Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Biggest Loser Won Me Over

While home in February, Mom got me hooked on yet another TV show - The Biggest Loser. I initially watched one episode halfheartedly with her; 3/4 of the way in, I was a goner. Hooked (line and sinker). Now let's not be coy - I watch a lot of television - a LOT. Reality shows make up a good percentage of that viewing. So I could not figure out why another reality show grabbed me so quickly and so forcefully.

The Biggest Loser - or BL as TWP lovingly calls it - immediately went on my TiVo when I got back to Washington, and I've been following the participants' progress as if I knew them personally. Mom and I've dissected the episodes and drama (can you believe how off the reservation the black team went when they got the 24 hours of relaxation?!?), and as I was watching tonight's episode, I was trying to figure out why the show is so appealing...

1. It's voyeuristic. Be honest - watching overnourished people sweat is captivating. It's like those TLC specials about the 1/2 ton man. You know you shouldn't watch, you know you shouldn't stare in at this person's life and problems, but you can't turn away. The only times I've physically closed my eyes during the show is when Ron takes off his shirt to be weighed (the flapping man boobs are too much to take while eating).

2. It's inspiring. Unlike most reality shows, these contestants are actually working towards something realistic. America's Next Top Model is fun, but c'mon - have you ever seen any of the winners doing actual modeling after their win? No. But, BL participants walk away thinner, healthier, more confident, and hopefully with a new drive to live a healthy life.

3. The host and trainers aren't annoying. Allison Sweeny can get a little repetitive during the weigh-ins (does she need to remind us 83 times just how much weight so-and-so needs to lose?), but she at least means well, and doesn't try and steal the spotlight from the contestants. Jillian and Bob (the trainers) are priceless. Jillian is this hard-nosed bitch who would probably kill your dog and/or grandmother if it meant you could lose another pound; Bob is also tough, but brings a refreshing willingness to cry over anything and everything.

4. Probably the biggest reason for the show's appeal is the contestants. They're completely relate able. They look like many of us. They have families and lives and genuine fears about their health and ability to continue the weight loss after the show is over. They crave chips. And they're truly supportive of each other. Unlike Survivor or Big Brother or countless other shows, the contestants are not out to backstab each other. They're happy when people are successful. Of course, it's a game, and they're all trying to win - but they get it. They realize what the big picture is, and they focus on that. Refreshing.

Let's call this a guide for future television producers - if you can find a mix of voyeurism, inspiration, captivating personalities, and genuine goals - you've got yourself a TV goldmine. (If not, I'll still probably watch whatever crap you come up with.)


DIY Wedding Invitations - Part 1

When I decided to make our wedding invitations myself, I knew the process was going to be painful. I would need to decide on a layout after having seen thousands of samples in wedding magazines and online. I would need to locate affordable paper and supplies. I would need to figure out a printing strategy (use a home computer? take them to a Staples or Office Max?). I would need to actually create and assemble 125 invitations. And I would need to do this all while staying on budget, accommodating everyone's suggestions, requests, and subtle demands, and keeping what shred of sanity I have intact.

Mission accomplished. I now present, our do-it-yourself-with-some-help-from-your-friends wedding invitations. I'm going to do a separate post on specific supplies and costs, but for now, let's just revisit Craft Fest 2009, a weekend where family and friends convened at my mom's house and worked their little fingers to the bone...

First up - Team Craft Wenches. HistoryGirlie, myself, and TWP staked out our work areas at the kitchen table (while Mom and Auntie T refused to be photographed and escaped to the livingroom to work on another project).

Both of these paper masochists willing helpers are DIY champs. Between the two of them, they've made monkey-shaped birthday cakes and award winning cheesecakes (from scratch), scrapbooked, paper crafted, embroidered, sewed, woodworked, gardened, and shaken Martha Stewart to her core. Both ladies have also survived childbirth, their own weddings, and life with me for quite some time, so I was beyond psyched to have them helping me out.

All of the designing and printing steps were completed before I arrived back in Wisconsin, so I'm going to skip ahead the more enjoyable crafting portions of the project. Here I am adding a cherry blossom stamp to the main layer of the invitation. The "cherry blossom stamp" involved stamping the branch in brown ink, stamping one set of light pink flowers, and then stamping a set of dark pink flowers. There were two cherry blossom stamps on each main layer, so that took up a good chunk of the first day's efforts.

