Monday, January 30, 2012

Pinterest

I think I am officially addicted to Pinterest.  After our recent hard drive crash, I lost all my bookmarks, but I still have all my pins.  I have pinned some great ideas and even tried a few of them. 
Felted Dryer Balls via Pinterest
6 minute microwave caramels via Pinterest
I was super excited all weekend to see how many times my CD Suncatchers post had been pinned (15+ if I was keeping track).  I become giddy when I get notifications that something has been repinned and find out it's not even someone I know.  It's like I have the cool pin of the moment.

However, I have this one pin that is by far my most popular pin, that continues to pop up every few weeks.  Why?  What makes this particular pin so interesting?  How are these strangers even finding it?
Homemade Mozzarella via Pinterest
When I originally pinned this recipe, I was only doing it for future reference and thinking it would be fun to try someday.  It comes from a blogger that I trust, so I figured it must be good.  Maybe I should actually give it a try and see if all these other pinners know something I don't.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Crafting lesson: CD Suncatchers

This isn't an original idea.  In fact, I got the idea from my Cub Scout resources.  But, they are fun and easy to make, so I thought I would do a tutorial.  I think we've found this year's Valentines. :)

CD Suncatchers
You will need:
2 CDs per suncatcher
Something for a hanger (yarn, string, rope, ribbon, ric rac, etc.)
hot glue
decorations (foam shapes, stickers, etc.)

Find a stack of CDs.  We had a bunch of old ones, but you could use new ones as well.  Cut your hanger to desired length (4-5").  I just eyeballed and cut a pile.
On the label side of one CD, put a glob of hot glue.  Place both ends of hanger in glue, forming a loop.
Add a strip of glue around the CD.  You don't want this too close to the middle or the edge.
Place the second CD on top of the first and press together to adhere.
We used foam stickers to decorate.  
Add a few stickers and voila, you have a suncatcher!  You could decorate both sides if you plan to hang where it will be free-hanging.  Just one side works if it will be against a window or wall.

We plan to use these for Valentines.  Add a little tag with something along the lines of "You're a star!" or use heart stickers and a traditional Valentine greeting.  The possibilities are endless.

Linking up:  Share & Wow Wednesday   Link It Up Thursdays   Shine On Fridays  Saturday Craft Party

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Changes

I recently came across a blog critique swap sponsored by the gals at Truly Lovely.  I thought this would be a great opportunity to get some feedback on my blog with what works and what could be changed.  Basically, the way it worked was that each participant critiqued two blogs.  So, I looked at two new blogs and two different people looked at mine.  Special thanks to Alyx and Stephany for reviewing my blog.
Crafterminds

Both critiques had some helpful tips that I'll be utilizing in the coming days.  To be honest, my blog has kind of been thrown together and I just add whatever, whenever I feel like it.  I do have the overall school theme, but this does lead people to think I homeschool (I don't).  So, I'm trying to come up with a new header that incorporates the "everything under one roof" idea that I have envisioned for my blog and the one-room school concept.

Both bloggers suggested adding "About Me" and "Contact Me" pages, so I'm working on that and should have them up in the near future.  (Any tutorial suggestions for creating tabs?)  I had never thought about things like watermarking my photos, but it makes sense, so I'll be trying that out, too.  (Again, tutorials?)  Another comment suggested using a less cutesy font for my posts.  Again, something that didn't bother me, but I don't want to turn other people away from my blog.

One aspect of this process that surprised me was that not every blogger out there has ads.  I know, it's probably a silly observation, but it was kind of a lightbulb moment for me.  I've tried to pattern my blog after some of my favorite bigger name blogs.  They all have ads, so I've put buttons on my sidebar.  I figured that was just what you did as a blogger.  However, I liked the less cluttered look of the blogs I critiqued, so I'm considering moving my "favorite inspirations" buttons to a separate page.

What do you do to get feedback on your blog?  Any additional suggestions for me?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Imaginary friends

I was thinking one morning about all the imaginary friends we've been introduced to through the years. Some have stuck around for a day or two and others have almost become part of our family.


 Our first real foray into the world of imaginary friends came when The Author was in preschool. She introduced us to Maybedee.  Maybedee did everything a year or so ahead of The Author. She was in kindergarten and got to do lots of fun things at the Urban Sea School. These adventures were usually shared with us in a great amount of detail. For a while, we were treated to daily renditions of how Maybedee spent her time and the vacations and adventures she had. But, like all imaginary friends, she eventually disappeared. Who knows, maybe she'll pop up in a children's book series some day.

