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Monday, April 30, 2012

May Day, May Day!

Tomorrow, May 1, is May Day.  Traditionally, people give flowers to neighbors, friends, etc. and dance around the maypole, weaving an amazing ribbon “net” around the pole.  I’ve always thought it would be cool to do this, but having only three kids doesn’t lend itself to that. Not that I want more kids.  So don’t drop yours off at my doorstep.

Maybe someday I’ll figure out how to do it and have a nifty little May Day party, but this year has been too hectic, with Spring Break vacation, a birthday party, and First Communion in the last three weeks.  Then next week is Teacher Appreciation Week, so I’m taking a breather this week! Shameful, I know.

The boys and I did make a cool little craft that I’ve been mulling over for awhile.  Earth Day fell on the same weekend as the birthday party, so we kind of skipped it this year. These plantable wildflower shapes would have worked for it, but they’re also great for May Day or for Teacher Appreciation.

In hindsight (or for next year), we’ll make them using shredded tissue for a prettier color.  We used shredded newspaper this time, which worked great, but made gray butterflies. They do look very “earth-friendly,” though.

After running the newspaper through the paper shredder (with adult supervision, of course!), we put a couple of large handfuls in a big plastic bowl and added enough water to really moisten it.  We used almost 2 cups of water for a giant bowl.  By the way, do this in a bowl you’re not attached to…trust me.  Then the boys squished it and squashed it until it was pulp-ish.  At that point, we stirred in some wildflower seeds…a heavy sprinkling.

We squeezed out most of the water and packed it into a butterfly cookie cutter (also not a family heirloom).  See how nasty that finger looks from the printers’ ink?  I was glad I was taking photos and didn’t have to make my fingers look like that.  Also glad that this hooligan had made his First Communion the day before this craft!

The cookie cutters and bowls are stained quite badly, even after trying Barkeeper’s Friend on them. So you’ve been warned.  The hands were okay after many handwashings and a shower.

When all the paper was used up, we had 12 shapes, some butterflies (pretty cute) and some tulips (not at all recognizable as such).  We sprinkled more seeds on top and set them in the laundry room to dry.  It takes a couple of days.  You don’t want your paper to be so wet that it takes too long to dry and the seeds begin to sprout.

After they dried, we put them in tins (from the craft store) as seen in the first photo.  We embellished the lid with a label I made in Photoshop and some bakers’ twine. Oh, and I glued the instructions for the seed pods inside the lid.  All the recipients have to do is dig a shallow hole, drop in a pod, and cover with about 1/4” of dirt.  Or they can break the pod apart and scatter it. The newspaper does provide a bit of fertilizer, according the info I read online. No, not on Wikipedia.

The boys really enjoyed this and are pretty proud that they made gifts for their teachers.  It wasn’t messy to clean up, either!

Happy May Day…perhaps you could celebrate by buying a neighbor (or yourself!) some flowers!

By the way, I'm linking this over at Skip to My Lou for Made by You Monday,  if you'd like to check out it and other amazing ideas!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Hot off the Presses!

Stampin’ Up! released the list of retiring accessories and supplies yesterday.  It’s pretty massive…12 pages…and very fluid.  When an item is sold out, it’s gone forever. You can see the complete list at my website, and if you see some things you need (or want) be sure to order them right then and there.

If you take a look at the list, you’ll see all the classic and craft pads are retiring.  Don’t panic. Starting on June 1 with the new catalog, Stampin’ Up! pads will have a “firm foam” pad rather than the fabric ones we currently have.  They hold the ink better, ink the stamps better, and have better results all around. If you have the current stamp pads, you don’t need to replace them.  Refills will work on either type of pad.

Craft ink pads will only be available in Basic Black and Whisper White.  Most markers will only be available in sets, so if you need individual ones, get them now. As expected, almost all the Designer Series Papers are retiring, and anything involving the 2010-2012 In Colors:  Poppy Parade, Pear Pizzazz, Concord Crush, Blushing Bride, and Peach Parfait.  That’s inks, papers, ribbons, embellishments, whatever.

12x12 Textured Cardstock is retiring, as well as many colors of 12x12 Smooth Cardstock. So please take a few (or many) minutes to look over the list.  So many things are retiring as Stampin’ Up! redesigns the catalog.  I can’t wait to see the new, amazing products!

