Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

 I'm personally still creeped out by having these guys crawl all over us ;)
 may you encounter none of these while out trick or treating tonight
 and may you be able to maintain your dignity better than I if confronted with a python
and remember, if holding a 12 foot python, protect your back, because they like to take their tails and curl them around whatever they can grab onto, in this case, my waist.
Have a great Halloween friends!  Any big plans for tonight?  We're just hanging around our neighborhood going trick or treating.  I still need to go buy candy though!  Whoops!  Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Thoughts of the Week - Today

today I am:
adding things to my life list:
learn a choreographed dance routine
start a Love 146 task force in Orange County/Long Beach area
go on a mission trip somewhere
raise at least $1000/year for charitable causes
write a screenplay with my husband
go skinny dipping in my pool
stop regretting moving across the street from a school
throw my parents a big party for making it this far
organize a family reunion
learn to spin records (even digitally)

thanking God that I have a lot of very loving & generous people in my life.  I seriously have the best friends and family without a doubt.  And the best blog readers to boot!  We've helped to raise over $300 in just a little over 24 hours for Charity:Water and JDRF.  If you want to sponsor Four Flights next month, 100% of the proceeds will go to these 2 charities.  Read this post for the details :) 

wanting to tell you guys that there's always more that can be done, without sounding preachy.  I can always do more and I will do more, I promise myself that.  And if you want to do more, just do it!  Find a charity that speaks to you and just send out an email to friends and family and ask them to donate.  If they get weirded out by that, well that's their problem.  But I can pretty much guarantee you that people won't get weirded out.  In this last year with the several fundraisers and drives I have done, I have found that most people genuinely want to help and want to do good.  Sometimes we don't know what charities to sponsor, what to fund raise for.  Often they just need a friend they trust to point them in the right direction.  I know that's how I felt at the beginning of this year.  Remember when I had to ask you guys what charities you love and are passionate about?  It's because I didn't know!  I still don't know much, but I have found a lot of very worthwhile organizations to help this year and I hope to find more.  So just pick one, start something.  You may be surprised (or not), at just how awesome people are.
Finally, this morning I am looking through pictures and am happy knowing my kids don't have a fear of animals, that's for sure!  (picture above taken at Nana's annual Halloween party.  That lady sure knows how to throw a Halloween bash, this year hiring a reptile company to attend).

*If you're new here, Thoughts of the Week is a series I do almost weekly where I take time to reflect on events of  the week.  Sometimes it's silly things like asking for cookware advice, but often times it's where I dig a little deeper and get real.  A small sampling would be posts like these, where I talk about the anniversary of my brother's death, woman and friendships and the struggles of parenthood.  On Monday I usually get back to pretty things.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sponsor With a Cause

I said in Tuesday's post on Project 2011 that I was currently maxed out when it came to volunteering my time and energy to charities.  Time is always something we want more of and while right now I don't have enough time in the day to get the things done I really am passionate about, I do have a way to continue to raise funds and donate resources through something I'm already doing - blogging!

You may or may not have noticed that this month I started quietly taking sponsors, those with small and handmade business and blogs to promote.  I'm very thankful and excited to have these lovely ladies on board.  I'd like to continue to grow my sponsorships, and so a brilliant idea was born last night.  Part of the requirement for attending Camp Mighty is that I not only create a life list, but also raise at least $200 for Charity:Water.  I'm also walking in the JDRF Walk To Cure T1D next month and have to raise funds for Team Miranda Sarah.  Last night I was asking friends on my FB page for ideas of how I could raise money for these amazing charities, and Jenni came up with the idea to sell blog sponshorship spots.  Of course!

So for the month of November, if you'd like to sponsor Four Flights of Fancy, you'll really be helping to sponsor 2 of amazing charities; Charity:Water and JDRF.  100% of the proceeds raised by selling ad sponsorships will go straight to these 2 charities, split right down the middle.

