Friday, November 19, 2010

Whooo's There?

I'm quite fond of owls, and my boys love them! Even the baby gives a whoo whoo when he sees them. He's going to love my new print from Black Baroque, as soon as I get it framed & hung. I bought several prints as gifts also, and this shop was so nice to work with.

I also love this free, downloadable owl calendar I found via How About Orange. If you love owls, you have to check out My Owl Barn! There are almost 40 illustrated images to choose from, you assign the months, and download an entire 2011 calendar to print yourself.

Owl Lover 2011 Calendar

Monday, November 1, 2010

Stencilin' Craft Night

I am a member of a small, monthly craft group that in the past year has become one of my favorite things to look forward to. A few months ago it was my turn to host, and I chose freezer paper stenciling for the project. I thought things went very well, because with the same supplies we made so many different projects. Personally, I completed three items: a shirt for my sister (the hairdresser) that had been in the works for six months (copied from here), a tie for my sweet hubby for Father's Day (copied from Dana), and a tote bag for my Cub Scout materials (my own idea). I was called to be a Webelos leader a few months ago & am having lots of fun. And it's nice to have a cute tote bag to haul my stuff.

We mainly used tutorials & tips from Jess at How About Orange, and Dana at MADE. Specifically, I copied the Father's Day tie idea from Dana.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sneak Peeks

Posts coming very soon (like this week!) about the following:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bug Infestation!

When is having bugs a good thing? When they are the mechanical variety, come in colorful colors, and keep your kids entertained for hours! A big thanks for Mom Select for sending us a party kit for the new Hexbug Nanos, which arrived just in time to use for my oldest son's birthday party.

In our party kit were enough bugs to keep ten kids busy, along with plenty of tracks and hex-cells to build to their hearts content. And my favorite part: ideas for party games, refreshments, and activities. We started with decorating some paper bags for the party guests to keep their loot in - I set out markers, stickers, and a bunch of Hexug Nano images in various sizes and colors. The stickers came in handy for the boys to mark their Hexbugs during the party, to avoid accidentally (or on purpose) making off with their friends bugs.

Then it was on to party games, where the boys pitted their Hexbug Nanos against each other in tests of speed, strength, and intelligence.

After the organized games we brought out all the habitat pieces and let our little bug owners build and re-build to their hearts' content.

We finished with a bug-decorated cake and sent all our little guests home happy.

We love these little bugs and every child who has come to play since the party has enjoyed them too. Even the little babies love the vibrations. These battery-operated Hexbug Nanos are much faster than I anticipated and we lost a few under appliances that were a pain to recover. The habitat pieces are easy to connect and seem pretty sturdy - we haven't broken anything yet. The Battle Bridge is fun - my boys love the multi-level aspect and pit their bugs against each other all afternoon. I worry about the battery life though, because they get continuous play for hours, and you need new batteries after few sessions like that. But if you're looking for a gift for a child 1-10, you can't get more versatile than a Hexbug Nano and a habitat set. They even come in pink!


Monday, October 4, 2010

Craftin' it Up

I am not into scrapbooking. But I love all the cute papers & have amassed an amount in clear excess of what I need. And over the past few years I have spent entire days downloading free digital scrapbooking kits from various websites. And I don't use it often either. But this weekend I finally got busy. I read about Lua Nova via Barefoot in the Kitchen, whose author, Stephanie, is kind of a new friend of mine. Stephanie's sister is in Sao Paulo, Brazil working with this non-profit and they are in need of scrapbooks for the young, unwed mothers there. Read all about it here. When I found some cute, clearance 3-ring-binders at Michael's last week I decided to put all my crafting supplies to good use.

And I had the perfect complement: new crafting supplies from Elmer's and X-acto! I recently received a box of supplies to try out, thanks to Bzz Agent, and they were invaluable for my weekend project. I holed up in my office as long as my husband would allow, put General Conference on my large computer screen, and sat on the floor cutting, punching, and gluing.

This stuff was completely the bomb! I used the Elmer's Permanent Tape Runner exclusively until it ran out. I was using it for paper to paper, but it would work well for photos on paper too. I will be buying more of these in the future.

Then I tried the Craft Bond All Purpose Glue Stick, but it didn't seem right for my project. I was worried about the heat my pages would experience being shipped to Brazil & imagined all the decorations unsticking from the pages before they arrived.

