Momma Told Me: November 2012

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My Pony Moment: Childhood Gift Obsessions

Growing up there was always something about Christmas that seemed just a bit more magical than even my birthday. What could possibly make this holiday outshine an entire day dedicated to myself? Perhaps it was the fact that every major toy company was vying for the dime of those shopping for me. Yes, right around November each year the hottest toys began to surface through infamous sources such as the notorious Toys R' Us Big Book. It didn't take many years for Momma to figure out this was one propaganda filled periodical she did not need in the hands of her daughter. I'd go crazy, circle things, I didn't even know what they did! In honesty, I think it was the sheer idea of Christmas; colorful parcels tied with ribbons and bows, just waiting to be unwrapped. For the most part I cared quite little what was inside- simply that those presents were for me.

I grew up in the 90s; a childhood in which the first half was governed by statistics that showed the average girl had 7 Barbies (and we're not talking knock-offs), and the second half by malfunctioning attempts at interactive toys, such as the Furby. Anything classic (dolls, puppets, doll houses) Momma would always make for me. I recall the first 10 years of my childhood were marked by handmade gifts from Momma; I have meticulously protected through my adulthood, for their cherished memories. The exception to this being the very first gift I received, a 1986 Limited Edition Cabbage Patch Doll, a sort of 'Welcome Home' gift, that sits in my living room to this day. And, while I could go on about how they don't make toys like they used to (Chubbles, GloWorms, Radio Flyers), this post is about my 'Pony' moment.

We all have at least one. That one thing you wished for most as a child, writing year after year to Santa; even dropping a few casual requests into those prayers. How iconic is the image of a little girl in ribbons and satin, bounding down the stairs on Christmas Morning, hope for a Pony dancing in her eyes? It may not be so iconic, but I certainly had a Pony; an item I wished for for years (and not to spoil the tale, but ultimately went out and bought myself with my first paycheck as an adult, just because). Yes, that golden gift was a Super Nintendo system. My childhood lullabies had been tirelessly accompanied by the soundtrack of Zelda and Star Tropics, as Pop played into the wee hours in the bedroom beside mine. And when I awoke in the middle of the night, terrified of the monster beneath my bed, I'd often sneak into my parent's room where the NES credits still scrolled on the glowing television screen.
Our NES system had been a major purchase for our family; finances tight with one working parent, a disabled Momma, and a young child. Looking back I suspect it was Pop's Lazy Boy Recliner, or Big Screen TV- that was his baby. But I knew video games from birth, and the 1991 Summer introduction of the Super Nintendo System quite literally rocked my world. I spent every year from 5-18 listing it at the top of my Christmas wishes. Year after year I would come home from Grandma's (where we spent our Winter holidays), crestfallen and longing for that shiny silver system. It was my Pony. So much so that even after I had received a Playstation 2, the year of my high school graduation, I still spent December 26th next door playing the neighbor's SNES.

This year some of the hottest toys are already sold out and back-ordered at major toy stores. It seems every year tenacious parents have to foresee the trends and stock up long before Black Friday, if they're to see those treasured smiles Christmas Morning. Thankfully we live in a day and age where we can not only browse and shop millions of items at our fingertips, but enjoy the benefits of competitive pricing and lightening fast shipping (right up until the day before Christmas). I do virtually all of my holiday shopping online, and one of my favorite places, for child or adult, is eBay, where I know I can find out of stock and hard to find hits. I'm also guaranteed to find unique gifts I won't see anywhere else, for a truly memorable Christmas moment. I've saved so much time and money getting my holiday shopping done online, that I've even indulged in recollecting some childhood memories; most recently the Chubble I'd misplaced in moving. Holiday shopping doesn't have to be a headache, or a disaster- check out this hilarious commercial from eBay; it about sums up the ease of click and ship gifting.

Do you have an item you asked Santa for year after year? What one toy is most iconic to your childhood?

As Required By The FTC: This is a Fashionista Events opportunity. All thoughts are my own.

Project Repat: American Made Custom T-Shirt Blanket Giveaway and Review~ 12/1

Momma Told Me: There's enough clutter in this country to clothe the world.

