Friday, February 29, 2008

Spring Soiree Collage Swap- - Finished Work

I am participating in Danielle's Spring Soiree Collage Swap of The Vintage Dragonfly.
I finished up and got mine in the mail this week. Here is a little sneak peek...

I actually photographed it with different "backdrops". These two, laying on my shabby chic adirondack chair and on top of an old French textbook, the same one that I cut from the glossary of to get the word spring from (at the center bottom of the collage) were my favorites. Don't worry. I have been culling from this book for other projects too. I have four or five French textbooks, so I didn't see much harm in cutting up one. The first time I cut into this book was to make Michael our first wedding anniversary card. Now that's a good cause, right? Plus isn't it interesting to have a book on hand that you are using as ephemera and each time you use it be reminded of the projects that came before? It creates its own sentimentality as a collective whole this way, even though the book itself doesn't possess sentimental value standing alone.

A little about my collage. The paper doll is June Allyson from back in the day. Her dress is concocted of a pink daisy that I cut from vintage fabric (and glitterized) and a pale blue cupcake liner folded and cut to give the illusion of a pleated skirt with a crinoline. The flowers are from a vintage notecard and from a favorite seed catalog. June is actually portraying Mary Mary (of Quite Contrary fame) so she is wearing a pearl necklace with a silver M charm. The sparkle beaded stems (look like glass, but are plastic) are from a Xmas gift embellishment/garnish that I saved from several Christmases ago knowing I would re-purpose it. The background is Target gift wrap (very thick) with a vintage blue bumblebee repeat (it looks very Martha Stewart-y to me). Because of the high quality and thickness of the gift wrap (and my fondness of the design of course) I bought lots of rolls way back when and used them to line my kitchen cupboards. I love seeing it everyday. At the bottom is baby blue pom-pom trim (I wish I'd had smaller scale trim, but I didn't). And then as I mentioned the bit of ephemera reads Spring and then translates it to French.

I do so hope that my partner likes her collage and I can't wait to see the collage I am lucky enough to receive. Of course once it arrives, I will be sure to post it here!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Glittery Goodness, Vintage Birds & A Joke

I was very honored to receive some very sweet awards & a dear gift from some bloggy friends and I am just getting around to posting about it. Sorry girls. Please forgive my tardiness and know that I adore you all to pieces!! And please accept my long overdue thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

First sweet Laura, from Little Orange Kitchen (a wonderful blog filled with so much goodness that you really must find time to visit) honored me with the coveted "Spread the Love Award". Who, little ole me? Well, I'll be! Thank you.
I am passing the torch to Jade of chikaustin and spreading some love her way. Jade & I got to know one another when our babes exchanged valentines in a fun, little swap. That's when I discovered that she is an extra cool "chik". I am very glad to know her. She just moved her blog over to wordpress & it looks fabulous!! Check it out!

And then there's darling Kai of The Party in Kai's Head who rained some glitter my way. What better treat is that? I mean everything gains sparkle and fun. You can't brighten a day better.
Please go visit Kai and see all the wonderful things she has been busy creating!

And last, but not least, the delightful Mary Ann of the truly lovely Follow Your Bliss sent me the gorgeous thank you (shown above & below) for coordinating the Mother Goose Swap. Mary Ann, I am sending you lots of warm hugs your way. You made my day magical. I hung the lovely "Mary Mary Quite Contrary" piece right above my desk so I gaze at it all day, I devoured the chocolates and have already used some of my fun trinkets and supplies. You are a doll!!

I also wanted to share a wonderful book I picked up at our local library book sale, entitled, "Bird Neighbors" - (An Introductory Acquaintance with One Hundred and Fifty of Our Common Birds) by Neltje Blachan.
Don't you love how 150 is s-p-e-l-l-e-d out on the cover? So cute. I am in love with the way the cover looks, but we can't just judge a book by its cover now, can we? And this one doesn't disappoint, for there are riches within. This book was published in 1897! And, it is still in EXCELLENT condition. I picked it up for a mere $1.50. Amazing.

The color plates are really lovely to look at. So very inspirational. I will be scanning them so that I can use them in various mixed media projects. I am planning to possibly use them in my Sweet Little Birds Swap creations, but I don't want to spill the beans and be a spoiler to anyone's surprise so I'll just leave it at that!

And feast your eyes on the other cute surprise within. A vintage H.C. Jacobmeyers Co. notepad page with scrawled pencil notes on it. I love finding little hidden surprises. Especially when they are vintage ephemera!

