Monday, November 28, 2011

Apparently Station Wagons are Trendy!

Check out the latest Vera Bradley advertisement!
I SWEAR I had not seen this until AFTER I came up with, and posted, my ideas for our "daddy wagon" centered family Christmas photo, based loosely on this birthday card.

I suppose great minds think alike!  And as long as I am thinking about Vera Bradley, let me mention my complete adoration for the zip around wallet by Vera Bradley

I have bought this same wallet for several years now.... actually ever since I became a mom.  It has room for my checkbook and my cards (ID, library, discounts, debit, etc. ALL of them) AND it has room for pictures (I think I had to buy a wallet picture holder) AND it holds my cash AND has a pocket for coins AND room for a pen.  Pretty much, it held everything that I needed from my purse.  I found that with most of my cell phones, if my wallet wasn't too cram packed, I could fit the cell phone in the coin pocket.  Now, why cram so much into a wallet?  Well, when I had to carry a diaper bag I was always shuttling things from my purse to the diaper bag.  I hated to carry both, but occasionally needed to leave the diaper bag with someone and still have my things out of it.  The wallet was the perfect solution.  Everything went in the wallet and then the wallet either went in the purse or in the diaper bag.  I NEVER had to wonder if I had my ID or phone or what was in the diaper bag and what was in my purse.

My other favorite feature of this wallet is that it has a wrist strap. If I was to just pull it out of the diaper bag, I can carry it like a purse.  I have even gotten in the habit of sliding my key ring down on the wrist strap, sliding my hand through the strap and then I can shop (or chase a child) completely  hands free. I love it, but after a year or two the fabric looks dirty... and the new styles are always SO cute that I want a new one.  (hint, hint, the pattern shown above is one of my new favorites and it is on SALE! Follow the link provided above if interested in this, or other VB products.)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Shopping with former Sex Workers!

I just finished my Black Friday Christmas gift shopping, from HOME!  I only bought one item (multiple times) and I feel great, not only about the deals that I got, but also about the good that I did in the world.  I bought several pairs of PUNJAMMIES
 I first heard about Punjemmies when they were metioned on one of my favorite cool mom websites, Design Mom

I immediately bought a few pairs for gifts, because I feared that Design mom devotees would snack up all the goods.  A few designs, including the Seema (which I LOVE, hint, hint), were already out of stock but there were plenty of others to choose from.  Being, what I assumed, was a small company operating out of India, I feared they might take a while for delivery and that if they did sell out, items might not be restocked again before the holidays.  I was apparently wrong.  
My order was easy to place (I only saw a few designs that were out of stock) and everything arrived at my house in a few DAYS!  When my items arrived, everything was packaged BEAUTIFULLY!  Seriously, I may not even need gift wrap because the pun-jammy pants were folded into a cloth bag made of the same material as the pants.  The fabric is authentic Indian style batik prints and many have details like intricate ribbon and wood bead trim.  Each pair is tagged with the International Princess logo and came with a beautiful brochure telling all about the program's goals.  
The International Princess Project is a non-profit group that creates jobs for women who have been rescued from sex trafficking in India. They have been around for about 5 years now and have 100 women working in 3 different sewing centers in India.  Beautiful gifts for some beautiful women in my life and it all helps women in India find a way out of the sex trade.  If you are not familiar with the pervasiveness of the problems in India, I highly recommend the documentary Born Into Brothels. It is about a photographer working with the children of sex workers in India.  I saw it on Netflix streaming, but here is a link to watch online for FREE if you don't have Netflix!
 Back to the good stuff!  Here is one more picture of the Punjammies (the nanu, yet another of my FAVORITES, hint hint), this beautiful pair was also sod out the first time I placed an order.  YES, I said FIRST time!  I was already regretting not buying more Punjammies for other people on my list, when I got an e-mail with this offer!
I woke up early today, because even when my kid is at Grammies I can't seem to sleep in.  I am SO glad I thought to get out the computer and check out the sale.  They have updated their website, making it even easier to see the selection than the last time I shopped AND they had new styles and even more larger sizes.  Unfortunately, LOTS of styles and sizes were already sold out even at 7am.  I was still able to find all that I needed because SO many of them are so special and pretty, it didn't matter if my first choice was gone.  I did not end up buying any for myself...regret...regret (hint, hint) but I am SO excited about the deals that I got and the good that my purchases will do.  Check out the Punjammies shop and the info about the non-profit behind it all.  Even if you can't get a deal today, think about it in the future.  Even at regular price and with paying shipping, you will feel SO GOOD about your purchases! 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing you a holiday season filled with good friends, good memories, a nap when you need it (for young and old alike!), and pie.... There must be pie!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Liddy loves Alice in Wonderland

