Saturday, May 5, 2012

Welcome Summer!

Okay, so it's not summer, yet, but with 85 degree temps and the occasional spike up to 90, blue skies, and cloudy afternoons, it might as well be.

I love summer.  I love the laziness.  I love being in the sun.  I love playing in the water... at least I loved it when I was a kid.  Now, I mostly jump in to cool off if I've baked myself too long in the sun.  But I really love to watch my kids play in the water.

What is it about water play that just makes a kid so happy?  It's like, turn on a sprinkler or fill a wading pool and suddenly all is right with the world again.  Kids really are so easy to please.

We ushered in a new summer this week with our sprinkler.  My plan was twofold.  First, I wanted to water the grass.  Or the grass patches that cover my entire front lawn.  I'm really trying to get my lawn into shape this year, and so far, things are coming along.  Everything looks greener since I've been watering.  I have hope.

The other part of the plan was the let the kids have an amazing time.  Because although I want a green lawn, I also want a yard that they can play in.  So, after nap, we headed outside.

At first, they just ran around the edges of the water, playing on the sidewalk and only getting, well, sprinkled.

Natalie had a lot of fun making footprints on the porch.

Her masterpiece:

One of Daniel's favorite toys of all time is the almighty stick.  Go figure.

Then they had fun getting up close and personal with the water.

I love this picture.

All in all, it was a pretty good afternoon for us :)

What about you guys?  Warm enough for an afternoon of sprinkler play yet?

Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Shameless Plug for My Mom's New Business

Hey everyone!

Sorry my posts have been a little spotty lately...between colds and ear infections and work trips with my husband and getting ready for this new addition to our family (6 weeks!  woohoo!), I haven't had a lot of extra time on my hands for creating stuff for the house or blogging about it.

But I did want to take some time to give a little shout out for my mama.  Here's the background:  she retired from AT&T several years ago and then went to massage therapy school to establish her second career -- this time, one in which she's working for herself and out of the corporate world.  She's pretty good at it, least, I love getting one of her massages ;)

Anyway, a few months ago, she was off to a regular client's house to give an in-home massage, but forgot to bring her massage lotions home with her.  So, being the resourceful woman that she is, she decided to use a combination of essential oils instead.

Long story short, this client has been dealing with frequent and very intense hot flashes for years.  But after my mom's massage, she didn't have any for a day and a half.  So the two of them got their heads together, and have now created a product which really does reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes.  She's been selling for about a month and already has some repeat customers.

Her company is called Kuul Ravi.

I did some product photography for her last week so that she had some clean pictures for her company's Facebook account and her (soon to be up) website.  These are what I wanted to share with you guys today.  I am totally not a professional photographer, don't have any real equipment beyond my basic SLR and edited these guys in a standard photo editing program which came with my computer -- no photoshop here.  So that's my disclaimer.  I would love to hear any advice you guys might have, because I will probably be taking more (she wanted some taken at the beach) and tweaking these a little further.

Here we go.  I took several outdoors, and I think these are my favorites.  I love the juxtaposition of the clean lines of the bottle with the rustic and organic backgrounds I used outside.  This first was taken on an old kitchen chair that we've left on our back patio and has become very weathered.

This next one was on a fence post.  Again, I just love the weathered look with the clean bottle.  What do you think?

These are on a tree stump.  I particularly like the angle that these were taken at.

Same place; different angle.

Still the same place, but this time I only photographed one bottle and changed the perspective slightly.  I kind of love the texture of the tree stump in this one.  I also think this is a great shot of the label because it's in focus and easy to read.

The next few were taken on my kitchen table.  I wanted to give some to my mom that were completely clean and all about the bottle instead of the bottle competing with other elements in the picture.  I tried a few with an extra bottle in the background, but...

...thought that looked a little too busy.  Then I took out the background bottles, and...

...oops.  Left the flash on.  This pic is my least favorite.  Because the flash is one, the colors are muted and the label is difficult to read.  Everything looks kind of boring and unalive (is that a word?).

This next pic is pretty nice, though.  But the top is cut off :(

Ahhh, here we go.  I love how this one turned out.

I would really appreciate any feedback you guys have!  Comments or advice -- thanks!

