Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Empty Nester: Waxing Philosophical

Submitted by Linda
Nothing is so bad as parting with one's children. One seems so forlorn without them.
Mrs. Bennett (in the Kyra Knightly version of Pride and Prejudice)

It is somehow ironic that I am welcoming my new kindergarten friends and I feel as if I can completely relate to how the parents are feeling. Truly, the milestone of sending one's youngest child off to college (despite it only being a 15 minute car ride away) is so similar to the emotional pangs which come with dropping off a new kindergartner. Though I'm pretty certain Nick won't be crying and hanging on to me on his first day of college, I do know that he's nervous about the usual stuff: friends, classes and homework. I also know that his learning curve will be huge that first few weeks, though he will be navigating laundry and time management rather than being unable to open a juice box by himself, or worrying about not making it to the kindergarten restroom before it's too late.
Tommy's Kindergarten Graduation 1996
Nick's Kindergarten Graduation 1997
I can completely relate to this excerpt from Kristin Ogtrop, in her editor's note from the Real Simple Family Magazine 2010:

Living with your kids under the same roof is a long exercise in simultaneously wanting them to reach the next phase of development and wishing time would stop completely. Once your child is potty trained, you long for those chubby legs squirming under your grasp at the changing table. Once your child can brush is own teeth, you miss the silly clown act you had to do to get him to open his mouth for you. And as soon as your child is old enough to schedule his own playdates (henceforth known as "hanging out"), you feel a pang of sadness every time you watch him walk out the front door without so much as a backward glance.

Back when my boys where very young, I would remind myself that "days are long, but life is short". How true that is, looking back from 19 years of raising boys. It's still is unbelievable that our boys will be living their lives away from our family home and dinner table. To be honest, I'm pretty excited about their rooms staying clean, the utility bills going down, no dirty dishes magically appearing in the sink whilst I sleep, and that I'm no longer cooking for 2 hungry boys and an assortment of their friends. I will be happy to remove random rap songs that were downloaded onto my itunes, and will sleep peacefully without the sound of video gaming in the next room. Craig and I have big plans to renew our relationship by going out more together, cooking some of the meals that the boys never liked, and reconnecting with other couples that have also been busy raising kids. For the first time since the boys were born, I won't be worried about how I'm going to get them and myself off to school each day.

This future sounds pleasant, carefree and blissful. Yet, I'm certain the emptiness of our child-free home may seem loud, despite the quiet.

My vantage point now, as Nick approaches his first day of college life, is from a distance, cheering, encouraging, possibly jumping in when needed. Though he's my baby, the reality is that he, and his brother, are both adults now, capable, smart, and ready to spread their wings.
Tommy and me at his graduation, 2009
Nick and me, Summer 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Homemade Life

Submitted by Michelle

Recently I was in Border's bookstore and though I am not really a book buyer anymore - I try to be thrifty and borrow books from the library - I got suckered into the "buy 1 get 1 for 50% off" deal. I'm not sure what came over me. Maybe it was a weak moment. Maybe I was feeling especially nostalgic for my younger days when I spent money like it grew on trees. I'd like to say it was a move to support my literacy program that I am pushing in kindergarten this year. Whatever it was, I came home with 2 books, A Homemade Life being one of them.

The title alone sold me on the book and then the part about "stories and recipes from my kitchen table" closed the deal. What could be better than a book that combines cooking and homemaking, two of my favorite pasttimes? It wasn't until I was curled up on the couch with a cup of tea and reading the introduction that I realized the author of the book is also the author of one of my favorite blogs!!! I guess I missed the part of the title that says, "The Creator of Orangette." It must have been destiny that lead me to Borders that day and it must have been fate that I picked up this lovely book.

Molly Wizenberg writes about growing up in a family that loves to cook and eat. Each chapter revolves around a family member, often Wizenberg's father, and loving tells of a recipe that the family member enjoyed. At the end of every chapter is the aforementioned recipe. I've only read the first 5 or 6 chapters and already I've been inspired to get into the kitchen.

Just like Wizenberg I am not a huge fan of banana bread, but when she wrote about a recipe from a childhood friend that combines chocolate chips and candied ginger within the banana bread I had to give it a whirl.
candied ginger
(you'll find it in the store with the dried fruits)

The recipe is super simple. Combine the dry ingredients and then add them to the wet ingredients.

