Friday, October 29, 2010

Playgrounds & Lollipops - A Homemade Halloween

The countdown is on to Halloween and if you're anything like me, you are scrambling at the last minute to find a Halloween costume that does not fall into the category of slutty, whorish, demonic or sacrilegious.  I thought I'd share my costume from last year just in case you needed a little inspiration. 

As soon as Taylor declared that she wanted to be Alice, I knew I wanted to be the Queen of Hearts.  I also knew that I a)didn't want to spend a lot of money (or any at all) and b)I wanted to look mom-appropriate and family friendly.

The costume is a "take" on the Queen of Hearts, mainly tying the theme together with the red and black colors and the heart saber and applique.  I made an adult size no-sew tutu out of tulle (which I already had on hand because at the time I was making child size tutus for extra cash).  I took a sweater I already had and sewed on a felt heart and wore that over a white blouse.  I borrowed a crown from Taylor, and I painted and sprinkled glitter on a cardboard heart from Michael's, and then attached it to a wooden dowel.  Done and done.

Total cost spent on costume:  .99 cents

The only thing I purchased was the cardboard heart.  Everything else I already had on hand.

This years costume, which I will reveal on Monday, is going to cost me $8.99.  I had all items on hand already, but couldn't resist buying the perfect accessory to top off the costume.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Mantle That's Teaching Me Gratitude

Yesterday I was bitchy.  Today, I am still a tad bitchy, but I can see the error of my ways at least.  I don't often let that side of me show at work, in public, with acquaintances, or here on my blog.  Usually only family and close friends see the bitch fest that can be me.  I was explaining to my boss the other day how I get so riled up in traffic and start cursing and yelling and he said "I can't even imagine that."  To which I replied, "You don't know me very well then."  So all this to say, sorry for unleashing a rant, thank you for humoring me, and thanks to those that posted their two cents.

I woke up this morning a little more rested and even made it to Bootcamp.  Soon after dropping off Syd at Nana's house I read this post by Jules and it was a kick in the pants.  An "ouch" post if you will.  While I'd categorize my post as more pissy than whiny, it clearly carried an overall "panties in a wad" tone, and it contributed to part of the collective negativity floating around the internet.  Negativity that is not needed and is counterproductive.  Negativity that can even be labeled "privileged suburban whiny" (best quote I've read all week).  I had let myself get all riled up over a topic that, at the end of the day, doesn't even effect me.  Blech.

So again, all this to say (I guess I'm not going for brevity tonight; get to the point Andrea, get to the point), it inspired me to finish up a post I started almost two weeks ago.  A post that it is a dedication to my mantle.  A post that I hesitated even publishing because I thought to myself, really, who cares about my ugly old mantle decorated for Halloween?  Seen one Halloween mantle on a blog, seen them all (all 100,000).
Since we moved into this house I have proclaimed my utter disgust, hate and disdain for this fireplace and mantle.  I have shouted it, cursed it, even spit on it (okay not really, but wouldn't that be dramatic?)  I have made these proclamations often, and loudly.  In front of the kids, to my neighbors, to my friends and family and even to the postman if he'd listen. 
I've talked about how I hate the coloring of the bricks and how I hate the dark brown wood mantle piece.
I've stated how tacky I think brass is, and even covered up the brass screen with my "fancy" Restoration Hardware screen for the past 9 months.  Truth be told it looked ridiculous, having a screen on top of a screen.
I threw some accessories on top of the mantle in a haphazard fashion, and never dusted the thing.  I swear for about a 2 week period of time there was a half drank juice box and a half empty box of animal crackers sitting on top of the mantle.  Please!  It wasn't worthy of my time to clean it.
And then Halloween came, and the 3 boxes full of Halloween decor was unpacked, and I realized that if I was going to put out all of my favorite pieces, I was going to have to pull a Tim Gunn and make it work.
I dusted off the sorry excuse for a mantle and got started.  Adding pieces here and there, moving things around, hanging a couple different garlands before I decided on this one.  After about an hour I was finished and I stood back and observed my work.  And you know what, for the first time I saw that fireplace and mantle in a whole new light.
The bricks were the perfect back drop for the bats and pumpkins.  The brass screen offset my cute little owl just so.  And the garland brought out the pretty orange tones in the wood mantle.  Since these pictures were taken I've even added some little orange twinkly lights, and while orange lights are usually considered tacky, I swear they create the softest, warmest orange glow.  The first thing I do every morning when I wake up is plug in those orange lights and they stay on all day long until I go to bed. 