Lydia loves looking at my Richard Sabuda pop up book version of Alice in Wonderland.  Coincidentally, at this very moment I am finishing an audio book of Alice I have Been, a historical novel about the girl who inspired the fairy tale.  It is really interesting to read the children's book to Lydia while being so absorbed in the real lives of the characters and the author.  As a result of Lydia's "Tea for Two: Mad Hatter Tea Birthday Party" I now own several versions of Alice, including a copy of the original hand written Alice's Adventures Underground and a leather bound edition with the classic illustrations.  However, those are both a bit advanced for a three year old.  The pop up is our current favorite.  Here are a few scenes that we both enjoy.  There are SO many amazing scenes, it was hard to narrow it down!
This is how the whole thing begins.  Alice and her sister on the river bank (that is her older sister Regina who comes up in the historical narrative as well).  Take a good look at the trees.  You can see the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, and the Queen (modeled after the real Alice's mother, apparently)!  This is also when Alice spots a white rabbit with a pocket watch (very similar to Alice's father, the dean of Oxford college).
The rabbit falls down a hole and Alice follows and the pop up book shows this in a WONDERFUL way.  There is an accordion fold section with a hole through the middle.  When you look through the hole, everything lines up and you see the book lined hole with Alice at the bottom.  Lydia LOVES this part.
Another small graphic, but a good one, this is when the baby turns into a pig.
Lydia Loves opening and closing this part and saying "Now you're a baby, now you're a pig" over and over again. 
Here is Lydia playing with the tea party page.  I have been surprised by how study the book is and how careful my three year old is with the book.  We have only had one small part tear and I am not entirely sure it was Lydia's fault.  I was able to glue the broken part back together, so all is well.
Here is the tea party page close up.The tea cups even appear to have tea in them!
A final shot of Lydia playing with the figures at the croquet game.  The hedge hog spins and Alice moves the flamingo back and forth.
The last page is an eruption of cards as Alice fights her way out of the dream.  By this point Lydia is generally ready for sleep and her own dreams.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mirror Make Over

I found this mirror at a thrift store for $3.  It is just plastic, but I liked its shape and thought it would go perfectly at Lydia's Four and Fabulous birthday party in June..... once it got a fabulous make over.
This was SO easy,  I think I had 5-10 minutes invested.  I found a piece of paper as big as the mirror.  I used my hand to press it into the groove on the edge of the mirror.  Then I used that fold line as a pattern to cut the paper to size.  It fit so well that I didn't even use tape to hold the paper in place.  I just took it outside and spray painted it white.
And here is the finished mirror as the centerpiece of my recent Pink Papaya makeup party.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pink Papaya Party!

A friend from church is putting a lifetime of retail cosmetics industry experience to work for herself and she has found a wonderful company to collaborate with. Pink Papaya is a skin care, spa products, and make up line that uses natural botanical, does not test on animals, and gives back to deserving causes. I hosted a get together the other day to introduce friends to the products and to my friend. If you want to see their product line, click this link to go to my friend's page on the Pink Papaya website. I was able to use a lot of the pink decorations that I have been accumulating for Lydia's Four and Fabulous birthday party in June.

Here is the spread I laid out for the guests.  This was a REALLY busy stressful week at work and I had ZERO time to do much ahead of time.  I went grocery shopping the day before the party.  I only made one food item ahead of time (the cheese ball had to firm up over night).  Everything else you see was done in about an hour before the party.

