Bull's eye and the New York Times

It's been a crazy week. I am now home from my Idaho tour (yay Idaho!), and will post a recap of that later. With pictures. There are a 372 photos of the trip for me to sort through. So yeah, later.

But let me tell you about Wednesday. Wednesday was one of those pinch-me days. Wednesday I was on cloud surreal.

I am still on cloud surreal. . .

So, Wednesday I was up at my dad's mountain house, which is smack between Challis and Mackay, Idaho. It's the middle of nowhere, high desert with a gorgeous view of Mt. Borah, the tallest mountain in Idaho, and a lot of snow. It's so quiet up there I swear I can hear my thoughts rattle when they bounce around in my head. It's also a wonderland for my son, who gets to ride the tractor and ATVs and sled down the perfectly-pitched-for-sledding driveway and play with my dad's four Labrador retrievers. Heaven is Pop-Pop's house!

View from my dad's front porch
We started the day with a fine breakfast that my dad cooked: scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast made with homemade bread. I was in heaven, too. I'm generally in heaven when somebody else cooks.

I had been up all night coughing with a nasty cold, and the baby had been up all night because I kept waking her up with my coughing, so we were slow to get moving that day. I was deliriously tired. We lazed around in the morning and then, around noonish, decided to go sledding. I bundled up the kids and outside we went. Fun times were had by all. Even the baby got in on the action.

It's all fun and games until you crash into some sagebrush. . .
We came in and put the kids down for their naps. Then my dad and I went back out. My dad was going to teach me how to shoot a pistol.

Yep, you heard me right.

Now, I've never had any interest in guns. Like, ever. My dad is a bit of a gun fanatic, truth be told, and I grew up watching him clean his rifles and fill shells at the kitchen table and head off into the wilderness intent on killing a poor defenseless deer every fall, so I'm comfortable around guns, to an extent, but I never had the desire to shoot one. I like Bambi.

But this year I have a novel simmering on the back burner (which I have not allowed myself to write a single word of because I need to finish Book 3 of the Unearthly series first, but I have taken copious notes) where my main character is quite the sharpshooter with a six-shooter. And she needs to be. And that's about all I can tell you at this point.

So I decided I needed to know how it felt to shoot a pistol.

My dad was all too happy to oblige. He set up the target and cleaned the gun and taught me how to load it. We marched out into his backyard (remember that we are out in the middle of nowhere) and he taught me how to hold the gun, how to position my feet, how to aim.

Six bullets.

The first shot I hit the paper with the target on it. Barely. I was pleased that I hit it at all. My heart was going pretty steady just holding the loaded gun.

Second shot I missed. Not sure what I hit. Bah.

Third shot I hit the paper again.

Fourth shot I actually hit the target. I was feeling pretty spiffy about myself.

Fifth shot I missed the target completely. Double bah.

"Squeeze the trigger slowly," my dad advised.

I cocked the gun. Steadied my hand. Squinted at the target. And slowly, slowly, squeezed the trigger.

And hit the bull's eye.

Up to that point I wasn't sure if I liked this gun-shooting thing, but I'll tell you, it was quite the thrill to hit the bull's eye. I was channeling my sharpshooter character. I couldn't wait to get inside and write some notes about how the gun bucked in my hand, the way it smelled, how it felt to aim at something and hit it, and hit it perfectly.

I was all aglow when we came inside.

And then: there was a barrage of texts from my agent waiting on my cell. Texts like, Have you read your email yet? and I will call you as soon as I'm off the subway.

Oh boy. My heart really started going then. I turned immediately to the computer with the tar-slow-satellite-internet and waited for my email account to load.

It was a long wait. A nail-biting wait.

And lo and behold, an email from my editor at HarperCollins. Hallowed is #10 on the Children's Chapter Books bestseller list of the NEW YORK TIMES.

Congrats, my editor wrote. You are now a New York Times Bestselling Author.

Good thing I was sitting down.

Right then my phone rang, my agent off the subway, and we laughed and I may have even cried a little and my dad brought me a glass of champagne.