The cards I want to show you today actually do not involve many retiring products, at least not in the essential design.

Supplies:  Hello Friend Stamp Set
Pink Pirouette and Very Vanilla Cardstock; First Edition Specialty DSP
Chantilly Trim (retiring); Vintage Trinkets; Corner Rounder punch
Concord Crush (retiring), Soft Suede, and Melon Mambo Classic Ink

To make the background piece, I stamped the flower image using Concord Crush, then crinkled it and flattened it a bunch.  Finally, I lightly rubbed over it with the Soft Suede ink pad. 

Supplies:  Happy Greetings stamp set (way retired)
Crumb Cake, Soft Suede, and Very Vanilla cardstock; First Edition Specialty DSP
Baja Breeze and Soft Suede Markers; Baja Breeze Seam Binding; 
Spiral Border (way retired), Large Oval, Scalloped Oval, and Scallop Circle punches
Elegant Lines Embossing Folder and Big Shot; Antique Brads

I love the way the Elegant Lines Embossing Folder pumps up the interest on the newsprint. To make the flower, I cut 5 scallop circles, folded four of them twice, and attached them to the last one.  To finish the flower, I put an antique brad in the center and spinged the edges with Baja Breeze.

I really miss the spiral border punch that retired last year.  Or maybe the year before.  You can still buy them at craft stores, though, made by EK Success.

I’m so glad the First Edition DSP isn’t retiring.  It’s great for vintage or grunge projects, as well as adding interesting pattern to contemporary cards. Really.  I’m not making that up to sound all creative.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pie Time!

My life has been lacking in pie lately.  I’m pretty sure if I eat enough pie, I could solve all the problems of the world.  Or maybe world leaders need more pie.  Anyway, on with the post.

Our house in Washington has tons of wild huckleberry bushes in the yard.  Did you even know huckleberries were a real berry?  They are, and they are delicious, if a bit tart.  The wild ones are tiny, and it takes forever and a day to pick enough to do anything with…but it’s great entertainment for the little ones.

DSC_0039We were fortunate enough to have neighbors who gave us huckleberries they had picked (thanks, Mr. Tom!), so we didn’t have to rely on the foraging skills of preschoolers.  As you can see, he was willing to pick, but ate more than went in the bowl!

I made up this pie last year using huckleberries, based on a raspberry cream cheese pie that our favorite sandwich shop in Washington features.  If you’re in the neighborhood, 5th Avenue Sandwich Shop in Olympia is definitely worth a try!  Until then, here’s my huckleberry pie, changed back to use raspberries because there are no huckleberries (or neighbors to pick them!) here in Wisconsin.


Raspberry Cream Cheese Pie

1 pie shell, baked
Raspberry filling:
12 oz bag frozen raspberries, thawed but not drained
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp butter
Cream Cheese filling:
8 oz. cream cheese (light or regular will work), very soft
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp almond extract (or vanilla, but I like almond better)
1 cup whipped cream (or you can use thawed Cool Whip)

1. To make filling:  Whisk together cornstarch and sugar (this keeps lumps out of your filling) in a medium saucepan.  Add raspberries with their juice and whisk over medium heat until thickened and bubbly.  Cook one minute after it bubbles (this sets the cornstarch and makes your filling nice and shiny).  Remove from heat, stir in butter, and let cool.

2. To make cream cheese layer:  Cream together cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar.  Stir in almond extract, then fold in whipped cream.   Spread in cooled crust.

3.  Chill at this point for about half an hour, then spread cooled raspberry filling on top.

4.  Chill until serving. Top with additional whipped cream if you’d like.  And who wouldn’t?

If you’re lucky enough to have them, you can make this with huckleberries by substituting 2 cups fresh or frozen berries and 1/2 cup water for the raspberries and juice.

This pie is light, not too sweet, and utterly delicious.  I hope you try it!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Martha Envy

Every time I watch the Martha Stewart show (which, let’s face it, is Monday through Friday), I’m envious of all the apothecary jars she has lined up on her set, filled with seasonal candies and such.  Martha has a few more resources than I, so I can’t even afford all those specialty candies, much less the jars!  Not to mention my kitchen does not have quite as much counter space as hers.

