Monday, June 29, 2009

Out With The Old...

Submitted by Michelle

To help celebrate my birthday, Linda came for a day of crafting. Stampin' Up! has a new catalog debuting on July 1, so we decided our crafting theme should be, "Out with the old and in with the new." Our goal was to use up as much of our old/retired Stampin' Up product as we could. In a mere 1.5 days of crafting, this is what we accomplished.
We were on a mission to use up all current in-color papers, ribbons, die cut blooms and felt flowers...
retiring designer series paper...
and 3 tins of two year old Accents and Elements stickers.

In total we made 126 tags, 26 notecard holders each containing 6 notecards (that's 156 notecards!), and 68 cards. Some people may think we're crazy, but I really enjoyed my birthday celebration.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Market Bags...As If!

Submitted by Michelle
In my 18 years of teaching I have met some talented and educated people, but the most amazing woman I have ever known is my friend Sheryl. We taught together in Covina for many years and she was a constant source of inspiration. She is incredibly intelligent and was a fantastic teacher. She is the kind of person who inspires you to be your very best and will help you every inch of the way.

When I moved to the desert to begin teaching kindergarten I missed Sheryl immensely, but would visit her often on weekends. We'd meet for lunch at Houston's and then shop in Old Town Pasadena, or take a trip to Irvine to peruse the shops. Sadly for me and her students, she retired from teaching a few years back and moved to Oregon. I haven't seen her since our final dinner at P.F. Chang's (another favorite spot) but we communicate via e-mail and the telephone.

Along with being a genius, Sheryl is also incredibly crafty. On my 40th birthday she sent me a hand knit blanket made from the most amazingly soft yarn. This year, for my 42nd birthday, she sent me these "market bags" as she likes to call them.
Aren't they great? She knitted them and then somehow through a washing process, the yarn resembles felt.

The big bag is for me and the little bag is for Celeste...(though I may have to keep the little bag for myself it is so cute!) Sheryl claims I can use these bags for grocery shopping. I think not. I will use my bag as a tote, but not for any old thing like a can of tomatoes or a half gallon of milk!

My favorite part of the bags are the flowers and the leaves. The bags were made from a pattern but I think Sheryl designed the flowers herself.

I'm so lucky to have such a talented friend who shares her gifts with me. And I can't wait to hit the streets with my stylishly cute market bag!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Kindergarten '09 Pool Party!

Submitted by Linda
I consider it a privilege to teach about 2 blocks from my home at a wonderful school. Because kindergarten is such a special time with students and parents, I always end up developing a bond with families. For some, I'm part of their first 'real' school experience.

Since I live so close to the school, I usually end the year by hosting a pool party for the students and their families. It is so fun so see the kids again, with their families and in a fun setting.

I love having the pool full of kiddos! (You can be sure I won't be going in the spa or pool until the filter has had some time to run.)
Here is Nick joining in the fun!
Here are some friends, enjoying the hot dog BBQ!
Before the party, my student Richard said to his mom: "I can't wait. I almost have forgotten what Mrs. Wallace looks like". And when it was over, Gillian said "That was so much fun, I got to see all my friends!" I so enjoyed my time with my little friends! Now I feel like we've officially kicked off summer vacation.
P.S. I used my helium tank again to put some balloons out in the front yard so that folks could find my home - another plug for helium!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

German Chocolate Cupcakes

Submitted by Linda
You all know by now how I like to "upgrade" things, especially in the crafting world, and in party planning, table setting, etc. However, in my life as a cook I've always preferred doing the quick versions of recipes, especially when feeding a family. I've always preferred to bake than cook, but those darling children I have want to eat real food every single day! Cooking dinner each and every night can be drudgery (especially when we are expected to be low cost, low fat, taste good, etc. etc. etc.), and for me, it becomes one more thing on my to-do list.

Those of you who know Michelle, know that this does not fit her philosophy of daily wonderful, gourmet meals. Well, I had a bit of a revelation! For her, cooking dinner is a relaxing end of the day. Though this is not how I'm wired, I have approached kitchen tasks lately with a "this can be relaxing" attitude. And guess what? I'm having a lot more fun in my kitchen! This morning, I cooked corn on the cob for a chilled corn salad, made fresh juice with Craig's new juicer, and made this amazing frosting for the cupcakes I baked yesterday.

This reminds me of Alexandra Stoddard's idea in her book Tea Celebrations, when she talks about ironing a tablecloth for a special event (I think I may have mentioned her before). Instead of looking it as a lot of work, while she's ironing, she thinks of how much people will enjoy sitting at her table for her special event. It all boils down to attitude!

Enough philosophizing! This recipe was given to me by my sister-in-law Renee. The cupcakes are a German chocolate cake mix, and this frosting is YUMMY! You may remember that these cupcakes were one of the varieties that we served at Tommy's grad party.

German Chocolate Frosting
1 C. evaporated milk
1 C. sugar
3 egg yolks
1/2 C. butter or margarine
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/3 C. flaked coconut
1 C. chopped pecans

Combine evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks, butter and vanilla. Cook and stir over medium heat until thick, about 12 minutes. Stir in coconut and nuts.