I've never been one to put too much stock in labels, but what I kept coming back to in those first few moments, again and again, was that this makes it so much more likely than I will be able to continue to write, beyond the Unearthly series, beyond this year or next year, beyond one book or two, but for my lifetime. I can be a writer, I thought. For good.

I made a bunch of calls, one of the first to my best friend, Lindsey.

She said, "Well, I hope I can still be your friend. . ."

Me: "Huh? What?"

Lindsey: "You're an all-important writer now. You're going to need new friends, of course. Important friends."

Me: "Well, I've heard that those New York Times besties are pretty great. . ."

Lindsey: "You see?"

Me: "But I think I can still squeeze you into my top five friends. If you're nice to me. . ."

We laughed and she said she was proud of me. Everyone kept saying how proud they were of me, and I felt proud of myself, too. Proud for being able to write Hallowed even though it was crazy-hard and maybe the most stressed I'd ever been in my life. Proud that I'd made it through. Proud that I'd written some pretty good stuff there. And also grateful and humbled and amazed and knocked over.

It felt pretty amazing.

Like hitting the bull's eye.

Haute Couture Choices Spring 2012


It's about time we reviewed the haute couture collections for spring 2012. Starting I have to say that I was very impressed by Elie Saab this time. But let's take it from the beginning.

The first show I saw was Chanel. I randomly checked out the video and I was speechless. The runway was amazing. Everyone was sitted in a place looking like a spaceship and when the music started it was like you were watching Star Wars. And then all those shades of blue came out on maxi and mini dresses and it was wonderful. Lovely feminine dresses and suits took us a trip straight to the sky.

Look at these Dior dresses and tell me. Still reminding you of Galiano? Well yes. It's obvious. And for some this might seem like a big con but for me it really didn't matter. Of course the designer shouldn't play it that safe and do something more innovative, put his character in this collection but this doesn't make the clothing bad. In fact I liked it a lot!




Especially the nude ones are so dreamy and I believe we'll see most of them on red carpets.

Jean Paul Gaultier
I am not a big fan of Gaultier, not because I find his clothing not good but because they don't seem to match my style at all. But this time his collection caught my eye because of its theme. It was a tribute to Amy Winehouse. Ok, but how can you put Amy's 50's, kinda pin up style in an haute couture show? Well Jean Paul did it but for me the result was just ok. I have to mention my surprise when I realized that one of his models was greek, her name is Dorothea Mercouri (she's the girl with the yellow top and blue skirt right below on the pic).

Jean Paul Gaultier
By the way the models in the last two pictures look so much like Winehouse, it's incredible!


Valentino is one of my favourite italian brands particularly when it comes to haute couture shows. I just love it so this means that I can't be objective haha! But I will be. This collection screams SPRING. Flowery patterns and flowing maxies along with white dresses and a lot of lace and organza gave us the necessary dose of romance.



Don't you just adore the last dress??? It has the air of a different era. Admit it I was objective.. :p

Elie Saab

I don't think I even have to point that it's Elie Saab, his creations are so characteristic that you instantly recognize them. Boring??? Not at all! It was marvelous. The fabrics, the colours (unbelievable pastels) the extreme use of light and lace made this show FANTASTIC!

Elie Saab

Elie Saab

Elie Saab

Elie Saab

It's like candy in clothing. So wonderful! I'm sure we'll see so many of them wore in red carpets as usual. For me it's the best of spring 2012.

What about you??? What do you think about them???
Tell me everything!

Fashionably yours,


Adventures of a First Time Home Buyer! Part 2 - Taking on a second spouse...your Realtor

Welcome back to 
The Adventures of a First Time Home Buyer

Part 2 ~ Taking on a second spouse...your Realtor


Do you have any idea how many Realtors are out there?!? 
I don't either...but I'm guessing it's A LOT!
So how do you pick the right one?

First and foremost...
you deserve someone who is dedicated to representing you and your best interests
{see Advocate below}

Surprise #4...not ALL agents are in it for you!  