Here are the details:  For $20 you'll get a 200x200 button ad for the month of November and the sponsorship will include a dedicated blog post to you and/or your shop!  I'll tweet and facebook the heck out of you as well to help promote you as much as possible.  In the last month since launching my new design page views have increased over 50% and subscriptions have increased by over 20%.  I can email you the specifics if you want them, but know that I'll work hard for you and your business!

If you want to know more about the charities I'm supporting here you go...

Charity: Water is a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations.  100% of public donations directly fund projects to help bring clean water to those that don’t have it.  Currently 1 billion people across the planet don’t have access to clean drinking water.  If I raise $200, I will help 10 people get access to clean water, and if my team reaches our goal of $5000, we will help build a well for an entire village.  I watched this video last night and the founder's excitement is contagious, touching and just damn exciting.  Be inspired and watch it for yourself.

JDRF: 3 years ago my friend's daughter Miranda was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.  Type 1, or juvenile diabetes, is a devastating disease that affects millions of people, a large and growing percentage of them children and there currently is no cure.  Miranda has to deal with numerous finger pricks a day, countless shots and life with a pump, for the rest of her long life.  But if we help to find a cure, she and millions of others won't have to live this way any longer!  I'm walking next Sunday at Dodgers Stadium along with thousands of others to help find a cure.  If you want your heart to be touched even more, watch this video featuring the lovely little Miranda Sarah herself.

When you sponsor Four Flights of Fancy in November, your $20 will be going to both of these charities.  So please shoot me an email if you're interested.  Alternately, if you'd like to donate directly to either of these charities so that your tax deductible donation can count, you can visit my Charity: Water page here or my JDRF page here.  As soon as I see your donation on my page, I'll post your ad!  Or if you want to pay the old fashioned way I'll just send you a PayPal invoice.  Email me if you're interested!

I'm excited!  Are you guys?!?  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Playgrounds & Lollipops - Tipping Points

{Blouse: American Apparel; Sweater: Marshall's; Jeans: Old Navy; Booties: Target; Purse: Kate Spade}

Like many ladies, I'm a list maker.  Lists of things to do, both daily, weekly and "big picture"; grocery lists, project lists, blog post lists, and on and on.  Each season I also make a list of clothing items I'd like to purchase.  As I've said before, a chambray shirt was on the list, as well as a gray sweater.  In case you're wondering what else is on my list for fall, it's a pair of bright colored loafers and a pair of black jeans.

So anyhow, in consideration of budgets and time constraints and gas guzzling cars, I stopped into Marshall's and my local neighborhood Loft yesterday  instead of visiting South Coast.  The Loft had a pretty gray sweater for $69.  It was a nice nubby knit with a snazzy zipper at the neckline.  It was also most definitely out of my budget.  I'll spend $69 for a pair of jeans, but not for a sweater.  I don't even like sweaters that much.  I have really sensitive skin and most sweaters itch me.  So I passed on it.  I then went next store and found this cute little sweater for $16.99 at Marshall's, which is way less than I expected to spend, and it's made out of a cotton knit instead of wool so it doesn't even itch me!

We all have our different tipping points.  For me, I don't necessarily need a high-end, high-quality sweater, while others wouldn't dream of wearing anything but cashmere.  While I'd love to be able to buy nothing but high-end quality pieces to add to my wardrobe, it's just not feasible.  Sometimes you just want to go to Marshall's and buy a cute and cheap sweater and be okay with it only lasting a season.  So tell me, what's your tipping point item?  What makes you want to splurge and invest, and what makes you want to just go the cheap route?  Oh, and these are the very first pair of shoes I've ever bought from Target too.  Not too bad comfort wise although they are quite high!  Linking up with Lindsey & Momma Go Round

p.s. I love the conversation going on for the Project 2011 post!  Thank you for all the great feedback and sharing what works for you and your families.  I am soaking it all in so thank you so very much!

