that we should be so desired and cherished! God called us into being. God did not suffer a slip of the hand when the world was new…we are not an “oops!” God made us in God’s image and bestowed the care and keeping of all God has created upon us.

This care and keeping is not permission to plunder the bounty of the world or to use one another for our own purposes. God’s gift is a passing of privilege and responsibility. We are made in the likeness of God, with the same goodness as God, and God sets us free upon creation with a blessing and a charge: we are to care for creation as God does.

The text tells us that God was incredibly intentional about the creation of the world. Gen 1:1-2:3 God took time and considered what was to be. Creation was not a whim; rather, it was a process. God enjoyed what God had made each day and declared it “good”. We are to see the value that God sees and to treat creation as such. We are to use resources wisely to be good stewards. We are to treat each other as God treats us…with care, with compassion, with deep love giving to one another the best gifts we have to offer.

As humans, we are not perfect. God gives clear directions, and we choose to ignore them or to respond to the smallest amount of the directive possible (My 9-yr old is a master of this latter function. I call him my “line-toer”. Humanity is brilliant at this sort of disobedience as well!) God has called us into being and granted us free will. We are given guidance, suggestions, and commandments by God, yet we fail to see or choose to ignore them.

I consider myself immersed in two cultures. One is my “real-life” community, which is comprised of a community church, two elementary schools, family members, long-time friends, and a strike fighter squadron in the Navy. The second is my “on-line” community, which is filled with people daily involved in the handmade craft community either as businesspersons (crafters) or as consumers. It is interesting to me that my real-life community is diligent about the care and keeping of humans. We feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the lonely and imprisoned, and tend the sick. My on-line community is committed to the stewardship of the rest of creation. We sparingly use resources, consider carefully the materials used for our craft, conscientiously research shipping methods to reduce our “carbon-footprints”, and review these policies of other crafters/artisans before we make a purchase. I would rejoice if my two communities could combine our efforts!

God made us in God’s image, but God did not make us God. We are given the choice to follow God’s directions, and often we choose not to. This freedom (and ultimate failure) is also a gift. God loves us no less because we choose not to obey. Our failure gives us the opportunity to experience God’s grace. God’s grace gives us yet another chance at obedience. Another chance gives us the prospect of following God’s will for us and for all of creation, to be a blessing, and to fulfill God’s charge.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Pentateuch. sounds like something you might catch from being improperly dressed, no? but actually it is the name for the first five books of the Bible.

i enrolled and began coursework at Luther Seminary. and now, i am knee-deep in the Old Testament. i debated for a bit but ultimately decided that some of you just may want to hear what i have to say on the subject...for all sorts of reasons (you, dear readers, are a varied lot!).

the text for week 2 (this week...the first week was "hello, my name is so-and-so...this is where i live and who i am, etc...but you already know that) is Genesis 1-11. the question for contemplation is "how is the Bible true?". this, my friends, is what i've come up with thus far:

Genesis is a faith confession. As such, it seeks to tell us the way God intends our world to be. God is. God created every thing, and we are the paramount event in all of Creation. God saw what God had made and declared it good. We fall, falter, fail and God recreates. God makes all things new.

The truth in these chapters for me is that God is a giver of blessings and a keeper of promises. “God blessed them…” Gen 1:28. When we miss the mark, when we disappoint God, God picks us up, sets us again on the path, and blesses us so that we may try again. “God blessed Noah…” Gen 9:1. Time after time in the text, humanity shows its frailty. We turn from the instructions we are given. We shame ourselves and seek to hide from God and from one another. We give in to anger. We disclaim responsibility for our actions. Time after time, God redirects our actions, forgives our sins, and blesses us.

This truth is a source of great comfort to me. I know there is nothing that can keep me from God. God has chosen me for good and has saved me from sin. All that God requires of me is faith and trust.

This is not a revelation in my life. I was blessed to be born into a family of faithful, trust-filled people. The “ah-ha!” for me is that each time I revisit God’s promises and blessings, I have a much longer list of sins and shame and things-I-wish-I-had-done-differently, yet each time, the message is the same. “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good…” Gen 1:31. No matter how far I fall from rightness, God still claims me. God still calls me “very good” if I am able to be redirected in faith and to trust in the path God places before me.