Oh and my almost two year old Cooper wants to share a joke with you.
Ok. Be sure you are not eating or feeling queasy. Ready?

Do you like seafood? You do? Great!
Scroll down....

SEE Food!!

And yes, we do wear Halloween shirts in February in our household. Especially when they features monsters and skeletons!!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bon Appetit McLovin

So, last night I made this chicken curry from Bon Appetit. It was very good and I highly recommend it, but with a couple of suggestions based on my tweaking...

Having thumbed through the reviews I saw many labeling the recipe as "bland" which was not what I was shooting for, so I upped the ante (and the curry paste) and used about 1 & 1/2 the amount called for. This, I found, was a bit too much. So now I know to use 2 teaspoons which is just over and be done with it. I didn't have shallots, so I used yellow onion, and thought it tasted fine. I also added in one potato which I put in along with the chicken and peppers. You may want to saute it with your shallots to let it soften a bit sooner. I didn't have red peppers, so I used green bell peppers. I also forgot to get basil, and as my basil plant is no longer with the living, I ended up using some fresh cilantro really more as a garnish than a flavor profile. Be sure to season at the end. We served ours atop basmati rice.
I served the curry with some English cucumbers sliced paper thin and seasoned with rice wine vinegar and granulated sugar. This was just the sort of cool we needed to tame down the spice.

Quick and easy and quite yummy too!!

Someone recently asked me how I find time to blog. It's because I let my house look like this....

It seems Amelia has taken much design inspiration from her own dear mother. Our look needs only one name, like Cher or Madonna. It is called "clutter". I am trying my best to cultivate a new look. Each day is a work in progress. And yes the blue blankie above needs a washing. Amelia wiped up spilled milk then placed it on her doll to sleep with. Even I don't do that.

What's funny is how Amelia at newly turned three is already in tune to blogging. She reminds me throughout the day to take pictures to document fun events or creations we have made. She'll say..."Mommy, don't forget to take a picture." She'll also point out "Kodak moments" that I may not have noticed. "Oh look how cute Cooper is. Take his picture Mommy!". She also has a vain streak as she will point out how cute she looks as well and demand I be her personal paparazzi. They absorb so much. Little sponges they are! (Yikes. Am I turning into Yoda?)

And I leave you with me as McLovin. If you haven't McLovin-ed yourself or your significant other, you really need to. And if you have no idea what I am talking about, then you need to watch Superbad.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Rainy Days, Ant Farms & Homemade Play Dough

Today we planned on heading outdoors to do something fun, but when the rain started to fall, our plans quickly evolved.
First things first. Everyone needs to see a smiling face first thing in the morning, don't you think?
Even if it is on your applesauce.
Really. It makes it so much easier to get started on the right foot, even when you're not getting to go to the zoo as planned.Well, if you can't get to the zoo, why not bring the animals to you? So that's what we did. We made an ant farm. I just noticed the other day at the edge of our driveway at the spot that used to be our pumpkin patch were now mountainous mounds of ants. A bit scary actually!
So, today, having the ants in mind, and not wanting to head to a store in the rain, we looked around for what we could concoct a homemade ant farm from that we already had in house.
We came up with this:
Yes, it is our former wormery (I only let the children keep the worms for a short while to observe and then we put them back in the earth so that we can insure we don't cause their early demise just for our benefit). The tall beaker shaped glass vase is approximately 1 foot high and 5 inches wide. Inside of it I inserted a tall 16 oz. glass tumbler which filled the space within the vase leaving only about 1/2" of depth between the two glasses. I turned the glass with the open drinking side down. That created a wall like area that the ants could live in and form their tunnels. We then carefully scooped several cups of ants including their soil from their monstrosity of an anthill in our yard. The ants and soil were poured so that they would fall down between the two glasses and form an instant ant farm. We then added a nice sized piece of ice cream cone shaped marshmallow candy and placed it just atop the center glass where the ants are forming a mound from the excavated tunnel dirt they are busily removing. We will add some sort of sweet treat every couple of days for food. Candy, or dollops of jellies or jam work well. Last, we covered the top with very very fine netting, that allows ants to breath, but doesn't allow ants to escape. I actually lined our netting with some blue saran wrap with lots of fork tine holes punched in it, to give us an extra barrier of protection. We then secured it all to the outer glass with a rubber band.
The ants began tunneling instantly. It was amazing and mesmerizing. More amazing was that it enraptured a one and three year olds' attention so dramatically. They watched and watched and watched for what seemed like an eternity and then kept coming back to check on their farm. It's a gift that keeps on giving!

