Guest Post: Meet Tara at Art Tree Designs

Hello, dear readers!  I am still away on vacation, and I have another guest post for you today.  Tara is a very dear friend of mine from college.  We played two of the Mundy sisters in a production of Dancing at Lughnasa and have called each other "sister" ever since!  Tara has several businessy things going on in her life:  she writes kids' books, sells items via Zazzle and Society6, and designs and sells fabric via Spoonflower.  In fact, she is here to tell you about Spoonflower today.  (FYI:  I make no money from my blog, so this is not a sponsored post.  This is a friend doing me a favor by filling in, and telling you a bit about herself and something she loves.)  - Danzel 

Thank you, Danzel, for asking me to guest post on your fabulous blog!!  How could I say no to that?!  I can't even tell you how many times I have taken notes or highlighted a post that you have shared so that I can turn around and share the wealth of information with my kids.  You know how they always say that you know you have a good friend by how you feel when you leave them after a visit...well I always leave your posts with skip in my step and a smile on my face.  I leave feeling inspired.  

Okay, so for my fifteen minutes I thought I would share with you all a fabulous site called Spoonflower.  Spoonflower is a place online where you can design your own fabric, wallpaper, decals and gift wrap.  They are located in Durham, North Carolina and over the last few years have created a large community of artists and buyers from all over the world.  You can choose to be a designer or a buyer and you can choose to make your designs public or private. Click here at Art Tree Designs to view my shop, so that you can see how it's all set up.  

I started doing this over a year ago because being a stay-at-home mom with three kids under the age of seven, I needed an outlet.  I needed a creative outlet bad!  I have always had an interest in fabric design so I went searching and stumbled across Spoonflower.  Every week, they have contests which are so much fun to do.  The contests have helped inspire many of the fabric designs that I have for sale in my shop.  This is my design titled Synchronized Fireflies that I have entered into the Fireflies Contest that is currently going on at Spoonflower.

Synchronized Fireflies by Art Tree Designs

To vote you do not have to be a member.  You just go online to Spoonflower's site and scroll over Connect and then click on weekly contest and vote for your favorites.  If you would like to go straight to the contest page you can click here.  The contests are a great way to see other designers work and also to see the different designs that people come up with when given a theme.  

The cool thing was that when I started doing this, I began noticing that my kids were paying a lot of attention to what I was doing.  I would be on the computer designing in Photoshop and look over to see them at their desks with a piece of paper drawing their own designs. They would run over to me all excited, asking what I thought of them. So it got me thinking why not put some of their work out there.  Here is my daughter Kate's design titled Apple Pie.  She drew the apples which I scanned onto the computer and then in Photoshop, brightened the colors and added the text.

Apple Pie by Art Tree Designs

Spoonflower has a connection with a group called PicMonkey. When you become a member, which it is free to do so, you can then create and click on custom fabric.  From there you can either download your design that you previously worked on in photoshop or you can create a design using the features from PicMonkey.  I usually choose fat quarter for the kids to create their designs.  There are so many colors and shapes and special effects to choose from.  

You will need to be there at first to guide the kids by letting them know of all their choices and showing them how to click and drag the images.  On the side you'll see hearts, stars, nautical, bubbles and, my kids' most favorite of all, facial hair.  They think that option is just hysterical.  After they are completely done creating their design, you click save and that will take it to your design library.  There you can set the design to be on repeat, half-drop, half-brick, center or mirror.  Then you can adjust the size of the images to be smaller and then save the layout.  Under marketing and selling, you can title your design, give a description, give tags and decide if you want the design to be in your public gallery.  

This can be hours of entertainment for the kiddos, and the best part is it is a no mess kind of art day.  Everything is done on the computer.  If you and your kids love what they have created and you would like to see it on fabric, all you have to do is add it to your cart.  You can purchase a test swatch, fat quarter or one yard on your fabric of choice.  I think for the kids especially seeing something that they design actually become something is truly the best part of it all.

