Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday Updates.

Good day all!

Monday seems as good a time as any to update you all on some "bloggy" business.

First, I am happy to say that we have raised enough money to send at least 1 Haitian child to school this year. Only 8 more to go (said with a sigh and a half-hearted smile ... but with plenty of hope as well)! If you haven't joined this collective campaign, please see here for more information. Even $1 can help! Thank you to everyone who has participated thus far. You have done a wonderful and generous thing for a child in need.

Secondly, if you haven't joined our Toy Story giveaway -- what are you waiting for? Come on already!

Lastly, a lovely lady over at Diary of a Crazy Rabbit Lady too is offering a prize to whoever can figure out the theme behind her Mosaic Monday. AND she has featured one of my etsy items in her mosaic :) So - head on over there and see if you can figure it out. I will give you one hint, it is NOT bunnies. Enjoy.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

Per A Friend's Suggestion ...

(What is the sound of one goat laughing?)

After a day seemingly filled with setbacks and aggravation, a best friend (who had to listen to my griping) suggested that I would do well to remember all of my blessings. She suggested I take the time this evening to write down all the things I am thankful for ... and in doing so, I would forget the days woes and fall asleep with a smile on my face.

Please indulge me while I share a bit of the beauty that makes the ugliness seem ridiculous by comparison ...

I am eternally grateful for :

* my husband's unwavering love, devotion, and admiration for me and our son.

* parents who love me BIG. And who love my son even BIGGER.

* the love and wisdom that my brother is finding within himself.

* my camera.

* Dave Matthews.

* the lovely young woman I met at Borders --- who shared her adoption story with me --- and reminded me that Isaac's adoption is not something he needs to overcome --- but rather something that he will celebrate.

* my small, sweet farm and all its inhabitants.

* Walt Disney World.

* true friends --- who help you to be your best self.

* witnessing everyday acts of kindness all around me.

* the ocean.

* this blog --- and all the joy it has brought to my life --- especially the friendships.

* art. Expressing myself through it --- and enjoying the artistic expressions of others.

* sharing wonderful picture books with my son.

* the feeling I get when I dive into a body of water. Only kisses from my son and husband could feel better.

* finding unexpected vintage goodies at thrift stores.

* the woman who gave birth to my son.

* novels filled with wonder and fantasy.

* the cool breezes of a late summers evening.

* and oh so very much more ... random smiles from strangers, elephants, vibrant colored paints, eyesight, the smell of patchouli, my husband's humor, trampoline jumping with Cousin Ange, museums of every kind, trees, baby bums ... and on and on ...

Yes, some situations suck. Some days are better than others. But LIFE is oh so good. And the good absolutely outweighs the bad. My son and husband alone are enough to brighten any day. I just sometimes forget that.

What about you? What brightens your day? What are you thankful for?

Enjoy it all.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Just When I Thought Life Couldn't Get Any Better ... (A Giveaway)...

Have I told you already that there is a Toy Story 3 coming out next year? I seem to be telling everyone. We are huge fans of Pixar ... and especially of the Toy Story films ... and every one of us is looking forward to seeing Woody, Buzz, Jessie and the gang again. So, if you haven't heard the "buzz" (pun intended) surrounding this upcoming movie ... check this out:

And to celebrate this momentous occasion (okay - so the movie is still a year away ...) I am going to host a Toy Story giveaway. The prize will be kept secret (for now) and here is how you enter : Tell us one of your favorite lines from Toy Story 1 or 2. Leave it in the comment section of this post via the blog (not Facebook or Twitter). And be sure to include your current e-mail address so I can contact you if you are the lucky winner!

Share the Toy Story love my friends.



P.S. Entries will be accepted till midnight Sept. 6th. Winner announced Sept. 7th.

P.P.S. If you cannot remember a particular line, please share something you love about the Toy Story movies, or some other related tidbit :) All comments will be welcome and entered into the drawing!

UPDATE: Here is the picture of what is being given away ... a handmade Toy Story journal made from an upcycled Golden Book. For details see here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What Happened to Borders Books?