  I was REALLY happy with how it came together.  I cut a few vegetables and set out some ranch dressing.  We had chips and a few store bought dips.  One of my favorite semi-homemade party foods is the small baked brie in the center right of the table.  Just place a brie round on a pre-made pie crust, smother the top of the brie with jam, wrap in the crust and bake until the crust is cooked.  You will want to either place it in a walled pan to bake, or use aluminum foil to support the sides, so it doesn't collapse as the cheese melts.  Let it cool until it holds itself up and PRESTO!
I made two fruit plates featuring, what else, PAPAYA!
I had hoped to bake some pink cookies, but settled for store bought color themed treats.  We had white chocolate pretzels, pink sugar wafers, an Little Debbie strawberry cakes sliced into pinwheels.
And then there was the "Spa Party Cheese Plate"!  I saw this on Pinterest and then found the full directions and recipe on Hungry Happenings.  I was THRILLED with how easy it was.  I mixed 2 boxes of cream cheese with 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese.  I added a little salsa for color and a little seasoning ( 1 Tbsp taco is recommended, but I only had a random spice blend) for taste. The Pinterest version had you mix it up and place it in a face mold to set up over night.  If I don't have one of those laying around the house, who does?  So I improvised with some aluminum foil.  The cheese was nice and thick so I just formed an oval blob in the foil and left it overnight in the refrigerator.
The biggest issue was my face did not have a nose or any modeling, it was just a flat oval.  After it set up. I used a spoon to scoop some of the cheese out of the eye socket area.  I added that cheese to the nose area.
Cucumbers cover the missing eyeballs and a knife made the nostril holes.
A red bell pepper. cut so that the segmentation made the indent in the center. was used for the lips.  The headband/towel was supposed to be made from cheese, but I forgot to buy the right kind.  I just used a paper towel.  The original version also had a mud mask of guacamole.  I intended to do that, but the skin color came out so nice, I didn't bother and just served the guacamole with chips instead.  For comparison, here is the original inspiration image,
and here is my finished cheese ball make over face.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

History Themed Music Videos

I LOVE finding fun, funky, modern, resources to use with my students!  Teaching art, most kids at least enjoy the act of creating and don't need much convincing (other than I will take your paints away and you can read and write reports about art) to pay attention.  Art history, which I LOVE and could spend hours studying, can be a little harder to focus on for students...especially first thing in the morning.... in a darkened room......with pretty comfy chairs.  I try to be interesting, but I can see their heads bobbing some days and remember fighting the same napping instinct when I was the art history student.

This week I stumbled on a GREAT history/ art history resource and I just had to share it. I was searching for a video on the renaissance and I stumbled onto a YouTube video called Renaissance Man.  The link said something about the Violent Femes song Blister in the Sun.  I clicked on it and got a history themed music video parody with lyrics that were historically accurate.  Even better, they used subtitles, so you could be sure to catch all the information even if the lyrics were fast.  I found 50 something history videos on a You Tube channel called History Teachers's Channel.  Of those, 20 or so directly apply to subjects and time periods that I cover with my AP Art History class.  I showed one video, Civilization, today.  I let the students write down all the artworks in the video that we covered in the class.  We made it a contest for extra credit on a quiz to see who could find the most.  In a 3 minute video, they recognized 15 images. (I found 20 but I have read the entire textbook and they aren't half way through it yet!) They had to correctly name the image to get credit and I was really impressed and excited about using this as a review.  Next week we start Rome and I am looking forward to the Cleopatra video based on the song Fergalicious!  The image above is not one of the History Teacher's videos.  They are a group called Hold Your Horses who sing a song called 70 Million.  The real video for this real song is completely made up of the band acting out famous paintings.  It reminded me of the living paintings project that my AP Art History students do at the end of the year.
One last fun music video find for the week.  The Bare Naked Ladies have a song called The Mesopotamians!  The music video, does not feature any actual Mesopotamian art, but the lyrics mention all the different civilizations that fall under the Mesopotamian umbrella.  If you are an art or a social studies person, check out these videos and ENJOY!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas (Cards)