So I made a less expensive, more “me” version.

I bought some glass candlesticks at the dollar store and a glass hurricane vase at Hobby Lobby.  The Mason jars I already had on hand.  You know how I feel about Mason jars.  Plus, there’s a much greater chance of a hooligan getting caught if he has to unscrew a lid to get to the candy.  I’m tricky sometimes.

Using E600, I put a bead of glue around the top of the candlesticks then centered (more or less) the jars on top.  I let them dry at least 24 hours before trusting them to be filled.

For all three, I spent less than $10.  I haven’t found wooden candlesticks, but wood or metal spray-painted a fun color, with the same color lids, is another set I’m going to try…in my spare time.

I realize I’ve shown you this idea a couple of times, as a party centerpiece and as a gift, but I’m thrilled with how they look as a dessert or snack display.  By the way, that’s a stack of pizelles in the open top one, if you're trying to figure it out.  I like that these jars so versatile.  They would be cool filled with candy corn or popcorn kernels in the fall, cranberries at Thanksgiving or Christmas, or any seasonally themed items, edible or not.

They’re a good thing (and I really hope Martha doesn’t have a copyright on that phrase!).

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Appreciate Those Teachers!

This year, I’m kinda sorta tasked with the gifts for Teacher Appreciation Week at the boys’ school.  The parent group already had a great plan, but of course I had to add "just one more little thing," so now I’m a bit overwhelmed.  And who will suffer?  The boys’ homeroom teachers, because I don’t have the time to make them something super cool. Oh well, I’ve spoiled them all year…perhaps they’ll forgive me.

Their teachers are getting something in this cute little bag.  I’m not sure what yet.  Maybe chocolates, cookies, or school supplies.  The point is, I am going to make these bags to put it in!

I love this template for a gift bag.  I always have lunch bags, which form the base, and can customize the front and back to fit the occasion.  They've come to my rescue many times when I needed a last minute bag.

See, it’s a perfect size for all sorts of little surprises!

To make this, cut the top off a lunch bag to make it 6” tall.  Cut a piece of cardstock (here I’m using Crumb Cake) in half to make 2 pieces that are 5-1/2” x 8-1/2”.  I used the scallop edge punch to fancy up the top edges, then the XL Oval punch to make a handle. Embellish however you would like.  It’s just like making a card, just with more space to work with.

To get this watercolor-ish look, I colored the stamps with Watercolor Wonder crayons…love those!  Then I spritzed them with Smooch to both moisten them and give a little shimmer to the flowers.  It gives a really nice effect when stamped on Naturals White cardstock.

I’m sad to see this set, Inspired by Nature, retire on May 31.  The grass and flower images are so large and make an impact if you want, or a nice subtle background.  The sentiments are perfect for so many occasions, even though there are only 2 of them.

To finish it off, I just rounded the corners, punched out a pop of color (Baja Breeze, although it doesn’t look it), and tied on some ribbon.  You can do it, too!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Celebrating Hello Kitty Style

Well, Princess Thundercloud starts planning her next birthday party about ten minutes after the current one ends.  We’ve gone through approximately 532 themes this year, but the colors are always the same…pink and purple. She’s such a conformist.

I didn’t even get to make cupcakes for her preschool…she insisted on taking Strawberry Cream Oreos instead of something mom-made.  Can you believe it?

Here’s some ideas from the party we had over the weekend for her.  It was small…only six kids, counting our three, but it was perfect for a 4th birthday!

The centerpiece was pink and white wafer cookies. sugar-dipped marshmallows, pixie sticks, pink and purple M&Ms, and Malted milk eggs.  Thank goodness for Easter clearances!

To make the marshmallows, we used 6” bamboo skewers (the point is down), dipped the end of the marshmallows in melted white chocolate, then pink and white hearts and pink decorating sugar. Super easy and cute, but for some reason, my camera would not focus on them…maybe they were too glittery?

Scrapbooking paper was on sale 7/$1 at Michaels, so we punched out Hello Kitty faces for straw decorations and to make picks for the cupcakes.