For many years, I worked at Borders Books, Music & Cafe as a Children's Bookseller and Children's Event Coordinator. I loved my job. Really loved it. I started working at the store in Bangor before it even opened. I helped stock the selves, merchandise my area, and create fun events for drawing in customers. This was back in the day when Borders cared about customer service, about getting the customer the exact book they were looking for, and about hiring just the right "book-smart" people for assisting customers. I didn't just help customers, I formed relationships with them ... as did my fellow co-workers. It was a place to come to for Friday Night Jazz, famous author book signings, The American Girls Club, Homeschoolers Night, and so much more. We were an eclectic bunch of booksellers, music sellers and cafe workers too. Some men wore skirts, some other folks had all manner of facial piercings, some were working moms while others were retired military. And - for the most part - we all cared deeply for either books, music, great coffee or all of the aforementioned. But all this seems to have changed ...

Slowly but surely, (with the replacement of the former CEO), Borders has become nothing more than a "big-box-store". I haven't worked there for years now, but have always been a loyal customer ... and I have finally settled on the fact that the book shop I loved so well will never be the same again. All the dedicated book-loving employees are gone. The music department is almost no more. The coffee shop is now owned by another company. The registers are inundated with candy, cheap magazines and dime-store souveniers. The various fun nights of music and social gatherings are totally gone. And our once beloved children's department now looks like a toy store:

One day, Isaac and I walked into Borders, after just having been there two evenings prior, to find that what we used to call the "book cave" was now filled with all manner of "Made in China" toys. I was absolutely appalled. I asked to speak to a manager - who turned out to be one of the shift managers I had worked with before. I asked him what in the world was going on. He assured me that there were just as many books as there had been prior to their "toy store makeover" ... but truth be told - I don't believe him. There simply is no possible way. Everywhere I looked, there were toys - not books. I then asked him "Why?". He told me that the company had to sell what people want ... and they don't want books. SERIOUSLY??? What happened to America when people no longer want to buy BOOKS from a BOOKSTORE??? Am I that unique in wanting my son to grow up surrounded by books, music and social gatherings? In Bangor? I mean - Bangor was/is all about kids, community, social experiences, small-town gatherings, education, etc. What happened? And where was I when the change took place?

Needless to say perhaps ... but I am flustered by this. It has rattled me in ways I didn't know were possible. I want my old Borders back. I want some skirt-wearing man with a ring in his nose to help me find the perfect book for my Isaac. I want to drink my latte on a Friday night to the sounds of a local jazz band. I want to meet the latest local authors and have them sign my books. I want Isaac to be able to attend some fun kid-oriented gatherings --- like the old science club we used to run, etc. And I definitely want to buy BOOKS at my local BOOKSTORE!

Can you feel me people? What do you think? What is going on in your neighborhoods for better or for worse? And more importantly --- where do you find your books?



P.S. I am lovin' that my man is growing out his gorgeous curly locks (see top photo). Yummy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Instilling the Love of Reading ... No Matter What.

I read to Isaac every day. We have loads of books and I am always scouting for more (usually at thrift stores). I love to read him classic stuff of the fairy tale variety --- his favorite being Jack and the Beanstalk. I tend to be pretty particular about the books that enter our home --- they have to have some "meat" to them --- some depth --- some inspiration, etc --- or they don't get bought or borrowed.

But what could I do when Isaac won "The Backyardigans Hide and Go Boo" from his local library for completing his summer reading list? He loves it. Its what Mama calls "crap"... but he thinks it is marvelous. I tell you what you do ... you give in to it ... because he is reading (or trying to) ... and you just have to let go and allow him to explore what he loves. That's what you do. Hard as it may be --- and as much as I may want to eventually see "The Wind in the Willows" between his fingers --- I may have to settle for "Junie B. Jones". And I know for sure that if I suggest that "The Wind in the Willows" is a better book --- it will never get read. So, The Backyardigans it is --- for now --- until it mysteriously disappears :)

Enjoy your reading!

Monday, August 24, 2009


I love to share. Apparently my Mom and my kindergarten teacher taught me well.

