Friday, April 30, 2010

Happy Printables for a Happy Friday

I woke up feeling blah and icky this morning, so I decided to life my spirits (and hopefully my immunity) by sharing some sweet printable that I have come across and will be utilizing soon (with summer vacation on the way, I am already planning some to-do's for the kids!) I hope you enjoy...

My new favorite printable website is called Vintage Printables. They have tons of artwork that is free public domain due to copyright expiring. They have everything from vintage photos, to public health posters, to maps... It is a fantastic site for created some great wall art!
Kind over Matter has these great cards that can be shared to brighten someone's day:
Martha Stewart has some great Vintage Keepsake Box Labels:
So Wonderful, So Marvelous has some great 'Random Acts of Kindness' cards to print. Everyone should utilize these as often as possible.
A little bit of inspiration to brighten up your day.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Design on a Dime, Project 10: Crafty Children's Art Display

See this. Do you know what it is? It is my fridge. And do you see something wrong with this picture? With a wood front fridge, I have nowhere to put up all of those adorable pieces of art my 3 girls create. So, it all gathers here: tucked under my thermostat, which is not able to hold many more pieces of art at this point.

I needed a creative solution for little cost that does not take up a lot of space. We are blessed with walls full of 6' windows, which makes for a very bright house with very little wall space.

After redoing the girls' rooms, I ended up with one extra curtain rod. So I decided to put my extra hardware to work with my artwork dilemma. All it took was a drill, level and a screwdriver. (Unfortunately I had to purchase more of the hardware that hold the rod to the wall since I lost mine along the way.)

I found an open piece of wall that leads up my stairs, installed the hardware using the provided anchors as I could not find a stud. Make sure to use the level too unless you like the feel of living in a Shel Silverstein book.

I already had the cool round curtain hooks that my curtains previously, and those work great to hold the art:
However, I am going to get another package since I now see that I have enough room on the rod to stack a lot more wonderful art. Easy, cheap and quick.

To recap:
See Project 1, Project 2 and Project 3, Project 4, Projects 5, 6 and 7, Project 8, Project 9

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Felt Food, Friends and Fun

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to get together with some fun ladies for a new adventure: craft night! Liz decided we would do some felt food, and I am glad she did, because now I am hooked. What an easy and rewarding little craft it is. You spend 25¢ per sheet on a myriad of colors at a craft store (and of course I did not go out and buy 50 sheets because I had to have every color!), get a needle and thread and you are set to go. The eggs, strawberry and orange above were only a nine hour investment (ok, ok, that is 4 hours of driving for me, an hour of gnoshing on some yummy potluck, and about 3 hours of Liz, Kameron and myself chattering away endlessly... sorry, Ariana, that you could not get a word in edgewise!) So, it was really only probably an hour of crafting- and probably half of that was me trying to summon my 8th grade self to figure out the geometry of an orange slice! (But it came out ok, right???)

It was so great that when I showed my little ladies the next day, they immediately asked me to show them how to make some- and I went to work researching on the internet... there are a TON of links out there, but here are a few...

Banana Tutorial
Doughnut Tutorial (this has a great printable template, which we used and it came out great!)
Or you can try this super-fancy doughnut tutorial- it looks like a lot of work.
Fried Eggs and Orange Slice Tutorial (like the ones I made- keep in mind that they use a sewing machine, but felt is so forgiving that you can easily sew everything by hand.)
Strawberry Tutorial (Not the way I made it, but cute.)
Pretty much the easiest felt food ever: ravioli. Start with this one if you are a beginner. You will feel accomplished when you can make 20 of them in half an hour!
And personal favorite that I can't wait to make: FELT SUSHI! How fun is that?
Sugar Cookies Tutorial: easy peasy.
Felt Carrot Tutorial
and, of course, felt pizza.
Try it... you'll be hooked.

Oh, wait, you didn't think you were getting away without photos of craft night, did you?

