Sunday, September 30, 2012

I Want a Vitamix!

My cousin has been telling us about her Vitamix and I think I am a convert! She had us over for dinner and almost everything was made in it.

We had a roasted red pepper soup first. The raw ingredients went into the machine and after a few minutes, not only was it blended velvety smooth, it was HOT! Something about the speed of the blending and science and stuff. All I know is it was nutritious and warm and delicious.

There was talk of some really delicious margaritas, but we skipped that as the night was getting long. Instead, she made us strawberry ice cream. Frozen strawberries, a little milk and some sugar blended for just a short time and we were done. It was SO good!

I don't think I've eaten so many fruits and vegetables in one meal, or seen a meal prepared so quickly. After each use, the Vitamix was cleaned by running some soapy water through a blending and it was ready to go again. It sounds like the Vitamix can handle just about anything...... But if you mix bass in it, then you get a Dan Acroyd SNL sketch and NOT a tasty dinner!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Annual Iowa Cousins Photo

Every year when we drive to Iowa, we try to get a picture of all of the cousins together. So far everyone has made it to town for at least a short period of time so every cousin has been in every picture. This year we added two new babies!!! (Joshua and Elivia) here is my picture of the group followed by my pictures from the last three trips.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Two Favorite Photo Apps (and more Baptism Pictures)

Have you discovered the Walgreens phone app? It lets you upload pictures from your phone and have them developed at the Walgreens of your choice. I absolutely LOVE it! I am now taking ALL of my pictures on my iPhone but I am terrible about connecting it to my laptop to download and eventually print my pictures.

Apparently, the Walgreens app lets you do other cool pharmacy related things, but I have only tried the picture developing. In my world that's WAY more important than medicine! The app can also link up to Facebook to print the pictures you post there and they have this "printworthy" feature that prints your pics WITH all Facebook comments. That could be fun for something like the picture I posted letting everyone know that we were expecting, but I haven't tried it yet.

What I have done a lot of, is upload pictures as events happen. Lydia has a soccer game, I upload the best photos. Joshua is baptized, I upload the best photos. The app only lets you upload 5 pictures at a time, but you can do multiple sets if 5. You also have to print everything that you upload in the same size, so some pictures I upload twice to get them as 4x6 and as 5x6. My biggest issue right now is that I upload in such small batches, I sometimes forget to pick them up right away. So far my local Walgreens hasn't minded holding my photos for a few weeks.

This weekend, the Walgreens app came in particularly helpful as I was REALLY pressed for time but I wanted pictures of Joshua in his christening clothing on display at his party. I only had a few minutes to take pictures of him on Thursday night and then took a few more Saturday morning. I uploaded them while out of town Saturday afternoon and picked them up later that night with just enough time to get them in frames for Sunday.

My only other issue with printing directly from my phone is that some photos really NEED editing. When I was using my camera and laptop, I loved photoshop to brighten or enhance an image. I tried the actual photoshop app on my phone but was disappointed that it lacked many of the features available on the computer. Then I found the photogene app.

Photogene let's me do pretty much everything that photoshop lets me do on the computer. I can do typical stuff like crop a picture, but I can also adjust color saturation, selectively blur, and even clone areas. Above and below, you can see a few before and after pictures from the baptism this weekend.

Finally, here are a few more pictures, taken on my phone, edited with photogene, and printed at Walgreens using their app.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Christening Clothing and Baptism Blankets

On Sunday, we will celebrate baby Joshua's baptism. For both Joshua and Lydia's baptisms I have been blessed with a beautiful hand sewn outfit from my mom and a special blanket crocheted or knitted by my sister.

Above you can see Lydia's baptism portraits taken at JC Penney's. It's the only set of pictures that I had taken there where I was not terribly excited about the results. So, this time around I decided to try taking a few pictures of Joshua myself.

I set him in our yard, in a basket that was cushioned with the beautiful blanket that my sister made. I can't knit or crochet, so I am always amazed that my sister can make these intricate designs. I am also in awe that she will unravel large portions of her work if she discovers a mistake. I would ignore the problem and my knitting would never look right!

Above is a picture of the christening blanket that my sister made for Lydia. I believe it is crochet. Below is a close up of the smocking on Joshua's outfit. My mom took a class in smocking a couple of years ago. Lydia's dress was made before she knew the technique.