I cut out cupcake wrappers from some other scrapbooking paper.  The cupcakes were cherry cake with cherry buttercream, then we rolled the edges in the pink sugar and sprinkled on decoration.  When I say we, I mean it.  Thundercloud and her brothers all helped with making the cupcakes and the decorations. Without fighting. It was amazing.

We blew up balloons to make flowers and rows along the tops of the doorways, and my GI Joe bought pink heart and purple star Mylar balloons at the dollar tree. We think their balloons are the best…last year in Washington we used the same balloons for everyone’s birthday, starting in September and lasting until June.  They were a little deflated by my birthday in June, but we were moving to Wisconsin that month, so didn’t invest in more!

While the guests were arriving, we put on a Hello Kitty DVD and had HK coloring pages on the coffee table, which I covered with more of the scrapbooking paper, in case of over-scribbling.

After everyone had arrived and settled down a bit, they each made their own pizza. Thundercloud says she wants to be a pizza chef when she grows up, so she insisted on the menu.

We also had veggies and dip and a rainbow fruit platter with yogurt for dipping. I think the adults enjoyed those more than the kids, but that’s fine!  The kids drank Izze sodas, which they always think they want but end up not drinking. I think they don’t like the fizz, since they normally don’t drink soda.  Izze is just fruit juice and carbonated water, so I don’t feel horrible about them having it occasionally.

While the pizza baked and then cooled a bit, we played some games.  Here’s a friend playing “Pin the Bow on Hello Kitty,”  I bought a poster at Michaels then printed a bunch of bows using Photoshop.  I downloaded an entire kit of Hello Kitty party printables from Shery K Designs via Tip Junkie. The bow was on one of the designs, so it took no time to print and cut out. We just wrote each kid’s name on theirs and put a little double-stick tape on the back of each.  After the party, I peeled them off (carefully) and put the poster in Thundercloud’s bedroom.

We also played “Hello Kitty Says” like Simon Says and Hot Potato using a HK doll. We had another game but forgot to do it…we blew up a bunch of white and yellow balloons and tied them up in a big sheet. The plan was for the kids to grab hold of the edges and “pop corn.”  Balloon are always entertaining. Oh, well, there’s always next time!

After lunch she opened her presents.  What a difference from the chaos that always ensues when the boys are opening.  She and her friends opened each gift, looked at them, talked about them, then moved on to the next. She got this really cute cupcake memory game…we’ve all played it about 987 times already.

Ready for the cupcakes!

Fortunately, 4 candles would fit on one cupcake, so only she only blew spit on her own!

The last, and most anticipated event, was the pinata. This is one that you take turns pulling a string until it opens, the first time we’d tried this kind.  I probably should have mentioned that when I told the hubs I thought he could just hold the pinata this time.  He looked a little concerned. And unwilling.  The strings worked great, though.  Everyone took a turn, then since it still wasn’t open, they all pulled at once, which opened it right up.

My oldest even gave all his loot to the littlest girl there, since she didn’t get the concept of every man for him/her self!  I rewarded him with a chocolate covered Peep for his chivalry.

In addition to their pinata loot and game prizes (bracelet, necklaces, and erasers), each guest got one of these little cookie cups and one of the mylar balloons.

It was a fun, although much more relaxed than the boys’, party.  I think Princess Thundercloud felt like such a big girl, planning and helping prepare for it, and she was so excited to be the hostess.

Oh, and just an explanation of the great detail in this post. Every time I went to a party as a kid, as soon as I got I the car, my mom would ask what we played and what we ate.  And if we said, “Thanks for inviting me. I had a very nice time.”  I’m sure that never sounded rehearsed at all.

My kid party duties are over for a few months now…not until the end of September…but I feel the need for a S’More-gasbord and Beer Campfire coming on as soon as the weather is a bit warmer!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Babies on the Brain

It suddenly seems as though I need baby cards for about a million people.  Granted, some of these babies are several months old and I still haven’t sent a card, but they’re still babies, so I think I’m okay. Don’t burst my bubble of denial, please.

