Friday, December 30, 2011

Handmade Ryan Gosling

Are you crafty? (Chances are that if you are at all interested in my blog, you have a touch of crafty...) Do you love Ryan Gosling? (Come on now, who doesn't? Blue Valentine anyone?) If you answered 'Yes' to a and/or b- you have to follow this Tumbler blog.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A New Hampshire Christmas Experience: The Gift of Lights

A few weeks ago, our whole family was able to go view a new New Hampshire attraction: The Gift of Lights at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

It is quite a spectacle: more than one million LED Christmas lights creating hundreds of displays that you can drive right through!

It was such a great way for us to kick off our holiday season... I mean who doesn't love going out for a ride to take in Christmas lights. And, here, you get to see a million all at once. (One thing I did miss was snow... I love the look of Christmas lights glistening off the white snow. And here we are on December 6, in New Hampshire, with NO snow!)

All three of my girls loved it. We drove up in our new minivan (woohoo- new minivan mom coming through!) and took a leisurely drive around the speedway. The girls were excitedly looking from one window to the next, pointing out each scene that they saw. "Look! Dolphins! Look! A flag! Look! The Statue of Liberty!"

I think it took about 15 minutes to drive through. To add to the experience, they have a radio station you can tune to that is playing Christmas music. At the end, you can park and go into "Santa's Village" where there is hot cocoa and you can get your photo taken with Santa.

(Excuse the cell phone pic... I brought THREE cameras on our outing. One did not have a memory card, one had a dead battery, and one inexplicably had a macro lens on it!)

I think the cost of $15 per car is such a great deal for a family outing. For us, that breaks down to $3 per person and there is nothing we can do as a family that is that inexpensive. You can also save $2 off your ticket by bringing 3 canned goods to donate to the NH Food bank. (Do make sure to bring cash, if you do not buy tickets online, they only accept cash at the gate.)

The Gift of lights will be at the speedway until January 1st. Like them on Facebook to see what other people are saying and maybe win a ticket.

Do you have any other great Christmas activities you know of around the granite state?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Gifts on a Budget: Under $10 in the Kitchen

One of my go-to gifts now is baked goods. I like to gather a basket of yummy treats for friends, family, teachers, neighbors... everyone enjoys a good chocolate chip cookie and Oreo truffle.

If you want to dress up your treat basket, you can definitely do it cute and on a budget. There are a ton of gifts on Etsy for under $10 that you can add that will give your basket that personalized, homey touch.

Aprons are always a great choice. Etsy has a plethora of handmade and vintage aprons for under $10. (I already gave my mother-in-law one at Thanksgiving wrapped around a bottle of champagne- an easy, but thoughtful gift.)

I like the fun and funky aprons myself... but you can find many traditional and vintage to choose from as well.

Another fun gift is recipe cards. I like to fill one out with the recipe I am giving my gift recipient... you can then wrap the ribbon around the remainder of the recipe cards and add those to the basket.

Again, the cards on Etsy range from retro to modern. Choose a style to fit the gift receiver.

A gift I would love are these handmade dish clothes. I have found that crocheted dish cloth are the best at scrubbing dishes... and they look super cute on your sink. This shop has the best range of colors in her yarns:

3 for $10 is a steal when these clothes will last much longer than cheap-o, thin Wallyworld dish cloths.

If your gift recipient is a bit funky, a bit fun, go outside the box when you add a gift to their basket. Add a light switch plate:

...or a cool print:

(There are a gazillion fun kitchen prints for any style and under $10.) Just roll then up, tie with a pretty ribbon and add to your basket.

Everyone needs pot holders... I have to replace mine at least once a year after I burn my current pair! I love the pinch pot holders, they are smaller than the bulky oven mitts and this shop has such gorgeous prints...

$6 for a gorgeous pot holder that I wouldn't mind sitting on my counter! I would buy a few to add to a few of my treat baskets at this price.

There you have it... inexpensive, thoughtful and fun additions for your kitchen gift-giving baskets.

While you are at it, check out my $10 children's gifts.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Veterans' Day and beyond.