I share books on Paperback Swap and BookMooch. I drop off my previously loved goodies to my local thrift shops. And I share my leftover fabrics with whoever can use them. To my mind, that is how we can create more self-substainable, environmentally-conscious, frugal communities --- through sharing.

Well ... I just found a new way to share: Zwaggle! It is an online sharing group for parents who want to give away their child's previously loved goodies ... while taking in new goodies for their child(ren) to enjoy. From clothes to books to toys to cribs! Check it out.



Friday, August 21, 2009

Backpack Eye Candy for Back-to-School

Shameless Shop Promotion Time!

I am having a blast making pinback buttons for my shop. And people are loving them! (See my shop feedback here.) They are so cool as backpack "graffiti" --- and I thought that some of you may want to include them on your back-to-school shopping list.

I have all sorts of buttons already made:

... and some that I haven't yet taken photos of, including the following themes:

* Star Wars

* Charlie Brown & Snoopy

* Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

* Winnie the Pooh

* Frog & Toad

* Little Bear

* Vintage Fairy Tales

* Disney's Peter Pan

* Beatrix Potter


I can customize a lot of them for you ... mixing & matching themes ... selling bigger or smaller lots. You decide. And if you have a theme in mind that I have not mentioned ... I am 99% sure I can make it for you! I am constantly sifting through old books in order to find art to recycle into pinback buttons.

All pins are one-of-a-kind, as they are created from previously loved books. And even if I have duplicate copies of a book, the chances that I cut them the exact same way are slim.

So - if you are interested, please e-mail me at (or via this post and/or Facebook/Twitter) and I will be glad to create a custom order for you. Or if you prefer, you can just go to my shop and purchase some there.

Thank you for your continued patronage ... and for buying local, handmade goods!



Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Little Incentive.

Thank you to those who have pledged their donation to my (our) current Haitian Roots campaign. I am hoping that together - we can sponsor 9 (or more!) Haitian children to attend school this year.

As an incentive for your participation, I am offering one of my handmade journals to the first, tenth and twentieth donors (maybe more as we go along). I have already contacted the first generous donor. She will be receiving The Tortoise and The Hare upcyled Golden Book journal.

How about you? Please consider sending a check for as little as $1. A little bit goes a long way in Haiti. And you may win a prize for doing so :)

Interested? Please read this post to find out more.

Thank you.


P.S. I have posted some of my Belfast, Maine photos here. More to come.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

$1 At a Time ... Can Save Lives.

Now is the time when most Americans are rushing around to get their children ready for the new school year. Millions of parents are shopping for the best deals on school supplies, new outfits, lunch boxes, backpacks and other school needs. Some of these back-to-school children are excited while others are dreading their return to the world of homework and tests.

Yet, just a stones throw away ... in our neighboring country of Haiti ... there are children who want desperately to go to school ... but their parents have no means of paying for it ... let alone paying for school outfits and supplies.

But the thing is ... though it costs nearly an average years salary for Haitian parents to send their children to school (there is no public education there) ... it costs US just $250 a year to send one of their children to school. Imagine that! It is so easy for us to help them so that they may grow to help themselves. Haiti is in dire straits right now - there is no doubt of that - but if we give these kids a fighting chance - they can turn things around.


If every person who reads this blog ... and who is on my Facebook and Twitter friend lists ... just sends me a check for $1-$5 (written out to Haitian Roots and fully tax-deductible) ... we can send the following kids to school for the 2009/2010 school year:

Wouldn't that be wonderful?! We could give these 9 kids (not-yet-sponsored kids that I found on the Haitian Roots website - an organization run by a very dear friend of mine) an opportunity at life.

Last year, our family sponsored two young girls (we plan to do so again this year) ... and we received updates on their schooling, including a letter and hand drawn picture by one of the girls. What an amazing feeling it has been to know that a simple donation of $500 - paid directly to the school - has helped to change their lives and the lives of their families.

I encourage you - actually I beg you - to experience that same joy along with us .... and help us to send these kids to school ... where they not only will get the education that every child deserves, but they will also be guaranteed a hot meal each day (something they may not receive otherwise).

