Decoupaged Photo Tile with Stand

I haven’t shared anything crafty or decorative lately, so I thought I’d throw a craft idea up on the blog this morning.

One of my favorite crafts to do with my students when I was teaching was a decoupaged tile.  We made them for Mother’s Day, Christmas, etc.  Now I sometimes make them with my mommy friends.  I worked on a batch recently at a meeting, and I think everyone went away happy with their products.

For this craft, you simply purchase a cheap, neutral-colored tile.  (Mine was .77 at Lowe’s.)  Then you Modge Podge the front surface of the tile with a sponge brush.  Next, lay down a paper copy of your favorite photo, starting from one edge and smoothing as you move toward the other.  Keep the bubbles out!  Finally, brush on another layer of Modge Podge over the entire front surface of the tile.

After you’ve added your photo, you can embellish with all sorts of things!  If your trims, etc. are light-weight, you can use your Modge Podge to adhere them.  Otherwise, wait for the glue to dry and whip out your glue gun.  I would love to see someone who knows how to ink edges give this craft a whirl.  I think you could use all sorts of interesting techniques with this project!

Here is a simple finished tile that I will pull out every Halloween from now on.

An easy and cheap way to make a stand is to purchase a package of curtain pins — the one that contains five-pronged metal pieces (the center prong is more like a hook).  Then use a pair of pliers to bend it like this:

Voila!  Happy crafting!

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Why I Love My Preschoolers

Last week I told the kids that we were going to take a fall leaf walk. This news prompted them to dance, run around, and generally act like I might if I had won the lottery. I handed each of them a plastic bag and directed them to collect several different colors and shapes of fall leaves.

When we got to the end of our drive (going beyond is usually taboo for them), it was as if we were launching ourselves into a different world. We meandered through neighbors’ front yards and along the side of the road. Every new leaf was like discovering gold. “LOOK, Mommy! I found a RED one!” We must have walked an entire block — a new house record for these critters — before we decided to take our treasures home.  (Note: we do walk and ride bikes with the kids, but not often in our neighborhood because of blind curves and hills and impatient drivers.)

Now here’s a confession from this real housewife: I had no idea what we might do with these leaves upon return. I had only known thirty minutes beforehand that if I didn’t get the kids out of the house, happy hour was going to start much earlier than what was deemed socially acceptable.

When we got back home, I bought some thinking time by having the kids sort their leaves — first, according to color, and next, according to shape. They loved this!

Then I pulled out crayons, construction paper, scissors, and glue.

First, I showed the kids how to make leaf rubbings. “It’s like magic, Mommy!”  They cut out their rubbings and glued them to a piece of paper along with some of their leaves. The result was nothing spectacular, but the kids were delighted with their artwork.

Then I had them trace their favorite leaves, add veins, and paint them with watercolors. Again, nothing fancy.  But to a three and four-year-old, it was the next best thing to sliced bread.

So my kids learned how to rub leaves and spell fall, and they honed their sorting and cutting skills. Their mom learned that it doesn’t take a fabulous art project to satisfy preschoolers. They are such an eager and forgiving audience.

Now, most importantly, we have yet another great memory tucked into our back pockets and a gorgeous, fall-inspired refrigerator. Take that, Martha!

P.S.  Grandparents — The pink hair is for breast cancer awareness.  It is nothing permanent and should not be any cause for heart damage.  Hubby is just glad it’s not a beloved feather.

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Absent

Pre-school has thrown me for a loop. I cannot seem to find time to get to my blog lately, which is sad because I’ve had a lot to say. The irony is that the kids go to school at the same time two days a week. You would think I would have more time! Definitely not.

The good news is that despite the horrific cold I fought last week, I have been pretty happy with all of the goings-on. A good friend, some other moms, and I have been tirelessly working on a library and dramatic play area at our kids’ school. It’s coming along quite nicely! And I am working on two projects for the hospital — another tree for a brunch and some ornaments to sell for the Foundation at Mistletoe Market. I have been getting to work with another close friend on the ornaments as well as a grant we just submitted for the children’s museum. I always enjoy working with her.

The kids are sassy and tall. Maggie is starting to write words. We did a project with leaves the other day and I helped her write “FALL” on the artwork. Now she’s brainstorming all of the other “ALL” words and is constantly writing notes to Bret and me.

Walt is more active than ever. He walks his dad to the front door every morning and tells him to “make good choices.” I don’t know where he’s heard that… We got his first behavior note from the teacher two weeks ago. Bret asked if I was going to keep it. Of course! But we both know that there will be plenty more.

Well, I better go hop in the shower. I just got home from walking in the cold, and my out of shape body was quick to heat up under the multiple layers I wore. I’m sure that I smell lovely!

Mondays are my day from you-know-where. Here’s hoping for a good one!