Next I used the Craft Bond Clear Dual Tip Glue Pen, which was easy to use, but the more liquid glue made my paper wrinkle up. Maybe I need to learn to squeeze softer & use less glue. But it would be perfect for light-weight, non paper projects. I have a few in mind.

X-acto sent some decorative edging scissors and a corner-rounder, all of which I put to good use to make my sometimes boring pages a little cuter. I don't do anything fancy, but here's a shot of my stuff.

Stephanie is collecting scrapbooks until Nov 1st so there's still time for you to put one or two together. She lives in the same city as I do, so I would be happy to collect any made locally & deliver them to her.

All of the Elmer's and X-acto supplies are available at Walmart.

The end.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Beauty Comes in Small Packages

The start of fall (it was only 93 deg yesterday) always puts me in mind of beautiful paper goods. After stalking Night Owl Paper Goods for over a year, I finally placed an order this morning. Check out all these lovelies!

Letterpressed cards can sometimes seem like a luxury, but try their sale section, where they have limited amounts left from previous runs. Many of the cards I ordered were $1. Even when you spread out the $5 flat shipping, that's much less than I would spend on a grocery store card, for a far superior product.

Night Owl does amazing work on wooden cards too. I ordered two red, love-themed prints that were intended to be sent as postcards, and that I intend to hang on my wall as art.

Don't you love your friends and family enough to send them beautiful cards?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

got 2b... smooth & plump

I received some coupons from Bzz Agent to try out the new line from Got 2b, Smooth Operator. I've had some good experiences with Got 2b products, but haven't ever found anything I'm in love with. This time I tried the new line, Smooth Operator, which has cashmere in it. I'm all for something that can smooth my oft-frizzed tresses and make them cashmere soft. I chose the Smoothing Luxury Mousse and the Smoothing Lustre Lotion. I used the mousse on towel-dried hair before styling, and the lotion after blow-drying and styling. I tried both of them alone and together.

The good:
The Smooth Operator line protects against heat damage from your blow dryer and flat iron, and contains a UV protectant, to fight off that nasty Arizona summer sun. I was impressed with how soft and silky my hair turned out. Which was especially nice in the summer, when the sun and chlorine can sometimes make it, um, not soft and silky. These products, especially the mouse, created major volume - a plus for many people. And I love that Got 2b comes close to salon-brands, but at a very affordable price point. You can get most of the products for under $5 at your grocery store or drug store.

The bad:
Lots of volume. This can be a plus for some, and usually I'm looking for products to boost volume, but with my current unfortunate hair cut (I'm growing out some funky layers & wish it was all 4 inches longer), it created way too much volume for me. Especially when I used both products together. It was pretty wild.

I'm going to hold onto the other half of my bottles for when my hair grows out a little bit. I think it will be perfect then! In the meantime, a little Lustre Lotion goes a long way to smooth and soften my hair.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Buy an Apple for Your Teacher

And...  it's that time of year again. Time for new backpacks. Time for new lunchboxes. Time for new shoes, and jeans, and clothing of all kinds! Time for back-to-school shopping! Oh, and school too I suppose. As excited as we are around here for the start of 1st grade and preschool (only 1 kid still home all day), it's hard to parallel the excitement I get over a reason and a justification to spend money. And as I've been catching people's tweets, status updates, and posts about what they do & buy to prepare for the new school year, I've been wondering about the necessities. What new items do you buy, beg, borrow or steal for your children?

Our biggest challenge this year was tennis shoes for my 1st grader. He still can't tie his shoes and my husband insisted on non-lace shoes. I took my boy to 7 or 8 stores and couldn't find anything we liked for less than $20. And most around $30. Is it just me? Am I totally cheap? I can barely pay $20 for shoes for me!

Payless has some awesome shoes, in addition to all the lame character tennies. Unfortunately the cool ones were $20-25, and I kept looking. We found some cool, classic Vans for $20 but my boy is used to flat, flexible soles and said they felt weird. We are not skaters over here. In the end, I found some slip-on Converse for under $17 at Nordstroms. It was a special deal on only one color (chocolate brown) and the store matched the price for me. Great experience and shoes are checked off the list.