I feel so fortunate to have such talented and giving people do so much for my children on these special occasions!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

This Weekend

This weekend began early with the Goodwill Vintage Fashion Show and Sale on Thursday night.

A friend had free tickets (score!) so we splurged and spent the extra $5 to get into the pre-sale. WOW! Picture a tiny room, overflowing with vintage and designer finds, at GOODWILL PRICES!!!

I was overwhelmed and unprepared! The room was so crowded and you had to carry all your finds through the tight aisles. It was hot and by the end I had a pair of shoes, 2 coats, a sweater, a pair of gloves, a wool skirt, a sparkly prom dress (this year's Halloween party theme is Zombie Prom!), a yellow tuxedo jacket, and this......

It has three faces, three tails, twelve paws, and I got it for four dollars! I know, cruelty to animals, but these guys died long ago for someone who loved them very much (it's monogrammed and everything!) I originally grabbed it for my zombie prom outfit, I mean how cool would it be if my accessories were ALSO zombies! ( Imagine this thing biting my neck!) Anyway, I'm falling in love with whatever species these guys are so I may save then from the bloodbath of zombie prom.

Friday, Lydia went to the fair with her grandparents and I went to a fascinating talk at my church about The Enneagram System of personality traits. The whole idea is about understanding your motivations for your behaviors and also realizing that the people around you probably see the world and react to it based on their own very different motivations. It was really interesting and I think I know which I one I am but I plan on learning more.

Saturday started with another soccer game for Lydia. PJ, Nana, and Pop Pop were all able to come watch her this week.

The competition was much closer in age and skill level this time so there was a lot more back and forth in the game. Lydia even scored a REAL GOAL that counted in the game!

Next we visited a chalk drawing contest. I was asked to help judge (based on my Craft Wars brush with super stardom) but there wasn't a very big turn out. So Lydia got to draw and we were able to leave early.

Lydia got another prize for 50+ stars on her behavior chart and added a few accessories that she got at the fair. She is currently napping in that outfit and I may have a fight on my hands to get her out of it for dinner at a local steakhouse to celebrate Pop Pop's birthday!

And while the big one sleeps, the little one and I have been practicing cooing and smiling! We have a week full of family coming into town and preparations for a baptism next week, so I intend to enjoy a little more of the fun stuff today!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

DIY on the FLY: Backpack Custom Creations

The fabulous Margot Potter and myself have gotten a (hopefully recurring) gig doing DIY on the FLY segments on Live at 5 at 4 on WBIR! The first segment was Margot's craft, making book covers from old jeans. Click here for a link to the video if you missed seeing it on Monday.

Today on Live at 5 at 4 on WBIR, it's my turn to share my ideas on customizing backpacks. I first blogged about this idea last year when my three year old needed a full sized backpack for preschool. I was worried that she wouldn't know which one was hers..... And I didn't want to spend a HUGE amount of money. Here is the link to the original project shown below.

When my husband and I went on the school themed premiere episode of TLCs Craft Wars, I customized a few "monster backpacks" to decorate the inside of our playhouse. For my DIY on the FLY project for WBIR, Margot and I had some fun showing more on how it's done. If you missed the segment, here is a link to the video.

I started with a cheap plain backpack. Stores have them on clearance right now and the plainer they are the cheaper they are! I actually found this one at a thrift store. The beauty of this project is the monster details can hide any marks from previous use!

This backpack had some marker on the front, so I hid it with a giant cyclops eye. I just cut a circle out of white fun foam. I also cut some triangles for teeth.

Two more circles for the middle of the eye out of glittered fun foam.

To attach the features, I ran them through my sewing machine. If you don't see or you are adding features to areas that are difficult to feed through a sewing machine, you could hand sew it or use a good fabric glue to attach pieces to the backpack.

Because it is a monster, nothing has to match, be symmetrical, or straight! Enjoy all the fun possibilities while crafting something truly unique!

September Eleventh

This is a re-posting of my own experiences living in Washington DC eleven years ago.

September 11, 2001 was a really beautiful fall day. I was living and teaching just outside of Washington DC and the day started as one of those fall days where it has been hot and muggy all summer and suddenly it was cool, but not too cool. It was sunny with a few perfect fluffy clouds. It was the kind of day where you can't help but look at the sky.

