Monday, February 28, 2011

A New Wall-Hanging...

This past year, for my mom's birthday, I took her on a quilt retreat.  She loves to sew, and I don't take the time to sew much these days, so it was a great excuse to relax and work on a new project.  I invited my aunt as well, and booked us into a local hotel.  I chose one with good proximity to restaurants and craft stores...perfect!

We had a great time and as I chose a larger room layout, we had plenty of space for three sewing machines and ironing board and all our project materials.  I wish I had taken my camera, we used all the space available!

Our retreat was in January and I just finished sewing the binding on my new wall hanging.  I love the greens and browns in my living room and a new wall-hanging brightened up this corner a bit.

The brighter green is one of my favorite new fabrics, full of inspirational words..."Make Life Beautiful", "Make Life Simple", "Make Life Fun"...perfect words to remember in the heart of the family.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Book Club Friday...

It's the last Friday in February, so it's the last of my All-Time Favorite Books book club!  I have really struggled to decide which book I want to share with you this week.

When I finished reading Centennial by James Michener, I declared that it was one of the best books that I had ever read.  I've since reread the book, and I've read many of Michener's other books.

There are several aspects of Michener's books that I truly enjoy.  Centennial  is the complete story of a place in Colorado.  As is true of many of Michener's books, this one starts with the geology of the place.  He tells the story of the mountains, rising from the actions of tectonic plates and being eroded away.  I realize this might not be appealing to everyone, but the scientist in me loves reading the geology through a narrative.  Michener follows the geology, with the indigenous plants and animals, touching on the evolution of the organisms that occupied the place long before humans.  Once the place is established, Michener tells the story of the people. 

The back of the book sums it up much better than I can, "Here is the story of the land and its people - of Lame Beaver, the Arapaho chieftain and warrior, and his Comanche and Pawnee enemies; of Levi Zendt, fleeing with his child bride from the Amish country in Pennsylvania; and of the cowboy Jim Lloyd, who falls in love with a wealthy and cultured English woman, Charlotte Seccombe.  It is a story of trappers, traders, homesteaders, gold seekers, ranchers and hunters - all caught up in the dramatic events and violent conflicts that shaped the destiny of our legendary West."

You just can't find a better epic novel than James Michener.  With all the snow and winter storms, now is the perfect time to settle into a wonderful read.  My favorites of his include Centennial, Hawaii  and Alaska.

I hope you have wonderful reading!  I'd love to hear about your favorites!
The regular Book Club will resume next Friday...I will be sharing my thoughts on A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.  Please join the conversation if you're reading this one, or please share whatever books you're currently enjoying.  If there's enough interest, I will add a linky tool so you can link up your own posts.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

More Crafty Organization...

I have a kitchen drawer that's problematic...ok, I have a couple of those drawers but there's one in particular that needed some attention...
I do enjoy a glass of wine, and I have been tossing the corks into this drawer, planning to do something with them "someday".  Well, someday is today!
I turned to my lovely silhouette, and cut this quote and wine glass out of vinyl.  Using a glass canister I found at Walmart, I now have a solution to my wine cork problem...
I love this!  Now my drawer is clean and I have a cute new decoration for the top of the refrigerator.
What are your ideas for new crafty organization?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Working Mommy Wednesday...

It's Wednesday, and time to link up with all the other working moms.  Click on the button above to read linked posts from everyone participating in "Working Mommy Wednesday".
This week's prompt...write about a personality trait, that for good or bad, is just a part of you...

Ok, friends, it's time to 'fess up...I'm a little bit OCD.  I really like things to be orderly, I love organization and I am a bit pushy when it comes to the boys cleaning up their rooms. 

This was the subject of school-age bullying because I was also the smart girl.  I have been made fun of for my handwriting, my crisp neat binders, and my attention to detail for as long as I can remember.  Sometime in college, I decided that I was just going to embrace it and grow a tougher skin. {Fast forward to the principal who thought it was amusing to trash my file cabinets and desk drawers!  Seriously...he thought it was funny.  I realized then that there is only so far a tough skin can take you!}

As a teacher my tendancy to over-organize and leave my desk tidy has resulted in more than a few joking comments...but I finally have the privilege to work with people who know me and are genuinely teasing.  It comes in handy to be well-organized and pay attention to details and those same people often ask for help with their own organizational challenges.  I have also grown accustomed to over-looking the lack of organization and tidiness in other people.  It used to Drive.Me.Crazy.  Now, I am much better at grinning and bearing it!