The lovely, Kameron, who was nice enough to host us:
Liz, working frantically:
Kameron, Ariana and Liz... see their super-fancy sewing machines? I totally need to upgrade mine!
And I stole a picture of me from Kameron so that you'd know I was really there!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mommy and Me Monday: Take Two

Yay!!! My wonderful friend, Danielle, was kind enough to take a photo of myself and my family on Saturday so that I can post it for another Mommy and Me Monday!

We went to a Dan Zanes concert with the 2 little girls (Ariana is away with friends for a few days.) We were able to go with great friends, which makes it even more fun. The concert was great... lots of little cutie patooties shaking their tushies... and then we even got to go get some subs and go hang out at the park to enjoy the gorgeous weather. It was pretty much a perfect day... man I love spring!

*How the heck do Colby and Annika look all cute and perfect while Acadia and I look like deer caught in headlights??? Whatever. I'll take what I can get- photos of me with the girls are few and far between!

Mommy and Me Monday at Really, Are You Serious?
Hosted by Krystyn

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day: 7 Tips to Live Simply

Well, it is Earth Day, afterall, so I need to give you some tips on living simply and what endeavors my family has conquered to lighten out load.

#1 Two years ago, we stopped using the dryer. I have a fantastic antique drying rack on the wall in our bathroom and, in the warmer months, I dry outside. This year I am installing a retractable clothes line, as I think we can all agree that clothes lines can become very unsightly in a small yard.

#2 Last year we went paper towel free (except around Christmas when I told Colby he could grab some paper towels since we were having a lot of guest and he took the opportunity to buy the largest case of paper towels he could find!) We now use rags, cloth napkins and, my new favorite this year, Skoy Cloths, which are 100% biodegradable and a great way to keep your home germ free.

#3 This year I finally started my composter. I made a very simple plastic trash can version from this tutorial from Simple Mom. You can also check out my post from last year with some great composting links. I think I have had the composter for about a week now and I am simply shocked at how much waste we produce per day. As Colby noted, we do eat a lot of fruits and vegetables here, so that creates a lot of peelings and cores... so I should expect a good amount of compost in a few months. I have figured out, however, that we will need at least 2 compost bins. Once 1 fills up, it will take a couple of months to 'cook', and in that time, we will need an additional place to put our scraps. Ideally we will be able to switch back and forth between 2.

#4 Last year, I went all natural with most of my cleaning products. You can see my recipes here.

#5 I am a huge proponent/lover of using found items and/or salvage to decorate your home. When I lived in Littleton, New Hampshire, I discovered my first salvage store: ADMAC Salvage. It was like a shoe whore living next to Off Broadway Shoes. I was constantly shopping there for anything from trinkets to cabinets. Not only does the stuff have great personality, you are saving it from a landfill. I have a great island in my kitchen that I built with legs fashioned from stair banisters. I would recommend that everyone go to your local salvage store and take a peek, you'll be shocked at the great stuff they have. In (and around) New Hampshire, we have
ADMAC Salvage
Vermont Salvage
Old House Salvage
Nor'East Architectural Antiques

And for tips on how to decorate green or with found art, check out these sights:
Planet Green
Today Show
Care 2 Green Decorating

#6 We like to donate to stay green.
There are tons of ways to keep your junk out of landfills. One of the best ways is to donate it. We all know the standard donation ideas, but here are some more unique ones:

• Donate old glasses at One Sight: drop off old prescription or nonprescription glasses at your local Lions Club, LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sears, Target, or BJ's Optical store (they'll give you a receipt for taxes), or mail them in (and request a receipt)
Donate an old car rather than let it end up in a junk yard. This can be a great tax write-off.
• Donate sneakers in ok condition at Soles4Souls. Soles4Souls facilitates the donations of shoes to aid the hurting worldwide. They coordinated relief efforts for the Asian Tsunami and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, netting over 1 Million pairs donated for these disasters.
• You can also donate sneakers that are not suitable for wearing to Nike's Reuse a Shoe Program. The Reuse-A-Shoe program takes your worn-out kicks and turns them into Nike Grind, a material used in sports surfaces, playgrounds and even new Nike products.
Donate your wedding dress to a metastatic breast cancer patient who will be a bride herself.
Almost anything you have can be donated to a local church or charity and will keep tons of garbage out of our landfills while also saving all the resources of creating a new product.