Here’s a cute baby card that uses the current pennant and bakers’ twine craze (OK, it may be a highly localized craze, as in only in my craft room).
Supplies:  Baby Tees jumbo roller; Short and Sweet stamp set
Baja Breeze and Pocketful of Posies DSP; Whisper White Cardstock; Simply Scored
Heat to Heart and Modern Label punches; Chocolate Chip Bakers’ Twine
Jet Black Stazon Ink; Baja Breeze classic ink; Vintage Trinkets button brads

One of my favorite things about this card doesn’t show up in the photo.  The popped-out white mat is actually scored in lines that look like wainscoting.  I scored at 1/2”, 5/8”, then 1-1/8” and 1-1/4” and so on.  Super cute. But not visible.  Oh, well. To make the onesie, I rolled the Baby Tees roller stamp on Baja Breeze patterned DSP, then cut it out. Don’t groan…it wasn’t that much cutting.  The hearts are punched out of the DSP, as well.  I used Dimensionals to pop out the onesie and the label.

I was happy with the result, and I'll be sad to see Short and Sweet stamp set's that for a segue?

The 2012 Retiring Stamps list was released on Sunday.  It’s the biggest list yet, as Stampin’ Up! is launching a new catalog plan.  The catalogs will begin June 1 rather than in July, so the retired list is also a month early.  It’s a slightly smaller catalog, for a couple of reasons.

First, the Idea Book and Catalog is an amazing resource, as you already know if you’re a stamper.  However, as a demonstrator I’m overwhelmed each year trying to remember everything about every item in it.  I can only imagine (and remember) how intimidating it can be to new stampers (or those who don’t want to devote hours to pouring over the catalog!).  Don't think you'll have a shorter wish list, though.  The minicatalog will now be six months long, and much larger.  So there's always something to fill your lists!

In this card, Short and Sweet is one of my favorite sets, and it’s retiring as of May 31.  I’m sure there will be new sets I love as much, but it’s been a favorite for several years.  I had 58 sets on the list, and that’s not counting rollers.  I’ll keep a few that I love stamping with, but the majority will be for sale after the new catalog comes out.  I’m not allowed to post that list or sell them until after June 1.

You can see the list of retiring stamps by going to my website and clicking on it.  The link for my website is in the right margin of my blog, if you’re looking for it.

The list of accessories that is being retired won’t be available for a week or so, but the 2010-2012 In Colors will be saying good-bye.  They include Poppy Parade, Peach Parfait, Pear Pizazz, Blushing Bride, and Concord Crush.  That means if you want cardstock, ink, markers, or ribbons in these colors, you need to order them before the end of May, preferable the sooner the better, as once they’re gone, they’re gone.  As a little hint, the Designer Series Papers with those colors will also retire.

Stampin’ Up! makes its own stamp sets, so they never will sell out of those, but the accessories and In Colors will sell out, so if you see something on those lists you want, order it immediately.  I’m not trying to incite a buying frenzy, I just don’t want you to be disappointed if, say, you designed your baby book using those colors. (Hint, hint, to a certain Washington friend)

So when you have a few moments, check out the retiring lists, just to make sure there's nothing you NEED on there. Don't say I didn't warn you.

You can shop 24/7, 365 right on my website...I'm so considerate that way.

Also just let me know if you'd like a copy of the 2012-13 catalog.  They'll be available in mid-May and I'm sure they'll be filled with wonderful new stamps and accessories!  

Now I've got to go make another gazillion baby cards...have a creative day!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Watch Out, Colorado!

After Easter weekend, we had 4 days in Colorado with no definite plans, and made the most of them.

On Monday, we headed to Colorado Springs to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.   The second graders are writing “research papers” about various animals, and our hooligan has giraffes.  By the way, I’m pretty sure they’re using the term “research paper” pretty loosely.  From what I can see, his research included reading one book and one magazine about giraffes, then writing ten notecards.  So I don’t think he’s ready to head off to college.

It’s so cool to feed the giraffes there.  They used to eat pellets of something, but there are so many visitors now that the zoo has them on lettuce leaves. I’m not sure why the little one felt the need for binos when the giraffe was close enough to lick the lenses, but whatever.
It’s an amazing experience, and the giraffes are just so accessible.  If you’re passing through the Springs, the whole zoo is worth the trip.