As a mom, I know I sometimes drive my family crazy.  There are some days when I know that I am compulsively cleaning because it's the only thing I can control.  At least now I realize this and can...almost...laugh about it {while still cleaning!}  I ...generally...leave my kids to their own rooms, though sometimes I go on a cleaning spree there as well.  In my house, I dislike clutter and make sure that the house is tidy every night when I go to bed.  I like orderly bookshelves...I like everything in it's place...I like order and tidiness. 

I guess there are worse things...I've seen the show about hoarders on makes me cringe...and a little bit nauseous...

Now it's your turn...time to 'fess up...what't that one characteristic about you?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Getting Organized...

My good friend Tessa and I got crafty over the weekend and created this...

Not only do I love a good craft, but I also love getting organized!  This calendar is perfect for my office at school.  We were having so much fun crafting, and refereeing the kids, that we didn't take any pictures of the process.  This is an easy project though...
  • We started with 16x20 frames and chose a background fabric.  I love this background because of the words..."Make Life Simple"..."Make Life Creative"..."Make Life Silly"..."Make Life Beautiful"...  Using ModPodge, we applied the fabric right to the back of the frame.
  • While the fabric was drying we chose papers to coordinate.  I chose a minty green for the notes section, a teal for the month title and a coordinating minty green for the band under the days of the week.  I also trimmed the calendar page, which I found with the scrapbooking papers at Hobby Lobby.
  • Once the glue was dry, we placed the paper elements with a bit of tape, and put the frame into the glass.
  • Then it was time to get creative...Using my lovely Silhouette, we cut vinyl embellishments, the word "Notes" and the days of the week.
  • All that was left was to hang it on the wall and fill out the calendar...
Isn't it great?  I love this calendar and it's already hanging on the wall in my office.
What is your favorite organization feature?

Serenity Now Crafty Cutter Party

Friday, February 18, 2011

More of my Favorite Books...

I've been looking forward to sharing this week's selection of favorite books....
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
I was introduced to Harry Potter by Chris, a 4th grader I had in my class several years ago.  At that time we ended the day with a read aloud and Chris really wanted me to read Harry Potter.  From the first page, I was hooked!  I have loved every word on every page.  Prior to the release of the 6th book, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, I reread the entire series.  Though I had thoroughly enjoyed the books on my first trip through, it was in the rereading that I truly came to appreciate the genius of the author.  Knowing the whole story, upon rereading I was impressed with how clearly she knew the entire story when she began writing.  There are small details and pages of fore-shadowing that weren't nearly as recognizable on my first trip through the books.  
The character development is astonishing and I came to love the characters.  I was also surprised with the author's ability to continue to surprise the reader.  It's not often, that I fall in love with an entire series.  Too frequently, I feel like the author loses quality in the story line in response to audience pressure to release books.  That is not the case here...the final book is actually better than the first. 
I am not the only member of my family who fell in love with Harry Potter.  We were all able to visit Hogwarts and Hogsmeade (at Universal Studios: Islands of Adventure) last November.  My oldest son, Connar was chosen by Ollivander himself for a custom wand fitting ...
...and we all had fun brandishing our wands throughout the park.  Our imagination was so captivated, that for an afternoon we were in Hogsmeade, brushing shoulders with the wizarding world. 

If you haven't yet dove into the world of Harry Potter, I so encourage you to pick up that first book.  They make delightful read-alouds...particularly if you like to do different voices while you read...and the stories will carry you effortlessly to a wonderful, magical world!

Just one more week of favorite books before we return to our regular book club...
What are you reading?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tell Me Something Good Thursday...

Tell Me Something Good Thursday

This is a regular Thursday post for my good friend Tessa over at Shopper Gal and I decided to chime in this week as well...I hope it's ok that I borrowed your button Tessa!

Not only is today Thursday, but in my little corner of the world we're heading into a 4 day weekend, so it's also FRIDAY!  It's been a good week, here's a bit of what I'm feeling good about this week...

  • My husband surprised me on Valentine's Day with the traditional Valentines...candy, a teddy bear and roses...and he took me out to lunch.  The funny part of this story is that I had just texted him to see if he would be interested in joining me for lunch.  His reply was that he was really settled into his video game.  Moments later, he was at my office door!
  • It was also my husband's birthday this week and I managed to pull off a surprise Birthday dinner.  This was not an easy feat, but with the help of lots of friends, family and our boys...we had a great surprise party and he loved it!
  • I had a great time with my kids this week...Connar has been working on a big project for school and I was able to help with some of the details, while Aiden has been reading up a storm and we've had a good time talking about the books he's reading.  I am so proud of my kids.
  • Finally, I am really looking forward to a long weekend with lots of time to ski, play, date my husband and just relax.  I also have an afternoon full of crafts that will be fantastic fun.
What are you feeling good about this week?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

More Mom Tips for Video Games...

