Seasonal Soft Blocks

November 30, 2007

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Ginger at Golly G Designs has stitched up two new seasonal Soft ABC Block Sets in time for the holidays. You may now choose from the original Garden theme, a new Woodland theme (complete with a squirrel, hedgehog and grinning acorn) or a Shore theme (fish, whale, coral, jellyfish), for those of you who prefer life amongst the sand and waves.

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In the spirit of the season – and as a pre-holiday “thank you” to all of you lovely moms (and dads) who continue to support the shop – Quiet Hours is sponsoring a few holiday giveaways with two of our favorite mom bloggers.

Coming up the week of November 26th, Marcie at Adopt Two Boys will be giving away our Mini Holy Family Nativity Set by Ostheimer. Marcie is the originator of the Lead-Free Toy List, compiled as a resource for parents who are looking for alternatives to mass-produced plastics. Updated daily, there are links to shops that many of us know and love, as well as a few new secret sources to add to your gift-buying list. Marcie is one serious mama when it comes to raising awareness about safer and “greener” choices for our children, so it was a pleasure to join in her month-long round of giveaway generosity.  

I know many of you are Ostheimer fans and collectors, so this set seemed the perfect piece to celebrate the beginning of the Advent season. Its compact size makes it a good choice for a bedside table display, and also fulfills all those childish cravings for things tiny and portable. If you’d like to try your hand at winning, head over to the blog from November 28th-30th and follow the instructions for entering the contest.

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Come December 6th, I’m thrilled to be teaming up with Gabrielle Blair (designer/art director, mother of 5 and blogger extraordinaire) of Design Mom. Her blog is a great mix of unusual finds, how-to advice and inspiring ideas for making family life a bit more artful.  I should also mention that her giveaways are some of the most coveted in the blogosphere. This coming week kicks off her Holiday Giveaway season with up to 4 different giveaways per day (or enough goodies to bring some festive cheer to every member of the family).

Quiet Hours will be joining in on December 6th with a play food extravaganza fit for any aspiring junior chef. There will be a whole starter-kitchen package that includes: 2 enamel 4-piece dish sets, 1 crocheted market bag from the Rurapuk Mothers filled with a selection of HABA wooden fruits and vegetables, 1 set of knit cupcakes from Yellow Label Kids, 1 picnic set from Lilly Bean Play Food and one tiny 9″ wooden stove from Maileg complete with miniature pots, kettle and a “fresh” baguette from the oven.

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If you are still looking for holiday gifts for the favorite little person in your life, I hope you’ll head over to one or both of these blogs and join in the fun. Good luck!

Update 12/7/07: Congratulations to Stephanie who won the mini Nativity set from Adopt Two Boys’ giveaway! Also, a BIG thank you to Gabrielle over at Design Mom for the fantastic post on the shop she included with the QH giveaway information. Readers have until midnight December 10th to post a comment for the random drawing.

Since all this gift-giving is just plain fun, there will be one more surprise giveaway over at Apartment Therapy: Nursery on December 11th. More information will be posted once details are finalized.

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OCTOBER 2008 UPDATE: Hold on a bit longer, everyone. We are waiting for official word from Holzkram as to which pieces and how many they will be sending this holiday. Those of you on the waiting list will be notified first via e-mail, but look for an update on the blog as well. Thank you for hanging in there with us!

(2007 post) For everyone who has called or written looking for an update on our Holzkram pieces, here is an official post just for you:

Many of you have noticed that the Little House is currently on backorder and that the Cottage, Farmhouse and Farmhouse with Stable are listed as “sold out”. In fact, there was a good supply of Cottages and Farmhouses in stock, but some savvy parents swooped in early and bought them up over a 2-week period. I do not anticipate further shipments of the Cottage, the Farmhouse or the Dollhouse (see above) we had hoped for until 2008. 

am expecting a shipment of Little Houses to arrive around the end of November. That said, the response to its feature in Mothering magazine’s “Best Toys of 2007 Guide” has been enormous, and, sadly, there will not be a large enough supply to accommodate everyone on the lengthy waiting list. I will be e-mailing all those who have contacted me at the same time so everyone has equal opportunity to purchase a piece for the holidays. 