Also, if you'd like, I can totally hook you up with my mom -- her name is Shelley McLean and the company's email address is .  If you are having hot flashes, it's really worth checking out.  I haven't gone through that yet, but from everything I hear, it's kind of miraculous.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sunroom Redo, Part 3 -- Fill 'er Up

Okay, I want to preface this post with two important things to remember...maybe three things.

1. This room is far from what I would consider "done."  There are still a lot of goals on my to-do list, which I'll explain as I go, but for now, just know that these pics represent progress.
2.  This is a shared space.  This room not only houses all of my craft stuff, but it's also Dave's music room and surf storage space.  In designing the layout of this room, we have to consider all three functions (and hopefully end up with a space that we also like to sit in and enjoy our morning coffee).
3.  Okay, there might not be a number 3.  I just wanted to make sure all my bases are covered before we get this party started.

Before I show you where we're currently at, let me remind you of what this room looked like last month:

Pretty awful.

Then we painted:

And I painted some laminate cabinets and set them up on the east wall (the wall without windows).  The left cabinet is Dave's and is nearly empty.  As time goes on, he'll probably be putting music equipment inside; things like his music books could find a nice home here.  The right cabinet is mine, and I've got present wrapping supplies, camera equipment and old photo albums stored, among other things.

After setting up the cabinets, we took a minor two week-ish break, and one night (sort of on a whim), we decided it was time to continue the transformation.  This was mostly spurred on by Dave's guitars.  They had been sitting on guitar stands in one corner of the room, and Daniel loved to sneak in here when no one was watching and "play" them.  A two year old with a guitar on a stand usually only ends one way; luckily, I was able to catch him before the guitar took more than one or two spills, but something needed to change.  Fast.

So, Dave headed over to a music store here in town, came back with some wall mounts, and now we have this:

After we set up the guitars, we went ahead and moved my craft table into the room and, as you can see, it sits just underneath.  One of my not-too-out-of-reach goals is to add some shelves onto the wall adjacent to the guitar wall so that I gain even more storage for craft items -- especially those things that are not child-safe (scissors, anyone?).

You may also be eyeing a conspicuous, super ugly piece of office furniture which is my craft chair.  This is the sister chair to this beauty, sitting at the kitchen table:

I have similar plans to reupholster the remaining chair the same way, different fabric.  This was a super easy project, and I have no idea why I haven't done it, yet.

Okay, let me back up a little.  This is the view of our sunroom as you walk in.  I took this picture while standing in the laundry room, just off the kitchen.  Just beyond the sunroom is our swimming pool.

You'll notice that our large wing back chair has made a move (it used to be in our living room -- more on that in an upcoming post, promise).  You're also looking at a few more random pieces of furniture -- our old coffee table, a dining chair, and a cute little teal-y green chair.  I love the little green chair.  It's actually an antique folding chair.  My mom rescued it from a literal dumpster and had it refinished with new fabric.  She said that when she pulled it out, it was all faded with rusty hinges and looked pretty bad... but look at it now!  She gave it to me for my birthday this year.  I'm not sure where it's final home will be, but for now, it's keeping company with the other random, mismatched furniture.

I'd love to turn this into a finished corner with furniture which looks like it was meant to be there, but this is the stuff I had sitting around the house.  This will have to do until more cohesive furniture becomes the priority.  Right now, it's pretty low on the list.

Also in this corner is Dave's music set up -- two large speakers, his amp, a microphone, and some sort of control panel.  Don't ask me to be more specific...I don't know exactly what all of his equipment does, but I do know that it does something and that it needs to be a part of the set-up.  And Dave has been awesome about making it as neat as possible.  If you're into playing music at all (or know someone who is), you know that it's just messy.  There are cords everywhere.  It's not exactly aesthetically pleasing.  But Dave has hidden a lot of that pretty well, I think.

Here's a shot from a slightly different angle.  The picture above the doorway is a photograph I took in Virginia on a trip there years ago.  I need to get this framed and to find a more permanent home for it, but for now, I enjoy seeing it every time I look into this room.