Here's a glimpse of the worktable in progress... messiness = productivity.

In order to close the pocketfold invitation, I needed to use some sort of sticker or closure. We went with a 2" circular sticker, again featuring the cherry blossom stamp. In order to make the stickers, we used a punch to punch out 125 cream circles, and 125 brown circles (Mom loved playing with the punches). Then each circle was separately fed through a Xyron sticker machine. Then Auntie T layered the cream circle on the brown, and they were ready to be attached to the pocketfold once the inside of the invitation was finished.

Here's Mom hard at work stamping circles, and Auntie T hard at work feeding circles through the Xyron machine.Once the main layer was stamped and ready to go, TWP assembled a layer of brown backing paper, then the main invite layer on top. The far right side of the pocketfold has a (duh) pocket, in which we inserted three additional pieces - an accommodations card, a directions card, and an RSVP card with matching envelope. Our ceremony and reception are at the same location, so we didn't need a separate reception card.

Here they are!!! Looking so beautifully splayed on the kitchen table, ready to be closed, stickered, and stuffed in gorgeous "calligraphed" envelopes.

The final product. My baby. It seems like just yesterday, she was only a glimmer in my eye... ;)

And TWP having a little fun with the finished invites. (Don't worry - the photo was staged and neither the invites - nor the sweet and sour chicken dip - was in any real danger.)


Monday, March 30, 2009

Happy Birthday Balloons...

So we've been a little lacking on the craftiness around here lately; I blame it on a) my attempts at wedding planning productivity, and b) a slight craft rut. This card is an attempt to break out of that rut...
Successful? Who knows. Anyway, now that the wedding invitations have made their way into our guests' hands, I can write up a couple posts about those and finally show you the hard work that was done at Craft Fest 2009!


I {heart} Target

'tis the season...


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Book Review: Still Alice

Still Alice
by Lisa Genova
292 pages

I grabbed this book on a whim when I saw it on an endcap at Target. A quick glance at the inside cover told me it was something that was going to be painful to read, but that I must get through. The story is the diagnosis, consequences, and changed life of Alice, a 50 year old Harvard professor with a family and a career, who discovers after a series of memory lapses and disorientations, that she is suffering from early-onset Alzheimers disease.

My grandmother has been suffering from Alzheimer's for several years. She's no longer the grandmother I remember from my childhood and adolescence. The toll on her is of course tremendous, but the mental and emotional toll on her family is equally horrific. Most books written about Alzheimer's are told from that perspective - the viewpoint of the victim's family or caregiver. Stories of decline and watching a loved one forget who you are; the burden of caring for a person who can be extremely volatile and whose personality and essence can change by the hour.

What makes Still Alice special is that it's not told from the outside - it is told from the inside... from the viewpoint of the Alzheimer's patient. Genova tells the course of Alice's battle with the disease through her mindset, and it's equally fascinating and terrifying. I'm going to highlight a few passages; thinking about them through Alice's eyes allows me to see my grandma's life and actions in the last few years in a different light.
(A discussion between Alice and her daughter Lydia post-diagnosis)

"Mom, what does it feel like?"
"What does what feel like?"
"Having Alzheimer's. Can you feel that you have it right now?"
"Well I know I'm not confused or repeating myself right now, but just a few minutes ago, I couldn't find [the word] 'cream cheese,' and I was having a hard time participating in the conversation with you and your dad. I know it's only a matter of time before those types of things happen again, and the times between when it happens are getting shorter. And the things that are happening are getting bigger. So even when I feel completely normal, I know I'm not. It's not over, it's just a rest. I don't trust myself."...

Lydia didn't flinch and stayed interested, and Alice relaxed.
"So you know when it's happening?"
"Most of the time."
"Like what was happening when you couldn't think of the name for cream cheese?"
"I know what I'm looking for, my brain just can't get to it. It's like if you decided you wanted that glass of water, only your hand won't pick it up. You ask it nicely, you threaten it, but it just won't budge. You might finally get it to move, but then you grab the saltshaker instead, or you knock the glass and spill the water all over the table. Or by the time you get your hand to hold the glass and bring it to your lips, the itch in your throat has cleared, and you don't need a drink anymore. The moment of need has passed."
"That sounds like torture, Mom."
"It is."
It's incredibly frustrating when there's a word on the tip of your tongue, and you can't spit it out. From the book's descriptions, it seems like that's one of the most common problems initially for Alzheimer's patients; looking, staring at an object that you want, or trying to tell someone what you need, and the word just won't appear.

