Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Birthday Portraits

Every year since the girls turned one I've been taking them to get photos done. It's not like I don't have hundreds of photos of them that we've taken over the course of the years but there's something about having a professional take them that makes it extra special for the girls.

Unfortunately, I was very behind in getting their appointments made so it's really [K]'s 7 1/2 year portrait. I was late on [E]'s too but at least it's closer to her January birthday. The only downside to being late is that there won't be such a big difference in her physical appearance between these photos and her 8 year ones.

Here is [K]'s yearly photo for the gallery wall:

This is the one I selected for a smaller 5x7 frame:

Lastly, I let the girls select one that they liked best and this is the one [K] picked. She told me she liked this one best because she looks so happy. I love that :)

Here's a link to recap how [K] has changed over the years.


This is [E]'s yearly photo for the gallery wall:

Here is the one I selected for the 5x7 frame:

And this is the one that [E] selected for herself:

As a recap of how she's changed over the years, here's the link to her previous photos.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Lordy, Lordy, Look Who's 40!



I remember when I turned 30. It was a big deal for me. I had an idea when I was in my 20's about where I would be in life when I turned 30, and my actual life was nothing like what I pictured. By the time I was thirty I had been married and divorced, twice (yeah, I wish I had waited until I was a little more emotionally mature), I lost the house in the divorce so I had to move back in with my parents, and I didn't have kids yet. Definitely NOT what I had in mind for myself at 30. It was a very hard year.



But now that's 10 years behind me. Sure 40 sounds old (to me it does) but I don't feel old. Most of the time I still feel like a teenager and wonder when I'll feel like a "grown up." That's not to say I haven't had to deal with many grown up issues (being <thisclose> to buying a house but then backing out at the last minute, losing close relatives, the loss of our second child at 30+ weeks) but through it all I've never become bitter or cynical. Sure, I may not be in the shape I was when I was 30, but I'm *happy*. I have an amazing partner and best friend in my loving husband, together we have two beautiful, polite, kind daughters, we recently made a huge life change by moving from the Midwest to the South East, and I have the incredible love and support from our wonderful families and friends. And when it all comes down to it, I think that's all you can ask for, no matter how old you are.

Take care,
{J}

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

St. Valentine's Day Crafts + Free Printable Cards

Hi! Long time no see. Thanks for sticking with me through this long absence.

In case you haven't heard, our family moved from the Midwest to the Southeast two days after Christmas and it's been very difficult to get back on any kind of schedule. I'm v.e.r.y. slowly unpacking boxes and getting things put away. The clutter drives me crazy but it's not enough motivation to really get it done. I think I got burned out from the stress of Christmas, trying to squeeze in as much time with family and friends before moving, two birthdays, packing, and the actual move that I have no real desire to unpack. I'll get there though. Soon, I hope :)

Valentine's Day will be here in a few days and if you haven't already decorated, here are a few quick and easy ideas we used last year.

I made the XO banner by printing out the X's and O's in a large, simple font right onto pink and red paper and then cutting them out. I used a hole punch and wove red bakers twine and then taped them to the window.


For the hanging hearts, I cut 1" x 11" strips from the same pink and red sheets of paper and then folded them in half. I curled the ends around a pencil to form the curled middles. I used a sewing needle and fishing line to string several together and then used glue dots to secure the two ends together into the heart shape.
(The other decorations were purchased at The Dollar Tree.)

The other craft I made is this LOVE painting, using the girls feet as the V. I struggled a bit making the letters free-hand, but all in all I think it turned out nicely.

We also had a St. Valentine's Day themed Muffin Tin Lunch. Everything was either pink or red. They had cherry tomatoes, strawberries, cherry yogurt, red M&M's, watermelon, and raspberries. I even gave them pink spoons!

Finally, I crafted up these free St. Valentine's Day printables. I started with a heart maze from Mr. Printables. (His site is awesome. You should definitely check it out.) I changed it a bit to work for a Valentine card and made the maze just a bit harder since [K] is in second grade after all ;) She'll sign her name to the front and we'll tape a pencil to the back. Easy peasy!
To download, click on the image above.

I hope everything is going well with you all (or should I say y'all now that I'm from the South?) We've taken a ton of awesome vacations lately and I haven't made a "Vacation Slideshow" post in a really long time. Be on the lookout for that soon.

Take care,
J

Friday, December 11, 2015

Wine Cork Christmas Ornaments

Howdy! Today I have another great and easy Christmas project that the kids can help make.

I come from a family where we "waste not, want not" and if we can't recycle something, we try to find another way to reuse it. Wine corks is one of those things where we try to find other uses.

My mom has made a wine cork trivet...

and a wine cork serving tray.