About this same time, The Artist got a little bobble-head dalmation as a prize for a reading contest in first grade.  While this wasn't technically an imaginary friend, she left specific instructions for the dog's care and feeding while she was at school.  I've preserved her original spelling and punctuation.

dish is in geroge door.
Brafest at 1: AM
     Dogie walvles
     Water
Lunch at 10: pm
     Dogie sandwich's
     Water
Dinner at 12 11: pm
     Dogie lisanya
     Water
Desert at 13: at night
     Dogie Ice cream

The next imaginary friend to stay a while was Porky. Porky was a porcupine and a friend to Mr. Adventure. Porky popped up every now and then, but the most memorable adventure with Porky was his funeral. One day we were driving and saw a heap of porcupine roadkill along the side of the road. Mr. Adventure informed us that this was Porky and we needed to hold a funeral. He wrote out exactly what food should be served:
Breakfast: Banana deluxe miracle pancakes with whipped cream and hot cocoa
Lunch: Bambinos, fruit salad, and Sprite Up (7-Up plus Sprite)
Dinner: Diner Dash tacos, root beer, nuclear dino eggs, and beef jerky
Desserts: Trash cake (gummy worms MUST be included, must be baked in a 4x4 or 6x6 pan) dessert pizza, and candy land surprize!

Little Miss Sunshine also added to the imaginary porcupine family with Porcalina, and while she popped up from time to time, she didn't stick around much after Porky's funeral.

It had been a while since we've had any imaginary friends stop by.  However, for the past few months Princess has been talking about her friends from Leaf Town.  She will throw these friends into her conversations and toss in snippets like, "Oh, I did that with my other sister at Leaf Town."  One day she told me that Leaf gave her a silver guitar for her birthday and she will get to bring it to our house and then she can rock out.  It will be interesting to see how long her Leaf Town friends stick around.
 
Have you had imaginary friends visit your house?  What kind of adventures have they had?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Integrity and Spelling Bees

As a mom, there are certain values that I try to embody in myself as well as encouraging them in my children.  One of these is integrity.  We've tried to instill a sense of honesty in our kids, but I believe that integrity goes beyond just being honest.  When you have integrity you make the choices that are morally right, even if it isn't popular or if no one else knows.
Image source

Yesterday and today I watched The Author, Mr. Adventure, and Little Miss Sunshine participate in spelling bees.  I never would have thought that spelling bees and integrity would go hand in hand, but I've discovered that they do.  The Author had her contest yesterday.  She stayed calm, cool and collected and advanced to the school district competition.  I was mentally taking notes of the words thinking that I could quiz the other two later on.  Then her teacher dropped the bomb on me that all of the competitions used the same words!  I knew I had a choice -- I could cheat and coach the other two on the exact words they would have, or I could keep those to myself and just help them with random words.
Little Miss Sunshine asked me to quiz her and wouldn't you know it, the first word I saw as I looked at her list was one of the competition words.  I took a deep breath and looked down the list for another word.  Was it an easy choice to make?  Yes and no.  My protective instincts tried to kick in and I wanted to make sure my nervous kids would succeed.  On the other hand, I knew that I  couldn't spit in the face of all the discussions and lessons we have had on being honest and showing integrity.  After the written round of the competition today, I knew that both Mr. Adventure and Little Miss Sunshine would probably not move to the oral round.  But that's okay.  They still have next year and the year after that, etc. to move through the different levels.
Image source

We also had an opportunity to discuss integrity while I was driving Mr. Adventure and Little Miss Sunshine to their competition.  They were talking about a school friend that intentionally misspelled every word at the grade level testing so that he wouldn't be asked to participate.  I asked if there could have been a better way to handle his desire to not participate.  We settled on the solution that you should do your best and try to spell the words correctly, but then politely turn down the invitation to compete at the school level.

I think we all learned something and strengthened our desire to show integrity.

Linking up:  Foley Fam

Monday, January 16, 2012

My obsession with apples

I admit it, I have an obsession with apples.  Maybe it is the educator in me.  Maybe they're just cute.  Maybe it's because they're tasty.  Whatever the reason, I go a little bit crazy any time I see apples on a decor item, on fabric, in some kind of craft, etc.