I didn’t really think about it until we were home and I was looking through the gazillion photos I took (with my purse camera, not my digital SLR, so they’re not the greatest, I know), but the biggest hooligan acted like the life-loving toddler he was a few years ago.  He was diagnosed as ADHD last summer, and it’s been a pretty huge struggle for him since he started preschool 5 years ago.  We’ve been playing around with meds this year, and I think his doctor has it right.

I didn’t realize just how withdrawn from our family he had become, or how reluctant to laugh and goof around.  It was like he was always trying so hard to just behave, he didn’t have time to be a kid. Looking through the photos reminded me how full of life, funny, and adventurous he can be.  I mean, I realized it last week as we all enjoyed our vacation more than we have in years, but it really struck me when I saw the joy in his face.

Here he’s pretending to be a baby owl hatching.  I offered to chew up some food and spit it in his mouth for him, but he declined.  See, I do try to be a good mom.

Ours were the first kids to handle this wolf pelt…the zookeeper said they had just decided to share it with the public.  Hmmmm…wonder if they’re rethinking that decision now?

All of our kids love to take photos, so we gave in and let them…the eldest took this, obviously, since he’s not in it.

She’s all about brave when the animals are bronze. Although she was still wary…it was a 75 degree day and sunny, so one of the statues had the nerve to burn her a little.

Tuesday we took all three to the Denver Museum of Natural History.  That’s not its name anymore, but that’s what we still call it.  They have dinosaurs. And active-duty military get in free…the whole family!

The special exhibit was lizards and snakes, which was actually very fascinating.  This model felt real and weighed the same as an actual whatever-it-was.  Anaconda, maybe?

Following the museum, we had lunch at possibly the cheesiest (or queso-est?) Mexican restaurant in the world…Casa Bonita!  When I was growing up in Oklahoma, Tulsa was fortunate enough to have a Casa Bonita, along with its sister pizza place, Crystal’s.  If you’ve never been to one, hie yourself there post haste.

I read this one in Denver can feed 900 people at once.  Seriously!  It’s designed to be make you feel you’re eating in a Mexican village during a fiesta.  You’ll find a waterfall with real live cliff divers, a strolling mariachi band, gunfighters, and, inexplicably, a stage show involving a man in a gorilla suit.  And that’s without mentioning the old-time photo studio, arcade, cotton candy machine, and gift shop. Here are the hooligans on the bridge behind the waterfall.
Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, when we arrived, there were 2 other tables of diners, who left soon after our arrival (we have that effect on places), so we were the only people in this cavernous restaurant. It was great!

I almost forgot…they have a little flag on each table that you raise when you want something from your waiter, including fresh hot sopaipillas and honey.  They alone make the trip worthwhile. Like you need another reason, after reading my travelogue!
On Wednesday, my mother-in-law had tickets to take the kids to “How I Became a Pirate.” Apparently it’s such a terrific production, she couldn’t get tickets for us to go with, so the GI Joe and I drowned our sorrows at Sports Authority and Archivers, respectively.

We did take a bit a pity on her, however, by taking the hooligans to the playground at the theater to burn energy before having to sit for the play.  The Arvada Center has a very cool playground with a giant serpent/dragon/creature for climbing and water play (in the summer).  The hooligans loved the playground as well as the play, and the theater appeared to be unharmed.

The grandparents let the kids sleep over on Wednesday, so we had an actual date night.  I think it’s our first since we went to the Army conference in Savannah in February.  And that didn’t really count because we had Army business to attend to every day and evening.  Funny, how the government thinks if they’re paying for the trip, you actually should be training.

So for our long-anticipated free evening, we went to see The Hunger Games.  We both read the book just before it came out, and the movie totally lived up to our expectations.  We were glad we had read it, though, as we felt you wouldn’t get as much out of it if you hadn’t.

Thursday we went to the Colorado Train Museum in Golden, where I forgot to take photos and my kids thought they were melting when it started to sprinkle rain.  You’d think they’d never lived in Washington State and been pruny for weeks on end. Princess Thundercloud grabbed her head and said, “My hair’s gonna get wet and then it will FREAK OUT!”  Unfortunately, that’s true.

I got to meet up with another college roommate for lunch and shopping that afternoon, which was so fun.  We didn’t even buy much (on the off chance either of our husbands is reading this), but had a fabulous time catching up.  The last time I saw her face-to-face my eight-year-old was five months old. I love it when a friendship can pick up right where you left it, and you can still make each other laugh...there aren't many of those in a lifetime!