As for clothes, that's where I get a little disappointed. Because I do so much clearance-rack shopping year round, there's not much left to do in August. My friend, Becky, posted about getting her three kids school ready and said she spent over $400. That only included three new outfits for each of them. We saved on not having to buy a backpack, lunchbox, or any school supplies. (We never got a list of supplies. Will he come home with one tomorrow?) For my son, he is just ready to move from size 5 to size 6, and his birthday is next month so I spent some time today pulling out all his size 6 clothes. Despite not feeling like I spent much money for back-to-school clothes, I pulled off tags totalling about $80 worth of new things.

And what do we have to show for it all? A year's worth of clothes:
10-12 t-shirts
4 polos
3 pairs of jeans
2 pairs of other pants
4-5 pairs of shorts
4-6 long-sleeved shirts (do kids need these for winter in AZ? I say yes, husband no)
various (plenty of) church clothes

What do you think? Is it too much? Ridiculously too little? Am I forgetting something? Yes, he has socks, underwear, pajamas, and jackets too. And probably way too many of each. Just like me!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Battle of the Books

I've really been digging the literature lately; my Goodreads account has been hopping. Check out my profile there for all my reviews, but here are my thoughts on a few recent faves that were a little bit special or out of the ordinary for me.

The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris

This book had a very original premise and dealt with frustration, social perception, and family relationships. I thought the writing was fantastic, even if the subject matter was a little far-fetched. It was the kind of story I was telling my husband about.

Invisible I by Stella Lennon & Melissa Kantor
I had no idea what to expect with this book - I added it to my list too long ago to remember why. And I was so surprised and pleased at the fresh, modern mystery. A little bit sci-fi, a little bit techie, and a whole lot of fun. I read through it super quick, too engrossed to set it down. It was set up well for a whole series and I can't wait to get my hands on the others.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet by Jamie Ford
Takes place in Seattle during WWII. A young Chinese boy becomes friends with a Japanese girl, who is then relocated along with all the Japanese people from coastal cities. I was fascinated with the history of the time period, both war-related and not. The evolution of relationships figures prominently and despite being plot-driven, this book was all about the characters to me.

The Likeness by Tana French
This author is awesome! These are pyschological thrillers, I'd say, rather than classic mysteries. The characters are very intriguing and I loved this as a follow-up to Into the Woods, but it can certainly stand alone too. I gave this 5 stars and am thinking of choosing it for my book club.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
I loved this book! It was clearly French, with a bit of a different view and style than American books, and was very refreshing to me. I love the format of very short (2-3 pages) chapters. Even when the material gets deep & philosophical, it is in short bursts and leaves you time between chapters to put the book down and think about what you just read. I don't think I have ever read a book like that. I have never put a book down so many times to ruminate on the subject matter, then pick it back up a little while later.

The vocabulary level was quite high for me, and I pulled my dictionary out a dozen times to check words. Barbery is a fabulous writer, but I think almost as much credit should go to the English translator, Alison Anderson.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog was full of beauty and love and appreciation for art and literature. I feel inspired to take courses in fine art, Russian literature, and Japanese cinema. I'm a huge fan of books that leave you wanting to know more about art and culture. I want to be an autodidact like Renee! (I had to look up autodidact - it means self-taught) I bought my own copy so I can reread it very soon.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Music to My Ears

We have been going to the Maricopa County Library for about a year now. Besides all the lovely books, they have a great selection of music CDs, movies (including new releases), and the latest seasons of tv show. And recently, I applied for my own card rather than bumming off my husband. Because...


Yes, if you go to their website, you can click over to Freegal Music, where with your library card number & pin you can log on and download three songs a week. All for free. This is run by Sony Music Entertainment and while no iTunes, they have plenty of music for me, including new & current stuff. Libraries nationwide participate so check yours out today. I've been downloading for 3 weeks now & my ears have never been happier!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Old Friends & New

Since my family settled into a new house about four months ago, I've thought a lot about friends. Obviously, everyone needs to make new friends when they're in a new area, new church, new school, etc. I worried about my kindergartner, whom we unceremoniously pulled out & stuck in a new school. But he's very social & had a new posse within a week. My husband isn't worried about having lots of new friends, but I am. I've tried hard to be social, attend events, talk to people, and push out of my comfort zone. And it's worked. I've found many women in my new area who are friendly, kind, fun, and interesting. But I still don't know if they want to be friend-friends with me.