It all started innocently enough.  I attended a conference for future educators between my junior and senior years of high school.  At one of the sessions, I was a door prize winner.  It ended up being a wooden apple paper clip holder.  You can see it in the photo below of  my kitchen wall (it's the wooden one on the right side of the shelf). 
Somehow that one little piece started an epidemic.  I have wall plaques, cross-stitched pieces, stuffed fabric apples, apple towels and pot holders, apple mugs and apple juice glasses,  apple clocks, apple trivets, and an apple perpetual calendar.  And that's just the kitchen!  I've collected apple print fabrics and various apple crafts.  I have apple blankets, apple knicknacks, apple earrings, and I put apples in my wedding bouquet and other floral arrangements.  All of my girls have worn apples on their clothing at some point in time.  If I could find boy clothes with apples I would probably get those, too.

My mom used to laugh because every time we would go shopping I would inevitably wander down some aisle to investigate an apple that caught my eye.  She joked that I could spot apple anything across the store.  I can't help it.  They jump out at me and I'm drawn over.  I keep thinking what a tragedy it would be if I one day decide that my apple phase has passed.  So far, though, I think the apple creators of the world are safe.  I'll continue to find something to fuel my obsession.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cooking fail

I'm not a bad cook.  However, this week is sure trying to make me think I am.
Two years ago when I was breastfeeding our youngest son, we quickly figured out that he did not care for chocolate in my diet.  Wanting the best for my baby, I gave up my favorite treat and we were all happy.  Then we discovered a recipe in the newspaper for Almond Joy-inspired cupcakes.  Chocolate cupcakes with a coconut filling and chocolate ganache frosting studded with whole almonds.  Definitely a recipe to hang on to for some future date when I could again fulfill my chocolate cravings.
I periodically saw the newspaper page and thought about trying the recipe, but the time just never seemed right until this weekend.  Armed with the necessary ingredients, I set out to make a culinary masterpiece.
WRONG!
My attempt couldn't even come close to resembling the photo.
The cupcakes were dry.  I'm not sure what I do to homemade cakes.  They are ALWAYS dry.  Mixes stay wonderfully moist.  My ganache frosting became a solid mass in the refrigerator.  There is no way it could be smooshed into a decorating bag, let alone piped on the cupcakes.  I settled for a dollop on top of the coconut filling.  The filling was the only part of the recipe that turned out.  I could eat it like candy.  I won't admit how many spoonfuls I have eaten. A bunch of the filling on top of the cupcakes makes them almost edible.  I re-warmed the ganache and formed it into balls that are currently languishing in the freezer for "instant" indulgent hot chocolate, so at least that wasn't a complete disaster.
I think I'll give these cupcakes one more try.  I'm tempted to go with a cake mix and avoid the refrigerator for the ganache and just let it cool to frosting consistency at room temperature.  If it works, I'll share the recipe.  Any suggestions for keeping homemade cake moist?  I need to learn the secret.

I saw this great idea on Pinterest for dehydrated strawberries.

I had some extra strawberries from our Bountiful Baskets, so I thought I'd give it a try.  Three hours later my strawberries were still pretty moist, so I left them in the oven a bit longer.  It's probably my own fault that I didn't check on them until they were VERY dehydrated and definitely not bright red and chewy.  Not sure I'll be giving that one another try.
What culinary disaster can I cook up today?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Resolutions

I'm a little late jumping on the New Year's Resolution bandwagon.  Over the years I've gone back and forth with setting resolutions.  I've tried setting lofty goals that I have little chance of reaching (I'm going to be wonder woman and do everything perfectly) and I've set ridiculous ones (I'm not going to exercise and get into shape because every time I do I get pregnant!).  I've done the proverbial diet and exercise goals, the being more patient with my kids goals, and the decluttering my house goals.  Somehow they never seem to stick.
I've tried just mentally setting goals and not writing them down.  Usually these goals get forgotten pretty quickly.  I've tried not setting goals at all, but that never really works because I know there are things I'm always trying to work on.

This year I decided to approach goals a little bit differently.  I read a blog post about setting goals in reverse and taking the time to look at what you did accomplish instead of beating yourself up over what you didn't do.  What an awesome idea!  I sat down and started compiling a list of some of the accomplishments I had through 2011.  My list included things like supporting my husband and children in their activities, striving to be less critical and harsh on myself, volunteering with the PTA at our elementary school and through Cub Scouts.  None of these things were really goals that I set out to do, but they were positive accomplishments.