Genesis is also a book of beginnings. The world is made. Humanity is born. Faith is created. Sin is forced into being. God begins his covenant(s) with us. It is a launching pad to the relationship that God is continually forming with us from the Beginning to the End. “See, I am making all things new….” Rev 21:5. Thanks be to God.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

the super big project

when anxiety or worry takes over, i find myself drawn to fiber. i like to hold it, squish it, spin it, finish it, knit it, smell it (does that make me weird??)

it is fairly obvious to anyone who knows me well that there are some major things going on in my little world. the mounds of freshly carded fiber (thanks Erin, Ducky, and Mande!) are piling up. the spinning wheel is whirring more often than not. the skeins of gorgeous yarns for doll hair are stacking up in the studio.

several months ago, i spun a yarn that i couldn't part with. something about it made me pause. so, i began knitting. a triangle. then, i found another yarn. and another yarn. and another yarn. and i knit them up, too. into triangles. lots of oddly shaped, variously sized triangles.

a week ago, i finally figured out what to do with them all. i'm going to continue to knit them until some large life things are settled out...and then i'll need a professional finisher. got any suggestions?

all the yarns in this particular project are spun by batts from Erin of WoolyHands on Etsy. (well, except for was spun by Erin...but i need to remember to ask if it was her batt!)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

more photos of the Enchanted Cupboard's toys!

even the packaging is Enchanting..peel back layer after layer of exquisitely crafted toys...
Helen had a field day with these little wooden lovelies.
but don't let the photos fool you...
my boys (8 &9) are just as mesmerized by them,
they just don't want their photos taken!

Monday, August 9, 2010

meet Beccijo of the Enchanted Cupboard

i'd like to introduce you to one of my daughters' most favorite artists, Beccijo Neff of the Enchanted Cupboard. i recently purchased one of her playsets and several silks and have been trying to pry them out of little hands and off of little heads ever since. poke through the Enchanted Cupboard...there is a dizzying array of choices, but i promise, all are wonderful...oh, and let me tell you about the packaging...simply amazing. Enchanted is a wonderful descriptive for the entire experience with Beccijo, but it is only the beginning! let's also toss in words like *joyful*, *inspiring*, and *captivating*...

Beccijo says:

I am creative, loving and excited about life! I am a woman who has the courage to be HAPPY! I am a very lucky wife and mother who is deeply loved by a great man and wonderful children. I have had the most wonderful experience being married for over 12 years. I, at one time didn't believe in marriage, but I am so glad that I took a chance and listened to my heart! I am the kind of person who gives 100% and that includes to my marriage. My reward has been a wonderful and magical relationship that is fulfilling in every aspect. If granted a wish, I would only ask for more!!

In 2008 I started getting serious about my hobby and started a shop on . I started out making a few wooden fairy dolls and over time have added to the collection. I now have wonderful dolls, playsets, playboxes, and wedding cake toppers. I have been featured all over the web including Nickelodeon's Parents Connect, The, and AOL's AisleDash.

~When did you begin making Wooden Toys?

I've tried my hands at lots of different creative venues but the little wooden dolls and playsets really became a passion for me near the end of 2008.

~Why did you choose your style of toymaking?

I've always loved little tiny things. As a child I always picked the books that had mice that had little homes filled with reused things for their household. My mother instilled a love of fairies in me and I was for ever making little houses in the forest near my childhood home.

~Do you have a favorite toy of your own creation?

The first one I made, Lavender, part of The Fairy Ring series. She is modeled after my own sweet little girl.

~Do you also collect toys?

I have a collection of many items made by the members of the NaturalKids Team. I am collecting Bendy Dolls from Princess Nimble Thimble and Story Book dolls from The Fairies Nest.

bendy doll by PrincessNimbleThimble

Alice by Fairies' Nest

~At what point did you realize your gift was more than a hobby?

First when people started paying for my toys. Then when my own sister paid for one for a birthday present ( I gave her a discount!).

~Describe your workspace.

I completely rearranged my house and took over the largest room once I realized this is going to be a business. I love to have things organized and create systems that let me keep up with my homeschooling of 4 kids while working. My studio is in the center of the house and has made it easy for me to keep track of everything and everyone.