{my father}

I did not post on Veterans Day. I always feel guilty thanking a Veteran or making a big deal on Veterans Day. It seems so contrived. I do not say thank you enough for the rest of the year and I should not just spout out because the calendar tells me to.

But I did want to share something that Ariana wrote. She summed it up so beautifully... out of the mouths of babes.

"Veterans Day means a lot to me. It means a lot to me because I am related to some Veterans. For example, my grandfather was a Veteran. He passed away now, but I will still always remember him. Another Veteran I am relayed to is my uncle. His name is Anthony, but I call him Ant. Even though he never went into battle, he is still an honored Veteran. I am related to a lot more, but those are just the two I know best. I hope that every Veteran gets respected like my Uncle and Grandfather do. Also, I hope that Veterans Day always remains a holiday so that the Veterans can continue being remembered forever. In all, Veterans Day means we should respect the people who fought for us."

I also want to beg everyone to watch a new documentary: Where Soldiers Come From. It is a great movie that follows the four-year journey of childhood friends who join the National Guard after graduating from high school. As it chronicles the young men's transformation from restless teenagers to soldiers looking for roadside bombs to 23-year-old combat veterans trying to start their lives again. It was one of the most enlightening movies I have seen in awhile. It just made my heart ache even more for the young men and women who travel that path in their life. It is available online and I really think every American should watch it. Really.

{my memorial tattoo depicting Air Force wings and a propeller}

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Christmas Gifts on a Budget: Under $10 for Kids

For today's post on Christmas on a budget, I want to concentrate on children's gifts. More importantly vintage or handmade, which can be done inexpensively and will also save alotta Mother Earth's resources.

I am a HUGE fan of vintage gifts for the kids. They toys of yesteryear were made better, last longer and do not need 8000 batteries to work.

When I saw a friend had given her daughter her old collection of Care Bear figurines, it inspired me. The little girl brings the collection to dance class and the 3 year olds clamor to play with them while the older girls are dancing.

You can get large lots of figurines on Etsy vintage or Ebay for next to nothing. Everything from Star Wars figures to Cabbage Patch.

Have fun with an advanced search on Etsy for vintage toys from $0-$10. You will be thrilled with the things you can find. (Of course these toys also do not fall under today's more stringent safety guideline, so please be aware of that when you are shopping vintage.)

Another fun toy that travels well are finger puppets. You can buy these or very easily make them from felt of old gloves for cheap cheap.

These are great to have in a car to keep kids amused for even a few minutes. Personally, I splurged on the 2 bucks a piece for this lady's creations because she is way craftier with felt than I will ever be. (and seriously, after reading her tutorial on how she makes them, I am entirely unsure how she can charge only $2 per puppet.)

And my 3 year old is going to love the adorable assortment of animals I chose. I will whip together  a quick bag for her to carry them in and, voila, an adorable $10 gift!

You will find a large selection of amazing wood artisans on Etsy. I am a big proponent of wooden toys.  They are durable, quiet, and tend to foster a child imagination. And there are a many fantastic, inexpensive hand made choices.

Play food is always a great option. Either wood or felt are way nicer than their plastic counterparts. You can always make felt food for pennies... but take it from someone who spent 5 hours making 1 strawberry, 2 eggs and an orange slice.... but you can get a whole plate of food on the cheap!

If your house is anything like mine... you have 30 naked Barbies hanging around. This year, I will be outfitting them handmade. I have found that Barbie clothes on Etsy only run $3-$7 and you can get the most gorgeous outfits (and not all trampy belly shirts like you tend to get from big retailers)

I spent $20 on a plethora of Barbie clothes for Annika. She loves her Barbies and I like gifts that add to collections rather than add new clutter that will not be used.

Last, is actually a toy that I have featured before on a post about traveling with kids. But they are such great toys, they deserve another mention. It is the I Spy bags. They have been popular from the 3 to 11 year olds and it is something they can actually all play together.

These are also created by little girls... so they have the whole heart strings thing going for them... but it is absolutely still a great $8 investment.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A giveaway courtesy of the wonderful Party Palace.