I've also been intrigued with the one word theme for the new year.  As I contemplated my achievements over the past year and thought about goals for the new year, I realized that I already had a theme:
POSITIVE
So, my resolutions for this year all revolve around positive changes I want to make whether it relates to my body, my attitude, my family, my home or my blog. I'm still in the process of hammering out specific goals, but I have some general ideas and with my focus on being positive, I just might find that 2012 is my break-through year when I make positive lifestyle changes.  :)

Monday, January 9, 2012

WIW -- Orchard necklace

Several weeks ago I was the lucky winner of a customized statement necklace from Stephanie at Luxe Boulevard.  I first discovered Stephanie's blog and shop as she was making the shift to focusing exclusively on her bridal accessories.  I bought a couple of necklaces and always get compliments when I wear them.  I knew whatever she came up with for my statement necklace would be amazing.
I contemplated ideas, color choices, and got the brainstorm that the one thing that the necklace could incorporate to be completely "me" is . . . apples.  I am obsessed with apples.  I just might share a bit about that obsession in a future post.
Stephanie took my apple suggestion and came up with the idea of the Orchard Necklace in reds and golds.  She found some fun, glittery apples and worked her magic from there.  I fell in love when I first pulled the necklace out of the packaging.

This was my church ensemble this week.  I paired the necklace with a plain shirt and my red plaid skirt.  Simple, but I thought it kept the focus on the necklace. Wearing something this bold and attention-getting was a huge risk for me, but I think it was worth it.  I'm excited to figure out other ways to wear the necklace.
T-shirt: Hobby Lobby
Skirt: Sears
Necklace: Luxe Boulevard



pleated poppy




Momma Go Round

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bountiful Baskets

Have you heard of the Bountiful Baskets Food Co-op?  I officially love this group.  You make a $15 contribution at the beginning of the week, then they pool all the money and purchase produce and deliver to designated sites on Saturday.  The contents vary each week, but it is usually somewhere around 20-30 pounds of produce.  This was our basket this morning:
3 stems of broccoli, 1 head cabbage, 1 bunch romaine lettuce, 6 potatoes (from my hometown!), 3 cucumbers, 1 pint grape tomatoes, 6 Fuji apples, 4 lemons, 1 pound strawberries and 6 bananas.  Not bad for $15.  Of course, with our family we get two baskets, so we actually have double what this photo shows.  I went as a volunteer to help distribute the produce, so I picked up a couple extra lemons over what was in the basket.

If you are local to me, you should participate.  As the interest grows, we will be able to get the add-ons like breads, cases of fruit, etc.; not to mention the chance to purchase every week instead of every other week.  If you're not local to me, check the website and see if it is available in your area.  I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Nostalgia

This post has been written for over a month.  I've revisited and revised it several times.  I've debated whether I should publish it or just delete it.  With the new year, I'm feeling a little braver than usual, so I'm sharing a little bit of myself with you.

I have a lot of time to listen to music and think while I'm walking laps in the gym during my oldest daughter's early-morning religion classes.
I was listening to "Look Away" by Chicago and had one of those moments where I was hit with a vivid memory.
If my life is ever made into a movie series, this album (Chicago - Greatest Hits) would be part of the soundtrack for my first two college years.  This song, in particular, perfectly fits a time when I was pining away over a broken engagement and completely frustrated as my former fiance was going out of his way to avoid me.  Really, he would turn around and run the other way if he saw me on campus.  His avoidance strategy made for some comical moments, like the time we almost literally ran into each other as he turned the corner in a hallway (I still have yet to figure out what he was doing in the Education Department.), or the time my roommate and I went to his apartment with his roommate only to find everything unlocked, lights on, music playing and homework scattered around as evidence that he had made a mad dash to be no where in the vicinity once he heard I was coming.  These bits of humor kept me from becoming utterly depressed.  That and this soundtrack and a fabulous roommate who could find ways to cheer me up.
This song always takes me back to those heart-broken months.  I eventually got over him and moved on, but when I start to reminisce, I always wonder where he is and what he's accomplished in the last 17 years.  How many of the dreams and hopes that we talked about has he achieved?

Song's over, now it's on to the next memory. :)