Pour it all into a loaf pan and bake.
The end result is a golden loaf that combines the sweetness of bananas and chocolate with the spice of ginger.
Today my friend Cheryl issued a challenge to read as many books possible from September 1 2010 - September 1, 2011. I've decided to join the cause and I'm stoked that I've got a head start with A Homemade Life.

To view the recipe for this banana bread, buy the book and turn to page 26 or click here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

School Days

Submitted by Michelle

As much as I do not want to admit it, school is about to start and I am officially back on the payroll which means I have to go to work every day. No more sleeping in and stamping all day long. Yesterday was my first day back and in honor of that I decided to create a card with a School Days theme for a workshop I am going to this weekend. I love the Greeting Card Kids set from Stampin' Up! and Linda had already designed something very similar for our back to school notepads so I just ran with that idea.
I've got to make 31 of these cards to swap with other demonstrators this weekend so I'd better get busy water coloring those cute, chubby kids!

All Materials from Stampin' Up!
Stamps: Greeting Card Kids, Pedaling Past, Rough Type Alphabet
Cardstock: Cherry Cobbler, Basic Black, Daffodil Delight, Old Olive, Whisper White
Ink: Black Staz-on, Whisper White Craft, Old Olive, Cherry Cobbler
Accessories: Water Color Crayons, Aqua Painter, Crystal Effects, Corodury Buttons, Linen Thread, Scallop Edge Punch, 1 1/4" Circle Punch, 1 3/8" Circle Punch

Saturday, August 21, 2010

"Do It Yourself" Footed Plates

Submitted by Linda
While working this summer on my "Camp Clean-Up", you won't be surprised to know that I found some random incomplete craft projects. Don't you hate it when you get started on a project, them somehow lose your motivation? Usually when I find these types of things, so much time has passed, that I'm no longer interested in doing the project so I send it all to Goodwill. Time to bless somebody else, as the Flylady says. Well, this project is a project worth doing, and since I had all the supplies on hand, I finished them up.

You may be interested to know that I have seen these recently on my craft fair adventures, including our foray to Unique LA. So these babies aren't in the same sad category as a crocheted toilet paper cover, or a seasonal appliqued denim shirt. It's hard to see in this photo, but the plate is elevated on a glass candleholder.
First, hit your thrift stores for old candle holders, or take your 40% coupon to Michael's. The big one on the right was from Michael's, and is the one I used for the red plate.
Meanwhile, keep your eyes open for inexpensive plates at places like Homegoods, Crate and Barrel Outlet, etc. You can also used old china, which is a great way to display a single plate. I found these basic red and white ones marked down, but you can use any plate.
Purchase your "Amazing Automotive Goop". I had a hard time finding it at the bigger hardware stores, but was happy to find it at good ol' OSH.
Following the directions on the Goop packaging, adhere your candle holder to your plate. Keep in mind you will need at least 24 hours for the glue to dry, so you'll want to plan ahead. I think these will make sweet gifts with some cookies on the plate, wrapped up in cellophane.
The little scalloped plate is on the shortest candle holder. Using these plates at different heights will also help set a pretty dessert table for a party!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Whole Lotta Birthday Goin' On

Submitted by Michelle

I've been busy this week working on birthday cards for a card making class I am holding tomorrow. I wanted simple designs and I also wanted to be sure I included a few masculine styles. Here is what I came up with.

You saw this little beauty yesterday.

I made a similar version of this card a while back and it still appeals to me because it has an elegant look and yet is so simple to make. Stampin' Up has a die for the Big Shot that cuts out the curly label shape in the middle of the card front. I then used a impressions folder to make the embossed design and viola, I'm almost done.
The inside looks like this:
The curly label punch is slightly bigger than the piece that is cut out by the Big Shot die, so I was able to mount my Happy Birthday on a piece of Perfect Plum cardstock. The flowers are also punched out and in the center I tried out my new Pearl Basics, a welcome addition to my crafting supplies. Not bad for a card made in 5 minutes.