This was another scene in the book that hit home...

She sat up in bed and wondered what to do. It was dark, still middle of the night. She wasn't confused. She knew she should be sleeping... She'd been having a lot of trouble sleeping through the night lately, probably because she was napping a lot during the day. Or was she napping a lot during the day because she wasn't sleeping well at night? She was caught in a vicious cycle, a positive feedback loop, a dizzying ride that she didn't know how to step off. Maybe, if she fought the urge to nap during the day, she'd sleep through the night and break the pattern. But every day, she felt so exhausted by late afternoon that she always succumbed to a rest on the couch. And the rest always seduced her to sleep...

With all the pills I'm taking, you'd think at least one would have drowsiness as a side effect. Oh, wait. I have that sleeping pill prescription.

She got out of bed and walked downstairs. Although fairly confident it wasn't in there, she emptied her baby blue bag first. Wallet, BlackBerry, cell phone, keys. She opened her wallet. Credit card, bank card, license, Harvard ID, health insurance card, twenty dollars, a handful of change.
She rifled through the white mushroom bowl where they kept the mail. Light bill, gas bill, phone bill, mortgage statement, something from Harvard, receipts. She opened and emptied the contents of the drawers to the desk and the file cabinet in the study... She opened the junk drawer... This drawer probably hadn't been organized in years. She pulled the drawer completely off its tracks and dumped the entirety of its contents onto the kitchen table.

"Ali, what are you doing?" asked John.

Can you remember what she's looking for? When John asks Alice this question, she can't remember and therefore can't answer him. He yells at her to go back to bed, that they'll look for it in the morning. So Alice goes back to bed. She lies there not able to fall asleep again. And she thinks about how she's napping a lot in the afternoons... and how her pills ought to make her drowsy... and how she has a prescription for sleeping pills... The scene ends with Alice walking back downstairs to look for her prescription.

I have seen and heard about this countless times at my grandparent's house. Grandma gets it in her mind that she needs to find something - a receipt, a photo, a specific piece of jewelry that she wants to give one of the granddaughters. Her confusion over looking for it can last days, with some version of the above scene's cycle repeating over and over again. It's unbelievably frustrating for those around her; I don't know if it's worse for her or if it's slightly better because at least she doesn't remember that she's attempted to look for the same postcard for two days.

The book is heartbreaking. I finished it in two days. The effects on Alice’s relationship with her husband are also addressed, and as a girl set to take vows of “in sickness and in health” a short time from now, it gave me pause. How would I survive if NavyGuy had a degenerative disease? What if I had to watch him change from the man I love, my partner, my companion, and my best friend, to a man I no longer recognize? What if the tables were turned? How would we move forward? How will he survive if I’m not able to help him find his lost jacket or the extra box of razor blades in the bathroom? I’m forcing NavyGuy to read this book next, and I’d be willing to lend it out to anyone who requests it after he’s done. It’s that good, and that important.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Do I Sound Like Dory?

~ Ramon, 8th grader that I subbed for yesterday, told me halfway through the day that my voice sounded like Dory. As in the fish from Finding Nemo. He assured me it was a compliment.

~ A rabid parent accosted me during lunch, expecting that I would know where her absent daughter's make-up work packet could be located in the tornado aftermath of a classroom in which I was subbing. Apparently, her daughter had been out for several days and the classroom teacher had agreed to create a packet of makeup work for her to complete before the end of the quarter (which was the following day). I talked mom down off the ledge and pacified her by sending her home with a textbook and the promise of a strongly worded note to the classroom teacher.

~ 8th grade boys are obsessed with what type of music you like. Then they like to tell you the specific bands they like (all of which have semi-inappropriate names that you've never heard of).

~ Somehow I attract the classroom teachers who delight in leaving sub plans saying some variation on, "Well, they should work on this worksheet for a bit, but I doubt they'll stay on task. They'll probably just screw around most of the day." Yesterday's lesson plan expected 13 year-olds to research a constitutional issue online (with no guiding questions or worksheet to complete) for 90 minutes. Uh, yeah, no. Not gonna happen. I spent the majority of the day watching kids hack into illegal websites, google fat people, and play odd games that all revolved around people dying and the entire screen turning red.