When I first started at Spoonflower, I have to admit that I was a bit nervous at how the community treated each other and how I would be treated.  Fortunately those fears quickly disappeared.  The support from the team at Spoonflower and the support from fellow designers and buyers is truly amazing.  The comments that you receive are supportive and kind.  Most of the time if there is a glitch in my work I will receive an email from a fellow designer offering constructive criticism.  I've learned so much just by seeing and admiring what others create.  One very popular designer at Spoonflower named Ottomanbrim is a fine example.  She creates such fascinating and unique designs and her textures are amazing.  Here is one of her designs titled Crossing.

Crossing by Ottomanbrim

If any of you are interested in joining Spoonflower and you have questions, please by all means contact me.  I feel like I have been given such a gift to create with this group that I want to shout it out to the world!  My email address is  You can also reach me through my Art Tree Designs Facebook Page and my blog at  I would be so happy to share what I have learned and be there to support anyone who has a mutual interest in fabric design.  Any questions that you have I will do my very best to answer.  Thanks again, Danzel, for letting me take up a little space here on Silver Shoes & Rabbit Holes!  It was such an honor to be asked! :) 

Awww, Tara, you're so sweet!  Thank you so much for all your kind words.  And thank you so much for helping with my blog this week!  And thanks for sharing your talent with us!  

As I say every Friday, Merry Weekend!  Happy Reading! 

The Magical Land of Noom

The Magical Land of Noom by Johnny Gruelle.
Originally published by P.F. Volland, 1992.
This edition published by Books of Wonder/William Morrow & Company, 1998.

The girls and I are still reading the L. Frank Baum Oz books, but recently, I read another old fantasy book for children.  In fact, this one was inspired by Oz and received the same lovely treatment by Books of Wonder.

The Magical Land of Noom was written and illustrated by Johnny Gruelle, best known as the creator of Raggedy Ann and Andy.  (We love Raggedy Ann and Andy.)

 "Noom," by the way, is "moon" spelled backwards.  Johnny and Janey build a Flying Machine that surprises them by really flying!  Suddenly, they have zoomed to the moon.  It's the side of the moon no one on Earth can see.  It's Noom!

There are some lovely magical elements, reminiscent of Oz:  lemonade streams, mushrooms that taste like cake, along with some scarier elements.  Lucky for our duo, Gran'ma and Gran'pa construct their own flying machine and join them in their adventures.

Visions of Sock Monkey

Mr. B and I were chatting recently.  A Facebook friend had been looking at Mr. B's photo albums and wanted to know about one entitled "Visions of Sock Monkey."

"Now who did that?" the friend asked.

Big Sis loved to play photographer when she was younger.  One day, she took Sarah, the sock monkey my mother made her, and propped her up on the ledge of one of our 1950s square windows.  While my husband watched, she started posing the monkey, snapping pictures of it from all angles, like a fashion photographer.

Four years have passed, and the sock monkey pictures still crack us up.

Little Pear: A Guest Post by Silvia from Books Complicity

[Hello, dear readers!  I have a guest post from Silvia, who blogs at Books Complicity, and has an Etsy store of the same name!  She's here to tell you about a series of books I've never read.  (I love new-to-me things!)  Older copies may be found used, or at your local library, while new paperback editions are published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  Thank you so much, Silvia, for guesting on Silver Shoes & Rabbit Holes this week!  - Danzel]


When I saw a tattered paperback book at a library sale, with a cute Chinese boy on the cover that said, Little Pear, I knew I had found a good book. It was more than that, I discovered a precious series of books and a wonderful author, Eleanor Frances Lattimore. Serendipity put a sturdy red hardcover in my hands a week later. Ever since, we are captivated by the adventures of Little Pear, family, and friends.

What does a book need to be not just a good title, but one of the best? I will venture a few characteristics.

The narrative must touch on elements of a timeless childhood. The characters and places may not be familiar to us. No matter if the story happens in the past, or in remote countries, timeless topics that connect with the reader are offered.

The writing is not politically correct. Little Pear stories show us the values and beliefs of a Chinese family. They let children roam around in the street unattended or at the care of not too old siblings. In one of the books, it is mentioned that everybody knew each other in the village. His family describes Little Pear as a naughty little boy, and that is not an insult. I am thinking about Russell Hoban books, with France's father smoking a pipe. We can argue that those are cultural or epochal beliefs. It does not matter. What does is that the writer must not be compromised with an agenda (that makes for pitiful literature), but true to himself.