Project 2011: How Far I've Come & How Much Farther I Have to Go

If you've been reading for a while, you may have noticed that I stopped consistently talking about Project 2011 back in May or so.  Right around the time we started putting a pool in our backyard.  It seemed oh I don't know, a bit hypocritical to be talking about spending less, when let's be honest, we were spending thousands on our house.  Yes, it was an investment, yes it was on something that would contribute to our overall family life and not just for me or the kids.  But still, it just felt wrong. 

In the beginning when I started the project I made it too much about the number and not enough about changing our lives in general.  I spent the first few months doing spend recaps, breaking down our monthly spend, dollar by dollar.  After a while I started to feel very uncomfortable with it and so stopped, but it wasn't divulging that number that I really felt uncomfortable with, it was the fact that I didn't feel 'changed' enough.  I was doing a lot of talking the talk and walking the walk, but was I really learning from it all?  Slowly, over 10 months later, I feel like it is finally starting to seep in.  Maybe I just needed to be more patient with myself?

I woke up on Sunday morning with an intense urge to shop though.  Other than the chambray shirt, I hadn't purchased a single clothing item for myself or the kids in over a month and it hadn't even fazed me.  I felt good and proud, but Sunday's desire to shop hit me full blown and I tried to figure out a way I could somehow make it to the mall before my niece's birthday party.  I sort of sound like an addict right?  Well the feeling didn't go away on Monday and I figured I could shoot down to South Coast Plaza and be back long before I had to pick up Syd at preschool.  The plan was perfectly crafted, but I went to yoga instead.  I still really wanted to shop though even after getting my namaste on, so instead of wasting a few gallons of gas I hit up my local Marshall's and I got this gray sweater for $16.99 instead.

I guess I'm telling you all this because while I have changed quite a bit, I also haven't changed enough.  I still want to shop, I still want to spend money on things that don't really matter.  One day I want to throw half my stuff away and never buy another piece of clothing, and the next day I want to redecorate my whole house.  We bought patio furniture and chaise lounges for the pool, which then required us to buy patio furniture covers so the stuff we just invested in doesn't get ruined.  I felt anxiety about buying plastic furniture covers for 2 days.  It drove Art crazy.  What I want to strive to really change is to just feel settled in one way of life.  If I'm going to be a conscious spender, then spend wisely and thoughtfully, yet realize it's okay to spend sometimes and make wise investments in things for our home.

We went out to dinner the other night to Rubi's and as we parked there was a homeless couple out front.  I mentioned to Art that I've been seeing a lot more homeless people in our area lately and how sad it makes me, and I commented, "And here we are taking our spoiled kids out to eat for chicken fingers and shakes."  He retorted back, ever the right-wing capitalist, "If we don't come out to eat every once in a while, then there's gonna be a lot more people out of a job and homeless."  I could tell that it irritated him though, and with right reason.   The guy works 60+ hours a week and should be able to take his family out for a $40 dinner and not have his wife be a debbie downer about it.     

So what's the takeaway from all this?  Well I wish I knew exactly.  In the last 2-3 months we have plenty to be proud of, like landscaping our entire backyard ourselves and sticking to a very small budget.  Saving ourselves hundreds of dollars by going with a DIY closet organization system from Home Depot instead of one of those fancy closet companies.  And even simple things, like FINALLY after 12 years as a married couple, being able to stick to a grocery budget, hooray!  By the way, the secret there is meal planning and avoiding Trader Joe's like the plague in case you were wondering :)

There is still so much work to really be done.  My plans and goals for the rest of the year is to meet with our financial planner and open up a small business 401k for Art (currently we just do a Sep IRA) as well as read the Dave Ramsey book, and double our tithing at church.  We started some projects here around the house and I told Art that once we finish these up, NO MORE SPENDING for like a year!