I have an article over at GalTime titled Plan Ahead for Perfect Holiday Photos.  I am currently in shock that in about a month, my Christmas cards need to be in the mail, unless I default to doing sending New Year's cards AGAIN.  I feel like Halloween JUST ended (I still haven't put away all my decorations) and now it is time to put up Christmas stuff and take a family photo!    (Have I mentioned that I am SWAMPED at work with the new TN state teacher evaluations). Anyway, the GalTime article was all about ideas to help get a better family photo, should you want one for your Christmas cards.  You can read the whole article on the GalTime website, but here are some of our pictures to illustrate the main points.
Have a color scheme in mind, and don't feel like you have to stick to red and green. Plan coordinating clothing in that color range, but don't go over board with matching.  The first family Christmas picture we did featured the pedal car that PJ painted.  ( I like to plan on "stuff" to interact with, climb on, lean on, sit on, etc.  Especially with kids, I think this helps give a more relaxed and less posed feeling to pictures)  The car had tons of colors in it, but we all had clothing in the purple range, which accented the car better than something green might have.  
That same year I also wrapped up some boxes like presents to use as props.  As long as I was buying paper, I bought some that matched our outfits.  Lydia sat on her Bumpo seat inside the box and we put a tutu around her to hide it.  The pictures were taken early, so the boxes were all empty.  It actually made them easier to transport as I left the bottoms open and they stacked inside of each other.  Weeks later, as I did my Christmas shopping, I just slid the gifts in through the bottom and closed the boxes up.  
 The next year, I did my own mini photo shoot at home.  That was really the point of the Galtime article.  If you are hiring a photographer, you may need to think about wardrobe, but they should be helping with the setting and the props.  With the bad economy, I think more people could take their own pictures at home, but then you really need to know a few things about creating a great moment (my current GalTime article) and about taking a great photo (my next GalTime article).  I got lucky on this photo shoot because I hadn't really planned it.  Lydia just happened to be wearing a cute Christmas outfit, and we were setting up the tree, and the afternoon light was shining on her really nicely.  So all of that is important (the lighting, the setting, the wardrobe) but then you just have to shoot and shoot and shoot.  I set my camera to "sports mode" to capture quick toddler movements and I delete TONS of pictures when i am finished, but i usually get a few good frames.
That year, we also went in for a professional photo at JC Penney's.  I usually HATE the studio fake living room setting, and I won't lie i am not crazy about it here.  I know what my house looks like and that isn't my house. I also know that lots of people have the identical Christmas photos and that bugs me.  We did bring some of our own accessories to add to the fake scenery.  That is Lydia's real stocking hanging on the fake mantle with one of her toys peaking out.  I wish I had brought my stocking and PJ's stocking too.Oh, well!
In the above picture, I knew I wanted a close cropped image and needed to get us closer to Lydia's height.  My sister suggested buying a Christmas book and letting her read it.  This is a "scanimation" version of The Night Before Christmas, so the pictures moved when you moved the pages.  It was GREAT for keeping Lydia smiling during the pictures
Last year, our photographer friend Sean came to our house to take pictures.  This is the pose that I had planned on, our entire family (dog included) gathered on the steps.  It is OK, but nothing special.  Something about having to hold Lydia (great for hiding some extra winter layers) meant her head is level with mine and we sort of got jumbled.  I wasn't feeling it.  At least this is MY house and MY tree in the background.  We all wore variations of black and white with maroon accents (even the dog got a maroon ribbon around his collar)!
A last minute suggestion was to gather around Lydia's little leather chair.  PJ and I were kneeling for a LONG time (and I think I did something permanent to my knee) but I wasMUCH happier with the grouping.  AND, we were in a part of the living room that gets better light so they are much brighter too.  AND, we are all looking UP at the photographer and that usually makes for a good shot.
And then there is the HAM picture.  We had ham on hand to bribe the dog, only then the toddler wanted ham.  Then PJ started begging for Lydia to give him ham and we all started laughing and the dog is about to leave because he was not getting any ham at that point!
This picture was also unplanned and is my FAVORITE.  Lydia playing with her American Girl "Nelly" during a quiet moment. Nelly's Christmas dress just happened to match Lydia's dress, without me having to make anything special to match.  I also really like that the ornament behind Lydia is one that she made in day care, because that is OUR tree and those are OUR ornaments.

So, now we have arrived at the planning stage for THIS year's photos.  I saw this birthday card on Pinterest and immediately got the idea to incorporate the 1967 Chevy Impala station wagon that PJ is restoring, lovingly refered to as "The Daddy Wagon".  Unlike the drawing above, our station wagon is teal and white, but I do like the idea of loading it up with packages, just using Christmas packages instead of birthday stuff.

I think we can have some fun posing on, and in, and around the daddy wagon. Since it is not painted a Christmas red like the wagon above, I think we will all wear jewel toned winter layers, hats and scarfs.
This isn't a wagon, but I like the idea of a wreath somewhere in the mix.  I don't think I will pile the roof so high with boxes, but I like the idea of us trying to add more boxes to the stack.  Maybe we could have Lydia on our shoulders or something?  Time to start wrapping some packages and scouting a location!