Wednesday, October 31, 2012


*** The shop (and blog) is on a little hiatus while I endure enjoy the mother of all colds. Purchases and custom orders may still be placed as usual (I have already shipped all orders prior to today): Ready-to-ship goodies are, well, ready to ship; please allow an extra week for the making of made-to-order goodies. Thank you so much, and have a super lovely rest of the week! ***

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sunday, October 28, 2012

not quite screamfest

I thought I'd share a couple of movie recommendations -- just in time for Halloween! Be warned though, they're not run-of-the-mill Scream/Poltergeist fare; you sort of have to watch closely and pay attention haha..

So, first up -- From Time to Time. This haunting British film is set in the 1940s, and is about a 13-year-old boy who uncovers long-buried family secrets when he goes to stay with his grandmother. The cinematography is beautiful, and the story both charming and poignant -- something the whole family (well, 8 and above maybe) can watch together by firelight.

(In a moment of sorrowful candour, Maggie Smith's character Mrs Oldknow tells her grandson, "If you have children, don't ever quarrel with them. No matter the reason, no matter how angry you get -- don't quarrel. I promise you -- it's never worth it". Like I said, poignant).

Next -- another British film, this time called Haunted. Set in the late 1920s, the story is about an American professor who gets invited to Edbrook House to investigate the alleged hauntings there. While the storyline is mildly cliched, the cinematography is gorgeous, as are Aidan Quinn's brilliant blue eyes. Be advised though, there are some adult themes and a bit of nudity too, so keep it 18-and-up please!

For goodness' sakes, don't watch this bit in its entirety. I couldn't embed part 1, so just copy and paste this video's title in the YouTube search box, and change the number to 1/11.

What ghostly films do you recommend this All Hallows' Eve? :)

Friday, October 26, 2012

on nurturing nature

Mother and Child, by Gustav Klimt

So, my dear cousin has been listening to these psychology lectures in his car; the other day, he comes in and tells me, "Parents actually have very little influence on how their children turn out -- it's just in the genes". He tells me this with great confidence, presumably because Dr So-and-so said it, which somehow gives it "scientific" credence.

Now, we've had these discussions on psychology before; I'd done it in university, and had previously told him quite frankly that it was fine for some generalisations, but really that's all it is -- generalisations. I don't feel that there's that same objectivity and universality with psychology as there is with say, chemistry or physics. Trying to create principles that apply to all individuals and groups is, to me, impossible; humans are just too complex and diverse, as are their personal lives, experiences, beliefs, circumstances. And really, how many people could one possibly study, and for how long?

This idea that genes may be what influence personality and that parents don't really matter, came into prominence when a certain Judith Rich Harris published her book, The Nurture Assumption, some 14 years ago, in which, summarily speaking, she claims that parental influence is minor; whatever our peers do to us outweigh, in the long run, whatever our parents do (Ms Harris, by the way, was a textbook writer, with no doctorate or academic affiliation).

"[Harris] looks at studies which claim to show the influence of the parental environment and claims that most fail to control for genetic influences. For example, if aggressive parents are more likely to have aggressive children, this is not necessarily evidence of parental example".

Further, "Harris' most innovative idea was to look outside the family and to point at the peer group as an important shaper of the child's psyche" (I do not find this an especially profound or groundbreaking idea). However, "contrary to some reports, Harris did not claim that 'parents don't matter'. The book did not cover cases of abuse and neglect. Harris pointed out that parents have a role in selecting their children's peer group, especially in the early years. Parents also affect the child's behavior within the home environment and the interpersonal relationship between child and parent" (extracted from Wiki).

Dr Frank Farley of Temple University eloquently put into words what my immediate thoughts on all this was, namely that "she's taking an extreme position based on a limited set of data. Her thesis is absurd on its face, but consider what might happen if parents believe this stuff!"

Dr Wendy Williams, a professor at Cornell, said, "There are many, many good studies that show parents affect how children turn out in both cognitive abilities and behaviour" (extracted from Wiki, italics mine).

Naturally, however, there are supporters of Ms Harris' great insights, as there are critics. What I wonder is, with all the glaring, physical evidence of the effects of child neglect and abuse, why does anyone even want to propound something that goes against all the noblest principles of parenting at its best, and that has the potential to further encourage parenting at its worst?