So find one that is in it for YOU!

We were lucky in this department {not that I haven't had my share of duds in the past}...
Our friend, the loan officer, highly recommended our agent after I expressed my dissatisfaction with the agent that stumbled onto my path...and let me just say, she totally kicks booty!!!

When choosing your agent you might want to take the following TOP TEN list into account!

Top Ten Traits of a Kick A Real Estate Agent 

Professional Real Estate agents take representation seriously. The process is not about the agent or their commssions...it is all about YOU. They are there to represent your best interests! If you are a seller, your Listing Agent is under contract with you and will represent you accordingly.  A Buyer’s Agent are obligated to you and you alone. A great agent will be passionate about working for YOU as the buyer and will protect your best interests.

 A great agent has to be a knowledgeable agent. They understand local, state, and Federal laws. They are skilled with purchase & sale contracts and can explain all the loads and loads and load of forms and addendums you'll have to read and sign. And they know your area...the different cities, schools, etc. {Our agent made it very clear from the get go that this chick knew what she was talking about...I had full faith in her knowledge and capability immediately!}

Licensed real estate agents are held to a very high standard, The NAR Code of Ethics. Most agents strive to maintain these practices in their daily business.

Easily Accessible
 Great agents will make themselves available to their clients. This doesn’t mean that they have no life and you can call them 24/7 with your questions. But it does mean that they will make you feel as though you’re their only client! {Our agent has never once made me feel as though I'm not the most important client she's ever had!} 

 A good agent constantly communicates with their clients. This is critical for First Time Buyers. They can never have too much information and their questions are never ending {I should know...I had to write my questions down because I had WAY too many of them}.

Highly Recommended
 This is how we found our fantabulous agent!  I am forever in debt to our friend for recommending our agent.  She seriously saved out lives in this whole process.  All I can say is to ASK, ASK, ASK...EVERYONE if they have someone that they recommend.  If you don't know anyone that has bought a home recently and you need to find a realtor on your own, ask them to provide you with recent testimonials from past clients, including the client’s contact phone numbers or e-mail address. Fabulous agents will have no problem providing you with many referrals.

 A great agent is genuinely sensitive to your needs. They are patient and understanding. They recognize the emotions, fears, and anxieties that usually accompany a first-time home purchase. Their constant and confident assurances provide a much-needed anchor throughout the entire transaction.

Willing to educate
 A professional agent can never share too much information. This is especially true with Firstt Time Home Buyers. The first time you meet with your chosen agent; have them walk you through the home-buying transaction, step-by-step. 

Tech Savvy
 Does she text?  Does she use email?  GOOD!  Most of our stuff was done in this manner due to my work schedule, Boo~Bears work schedule, and her work schedule!

Continuing Education
 A great agent is committed to constantly learning new things. Many top agents have earned numerous designations such as Accredited Buyers Representative, or Graduate of Realtors Institute, or Certified Residential Specialist. These designations often indicate more experience, and greater degrees of knowledge.
Once you've found the one!
The agent for you!
The one that completes you, your spouse, and your home buying dream!
You'll find yourself making a commitment!
Yup...this is the first stage of 'the paperwork'...

It's called the
Buyer’s Agency Agreement

This contract accomplishes several purposes:
  • It empowers Your Agent to legally represent you in the purchasing process.
  • It demonstrates your commitment to your Agent.
  • It equally conveys Your Agent’s commitment to you, to serve your best interests.
Your agent should provide you with a copy of this contract and explain it to you completely. 

Your agent should then talk you through the entire home buying process, start to finish. 
This is the perfect time to ask as many questions as you can.  It may be overwhelming but it's necessary.
This is also the perfect time to be very clear with what you are looking for.  I knew I had a good agent when I realized that she actually listened to everything I said...EVERYTHING.  We were able to find our home after only looking at 10 houses.  #9 we made an offer on and later found out we couldn't live there...#10 was the one!  And, yes, I believe everything happens for a reason!
Now...onto the fun and frustrating and exhausting part!  TOURING Homes...