Please send a check for $1-$5 (made out to HAITIAN ROOTS) to the following address:

Jodi Renshaw

1746 Stillwater Ave.

Bangor, ME 04401

We will send the whole lot of checks to Haitian Roots & will make updates here on our blog as to how many children could be sponsored with your generosity. We will also be sure to update you about the children via Twitter, Facebook and this blog.

For more information on Haitian Roots, please see their website and blog. If you have any questions about how the money is spent, I would be glad to answer them for you.

As many of you know, our son is from Haiti - and this cause is very dear to us. Thank you for your love and generosity.



P.S. If you prefer to donate via Paypal ... please use this button:


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Meeting a Blog Reader!

I met my very first non-personal-friend-or-family-member blog reader at the Bangor Fair last week. It was so great and so very surreal. Until then I had always wondered if I would one day run into someone who might recognize Isaac, Halis or I (assuming that it was highly unlikely).

As the three of us got into line for the Haunted House ride, the woman in front of us asked me if I was the author of the This Handmade Life blog. I was shocked to be asked, but answered with an excited "Yes! Are you a reader?". She replied that she had found me while googling for something and has followed me a bit ever since. Turns out she is from the Boston area and was visiting the Bangor area with members of her extended family, including her gorgeous nephew who is shown in the above photo. When asked how she recognized us, she said that she saw me with the camera, then saw Isaac and put it all together. I was thrilled.

I know that I have readers out there - as my stats tell em so - but to meet a *real* person who reads some of what I put out into the universe was such a special validation of what I am doing with this blog. I would love to expand on it --- and continue to share nuggets of goodness for encouraging others to create their own unique "handmade life".

So - a big shout out to all my "peeps". Thanks for reading & sharing. Please let me know what you would like to see more of here.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Swimming is Good. Always & Everywhere.

Isaac, Meaghan and I are so totally in love with the water. Halis says that we would all swim in a puddle if it seemed large enough. I know he is right. We stayed at the coast this weekend - Belfast to be exact. The three of us swam in the hotel pool for hours. Literally. Then, after the 11am checkout, we all headed to the working pier in downtown Belfast to find some shells before heading home. Although I have never seen anyone swim in that area ... and even though we were fully clothed ... the water proved too enticing ... and the three of us jumped in for a swim. Sure - we were stared at by several tourists (especially when Isaac decided to swim naked) - but we loved it. The thing is, I think I am part Mermaid ... and so does Isaac. And I simply can't say no to a good swim. Thank goodness we live in Maine - as there is so much water here :)

More Belfast photos to come.

And stay tuned for a shop giveaway this week!


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Eat More

My friend Kenric is a video producer extraordinaire. He produced the following viral video for one of his local Vermont-based businesses. I love it ... and I love the product! They (Eat More produce simple - yet very trendy - screen-printed tees using organic cotton and earth-friendly techniques.

Enjoy the video (its a hoot - be sure to watch it all the way through) ... then check out their shop. You may want to order one of the Kale Guys favorites!


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

This Morning.

I stepped outside at sunrise this morning --- for the first time in years (I am not a morning person) --- and here is the beauty I encountered:

One-Eyed Jack crowed to the morning sunshine.

I greeted my sweet goat "Me" --- and when I went to feed her --- I noticed ---

--- that the newest batch of chicks has taken up residence in the goat barn ---

and --- a mouse has taken up residence in the feed bin.

I took a little walk and enjoyed seeing the morning dew sprinkled along all the wildflowers.

And I spied a spider grabbing its first meal of the day.

As I ended my morning exploration of our small farm --- making my way to the front door --- this creature (my Mom's cat) came underfoot --- trying to get friendly with me. (Keep dreaming kitty.)

Aside from the unwanted kitty (though she did make for a great photo op) --- it was a pleasure to explore a simple morning on our simple farm.

I will try to do it again --- at least for the photo opportunites that such a venture provides.

Enjoy your day!


Monday, August 3, 2009

Self Portrait.

Hi Friends!

Taken at the Bangor State Fair ... on my favorite ride :)