Also, going forward for any larger purchases (like a new sewing machine for me), I want to save up for them instead of just buying it.  What a novel concept huh?  Remember lay-away?  We always put all our school clothes and Christmas presents on law-away and my mom would go into K-Mart or Montgomery Wards every month and make a payment, and in the end we had what we needed and wanted without a credit card.  That's in the end what I want to strive for.  I used to think that it was fine to use credit cards since we paid them off every month anyhow, but now I see that you always buy more with a credit card and even if you have the money to pay them off, that's money that could be put into savings.  It's finally clicking!

As far as the giving part goes, I'm still volunteering every month at Meals on Wheels which takes up a couple of hours every week.  There's still more things I'd like to get involved in, but I have to know my limits and right now between the kid's school commitments I just can't take on more volunteer opportunities even though I want to.

All this talk about money gives me the hives quite honestly, but I've been asking more and more friends about how they handle their finances and I'm learning a lot.  Like when you host a party, does that come out of the grocery budget or some other budget?  And how many forms of investments do you have, and how often do you work with a financial planner, etc., etc.  The dialogue has helped tremendously and given me some direction.  So while we may all be in different places financially, I really believe that we can learn from each other no matter what.  If you have a system that works for your family, or some great idea, please share it.  I'm not claiming to be the most frugal minded price conscious gal out there, but I have learned some and want to learn so much more!  I'm in the middle of adding an in-line comment program so we can more easily talk back and forth and share ideas on all posts!  I'm excited as this has been something I've wanted to do for so long.  This seemed like the perfect post and perfect time to finally get around to adding it.  So please, share any financial budgeting information you can to help this gal out and let's talk it out :)

p.s. on a side note, a reader asked to see pictures of how the pool and backyard came out.  I haven't shared them because I sort of feel like it's showing off a bit.  What do you guys think about that?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Spider Web Sugar Cookies

Oh boy, here she goes again.  Making those cookies that she doesn't even really love, just for the sake of impressing some kids.  Yup, shameless I know ;)  I saw this spider web cookie cutter at Sur la Table for a buck and I knew that, combined with the pinwheel technique I learned back in July, we could make a winning time waster combination.  

The technique is almost exactly the same as the pinwheel technique, except you don't drag in and out, only out.  So in fact these are even easier to make than the 4th of July pinwheel cookies.  So easy that Taylor was easily able to make these alongside me.  In fact the white and black one pictured right next to the black one is her creation.  So if you have an hour to spare, here's how you go about making these spooky treats...
Repeat, repeat, repeat
I also added a bit more white frosting to my black to make a gray icing which turned out really nice.  I wish I would have made more in the white/gray color combination.
I passed these out after Taylor's soccer game and they were a hit.  Even the Coach came by for a cookie :)
You can see the original pinwheel cookies I made for the 4th of July here. You can also see a video tutorial in this post, and I give some tips I've discovered along the way that has helped me work with royal icing.

Oh, and by the way...the spider web cookie is now on sale for a 49 cents at Sur la Table!   If you don't feel like picking up the spider web cutter, you can easily just make round cookies and the spider web effect would still be just as cool.  Linking up with Heather for Life Made Lovely Monday.

Are there any other spooky fun treats you plan on making for Halloween this year?  I'd love to see some other ideas.  Leave a comment and a link if you're up to something fun.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Thoughts of the Week - Perfect Parenting

Parenting and being a kid isn't always perfect, but sometimes it can be.  We hosted movie night for the first time last night and as someone said, it was "magical".  Just one of those truly perfect, idealic nights that make you feel so blessed you're on this journey, and so happy to have good friends to share it with.  The kids watched It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, many of them for the first time.  They were absolutely entranced the entire time.  And while the movie rolled the parents actually had a chance to relax and carry on a conversation.  What a concept ;) 

Happy weekend friends.  Off to Nana's house for another one of her magical Halloween parties.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Life List

In less than 3 weeks I'll be leaving for Camp Mighty.  I swear I'm not cool enough for this type of thing, but I'm going anyhow.  Thank goodness Jules will be there.  In less than 3 weeks I have to help my team raise $5000 for Charity Water, so chances are if you know me in real life I may be hitting you up for a donation.  I also have to come prepared with a life list of 100 items, things to do before the end here on Earth.  