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Everything and Nothing

My ears are still burning, my freckles are brighter than ever, and my hair is in a towel turban.  For not having been much of a water and sun person for the past 37 years, I sure am trying to do some catching up.

Today…wait for it…I wore a bathing suit IN PUBLIC.  AT A BEACH!  And I went in the water!!!  My friend, who was up to her ears in toddlers and tantrums, called me this morning and asked (begged?) me to accompany her to the beach.  So the kids and I packed up and spent the better part of the day at the edge of Lake Michigan.

My friend and I talked about everything and nothing (this is a nod to Heather Lende), and we even cracked open a few magazines.  The kids (I think) secretly had a contest: Who could coat his/her body with the most sand?

At the end of the day, we looked at each other and wondered out loud, “Why haven’t we been doing this all summer?”

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Toes in the Sand — Again!

Yesterday morning was a blast — literally, as you can see below!

My friend with a new baby dropped two of her kids off, and another close friend brought her three over.  It was chaotic!  The kids played in a blow-up pool and ran through sprinklers coming out of an over-sized beach ball.

Then in the afternoon my kids and I hopped in the car to attend a Great Start Family Picnic, and the following conversation ensued:

Maggie: “Mom, you don’t look like my mom.”
Me: “Really? Why?
Maggie: “Because you look pretty.”
Me: (After dumbfounded pause) “What do you mean?”
Maggie: “You’re dressed up. You did your hair, put on makeup, and you’re wearing sunglasses.”
Me: Nothing. Trying to decide whether to laugh or cry.
Maggie: “Mom?”
Me: “Yes?”
Maggie: “I wish you looked that way every day.”

Perhaps I should give those folks over at “What Not to Wear a Call.”  Can you turn yourself in?  If not, I am sure that Maggie will do the honors.

Once I got over the shock of what my daughter said, we got to the beach and had a nice visit with other families.  I got to talk with a few other moms about back-to-school shopping and dreams of a girls’ weekend involving an outlet mall.  Bret stood by with another dad and talked fishing while the kids ran in and out of the water, played with driftwood, and generally coated themselves with sand.

After five years of living here, my toes are finally getting used to living near a beach.  It’s about time!

The night ended in a quintessential summer-in-a-small-town way.  Bret and I threw the kids in the shower when we got home, dressed them in pajamas, and headed to a movie in the park.  The town sheriff  and other volunteers were showing “Toy Story 3” in the band shell.  We snuggled in with blankets, popcorn, and candy and watched the flick under the stars.

The kids lasted until just before the dump scene.  It’s scary, so we packed up and went home for a good night’s rest.

I know that I tired out those kiddos yesterday because it’s nearly eight a.m., and I’ve now had two cups of coffee in silence.  How we will top all of that today?

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Tables of Lunches and Dinners Past

Dinner wasn’t bad tonight, if I do say so myself.  I made a pork tenderloin in the oven using a much-raved about recipe on Cooks.com.  You can see it here.  I refuse to investigate the caloric and fat content, as it was smothered in mayonnaise before entering the oven.  Sometimes the fact that a meal isn’t a bust is good enough.  “Healthy” is just another level that I am too worn out to reach today.

Bret and I just finished meeting with someone regarding drawing up a will. Any zing I had left in me today is now officially gone.  That was soooooooooo not uplifting.  (Responsible just doesn’t feel good right now.)

So I am going to wander back in my stacks of photos and recall some table settings that I have done with/for my friend Doris as well as at my house a time or two.  Table settings cannot be taken too seriously, and I need a dose of not-serious right now.

A summer dinner by Doris’s garden…

A Mexican-themed dinner on my deck (food by Doris)…

A more formal Mexican-themed dinner in Doris’s garden…

A fall dinner in Doris’s dining room…

.

Back to spring…

Decor traveled from my living room to Doris’s dining room to Linda’s table…

Finally!  I entertained in my dining room with the help of Doris’s fabulous meal planning and cooking skills…

A table set for January birthdays (Annual Capricorn Dinner)…

A spring table set with butterflies and flowers for a special friend’s birthday, complete with party favors hung on each chair…

A summer gathering in 2011 proving that sometimes people actually eat at these tables…

Cheers!

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Blessed to Stress

Bret and I went to the hospital’s big annual fundraiser, a benefit ball at the local country club, last Saturday night.  This particular event is both celebrated and despised (sort of) in my book.

The ball is a great event where tons of money is raised for major hospital projects, so I love it for all the good it produces.  For example, one year when the community was rallying to raise enough money for its new Women’s Imaging Center, complete with digital mammography, three anonymous business men (whose names are now known; this town is small, remember?) took the CEO aside at the event and said they’d match the dollars raised within the next two months.  I can’t remember…Was it a match up to thirty thousand?  Three hundred thousand?  Probably the latter.  By golly, the rest of that money and then some came through after what will always be remembered as one of the most beautiful and passionate benefit balls ever held.