My kids love their video games…they have a Wii, an X-Box, Nintendo DS’s, and they each have an iPod touch.  If left alone, they would certainly play video games until their brains were sucked out of their heads.

I think that’s a concern of many parents.  Are video games ok for my kids?  Why won’t they stop playing?  Ever?

In my opinion, video games are a great opportunity to teach kids about moderation.  I want them to be able to indulge in something they enjoy but also to know where the line is between fun and addiction, between indulging and over-indulging.  Here are some strategies we’ve used in our family…

  • When my oldest first started playing games, I created “tickets” for him using 3x5 note cards.  Prior to allowance, this was a currency he understood.  Each ticket represented 30 minutes of screen time…TV, computer or video games and he was able to earn and redeem tickets.  We put a timer by the gaming systems and he set the timer before he started to play.  This helped reinforce the idea of playing for shorter periods of time.

  • Eventually the tickets themselves, wore out and I never replaced them.  The phrase, “Can I play a ticket?” has persisted however and 30 minutes seems like a reasonable amount of time.  The boys understand that “forgetting” to set their timer results in losing the opportunity to continue playing for that day.

  • My husband and I have also grounded the gaming systems.  When the boys argue over which games are going to be played, whose turn it is to choose, whose cheating…then we know it’s time for the games to be grounded.

  • Our boys understand the video game rating system.  They know that they are welcome to play any E (Everybody) rated game.  T (Teen) games require a parent’s permission to play.  I like to check on why it’s rated T, my boys aren’t allowed to play games that use guns and I don’t like blood violence.  Finally, M (Mature) games aren’t allowed.  This is another teachable opportunity.  Their friends all have different rules for games that can be played.   The boys are learning that different families have different rules.  They are expected to follow our “House Rules” even when they are playing somewhere else.  They also ask friends who are visiting if the friends are allowed to play our games.  It’s not an easy lesson to learn but I believe it’s important. 

  • Finally, they have had a chance to learn budgeting skills with their iPod touch.  Our whole family shares an iTunes account.  The boys have purchased iTunes gift cards and added the $10 to the account.  In their “Notes” section, they keep a running total of apps/games they have downloaded, subtracting from the initial $10.  This is challenging for my first grader, but each time he downloads an app I help him with the balance.  This has worked out very well for both kids.  They have the freedom to add to their app collection, but the accountability to the family not to overspend on the account.

These are some strategies that have worked well for us…how do you help your kids manage video games?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day...

While Valentine's Day can certainly be commercial, and you can be full of expectations...and perhaps disappointment...I encourage you to "Leave a Trail of Love" today instead.  Use the day to remember why you love the people you love...and tell them!

Celebrate, Enjoy, Love 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

More Favorite Books...

I am really excited to share this week's book.  Ok, it's not a single book at all...I can't narrow my library down that much.  It's an author, though I have a couple of favorites within her collections.
Jodi Picoult is another of my all-time favorite authors.  As with last week's author, I think that I have all the books she has in print (and I was excited to find her "Kindle Short" last week...three short stories.)  With each of her books, Jodi explores aspects of human nature through events or circumstances.  Her character development is amazing and I am always slightly tired after reading one of her books.  It's almost as if I am sharing the experience with her characters.  
"The Pact" is the first book I read by Jodi Picoult.  It chronicles the relationship of two teenagers, from childhood into High School.  At the same time the children are building a relationship, so are their mothers and families.  Through several circumstances, the kids decide to make a suicide pact...tragically this results in the death of one and the survival of the other.  This talented author dives into the mind and the hearts of all the people involved and explores what happens to the relationships and to the people left behind.

I've read "Nineteen Minutes" a couple of times.  In the opening pages of this book a boy walks into a school and in 19 minutes wreaks havoc with a gun.  The book tells the story in two directions...what led up to the shooting and what happened after.  As a mom of boys, as a public school teacher...this book has something compelling to share.  I often find myself asking, "Would I do things the same way?  How is this mother like me?"  

Jodi provides a context to examine my opinions and my feelings, to reflect on similar circumstances, to wonder.  I love reading books that open a window to a world that is not my own, but a world in which I am invited to take temporary residence.  Her books are thoughtful, insightful, powerful and wonderful. 

I am particularly excited to read her newest book...pre-ordered through my Kindle. On March 1, I'll open my book and be greeted with "Sing You Home".  You can bet, I'll tell you all about it.

Have you read any Jodi Picoult?  What's your favorite? 
Happy Reading!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Working Mommy Wednesday...

Interesting prompts this week for Working Mommy Wednesday...
What are you not good at?  What are you Awesome at?