I still recall the first time I walked into a Salvation Army, tightly gripping Momma's hand, eyes wide with wonder at the seas of white basins, mounding over with forgotten clothes. It was unlike any store I'd ever been into before. There was an odd aroma in the air, I could not place, and people feverishly combing through racks double my height, with everything from ball gowns to jeans. Usually on our excursions out I'd be permitted to select one item, in tandem with good behavior. Momma had to hoist me up to see into the children's clothing bin; in my eyes a ball pit of rainbow fabric. In no time I had clutched onto a bright pink pair of overalls with a teddy bear applique. I look up to Momma with hope in my eyes, wondering if it was within my 'budget' (I was much too young to have a clear concept of value or money). On the left lapel where was a colored scrap of paper stapled to the denim, Momma inspected this piece of paper then looked down at me. "Yes, and you can pick out another!" I was in love.
Long before I could comprehend the delicate balance of our environment, and the waste we create within our lifetimes, I had a romantic fondness for the notion of re-purposing. There was something inherently magical that I could walk into a store and purchase something otherwise discarded by it's previous owner, and love it just as much, or more, than in it's heyday.  As a crafter, we typically frequented second hand stores with the sole intent to up-cycle, or repurpose, though I'd often find treasures of my own. Of course, through the years, I began to see the extended benefits of what we were doing, in recycling our own forgotten treasures, and purchasing those of others. Over 250 million tons of waste is generated and thrown into American landfill each year, and of that, roughly 30% is actually recycled into new materials. Of the constant output of waste, generated worldwide, an estimated 5% annually is used textiles (think clothing, blankets, tablecloths, etc). In my opinion this is one of the most upsetting statistics; there is virtually no reason a fabric based product should ever be thrown out- barring severe wear and tear. We live in a world were mechanical laundering is not only common, but typically taken for granted, and our own citizens (even our Veterans) go cold at night. When you are without a warm meal, or shoes on your feet, in the middle of Winter you care not what brand the shirt is on your back, or the pattern of the blanket around you, you are simply grateful for their existence.
You don't have to be Betty Homemaker to cut down on material waste- I live in a town where we have 7 identified drop bins for clothing collection. It doesn't get easier than taking the old clothes you were about to toss in your garbage bin, and dropping them into a slot on your way to drop the kids off at school. This is something I try to do twice a year, and even at that it seems we always have clothing that doesn't fit, or hasn't been worn in ages, just lying around in our closet. When my grandmother passed away earlier this year my younger cousins had mentioned an intent to sew some of her old clothing into baby blankets, for her grandchildren; so that her love and memory could touch children for generations. Somehow I had never heard of this concept before, as ingenious as it seemed. To take squares of fabric from a loved one's clothing and sew them together in mini-quilts for memorial is a touching and green concept. So I set out online to see if anyone was offering a service like this, memorial, or otherwise. As it turns out, someone was; Project Repat.
Short for 'RePatriot,' Project Repat focuses not only on the re-purposing of old textiles, but individuals. Their unique business model puts Americans to work at respectable jobs, earning fair and living wages repurposing old T-Shirts into scarves, handbags, and blankets. Repat is 100% USA, creating jobs and products within our country; something extremely important to me as the granddaughter of a Navy veteran. I understand that we cannot always buy USA made, but I try my best to whenever the opportunity (and knowledge of origin) is present. Putting money back into our own economy benefits us all, even if at a cost of a 2% markup over foreign goods. But with Project Repat, you're not only helping bring dignity to individuals otherwise jobless, and buying American processed, re-purposed, goods- you'll find T-Shirt quilts at 1/3 the price of alternative options. 