#7 My newest tactic to live simply is to simplify our bath and beauty products in the house. I officially moved to all Dr. Bronners, which is the 18-in-1 miracle cleaner. You can use this one cleaner for baby, body soap, shampoo, shaving, face, mouth rinse (yucky), hand soap, laundry... and the list goes on. You can buy it in a gallon jug, which saves all of the plastic from all those little plastic bottles. And it is pretty concentrated, so it is really cost effective. I did get the mild baby version so that our whole family can use it, but they have a wonderful peppermint, a tea tree, and the yummiest almond version (among many others.) And the best part? This product ranks a '1' on the Cosmetics Database, which is pretty near perfect. This means I can use it with my girls with no fear of cancer or extra boobies growing! Fantastic.

Sooo, what are you doing to live simply?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday Afternoon Delight

I have came across this recipe last week and it is so delicious that I have had it for lunch 4 times since! I altered it to my taste, so here is my version:

1 tbsp mustard
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp Greek yogurt
tsp poppy seeds (I actually threw in a bit more)
curry powder (I start with 1/2 tsp and add to my taste)
1 sweet potato cut into 1-inch-thick slices and roasted until tender
4 red onion slices, cut 1/8-inch thick
a few slices of red peppers
quarter cup feta cheese
baby spinach
fresh basil if you have some
1 pita or flatbread or 2 slices bread

This is super easy. Just mix the mustard, maple syrup, Greek yogurt, poppy seeds and curry powder into a dressing. Spread on your pita, flatbread or bread. Add the vegetables and cheese and fold over if you have pita or panini or just add another slice on top if it is regular bread. Grill in a nice hot pan or in a panini press.

It is such a great sandwich, I could have it for lunch every day... and the kids actually like it too!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mama 'Fore She Was Mama

I was looking for something the other day, digging through my secret trunk of memories that is kept on a high shelf in my shed and all I could think of was this song by Clay Walker.

Will your child know that there was a 'mama' 'fore you were a mama?

(Listen to the lyrics and ignore the clearly-not-a-mama sexified video.)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Random Roundup: Spring Cleaning

It has been a hectic week with no husband. And with no daycare, I didn't even get to go to work for a few hours to escape the insanity that is my 3 rambunctious girls. I have always said (even when I was the mother of one) that I do not understand how single parents do it. Especially if you do not have a large community of friends and family nearby to help. I mean, I have had five days of running around, packing up 3 kids to go to dance classes, open houses, grocery shopping, trips to the bank, trips to home improvement store, raking leaves, building a composter, building a garden, seeding the lawn, burning brush, building a rock wall, taking down a zip line, digging up the mail box and newspaper box (in preparation for our new paved driveway!); keeping up on meals, laundry, baths, housecleaning, bill paying... yada, yada, yada. And, then not even one moment of reprieve with 3 kids chanting, "Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy." I couldn't make it as a single mom.

So, anyway... a few random tidbits:

Check out my sale on my photo blocks in honor of Earth Day and in time for Mother's Day. But, when the scrap paper is gone, so is the sale.

Don't forget about Lora, she is trying to do something wonderful: CLICK ON THIS POSTER and then when you get to Lora's blog CLICK ON IT AGAIN.

Check out this really cool clothing swap in Portsmouth on May 8th.
Check out this great article on me on Dandelion Lane. You should subscribe to them if you are a business woman- they have a ton of great articles and resources.

I have a date with Liz, Kameron and Ariana (not my daughter) on Saturday night. I am unduly excited to get together and do some crafts after this very long week. I have not met Ariana, but Liz and Kam are great so I am very anxious to see them and enjoy some laughs, crafts, snacks and adult conversation. Yeehaw for girls nights.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Digital Paper Ideas for the Crafty Minded

When I started making my photoblocks, I used standard scrapbook paper purchased at Michael's. And then one of my first customers, Stacey at Wild Hearts Photography, suggested going digital with the paper. Wow, that made so much more sense- I would have endless supplies of paper on my computer without having to make a 10 mile trip to the craft store with every order. It would also afford my customers the ability to see the selection of paper right online. And, bonus, it is way more cost effective.