I'm not good at... I have to take this in the context of being a working mommy, otherwise there are just far too many options :)

  • Keeping up with the laundry - I'm not very fond of laundry as it turns out, and if I ever win big money, I intend to have a Laundry Lady "On Staff"
  • Driving past Starbucks - I just love coffee goodness in the morning
  • Remembering to schedule doctor visits for myself - I am much better at making sure that everyone else in my house is well-cared for...but I tend to leave my own things until the last minute
  • Wearing a coat - even in the just seems like too much work, especially since I hate driving in a coat.  I guess it makes more sense to make a mad dash into the building!
  • Remembering daily lunch...I have to bring lunch for the whole week, I absolutely hate thinking about it every day.  If I am not organized about lunch, I will not eat well and have way too many snacks and lunches out.  {Fortunately I am usually organized...see below}
  • Remembering little things...I am not good at remembering people's birthdays or other dates...I love to celebrate though and rely on other people to remind me {I do have a colleague who's excellent at remembering}

I'm awesome at... Again, I have to take this in the context of being a working mommy, otherwise there are just far too many options :)

  • Leaving work at work...ok, my family might not say that I am awesome at this, but I know a lot of teachers who bring lots of work home at night.  I really strive to be efficient at work, so that it doesn't come home with me at night.
  • Being Organized...I really am nutty about organization.  I love school supplies and a row of labeled notebooks makes my heart skip a beat.  My desk is always pretty neat too and lists...don't get me started on my love of lists...I am mocked for this habit but I like order and organization :)
  • Leaving Home at Home...other than bragging about how awesome my kids are, I don't usually let anything that's happening at home affect me at work.  
  • Following through on projects...when I say that I will have something done, then it's rare that I'm not prepared for a project or that I miss a deadline.  I may forget personal details, but I am pretty detailed in my work.
These were kind of awkward lists to make...What are you AWESOME at?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

More Valentine Craftiness...

You know by now that I love Valentine's Day!
I was excited to make some personalized Valentines for friends...and I wanted to get my Silhouette in on the fun...
I started with a stack of bright red buckets, found at Hobby Lobby...

Then I had some fun with Silhouette.  I played with fonts and embellishments, trying to get the perfect look for each friend...
Once the vinyl was on the bucket, I added some yummy treats and a couple of ribbons to the handles.  These will be lots of fun to give away next Monday!

What are some of your favorite Valentine treats?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Family Rules Revisited...

Last summer I shared our Family Rules  This list was created when I was spending too much time being the referee to my boys.  Our Family Rules are: * Be Kind * Share * Mind Your Manners * Sing * Laugh * Play * Clean up your Mess * Always tell the Truth * Pitch in & Help * Believe in Yourself * Keep your Promises * Leave a Trail of Love*
Recently the boys  have needed to revisit the Family Rules.  We moved the list to a more prominent place in our kitchen and, when needed ask them which rule would help solve their current argument.  There are a couple of rules in the list, that they were thinking were kind of...fluffly...unimportant, or at least less important.  So, with Valentine's Day approaching, I decided we needed to spend some time with Leave a Trail of Love.
I want my boys to understand the premise of kindness, the idea of doing something for someone else in which you don't stand to immediately benefit.  To help with this idea, I embellished a gift bucket I found at Target...

Everyone in the family is encouraged to drop a note in the bucket illustrating something they have done to Leave a Trail of Love, or thanking a family member for an act of kindness.  
I decided to start and left notes for both boys.  I've been sick for four days...four days of being on the couch, four days of no laundry, little help with homework, no cooking, four days of no mom.  I haven't been this sick in a long time.  My boys astonished me...they pitched in to help, they were thoughtful and helpful, they anticipated things I would need and thought of ways to help that were truly helpful.  I wanted them to know that this was what Leave a Trail of Love was all about...and left them Thank You notes in the bucket.

How do you help your kids understand what's important?

Friday, February 4, 2011

My Favorite Books...

This month the Book Club is all about Favorite Books...

Today I am featuring my all-time favorite author and the book that introduced me to her
I have been reading Madeleine L'Engle since I was in the 5th grade.  I can actually remember Mr. Nelson starting to read this book aloud to us in class.  He read about two chapters and was the first teacher to say to me, "That's all I'm reading.  If you like it, now it's your turn to read."  I was already an avid reader but I devoured Madeleine's books.  She does feel like a close personal friend.  
 A Wrinkle in Time is one of two books of Madeleine's that I have autographed.  I also have a collection of "covers" of this book.  I have four different covers, though I only had two at hand when I took the picture.  This book has really stuck with me through my whole was an introduction to characters that I followed through 5 more books, and an introduction to an author that I have been reading ever since.  I own every book of Madeleine's that is still in print, and several that are out of print.  Her books feel like close personal friends.