~What is your favorite part of the process.

The part of figuring out how to make what is in my head work in a playset or playbox. The process of putting it all together, painting it up, and then seeing the kids light up with delight!

~What is your least favorite?

Sanding, messy and takes up a lot of time but is a necessary evil!

~What inspires you?

My childhood and things I imagined there, watching my own kids grow and seeing what they play.

~What is the best time of day for you to create?

I love working at night after everyone is a sleep. I am my most productive then.

~Tell me about your biggest fan.

My husband has always been my biggest fan. He loves me with a great love one that is rare and deep. He really pulls me through when I expect too much of myself. All the characteristics that were seen as "my flaws" as a child are thing he loves about me. He keeps my feet on the ground but never kills my creativity. He lets me talk to him for hours at night about my plans and designs and always supports me when I change my mind. He is also the model for my pirate!!!

~What is your strangest request?

I have really had only normal requests but I do get strange key words that people find my shop through from Google.

~What is your favorite request?

It is going to make me cry to tell this story! A mother was being deployed and their poor little girl just got her dad back who was also in the service. I worked with them to design a Playbox that was just like their kitchen with lots of things for them to bake and little wooden dolls that look just like them. Now the little girl could always have them with her. It is things like these and knowing that little kids all over the world are playing with my toys that keep me painting on bad days.

~Which similar artist do you most admire?

I really love the work of . Her dolls and wooden toys are lovely, sweet, and simple.

~Which classic artist do you most admire?

Hands down it would be Vincent Van Gogh. I love his work and his tragic story makes his work even more endearing. I love his passion for color and how he was compelled to create even when the world was against him. I am a big Dr. Who fan and a recent episode they visited him and in they end got to take him to the future and he got to see his greatness enjoyed by others, I cried like a baby!!!

~What do you know now that you wish you knew when you began? (Or what piece of advice would you give to someone first starting out in your field?)

Staring at the screen does not make orders appear.

Your work as mother, creator, artist is never in the moment don't try to just get done.

Make a plan for success because if you don't you will not be able to keep up when it happens.

~Tell me an artist you’d like to have subjected to these questions?, I do the team interviews so I picked someone who I don't get to interview.

~What is your favorite flower?

A Tulip, I love the vast colors they come in there delicate but structured shape.

*a giant "thank you!" to Mrs. Beccijo! all photographs and all interview words in black are owned by Beccijo.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

more photos of Olivia's Ultimate dresses!

we took a vacation recently to our family cottage in Michigan. the time away was amazing...and i never realized before how picturesque a setting the cottage really is.

the girls (and the Moppets) were very patient with me as they modeled all manner of things in all manner of locations. these are my favorite shots of dresses (and Moppet dresses!) by Olivia.

you can learn more about this ultra-fab designer by reading the previous post. (clearly we need to order more of her dresses!)

xoxo ~ anna

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

breathe in, breathe out...

today, i could use a little reminder. i thought maybe you could, too.
inhale, exhale...good.

Monday, July 26, 2010

meet Olivia of Olivia's Ultimate and Olivia Hooper Photography

say "hello" to one of the most incredibly talented artists i have ever had the pleasure to meet: Olivia Hooper.

i met Olivia when she needed a doll model for her clothing line at Olivia'sUltimate on Etsy. little did i know...not only are her doll clothes the cutest, but her children's clothing is amazing! (and all those sweet little characters on the front of her dresses...all drawn by Olivia!) then, she did me the wonderful favor of sending photos of sweet little Ruthie in her clothes, and i discovered this woman is one heck of a photographer, too!!

Olivia is an amazingly patient mother of two, an attentive spouse, an intelligent business person, and a loyal friend. all in all, the total package. i am blessed to call her my friend, and i know you will love knowing more about her...

~When did you begin dressmaking and photography?

Dressmaking: I started making upcycled dresses early this year, and people really encouraged me to sell them because they liked my fabric combinations. Opening my Etsy store was a hard decision because I wasn’t sure if there would even be a demand. I finally decided to try it 3 months ago and was surprised at how fast it took off.