I now see my fireplace as not half bad, with its strange painted bricks.  And in the grander scheme of things I've realized that if I want to teach my children gratitude, it has to start with me.  How can they truly learn gratitude when they hear their momma constantly complain about a mantle?  There is so much that we take for granted everyday; our jobs, the food we throw away half-eaten, and even silly old mantles. 

I don't have to love every single thing about this house.  I don't have to be dis-genuine and skip around like Polyanna saying it's no big deal that I have not one single solitary linen closet in the whole place.  I will always be real and honest and say that yes, it drives me bonkers that I do not have one single solitary linen closet in the whole place!  But that realness and honesty I tout so proudly would be much better served with a side of optimism than a side of bitchiness.  And that my friends, has been my lesson learned this week.    

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tired and Pissy, and Definitely Not Eloquent

Forgive me folks, but you are about to see what it looks like when I get on a soap box.  It rarely happens here, so enjoy it (or hate it), because it will be a while before you see me get hot and bothered about anything other than my family, food, or fashion.

I am tired and feeling a bit pissy, and well, a topic got me a little worked up tonight.

I read this tweet this morning (it was retweeted by someone I follow), and it just sort of rubbed me the wrong way all day: "I kinda feel bad for the bloggers that will host any giveaway that's offered to them. Who knew integrity was out of style?"

Dude, get off your high horse is my first gut reaction.

On Giveaways:
Blogs are the personal property of the author, and therefore it is strictly within their right to host a giveaway, sell ad space and accept sponsors.  Bloggers that are good enough to attract giveaways work damn hard.  The writing, the picture taking, the photo editing, and on and on.  For some it is a full time job, for others like me, it is a late into the night part-time job.  If a blogger decides to host a giveaway to attract followers and traffic, that is their choice.  Their personal choice, their business and no one else.  Does it devalue them to accept any giveaway on the block?  Who knows, and really, who the F cares?  (Sorry, did you not know that I have a tendency to late night cursing?  I was raised by a truck driver, I lay all the blame on my father).  I do know that it is a waste of time worrying about what every other blogger on the block is doing instead of minding your own P's and Q's.

I was approached by Whole Foods recently to tour their new store before it opened to the public, and it included a $10 gift card giveaway to my readers.  Honestly, I thought to myself, "Really?  $10?  What the heck can you buy at Whole Foods for $10?"  In a way it was insulting, but I relegated it to the fact that their contracted PR gal just didn't know what she was doing (coincidentally, Whole Foods contracted out the same PR firm I interned at when I was a college; thank GOD I didn't land up in PR).  I knew I could have pushed for more, but I didn't.  I hosted a $25 giveaway to Whole Foods anyhow because it was a great tie in with this guest post, and I think the store is great.  And you know what, I paid for the giveaway myself.  Stupid?  Maybe.  But based off of principal?  Absolutely.

The thing is though, that was my decision and my decision alone.  I'm sure the blog mafia would claim I am selling my soul, but at the end of the day I don't regret the decision and that's what matters most. 

On Sponsorships and Advertising:
I remember this post from Making It Lovely, where Nicole announced that she was working with AMEX rewards to redo her bedroom.  81 comments later, and the topic of the post had been somewhat lost because a debate ensued on whether she was a sell-out for accepting such corporate sponsorship.  Can I just be honest here and state the obvious?  Jealous much?  It's the only thing I can think of.  If I was offered 300k membership rewards points to use on redoing my master bedroom, you bet your bottom dollar I'd jump at that.  And I bet 99% of people would.  It's either extreme jealousy or extreme elitism that would prompt a person to have such a visceral reaction to a sponsorship.