I can't say that I notice EVERY day that is like this, but most years I notice the first "nice" day of the fall. This weekend, we had similar weather. It has been SO hot this summer in TN, and it feels like it has rained non-stop since last weekend! Suddenly, it is THIS weekend and the air just turned cool and clear, and I can't help but look at the sky.

The odd thing to realize is that for the past eleven years, looking at the sky has included the sickening realization that in your field of view you just might see an airplane that is out of place, horribly off course, and aiming for a building. I remember a boy in high school who used to stare at the sky and claimed that he was watching for planes to crash, because he just knew that if he watched long enough, one would. I, like everyone else who knew him, thought he was a little "off".

The idea of planes crashing still sounded crazy to me, even as it was happening. I was teaching in a suburb just south of DC and living in a suburb just east of DC. It was September 11, 2001, early in the morning and a student returned from the restroom and said that the "mall" was on fire. He wasn't a good student and often said things loudly to get attention. I told him that the mall (the strip of park land between the Capital and the Lincoln Memorial) was NOT on fire and instructed him to get back to work. I did not give it a second thought. Large government areas in Washington DC did not catch on fire, and if they did it would be a small fire and someone would put it out. I was wrong.

The announcement came over the PA system a short time later. Apparently the planes had already crashed in both the Twin Towers in New York AND into the Pentagon (near the mall) in Washington, before my principal decided we needed to know anything about it. At that point there were reports of fires and explosions in other parts of DC. There were planes in the air that weren't responding. It was all very confusing and no one knew for sure which parts of the DC area were safe. I had students in my classroom when they announced some details of what was going on. I did not have a TV, or a radio, or a telephone in my classroom. I did have my very first cell phone, which I used to try calling my first husband (who worked right next to the Capital) but I couldn't get through. I offered my phone to any student who had a parent at the pentagon and several students also couldn't get through. At some point we switched classes an I ended up in my planing period and then we went into lock down. I was able to find a classroom with a TV get "locked down" in front of it.

Shortly before noon, the school decided to close early an finally got all the school buses back so that we could actually dismiss. It was several hours after the last plane crashed. Many people who worked in DC never made it into the city that day because the buses and subway system shut down for fear of further attack. Those who were in the city at the time of the first attack, promptly evacuated when news of the Pentagon got out. My route home from South to East DC, took me on a freeway that was, at that point, eerily deserted. If you have ever been to DC, you understand that there is ALL WAYS traffic, all ways! So there I was, on September 11, driving through a town that EVERYONE ELSE had already decided was too dangerous to be in. While driving the empty freeway home, military jets and helicopters flew over head. I wanted to be HOME, not in DC but in TENNESSEE, with my family. Instead, I made my way to Cheverly MD and sat alone on my couch in front of my TV for hours. The phones were working intermittently, so I was able to find out that my husband was driving his stranded co-workers home and that my family in TN knew we were both OK.

Only nothing was really OK. I sat in front of my TV for days until I couldn't stand not doing anything. I got it in my head that being a universal blood doner, I could do something. So I set out for the only Red Cross offices that I knew of, in Virginia. I remember it feeling like a chore trying to get dressed and drive my car for the first time in days. But I had a mission and so I drove, and my route took me on the freeway past the Pentagon, which at that point had a huge flag draped over its still smoldering scar. This was the stretch of freeway that took me to my first DC apartment everyday of my first year in the city. It was the freeway that would continue to take me home to TN every chance that I got. It was also the freeway from which witnesses dialing 9-1-1 on 9-11, reported first seeing a plane, flying terribly off course and so low that you could see the faces of those on board. It was the last time those passengers would be seen alive. They weren't injured in anyway that my blood donation would help and so I was politely refused by the lady at the Red Cross and sent home. My route this time took me around the other side of the Pentagon, further away from the crash site, but closer to the building. Close enough that I could see the camouflaged Humvee with the soldier laying on top pointing a large weapon at everyone on the road, including me. For the next year, I would see this same Humvee, the soldier, and the gun (pointed at me), on this stretch of road too close to the Pentagon to be safe but too important to the flow of traffic to be shut down. It would never seem normal.