Project REPAT is a company of very real people, with a classic American feel for customer service and quality. When you arrive on their site you'll often be greeted personally within a few minutes. During my last visit Repat President, Nathan, flagged me down via the site's interactive customer service chat. While Repat originally began as a non-profit initiative involving the selling of T-Shirts reclaimed from Africa, the business model changed as the owners noticed a practical need for T-Shirt re-purposing. What if they could provide Americans real income earning jobs, while cutting down material waste, and offering a really unique product? All that was missing were some worthy and dedicated employees; after all President and CEO, Ross and Nathan weren't professionally textile inclined. And boy have they compiled some great Production Partners; NuPath Inc- a non-profit which employs individuals with disabilities, Precision Sportswear- a manufacturing company out of Fall River, MA (my Father's hometown) who has overcome generations of industry obstacles, and Opportunity Threads- that offers meaningful textile jobs out of North Carolina.
So how does one purchase an amazing T-Shirt quilt blanket made from their own up-cycled threads? The process is incredibly streamlined, and cost effective for the consumer. Simply visit Project Repat and add the blanket size of your choosing to check out. Be mindful that the various sizes require different quantities of old T-Shirts, ex; 4' x 3' = 12 shirts, and 7' x 7' = 49. These formulas are based on the 1' x1' squares Repat will cut from your shirts, and then sew together back to front, or front to fleece, depending on your chosen backing. Once you have paid for your blanket online you will receive a very colorful Project Repat box in the mail including an official order form (for placement instructions and special requests, as well as identification), and postage paid return mailing bag.I should note that the customer does not pay any additional shipping fees out of pocket; all of those are included in your initial purchase price.
When our Repat box arrived we already had 24 of our own, personal, retired T-Shirts set aside, with a requested 30 for completion. I didn't hesitate to take the other half on over to our local second hand store and scour the racks. We found some really great local shirts that pertained to local hangouts and themes to fill in our remaining 6 slots. I paid less than $5 for all 6 shirts, and the profits went directly back into my community through the thrift organization (WIN!) When we got home we neatly folded all 30 of the blankets as best as flat as possible and began sliding them into the prepaid mailer bag. The bag is made of thick plastic, but still tested the laws of physics with our 30 shirts (half of them were rather excessive in fabric at a size 2x). In the end I scrunched every last shirt in, almost forgetting to include my order slip, and taped the sucker up with a generous portion of duck tape. It was dubious whether my local post office would accept it but the parcel miraculously made it to Repat without incident.
The average production time for these blankets is 5-7 weeks. (So get those holiday orders in now!) However, you may 'rush' an order for a 1-2 week turnaround for an additional $50. Ours arrived within 3 weeks; though I suspect this is due to a media rush for our posting deadline. Air on the side of caution, especially this time of year, and anticipate an average 5 week production period. I could hardly wait to see our beautiful Project Repat creation and was beyond thrilled with the detail and quality in craftsmanship. It was clear skilled workers had processed our shirts and carefully sewn them together; with a lovely little fringe border around the outside. The majority of our 'fronts' are arranged on the main 'front' side of the blanket, where some printed backs appear checkered throughout the back. I have to say I'm fairly pleased with the cropping decisions and placement; though you can literally layout your blanket shirt by shirt for a nominal extra charge.
Our Repat blanket is buttersoft to the touch thanks to all of the processing (wear) we meticulously put into the shirts over the years, and quite warm considering is is double layered cotton. Repat is now offering baby blankets, a great way to memorialize your little one's first years; and would make a wonderful gift for any college student. In truth, I could see limitless cases where a custom T-Shirt blanket would make a very meaningful gift, and the eco-friendly, American made, initiative behind the company is simply the icing on the cake. If you are looking for a one of a kind family heirloom or gift this holiday season look no further- place your order today and enjoy an exclusive (and generous) 25% discount with code: mommatoldme.