Stacey introduced me to Terri over at Sassy Designs... and I have been hooked ever since. I have seriously purchased half of her inventory of digital papers (I mean, it is totally a business expense!) She has such a wide variety and they are of the highest quality and her creativity with her designs blows my mind.

Anyhow, I am bringing this up today because, in honor of tax day, she is having a half off sale for her entire online store! That means a 12 pack of digital paper for $2!!! (She also has other great design elements on sale.)

You might be asking, "What exactly do I do with those digital papers?" (I actually saw someone ask this on her Facebook page, which prompted this post.) Oh my goodness, are you kidding me??? The possibilities are endless!!!

Online you ca use them for digital scrapbooking, website backgrounds, headers...

For your business you can use them for your marketing materials: business cards, letterhead, pamphlets, brochures.

For the home you can use them for card/announcement design, regular scrapbooking design and an endless supply of craft projects. I have put just a few here to give you some ideas:

Of course, you can try your hand at photo blocks:

Or my butterfly wall art:

504 Main offers up this adorable tutorial for a bird I can not wait to try:

Making Memories
has a tutorial on an adorable paper banner for your nursery. You can also make these banners for birthday parties, weddings or showers or even as holiday decorations.

Savoring the Details has a great tutorial on making a personalized memory game for your kids:
And again, one of my favorite blogs, Trey and Lucy has this great photo project which combines 3 of my favorite craft ingredients- paper, photos and Mod Podge. I can not wait to get one of these stars so that I can make this project.

Terry's sale ends at 11:59 tonight, so you really should go check it out. But, beware, at $2 per pack, you will find yourself adding endlessly to your shopping cart. But it is ok. Because it is time to start celebrating Earth Day and digital paper is a great green option.

*I was in no way paid for or even asked to do this post. I just love her site so much and I think this sale is a great opportunity for other to fall in love with her.*

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Do-Good Tuesday

Here is your chance to do 2 wonderful things with very limited effort... first off, if you have a blog- it is time to make it carbon neutral. Running a blog with 15,000 visitors per month can emit 8 pounds of carbon dioxide per year (think computers and servers). You can offset that for 50 years with the planting of one tree. You don't want to plant a tree? Well, the good folks over here will plant one for you if you do a little post like this one. What a quick an easy way to start celebrating for Earth Day.


Next up, one of my favorite ladies, Lora is trying to win a contest where she can get swag to give to disadvantaged babies in Philly (she is one of those amazing women who work in social services and deals with heartbreaking issues most of us would never want to imagine, let alone deal with). Click on over to her blog and then click on the 'Babies' poster on her side bar and she will get credit for your click through. It sounds like a lot, but truly, it will take you 30 seconds and give her an opportunity to do her "help me help you help them help us help those guys kind of thing."

CLICK ON THIS POSTER and then when you get to Lora's blog CLICK ON IT AGAIN.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mommy and Me Monday

Krystyn over at Really, Are you Serious? hosts Mommy and Me every Monday where she encourages mothers to get out from behind the camera and capture a picture of themselves with their little ones. I have wanted to participate for weeks, but, alas, I am like every other mom where I am never in photos with any of my children. I fear that they will look back on their photo books and believe that their dad was a single father.

So, imagine my surprise when I was looking at my cell phone over the weekend and I came across this picture:
I mean it is a crappy cell phone picture, but I'll take it. It brought a smile to my face. Another reminder of how quickly my baby girl is growing.

Mommy and Me Monday at Really, Are You Serious?
Hosted by Krystyn

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday Citar: Love

“I don't pretend to know what love is for everyone, but I can tell you what it is for me; love is knowing all about someone, and still wanting to be with them more than any other person, love is trusting them enough to tell them everything about yourself, including the things you might be ashamed of, love is feeling comfortable and safe with someone, but still getting weak knees when they walk into a room and smile at you.”