Photography: I picked up my first dSLR when my daughter was about a year old. I had a friend who took fabulous photos of her daughter modeling eBay boutique items and I really wanted to learn to take pictures of my little girl so that I could have tons of them rather than go to Picture People or other mall establishments all the time. Next thing I knew I was buying studio equipment, learning all about portraiture, lighting, etc. and people were calling to ask if I could also do photos of their kids.

~Why did you choose your dressmaking style and your personal take on photography?

Dressmaking: There is no limit to upcycling knits. There are millions of old knits in thrift stores to be found and made into something beautiful and fun to wear. My oldest daughter LOVES dresses but also likes to be comfortable. Upcycled knit dresses just make sense for girls her age. Being part of this upcycling community is great. I have made so many friends and learned how to do so many things.

Photography: I love kids. Being able to capture their innocence on camera is priceless.

~Do you have a favorite photo or a favorite dress that you've made?

I’m attaching my favorite dress and my favorite photo.

~Do you also collect dresses or photographs (or anything else handmade)?

I buy upcycled clothing from other designers including chimi and changa, Lil Blue Boo, Nookie Scooter, Jam Clothing Co, Upcycle me crazy, Soren Lorensen design, and Alli Cat Creations. Everyone has their own twist on upcycling, and it’s all beautiful in their own unique ways. I also love Blu Moon Babies for doll dresses.

I do collect dolls now too because I have been making doll dresses. I have 2 Imogen’s Garden dolls, 1 hippie house, and 1 Lighting Bugz on the way. Call me addicted.

~At what point did you realize your gift was more than a hobby?

Dress Making: When I sold over 50 dresses my first month. Woo hoo!

Photography: When I started getting 10 boxes a week from designers full of clothing for Izzy to model.

~Please tell us about your workspace.

Dress Making: My studio is my husband’s office. Did I kick him out? ;) Well, let’s just say he’s real nice and let me have it. I just redid the studio this weekend in fact. I now have a counter height table where I do all my cutting at. A large shelf behind it to keep bins of knits and knit yardage. I have a rolling rack full of main print/panel t-shirts that are color coded. A small desk to hold my laptop. A longer desk that holds my serger and sewing machine, a large bookshelf of cubby holes to hold other fabrics, boxes of beads, and baskets below for toys and other kid friendly art supplies to keep the kids distracted while I work.

Photography: Any outdoor space is my favorite because I LOVE using natural light. I especially love areas with green grass, trees, and water. Blue skies are a plus!

~What is your favorite part of the process?

Dress making: Thrifting! Going to find the perfect piece to upcycle.

Photography: I love prop shopping but my favorite part is making the families I shoot for really happy.

~What is your least favorite?

Uploading the millions of photos to edit and listing the dresses on Etsy. Can’t computers work faster??

~What inspires you?

My girls and other creative people.

~What is the best time of day for you to create?

I’d say morning, but I’ve been working really late nights in order to actually get things done!

~Tell me about your biggest fan.

My husband. He has liked pretty much every single dress I’ve made and every single photograph I’ve done.

~What is your strangest request?

Dressmaking: To screen print “Juicy” on the skirt back for a 3 year old. That was the little girl’s nickname.

Photography: To take photos of art work to send to a printer in China for a catalog because the communist government would not allow this artist’s pieces to be transported in and then taken away again. He is a “treasured artist” so his pieces must remain in China.

~What is your favorite request?

To make whatever I want and surprise them!

~Which similar artist do you most admire?

Dressmaking: Ashley of Lil Blue Boo. I use her patterns and I admire that she shares so much of her creative knowledge and work flow. She likes helping the stay-at-home mom in building a business for herself.

Photography: There are SO many I would never be able to pick one.

~Which classic artist do you most admire?

I am a huge fan of Picasso. I don’t always love every piece he’s done, but I admire him for experimenting with so many techniques and mediums.

~What do you know now that you wish you knew when you began?

I think I’m so new at this I’m still learning and have so many questions!

~Tell me an artist you’d like to have subjected to these questions?

Sofia of chimi and changa. She is an architect as well as a designer and she makes dolls now too!

~What is your favorite flower?

Roses. The smell is intoxicating!!! I do like peonies too.

*a giant "thank you" to Olivia for sharing with me! all photographs and interview words in black are owned by Olivia.