As for the part about not liking the benefit ball so much…Well, the Counting Crows song, “Round Here,” helps tell my story.  There’s a line in that song that could be about me: “She has trouble acting normal when she’s nervous.” So true.  There are so many “who’s whos” at that event — so many people with whom I feel I don’t share a league because of money, status, weight — (need I go on?) that I always get pretty stressed out about going.

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s a real honor to be invited and to be able to participate.  But I always worry about whether I’ll be able to fit in and overcome my fears of talking to people, dancing, and doing all the things people generally do at these functions.  However, I am always reminded of why I married Bret when we go to these things.  He can fit in and have a good time anywhere, and I love this about him.  I’ve learned a lot about interacting in social situations from Bret over the years, and I’ve found that standing near him and holding his hand often helps shake my case of nerves.

Another concern about going to these types of events is finding the dreaded dress.  The thought of getting this body into something that’s generally shiny and form-fitting in some way just doesn’t jive with my curves and self-image.

I used my children to get out of going to the first few balls.  The first year the ball was held, I was pregnant.  The next time, I was still nursing.  (How could anyone expect me to get my huge melons into a formal?!)  The time after that, I had just had a baby and was newly-nursing.  That last time, just after having had Walt, Bret took his very attractive sister from out of town as a date.  Talk about stirring the pot!  A good friend of mine who attended that evening squelched the cheating hubby rumors that kept creeping up. Too funny!

So just like last year, my kids were old enough that I could not use them (or, specifically, their effects on my body) to get out of attending this year’s annual fundraiser.  I bucked up and went again.

My friend, Laura, will ever be my personal shopper and scheduler from now on after she proved herself in the preparation for this event.  She grabbed two dresses for me on a quick trip to a nearby city, and she only spent $22 on each one!  I returned them the next day in another big city for one in a different size, same color and style.  Then on Wednesday when I had child care, she called me up and told me that I had better get into the salon for a mani-pedi that day.  And that I should get shellac, whatever that is. So I did. Whew!  I hadn’t even thought about getting that stuff done!

Laura and I also had fun picking things up for one another.  (Last minute call from Laura while I am at the mall: “I need a royal blue pocket square!”  My return call a little later: “Got the pocket square, and Judy found you blue earrings.  I’m just about to pick up our free underwear from Victoria’s Secret.  (Coupons!)  I am looking at a giant flower for my hair.  Gotta go!”)

One of the the funniest parts of the evening involved jewelry.  I had given Laura a bag of “bling” (all fake) to borrow from, and another friend had offered to loan her a real gold and diamond tennis bracelet.  My husband was the last to see the friend, so we had the bracelet to give Laura on the night of the ball. When we called to let Laura know that we had it, she refused to wear it, citing that she was too nervous to be responsible for such an expensive bracelet. Not me.  I slapped that puppy on and admired it all night!

Poor Laura…When everyone first sat down to dinner that night, the emcee’s first words from the podium were, “We have a lost and found situation. Anyone missing a bracelet?”  Laura held up an empty wrist and glared at me. I didn’t know whether she was going to dive under the table from embarrassment or strangle me right there on the spot!  (The bracelet had fallen off earlier too and made her late getting out the door.)  Instead, she held her head high and plowed through the crowd to retrieve the cheap bracelet.  In the end, I told her that a lesson had been learned: never borrow jewelry from someone who shops for jewels at the hospital’s yearly five dollar sale!

Getting into the dress and finding (or sometimes keeping on) coordinating accessories isn’t the only clothing-related challenge with the benefit ball.  What if someone wears the exact same thing?  It seems like two people almost always show up in the same outfit at a large function around here.  Our pool of stores to shop from is pretty small when you look at how far we have to go to find civilization.

Well, I was certain that I would have a twin this time.  There were tons of dresses in multiple department stores like mine, just in different colors. Sure enough, someone was wearing my dress in eggplant.  I think I was the only one who noticed though since my color was as bright as hers was dark.

And remember the friend who wanted to fling my bracelet into the nearest river? Yeah, Laura also wore the exact same dress as someone else. (The CEO’s wife!)  Both were good-natured about it and took pictures together. They called themselves “The Bridal Party.”  And you know, the evening wouldn’t have been half as fun if they hadn’t shown up in the same gorgeous blue dress!

The other night I took a neighbor to a function at the children’s museum. Afterwards, she told me that she’d had so much fun that she was really glad she went.  Then she added, “Even though I didn’t want to in the beginning.” I know what she means.  I feel similar about having gone to the benefit ball. And the best part is that I have nearly an entire year before I am blessed to have the opportunity (and I truly mean that) to stress about going all over again!

“Bling-Bling” and me striking our red carpet poses!

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