Here is the mixture during the cooking process:
Here it is with the coconut and pecans stirred in:

Friday, June 19, 2009

Michael's Coupon: Must Have #1

Submitted by Linda
Tommy's 18th birthday was this past Monday. Since he'd been treated like the "golden child" for the past month, we decided to keep his birthday low key. When he woke up for "big breakfast" (bacon, pancakes, etc), I had set the table with the special plate and this Thomas the Tank plate. His first birthday was a Thomas theme, and I've kept that plate all these years. I'm sure that may make me a wacky mom - but I really enjoy the nostalgia!

Now, onto the real point of this entry: The Michael's Sunday ad with the 40% off coupon!!!!
I am pretty faithful about visiting my local Michael's once a week to redeem that coupon (oh dear - I think that may also put me in the wacky catagory). I believe we've commented before about using that coupon to buy 'contraband' stampin' or scrappin' supplies, and I've even converted Michelle to become a fan of Michael's (or "Miguel's", as she likes to say)!

But here is my suggestion for today:
Buy yourself a helium tank!
Look how cute and festive my table looks with 5 simple balloons! For me, having helium is kind of like having extra toilet paper on hand - I love having that stuff around! I have found it to be a nice touch to take a balloon or two to a colleague who's celebrating a birthday, or quickly blow some up to go to a birthday dinner.

The disposable helium tank comes with 30 assorted balloons and ribbon, and costs around $25.00. So with a coupon it's about $15.00. Think of all the fun you could have for 15 bucks!!!!
This picture was taken before Tommy and Nick inhaled all the helium. Those crazy kids!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Happy "Half" Birthday

Submitted by Michelle
My good friend Lisa, and mother of Celeste, was born on December 15. Not the best time to throw a party being that it is in the middle of the holiday season. This year, I decided I would surprise her with a "Half" Birthday party on June 15. Though I couldn't get Lisa to commit to go out for a "casual dinner" on June 15, I was able to schedule it for June 16 and thus the Half Birthday celebration plans were under way.

I was able to keep the entire operation on the down low by using Lisa's friend Rachel as a contact person for inviting guests. I took care of menu and decor planning, and since the end of the school year was upon us, both Lisa and I were extremely busy and weren't spending lots of time together, hence I didn't spill the beans.

Everything went smoothly until the day of the party. I am teaching summer school and didn't have the entire day to prep so I was running way behind. Lucky for me, my good friend Veronica offered to come over early and help. She was a true lifesaver. I could have NEVER gotten everything done without her.

With dinner prep smoothly underway, I was feeling excited about the party and then I got a dreaded text message from Lisa. She was canceling our dinner plans!!! Fortunately Rachel was able to convince Lisa to keep her commitment to "hang out" with me and the surprise party went off without a hitch.

Lisa's family and friends made the party extra special. They all were good sports when I announced at dinner that we were going to go around the table and say what we appreciated about Lisa. They had wonderful stories to share and were so complimentary of Lisa and her giving personality.
I had a great time planning for the party. There was a banner, of course.
And party favors, compliments of Linda.
And somehow I managed to fit all 14 people around my dining room table.
Everyone had handmade place cards except Lisa. She got the super cute figurine in the picture below. It is hard to see, but the little girl is holding a wire balloon that reads, "Birthday Girl."
The menu consisted of:
tomato, basil and pecorino bruschetta
ceci bean bruschetta
tossed green salad
grilled vegetables
lemon spaghetti
shrimp and mushroom risotto
grilled chicken with pesto
mini orange and ricotta cheesecakes
assorted Italian cookies from Claro's
Limoncello & blueberry cooler
(In all the excitement of the party, I forgot to take a photo of the buffet table!)

I know Lisa enjoyed her party and felt very special, but oddly enough, I think it is me who got the most out of the event. I really loved being able to give back to my friend who does so much for others and never asks for anything in return. It was a terrific feeling to do something so special to honor her and in the end, my heart was very happy.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Party Favors

Submitted by Linda
I do realize that there are people in the world that do not enjoy crafting, and for some it doesn't come easy. I know some projects can be overwhelming, and that is why I enjoy stamping. I don't have to be an artist, and it's usually not a long term project (like a quilt or stitching project may be). I can accomplish something fun in an afternoon, and spread 'joy and sunshine' in the process.