Okay, moving on.  If you walk into the room, and turn back around to your left, you'll see my art shelf.  A friend of ours actually built this shelf a little while ago, then moved into a smaller place.  So we're storing it for him and his wife until they get back into a larger place again.  It makes for pretty great storage, though.  It's ginormous, and almost all of my stuff fits on this thing.

From the top down (not including the record player on top), I've got: 1) odds and ends, mostly things that I don't want to put on a lower shelf to keep things child friendly-ish.  A basket of notions, another basket of yarn, cards I've made, paintbrushes, pin cushion, etc.  2) bins with various supplies, including paint, markers, crafty things for my kids, and various adhesives and Mod Podge.  3) my sewing machine (I know, I need to get a cover for it), spools of thread, a box of tools (scissors, glue gun, etc.) and my craft paper supply.  4)  my fabric.  5) paper scraps in the wine box and more crafty supplies in the green metal box.  Oh, and a couple of records.

My organization may not make a whole lot of sense to others, but I know where everything is and it doesn't look half bad, either.  These are the important things, right?

The opposite corner, diagonally, is where we'll be storing Dave's surfboards and leashes.  Dave has plans to build a simple storage rack for these guys.  They'll eventually stand vertically, probably next to the blue cabinets to get them away from a window (and the sun).  But for now, they're doing all right leaning against the window, blinds closed.  We've also got a few pieces of music gear over here which we'll need to figure out how to store.

And that's it -- you guys are now officially up to date on our sunroom progress.  I really love the changes this room has seen in the last month.  I think my very favorite part is being able to open the doors to the laundry room and into the sunroon (there are two) to let the light come through.  It really does brighten up the kitchen with those doors open, and it doesn't look like a dungeon back there, anymore.  It's actually given me the itch to transform the laundry room into a space I love as well.  Right now, the laundry room a very boring utilitarian space with so-so appliances and little to no shelving.  And, until recently, no natural light.  Hmmm....

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

"Create an Animal" Painting Project

This project was a little bit of a whim for us.  I had a doctor's appointment midday and was planning on dropping the kiddos off with my dad and stepmother so that I wouldn't have to take them with me.  But we had an hour and a half or so to kill after getting ready and before leaving, and I know Natalie's been really wanting to paint, so...

I found this project in a craft book that we have.  It's pretty simple.  Basically, you draw a paw or a tongue or a tail shape, cut it out, and glue it to a piece of paper.  Then you give the paper to the child and let them finish the animal.  I told the kids that they could make a real animal or they could use their imagination and come up with a pretend animal.  

Natalie didn't really know where to begin.  I anticipated this, so I made an extra picture with a tongue shape and used mine to draw the rest of a dog.  Which seemed to give Natalie just the direction that she needed.  Daniel didn't want any direction at all.  I gave him the paper and he just went for it. 

First I let them draw out their animal with colored pencils.  I forgot to take pictures of this part, but these pictures that I took after they started painting show you what they came up with.  This is Natalie's:

And Daniel's (the rocks are for holding his paper down since it was windy this morning):

After they finished drawing, I let them use watercolors to paint the animals.  Watercolors, by the way, are my new favorite medium for kids.  Not only are they super easy as far as clean-up goes, but they also allow kids to put a lot of paint on the paper without it immediately turning into a brown muddy mess.  In fact, I'm often surprised by just how much I like the finished product.  Even Daniel, who just turned 2, does well with them.  Well...with some guidance.  At first, he was just spreading water around on his paper.  But by the end today, he seemed to get the idea.

 Daniel decided his was a kangaroo.  You might notice that he isn't wearing pants in this picture.  Here's another tip: don't let your toddler paint anything in white shorts.  It will inevitably go badly.

And here's Natalie's finished picture.  I actually really love the way hers turned out.  It's a fish, she says, and the paw is for hopping along the ocean floor.

This was a lot of fun and a super easy project!  It's a great one for filling up an hour here or there, especially since it doesn't take a lot of set up or clean up the mess.  And if you haven't bought a set of watercolors for your kids, do it!  They're awesome :)

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter Weekend

Hello Friends!  I need to apologize for being a little absent over the last few days.  Not only have I had family in town, but I've been kind of a sickie as well.  Nothing too terrible, but enough so that all I really wanted to do was sit on the couch and let my kids watch "How to Train Your Dragon" for the 17th time.  I'm still a little bit down for the count, but I wanted to get these pictures up to show you guys what kind of Easter we had this year.