Oh and don't even get me started on those uppity blogs that proudly display the "Ad Free Blog" logo.  Puh-lease 

On Corporate Endorsements/Write-Ups:
Most recently there was this whole controversy involving High Fructose Corn Syrup which you can read about here and here.  Basically, some bloggers got all worked up because some other bloggers got paid in gift certificates to attend a conference hosted by the corn refiners association.  If you haven't heard, they are lobbying to change the name of HFCS to corn sugar.  There's a whole list of reasons why some got worked up, including devaluing themselves by accepting gift certificates vs. actual money.  And of course the fact that a blogger would work for "The Man" and possibly persuade helpless women to converge to the dark side and believe it's perfectly fine to give their children HFCS.  You know what, that view is insulting.  Insulting to women and insulting to women that read blogs.  That view assumes that a reader would make a decision off of reading one single post, instead of doing their due diligence and researching the topic.  It's assuming that only the lowest common denominator are trolling blogs looking for answers.  I'm not going to make a decision on what I feed my children based off a blog post.  And if I do, then I've got bigger issues than just what I'm feeding my children.

And in regards to accepting GC vs. cold hard cash?  Really, what's the difference?  That to me, is a scarier topic than the debate itself.  It's like saying, "Sure, sell your soul to the devil.  Just make sure you get cash instead of a Macy's gift card when you do it".  Really folks?

I swear when I read this crap it makes me feel like gossip has just spread from the school yard to the internet.  Really people, we're not in high school anymore.  Let's just all mind our own business and everything will be just fine.

Geez, I need to go to bed before my head implodes.
This has been a post brought to you by a sleep deprived and obviously hormonal mom.
p.s. I am happy to read any comments, including those that show me the point that I may be missing.  Because I'm obviously missing something here...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

How Random Can I Get In One Post?

Good evening friends.  I don't usually post on Sundays, but I have so much swirling around in my brain I feel the need to do a little purge.  So please bare with me.

I bought an iPod docking station for our office at work.  The silence in there can be deafening sometimes, so we all concluded that a little music was needed.  I put together a playlist of over 150 songs, and the playlist below is the best of the best that I am obsessing over right now.  It's a clever little mix of good background music with just a few upbeat songs that you can sing along too, but not lose your concentration on.  I made a CD for the car and is it just me, but do some songs just sound better and are more effective in the car?  Songs in the car get me all twisted inside and emotional.  #6 and #9 are incredibly good at stirring up emotions.  #10 and #11 are pop songs that I'm too embarrassed to admit to liking though.  If you guess what they are I'll send you a prize.  Kimmie and Gerry are not allowed to play along though.
Speaking of songs, we visited our old church today.  For various reasons, one being the music, we missed it there and decided to give it a try this morning.  Of course the band pulled out all the stops and played an incredible set which included two of my favorite songs, Hosanna and Love Song.  Now you want to see someone blubbering while cruising along the freeway, drive next to me while I listen to this playlist.  Oh have mercy. 

