Friday, June 12, 2009 offers unique handbags from around the globe

I'm about to divulge a secret.

I have an acute handbag fetish.

It started shortly after college with kitschy bags to match every outfit. It gradually progressed into straw bags from France, numerous Kate Spade totes and other designer handbags that are sold with those wonderful pillowcases to protect the precious gems while not in use. My closet is full of those little pillowcases. Once I started having children, my fetish morphed into an obsession with diaper bags--Oilily, Petunia Picklebottoms and, of course, Kates, to name a few. Now that I'm getting away from the diaper bags, I'm starting to feel those inner stirrings once again.

Lucky for me I have found an online outlet to fulfill my NOVICA, in association with National Geographic, initially began as a platform for artists and artisans to sell their wares--including home decor items, jewelry and gifts--to a global audience they might not reach in their native countries. NOVICA recently has launched a line of exquisitely hand-crafted handbags from artisans all over the world.

I have been drooling over all of the unique handbag designs and patterns. One of the bags that immediately caught my eye was this lime and strawberry alpaca wool shoulder bag, pictured at left. Made in Peru, the bag's exterior is a rich alpaca wool blend. The interior of the bag is lined with cotton and features a pocket to hold keys or other small objects. The bag closes with a magnetic button.

Another gem, also made in Peru, is this gorgeous brown leather bag, pictured at right. I easily could see myself taking this multi-pocketed bag shopping, with plenty of nooks to hold my keys, cell phone, credit cards and mad money. The chocolate brown leather handbag looks so rich, soft and supple, and the classic style will keep the bag current for years to come.

Tote bags are essential for busy moms who are always called upon to "hold this for me," and NOVICA has plenty of styles to fit the bill. This colorful cotton and hemp tote from Thailand (pictured left) is roomy enough for a day's necessities, yet stylish enough to let sophisticated moms stand out from their canvas-bookbag-wielding counterparts.

What I particularly like about the NOVICA site is that not only do they provide detailed product information, but also they include biographical information about each artist. The alpaca shoulder bag, for example, was crafted by the Yurivilca Family of Peru. The family is led by Don Cesar Yurivilca, considered a pioneer in the field of weaving who earned this designation by taking a departure from traditional weaving practices with his invention of the tapiz relleno technique.

"During my career I have received many awards and prizes, including the designation of Grand Master, but nothing satisfies me more than the love that I receive from my fellow countrymen - the only thing that will keep me going after I turn 80 years old. I hope that through Novica I am able to meet new friends and to also disseminate the art and culture of my country, Peru," says Yurivilca.

I cannot recall a time I ever was afforded a lesson in culture when purchasing a Kate Spade bag, unless you take into consideration eBay write-ups detailing how many times the bag was used on what occasion along with descriptions of wear-and-tear.

My husband, always the pessimist when it comes to my internet purchasing habits, cautioned me that the NOVICA handbag site might exact a hefty shipping fee for these worldly purchases; however, the rates are actually quite reasonable. Normal delivery (two-four weeks) for the alpaca bag is just $3.95; premium delivery (five to 14 days) is $12.95; and the gotta-have-it-now priority premium (four to eight days) rate is $21.95. Of course, rates vary by country, but all are quite affordable.

Much like the swine flu, it seems my handbag addiction has taken on global proportions. However, my ill easily will be cured with a few purchases from Now if you will excuse me, I need to get back to my virtual shopping trip.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Busy Bodies Playnasium offers cool alternative for playdates, parties

When we moved to Charles Town from Gaithersburg four years ago, we knew we'd be giving up a lot of the conveniences of the city for a more laid-back country lifestyle. No longer could we walk to Starbucks or easily scoot to a shopping mall or Target to pick up a dress or birthday present for one of the kids' friends. It was a trade-off we were willing to make in order to bring our children up in a safe environment.

What we did not realize, until the kids were of school-age, was that there was a definite lack of facilities or establishments to hold birthday parties or playdates. Whereas Gaithersburg had Chuck E. Cheese and The Little Gym and pottery painting places galore, Charles Town offered little in the way of indoor activities for kids. (We made this discovery when Sophie turned five and we found ourselves trekking to the Frederick Chuck E. Cheese in honor of her milestone b-day.)

Max recently turned five and we were frantically scrambling to come up with a venue for his first Big Birthday Party with his friends. Initially, we thought we'd hold it outside at our home, but the weather at this time of year is unpredictable and I was not prepared to move the party indoors, especially considering our basement remains unfinished from a flooding incident. JayDee's Family Fun Center was an option, but it's quite a ways from our house and we were looking to spend considerably less than the cost of their party packages. Someone had mentioned Busy Bodies Playnasium off Augustine Avenue in Charles Town, so I began to do a little research.