My sister-in-law used some to make wine cork reindeer several years back...

and last year it was our turn to use some to make wine cork Christmas Tree ornaments.

There are very few supplies needed. Wine corks (obviously), thin ribbon (we used yellow to match the "star"), green, yellow, and brown acrylic paint, paper plates, hot glue gun, and a serrated knife.


The first step is to enlist two very eager helpers to dip the two ends of the corks in green paint. I poured a small amount of paint in paper plates and let them have at it. Also, if you're having kids do paint projects like this, I highly recommend using an old shower curtain on the floor.

I used two shades of green just to mix things up a bit. At first I thought I would use the two colors per tree but I ended up not liking how that looked and kept each tree one color. (E looks so young here even though it was only last year and K's hair has grown a TON since then!)

After the girls dipped each cork in the green, brown or yellow paint, I decided that whole corks would be too big for an ornament so I used a serrated knife to cut them in half. Unfortunately that meant that I had to re-dip the cut sides but it goes really fast so I wasn't too worried about it.

To assemble the ornaments I used hot glue and started from the bottom. Before gluing the top star on I wrapped a short piece of ribbon around it and then hot glued it to the top before tying it in a knot.
Before giving these to the grandparents and teachers, I wrote the year on the star in permanent marker and the girls' names on the back.

If I have time this year I want to make these tabletop versions. I have enough corks left to make one large and two little ones.

Maybe someday we'll have enough to make this:
That's a lot of wine!

Take it easy
~J

Thursday, December 10, 2015

DIY Snowman Kit

Hi! Are you about ready for Christmas? I'm getting there. We're in the process of moving across country as well (moving + Christmas + two birthdays = not my best idea) but I'm still trying to keep as many traditions going as possible.

Each year I try and make a little something for our friends children. Two years ago I made the Indoor Snowball Fight. Last year for Christmas I made Do It Yourself Snowman Kits.


These are fun and inexpensive and you may have many of the supplies already. Ready to see how to make them? Let's go!

Here are the supplies I used: artificial carrot, black river rocks, large buttons, chop sticks, fabric scissors, golf tees, E6000 glue, a black top hat (from the Target dollar section but I've also seen some similar to this at Hobby Lobby), a wire hanger (not picture), and a fleece blanket.

The first step is making the carrot nose. As you can see in the photo above the carrots I used had some fake greenery in the top. I pulled that out and then used the E6000 to glue in a chopstick. The chopsticks work great but are too long so first I scored a grove around the whole thing using strong kitchen shears and then it was much easier to break it along the score line and glue it in.

Next I glued the golf tees to the black river rocks and the backs of the large buttons. I bought the river rocks from the Dollar Tree and I tried using ones that had a flat side for the tee to stick. I used larger rocks for the eyes and five smaller rocks for the smile.

Lastly, I used wire cutters to cut off the two bent ends of a wire hanger (where the red marks are on the photo below.) Then I squeezed them together so they made two very skinny U's. I pushed these through the two long sides of the hat from the outside top of the brim, right near the ribbon. (Sorry! I forgot to take a photo of this part.) This way, when the kids put the hat on their snowman they can use the hangers to dig into the snow so it won't blow away so easily.


To finish the kit I cut the blanket into 6 inch strips for the scarf and then wrapped it in a gold ribbon with a note attached.

We had so much snow last year but it was so cold that it was terrible for packing. This chubby little snowman was actually made by piling snow up on top of a large planter. He was very jolly.

And here is one of the happy recipients of our gift. I love his snowman. The curve of the eyes and the missing carrot nose make him look a bit mischievous :)

Hopefully I'll get the time to post about the gifts I made this year. I've been able to mail them all out except one because I still have to wrap the other gifts that go along with it for the rest of the family.

I hope your holiday preparations are going smoothly and you're keeping those traditions alive!
~J

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

K's 7th Birthday Party: Big Hero 6

Hello! How was your summer? Ours was fantastic. We took an amazing two-week vacation out to the West Coast, we spent a long Independence Day weekend at the beach, and our beautiful first-born child turned 7. [K] is such a fun, spunky, creative, unique, intelligent person. She is incredibly loving, very sensitive, and the kiddo loves to make people laugh.

For this birthday she wanted to have a Big Hero 6 party based off of the Disney movie. It sounded fun to me so off I went to find ways to make it happen. I started with the invitation. Thankfully there is a ton of art available on the Disney Wikia page. Here's what I came up with:

For the drink station, I found this excellent idea from the Play.Party.Pin blog to make a Nerd Lab sign using elements from the Periodic Table. (If you're unfamiliar with the movie, the main character, Hiro, calls the science lab where his brother goes to school, "The Nerd Lab." Unfortunately there is no "D" element so I went with Darmstadtium making mine Nerds Lab. Close enough.)

