Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Christmas in June

Submitted by Michelle
I am happily writing this entry from Linda's kitchen table in Claremont. Originally, Linda was going to come to La Quinta to stamp but we quickly changed our game plan when fate smiled upon us and Tommy made plans to go to Mexico with friends and Craig and Nick scheduled a father-son fishing trip to Alaska. Translation: We can stamp in peace without having to clean up after or feed teenage boys, and we can take over Craig's man-cave in the evenings to watch our favorite chick flicks on the big screen TV rather than listening to endless sports programming. And an added bonus is that we can enjoy temperatures in the 80's rather than the 100's.

Our one and only goal whilst I'm in C-mont is to work on our Christmas Tin-O-Tags. We've been making them as presents for friends, family and classroom volunteers for several years and every year, around November, when we are cranking out oodles and oodles of tags we declare a moratorium on Tin-O-Tags and say we are going to think up a simpler project for the following year. However, we never stick to our declarations because the Tin-o-Tags is just too stinkin' cute to retire.

These are tins we've made in the past, complete with a cute belly-band around it for decoration. The tins actually are gift card holders that you can purchase at Michael's Craft store.
We then fill them up with handmade tags like this:
Tin-O-Tags is quite a satisfying project when it is complete and this year our strategy is to start early and by early, I mean 6 months early. We've calculated that we could easily give 100 Tin-O-Tags away and we usually have at least 8 tags inside of the tin so that means we've got 800 tags to make!

We started yesterday afternoon and this is what we've accomplished so far. I've made 100 of these:
Linda made 100 of these:
Linda had some contraband (a.k.a. non-Stampin' Up! product) that she wanted to use up so she made 22 of these...
and 19 of these:
Linda also stamped out 100 of the trucks we will need for this tag so I can watercolor them when I am at the beach at the end of July and need a little project to work on.
We also had 57 assorted tags left over from last year. So what does all this mathematical gibberish mean? We've got 398 tags and only 402 to go! I think this project may turn into Christmas in June AND July.

Monday, June 28, 2010

"Camp Clean-up"

Submittted by Linda
Many of you know from past posts, that I am a fan of the flylady. She has a website that is dedicated to helping folks get organized, 15 minutes at a time. Though sometimes it's a bit goofy, I have found her advice to be super helpful. She talks about developing daily routines, going on quick cleaning 'missions', and gives great suggestions for tackling big jobs.

During most summer vacations, I try to clean out my cabinets and refresh my house. Last summer, because of various activities and trips, I never ended up making much progress. So my house is long overdue for a thorough purging. So this summer, my cleaning theme is "Camp Clean-up"!

You who have visited my home would say it is tidy and clean. We have people over frequently, so Craig and I try to keep up on the house. However, many of those hidden cabinets and closets are jam-packed and overflowing. Case in point: my closet!
Now, I'm sure Craig does not appreciate me posting our dirty laundry, literally, but in the name of honesty and authenticity, I'll admit, "My closet is a giant mess!"

One of the flylady's best suggestions is when cleaning out a closet ( a big job), do it in little pieces. Don't take everything out in one sitting, or you'll end up with a giant mess and become totally discouraged. So I usually pull out what I can deal with and put back away in an hour. Then I have the option to keep going or not, without having my entire closet spread out all over the bed.

Well, last week I kept going and going and going! Here are some before and after pics. In this picture, all the stuff on the shelf on the right is scarves and purses/totebags.
After: The scarves are neatly tucked into shoe boxes standing on their sides. Believe it or not, I got rid of scarves, totebags, purses and hats. I even used my Big Shot Top Note to label my sweater boxes (top left of picture). Cute!
This part really is embarrassing. I'll admit that my closet is a mess, but it usually isn't this terrible. Remember that this week I had my last day of school, and Nick's graduation, so the mess really exploded! On the floor you can see shoes, laundry, and luggage, among other things.
Here comes the 'after' picture....wait for it......
Much better, right?

Another piece of advice from the flylady, is to NOT go out and buy a bunch of organizing supplies (tubs, containers, etc.) until you know what you need. Otherwise you may not have what you need, or you'll feel guilty every time you see all your organizing supplies that you haven't used.

After I was mostly done, I wondered why I had never gotten some kind of shoe rack, instead of having a silly pile of shoes! Off to Target I went, where I purchased this shoe rack, and a skirt hanger. I came right home, set it up, and I'm DONE!
Here's the best part! I have 5 bags to give away! So satisfying!
So in the name of inspiration, I want all of you to spend 15 minutes cleaning out a drawer or shelf! Like the flylady says, "Babysteps!"