Off the subject of music, and on to the subject of fruits and spices and heart-warming smells.  I learned a trick last year, yet again from my friend Sarah, on how to make your house smell so delicious and brilliant you'll literally never want to step outside.  Take an orange and apple, slice them up, and add them to a sauce pan filled with water, along with some cinnamon sticks and cloves.  Simmer all day long, occasionally filing the pan with water again as it simmers down.  You just freshen up the batch every couple of days or so.   
I promise you your house will smell so incredible you will run to the store and stock up on cinnamon sticks and cloves.  It's the perfect combination of all the scents of fall.
Speaking of stocking up, I buy the Tampico brand of cloves and cinammon sticks, found in the Mexican foods aisle at the grocery store.  It's loads cheaper than the regular spice aisle brands and since you're not really using them for cooking, there's no need to get the "highest quality" you know?  Actually, I use quite a few of their spices and they work just fine.  Anyone else ever buy this brand?
I almost threw this tea pot away.  We got it as a wedding gift over 11 years ago and it has sat on top of our stove for all these years, and subsequently was covered with cooking grime.  I constantly tried to clean it but I could never get the grease off.  It grossed me out so much that I was going to go buy a new pot this week (the one I was eying was over 40 bucks).  A light bulb went off this afternoon though and I boiled some water and added it to the sink with a couple of scoops of OxiClean and let it soak for an hour.  Well what do you know, it turned out all shiny and new, so sparkly I can see myself take a picture in it.  Hi friend, I forgot just how pretty you were :)  40 bucks saved, thank you very much. 
To end the night, I will leave you with this:
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms. 
1 Peter 4:10
I've been thinking a lot about this verse from our service today.  I'm praying about it.  I'm realizing how much it relates to this post and how much work we have to do in this life to be the models for our children.  I feel challenged, I feel intimidated and overwhelmed, but I feel positive. 
And with that, good night.
p.s. as always, I'm linking up to my sweet friend Heather's Life Made Lovely post, because even though random, this post was about lovely things for the senses, no?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Style Speak - Epaulet/Epaulette

 To read more about Style Speak, go here.
Epaulet/Epaulette (ep`-oh-let): 1. Ornamental shoulder trim used on military uniforms, originally consisting of gold braid looped to form fringe around the edge. 2. Shoulder trim used in 19th c., very popular in 1860's. 3.Flat band of fabric, sometimes fastened with a button on shoulders of uniforms; also used on military-style civilian jackets and coats (e.g., trenchcoats). Very fashionable in 1980's on blouses, coats, dresses, shirts, and jackets.

While the detail on my Gap 1969 tunic would be more likened to definition #3, I strongly doubt (or maybe just hope) it would not be considered fashionable in the 1980's.  Think Michael Jackson/Brooke Shields era.
But rather would fit in more with today's definition of fashionable.  Throughout the Fall season you'll see a strong military, utilitarian influence on clothes with straps, buckles, and epaulettes sewn on just about any piece of clothing you can think of, including jackets, shirts and even pants.  There's a very feminine take on the military theme though, which I like.  I never want to look too masculine. 
These two jackets are adorable, but a bit of a stretch on the trend.  I don't see myself wearing these in a years time.

Instead, I see these 2 jackets having a lot more velocity and carrying me through several seasons.  Plus, a little less trendy and a little more mom-friendly.  To see a great breakdown of the military trend for this season, visit here

I hope you've enjoyed this installment of Style Speak.  Please, email me or leave a comment if there's a topic you'd like me to cover.
Happy Friday everyone!  Anyone have any plans for the weekend?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Who Needs Prozac When You've Got You Tube?

Remember Date Night? Well, it was awesome. Beyond, beyond amazing. I know I'm getting real eloquent here with the English language, but really when it comes to Jack, you can't help but get a little lazy and laid back right? It was the 4th time we had seen Jack and it was the best show yet. I'm pretty sure it has something to do with the acoustics at the Hollywood Bowl. Or the fact that you can sneak a bottle of wine into the joint and not have to pay $12 for a cheap glass of Merlot. That definitely helps the experience, indeed.

The road to Jack was a little hairy. Two hours stuck in disgusting LA traffic, a near death experience on a windy dark canyon road, and an understandably disgruntled driver made for quite the adventure getting there. Listening to this band definitely helped though (thanks Greg & Miranda). I'm happy to report that I have a new music obsession that I'd like to share. Here are two of my favorite songs, guaranteed to brighten up your day. Enjoy!
*sorry, but the video isn't working straight from my site, you have to click on the link that says view on You Tube.  Please do, it's worth it :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Touch, The Feel of Cotton...