You can also see in the photo above that I had fun naming the food around the characters from the movie. In the drink canister was "Honey Lemon Tea", we had "Hiro Sandwiches" from Subway, "Wasabi Peas Trail Mix", "Mac 'n Cheese a-Go Go", "Fred's Fireballs of Meat", and "Baymax (Fist Bump) Fruit Skewers."

Above the sandwich station I made superhero sound effect signs.

My favorite decorations were the table centerpieces. They turned out SO cute! I found it on the UK Disney website along with several other fun printables that I put in the goody bags. I used three different superhero fabrics from Walmart (Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman) to liven up the plain red tablecloths. I wrapped the silverware in red, yellow, and blue napkins and tied a Superhero Sucker in with it. The cape read, "Thanks for making my birthday SUPER!"


Near the drinks, where I was storing the dessert items until it was time, I used star balloons with Baymax's superhero mask on the red ones.


Speaking of dessert, instead of a fancy cake we went with an ice cream bar. We still had cake too because you can't really shove a big "7" candle into a scoop of ice cream, but it was nice to have options. The kids loved being able to make their own sundaes. The marshmallows were a big hit. I also had root beer for floats and bananas for a split.


I wanted to stick with the superhero vibe for the birthday banner so I created my own using the Superman shield with the red, yellow, and blue color scheme of the party. (My girlfriend gave [K] that awesome Baymax t-shirt, which she loves, so now they can be twins.)


Little Sister got in on the action too wearing her Honey Lemon and Go-Go t-shirt with her light-up superhero mask from the goody bag.


For the thank you cards I used Baymax's Pain Scale in reverse order and had [K] write on the back.


All in all I'd have to say the party was a success. Considering we returned home from our two-week vacation on the 19th and the party was on the 22nd, I think I've learned how to streamline a party to a few key decorations and not knock myself out over super cutesy foods and major expenses.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you have a SUPER day!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Science Fun: Magic Balloons

Howdy! Way to only post once a month during the summer, huh? I blame it on having too much fun :)

This afternoon the girls and I did a neat science experiment. I found it on Playdough to Plato (great name, isn't it?) If you have a few minutes, try this out with your own kids, or just on your own. I was able to find all of the supplies I needed at the Dollar Store or in my own pantry.

Here is what you'll need:

2 empty water bottles
warm water
yeast packet
teaspoon of sugar

vinegar
baking soda

two bottles of diet cola
packet of Pop Rocks candy

2 Mentos candies

funnel
four 12"balloons

In one of the water bottles pour about an inch of warm water and then dump in the entire packet. Swirl the yeast around a bit and then add the teaspoon of sugar and give it another swirl. Put a balloon over the mouth of the bottle and let it sit in the sun. It should take 5-10 minutes for the yeast to start bubbling and the balloon to begin inflating. You can explain to your kids that the yeast is a type of bacteria so it's actually a living thing. It's eating the sugar that we added and when it eats the sugar, it creates a gas called carbon dioxide which is filling up the balloon.
The longer you leave the yeast going the bigger the balloon will get.
Pre-prep the second balloon by using the funnel to fill it halfway with baking soda. In the second water bottle pour in a couple of inches of vinegar. Put the balloon over the mouth of the bottle and dump in the baking soda. The effect was instantaneous and the balloon quickly inflated. You can explain that the baking soda is reacting with the acid in the vinegar making carbon dioxide which is filling up the balloon.

Pre-prep the third balloon by using the funnel to pour in a packet of Pop Rocks. Pour out half of the soda. Put the balloon over the mouth of the bottle and dump in the Pop Rocks. You'll be able to hear the popping as the Pop Rocks release their pressurized carbon dioxide making gas which is filling up the balloon.

Pre-prep the fourth balloon by inserting the Mentos in it. Pour out half of the soda from the last bottle. Put the balloon over the mouth of the bottle and dump in the Mentos. The Mentos make a great catalyst causing the diet cola to release carbon dioxide gas which is filling up the balloon.

Once you have all four bottles set up and balloons inflating, it's a good time to compare your results. Which bottle blew up the balloon the best? Explain that each of these combinations create an invisible gas called carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide fills the bottles and then moves into the balloons, blowing them up. Each of these chemical reactions produce a different amount of carbon dioxide. Which one made the most carbon dioxide gas? You can also make a connection between the bottles and our bodies and how we breathe out carbon dioxide which the plants use to make oxygen.

If you have enough of the supplies left, try doing the experiment again. Have your child predict if you'll get the same results or different. Have fun and happy inflating!