Visit Tabitha for more Sunday Citar.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

My new bracelet and sustained memories.

I just had to share my second crafty project of the day...

I have carried this bullet casing around for the last 16 years. It has moved from house to house, from purse to purse, from coat pocket to bathroom drawer... it is a reminder of a wonderful point in my life. One of those tokens you carry with you through life to remind you of your past, help you though your present and see you into your future.

But, it is a bullet casing, afterall, and I really wanted my little token in a more utilized form. I decided to make it into jewelry. I am by no means a jewelry maker, so this is another total hack... literally... I actually started with a hack saw. I am pretty sure most jewelry makers do not use hack saws, but I do.

So, with the hack saw, some jewelry glue, some craft supplies... I ended up with a cute bracelet that I can wear as a daily reminder... and I love it.

Yes, it might take a girl from Maine to fall in love with bullet casing jewelry.

Design on a Dime, Project 9: A Succulent Teacup Garden

I have a problem. It is Goodwill. I swear they are going to throw me into one of those Hoarders spirals. Every time I go in there, I come out with something I don't need... but they have so much cool stuff! I can't resist. One of my worst offenses was cute little tea cups. My local Goodwill has a large kitchenware section, so at every trip I can find at least one vintage/funky/retro/fun teacup (and, to make things worse, the only cost 99¢ How easy is it to justify 99¢???). The problem is... nobody in my house drinks coffee or tea by the teacup... we drink it by the vat. So, now I have collected 6 cute teacups with absolutely no use.

Which brings me to my Design on a Dime project. As spring cleaning is rearing it's ugly head, I decided I needed to find a use for these or give them back to Goodwill. I thought for awhile and came up with a succulent garden. This one is super simple. All I did was go to my local garden center and buy some succulent plants. Make sure to get them itty- bitty. You might not realize it while buying the plants, but the teacups are really small. I think the succulents I bought were only in 2" pots and they fit into the teacups perfectly. I bought 5 plants for $2 each (I was able to split one as it was bigger than I liked) and each cup was 99¢- so for $15.94, I ended up with this cute little garden.

Make sure to put a few rocks in the bottom of the teacup before you plant the succulent to prevent root rot. You will only need to water them maybe once a week since there is no drainage and you don't want to over-water. Succulents are easy and you can find such a huge variety, you can really design a look that suits you.

After further research, I realized that my unique little idea wasn't so unique. Leave it to the damn internet to ruin my visions of grandeur in believing I might have a unique idea. You can check out someone elses vision at Apartment Therapy here or if you are too lazy to make your own- you can actually buy them from Esty here. Enjoy!

Check out Design on a Dime :
Project 1
Project 2
Project 3
Project 4
Project 5, 6 and 7
Project 8

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sunscreen Tips for the Family

It looks as though our excessive sun exposure will be coming early this year. We have already hit 80 degrees here in New England (April 3rd???) and it looks as though we only have more beautiful days on the horizon. That means it is time to update our sunscreen for the year. (Keep in mind that sunscreen will lose it's effectiveness after the expiration, typically only 1 season- so throw it out each year.)

Make sure you do your research on sunscreens before purchasing, especially with your children in mind. I feel that this is one product where you get what you pay for. There are many things to look out for in your research.

•First off, watch out for the chemicals used. Some of the ingredients are carcinogens and hormone disruptors (you know, that wacky process causing our little girls to get boobs when they are 7 or 8 years old!!!) Avoid oxybenzone, the worst culprit I discovered in my research.

• Keep in mind that SPF 55-100+ sunscreens block just 1-2% more sunburn rays than SPF 30- so you just might be slathering on a ton of extra chemicals for no good reason.

The Environmental Working Group has a great database of sunscreens with a rating system ranging from 'Recommended' to 'Avoid'. (My trusted Aveeno 70+ that I have been slathering on for 2 years was actually rated as a 'Caution'! Good thing I am researching this year.)

