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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

31 Days: Day 28 - Homecoming

It has been interesting living in a mostly-military neighborhood. There is usually one friend/neighbor that is deployed or anticipating deployment or going off for training of some sort. It makes for an unusual dynamic as well as some unique experiences. We've had more than a couple "girl power" moments helping to change tires or repair fences when the husbands weren't around - oh how fun that was (ha). And though we've had our share of deployments, I've been thankful that there haven't been any recently, nor are there any on the horizon for my husband.

This weekend I got to experience deployments/homecomings from a slightly different angle. The husband of a friend of mine has been gone for the last seven months and he returned Sunday. It's been a rough one for her, as she found out she was pregnant just a few days after he left and the pregnancy itself hasn't exactly been an easy one. Of course she's been incredibly excited and nervous about the homecoming and shortly before leaving to pick him up she asked if I would tag along and take photos (and the added moral support probably didn't hurt either).

It was a fairly smooth homecoming, as far as those things go. They had the place for the families to gather all prepared and were handing out little flags and things for the kids to color while they waited. The plane itself was only 30 minutes late. And talk about your celebration plans - there was a marching band, some sort of honor guard of bikers holding a line of flags, and they literally rolled out a red carpet on the tarmac. Then there were the families, who I'm sure had spent the day cleaning their houses and planning big dinners, with homemade signs and balloons in hand, all shined and polished and dressed up (oh some of those outfits were absolutely darling. A little girl in a camouflage tutu, a toddler in a mini set of fatigues). All of this for just that one moment of seeing their loved one for the first time - a guy who cares about none of it except for the big hugs and kisses.

I stood back and watched it all - for once not being the one experiencing all of those crazy emotions. Seeing it from the outside while understanding it from the inside. It made me think about things a little - that endless time spent waiting, all those hopes and plans and dreams and preparation leading up to that moment...totally worth it.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

31 Days: Day 27 - Party Themes

Does anyone else take the time to look through past blog posts and enjoy all the little trips down memory lane? Today I took a little time to re-explore all of my little craft get togethers, baby showers, birthdays, and the BBQs with The Girls
Like this pinwheel BBQ one - I had completely forgotten about it!

So I thought I would do a quick round-up of past party posts from the blog. You can see the complete list of party posts here. (or just use the keyward party on the labels list on the sidebar)

Topping the list for my most Over the Top or labor intensive birthday parties is either:

Kaitlyn's Sleeping Beauty Birthday party where I created an entire castle out of cardboard boxes
Kaitlyn's Dora the Explorer birthday party where I turned the whole thing into one giant episode of the TV show.
And the most popular party on my blog - Tyler's Dump Truck Birthday Party. According to the blog stats that post gets the most hits monthly and of all time, by a huge margin. (I thought that was interesting, don't you?)

Ok back to Turkey Day. I hope you are all happily in a turkey coma by now! :)

31 Days: Day 26 - Thanksgiving

(photo credit)

I have a "thing" for the word happy. Or joy. If I see a quote using one of those words, it almost always calls to me. One of my other favs is "just for today, be happy."

I believe that a lot of our moods are based on our perspective and outlook on life, not on what happens to us. I also believe that it is our "job" to find and create happiness for ourselves and other people in our lives. We can decide to have a good day. We can recognize when we are cranky and do something to lift our moods (chocolate always works! haha or music). We can enjoy whatever small moments life hands us and not go looking or wishing for something better. Because whatever we have right here, right now is enough, in fact, I bet it's pretty great.

We are celebrating Thanksgiving here at home today, just our little family of 4. We had the option of traveling back to Utah for Thanksgiving with our extended families but we chose not to. And we're still relatively new in town so the neighbors and coworkers we felt close enough to to invite to join us for Thanksgiving already had plans. That's ok. Because the people that are here in this house right now (currently all sitting on the couch watching cartoons) are all it takes for me to feel loved and happy. I know the rest of our loved ones miss us and may even spare us a thought or a phone call today but I want them to enjoy their Thanksgiving without us as well.

Parties and celebrations come in all shapes and sizes, right? It's all about putting forth just a tiny bit of extra effort to make a day, or a moment, just a little more special than the norm. So today we are doing our own version of Thanksgiving dinner - a turkey that Sam will spend the day smoking (with menu plans for at least 2 other meals that incorporate leftovers!), cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy (Kaitlyn's favorite), rolls, dressing, and corn (another request from Kate) and two pies (pumpkin and chocolate, already waiting for us in the fridge). The green bean casserole, jello salad, mac and cheese and other things that may usually grace the table didn't make it into our top 5 and we're ok without them. (in fact, other than the jello salad, the kids are probably glad about that) And instead of spending the day sitting around the kitchen visiting while the kids are off playing, maybe we'll have them help more with the meal preparation. Or sit down and make a family list of things we are thankful for. And probably print off one or two of the great printables I've seen online (like this printable placemat or
this Roll a Turkey game). But whatever it is, I will be happy to be spending the day with my adorable kiddos and great husband, and very thankful for all the wonderful people and things that make up my life.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