As mentioned in a previous post, Holzkram is becoming increasingly popular but remains a small firm. While our friends there have been working hard to supply us with their wonderful pieces, priority is understandably given to retailers in Germany and Europe that have been with them from the beginning. The demand from our one little shop in the US has grown tremendously over the past month alone, and both Holzkram and I are sorry to have to turn any of you away. We greatly appreciate your interest and continued support.

As of this writing, the Castle Set is still available. There is a waiting list for any piece that is sold out. If you would like to be notified when your favorite toy is back in stock, please e-mail me at info@quiethourstoys.com. I will be happy to let you know when it returns to our virtual shelves. Those on the list will also be the first to hear about any surprise last-minute shipments. 

September 2008 update:  We have not forgotten about those of you on the waiting list! Holzkram has had several unexpected setbacks this year and is working to catch up on production. We will see some Little Houses for the 2008 holiday season, but it is unlikely that we will receive any of the larger pieces (farmhouses, dollhouse, cottage). We have some alternatives -including Ostheimer’s classic farmhouse already listed in the shop – on the way, so check back in late September or early October for updates. I will notify everyone on the list as soon as I have something definitive to report. Thanks for hanging in there!

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Post from up north arrived this week, bringing the November issue of Canadian Family magazine. It was my first look at the popular parenting book, and it was a treat to see the work of some Quiet Hours favorites displayed in its pages. Resident daughter Ginger Warden of Golly G Designs was honored with not one, but two photo spreads featuring her Fruit Toddler Tote and one of the beautiful embroidered blocks from her Soft ABC Block Sets. She was in an autumnal state of mind when she crafted up a set of fall blocks for the shoot. We’re hoping these cute little critters will come our way in the next batch of blocks she is sending for the holidays.

If you look closely at the bottom of the lower left picture (girl pushing pram), you can catch a glimpse of one of Denise Mollison’s Sock Kids lounging around the floor with the other dolls. This spread was one of my favorites, along with another of a child buried in a pile of plush animals (lower right). They may not showcase a particular toy but they capture the fun of children at play.

Congratulations, Ginger and Denise!

Rumor has it that the December issue may feature pieces from amigurumi queen Ana Paula Rimoli and the hand-stitched fingerpuppet creations of Cheryl Smith. I’ll be keeping an eye out, and will post any pictures here. Many thanks to the lovely editors at Canadian Family for introducing the shop to your readers.

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Fair Trade and Cooperatives

November 6, 2007

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There is increasing attention being paid these days to fair trade goods made by cooperatives and collectives around the world. The idea is a hopeful one: Items are made by groups of people for a true living wage, with the added benefit of health care or education in some instances, and a move towards economic self-sufficiency.

Many of us are trying to be more mindful of how we spend our dollars this year, and are actively seeking handmade or fair trade pieces for our children. But do you ever find yourself wondering just how much good your money is able to do? I know I do. I hope the collectives are ethically run. I hope families that had little or nothing previously will benefit in some small way from my choice. I hope I’m not just assuaging my own conscience about having so much when so many others have so little.

I suspect I’m not alone in thinking this way. That’s why I’d like to introduce you to one of the groups involved in making wares for our shop. I work with several collectives and groups, some of whom have been collaborating with designers and companies for years. The EVI group in Brazil is perhaps the longest-standing of its kind. This group was originally started to help single mothers support their families by using their craft skills. Today their Waldorf-style dolls are known throughout the world.