Oh wait...there's one more surprise!

HandmadeMN Giveaway - Faithfully Yours...

Mara Olden of Dragonfly Adornments

Congratulations to our latest giveaway winner! Thanks to all who entered and we wish you good luck with this week's giveaway!

This week's giveaway is from
Kathryn Wolle of Faithfully Yours.... Kathryn is giving away this vintage necklace.

Kathryn created this unique necklace that has been refashioned from two separate vintage gold necklaces. The pendant is a gold “doubloon” found in a box of antique jewelry and a small crystal from an antique chandelier reminiscent of a pirate’s treasure. The necklace measures 18 inches long and the pendant measures 1 ¼ inches. Add a touch of flash and whimsy to your next outfit!

Open US and International.

How to Enter:

Faithfully Yours…, pick your favorite item and leave a comment on this post about it. (Scroll to bottom of post and click on Comments)

Please make sure we have a way to contact you!
For Bonus Entries:

Please leave each in a separate comment, as each comment is an entry (To qualify for extra entries you must do step one above).

1. Visit other HandmadeMN team members shops (listed in the sidebar here) and leave a comment(s) here with your favorite pieces.

2. Blog about this giveaway with a visible link back to this posting and comment here with a link to your post.

3. Tweet about this giveaway and leave a comment(s) with a link to your tweet(s).

4. Follow our 
blog (you want to do this anyway to learn about upcoming giveaways!). Leave a comment here letting us know you are a follower. If you are already a follower, leave a comment anyway, as each comment is an entry.

5. Follow HandmadeMN on 
twitter. Comment back here with your Twitter link. Existing followers just leave your Twitter link here.

6. Become a 
Facebook Fan of HandmadeMN. Comment back here with your Facebook name. Existing fans just leave your Facebook name here.

7. Become a Facebook Fan of Faithfully Yours…. Comment back here with your Facebook name. Existing fans just leave your Facebook name here.

8.  Follow Faithfully Yours… on Twitter.  Comment back here with your Twitter link. Existing followers just leave your Twitter link here.

9.  Follow Kathryn's blog.  Leave a comment here letting us know you are a follower. If you are already a follower, leave a comment anyway, as each comment is an entry.

10. Contest ends Saturday, February 11, at 12:00 noon Central. One winner will be chosen by Random.org.

Good luck!

HandmadeMN members are not eligible to win.

Adventures of a First Time Home Buyer! Part 1 - I don't have that kind of money! Better get a loan!

 Welcome to 
The Adventures of a First Time Home Buyer

Part 1 ~ I don't have that kind of money!  Better get a loan!

I don't know about you but I don't have cash oozing out of my bank account...
so when we decided we were ready to buy a home we did the
first thing any potential home buyer should do!

Now, this was fairly easy for us.
That's right...we just happen to know someone.
BUT that doesn't mean it wasn't an adventure...
mainly because I had to dig into my very unorganized filing system for paystubs and tax records.
{note to self - organize filing system once we move into the new house}
after that it was a numbers game...

How much do you REALLY make?
How much do you REALLY qualify for?
How much can you REALLY afford?

An experienced mortgage lender should definitely be able to review your finances and determine whether or not buying a house is realistic or even close to being realistic.  You may find that you need to lower your debt a little {or a lot} or repair something on your credit...so BE PREPARED.  Once we were in there we discovered that we had to pay down a few things - not by much - but we weren't 100% prepared for it.  Our lender was able to estimate exactly what we could do with the expendable money we had.

Surprise #1...we had to pay some debt down to get scores exactly where they needed to be!
WTF? Moment #1...the credit score you are given by the credit bureaus isn't always the same as the one a mortgage broker pulls up! 
Sigh of Relief Moment # 1...the little we had to pay down brought the credit scores up significantly.