31 Days: Day 25 - Traditions

What is the first thing you think about when it comes to celebrating the holidays? My guess is that most of you would list something that involves some of your family traditions, right? Gift giving, decorating, parties...they all include some sort of tradition. For example, I always wait until the day after Thanksgiving to get out the Christmas decorations and put up the tree and I almost never fail to do that on that day. Tradition. My husband makes gingerbread waffles on Christmas morning. Tradition. Taking one night to drive around the neighborhood to see the lights while drinking hot chocolate and listening to Christmas music (Trans-Siberian Orchestra). Tradition. It's what makes the holidays special and fun.

Traditions aren't just for the holidays. I'm sure a lot of you have ways you like to celebrate birthdays or good grades on a report card or a promotion or National Cheesecake Day. ;) The kind of things that make the difference between and ordinary day and one that's just a little bit more. Please share!

One of my favorite traditions for the upcoming holidays is the month-long visit from Santa's Elves. This is an idea I started 4 years ago (original post here) and the kids have been in love with it ever since. In fact it's very highly anticipated and Kaitlyn has already been talking about them this year.
For those of you that aren't familiar with what I'm talking about, our Christmas elves are a variation of the Elf on the Shelf. Santa sends his elves to our home to report back on the kids' behavior. During the day the elves are just stuffed toys, but of course they're magic and at night they like to play. We often wake up to find they have been up to some silly stuff while we were sleeping. Sometimes they bring things for the kids. Sometimes they leave notes. Sometimes they get in a little bit of trouble. (really it just depends on how creative I am and how well I planned ahead!) It's all a lot of fun.

Since I started the tradition, I've had more than one of my friends join me in it. And this year I've been happy to see even more ideas and fun things online that go along with it. (Check out my Christmas board on pinterest. I have a few unique ideas pinned on there) There is a fun website devoted entirely to Elf on a Shelf (link here) and they are even coming out with an Elf on the Shelf movie! (set your DVRs! this site says the TV special will be on CBS November 25th then on DVD after that) So fun!

Now, it's time for me to get a couple orders ready to go in the mail before heading up to the school to watch my daughter race in the elementary school's traditional pre-Thanksgiving Turkey Trot. I'm interested to know though - what are some of your favorite traditions (holiday or otherwise)? Do Santa's elves visit your house, and what do they do while they visit?

Monday, November 21, 2011

31 Days: Day 24 - How to Make a Pinata

My son's only real request for his birthday party was a pinata. Swinging a stick at something until you bash it open to reveal fun prizes? Yeah, that sounds perfect for a 4-5 year old boy, right? Specifically, he wanted the Transformers one he spotted at Walmart. But since he party theme is Jake and the Neverland Pirates, I thought a treasure chest might be more appropriate. And since I have a hard time wanting to pay $15-20 for an empty pinata at the store, (and because it's me and I'm known for doing things the cheaper, more labor intensive way!) of course I made one myself! And since I was going to all that work anyway, I figured I'd take photos along the way and share a quick tutorial with all of you.
Here is my inspiration photo.

(photo credit)
I started out with a couple sheets of posterboard. Cardboard or foam core would work too. Whatever you have.
For the sides of the chest I cut a rectangle approx 10" wide and 8" tall, then cut off the corners to make the top wider than the bottom.

I also made 2 half circles, the diameter of each the same width as the top of the side pieces (8")Once I had the sides for quidelines, I measured the angled pieces and cut a series of rectangles for the rest of the pieces. I decided I wanted the chest 15" wide, so that is how wide all the rest of the pieces will be and the other measurement corresponds to where it fits on the chest. The width of the bottom piece matches the bottom of the side piece (approx 7"), the front and back match up with the sides on the side piece (approx 8 1/2"). I cut the top piece slightly larger than the round part of the half circles, again, at 15" wide.

I added an extra piece of posterboard (using spray adhesive) to the top piece in the center, then punched holes through both and ran a piece of yarn through it for hanging.

Now it's time to assemble! Using small tape pieces I took one side and just started adding pieces. Once the pieces were in place I went back in with larger pieces of tape and fully covered every edge with tape.Assembling the top as one piece and the bottom as another piece, then joining them together from the inside at the back and sides. I left the front open so I could stuff the pinata later.