• One of my favorite websites, Cosmetics Database, offers ratings on everything from makeup with sunscreen to sunless tanning products. (This website is also part of the EWG.) I use Cosmetics Database to research the safety of everything from baby products to hair products to toothpaste. You really should bookmark it if you are at all concerned with the health and beauty products that you use.

• My favorite that I found in my research was the Badger line. They are not too expensive and can be found at any local co-op or natural food store (like Whole Foods.) It is a really thick product, so you risk looking a little goofy if you don't rub it in adequately. But, personally, I'd rather look a little ghostly than have a face covered with cancer. Or better yet, with the wonderful pregnancy mask on my face that is enhanced every year with sun exposure.
I'd love to know if you have a safe sunblock that's your fave.

Friday, April 2, 2010

I had a disturbing doctors visit with Ariana yesterday. This was her 9 year physical and the girl is as healthy as any child I have ever known. At age 9, she was sick for the very first time ever this past February when we all caught that awful stomach bug. Prior to that she has never vomited, never had an unscheduled doctors appointment- never missed a sick day at school. Point is: she is healthy.

So, after the check-up, the doctor concurred, Ariana is perfect... except... she is 'severely' underweight. Now, all 3 of my girls have always measured from 75%-95% in their respective ages for height and 40%-50% for weight. Their father and I were always both tall and thin so the apples don't fall far from the tree. Ariana definitely has my physique.
She looks thin... but severely underweight? No. Just because that is what your little chart says, does not negate looking at her and seeing that she look like an athletic, small framed little girl. The doctor actually asked if she could test her for celiac disease. I asked her some of the symptoms... Ariana did not have any one of them. She's not sick. She is thin.

While I like my doctor and I appreciate her efforts, I really wish it was not done in front of Ariana. I try really hard to make weight a non-issue in this house (well, aside from Colby's beer belly, that is.) I try to make slight changes even when I hear Ariana referring to herself as 'skinny'. I correct her and say she is athletic or healthy. Not only do I not want her concentrating on weight, I do not want her to be making comments in front of other little girls that may cause them to look differently at themselves.

The doctor wanted me to put her on some sort of weight gain regimen. Really? She eats 3 healthy meals per day and at least 3 snacks. And you want me to force her to ingest extra calories just... because. I have researched and found that there really are no health issued with being naturally thin (restricting calories or compulsive exercise to maintain low weight is a whole other story) Anemia is one health risk, but she has not had that yet. I make a conscious effort to feed my kids healthy. No Twinkies, no soda, limited candy, limited juice. And they are very active. Ariana is a dancer- she has muscle tone and not just skin and bones. And she usually is playing at least one sport. I really wish that we could concentrate on our kids being healthy, not how much they weigh, or how they look in their bikinis.

I had these same struggles when I was a little girl... actually my whole youth. I remember having to eat Carnation instant breakfasts as a calorie booster at a very young age. And every year, at every doctors appointment, the doctor would give my mother a hard time. And she would swear to him that she wasn't starving me and that I was a good eater. It even continued into high school where I would have to eat my lunch in the guidance office. How alienating is that? All of my friends are hanging out having a grand time and I am stuck eating in the cinder block office while various adults peek out of the corner of their eyes to make sure I am not stuffing my finger down my throat into the trash can.

Needless to say, this has led to eating issues. How can it not? Which is exactly what I am trying to avoid with my 3 girls. I have a feeling it will be an uphill battle all the way. Our society is determined to be fixated on weight and I certainly can not change that.

Damn, it sucks having boobs.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Kids Say The Darndest Things: The Beginning of the End

Ariana (age 9): Are we going to have an Easter egg hunt an Nana's?
Me (age withheld): I am sure the Easter Bunny will find Nana and Papa's house.
Ariana: Mom. The Easter Bunny is not real.
Me: Sad Face.
Ariana: Don't worry, Mom, I am not gonna ruin it for Annika (age 4).