I'm taking today off to recover from the reminder that the future is doomed.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Flower Girl Fashion Show

While I may not be at all ready for the big nuptials, the littlest member of our wedding party has her house in order. And by house, I mean her wardrobe for the weekend of festivities.

First, a bit of background. Flowergirl (FG) is the daughter of one of my oldest friends, TWP. TWP and I have known each other since fourth grade. We used to have sleepovers, play an ancient board game called Miss Popularity, and draw layouts for the malls we were going to build. There was also the time we attempted to start an environmental club for younger kids, and perhaps an incident when we visited her mom's school and put a salad, meant for the refridgerator, in the freezer. Needless to say, we go way back. The fact that she's now married and has a baby still throws me for a loop.

The fact that she entrusted her first born's spiritual life in my questionable hands as godmother also throws me for a loop. It was a given then that Miss Goddaughter would have to serve as Miss Flowergirl for the wedding. FG will be about 18 months old by the wedding, and will likely steal the show that day, (which I've completely come to terms with and am actually looking forward to). Since bestowing this title, FG's mom has gone into uber-planning mode, attempting to prep FG for this prestigious role. TWP has admitted to all of the following:

- forcing FG to practice walking around the livingroom holding a small basket of fake flowers
- contemplating perming FG's (wispy baby thin) hair
- searching online for the best possible flowergirl dress
- rubbing her daughter's head with a special cream to entice hair growth

I suspect there are other things she's not admitting to (makeup trials, dance lessons, lip waxing, who knows). Regardless, TWP and I have been putting together FG's wardrobe for the wedding weekend. Knowing she's a crazy eighteen month old, we can't expect she's going to last in the pristine white flowergirl dress more than like six minutes or so. So, I hereby present, the costumes Miss FG will be sporting throughout the wedding weekend:

Lunch with the Ladies
FG's version is actually dark blue and will be complimented by pink leggings, but it was a Gap Outlet steal, so no exact photo is available online. Very appropriate for a casual lunch.

Rehearsal Dinner Cuteness
Brown and pink dress from Kohls, which conveniently matches the color scheme for the wedding (TWP is nothing if not concerned with details). This little number was chosen to win over the ring bearers.

Wedding After-Party FrockAgain, sticking with the pink theme, this dress will be perfect for dancing the night away. To accompany, this trendy pink cardigan located by my mom at Target.Gift Opening BrunchLove that FG will stick be rocking the brown and pink combo (again, Target find by Mom... so hot it's now sold out!). This should fit very nicely with the relaxed "day-after" vibe of the gift opening at NavyGuy's parents' house.

I'm saving her actual flowergirl dress and the shoes/accessories for a bit later. But what do we think? Is she completely going to upstage me the entire weekend? Does she have more wardrobe changes than an Oscar host? Is she destined to break the hearts of the ring bearers?


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Suggested Reading

I'm off subbing for the sixth grade again today, but I couldn't leave you bored and actually using your worktime productively!

The Education Experiment We Really Need
Very interesting analysis about KIPP schools (which if you haven't heard of, even more reason to read this).

Is That Really You, Shaq?
Twitter has gotten completely out of control. Out. Of. Control.

That Cannot Be True
Found this new blog, detentionslip.org... you'll laugh and then cry at the stupidity and horror in our nations' schools. Sample title posts: "Principal Body-Slams 15 Year Old" (Have no fear, there's video...)

And if that isn't enough...

100 Best Bridal Blogs
Here's a list of TONS more wedding-relatedness to read.



Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bling and Flash

Today's wedding project was supposed to be finding linens, and/or obtaining photographs for the newspaper announcements. After a morning of unreturned phone calls and little progess on those fronts - I've decided to move onto something I know I can accomplish... shopping!

Specifically, shopping for my wedding day jewelry. I already have a hair jewel (similar to this) which will go in the back of my hair. I need a little bling and flash in the front though. I'm thinking earrings and maybe a bracelet, but not the triple threat of earrings, bracelet, and necklace. Here's what I've found so far in terms of earrings...Dolce CZ - AnnaBellagio.com - $32Tatiana CZ - AnnaBellagio.com - $78

Annapolis CZ circular - The White Aisle - $29.99

Gretta Rhinestone - The White Aisle - $9.99

Sterling Silver Round Cut Champagne - Target - $89.99

I think I have one pair I'm leaning towards, but I need more input. My indecisive streak is rearing it's ugly head! For the love of all things sparkly, help! Which should I get? Did I miss something on my online search of bridal jewelry?