I spent a few hours this morning with one of my oldest friends, whom I've know since preschool, and probably before. We were very close through high school, but different colleges, marriage, moves, and just... life have taken us to the point that we only spend time together once or twice a year, despite living in the same city. I still love her, and when we get together I enjoy it immensely and wonder why we don't do it more often. I know she would be there for me in a crisis - she's done it before. But, she has new friends. Like, tons of them. Friends that live close to her, and have kids that are friends with hers, and that go on girls trips, couples vacations, and babysitting exchanges with each other. And we are not that kind of friends anymore.

When my family lived in Florida for a year, the best part was meeting the Johnsons. Shannon & I clicked immediately and she was the kind of friend that was willing to hang out with me two, or three, or four, or more days a week. That's the kind of friend I like. The kind of friend I want to make now. Well, maybe not hanging out sooo many days of the week. That's a little harder to do with older kids. But someone who doesn't think I'm a stalker-freak if I call every day.

But honestly, I think I'd be happy with some friends who like to actually spend time together. Not just trade babysitting, or sit next to each other sometimes at church events, but who will go with me to a girls night out, or shopping, or to lunch, or spend time at my house while we talk & ignore our kids until the screaming gets too loud to hear each other.

I went to a blogger meet up on Saturday night, and despite the organizer being disappointed by the low turn-out, I had a great time. I convinced Sue to go with me, mostly through threats & begging, and was so glad to hang out with her for an evening, as well as meeting some other interesting women. I'm hoping for more of these events in the future, as well as more friendship connections in my new area, but in the meantime, I'm going to spend a lot of time talking to my old girlfriends, who are as valuable as gold, but mostly live in the wrong state.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Finally Presentable

For all my friends that care, and for anyone who might still be hanging onto a subscription, despite the fact that I haven't posted seriously in forever, here are some up to date photos of our new house. These are the formal living & dining rooms, which take up the left side of the house, from front to back. We had new carpet installed in the entire house, but I laid new flooring myself in the dining room. It only took my three months after we moved in. Finally all the boxes are gone, furniture in place, etc. I even hosted a couple of events here.

Now, for the to do/want list: curtains, artwork, etc. In our last home I had a very long stretch of wall that I didn't know what to do with. That problem is solved, thanks to many, lovely windows. But what to do vertically? We have some VERY tall ceilings, on both floors. Anyone have some great ideas?

Also, what does everyone think about plants? Do we need some? Are faux trees & plants faux paux? Should I get real? Can I keep them alive?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Please vote!

Somehow this is the most important thing I've voted for in a long time. I really need to get a life.

Vote for MTN DEW(R) Distortion(TM) -

Friday, March 12, 2010

The "During" Shots

Moving is hard work. Like, totally hard. I had forgotten all the craziness, despite our cross-country move only three and a half years ago. And we all know those people who move in, and within days their house looks like they've been there for years. All pictures hung, all knick knacks out, all boxes gone. I am not one of those people. I like to unpack one box. Then... take a nap. Then try another box, then maybe catch up on my blog reading for a couple hours. Another box, then read a book or two. Mix that with normal child rearing and occasional laundry, dishes, and cleaning and we're not exactly clipping along at a speedy rate here.

Here are the "during" shots, which certainly don't represent half way between before and after. More like worse than "before." But I took these early last week, so I swear things look better now. A bit. But at least I'll be giving a current excuse for my lack of... personal hygiene posting entertaining visitors.

By the way, we love the house. The neighborhood and ward seem great. I'm reserving judgement on the school, but my son seems happy.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Blank Slate

One of the best things about moving into a new house is the opportunity to start fresh with your decorating scheme. You can try a new color, furniture piece, or a completely different design aesthetic. Naturally budget is the big limiter here, along with agreement between spouses. We're putting most of our cash into buying the house, leaving just a teeny bit for changes to the interior. I'm finding that I think about it all the time, devouring books, blogs & magazines for ideas and when Aaron comes home from work, I innundate him with non-stop talking about what I want to do to each of the rooms in our new house. I'm pretty sure he's sick of it all. But not enough to give in to all my choices. I'll keep working on it.

Here are the before pictures of our new home:

The front entry (the open front door is on the right in this picture) and the "formal" living and dining room, which are to your left as you walk in

The kitchen & family room, which are really one big room and are all painted the same green color right now. The kitchen picture is a much better representation of color.

My middle son's room, which will be the only one getting a new paint job before we move in. 'Cause at our house "Boys Rule!" not girls.

We'll save pictures of the other rooms for later.