It has been over month since Annika's birthday party and she is already planning next years princess party! It was really such a fun time for her (AND all of her friends) and for me to see how much she was enjoying herself.

Anyhow, enough gushing. What I wanted to share was a quick giveaway from Greta at Party Palace. She was so sweet to leave me with a few treats that any little princess would love. I have a beautiful set of costume wings, a pretty in pink tutu, a pink bow hair clip...

and I am also adding the felt flowered hair band that I gave for favors at our party.

All you have to do is 'like' her Facebook page and then come back here to tell me that you did. This contest is open to New England readers. I really want to get the word out there about Greta and her business. I love that she is a fellow mompreneur, she sustains this fantastic business while working full time, raising her children, volunteering as a Girl Scout leader, etc, etc.... Women like her inspire me and I hope to get her many more fans to help support and grow her business.

I will choose a random winner via on November 21st and ship you this cute package just in time for Christmas!

*Side note, you can see a couple of the Party Palace princesses at a great fundraiser for Girls on the Run NH this Saturday, November 19th. There will be a Princess Tea Party at the Red River Theater in Concord. A fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon with your little one.*

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Christmas Gifts on a Budget: Under $10!

I am sure many, many people are in the same boat as we are… just over a month until Christmas and we just had to buy a new dish washer, a new washing machine and 2 new cars. Needless to say, there will not be a lot of cash to spread around for gifts. So I am going to have to get creative and thrifty. In light of that, I am going to start a featured post on here for gifts that I find during my Christmas shopping that are $10 or less and handmade… or at the very least, locally made.

The first gift I will be featuring will be aimed at children and can be purchased from… me! I have seen these wooden peg dolls all over the internet and knew my girls would love to make them and play with them.

It is a fairly simple craft project requiring only a few supplies and some great creativity.

Supplies needed: 
wooden pegs 
wooden candle cups
craft paint in various colors (make sure non-toxic)* 
very small paint brushes 
fine tip permanent markers 
craft varnish (make sure non-toxic) 

This is a gift you can either give in the raw version, so that the recipient can create their own dolls, or you can create a nice family with your own hands and give the finished dolls as the gift. I gave my girls the wooden parts as the gift and then we created the babies together, which was most of the fun of the gift.

It is simple really, you just want to paint some clothes on the peg doll. We also chose to paint the candle cups (which the dolls will sit in) in a matching color (and don’t try to put the wrong baby in the wrong cup or Acadia will have a fit!). Be creative with your clothing- the more colorful, the better. 

Next, paint on a cute hairstyle and any hair accessories you like. At this point I varnished the entire doll before I drew the face on with Sharpies. I found that if I drew with the Sharpies on the raw wood, it tended to bleed. It worked much better if I drew the face over the dried varnish. I used a thin coat of varnish so that I only had to wait 15 minutes for it to dry.

Voila, these babies are ready to be played with. They are great because they are small and we can fit 5 sets easily into a small bag to carry to dance class or to the doctors office… wherever the girls may need to be entertained for a few minutes.

There you are. A great gift for children aged 2-8 and for only $7.50 for five sets!

Do you have any ideas for me for great gifts under $10 (or less!)??? I need all the help I can get.

(* I discovered a new line of craft paint and varnish at Joanns last night. It os from Delta and it is all SOY! Great for the environment and at a great price.)

Monday, October 31, 2011

What a difference a week makes (in photos)

{photos taken within the last couple of weeks- quickly moving from leaf-peeping and fun leaf pile jumping, to snow covered pumpkins and winter-geared little girls}

Wow, October has been crazy here in New England, to say the least.

We had Annika's birthday party on October 9. It was sunny and 80+ degrees... nearly setting records for October temperatures.

Cut to 3 weeks later and NH set all new records.... with snowfall! We had 22 inches at our house! TWENTY-TWO INCHES people! That is a crap load of snow, even here in NH. We still have a baby pool on the back deck filled with water from the earlier high temperatures.