Last Call!

One of the issues that NavyGuy and I agreed on immediately when it came to the wedding reception was the issue of liquor. We're fans. Our families are fans. Our friends are fans. Frankly we don't know many people who aren't fans. This wedding would need to have liquor.

However, we then faced the eternal conundrum... open bar, or cash bar? Both sides have their merits. Depending on the size of your guest list and the size of your budget, this can be a non-starter. Some couples opt for a total cash bar, which I've never found as rude or abominable as many wedding etiquette experts will lead you to believe it is. I don't happen to think that it is outrageous to ask guests to pay for their own alcohol; it's never the only option for them to drink at a wedding (most places will offer water, soda, and juice) so they are not required to spend any money if they don't want to. Most of the weddings I've attending in the past have been cash bars; I always assume I'm going to have to pay if I want to drink, and occasionally I've been pleasantly surprised to receive my white wine gratis.

We felt that provided we could afford it, we would like to offer our guests some complimentary liquor. Instead of having a full open bar, we're hosting wine and beer, along with soda and juice. Other hard liquor for mixed drinks will be available, but on a cash basis. We thought it was a good compromise. Another popular trend at weddings to strike a happy medium between cash and open bar is the "signature drink." Usually given a cute or witty name (based on a wedding word or the couple's names), that specific alcoholic drink is hosted and may be the only alcoholic option available. Some of your bar choice depends on your venue. Ours has a stocked bar and it doesn't cost extra to offer hard liquor; at other venues, it may be up to the couple to bring in the liquor, in which case they may not want to buy lots of varieties of alcohol.

Of course, all of this liquor talk means that as hosts of a party, we need to be responsible and make sure that our guests have a safe evening! Anyone have a strong opinion on the cash vs. open bar? Will our guests be griping that they have to shell out for a rum and diet Coke? (Historygirlie... I'll cover yours :)


Monday, March 23, 2009

Brilliance in Action

I need to update my cell phone contacts.

Tonight, in attempting to call my college roommate, I instead, called her parents. At their current home. Which is no longer my roommate's home.

Luckily, her dad likes me. Or at least, he did.


I {heart} Target

So... yeah... I'm gonna need some help choosing between these new spring dresses...

Juniors Mossimo Supply Co. Surplus Dress w/Tie Black $19.99

Juniors Xhilaration Floral Maxi Dress Turquoise Floral Print $24.99

Juniors Xhilaration Flutter Sleeve Dress Yellow Floral Print $19.99

Juniors Xhilaration Floral Tiered Dress $19.99

Oooo, Target. Sometimes you are downright evil with your weekly sales ad. Really? Did you have to put all of these on the front of your weekly ad? Really!?!?


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Weekend Update

~ NavyGuy and I taste-tested the "jumbo Chinese buffet" in Oak Harbor for lunch on Saturday. While they have wonderful sweet and sour chicken (or since I don't use the sweet and sour sauce, "Chinese McNuggets"), I was not impressed with their chicken with broccoli. The lo mein and dessert donuts were definitely worth the drive. NavyGuy managed to eat his weight in General Tso chicken and proceeded to moan most of the drive home.

~ After recovering from his food coma, NavyGuy went flying with a fellow in his flight class. They flew down to Oregon somewhere, and he came back all hopped up on airplane happiness.

~ I had a glorious nap and did some crafting. I'll post pics later in the week.

~ On Sunday, NavyGuy discovered you can mix two different brands of pancake mix and still create tasty flapjacks. Who knew.

~ We did some shopping at Barnes and Noble and Stampadoodle, a fun paper crafts store in Bellingham. NavyGuy has a thing about being in the house for more than eight hours at a time. He tends to get fidgety and make up some random excuse for us to drive somewhere. (For instance, today the excuse was he needed computer magazines to help him brainstorm how he's going to build his next computer. "I'm out of bar soap" and "The sun is out" have also been used as arguments as to why we should go outside our beautiful house.) I acquiesed because I had a hankering for a stamping magazine and some new stamps (check and check).