I saw the idea for this card on a Stampin' Up! website. It was designed by Heather Klump, a fellow demonstrator. Though we've never met, I find every time I see a card that I love she is the one who made it. I can't resist copying her style. I used a different color scheme and papers, but the inspiration is all hers.
This card is another copy from a Stampin' Up demonstrator though I put my own twist on it. The original is from Beth McAlexander and she has a great blog full of beautiful ideas. The color scheme and the star brad fit the masculine bill, don't you think?
My last card is also masculine in style and yes, I copied this idea too! Why reinvent the wheel when there are already so many fantastic cards out there? Ginny Gossett came up with this design, though I thought cutting out the presents and popping them up with a dimensional was a good addition.
Now that the designing is done, I just have to cut the cardstock and gather the supplies and I'll be good to go. It's going to be 108 degrees in the desert today so staying indoors and prepping for my class sounds like a good way to beat the heat.

All Materials From Stampin' Up!
Elegant Birthday
Stamps: Vintage Labels
Ink: Perfect Plum
Cardstock: Whisper White, Perfect Plum, Wild Wasabi
Accessories: Movers & Shapers Die, Curly Label Punch, Boho Blossoms Punch, Pearl Basics, Finial Press Embossing Folder

Heather's Card
Stamps: Happy Moments
Ink: Black Staz-On, Real Red, Pretty In Pink, Daffodil Delight, Pumpkin Pie, Versamarker
Cardstock: Very Vanilla, Real Red, Sending Love DSP
Accessories: Pretty In Pink Satin Ribbon, Sending Love Epoxy Brads, 1 1/4" Circle Punch, Word Window Punch, Dazzling Diamonds Glitter

Beth's Card
Stamps: Itty Bitty Backgrounds, Birthday Wish
Ink: Cherry Cobbler, Versamark
Cardstock: Early Espresso, Cherry Cobbler, Night of Navy, Whisper White
Accessories: Square Lattice Embossing Folder, Cutter Kit (to distress edge of cardstock), Designer Brad, Hemp Twine

Ginny's Card
Stamps: Happy Moments, Crazy For Cupcakes
Ink: Old Olive, Black Staz-On, Certainly Celery, Marina Mist, Basic Black
Cardstock: Whisper White, Marina Mist, Old Olive
Accessories: Dimensionals

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Greenhouse Gala

Submitted by Michelle
Summer vacation is drawing to an end but my creativity is not! I'm busy working on cards for a class I am holding this weekend and this is one that will be included. I originally made it for my La Quinta stamp club but I like it so much I'm going to use it again. It utilizes one of my favorite new designer papers from Stampin' Up!, Greenhouse Gala. I'll post more card samples and soon as I have them finished.

All Materials from Stampin' Up!
Stamps: Pedaling Past, Whimsical Words
Ink: Chocolate Chip
Cardstock: Crumb Cake, Baja Breeze, Chocolate Chip
Accessories: Greenhouse Gala DSP, Perfect Polka Dots embossing folder, Chocolate Chip 3/8" Taffeta ribbon, large oval punch, scallop oval punch

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Susan Branch's Fresh Corn Salad

Submitted by Linda
I've often heard Michelle repeating Chef Mario Batali's mantra that it takes just a few great ingredients to make a great dish. Combine that with our love of all things Susan Branch, and we've got a summer salad that is a staple at our patio table. Here are my few fresh ingredients:
Corn, cilantro, red onion, red and yellow peppers, lime juice, salt, pepper and olive oil.
The only challenging thing is cutting the (uncooked) corn off the cob without making a giant mess. In the photo below, you can see that I use a big bowl - and you can see the corn flying off the cob.
After that, it's simple to steam the corn and throw it all together, after a bit of chopping. Served chilled, it is refreshing, zippy and healthy.
Susan says, "This is a perfect big salad to take to a picnic or barbecue - colorful and delicious with anything from the grill". Fresh corn is in season right now....better give it a try!

Susan Branch's Fresh Corn Salad
Makes 8 cups

6 ears of sweet corn
1 yellow pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 red onion, minced
1/2 C. cilantro, chopped
1/4 C. olive oil
1/4 C. lime juice (I squeezed 2 limes to make 1/4 C.)
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the fresh corn off the cob and steam for 3-5 minutes in 1/4 C. water. Remove lid and cook, stirring, 2 minutes more until water evaporates. Toss corn with all the other ingredients and chill.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Getting Out of my Radius!