The writing possesses quality, what we call style
. I cannot define quality, or beauty. But when we read aloud, we easily notice the lack of it. When, by contrast, the story flows; when everything disappears around you, and reader and listener submerge themselves in the narrative, you are experiencing a great book.

Balance and congruence between text and illustrations. While it is said we cannot judge a book by its cover, if we are considering the best children books - even chapter books with sparse illustrations - cover and illustrations need to match the quality of the text. Yes, there are cheap and ugly editions of classics, and a great book is a great book, even read from an electronic devise. A nice edition of a book adds to the experience.  And a tattered book that belonged to you when you were a girl, or a vintage paperback with the original illustrator for a few cents, can be charming copies of a great book. But all great books have been published in a nice edition, possibly in many.

Age is usually a determining factor.  Older books usually have the best language, the best stories. Not by accident have they stood the test of time. Many are in the public domain, and they have been reprinted numerously occasions. Others are out of print, yet. But notice I wrote usually, because it is not always true any old book is great. Or it could be great, but not our favorite, more about this later. And I don't imply contemporary books cannot be some of the best, but they are too close to our noses for us to determine their proper value.

Where does our taste or preference fit in judging a great book? One is to put it at work for contemporary literature. Some of the books from our era we find wonderful, and we have our right to think of them as great. Time will judge them. They will be, if nothing else, dear books to us. We may not like a book, even if it's great. That's life. Though great books don't grow like mushrooms after rain, they are not a rarity, the list is robust. And the pleasure of finding some of these best titles is priceless.

Will I grow to read Little Pear to my grandchildren? Will I ever have grandchildren? Will the girls read some or any of these great titles to their children? I pray for that day to come! In the meantime, we are making the most of our present, and enjoying some of these best children books we have. 

[Thank you again, Silvia, for sharing these books and your words with us today!  And be sure to visit Silvia's blog and store, when you get the chance!  - Danzel, Silver Shoes & Rabbit Holes]

Obsessive Nostalgia Disorder Monday: The Fudge Books

The Fudge books by the great Judy Blume.

I wanted to take a moment and express my appreciation for Peter Hatcher and his inimitable little brother, Farley Drexel, otherwise known as Fudge.  For Sheila Tubman and Jimmy Fargo and Tootsie Hatcher and Turtle the Dog.  For their creator, the fabulous Judy Blume.

My first grade teacher read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing to our first/second grade combination class.  When I had the same teacher for second grade (non-combinaton), she read it again.  It was still funny.  Mr. Hatcher punishing Fudge for not eating by dumping his cereal on his head.  ("Eat it or wear!")  Fudge's birthday party and his poor, tired mom.  And of course, what happens to Peter's pet turtle, Dribble?

Did you read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing?  Do you remember when Fudge tried to fly in Central Park?

I read Superfudge when I was in third grade.  It was even funnier to me.  I even loaned my copy to my first/second grade teacher!

Fudge in kindergarten!  The family spending a year in New Jersey!  Beverly the Giraffe-Neck Lady!  Rat Face!

And over summer vacation, I read the book devoted to Peter Hatcher's nemesis, Sheila Tubman.  Sheila on vacation, stuck with dogs and swimming lessons and slam books, her sister Libby cast as Captain Hook instead of Wendy.

There are Fudge books that were published long after I'd outgrown them.  I scored the slipcased hardcover in a bargain bin, so I now had Fudge-A-Mania.  We had to buy the fourth book, Double Fudge, separately.  My 1986 Dell-Yearling copy of Otherwise Known As Sheila the Great is from a used book store.  (Boxed sets containing all five books are now available!)

I read them all to Big Sis.  Twice.  My sense of humor has changed over the years, but it's amazing how funny these books remain to kids.  Judy Blume really knows how to capture childhood, and I admit, I felt a bit like a kid myself, rediscovering the books.  And we discovered the Fudge television series from the mid-1990s on Hulu. Eve Plumb from The Brady Bunch plays Mrs. Hatcher, and Florence Henderson pops up as the grandma.

Superfudge.  E.P. Dutton, 1980.
Fudge-A-Mania.  Dutton Children's Books, 1990.
Double Fudge.  Scholastic, 2002.

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