~ Serious business was accomplished, despite all of NavyGuy's efforts to the contrary. The officiant who will be performing our wedding ceremony had given us a sample wedding script with different options of the language to be used in the ceremony, and we spent the late afternoon going over our ceremony language. There were many debates about how much or how little religion to include, but I'm very pleased with the balance we struck. The parents are reviewing it now, so we'll see what happens...

~ Tomorrow I'm subbing in the afternoon (sixth graders). Even more exciting - tomorrow is exactly two months until the wedding!!! (AGH!!!!!!! Too many items left on the to-do list!)


Saturday, March 21, 2009

DIY Baby Shower Invitations

These haven't been sent out yet, but I can't resist giving you all a sneak peek! My marvelous MOH is due with her first baby in June, and her sister, her two aunts, and I are throwing a literary themed baby shower for her a couple weeks before the wedding. Because I knew I'd be super busy that close to the wedding, I offered to make the invitations, as that could be done far in advance.

Okay MOH... if you read further you're going to see the invites and then it won't be a fun surprise when you get yours in the mail...

I mean it! (I'm the bride!) Resist the urge to peak Mommy-to-Be! :)

I blurred some of the personal information, but you can get the idea. MOH is doing a baby animal themed nursery in a variety of colors, so I thought this giraffe stamp fit nicely. MOH's sister came up with the children's book theme idea, and we're hoping the guests will bring a nice variety of books to get the baby's library started!Included in the invitation are these sticker bookplates. I printed out the text on plain white cardstock, cut and rounded the edges, stamped the green flower design, then fed each card through my Xyron sticker-maker machine. That way, guests can fill out the info, peel the card off, and easily stick it into the front cover of a gift book. (Now here's hoping they are able to figure that out themselves!). I think I'll also make some extra to bring to the shower in case people want to add them to their books that day.

I can't wait to hear if MOH likes them - and I can't wait to see what else my fellow shower-planning compadres come up with to fit out book theme!


Friday, March 20, 2009

Navy Briefing of the Week - Slang Part 2

Birth Control Glasses; Standard Navy-issue corrective eyewear. So named because they are so thick and hideous that you are guaranteed never to have sex while you are wearing them. Wikipedia claims the term has become obsolete due to more modern looking glasses being issued, but I can testify that that's bullocks. (See photo below.)
Oh man, I almost hooked up with this hottie last night but my BCGs scared her off.

(Actual BCGs in action.)

Helmet Fire
When a pilot or flight officer becomes so task saturated or overwhelmed in the cockpit that he loses the big picture or becomes more likely to make mistakes. Often used to describe the feeling flight students get while trying to complete a flight brief or simulator exercise. NOT involving any actual flames around their head (how was I supposed to know!?!?).
"There were definitely a few minutes of helmet fire during that first sim, but I still rocked it." ~NavyGuy

Naval Flight Officer. Flies alongside pilots in naval aircraft; operates the weapons systems in the airplanes. Navigator.
My fiance is an NFO; Maverick was a pilot, Goose was the NFO. (Yes, I know Gooses dies!)


Let the Sun Shine!

Happy First Day of Spring!

I thought these little birds were very springy... and I got to play with the paper piecing technique so I could add a pop of color to bird #1.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

March Stamp Club

At Stamp Club last night, our technique was faux alligator skin - so chic! We made little purses that actually open and close with a small velcro latch on the front. It looks very impressive, but in reality is quite easy; the technique involves using VersaMark clear ink, clear embossing powder, an embossing gun, and something sharp to run the diagonal lines across the paper (bonus - the less perfect you make the lines, the better it turns out!).

We also made a small 3x3 card to go along with the purse; it has a great sentiment on it: "A girl should be two things - classy and fabulous." Miss Chanel was so wise. For this card, we colored in the bags using Stampin' Up Aqua Painters, which are basically like using watercolor paintbrushes. However, the pen has water already in it so you just dip it in your ink and you're ready to color! It gives the images a really soft effect.

Two other cards for the evening. One features more stamps from the set used to make the above card, Classy and Fabulous; the other is the first Easter card of the year (using A Good Egg Stampin' Up stamps).

We used an oval punch to create the two eggs, and then stamped designs on them. The grass is simply a strip of green paper with lots of scissor snips. The background was sponged with blue ink to create the speckled sky look.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Of subbing, I speak.