What Daughter Says: Be part of an amazing movement, support American jobs, cut material waste, and experience the awesome 'T-Shirt Blanket,' with Project Repat.

One Momma Told Me reader will have the privilege of putting together their own 5' x 6' T-Shirt Blanket from Project REPAT.

Hepper: Hepper Pod- Thoughtfully Designed Pet Furniture Giveaway and Review~ 11/20

Momma Told Me: There's got to be a better way!

When I was about 8 we had a gorgeous Long Hair White Cornish Rex (breed) cat we had saved from abandonment in a nearby alley. We'd taken him home to our humble little condo and could immediately tell he had been domesticated prior. A quick vet check found that Kimba (named after the childhood cartoon character Kimba the White Lion) has very serious growths along his collar, and would require expensive medical treatments. This is no doubt the reason this loving animal had been abandoned in the first place; a tragedy, yes, but he quickly became a beloved family member with us. Momma had a knack for taking in ill animals, and her compassion for them is something I've carried on into my own adulthood. But where is this tale going? Well, you see, that was the first time our family became a 'pet home'.

Living in a small 2 bedroom condominium, with boxed in 'porch' and a center dining/living room meant design was limited. One could always see the dining area from the couch, and vice versa. So discrete pet furniture was out of the option. Shortly after Kimba moved in so did a towering skyscraper of plywood and carpeting, known as a 'cat tree'. Looking back I can imagine this was one of Momma's nightmares, a precocious young girl, quite the tomboy herself, and a rambunctious cat transitioning back from living wild. And oh how she despised that piece of furniture. Really, who honestly wants to stare at a myriad of barrels and poles covered in torn up carpeting? But she loved her daughter, and her cat, so she endured through the makeshift cat tree 'forts' I'd devise, and the endless hissing that would follow me sticking my entire head in the various compartments. Even my father began treating the cat tree as more of a fixture; it would collect strewn coats, and even hide prized gifts from my childhood. (You may recall tales of a 4' long stuffed lamb I'd received for Valentines from my dad- this was 'presented' hanging out of said cat tree).
Yes, having cats means having cat furniture. deny them designated safe spots to lounge and hide, and they will inevitably claim what you deem as 'yours' as their own. When I first adopted Truffles I didn't have the luxury of contemplating these issues; we were in a fairly cramped space and she had free reign over whatever she could get her paws on. I tried to provide makeshift shelters, in the form of eco-friendly cat towers, but these things only seemed to add to the clutter and disarray. Now that we are all a happy family in our own space, the challenge, with 2 cats and a dog, is to find modern pet furniture that is functional and stylish. Like most kids, I'm sure they don't care about the print of their pet beds, but, like most parents, I try to impress my tastes upon them. And it is exceedingly difficult to find tasteful pet furniture that is as equally functional as it is design friendly. Believe it or not I spend a great deal of time browsing websites and blogs specifically engineered for the design savvy pet owner. And that is precisely how I stumbled across Hepper and it's breathtakingly executed, Hepper Pod Bed.
Hepper embodies pet furniture elegance; specially designed by an actual cat owner (he owns quite a few felines, I hear), these pet beds, loungers, and scratchers are intended to delight both the user and the buyer. With a very simplistic color palette, mesmerizing curves, and void of needless frills, the Hepper line is quite accurate to the cat's namesake, whom the line was intended for. Intrigued? Read up on the Hepper story here, and discover what Hepper is really short for. In the mean time I'd like to gush a little over what has quickly become the hot spot of our household; the Hepper Pod. Out of the box the Pod's materials are very lightweight and incredibly easy to assemble. While possible solo, the process will speed up dramatically if you have an extra pair of hands to stabilize the steel frame. Once screwed together the Hepper Pod has 3 more elements, the bed basin and optional hood top (made of flexible and soft fabric laminated foam), and the provided reversible sherpa lined bedding pad. All 3 elements have guided notched that pop onto the small bulbs at the top of the frame. The foam 'shell' exterior will give  when gently forced, do not be afraid of tearing.
Assembled I was amazed how light the Pod was and feared it might not handle the weight of Frankie, our heavier (10lb) cat jumping in and out. Since assembly I can say that this is a very durable, and stable, piece of pet furniture. I hardly see it budge on our laminate floors, yet benefit from the ease of relocating it from one room to the next. We had initially assembled the entire Pod for the cats to inspect, but neither seemed too interested in hanging out there for too long. The overall hollow/cove is about 1/2 the size of our smallest cat tree cove and even the smallest, Truffles (6lbs), seemed to want more space. So the hood easily popped off, and the Hepper pod converted into a lounger/bed. I would be doing a disservice to downplay the territory wars that have broken out over this 'prime' piece of pet furniture real estate. We have 2 cat trees, for just 2 cats, in our home, and the Pod is without fail constantly occupied.
Frankie seems to get the Pod more than Truffles, even going to lengths of swatting her off, when he wishes to sunbathe in the window. I allow this only because Truffles has an entire tree just 2' behind the Pod's usual home. However, when Truffles finds the Pod unoccupied (perhaps Frankie is out for a restroom break, or checking the perimeter, she loves nothing more than to curl up in the pod. Sometimes we'll even catch a few paws, or a tail lazily twitching over the side. Thank goodness the dog hasn't discovered it yet (I think it's just high enough off the ground she won't bother), because I don't need another jealous pet! The Hepper Pod has been surprisingly successful in my home, and I cannot praise it enough for it's ease of transport or cleanliness. When the Pad gathers too much pet fur I simply toss it in with the wash, it doesn't get any simpler than that!

What Daughter Says: Don't compromise your style for your pet's comfort; Hepper has design friendly pet loungers and beds.

(A common sight around here....someone's always coveting out Hepper Pod!)

One of our readers is going to win a Hepper Pod Bed, thanks to the amazing folks at Hepper!