While I do not discount the effects of a child's innate qualities on his or her personality, I do not accept that it's these inborn, genetic factors that determine how that child will turn out, or that they outweigh the importance of loving, nurturing, responsible parenting. Child neglect and abuse are on the rise, and without fail, parental personality and behaviour are cited as one of the major risk factors. To suggest that those neglected or abused children would turn out crappily even if their parents were nurturing and responsible, simply because they're inherently crappy people, is profoundly annoying to me.

However, it seems that Ms Harris "rejected the idea that her book would encourage parents to neglect or mistreat their children. She maintains that parents will continue to treat their children well 'for the same reason you are nice to your friends and your partner, even though you have no hopes of molding their character' (extracted from Wiki).

Well, I don't know about you, but I do not "treat my children well" for the same reason I'm nice to my friends. I do not feel responsible for my friends' behaviour and morals, for their sense of self-worth, and for the values, habits and attitudes with which they will live their lives and which they will pass on to their children.

Of course, I can't help vaguely wondering about Ms Harris' own kids, or the kids of those who support her views. Ms Harris, at any rate, has two children, one of whom was adopted. The biological child, Nomi, was, according to Ms Harris, quiet and well-behaved; she was, apparently, just like her biological parents, and "gave us no trouble while she was growing up".

The adopted child Elaine, on the other hand, was different. "She always wanted to be with people. We started getting bad reports from the school right away -- that she wouldn't sit in her chair, and she was bothering other kids... As the girls got older, Nomi became a brain and Elaine became a dropout. Nomi was a member of a very small clique of intellectual kids, and Elaine was a member of the delinquent subgroup".

When you have a parent who describes you like that, you have to wonder if it truly was because you were a genetically hopeless case, or because, having intrinsically different -- but not necessarily bad -- traits, your parent just didn't spend the time and effort needed to develop your talents and abilities to the full.

There was a study known as the Colorado Adoption Project, in which, for a mere seven years, researchers "followed" the lives of 245 adopted children, giving them and their adoptive parents personality and intelligence tests at regular intervals. The conclusion they reached from this supposedly vast, all-encompassing study was that "the only reason we are like our parents is that we share their genes".

Besides the fact that I believe all psychological studies are limited and subjective, I don't believe good parenting is about making our children similar to ourselves -- indeed, it is often hoped that they don't become like us -- it is about harnessing their innate qualities and turning them to positive, productive account. That is why I think good, present parenting does matter.

While one child may be innately shy and the other gregarious, as a parent I am responsible for instilling the right values and attitudes in both of them, sound principles and beliefs that will then dictate their behaviour, and which are not so weak as to be squashed by any peer pressure they may encounter.

Obviously, peers do have an impact on one's life, but I believe the degree of that impact is dependent on the amount of time they spend with those peers, and the fundamental value system they've acquired at home. In fact, I believe it is those values they learn at home that are what will influence the peers they choose to interact with.

For me personally, I can honestly say that the kind of person I was as a child and am now, is almost entirely due to how I was treated at home, the behaviours I saw, and the words I heard. My peers growing up had, in fact, very little influence over me then, and certainly none at all now. I have known and witnessed enough of the effects of parental nurturing and attention, as well as cruelty and neglect, in both my own life and the lives of my relatives and friends, to know how valuable responsible, accessible parenting is -- it is what greatly influenced my decision to give up my corporate career in favour of full-time motherhood.

"Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it" (Prov 22:6).

If you've ever done psychology in school, or ever read a paper on some theory, how often did you think, "Well, that sure didn't apply to me" or "That wasn't what happened in my niece's case, or my son's case, or my neighbour's kid's case"? There simply are no universal behavioural laws, and I find it irresponsible to propound theories that ultimately have no positive purpose.

Instead, they serve to bolster the views of people like my cousin and his friends who happily leave their kids in the care of maids and strangers all day, every day (interestingly, I recall a study done in 2011 by scientists from the US and Netherlands which found that "genes may contribute to a child's bad behaviour, but only when parents are distant; parental monitoring -- how well a parent knows what’s going on in their child’s life -- was key").