Once you get all of that drama out of the way, your lender will help you select the best loan product available that fits your finances and abilities.  Ours was easy...FHA was the way to go.  We thought that since we were first time home buyers we would qualify for all sorts of fabulous loans {zero down specifically} but lo and behold...those kinds of loans have many restrictions and we didn't meet the criteria.

Surprise #2...you don't necessarily get the cool first time home buyer perks available JUST BECAUSE you are a first time home buyer.  There are income restrictions and credit score restrictions on many of these offers.

Once you figure out the loan type you qualify for you get to play with more numbers...LOTS OF THEM!
Like Sales Price, Down Payment, PMI, Mortgage Insurance, Homeowners Insurance...OH MY!  These numbers drastically change what you thought you could afford!

Surprise # 3...WHAT?  We can't afford our million dollar dream home?  POO!
{kidding...we already knew that!}

Your lender will then provide you with a loan pre-approval letter which will help portray you as a qualified buyer as you search for homes.  Note ~ our lender didn't give this letter to us directly.  He worked with our realtor once we decided to make an offer on a home.

Helpful tips when looking for a lender:
  • Interview and evaluate a few different lending sources. I've read that you should look into at least three different lenders. Obtain recommendations from your real estate agent {if you have one}, family, or friends.
  • Ask loads and loads of questions. 
  • Use a local lender. It makes sense to work with someone who knows the area in which you are buying, can respond quickly, and will make it easier for area agents and title/escrow offices to complete transactions.

Crochet for Victoria DiPietro's Portrait Doll

For the last week or so I have been working on crochet accessories for Victoria DiPietro's Portrait doll.  This lovely doll is just a shade under 19 inches tall, made of cloth (craft velour) with a paper clay head.  In a previous post I discussed making wigs for this doll from crochet caps and mohair yarn.

Above you see the camisole and pantaloons for Katy Jo, crocheted in size 3 crochet cotton (like a light sportweight yarn) and a size C crochet hook.  The lovely gored skirt was made by Victoria, and the camisole makes a sweet summer top to go with it.

To date I have completed three detachable collars, as shown above.  Each could be made with or without the standup neckline.  The collars use size 10 crochet cotton and a size 6 steel hook.

A pair of very simple, lacy tube socks, crocheted of DMC size 8 perle cotton and a size 6 crochet hook; and the camisole and pantaloons mentioned above.   An apron/pinafore to wear over her pretty dresses will complete her crochet trousseau. 

The plan is for this doll, with her cloth and crochet trousseau, to be available as a pattern, possibly in the late spring of this year.   She would be a lovely addition to any cloth dollmaker's repertoire.  I will keep you posted :-)

Fun Friday Finds for a Night in!

(Click on the image to go to the Etsy Treasury)
Visit these HandmadeMN shops to see more:
Click on any of the names below
First Row (Left to Right): OakTreeArtsmyfriendlondonArtyDidactMyLittleChick
Second Row (Left to Right): regansbrainRiverBirdTwistmolightreading
Third Row (Left to Right): tillymaisonVINTAGEVAULTsShaggyBaggyMaryLittfin
Fourth Row (Left to Right):  looksSEWniceOwlShopHandmadeBits4upaintedfishstudio

I love your funny face Audrey Hepburn!!! (part 2)

Continuing the first part of Audrey Hepburn's tribute I was thinking about the things I should point about that great style icon. Previously I talked to you about what makes her special as a person and actress, as I am a huge fan of her. But apart from that, what is Audrey to all the fashion lovers??? Why has she been a fashion icon for decades??? What comes to me when I think about her is the fact that there is not a single person in the world of fashion that doesn't recognize her great influence in it. In every movie she starred in and her private life, her looks were exclusively styled by Givenchy. Audrey's style was always a combination of extraordinary elegance and grace. And the reason is not just her close friendship with Hubert de Givenchy. She was naturally graceful and sophisticated herself and all those charismatic characteristics were reflected to her image. But for that, pictures can talk better than I do.

As always write me your thoughts. I am always glad to read them.
Don't forget to follow Fashion For Life if you are new here!

Fashionably yours,