Busybodies is in the former location of Small Scholars Preschool and is run by Jefferson County parents Michelle and Kerry Vance. According to their website, Busy Bodies Playnasium is a safe and clean indoor playground and party place for children ages infant through 10. The facility touts 2,300-square-feet of open play area, including a kid-sized crooked playhouse (pictured at left), a separate safe infant and toddler play area, a traverse climbing wall, interactive Velcro and magnetic walls with rotating activities and the piece-de-resistance -- a large inflated moon-bouncer with
13-foot-high slide.

Busy Bodies offers a number of reasonably-priced party packages, including morning Kiddie Korner or Muffin Mania Parties, all the way up to the more elaborate Super Slumber Party which includes private use of the facility from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. Party packages also offer a la carte accoutrement's such as cakes, ice cream, goody bags, video camera rentals and more.

For Max, we chose to have the private Let's Party package where we had private use of the facility for two hours with up to 15 children. We brought our own cake and ice cream (actually purchased the ice cream from Save-A-Lot just a few doors down from Busy Bodies), decorations, snacks and drinks, and I put together personalized goody bags for each child. All three of my children (ages 3, 5 and 7) and their friends had a blast running around, bouncing in the moonbounce, climbing the rock wall and playing on the whimsical slide. Sophie even requested that she have her next birthday party there--what better endorsement than that of a picky seven-year-old?

When the party was over, and all of the guests had dispersed, Max got to put his handprint on the Wall of Fame.

In addition to parties, Busy Bodies serves as in indoor playground for kids when the weather is less-than ideal. Summer hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday; and 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, with afternoons reserved for private parties. Admission is $6 per one child 9 months to 10 years and $4 for additional kids. Save money by purchasing a monthly pass. Parents and caregivers enter for free and will find a welcoming environment complete with plenty of comfortable seating.

I know we will be spending a great deal of time at Busy Bodies Playnasium this summer when the weather is stormy or just too darn hot to be out of doors. Maybe we will see you there!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Been a while....

...since I last posted. Crazy stuff going on here at the Sew Dojo. For some reason, business has exploded lately and for that I am grateful. It's a rainy day in West Virginia, Carly is home and managed to go down for a nap without too much of a struggle. I am trying to get caught up on internet orders. I think my machine is getting old, as am I--we're both creaking and misfiring more often than usual--we're both in need of some work!

I have had the privilege of working with some great local businesses: Oasis Tans (formerly Hollywood Tans) and the Charles Town Auto Wash. In these trying economic times I feel it is important to support local businesses as much as possible. The people that run these two businesses feel the same way and are calling on locals to help get their businesses off to a great start (Oasis Tans is actually coming out from under a franchise and are in the process of re-branding). Also, I've done some work for St. Joseph Parish School (am looking forward to working with them to provide the students with logo apparel next school year!) and got to embroider the Pink Ladies' jackets for a local production of "Grease."

My obsession with market totes continues. I tried, unsuccessfully, to purchase some totes directly from the manufacturer in China, but wound up getting ripped off--an expensive lesson in why it's some times necessary to employ a Middle Man!

My sweet little boy turned 5 on my 8th Wedding Anniversary! He has turned into quite the little man since beginning Junior Kindergarten at The Country Day School last November! One of his favorite presents he received was a whoopee cushion from his grandparents. He even wrote a song, which includes riffs and phhts from the device as well as some clever lyrics, "Farts like a lady--phht, farts like a man--phht-phht--brrr-rack!"

I've been re-connecting with some friends from college and high school, courtesy Facebook. Am amazed that one of the girls that I worked with on the ASU State Press actually has won a Pulitzer Prize amongst other honors for her investigative reporting. I always knew she would do well. Some classmates have gone to write and publish books, some are practicing law. I hope they all are happy. I am blessed to have been in their company. Some times I wonder what my life would have been like had I chosen to pursue a career in journalism. But then I look at what I have right now and realize that my path was chosen for me and that I am doing precisely what I need to be doing.

Life as Suzi Homemaker might not yield prestigious awards nor fame, but it truly is a reward--and something I have strived for since I was a little girl of Sophie's age. I can't recall wanting to be a reporter at the age of seven (I think that came at age 14), but I do remember wanting to marry a prince and have children of my own. And on that note, Lil' Crowder is up and wanting to cuddle--gotta go get me some lovin'.