Gahhh, as if my winter is not long enough. Now, my girls have to wear full on snow gear just to trick or treat tonight. Are you kidding me, weather Gods? What have I ever done to you?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Goodwill Fall Wardrobe Update in Mustard

My trip to Goodwill was a success. I actually had no trouble finding a variety of mustard items. My first, and most versatile item was a pair of mustard tights:

{dress: Goodwill, belt: American Eagle, boots: Target, tights: Goodwill}

I love the pop of color that it adds. As I was carrying around these tights, I noticed this dress and thought the two would look great together... if I dared wear that much color. Well, I did! I wore this outfit yesterday (under a cream cardigan) and I think it was adorable. The dress was a great find for $5 with some gorgeous embroidered detail around it that you can't really make out in my photo.

If I was not bold enough, I could use the tights to add a pop of color to my standard mom-wardrobe:

{dress: Goodwill, belt: American Eagle, boots: Target, tights: Goodwill}

This a chambray dress that I bought at Goodwill last year for the sole purpose of it being my fall/ winter  momdrobe main stay. It is easy to add accessories to and I can wear it to the park or the hardware store very easily. 

I can also use the tights to jazz up one of my other favorite navy momfits:

{shirt: American Eagle, skirt: Goodwill, boots: Target, tights: Goodwill}

This skirt is actually a Goodwill find that was a dress from American Eagle. This top was a tad too revealing for this Momma, but the navy with white polka dots (which you can really make out in this photo) was too cute to pass up. So I bought it, chopped the top off and added an elastic waist to make it a skirt.

I did find a cute top that had mustard in it:

{shirt: Goodwill, skirt: Goodwill, boots: Target, tights: Goodwill}

This top fits great, has a really fun pattern and has my mustard in it! It also looks great with jeans:

{shirt: Goodwill, jeans: American Eagle, boots: Target}

I also strayed from my mission a teeny bit... I could not resist this top:

{shirt: Goodwill, jeans: American Eagle, boots: Target}

It is the sweetest buttery yellow with the most beautiful embroidery on it. I had to get it. 

All in all, it was a very successful trip and I love everything that I got. All I really want now is a great mustard scarf. Goodwill saves the day again.

OUTTAKES: What it looks like when you try to take photos of yourself with a 3-year-old around:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mmmm, mustard.

As I have been skimming over my Pinterest boards, I have decided I am in love... with mustard. Not the edible kind (although I love me some sun-dried tomato mustard... YUM!) But I am referring to the color. More specifically in my wardrobe.

I just happen to have a gift card for Goodwill. And when I go tonight, I am going to do something I never do: try to find something specific. That is a task that can be overwhelming at Goodwill because there is SO much to look through, but if I can find a great piece of clothing or accessory for a dollar or two, it is totally worth it. And something in a mustard color seems to be just what I need for fall. A neutral color that can go with a lot of my clothing, yet bright enough to perk me up on a gloomy, cool day.

Perhaps I can find a sweater similar to this:

or a jacket like this:

Even a pair of tights to brighten up some of my dresses:

I have a few dark jackets and sweaters, so a scarf would be the perfect accessory:

Even a cute pair of ballet flats to peep out from under my many pairs of jeans:

At the very very least, I will find something, anything in a mustard fabric that I can deconstruct to make one of these:

Have you ever gone to a thrift shop will a specific item in mind? How did it go?

Wish me luck! I will let you know how it goes. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Life Lessons For My Little Ladies

There are so many life lessons I need to share with my babies. Ideally, they are watching and learning. Ideally I am a role model and I won't need to tell them these things... they will just... know. But, just in case, I keep a running list of the important things in life... just for them...