So, I’m sorry to end up with a lot of babbling, but you probably aren’t even reading it by now, so it doesn’t really matter.  Long story way too long, we had an amazing, fun-filled week in Colorado. We enjoyed our time with family and friends and showing off the area to the hooligans.

If you’re headed there, passing through on a PCS or for a vacation, you’ll be challenged to fit in everything you’ll want to do…good thing we have family and friends to keep giving us a reason to visit!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Birthday for a Princess (Thundercloud)

Today is Princess Thundercloud’s 4th birthday…and our house could not be more pink or Hello Kitty’ed than it is, or will be shortly.

I thought I’d share with you a gift idea that I would love to receive…therefore, I give it!
Simple and cute, right?  To make it, I glued a quart Mason jar to a glass candlestick from the dollar store using E6000.  (I may need to start buying this in bulk!)  I cut a label out of my chalkboard decal vinyl using the Big Shot and Stampin’ Up!’s Framelit…love those almost as much as E6000.

To add a pop of color, I just tied some 1-1/4” Certainly Celery ribbon around it, then I filled it with….what else…Birthday Cake Oreos.  I’m addicted to them, and always have to buy a bag for myself when buying one to make this gift.  Strictly for quality control reasons, of course.

I think this is a great gift because 1) the Oreos are delish and 2) the “Happy Birthday” is written in chalk marker, so it comes right off and the birthday girl can refill it with whatever she wants. She could even leave the lid and ribbon off and fill it with a gigantic birthday mojito.  For example.

I know you were looking forward to more travel pics today, but I decided to spend the day with the Princess instead.  So you have that to anticipate for tomorrow!

The birthday girl had my version of Rooty-Tooty Fresh and Fruity pancakes…just pancakes with raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries on top, with a little whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles…for breakfast.
Her party is not until Saturday, so more of her friends can come.  It works out well, since it’s closer to her Gotcha Day.  Our kids are adopted, and each love to celebrate their birthdays AND their Gotcha Days, the day we actually got them.  They were each 4 days old when we were able to pick them up from the hospital or receiving home.

Along that train of thought, here’s my plug for adoption.  I don’t believe we (my husband and I) are these amazing people who opened our hearts to some kid and saved them from the “system.”  I think the birthmothers of our children are the heroes of their stories.  We were blessed to have been chosen by them, out of dozens of potential families.  We were blessed that God has sent these particular children to us.

When we first began trying to start a family, we were in total agreement that adoption was the route for us, if our first attempt at in vitro didn’t work.  We didn’t care how our children joined our family, biologically or through adoption, Adoption is not for everyone, I realize, but it has been a blessing three times over in our family, and despite every heartbreak we suffered throughout the process, our children have enriched our lives every day.

Our kids all know they are adopted.  I’m a little worried, frankly, because they don’t seem to get that most people carry their babies for 9 months, then deliver.  My kids think you just get a phone call and go pick up a baby. If only it were that easy, right?

If you’re struggling with questions about adoption, and would like to talk more about it, I’m always more than happy to share more.  The process was lengthy and, at times, very frustrating, but the end results are beyond compare!

Now I’m off to spend the day with Princess Thundercloud, and remember that amazing phone call out of the blue 4 years ago, when we were two weeks from leaving Kansas for Washington and God once again laughed at our plans!  And we’re so very ecstatic that He did.

Junkie handmade projects

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Did You Even Know I Was Gone?

Last week was Spring Break for the hooligans, and we trekked to Denver for a vacation. I wrote my blogs for last week before we left, then scheduled them to publish each day.  I felt so tech-savvy.  Now I’m prepared to bore you for a couple of days with the internet version of “Come over and see the slides from our trip!”

Luckily for you, unlike the old days, I can’t see you sitting on my couch, bored out of your gourd.  You can just surf on over to another blog…yay, 21st century!  But please come back later in the week…I promise to have fun crafts and yummy recipes to share then, if you’re not interested in our adventures.