We kicked things off on Saturday with an Easter egg hunt.  I really wanted to take my kids to a hunt this year because I figured they were both old enough to get it.  Last year, Natalie understood what was going on, but Daniel just sort of wandered around and Dave put some eggs in his basket.

The only problem was that Dave had to work a Saturday shift last weekend (he's required to work a Sat. every 4 to 5 weeks), so if I wanted to get those kids to the hunt, it was up to me.  Super Mom.

I had no idea how super I needed to be until I got there, though.  I was expecting a largish hunt with a couple of bounce houses, some face painting, and maybe 100 kids at the most.  As soon as I arrived and saw police directing traffic, I knew I was dealing with a different kind of animal.  There were hundreds of kids there.  Easily.  And even more adults.  And blaringly loud music being pumped out of speakers at the center of everything.  I soon wished I had leashes on my kids.  Not even kidding.

But I didn't.  And we were there.  And Natalie, at least, was so excited.  So, out of the car we went, and bravely marched toward the chaos.

It wasn't that bad.  There were times that I panicked a little bit because I lost sight of one of them; then a kid would run in another direction, and there they'd be.  Then there was the complete meltdown that Daniel had because I took his basket away.  Sounds like a terrible mom, I know, but I took his basket because he was just staring into it and shaking his eggs instead of paying attention and walking with Natalie and me.  He was falling behind, and no amount of pleading with him to keep up worked.  That boy is a daydreamer.  No idea what's going on around him sometimes.  So, we sat on a curb for about 10 minutes while he got the tantrum out of his system, and then moved on (basket in my hand).  I know the kids had fun.  I also know that I will not attempt this event by myself again.  Next year Dave must come with me.

Anyway, enough talking.  How about some pictures?  The first thing they saw when we walked into the event was a large playground.  Since this is one of their more favorite activities, we spent a considerable amount of time here.

I love the expression on Natalie's face, here.

So hard to get a still shot of this kid.

We didn't get too far up the rock wall.  She's asking for my help in this picture, but this particular wall was pretty high.

Then we wandered over to the egg hunt.  They had several hunts going on, divided by ages, so we were in the 3 and under group.  Needless to say, the only hunting they did was to scan to ground to find eggs sitting on the grass.  Each kid was allowed to find 10 eggs.  I think they had a lot of fun during this part.

The Easter egg love affair began mid hunt.  Daniel was almost too enamored with his first couple of eggs to hunt around for any more.

A kind volunteer offered to take a picture of all of us, which was nice.  Sometimes I feel like there will be no record of what I looked like during these years because I'm always the one behind the camera.

And taking a break.  This was right before I said to myself, "Enough!  We're heading to the car."  I wanted Natalie to get her face painted because she was excited about that, too, but I could tell that Daniel really would not be able to handle much more.

Easter morning was fun, too.  In fact, the whole day was pretty nice.  We went to church in the morning and then Dave and his brother grilled out and we had a yummy Easter dinner of grilled pork, grilled corn, and mashed potatoes.  Maybe not the most traditional dinner, but it was delicious.  And it was an easy, laid back day.

Anyway, I took a few shots of the kids coming out to their Easter baskets.

First, the scene.  This was the cleanest the playroom was all weekend.

Natalie's reaction...

Daniel's reaction...

You can't give a kid their Easter basket and then not let them eat anything.  Natalie and Daniel both consumed waaay more candy last weekend than normal.  But, I figure, that's part of being a kid.  Sometimes you get to eat a little more candy.

I wonder what she's looking at here?

Mouthful of jelly beans.

Dave's mom sent them both bunny ears.  Daniel wore his around the house for awhile and said, "hop, hop, hop," to himself, almost as if that was the sound that hopping made.  They actually fit his head a little better than Natalie's.  I think that boy is going to be bigger than his older sister before long.

How was your Easter?  Did you have any stressful Easter egg hunt stories that you'd like to share?

Thanks for reading!