Once we did tire slightly of our ants as they became old news, we turned our attention to making home made play-dough. We decided we needed some nice, cheery spring colors. We used the super easy no cook recipe of:
2.5 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 1 cup water and 1 tsp vegetable oil--
Each color required about 12 total drops of liquid food coloring. Food coloring paste works soooo much better, but I didn't have any on hand. I don't recall the exact formulas to create the saturations/colors we achieved. I just played mixologist and had fun experimenting until we liked what we saw. That's why my hands now look like this.
And yes, I do know about gloves, but I kind of like the odd bruised palms look. It gets me lots of raised eyebrows. Actually, I do like the process of kneading directly with my hands. I find that I can work the color in better that way. Plus it's therapeutic for my deeply bruised ring finger in a "hurts so good" way. Now my hand looks like it feels!
P.S. I love how I managed to take a picture of my hand that makes it look bigger than a five person pizza (see post below). In case you are wondering, no I am not a giant. In fact, I don't even think I have man hands, but to look at this picture, you'd never know that.

Now it's nap time. So we're off to read and then to la-la-land while I catch up on work, get our chicken curry going for dinner & think about how cute Daniel Day-Lewis looked at the Oscars.-

Monday, February 25, 2008

Heart Shaped Pizza, Creeping Jenny & The Sound of Daddy's Guitar

Tonight I felt obliged to make a heart shaped pizza for my little ones. I dropped the ball in swinging this one on Valentine's Day itself. Then Amelia found a Papa John's ad with a heart shaped pizza which she kept oohing and ahhhing about all weekend. A heart shaped pizza that was no longer being served up post Valentine's Day, so the creation of any such pizza was suddenly left up to me. I figure the entire month of February should be about love anyways, right? And in my book any day is a good excuse to share and show a little love.
Please forgive the very abstract nature of my heart. It is a cross between a commercial and anatomical rendering. Not really, but that sounded like a good cover-up for the fact that when I hand stretched the dough I wanted to be sure that I made a pie big enough to feed all 5 of us so I stretched and stretched and ended up with a amorphous blob that I like to call a heart. But it tasted good, even if it wasn't exactly pretty. And besides, I still think it's kinda cute. And the kids loved it.

In other news at the end of last summer I planted Creeping Jenny in the hopes that it would grow up and over the last remaining bastion of brick wall that we have in the backyard after adding on to our house. I love many bricks, but not ours (except for the moss covered bits), so I am desperately trying to cover it. The plan is to also have Michael build an arbor over the back garage door which when paired with the Creeping Jenny should actually evoke some charm rather than make me want to avert my gaze. Here is the progress so far. I want to document the growth and see just how long it takes to achieve this goal. And perhaps putting it out there will make us more proactive--
We also still need to paint the house, so I am hoping this year will be our year for these larger exterior house projects now that the little ones are getting slightly more manageable and independent.

Last, but not least, here is Michael playing his guitar. I am so happy for him that he has been able to enjoy playing once again so very much. It is soothing to hear him strumming away while I work at night once the kids are all in bed. Do you remember being a kid and going to sleep at night to the reassuring sounds of your parents and their nightly routine whatever that might have been? Mine was hearing my Mom cleaning the kitchen and preparing the next day's lunches sometimes paired with sitcom laugh tracks carrying down the hall to me from our family room tv that my father was watching as I drifted off. I like to think that Michael's guitar provides the same comfort for our kids (and for me) each and every night.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Fun Day with Friends

I acknowledge I can be way too much of a hermit. Especially in winter, but really any time of year. I get in the habit of being overwhelmed by my ever present to-dos (most of which are house projects to include working from home). Sometimes so much so that I skip out on getting together with friends, rationalizing this decision by saying, "well at least the kids got out and played with friends at preschool". But really, that's not enough. I need to get out and be around kindred spirits too. It's so enlivening and just pure fun.
So, today we headed out to our tiny local hands-on children's museum and met up with my adorable friend Jill and her three precious little gems. We had so much fun catching up and chattering away about everything under the sun. A breath of fresh air it was.
I need to do it more often. I really do.
And we swapped things too which added to our fun!
By the way, Jill, if you are reading this, Amelia LOVED her bag of goodies. She raved on and on during the ride home. I was going to have her call you to tell you herself, but since she's tuckered out and tucked in her bed now, I'll tell you instead. And I quote:"Oh Mommy! I love all these beautiful things Miss Jill gave me! Why did she give me all these beautiful things? (Me: Well, because she's so nice and she's our friend and she wanted to share them with you.) Well, I love them. Thank you Miss Jill."
I love completely sincere, unprovoked, pure oozing child adoration. It's the best!
Thank you, Jill. As you can see in the pic above, she had to put it all on the minute we arrived home. I think she looks a little Little Bo Peepish thanks to her makeshift "staff" she found out in the yard. Don't you love a three year old who styles her own shoots? :-)