Eventually, school reopened. We put up our American flags and we went back to work. We tried to get that part of our lives back to normal but I had students with relatives that were still missing in New York. Back on Capital Hill, anthrax was found in the mail for one of the government office buildings where my first husband worked. It took weeks of testing and sorting and searching and waiting and debating. More anthrax was found in more places. At some point my husband went to work in a suit and tie and men in white Tyvec suits, with respirators and sensor machines, came to test the air. They were checking for anthrax. He was told to just ignore them and work normally. At some point they sent everyone in his office building home so they could clean the building "just in case" there was anthrax. By then the mail had shut down in the DC are, "just in case". It was around Halloween and, yes, it was scary.

Eventually, the mail ran (radiated as it were) and the men in Tyvec suits stayed away and we tried to move on and days turned into weeks, and I could not get into the Christmas spirit. I felt a need to go to New York for the holiday. It was a bittersweet mix of every childhood fantasy of Radio City and giant lighted trees and amazing window displays to lift my mood, mixed up with posters for missing people and makeshift memorials to bring me back to our sad reality.

Eventually, the holidays passed and the weather began to thaw and we tried to get back to normal and then someone was shot at a suburban supermarket just outside of DC. And then someone else was shot at a different supermarket. And then someone else was shot at a supermarket that I had shopped at. Suddenly, in the midst of hunting the terrorists responsible for 9/11, and while still trying to figure out who sent the anthrax, DC was searching for a serial killer sniper who was believed to be in a white utility van.

Eventually they caught the sniper and the school year ended and we decided for several reasons (most of them unrelated to the events of the past year) that it was time to go home to TN. I was relieved and tried once and for all to get back to normal, but "normal" would never be the same. I was fortunate to have not lost anyone close to me on September 11. 2001, but today something is missing that will never quite be regained. The crazy idea that if you stare at the sky you might see a plane crash seems about as crazy as driving in DC with no traffic, or men in Tyvec invading an office, or people dodging sniper fire at the supermarket. Fortunately, I can categorize those events as isolated to a unique period of time in a place I no longer live, but I carry them with me as possible scenarios for what could happen. I have come to understand that most generations have a defining momentary shattering of innocence. For my parents generation, I assume it was some combination of the assassinations of Kennedy, King and Kennedy. For others it was Vietnam or Kent State. Far enough back in history it would have been the civil war or the assassination of Lincoln. I take hope from the fact that I studied each of these events without understanding or suffering from the magnitude of their weight. I believe my daughter will similarly study 9/11 without understanding that I cringe physically and emotionally for a split second at the thought of that time. I am glad that she will be able to hear about September 11 and still retain her innocence. I just pray that she does not have to experience anything like it in her lifetime.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Soccer Saturday was a Success!

Lydia had her first soccer game on Saturday. I wasn't sure how it would go since NO ONE at our house had ever played on a soccer team before!

All I knew was you wore shin guards with long socks. (I did know that the guards go on UNDER the socks!) Lydia apparently knew that THIS is how a soccer girl poses for pre-game pictures. Really? Why the attitude?

She also was convinced that you do "touch downs" in soccer (by LITERALLY touching down to the ground)! I tried to explain that touchdowns were for football (hmmm in other countries isn't soccer called football? Could THAT be the start if the miscommunication?) but she wouldn't hear it from me. I decided to pick my battles and focus on repeating that we don't get points for "knocking people down" in soccer either. GEESH! Where is she getting this stuff?!?

Luckily, she has a coach and thankfully it isn't me! (they were short on coaches and so it almost was me) This woman is a SAINT and (even though she has another little kid and she also didn't know much about soccer) she volunteered and we have a coach! (Go Team Evans! And thank you coach Evans!)

So Lydia got a team jersey and (thankfully) lost the attitude and was ready to do what the coaches told her (but not what her mommy and aunti yelled from the sidelines).

She actually did pretty well! Her team is four brand new four year olds. They played a team of mostly second year five year olds and one four whose whole family had been playing soccer for generations, apparently. The other team towered over Lydia and scored like crazy, but our kids still got some time with the ball.

Regardless of how we knew the game was going, the kids were oblivious. I was very glad that Lydia never got upset that the other team was winning. She was just happy to run after the ball.

The other team even held back as much as they could and let our kids get a few goals. Lydia kept saying "I want to win"... To the other team... While trying to get the ball! The look on her face when she got a goal (they totally let her) was priceless! GOOOOAAALLLLL!

At the end of the game, there was a high five tunnel made up of all the parents.(.... Oh and there were snacks!) she was SO proud of herself for being a REAL soccer girl. I am proud if her for being a team player and a good sport. Way to go #6!!!