Submitted by Linda

A couple of weeks ago, my parents invited Craig and me on a little road trip. In the spirit of "getting out of my radius", we said "yes!" I have lived in California since 1983, and had never visited the beautiful National Parks in Utah: Zion, Bryce, and Arches. So off we went. On Monday we drove to St. George, Utah. On Tuesday morning, we visited Zion. Here is my mom in front of the "pulpit" and "organ"....
...and here's the "Temple of Sinawava".
That afternoon we visited Bryce canyon. We were doing a lot of looking up at Zion, and more looking down at Bryce. Here's Craig and I in a silly self-portrait.
That evening, we drove to Moab, Utah. On Wednesday, we drove to Arches. This was my favorite park! Notice the rocks above my head. They seem kind of large, but not huge.
Now look! This shows how ginormous everything is!
Standing in front of the "Three Gossips".
Here's a mom-daughter shot. I like how the rocks are reflected in my parents' shiny red car!
Here is one of the famous arches, named "South Window" in "The Windows" section of the park.
After we walked up, Craig climbed up inside.
Here's the beautiful view above and behind him.
It really was breathtakingly beautiful....with very little commercialism.
Well, except this (we didn't stop).
Later that day, we drove past the town of Mexican Hat on our way to the Grand Canyon. Easy to guess how it got it's name!
We made it to the Grand Canyon Wednesday, in the late afternoon. My dad is doing a good job of holding onto my mom, so she doesn't fall into the canyon! We were able to see down into the bottom of the canyon to the "Phantom Ranch", where my parents had previously hiked down and stayed the night.
Craig is off the beaten path here, awfully close to the edge. I was a bit nervous, but he made back to the path safely.
Thursday, we drove home. We really enjoyed ourselves and I have to admit that a road trip is much more fun and relaxing when you're an adult! My visit just whet my appetite - hopefully we can go back with our boys sometime and get some hiking in.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Got Treats?

Submitted by Michelle
This cute mini milk carton is the last of the Halloween projects that Linda and I have created so far. They will make great gifts for our teacher friends and favorite family members. Some people think I'm crazy, but I like to send little presents like this to my cousins in New York and my uncle in Arizona so they know I am thinking of them year round.
The Got Treats stamp set has lots of holiday options, from Halloween to St. Patrick's Day, which is one reason I HAD to have it. There is a gingerbread man for Christmas time, which will be perfect for my kindergarten friends while we read different versions of The Gingerbread Man story during December.
I also like that the set includes the words "to open" and "push up here," making the milk carton look like the real deal.

I saw Linda yesterday when 2 of my friends and I traveled to Claremont to join Linda and her mom on a trip to a craft fair in Costa Mesa. We were going to blog about it, but it didn't meet our blogging standards because it ended up being more of a jewelery and clothing fair than a true craft fair. We did, however, make a plan for our Christmas card complete with a prototype and division of labor schedule and I can happily report that we are on track to have 210 cards completed by November. Three cheers for a front row friend who keeps me on the road to anti-procrastination!

All Materials from Stampin' Up!
Stamps: Got Treats, Grateful Greetings
Cardstock: Pumpkin Pie, Whisper White
Ink: Black Staz-On, Old Olive, Pumpkin Pie, Chocolate Chip, Basic Black
Accessories: Clips Assortment, Old Olive 1/8" Taffeta Ribbon, Mini Milk Carton Bigz Die

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Here We Come A-Haunting

Submitted by Michelle
So I'm not a Halloween person at all. I don't like to dress up. I hate horror movies and anything scary. And come to think of it, I don't really condone kids traipsing around neighborhoods collecting massive amounts of candy that will contribute to childhood diabetes and obesity. That being said, I love the fall season (even though we don't really have autumn in the desert), I like seeing my kindergarten students dressed up in their costumes because they are all so little and cute, and I do enjoy a vintage inspired Halloween card if I can make it myself.
The card above was made with Stampin' Up's awesome Greeting Card Kids stamp set. (The same set from yesterday's blog post.) I water colored the plump little girl myself, and I created a sparkly background for her using Heat & Stick powder and Silver Shine glitter. The ladies in my La Quinta stamp club are going to have a chance to make their own tomorrow night.