Here are some other quick shots of our day-

Amelia & Coop poling away down the river to somewhere historically know, like Disneyworld or Big Kahuna's Water Park. I am surprised they didn't tell me Target. That's almost always their destination of choice.
Rise & Shine! Pretty Madison peeks her head out of her covers (in actuality the mattress). A terrible, limp, lethargic mattress that feels just a tad less comfortable than laying on a pile of rocks. This girl has a back of steel to snuggle up on a rope bed and use the mattress for a blankie!

Adorable toddlers preparing a delightful feast to be remembered.

Upon closer examination you can see that the feast consists mainly of spoons. Delicious, splintery, wooden, inedible spoons.

And finally here Amelia sizes up the treasure chest trying to discover a) will her baby brother Cooper fit inside b) does it lock c) will Mom notice if he doesn't leave with us?

Happy soon to be weekend!!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sweet Little Birds Swap

Partners sent via email. Please contact me via email or a message here if you have not received your partners. I will be sending a flickr group invite via email on 3/31. Thanks! Happy Swapping!

Alrighty then. One swap down, another one ready to roll.

I am super excited to announce that I am hosting a "Sweet Little Birds Swap".
I have done these hanging bird swaps before *see pics below* and had so much fun with it!! I was so very fortunate to receive such an adorable cast of winged characters over the course of the swaps from my very talented swap partners, each little bird possessing his/her very own unique personality, charm and appeal. No two are alike. They're like snowflakes (note to self, a snowflake swap should be in the making!!). :-)

So, here's the scoop:

*Sweet Little Birds Swap*

(above is our official badge, please feel free to post it to your blog.)

General: You will be assigned 3 different partners for this swap. To each partner, you will be sending one handmade bird ornament directly.

Size: Your ornaments should be (approximately) 3" to 6" in size. This is a general guideline, just so there is some sense of uniformity and expectation. If you really, REALLY want to make the world's smallest bird, not able to be seen with the naked eye, or simply have to have an albatross, then go for it. I'm not a whip cracker, just a general guideline giver (pushover).

Materials/Techniques: You can use any other medium that you can readily use/embellish to create a handmade sweet little bird (cardboard, fabric, papier-mache, wood, styrofoam, clay, wire etc.). Some of the major craft stores sell sweet little precut wooden bird ornaments that you can use to decoupage, adorn and embellish. Please be sure your bird is sturdy, but not too heavy, as these will be hung. You can make your birds realistic or abstract, pretty or funky, vintage or modern... use your imagination and allow it to run wild. Just be sure your ornament is shaped like a bird. Sew, paint, creative, anything goes! Since these are ornaments, please be sure to incorporate a way for your bird to hang. Also, be sure to decorate both sides of your birds as once they are hanging, both sides will be on display. Lastly, be sure to attach a removable tag with your name and any contact information you wish to include, so your recipient can graciously thank you for all your hard work.

What to do with your finished birdies? Do you really need to ask? :-) Beyond the obvious: squealing with delight upon seeing them, holding them tenderly and showering them with kisses....(Oh, am I alone here? Come on. Anyone? Ok, embarrassing. Clears throat.)... Once you do collect all your hens and chicks, you'll need to find a perfect spot to hang them. I've always hung mine from ribbons above my three year old daughter's bed. Amelia loves gazing at them each night as she drifts off to slumberland. I may steal these this time though to hang in my office/studio space. Shhh. Don't tell Amelia!! :-) But, really they are adorable anywhere. I like the thought of bringing in a driftwood-esque branch to prop in a vase and then hang them from. You could spray paint the branch a fun bright turquoise, lacquer red or maybe just a simple white, then dangle your birdies from your "tree".

Who can play? Anyone!! Swap is open to International & US Swappers.

UPDATED Deadline to Sign Up: March 25th

UPDATED Partners to be Sent via Email By: March 28th

UPDATED Deadline to Mail: April 16th

How do you sign up? Comment here &/or email me using the "email me" link here on my blog.

Please spread the word!! The more the merrier!! Tell them a little bird sent you!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It's Arrived!!!!!!!!!!