(on average, this is what happens when I try to take a picture with Syd.  Or hold him, or kiss him.)
T-Shirt and Tank: My Job; Jeans: Gap; Hat: J.Crew; Shoes: Sam Edelman

I think it pretty much goes without saying that we went to the Pumpkin Patch this past weekend.  Standing in a field of pumpkins doesn't really leave much to the imagination I guess.  What doesn't go without saying is how much I am really starting to fall in love with T-Shirts.  I've never been much of a T-shirt gal.  Sure, they're great to wear to the gym and lounging around the house.  But as a fashion statement?  I typically come from the school of thought that you need bright colors and interesting silhouettes to make a statement.  So when I took this job at a clothing company that has built their legacy off of a T-Shirt, I was a little leery if I would be able to drink the Kool Aid and get all hot and heavy over cotton separates.  Well hot damn, I've drank the Kool Aid and it tastes GOOOOD! (Ali that was for you).

When I tried on this new T last week, I immediately called up Miranda and said "You have got to order this shirt!  It is amazing!"  To which she replied, "Hot damn, order me one up then!"  It's loose, with just the right amount of scoop in the front, and it has this sort of dolmen type of sleeve going on that is form fitting in the arm.  It just has everything going right for it.  My view of cotton will never be the same.

You might recognize the boots from my very first Playgrounds & Lollipops post.  After 2 years they're still going strong and have the perfect lived-in look to them.  And the hat was a great find from the J. Crew outlets, just outside of Palm Springs.  Have a great week everyone!  

p.s. the only thing I don't recommend about my outfit is the cup of Chai Tea Latte.  I almost fell in the fields trying to hold onto it. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mason Jar Luminaries

Good morning and happy Monday friends!  We had a kick-butt weekend filled with fun, naps, and loads of productivity.  I hope your weekend was wonderful too!  So how about  a little Halloween crafting to kick off the week?  My friend Sarah originally found this project last Halloween.  The original craft project didn't use Mason Jars, but that's all we had on hand, so Mason Jars it was.  They turned out nicely though, with a fun rustic feel.  While the kiddos 5 and under can definitely help with this project, they tend to go a little crazy with the Mod Podge.  This will cause it to goop up and either tear the tissue paper or become so thick that the luminaries don't really glow.  So some gentle guidance and supervision is suggested.
Mason Jars (any size); Mod Podge; Paint Brushes; Tissue Paper; Tempera Paint; Black Cardstock
Our Sample piece
Start by brushing on some Mod Podge on the inside of your Mason Jar, one section at a time, 
and adding your strips of tissue paper
Some little boys like to put the strips on the outside, 
but that's okay (not really, but we can pretend it's okay right?)
 If you're having trouble getting the tissue down in the crevices, use the end of your paintbrush
 Also, if the tissue paper is not lying down and sticking completely, add a very thin coat of Mod Podge on top
Once the inside is complete, cut out your black card stock in your desired shapes and Mod Podge them on
Then paint the rim of the jar any color you wish, and let your little guy dry for a couple of hours.  That's it!
Line up your happy little jars on your windowsill and light a votive candle inside each one
Or, set them outside for a spooky, yet  friendly welcome.
Halloween is less than 2 weeks away.  Let the fun begin!
I'm linking up to Heather's Life Made Lovely Mondays

Saturday, October 16, 2010


You know what I singlehandedly struggle with the most as a parent?  Teaching my kids gratitude.  They suck at showing gratitude, and I suck at teaching it.  And it's the one value I want to impart the most onto them, especially Taylor.

As soon as a glimmer of whining, pleading, pouting, begging comes out of her mouth, I go into this old-school parenting mode and lose all wits about me and start a rambling, heated diatribe of a rant telling her she has no idea how lucky she is and I should take all her toys away and on and on.  I'm one step away from telling her how I had to walk 5 miles to school every day in the snow with worn in tennis shoes, even though it never snows in Whittier, or anyplace in Southern California for that matter. I do think the statement, even though untrue, would be good for effect.