We love Colorado…my GI Joe grew up there, and we met as freshmen at the Colorado School of Mines (see, I told you I was a math geek).  Colorado is a perfect vacation spot for us because the GI Joe’s family lives there, and we get to be tourists, as well.  It’s fun taking the hooligans places that we loved as kids.  My family vacationed in Colorado every year when I was growing up in Oklahoma, so I’ve always enjoyed what it offers.

I must point out, however, one major flaw in our plan…we decided to drive this time rather than fly, so that the hooligans could take their bikes.  I was a major proponent of this.  Growing up in the country, I know how amazing it is to be able to ride your bike on pavement, not gravel.  My poor mom was badgered constantly to take us to “town” to ride bikes.  From now on, they can suck it up and ride on gravel until we move back to paved roads.

The hooligans were great travelers, probably from the cross-country moves we make every few years, but 18 hours in the car is still 18 long hours. We drove 14 hours the first day, spent the night in North Platte, NE, and had a short 4 hours on to Denver. When we arrived, we went to a school near my in-laws’ house and let the kids ride bikes, fly kites, and generally burn some energy.

Then we picked up some groceries and took them and 3 dozen hard-boiled eggs over to the grandparents' house.  A couple of cousins joined in the egg dying, and a great time was had by all.

Since we brought these eggs from home, none were to be eaten!  We sent them, along with about 100 stuffed plastic eggs, home with the teenage cousins for the Easter morning egg hunt.

On Easter morning, we met the grandparents and littlest cousin for sunrise service, which was beautiful as always. A bit cold, but beautiful.  It was only 39 degrees when the sun rose, and I’m pretty sure the biggest hooligan would have frozen to death if not for his Toy Story Snuggie we keep in the truck for emergencies.  The little ones had receiving blankets they had to make do with, but we all survived in good spirits.  Of course, the Peeps on a stick and warm peppermint milk from Starbucks immediately following the service helped a lot!

Oh, I almost forgot…we “planted” jelly beans in the flower bed at the hotel on Saturday night, and Peeps on a stick (from Walmart) magically “grew” from the seeds over night.  I’m pretty sure the guy out walking his dog at o’dark thirty thought I had lost my mind. The hooligans' faces were worth it though...their little jaws dropped to the ground when we walked out to get in the truck for Mass.

Anyway, after Mass we returned to our hotel where the Easter bunny had finally gotten around to leaving baskets. I explained he doesn’t go hopping around before dawn, so we weren’t home when he came.  Following that excitement, we headed to my sister-in-law’s home for brunch and egg-hunting.

She always sets a gorgeous table with traditional Italian Easter calzone (my husband’s mother is Italian, and his Italian grandmother lives in Colorado, as well), Lamb Cake (pound cake with buttercream and coconut), and Easter breads.  This year she also made a bunny cake, which was darling AND delicious. She even had tiny little chocolate rabbits from Russell Stover that were only about 1/2” high.

We let the kids go hunting before breakfast, since they wouldn’t have been able to sit still long enough to eat otherwise.

My sister-in-law and her husband have 3 kids, ages 17, 15, and 5, which worked out really well.  The older two hid the eggs very cleverly, and the four little ones had a blast hunting them.

I told my two older ones they could find 35 eggs each, and they pretty much stuck to it.  Of course, this one had no use for the real eggs, knowing they held no treasure, so he pretended not to even see them.

Everyone was thrilled with their haul.  The eggs were filled with bunny-shaped fruit bites, chick-shaped cheddar crackers, jelly beans, a few leftover M&M’s from baking, and a few special metallic eggs had quarters in them.  Oh, and rubber lizards, Easter stamps, and stickers.  They thought they really scored, though!

After brunch, we planned to take naps at the hotel, but one of my college roommates (and Best Woman at our wedding, as the hubs says) called so we met her and her dog, Louie, for a hike. He’s such a great dog…the hooligans took turns leading, or being lead by, him.  And he put up with it.

We had an amazing Easter, from sunrise service to time with family to catching up with old friends and enjoying the mountains of Colorado.  It almost makes that 18 hour drive to get there fade from my memory.  Almost.

If you can stand it, come back tomorrow to hear what we did for the rest of the week…the Colorado Tourism Board will probably be knocking on my door, wanting me to work for them. Really.