• a book is always a perfect gift, from babies to adults

• don't be afraid to admit your wrong and say you're sorry

• go barefoot whenever possible

• wear fun colored socks or tights when it's not

• kiss your children at every opportunity you can- at one point they won't let you

• go to the park when the opportunity arises

• go to a farm and pick fresh fruit or vegetables at every season

• dance- alone, with your family, at an event... just dance

• keep my recipes (and both grandmothers') and pass them on and add your own

• volunteer... a lot

• get to know your neighbors, bring a pie or cookies

• your 'first love' will not be your only love

• watch a christmas story and the wizard of oz at least once a year

• accept compliments

• create something every day

• listen when others speak, you will learn something every time

• do not waste precious time fostering useless relationships because you feel obligated

• iron clothes that need it

• return your shopping cart- the exercise will do you good

• always be early

• jump in the leaf pile

• patronize the library... often

• don't ever ride in a car with someone who has been drinking

• learn how to drive standard, it will get you out of a bind someday

• practice random acts of kindness

• live alone at some point in your life

• nurture plants (either inside or outside)

• use a great vocabulary and know what the words mean

• never carry a credit card balance, ever

• live simply

• always practice outdoor activities: hike, ski, etc

• you don't need to know everything, but you need to know how to find the answers

• don't smoke cigarettes

• keep original artwork in your home, even if it created by friends or family

• write thank you notes

• keep snack food on hand to whip up for surprise guests

• keep a fire extinguisher on all levels of your house

• find a hair dresser you love and spend the money on a hair cut you love, you'll feel great

• always RSVP and do it in a timely manner

• read something every single day- newspaper, magazine, especially a book

• create a good sleep schedule and stick to it

• a hand crafted gift is always best

• decorate for holidays- all of them

• marry later in life, enjoy your youth

• always listen to music: in the car, house, headphones, to sleep

• try to find a home with a porch

• never ever wear nail polish unless you can guarantee it will be chip free. nothing looks worse than chipped nail polish

• you have limited time to clean. worry less about 'picking up' and more about 'clean'

• take care of your teeth

• when it comes to cheese, you get what you pay for, splurge once in awhile

• hug whenever possible

• always wear facial moisturizer and sunscreen

• keep some written history/journal/blog for your children

• sit down to a meal as often as possible

•call your mom- she will always be happy to hear your voice.

This list was originally posted as a guest post on a friends blog. She has since shut down her blog but I wanted to make sure my list lived on, so I am reprinting here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I never...


Just for fun, I am linking to Mama Kat's blog and filling you in on 19 things I have never done by the age of 29 (ish) 

  • gotten a name tattoo (thank God!)

• gone to a blog conference (will change for BlogHer 2012! Thanks to my Momma and a great Christmas gift.)

• skydived (This will forever be on my 'never' list. I have no urge to ever purposely throw myself from an airplane... EVER!) 

• been arrested 

• been outside of the america 

• hiked everest (guess that's obvious if I never left the America's... duh...) 

• sang even one note in tune (no matter how hard I try!) 

• had a big ol' wedding 

• seen the movie Titanic 

• had a baby boy 

• done a proper split 

• had a piercing not above the neck 

• owned designer purse (again, this will forever be on the 'never' list.
I find designer purses utterly useless and self indulgent.) 

• got a college degree 

• been to vegas 

• exercised more than 30 days steadily 

• run in a marathon (I guess this will be pretty hard if I can never
train long enough to get in shape.)

• crocheted or knitted  (really really want to learn though) 

• been on ice skates or skis (have been on snowboards, snowshoes and sleds though...
can't live in NH and forgo all snow activities.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Open letter to the Avett Brothers.

I love you. I really do. And you can read that singularly or collectively.

A wonderful friend took me to finally see you live a few weeks ago and I have not gotten you out of my mind every since. I mean your music is infectious and wonderful and happy and amazing. You both have a talent that sends shovers up a girls spine.

And then you have Seth's eyes...

and Scott's smile...

You gentlemen are specimens of pure beauty. Bounding around the stage playing everything from banjos to keyboards, singing, dancing. 

I have listened to you every single day in these past few weeks. Your music makes me happy, makes me dance, gets my groove back. I know I will see you again... although, not soon enough. 

Until then... kisses and hugs.

Love, Michele

P.S. If you are looking for a cute Momma to sneak onto the bus for an illicit tour rendevous (ala Michaele Salahi) I know a girl. Just sayin'.