Yellow Label Kids works through the Fair Trade Organization with a group of mothers in Bangladesh. En Gry & Sif works with a group in Nepal. Blabla commissions its scrumptious popular knits from a group in Peru. Georgian Wood Toys is a self-formed collective of artisans affiliated with the Waldorf educational movement in the Republic of Georgia. Their wooden toys are made in sometimes difficult conditions: When DoloresRose Dauenhauer first started importing their pieces a few years back, they had sporadic electricity and heating throughout the day, but they remained wholly dedicated to their craft, and our children have reaped the rewards.

Even older established firms like Kathe Kruse and Ostheimer have a history of employing mothers or those with disabilities seeking to do handwork from their homes.

There is one group of people, however, that really captured my attention this year, and I want especially to share a bit of their story with you. Known as the Rurapuk Mothers, they are based in an extremely poor neighborhood named “Paraiso Alto” outside of Lima, Peru. You can see a section of the area in the photograph above. I first saw this image  over the summer and was struck by how truly stark it is. Besides the obvious dilapidation of the houses, I noticed there was almost no green or vegetation to be found in the landscape. It turns out that Paraiso Alto has no running water, sewage system, clinics, parks or green areas, and many people do not even have electricity.

Yet, in 2002, a collective of mothers was formed with the goal of providing the women an income. The women knit and crochet in their homes and meet twice a week with a coordinator. So far they have created items for dolls and pretend play, with plans to introduce new items through Camden Rose (itself a collective of American artisans, educators and musicians) in 2008.

In addition to providing Fair Trade opportunities, Rurapuk also hosts a Hot Lunch Program that provides a vegetarian lunch for the children of the area five times a week. Individuals, organizations and families interested in sponsoring the program may contribute $15 a month to cover costs. (You may contact Camden Rose at 734-995-1400 for more details.) 

When I saw these photos and read about the group, I frankly couldn’t wait to place an order. This seemed one of those instances when doing something as small as buying a toy could provide a real benefit for people living in conditions we could not imagine. With so much need in the world, it is easy to become paralyzed and wonder how we could possibly contribute, or where to begin. Rurapuk helped me realize that sometimes it’s best to start with the things that are put right in front of you.

Quiet Hours currently stocks Rurapuk’s Market Bag and will continue to add items as their product line grows.

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Indie Magazine Love

November 4, 2007

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In this lull before we all gear up for holiday shopping, I’d like to extend a heartfelt thanks to the publications that chose to feature pieces from the shop in their Holiday Gift Guide issues. I’m blushing over here.

First through the letterbox was Mothering magazine with its annual “Best Natural Toys” feature. Like many of us, Candace Walsh and her editorial staff couldn’t resist Holzkram’s funky Little House, and got in touch. We had a special sample air-freighted to their Arizona offices where it was photographed and now appears in all its pint-sized glory on the first page of the feature. After so much buzz about our German friends, and so many complimentary e-mails from people, I’m thrilled to finally see one of their pieces in print.

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As if that weren’t enough to keep things giddy, natural-family-living advocate Kiwi magazine just released its Ultimate Green Holiday Gift Guide with our Ostheimer Animal Babies Set as one of the top “Baby and Toddler” picks. (Also on display is the nifty Tool Rattle Set from our friends at Yellow Label Kids.) As far as I’m concerned, Ostheimer can never receive too much praise. This is a firm that has been doing it right for 75 years – producing beautiful timeless toys with a care for the the environment, the people who made them and the children who will play with and love them. While other companies are jumping on the “green” and “fair trade” bandwagon, Ostheimer has been operating this way all along. They were one of the first to use sustainable materials and non-toxic pigments as well as to provide opportunities for employees (including those with disabilities) to work from their homes. To top it all off, the firm is located in a village in Germany where people can still bicycle to work. 

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So if you are discovering Quiet Hours for the first time as a result of one of these magazine features – welcome. Whether you’re a nursing, co-sleeping, homeschooling neo-pioneer-woman kind of mom or someone who is just trying to find some good toys for the kids, thanks very much for stopping by.

*Note to Kiwi readers: There was a mis-print on the price of our Animal Babies Set. The actual price is $54.00.