On to the decorative part! I simply took a roll of crete paper and using spray adhesive, applied it in overlapping strips (you could also fringe the edges, but that's a whole lot more work). Once the entire thing is covered you can go back and trim the edges and put on one more strip of crepe paper to make it all clean and pretty.
Time to add the prizes!On any other pinata I would have left a small tab opening on the side to stuff the items into. As the design on this one worked better to just leave the front open and it's hard to get tape inside to adhere it as we did the other sides I fudged it a little by punching a few holes and kind of lacing the front together with yarn. You hardly notice it and could cover it up with decorative items later if it bugs you.
It was a pretty simple matter to add the lock and the trademark sword on the sides. I just free-handed something that kinda, sorta, resembled them onto some golden yellow cardstock and cut them out.And there we have it! A fully assembled treasure chest pinata in under an hour and probably less than $2 in materials (not counting prizes). Yay! Next on the list - party favors or games...

31 Days: Day 23 - Pirate Party Invitations

I promised myself I would finish off my 31 days series from last month. One blog post every day for 31 days straight, all about a specific theme - that's tough, especially during a crazy busy time of the year like October (still boggles my mind that October is always so busy, even more so that December). Obviously I didn't quite succeed. And although I considered "cheating" and back-dating all the other posts, I'm not going to. My guess is that few people scroll back through posts when they check blogs anyway, so what would be the point in posting something that no one reads? So, the new goal is to finish the last chunk of them off this week, even if I have to post a couple per day.

It seems appropriate to start up again now since I'm back in party planning mode. It took me a while to get my enthusiasm back (after Kaitlyn's party in Oct) and many days trying to make myself stop procrastinating. But here we are, less than 2 weeks from my son's 5th birthday, and I have spent the afternoon working on party prep - go me! I wanted to get the invitations done ASAP so we can deliver them this week. Luckily, once I got going it was pretty easy to continue working on the rest of the printables. I not only have the invitations created, printed and ready to go out but the tags for the favor bags, coloring pages, pieces for the banner, signs, and misc other things are spread all over my craft table :)

So, without further ado - here are the invites! As you may recall, Tyler requested a Jake and the Neverland Pirates theme. Going with the quick and easy digital route again, I started with a Google search for ideas and clipart. It was pretty simple to take one of the photos and add the party information on top of it. (I used Paint - much to my dismay, PhotoShop still kicks my butt though I swear I will learn enough to make my Christmas cards on it this year!) Then once I had the jpg where I wanted it, it was a simple matter to copy/paste into Word and print them out 4 to a page.
When I showed them to Tyler he was pretty happy, and made me smile when he literally gave me a pat on the back and told me "good job." :)

Up next - the pinata!

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Craft Room

I've heard horror stories about moving damages, so guess we were pretty lucky. The biggest thing to get broken was this dresser. They completely snapped all the back legs off.

We weren't too upset. It was an inexpensive dresser that we purchased for Kaitlyn's room more than 8 years ago (ack! still can't believe my baby is EIGHT). With the new built-ins in the closets, we didn't need it in Kaitlyn's room anymore. But with a little TLC, I knew it would be useful SOMEWHERE. So the dresser has been sitting in my craft room, mostly unused, since it wasn't totally stable without the back legs.

10 months after the move, we finally got around to refinishing it! It was part of our big project day right before my birthday (last month) and I've been excited to show it to you. But let me show you what else we worked on that day before I show you the reveal.

They were replacing all the tables in Sam's classroom at the base and were giving away all the old tables. These things had been beat up, what with being used to clean guns on, etc. And they were pretty utilitarian looking to begin with. But really - free tables? Can't pass that one up. And they had to be an improvement over the teeny tiny table I had been using in the craft room.

Metal base, wood top -pretty basic. We forgot to get a Before photo, but here is the first table after Sam got done sanding down the top. As it turns out, when we were restaining the tops we ran out of stain after the first one. The new stain on the second table didn't quite match the stain on the first. So Sam brought home a 3rd table top and sanded that one down too. We did remember to get a photo of that one.

Here is a close up - ick, right?!

Alright, enough with the Befores. Are you ready for the big reveal?

Tada! Here is the dresser after a coat of black spray paint and some new handles.

Sam cut off the rest of the legs and replaced them all with a solid base so now the dresser looks more like a piece of cabinetry.

The black looks really pretty against the red and white on the walls and the wood on the floor. (I have to say though - you have to dust black furniture WAY more often than any other kind!)

There! Now my printer and my Silhouette have a nice new home!

And those tables? Well they look pretty good too!

As it turns out, once they were sanded down the wooden tops had an almost butcher block type look. After a nice dark coat of stain and some spray poly (first time using the spray - love the smooth finish from the spray. I don't think we'll go back to the kind you have to apply with a brush) the wood looks gorgeous! And of course we hit the bases with a coat of black spray paint too.
Total cost: under $50 for paint, stain, poly, and new handles. $50 for all three pieces!

I think I can get a lot of crafting done in this space, don't you?