Now you may be wondering why in the world I'm making Halloween cards in August. I'm trying a new thing, maybe you've heard of it? It's called planning ahead so I don't stress myself out. I usually have really good intentions of making and sending cards to friends and loved ones throughout the year, but when the time actually comes for me to send the cards, I am often unprepared. Linda is an advocate of doing things in advance before they become urgent. I'm going to try to incorporate a little more of that philosophy when I go back to the place that must not be named in a few weeks. And making my vintage Halloween cards on August 11 is just the first step in that direction.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Back To Shhhhhhhhh!

Submitted by Michelle

Linda visited me for a glorious 4 days last week. We had great fun finishing up our Christmas Tag project for the holidays. We literally could give out gifts to our classroom volunteers and friends today if we needed too.

We also worked hard on some projects for fall and though we know it is inevitable, we are trying our hardest not to acknowledge that we will soon have to go back to that place that must not be named, hence I will not use that dreaded word in this blog post.

One fall project we worked on was a notepad with a delightful cover. Linda and I are in LOVE with the new Greeting Card Kids stamp set and can't get enough of it. Linda used watercolor crayons to paint the kids and we were able to get a chalkboard look using black cardstock and whisper white craft ink. I can't wait to give these notepads to my teacher friends.

The inside simply looks like this:
I used a little designer paper to camouflage the retailers logo on the top of the notepad.

Linda is now off on ANOTHER trip! At least this time she is in the good ol' US of A so I can text and call her anytime I feel the need. Our lack of communication during the Europe trip almost did me in. Hopefully she is collecting some good photos of the national parks she is visiting to share with us later this week. I'll be back tomorrow with a look at the cute Halloween projects we created.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Linda's Travel Journal: Final Edition

Submitted by Linda
Here's one last look at our hotel in Oberammergau. I still can't get over those amazing flowers!

So, beyond what I've already mentioned in my Dachau post and my Passion Play post, I've ended up with a few "take aways" from my wonderful trip.

1. Get out of my radius! Though I'm so blessed to work, shop, and attend church in my 2 mile radius, I feel inspired to get out more and see things. I don't need to be in Vienna to attend a great concert, or see some wonderful art or history. Knowing Claremont, I can probably find some wonderful culture right here within my radius! And how silly that I rarely get to LA or Pasadena, where art and music are readily accessible. Let me know if you'd like to plan an outing sometime!

2. Don't ask for the check! On our trip, we realized that going into a cafe to buy a cup of coffee (or Coke Light) wasn't about the drink, but more about 'renting' the table for awhile. We were never rushed by wait staff, and they usually took a much longer time than we're used to, to serve us. Even after we'd been there for quite some time, and our meal was done, they seemed surprised if we asked for the check. This aligns with my recent revelation that I want to slow down, enjoy meals more, especially that time after dinner when everyone's tummies are happy and the conversation is sweet.

3. Take a tea break in the afternoons! This one I borrowed from my new travel friend, Cindy. She has always done this, as an all-star homemaker and mother of four grown children. I love tea, and I sip it all day long, but I really am determined to start sitting down to refresh for a few minutes before I continue "powering through" my work, both at school and at home. I sometimes feel like I'm rushing around all the time, forcing myself to comply with self-imposed deadlines. And I think that those self imposed deadlines often keep me task-oriented rather than people-oriented.

This past school year has been super busy for me, and I found myself over-committed in many areas of my life. It's funny how we learn this the hard way, by making ourselves crazy trying to keep too many plates spinning. So prior to going on the trip, I had been really doing some soul-searching about slowing down, saying 'no' more, so that I can be effective in my job and with my family. My new European mentality completely aligns with my "slow down, take care of myself, and quit 'powering through'!"

Here's one parting photo, of me at a cafe in Oberammergau, where I'm leisurely enjoying my first ever Cappuccino (hard to believe, I know)! I'm holding my friend "Flat Stanley", with some happy-face sugar packets.
Now that I'm home, I'm hoping I can continue my new European mind set, and make choices that will help me live a balanced life which allows me to be both effective and content.