A Wrinkle in Time is an intriguing book, one that is difficult to slot into a specific category.  On the surface it's a fantasy...three children traveling through time and space to rescue their father.  But beneath that superficial story is so much more.  There's a story about the lengths we'll go to, to save someone we love.  A story about evil, and how insidious it can be.  A commentary on the world and world politics.  The foundation of an enduring love story. A metaphor for religion.  This book is phenomenal!

Many people know of A Wrinkle in Time, and this book is part of her collection that is more oriented towards young adult readers.  She also has several fictional books for adults, several collections of poetry and a collection of non-fiction.  My favorite non-fiction book is, A Two-Part Invention, in which she writes of her marriage.  I have been inspired, comforted, challenged, and rewarded by the books of Madeleine L'Engle...she has a very special place in my heart and on my bookshelves. (In fact there's at least one of her books on every shelf I have!)

I'm excited to share some of my favorite books with you this month...what are some of your favorites?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Soundtrack for Me...

I recently spent some time rearranging songs on my ipod. 
I have to have good running keep me motivated through the run...and I also wanted to organize a couple of new playlists

I have a new favorite playlist...Soundtrack for Me
As I went through my iTunes library, I was thinking about the music that would underscore my life...what would my soundtrack be? This collection of music just makes me feel good...I had it blaring in the truck on my way home yesterday...singing and enjoying the music.  Here's a few of the songs on the list...
Annie's Song...John Denver
Beer in Mexico...Kenny Chesney
Give a Little Bit...The Goo Goo Dolls
History in the Making...Darius Rucker
It Happens...Sugarland
Kiss Me...Sixpence None the Richer
Love and Memories...O.A.R.
Not Ready to Make Nice...The Dixie Chicks
One Day...Matisyahu
Only Wanna Be With You...Hootie and the Blowfish
Smile...Uncle Kracker
So What...Pink
Somewhere Over the Rainbow...Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
Standing Outside the Fire...Garth Brooks
The Warrior's Code...Dropkick Murphy's

There are 46 songs all together, so this is just a sampling but it is a bit me.
What would be on Your Soundtrack? 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My Motivation...

Welcome to my entry for Working Mommy Wednesday...our prompt this week...
"What motivates you every day?"

I'm not sure that I have a single, daily motivation, but there are certainly a few things that keep me going...

  • I'm a PLANNER and a GOAL SETTER...I like to have something to look forward to and a sense of the bigger picture.  It's pretty easy to get mired into stress of daily living, but having something to look forward to or a long term goal makes it easier to stay positive.  We usually have a big Family Adventure that we look forward to for several months.  Knowing that there is a get-away in my future makes it a lot easier to get myself to work every day.  I am also looking forward to three triathlons...that's a huge motivation to get myself to the gym in the morning.  Planning helps me stay on top of all the little things that can accumulate.  I am diligent about my calendar and to-do lists so that I accomplish everything that needs doing.  
  • I'm also a GLASS HALF-FULL kind of girl...I tend to look at the world through rose-colored glasses and I'm generally pretty positive.  I believe that even when I don't feel great, or when I'm stressed or tired,  good attitude goes a long way towards talking myself into feeling better.  On some days, when I need extra motivation, I dress up.  I always dress professionally but sometimes I kick it up a notch to make myself feel better and more competent.
  • FAMILY...They are both the motivation and the reason for being's a happy circle!  Knowing that the reason I am working hard is to provide experiences and adventures for my family, helps me work hard.  We have so much fun together and my husband and I are a great team.  Working hard together, has allowed us to play hard together too!
With all that said, there are some days when a Starbucks goes a long way and I don't hesitate on the occasional treat either!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I really love Valentine's Day!  Usually by mid-February I'm tired of the dreary winter days and Valentine's is a great pick-me-up.  As it's the first of the month, it's time to put out the Valentine decorations and time for a new craft.
I started with unfinished wood hearts that I got at Hobby Lobby and painted them with shades of red and pink.  I actually only used red and cream paint and marbled the two together as I painted.
Next, I drilled a couple of holes in the top of each heart.
And I visited my new love, my Silhouette, for some fun Valentine quotes and pictures.
Add a little ribbon or wire through the holes and I have a quick and cute decoration.  
This little shelf, in my dining room, gets a new look every month!  Today was also the day I put my LOVE blocks on the shelf too.  Since I didn't use all the little hearts I made, I have a couple of sweet gifts to give, and they're all ready to go!

What's new for your Valentine decor?