This party favor is easy and inexpensive, and may be a good project for a beginner, or for a mom/daughter team. You really only need the following items:
solid color cardstock
printed scrapbook paper
paper cutter
hole punch
Ghiradelli chocolate squares
Step 1: Cut your cardstock into 3"x7" pieces. This means you will be able to make 3 favors out of a standard sized piece of cardstock. Fold it in the middle (at 3 1/2")
Step 2: Cut your printed paper into 2 3/4" squares. Attach them above the fold on the cardstock. Add your design. I used words on white cardstock, which ended up being about an inch wide and 2 3/4" long, so that it would align well with the printed paper.
The stamp set I used for my design it "Time Well Spent", and I used SU markers to add some color, along with a tiny blue rhinestone.Step 3: Buy chocolate. These were about $3.50 for a package of about 10 candies. Be sure to eat some while you are working!
Step 4: Attach the chocolate (I used my mono/snail adhesive) on the inside of your folded cardstock, about 1/4 inch above the fold.
Step 5: Fold it together, and punch 2 holes in the top, through both the front and the back of the cardstock. Tie a 13" length of ribbon through, and trim the ends. (As you can see, I added my favorite Container Store Shred).
Step 6: Enjoy sharing your favors!!!!
For anyone who is wondering, this printed paper is the SU Delicate Dots with So Saffron and Certainly Celery Ribbon. Cardstock is So Saffron, Certainly Celery, Bashful Blue, and Kraft.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

CHS Grad Night: Ticket to Paradise

Submitted by Linda
Last night was Tommy's graduation. The actual ceremony was nice....but the highlight of our evening was the 'gradnight' celebration which CHS is famous for.
My friend Sally from school said to me earlier this week: "I can't wait to hear you tell me about Tommy's gradnight. I know you're going to enjoy every detail so much, and you're going to wish that every high school grad could have this same experience." Well, she was right.

Here we are at "Ticket to Paradise"!
For those of you who don't know, the CHS tradition is to plan an all night grad party for the students that begins with a very nice dinner for the grads and their parents. I love this concept of including the parents, and I appreciate how this tradition cultivates the notion that a graduation is not just about the student, but about their families, and for celebrating together the student's accomplishments. In the photo below, Tommy and I are dancing the "mom/son" dance.
Another aspect of the evening which I totally appreciate is the attention to detail. A huge team of volunteers works on this event for months (and years), and every detail is neatly and elaborately planned (keeping in mind, this is a party for about 900 people!) The theme is expressed throughout the evening in the decor, music, nametags, photo-ops, etc. My role was pretty simple, but literally hundreds of people helped, and many many hours are given. There are volunteers who help every year, even though their kids are grown, because they so enjoy the "magic" of the evening.

Knowing how much I enjoy the decor details...pictured below is a close up photo of the table and the lower half of the centerpiece. Notice the shells, mesh, tealights, etc.
Now here is the rest of the centerpiece, shown in the light of day (Craig was the lucky winner who got to bring it home!). My photos of it last night (in it's native setting) didn't do it justice. The mini tiki torch has a battery operated tea light in it - clever!
After the adults left at midnight, the kids changed clothes, and were bussed to Dave and Buster's for the "all-night" portion of the party, where they played and ate all night! This morning, Tommy came in around 7 am, and went straight to bed. He hasn't gotten up yet, so I haven't had a chance to debrief with him about his night. I'm hoping it was as memorable for him as it was for Craig and I.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Soup Cans Galore

Submitted by Michelle

A long while ago Linda gave me a big box of empty soup cans and said, "You should do a can class." The box sat and sat in my crafting closet until last week when I was trying to figure out what I could demonstrate at a meeting of Stampin' Up Demonstrators that I attend on a tri-monthly basis.

Linda originally came up with the concept of a can that you can put goodies or a gift card in, and the best thing is you can re-attach the lid with Crystal Effects and it will be as if the can were never opened. The lucky recipient can either use a can opener to see what is inside or pop the top if the can has a pull tab.

As usual I was prepping at the last minute and I would have never gotten finished if it weren't for my good friends Veronica and Val-Pal. Thanks, Ladies!

The only must have for this project is a Pampered Chef can opener. It opens cans without leaving a sharp edge and it gives you a nice lip around the sides.

I was a little worried that the other demonstrators would think my project was dumb but as usual I was being too hard on myself and under estimating my fellow stampers. They loved the cans and I got lots of nice compliments.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Best Day Ever

Submitted by Michelle
There are many reasons I love teaching kindergarten. I love that there is always a beginning and an end and that I get to refine and make things better each year. I love that I have the privilege of being my students first teacher and I get the opportunity to give them a solid foundation on which to build their educational career. I love the enthusiasm 5 and 6 year olds have for learning and life. And I love to do things that make them happy.

Yesterday was one of the days when they were extremely happy. As part of our last week of school or "Blast Off To Summer" we had Beach Day. Living in a desert, it is impossible to find a beach, but with the help of our local fire department, we were able to have a water day. The kids wore their beach attire to school and they were able to play in the water as the firefighters sprayed endless amounts of water on the field.

Their energy was unstoppable as they ran around the field screaming with glee.
This little guy came over to tell me "this is the best day ever!"
I thought the kids looked so cute in their swimwear. Here are the girls making goofy faces...
...and the boys showing me their muscles.
And no day at the beach is complete without a cool tattoo.
In the years to come I'm not sure the kids will remember me, but I know they will remember all the fun times they had in kindergarten and I'm so glad I get to be a part of it.