I found this person's response to an article on Ms Harris that appeared in Scientific American particularly eloquent: "There is no substitute for good parenting. I am a teacher and see this every day. If you see a problem student, 99% of the time, you have to look no farther than the parent... who does not value education, who is working too many hours to know or care what there kids are doing, who is mentally or physically abusive, who is dependent on alcohol or drugs, or who suffers from some type of mental illness.

"I am amazed at what our kids have to overcome everyday. I am also a parent of two honor students. My college student has won multiple scholarships. Who do you credit for that? Her teachers? They deserve some credit for their knowledge of subject matter....BUT it is the YEARS that I have spent raising them to value education, spending precious time with them, and pushing them to always do their best.

"The most promising students are those who benefit from the combination of GOOD parenting and GOOD teaching. They will choose their peers based upon shared values, and they will have the strength of character to speak their own mind. The old saying "birds of a feather, flock together" is very true.

"Kids who are raised in similar homes, suffer similar problems, and will group together to find some sort of "home away from home" feeling of comfort and safety. Its hard to be a member of an intelligent and successful peer group, when you cannot relate to any of the experiences that they have had. This article and the author of this book is a joke. Sadly it will be used by irresponsible parents to bolster their own irresponsible attitudes of denying any responsibility for the fate of their own offspring".

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


A new movie, with a very dear friend of Inky the Octopus!

tweedy shop4a
This is Tweedy, our eight-legged star! Tweedy is a charming little fellow made entirely of heathered black wool yarn. He loves reading, and looking at the stars, and well, obviously he loves lounging about on things as well. Tweedy would make a dear companion, as well as an adorable addition to a nursery or bookshelf. He's perfect for Halloween too!

tweedy shop6a
Tweedy is in the shop now, looking for a loving home with lots of toast and tinned pineapple. Who knows, he might make another film in the meantime haha!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

I was greatly saddened this morning to hear the sound of chainsaws outside my home. At first I'd thought it was just some pruning of the trees by the road, but looking out my windows, I saw that it was in fact the beginnings of the complete destruction of the last parcels of forest that once carpeted this entire estate.

These trees have been here since I was a child; they used to grow so thickly together that you could barely make out what was beyond the first few rows. The whole place would be alive with the sounds of birds and frogs and crickets and numerous other animals scurrying secretly within the foliage. Everywhere it was a deep, deep green, and the air would be so cool and smell so clean.

And now, the incalculable greed of developers and investors has bulldozed its cruel way in. I had in fact written to a certain minister with regard to this, not once, but thrice; almost needless to say, I did not even receive a token letter of acknowledgment.

For those of you who are so blessed to live surrounded by nature in all its life and splendour and beauty -- relish and delight yourselves in it, be daily thankful for it, do all you can to preserve it.

I'd taken these photos when it first became obvious that even this last patch of forest had been condemned. I felt we simply had to have some record of what it looked like. I didn't want my kids to forget.

This picture kinda captures what it's all about.

When I was a child, there used to be a tiny village in the midst of all this jungle; the people had little thatch-roofed homes, and raised their own chickens. I used, in fact, to play with a boy who lived there, a little ragamuffin who never spoke. They all disappeared when the land was taken for the construction of block after block of apartments.

Ro is still too young to fully grasp that what we'd just walked through would all be gone. As it turned out, it was in fact our last walk through there; the very next day, they started boarding it up.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

grown-up Tabby

adult tabby1 blog
The Tabby satchel in a grown-up size! This particular satchel was made for a sweet young lady in Illinois.

adult tabby4
It's sized a good 11x10", and holds a great many things, including a fat copy of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. There's an inner pocket as well for easy access to keys and pens and cellphone and such. This particular satchel had an adorable teapot pocket. You can get your own customisable satchel here :)

Thursday, October 11, 2012


And -- more stop motion experimentation! This was 255 frames for about four minutes of film -- very effortful lol. I've certainly learned a few things from this experience. For one thing, a tripod is definitely handy; I used one for the first time ever to do this (yeah, I did Inky with one hand haha).

I also realised quickly enough that a tiny digital camera which cleverly switches itself off every few seconds is not helpful. Plus if, like me, you're using a computer that's at least 10 years old -- save, save, save; at every turn, and at every moment. Trust me, you do not want to have worked on a hundred frames and then have to start all over again. I guess people who do this seriously for a living have to have fairly sophisticated equipment -- plus a team of assistants.