I've never done something like this before, as this kind of stuff usually stresses me out.  Makes me realize just how much I haven't done in my life and how much more I still want to do.  I've cooked it up to be a lot of pressure you know?  I remember seeing a bunch of bloggers doing that 35 things to do before I turn 35 list and I thought how crazy that was.  No thanks, I make enough lists in my day-to-day, I don't need to make another one.  But when I started writing it down, it became a lot of fun.  Thinking of both simple, very achievable things all the way to the wild and crazy.  The wild and crazy I haven't really put down yet...still a little hesitant to set those things in writing, but I'll get there.

So this is where I've started.  14 items off the top of my head that came to me without a lot of thought.  Sort of like when someone tells you say the first word that pops into your head.  These are mine.

What would some of yours be?  What are the 3 things that would come to you off the top of your head that you would add to your life list?  I promise it's a lot of fun.  

p.s. the winner of the Cents of Style giveaway is Sherry.  Congratulations!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Log Ride

I have about 4 DIY's in the works, none of which I can seem to find the time, energy or patience to finish.  Schedules have been busy around here so the new tutorial I was planning to share this week will have to wait a few more days.  Who knew October of all months would get so busy? 

In the mean time though I thought I'd share this picture with you guys.  For the first time ever I bought one of those pictures they sell at the amusement parks while you're on a roller coaster.  I just couldn't resist, it was too perfect.  Art scanned it in last night so I just had to share.  It looks like I'm breeding some roller coaster enthusiasts.  I must say I'm quite proud :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Playgrounds & Lollipops - Good Clean Fun

{Chambray shirt - Kohl's; Skinnies - J. Crew; Shoes - Dolce Vita; Necklace - c/o The Style Bandit}
Chambray shirt got a bit of a remix today and I have to say, I feel much more me in this look than yesterday's.  all your sweet comments made me feel a bit better about the short skirt/boots combo, but I still feel better in something like this.  When I wear outfits like this, it makes me realize that the looks I pull together are by no means revolutionary, but I think that's what I love most about them.  My style's sort of a simple equation that doesn't require a lot of thought but equals good, clean, simple results.

good pants + good top + good shoes + sparse but good accessories = good clean style

Works for me.  What style equation works for you?

By the way, I've sort of taken inventory of my closet and I'm feeling pretty good about heading into fall.  I'm in a good place with not "wanting" much of anything.  The one thing I did in fact want to pick up though was a chambray shirt and I'm glad I did.  It's basic so works back to just about anything and it's a bit heavier so will serve me well in fall and winter when layered, and the lighter color will also effortlessly carry me into spring.  It's the one purchase I've made in over a month and I'm pretty happy with it.  If you've been needing a new basic shirt, consider picking up some chambray.  Linking up with Lindsey for wiww

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Playgrounds & Lollipops - Chevron Chambray

{Skirt-Missoni for Target; Chambray Shirt-Kohl's; Boots-Dolce Vita via Marshall's; Necklace-c/o The Style Bandit}

Last night I declared I hated this outfit, not the outfit entirely, but mainly just how the skirt and boots work together.  The chambray shirt and my beautiful necklace are about the only redeeming things about this look.  It just feels too young for me and while I'm not going to give up on the skirt just yet, I think it would be much better suited for me, back to flat riding boots and a simple long sleeve T or turtleneck.  Somoething about the combination of the short skirt and the boots with heels just doesn't feel right, perhaps a little too sexy?   And if you recall this post I wrote a while back about dressing for you, I don't do well with sexy.

I'm trying the shirt today with more of a rugged look, perhaps I'll post it tomorrow.  Much, much more suited to me and my style.  What do you guys think?  Too young for a 35 year old mom?  Any other suggestions to make it a little more suited for me?  Linking up with Lindsey for WIWW


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