Footnote: Since I wrote this I cleaned out my dresser, and my entire kitchen!!! My giveaway pile is huge now and all the crumbs are out of the silverware drawer.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

End of the Road

Submitted by Michelle

My mini-break to the Central Coast has sadly come to an end. On my last morning in town I met up with my longtime friend Julia. We've known each other since the 3rd grade (!) and though we go long periods of time without seeing each other we are always able to pick right up where we left off.
As I was getting ready to depart, my little friends took a break from bicycle riding to see me off.
I had to say good-bye to vineyard views...
...and lush trees.
I'm back to palm trees...
...and rugged mountain views.
On my trip back I stayed overnight with Linda, of course! She sent me home with some roses from her garden... well as some hydrangea.
I must admit I am glad to be home. Though I enjoy traveling, I am most happy in my own space. Our front door was a welcome sight, framed in twinkle lights and grapevine.
I was full of energy upon my return so I put up Old Glory and hung my liberty banner in the dining room in anticipation of the upcoming 4th of July holiday.
And now that my traveling is done for a while, I have big plans to sit on the couch with the doggies and my husband and enjoy the pleasure of their company. I had a wonderful time on the road, but there really is no place like home.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

More Central Coast Fun

Submitted by Michelle
Yesterday I met up with my friend Don whom I've known since the 6th grade and haven't seen since we graduated from high school 25 years ago! Don was voted Class Clown our senior year and his sense of humor has only gotten better. We ate lunch in San Luis Obispo and talked for close to 3 hours, reminiscing about junior and high school days and catching up on our major life events of the last 2 decades. Actually, Don did lots of talking and I did lots of laughing. His recollections of his shenanigans at the Central Coast Christian Academy (CCCA for short) made me wish I hadn't always been such a rule follower back in the day. Of course, I'm not sure 11 and 12 year old boys would've let me join in their fun anyway.
Don and a classic car he is restoring.

Along with my 3 hour lunch I also spent some quality time with the DeBlauws, the family that has graciously taken me in this week. Duane, the patriarch of the household, has been my friend since I was in 7th grade. We lived on the same country road as kids, attended the CCCA together and went to the same church. Duane is a structural engineer and works with his family in the construction business. Duane designed the home in which he and his family live.
Here's a few of the front..
...and from the street. My guest house is on the far right.
And this is the gigantic driveway that never requires the need for reverse.

To show my appreciation for the fine (and free) accommodations I've been enjoying this week, I offered to cook dinner for the family. Regan was eager to help, especially when I suggested we pick vegetables from their garden to add to the salad.
She also gladly assisted me in the kitchen with making meatballs to go with our spaghetti dinner.
She may look Dutch, but based on her meatball rolling skills, I think she might have a bit of Italian in her.
After seeing all the fun Regan and I were having in the kitchen the boys decided to join in when it came to cookie making time.
Graham helped me mix the dough.
Regan put her newly learned meatball rolling skills to good use and helped roll the dough into balls.
Tyler and Graham then coated the dough balls in a mix of cinnamon and sugar and viola, Snickerdoodles!
With just 1 day of my mini break left I plan to pack in lots of fun with my family and friends. I'll give you an update soon.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mini-Break to the Central Coast

Submitted By Michelle
Bright and early on Monday morning Linda helped me drop off my Volvo at Claremont Auto Care (for some much needed auto care) and I rented this spiffy Volkswagen Jetta to cruise the 101 North to the Central Coast.
The views were mighty different along the road. I'm not used to seeing the ocean or rolling hills speckled with oak trees.
I made it to Nipomo, a smallish town just about 20 miles south of San Luis Obispo, and checked into the DeBlauw Bed & Breakfast a.k.a. the home of childhood friend who graciously lets me stay in his guest house whenever I am in town.
Here's a little peek into where I'll sleep for the week.
I won't have any trouble getting comfy here!
The weather is a pleasant 68 degrees! So nice to have a door open and fresh air.

This is the view out my french doors...
and out of my front door.

The main purpose of my trip is to visit my younger brother Kevin and his 3 daughters. It is also a chance for me to see childhood friends as well as my parents who are also in the area as they are RV-ing this summer trying to escape the heat of the desert.
My first night in town the family got together at the Santa Maria Elks Lodge for dinner. They have a relatively small camp ground where my parents are staying so we got in on homemade beef stew, mac & cheese, and salad.
Here's my dad and Emma (my youngest niece) posing with the elk.

On Tuesday I had quality time with all 3 of my nieces. They humored me and were good sports as we drove around Arroyo Grande (another semi-smallish town south of San Luis Obispo) checking out all my old haunts and driving by my high school alma mater. Here are a few things we saw during our day:
This is new...
as is this bandstand. It reminds me of a scene out of The Music Man or Pollyanna.
The houses in the village of Arroyo Grande have not changed much.
Though some have gotten a little more interesting.

A trip to the village would not be complete without a walk on the swinging bridge.
The bridge literally swings, especially if you give it some help by jumping on it and trying to sway it from side to side. Sienna, Emma and Kyla

Here's the view of the creek below the bridge.
The Eclair Bakery was not around when I was growing up, so we decided to give it a try.
Emma loved it!
We even had a star spotting.
I ended my day with some live theater. My host's children put on a puppet show of The Three Bears.
Regan, Tyler and Graham
Tyler was happy to pose for a bedtime photo with his stuffed animals and solar system.

I'm looking forward to a few more days with my friends and family before heading back to the desert. I'll keep you posted on all the fun.