In any case, B wanted me to do a movie with her Sylvanians, and I decided to make it educational for her; and, well, it's about time those Sylvanians do some work around here!

Blessed weekend everyone :)

Monday, October 8, 2012


More movie experimentation! This was 38 frames for just 24 seconds of film -- effortful! I've read that it takes an average 1,440 frames to make one minute of film -- you just have to marvel at the people who do entire movies.

Inky 046a
But here is Inky, the star of the show! Inky is a sweet little fellow made entirely of black yarn. He loves reading, and listening to dinner conversations, and well, obviously he loves lounging about on things as well. Inky would make a charming companion, as well as an adorable addition to a nursery or bookshelf. He's perfect for Halloween too!

Inky 045a
Inky is in the shop now, though I must admit to feeling greatly tempted to keep him. Perhaps for more exciting films haha!
See you soon!

treasury clipping

Golden Child, by L.W. Hooks, maker of adorable custom crochet goodies. The entire list is here.


Saturday, October 6, 2012


Ooh, I don't know which I'm more excited about -- this awesome book Ro borrowed from the library, or the fact that I just learnt to make a tiny mini-movie! With sound!

Anyone who knows me knows what a technophobe I am, so humble and unsophisticated as this little filmlet may be, it's a gigantically huge achievement for me haha.. I'd actually just filmed the book, but then I couldn't help feeling it would be much, much nicer with music. And it was, which just confirms how very important a movie's score is!

As for the book, it's Waddle, by Rufus Butler Seder. It uses Scanimation, a six-phase animation process, which was created by Seder. Going through the book, you feel a curious "antiquated" sensation, as if you were viewing the images through a Victorian kinetoscope. Seder has several titles in this series; check one out at your local library today!

Have a dreamy, creative weekend everyone :)

* Wonderfully, despite the fact that hordes of other people use and upload the same piece of music on Youtube with no problem, my video had to be the one that gets blocked in certain countries. I'd originally used a recording of me playing Comptine D'un Autre Ete, but have now replaced it with Carly Comando, a distinctly better musician haha.. Thanks to everyone who let me know they couldn't play the original video :)

Friday, October 5, 2012

say :D

guard blog8
Ro was asked to be in this advertising campaign for a major pharmaceutical chain here, and I let her, for the experience. I didn't realise till now how large this chain actually is; it is apparently the largest here, with at least 140 outlets scattered across the island. So it has certainly been interesting to see Ro's face almost everywhere we go -- in malls and magazines and newspapers, on the trains, and even the bus.

guard blog4
The pretend mom was in her early 20s, about half my age haha.. However, we did all agree that the pretend grandma does look rather like my mother-in-law lol. They have these things literally everywhere in the pharmacies; even gigantic ones hanging from the ceiling. The first time Ro went in and saw them, she squealed, "There are so many mes!!"

guard blog6
Look! Only $8.90!

guard blog3a
One prerequisite I have about the kids doing these things is -- no make-up! I hate seeing children looking all mature and done up, and worse, striking sultry, alluring poses (no child beauty pageants please!). The other thing is -- school has to come first. B isn't doing so much of these things now that she's in grade school. Ro is still in nursery, so I'm ok with it once in awhile (needless to say, she has become a sort of mini-celebrity at her kindergarten haha..). Well, I'm glad she and her sister have had these experiences; I should like them to be a lot more self-assured than their mother ever was!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Real Cats

cat mont

It's the Bikbik & Roro kitties looking like Real Cats! OK, well, until I can think of a better name for these fellows, that's what they're going to be. While I was making 25 of them as party favours, B came along and said, "Oh, it's Tabby Cat, but looking real". And so I decided to call them Real Cats. Anyway, I think they're sweet no matter what they're called, don't you?

grey cat shop2

I decided to put a couple in the shop, including an all-black one in honour of Halloween! The pins are original illustrations on heavyweight paper, mounted on illustration board, and protected by several layers of varnish. Every Real Cat pin is hand-drawn and hand-cut, making each one a unique work of art. They're adorable and retro and rustic all at the same time. Wear one, or several together to create your own special clowder!

ro shop3


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