Two posts in one day? Gasp! It can't be true! This is worth it, though!
No sooner than I clicked "publish post" but who at my welcoming door should appear with his eight (well, four) shiny wheels and cute little little red (brown) suit? None other than Santa (UPS man) with my magic seeing, snapping machine (new digital camera).

Look. This was a photo using my old camera of my hanging heart I made-

And After-

Be still my heart, as it is hanging, from cloud nine.

The story is in the enlargements. Click. Make bigger. Compare. Swoon.

A Week in Review

Feels like old times. Yes, it's been too long. Sickness really drags you down with it. Doesn't it? We've all been snorting, coughing, wheezing, moaning & groaning over the last week. I'm happy to announce that I think we're finally done.
I started many a good post, but then nixed one after another as not being post-worthy. Even my sick mind knew better. Finally I realized I was running the risk of never posting again, so I threw in the towel and decided to no longer be my own harshest critic. So there.
In order to play catch up, real quick like, here's a past week collective-
We made our favorite go-to coleslaw. Several (actually wayyyy too many) times. That's what happens when you buy in bulk and refuse to let perfectly good slaw mix go to waste. I originally bought it for a delicious creamy slaw to top pulled pork sandwiches with, but while the pulled pork ran out, the GINORMOUS bag of slaw did not. Actually it seemed to be reforming as quickly as we ate it. Kind of like something out of a not-very-scary horror movie. The same thing happens with the field greens from Sam's Club. What's up with that? Just look at what too many field greens did to this toy giraffe. I found him out in the yard clearly having eaten himself into a coma.

I am sure there are umpteen million recipes for Asian Slaw out there, but I don't really use one. Several years ago I really liked the version at a neighborhood restaurant, so I came home and tried to mimic it and this is what I came up with- Now it's legendary...(in my own mind).

Asian Coleslaw
1 lb bag slaw mix (with carrots & red cabbage, thank you very much)
1 bunch scallions
1 package any flavor of ramen noodle soup (flavor doesn't matter as you'll discard the deliciousness of msg also know as the seasoning packet)
Dark sesame oil 1 T
Vegetable oil 1/8 c
Sesame seeds 1/8 c
Slivered almonds 1/4 c
Granulated sugar 2 T

Toast the sesame seeds and slivered almonds. Slice up the scallions (2 or 3) and toss into bowl with the cabbage mix. Break up the whole pack of ramen noodles into tiny pieces and toss about 2/3 of the bag in as well. Add in the toasted seeds and almonds. Next add in the sugar and oils then toss/stir to mix. I tried to label the recipe with measurements even though, I just throw everything in without measuring. You definitely want to taste as you add ingredients and add more if you feel it's needed. Or take some out if you feel it's not needed. (Easier said than done, sorry.)

When we weren't sniffling and coleslaw eating, we did take some time to enjoy Valentine's Day!!!
We gave.....
I know. I've already bored you with these before. But this is all eleven of them cuddled together for one last snuggle before they head out into the world to start their new life on their own. The moment was bittersweet. I needed three tissues and a lot of consoling.
Amelia loved making these little packets for her preschool friends. She especially liked making the Pixie Stix fairy wands and was quite miffed they were not all for her to eat once we finished.

Preschool teacher gifts. Please let it be known Miss Jessica squealed at the sight of her polka-dot headband and cotton candy Lip Smacker. Who knew? I could have thrown the rest of it right in the trash and she would have been head over heels for just $2.37. (Not that she didn't like all the rest. ):-)

And we received.....
This child has one canned look for every photo. It involves the odd squinching of the eyes and the slight gaping of the mouth. Of course the minute after I snapped this, she went back to normal which in this moment was squealing and leaping and emanating pure joy about receiving this box of delighfulness from our friends Makena, Keegan and their mommy, Jade.

Let's see. What else?

We made an unfinished scarecrow....

We acted bashful while wearing oversized hats intended for scarecrows.

We admired for probably what many would consider a very unhealthy length of time (to include photographing it) our adorable anthropomorphic sidewalk chalk before using it.

We served each other large platters of very carefully, and colorfully arranged fake food .

We stood still (kind of) and looked cute wearing aprons and oven mitts.

We made cookie crayons and admired the paper shavings as much as we did the finished cookies.
Ooooohhhh!! Pr-e-tttyyy!!!

Melted and waiting to cool.

The finished products! Don't eat. Just color.

And most importantly, we (Matthew) were elected to join the Order of the Arrow (the Boy Scout Honor Society). Congratulations to my big (almost teenage, I can't believe it) boy Matthew. We are all very proud of you!!!

So as you can see, we just had a good 'ole time in general over the past week. Hope you did too!!