I know exactly why ingratitude strikes such an ugly chord with me.  We didn't have much when I grew up.  Sure we got by and I don't remember ever once getting sticks in my stocking at Christmas time, but we sure didn't have a lot.  If I wanted Rollerblades, my mom got me the cheap knock-offs from Pic 'N Save called Rollerspades.  I had one Cabbage Patch Doll, not ten like some of my friends.  We certainly never went on fancy vacations, we never ate out much, especially not at gourmet restaurants.  My life was not filled with a special outing a week to the Pumpkin Patch, or the Apple Farm.  We got our apples in a 5 lb. bag and our pumpkins the day before so they were discounted at the supermarket.  

The point I'm making is that these kids have done more in their short 5 years of life than I did in my first 18, and that is no stretch of an exaggeration, it's the God honest truth.  So when Taylor pitches a fit this morning because after 3 hours at Tanaka Farms riding tractors, ATV's, picking pumpkins, having a picnic, playing with friends, she doesn't also get to pick vegetables, I get angry, and disappointed, and saddened.  I was too tired for my usual diatribe, so Art took over and talked her through it, and we ended what was overall a great day on a good note.  But still...

I know she is 5 and not 10, so at this point teaching gratitude is on me.  I have to live it, breathe it, exemplify it.  I have to say thank you, I have to lift the Lord up in praise for how much we do have, not complain about what we need to have.  Art and I need to be the models of gratitude.  But above and beyond that, how do we teach this valuable trait?  How do we instill it in their heart so the "thank yous" that they speak are genuine, sincere, real and heartfelt?  There's nothing worse than the child that has been so conditioned to just say the words thank you that they end up sounding like an automated robot.

So friends, how do you teach gratitude?  How, in this day and age, do we give our kids the life that we never had, without turning them into spoiled brats?  Or better yet, what is a value that is important to your family vision, and how do you try to teach your children that value?  I would love to know...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Post To Remind Myself That We Still Do Fun Stuff

I've been meaning to write this post for over a week now, but for some reason I always get so overwhelmed writing these sort of informative "recap" type posts.  Part of the problem is I take over a hundred pictures, and so the thought of sitting down at night, sifting through photos trying to find the best ones, editing them in Photo Shop and putting them together to tell a perfect story is a lot of bloody work.  No wonder I put it off, right?  So here is my post that is not picture perfect.

Basically to do a short little recap, we went apple picking in Oak Glen at Willowbrook Apple Farms.  We went with Syd's preschool group, and apparently this is the best farm to go picking at because of its small, quaint, non-commercial atmosphere.  I have not been to other farms so I can't attest to this, but I guess some of the other larger farms go a little overboard with the whole apple/fall theme and it gets heavily commercialized.  I mean but really, how crazy can you get with an apple picking theme?  Bottom line, it was a cute, small, super friendly family-owned atmosphere so I can only say great things about it.  Plus!  They sell $4.50 bottles of honey grown on their property, and man you should have seen this group of preschool moms eat that stuff up, myself included (I'm a sucker remember?).  They sold out of every bottle they had that day!

Besides apple picking, there's plenty of other things to do on the farm.  You can go on a crazy tractor ride, taste their own homemade jams and butters (apple & pumpkin), press cider, pet 3, yes, 3 different farm animals, and get a thoroughly informative presentation on honey bees.  Did you know that a honey bee won't die if it stings an animal, only humans?  No?  I didn't know that either!

So without further adieu, because really I know you're sick of hearing my rambling, here are the obligatory pictures featuring two children having the time of their lives.  And that is meant as a sarcastic statement because aside from a slight, and I mean slight, lip pucker on Taylor in the picture below, these kids look bored out of their minds.  But I promise they had a great time, they were just very focused on immersing themselves in the whole experience ;)
(scroll all the way down as well for my apple picking survival guide)

Apple Picking Survival Guide:
Take plenty of water and snacks
Included in the tour are caramel apples, so mothers beware
Plan to be there for a good 2-3 hours, so pack sunscreen and a lunch
There is a nice little park about 300 yards north of the farm that you can picnic at after picking
Parking is extremely limited, so be forewarned
Bring some spending money for the cute little shop featuring food and novelty items
Let me forewarn you that the apples are pricey, so count on spending about $8-$12 per bag


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