I'm starting to form a few theories about substitute teaching:

1. The younger the kids, the more actual teaching you will do.
Having subbed for younger elementary classes now, as opposed to sixth grade, I've noticed a dramatic increase in the amount of actual teaching that I do in the younger grades. For instance, in today's adventure with third graders, I taught a lesson on multipliers for math class, and a reading lesson with vocabulary words. Seldom have I walked into a middle school classroom and been expected to actually teach any content.

From what I can gather, the younger grades require more teaching from subs because a) eight year-olds, with their attention spans of puppies, can't just work on worksheets all day, b) the content is basic enough that functioning adults should understand it, and c) elementary school teachers are more trusting of subs. When I left sub plans as a high school teacher I assumed a) my students could work independently for 45 minutes to an hour, b) the content may be outside the experience of the sub, and c) my sub could be an idiot. Sorry - but it's true. I had some pretty terrible subs that had no business being in a classroom; hence, I usually tried to leave idiot-proof lessons involving work time, videos, or computer lab assignments. Subs who walk into an elementary classroom - especially anything below fourth grade - better have their game face on. Don't bother bringing a book to read - unless you're blessed with it being an art or music day, you're gonna be on your feet doing real teaching most of the day.

2. The younger the kids, the more you can trust them.
Eight year-olds do not lie. Okay, some of them try, but they suck at it. They can't keep a straight face, and even if they can, four others in the classroom immediately pipe up to tell you that Joey is lying. When the students are this young, they are still mesmerized by their teachers and acknowledge that the teacher has some kind of authority in the room. If you ask them to line up, they do it. If you ask them to sit down, they do it. If you ask them to hop on one foot, they do it (then they tell you a story about how one time, they hopped for two minutes straight, and then their foot hurt, and...).

While they may follow the direction immediately, the catch is that in five minutes they will have completely forgotten what you told them, and you'll have to say it again. You begin to feel like an airport security announcement that repeats the same monotone warning about not leaving your bags unattended or agreeing to hold anyone elses' bags. But, you can trust that they will do what they are told to do, again, primarily because several other students will rat them out if they don't. Threats of a bad note to the teacher elicit serious fear, plus you can always whip out the ultimate weapon... lost recess time!!! (Insert evil laugh here.)


Happy St. Patrick's Day

I may not ride the corned beef and cabbage train, but I do rock a great Irish Soda Bread recipe :)

This is my second annual loaf after Historygirlie convinced me I could probably tackle this one without much disaster inspired me with her version a few years back. NavyGuy tasted this year's version and declared it a winner!

Amazingly Easy Irish Soda Bread

- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons white sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup margarine (or butter), softened
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 egg

- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 1/4 cup buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a large baking sheet.

2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and margarine. Stir in 1 cup of buttermilk and egg.

3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead slightly. Form dough into a round and place on prepared baking sheet.

4. In a small bowl, combine melted butter with 1/4 cup buttermilk; brush loaf with this mixture. Use a sharp knife to cut an 'X' into the top of the loaf.

5. Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 30 to 50 minutes. You may continue to brush the loaf with the butter mixture while it bakes.

Mine cooked up in 35 minutes, but it's definitely something you need to check every 5 minutes once you're past the 30 minute mark. I brushed it with the buttermilk/butter mixture twice while it cooked, and it keeps the bread much moister. This is a very dense bread, and can get dry if you overcook it; if you're worried about that, set the oven temp a little lower and cook for a bit longer.


DIY Addressing Invitation Envelopes

So in my wedding fantasy, a stylish calligrapher addresses the front of each of our invitation envelopes in a modern font a la...
Laura Hooper's amazing lettering. Oh, Laura. The hours I've wasted on your website drooling.

Alas, calligraphy was not in our budget, especially considering I know that 98.5% of our guests will not in any way, shape, or form either notice or care what the front of their envelope looks like.

However, that still leaves 1.5% of our guests (including my mother, TWP, and Historygirlie) who will look at the envelope and appreciate the handwritten address. Knowing that, I spent a few random hours while subbing practicing my "fancy" writin'... Thus I give you, my DIY calligraphy tutorial.