Moving update: we are still waiting on various paperwork today and I really hope we can have keys by Friday so we can quickly get carpet installed and move in on Saturday. But there's a chance that might not happen. Please keep your fingers crossed for us! And if you're local, let me know if you (or your husband) are available to help us move during the week. Because we might

be left with no other option.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I love frozen yogurt

I've been reading the blog, Barefoot in the Kitchen, for many months now because I love to follow local bloggers (with the secret hope that I will be friends with them someday). Stephanie has been heralding the opening of her family's yogurt shop and I can't wait for the grand opening. This is made sweeter by the fact that I'll be getting free yogurt! I've always been strictly an ice cream girl, but recently enjoyed Golden Spoon and am keeping myself open to this new, lower-calorie experience. I can eat twice as much yogurt, right? Hope to see you at the opening!

the yodipity grand yo'pening
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Free yogurt for bloggers, click here for details.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Blog it Forward

Today marks the beginning of the blogger mash-up, Blog It Forward, created and hosted by the lovely Victoria, from sfgirlbybay. The theme is "What Inspires You" and the idea is to feature 10 posts per day, with links forward and backwards to other participants. I am looking forward to reading as many of the 300 entries as I can in the next 6 weeks. I have an idea that I will find many more blogs to add to my reader. Click the banner to the left to see the schedule and list of all those participating. I was a little disappointed to see that my turn falls on the last day, but maybe reading all the other entries will make mine all the more fabulous!

Check out the 10 starting posts here:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Free Eye Candy

Pixelgirl Presents offers hundreds of free images for your desktop or iPhone. Most are illustrations, but there are photos too. Take some time to browse through and download a few that appeal to you. Here are a few of my favorites.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Getaway

My husband is the greatest. For Christmas, he surprised me with a plane ticket to visit my friend, Jane, in Utah - FOR SIX DAYS! I know, he's awesome. Not only did he buy the ticket, he cleared the dates with Jane, took some time off work for himself, and arranged a day of babysitting with both my mother and mother-in-law. Yes, he's incredible.

And what did I do during this fabulous six days? I read three books. I watched hours and hours of tv. I took naps. I ate delcious, decadent food. I shopped. I lunched with some cool people at a cool place. And spent lots of down time with a pregnancy-induced sickie. It was the greatest getaway ever!

I was around kids, but they weren't my own and I didn't have to bug them to do stuff, discipline them, or worry about their bedtime. I helped make meals, but I wasn't responsible for planning menus or feeding an entire family. I made Jane oatmeal cookies when she felt like some, but didn't have to rebuff her tireless nagging to drive to the store late Sunday night to get milk to go with them.

In the end, my husband and I both agreed that six days was too long. But five days seems just about right and he admitted how hard it was to be with the kids every day. He said he loves and appreciates me for staying home with them and trying my best to make our house a home. (And this is coming from someone who was already arguably one of the most hands-on & helpful Dads I've ever seen.) My sweet hubby said he wants me to send him on a trip like that every year. And since it's a little easier to get away, now that our boys are a bit bigger, I think I'll take him up on it.

And the best part? He didn't even give me grief about all the things I bought! Probably because I am the greatest bargain shopper ever and two thirds of the things I bought were under $4. Somehow this was the only picture I took of my trip.

Thanks to all the people who helped babysit: our mothers and our sisters, and several friends of mine. I owe you guys!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Read Blogs the Fast & Beautiful Way

Does anyone still read this blog?

Google Reader is awesome. If you don't have one set up, you should do it now (for free). I can easily subscribe to blogs I like, and read the new posts in easily half the time. I like being able to share a post with my husband, and star my favorites for future re-reading. The only downside is missing the beautiful layouts of all those bloggers who spend so much time making their site look pretty. And of course, if you want to comment on a post, it takes a couple extra clicks.

But thanks to a tip from Making It Lovely, I've found a new way to keep up with my posts, comment more often, and enjoy those pretty pages: Google's Next Button. You add a "next" bookmark to your browser toolbar, and every time you click on it, you're taken to the next post in your reader. To add the Next Button, go to Settings in your Google Reader, and look under the Goodies tab.

Another great thing: when you get to the end of your list, and have read everything, you get a page that says, "Congratulations, you have reached the end of the internet." And when you click on "end of the internet" you get the following page. I love it!

I try to follow that advice.