Step 1: Gather supplies.A hard writing surface. Your pen of choice (I used an American Crafts Slick Writer pen in brown from Archivers). Envelopes (mine came from here). And a template so that your words are straight and don't slant. If you enlarge the photo above, you can see my template on the left. I used a ruler to create the lines; the second line from the top is the first line of the address (for ex. Mr. and Mrs. John Adams goes on that line). Then narrowly spaced lines are to make sure that the address doesn't get too squished vertically. The vertical lines are exactly in the middle of the envelope, which helped me space out the address (I went for the even more irritating form of centering each line of the address... Hello, my name is Mugs, and I'm anal-retentive.)

Step 2: Insert the template into the envelope. I used a dark sharpie marker to make the template, so I could see the lines through the envelope.

Step 3: Slide a paperclip on the whole packet so the template doesn't move; I put my paperclip where the postage stamp will go in case it marred the envelope at all. (Yes, again, hello my name is Mugs and I'm anal-retentive.)
Step 4: Trial and error. Order extra envelopes so you can do a trial run. It will take some practice to get the lettering spaced out nicely and centered if you're going that route.

Step 5: Hunker down for a long night of writing! My guest list involved 112 envelopes. After some mistakes, I probably addressed 125 in the course of three days. By the end my hand had cramped, my pinkie wouldn't bend in one direction, my elbow had taken to twitching randomly, and I was pretty certain I didn't even want to invite half of the people on the list! But, it was worth it. I'm really happy with how my pseudo calligraphy turned out:The invitations are set to go out next week, and I'm dying to show them to you all, but I must summon all of my patience and wait. I don't want to ruin the surprise for guests who do read this little blog, so I won't expose the whole shebang for a little while longer... :)

The photo quality isn't great on most of these pics, so if you want a better look, I'd suggest clicking on the photos.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Cheers and Jeers

Haven't done one of these in a while, and conveniently, the info I have for you today falls into either a cheer or jeer category!

Cheers... to Sister's BFF in Boston who got engaged!!!! BFF and I got to know one another at Sister's wedding last summer, and let's just say - she rocks. Big time. :) Are they not going to make the cutest bride and groom?!?! He pulled of a great surprise proposal too - with her family and friends running out onto a football field after she said yes!

Congratulations sweetie! (Seriously - I will make your invitations ;)

Jeers... to my new cell phone. While it's pink and adorable, it's completely jacked up at the moment. This be a public service annoucement to anyone who tries to contact me in the next few days - my phone is ridiculous and may eat your text or voicemail. If you have serious information to get to me (or excellent gossip), please email.

Awww... it's the Mugs and NavyGuy of phones... they look so in love... except the evil pink demon is trying to kill me! Argh....


I {heart} Target

Irresistible! I'm breaking from my trend of choosing sale items, but at the reasonable price of $19.99, these still strikes me as "sale-ish."

Love - LOVE - these different sets of prep bowls that Target has as new items. I haven't seen them in the stores yet, so I can't comment on them firsthand, but most Target dishware I've encountered has been high quality. I'm really excited by the different patterns and color schemes available - they range from typical springy to more modern colors. All of the bowls are earthenware and of course, dishwasher safe.

Retro GardenAfternoon LaceSpring Blossom

The first pattern (Retro Garden) may be my favorite; it reminds me of a popular wedding color combo I've been seeing - aqua and poppy. If I didn't already have way too many items on the Target bridal registry, I'd be tempted to add a set of these! Wouldn't they make a great bridal shower gift? Seriously - can you ever have enough bowls?


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Saturday Shopping Spree

I blame this on:

1. Sister. She sent me the "Friends and Family" coupon which is good for 30% EVERYTHING at Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, and their outlet stores... for four days.
2. NavyGuy. He indulged me and agreed to go shopping at the Seattle Premium Outlet Mall.
3. Mother Nature. She made it rain today. That means I have to stay inside (stores) and out of the rain.

You can now find these in my closet...Gap long-sleeve shirt ($7.99 plus another 30% off!)

Dress Barn (don't judge - they sometimes have great finds!) dress. ($39.99, possible bridal shower dress - click on the photo to see the detail better).

J.Crew Merino Michelle V-neck Cardigan (clearance $24.99)

Another Dress Barn find for $39.99 - buying two dresses got me an extra $10 off! (Can you ever really have too many dresses? I love the ruffle detailing at the top.)Old Navy Sueded-Trim Canvas Ballet Flats ($19.95 plus 30% off!)

Blog Widget by LinkWithin

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP