October 14, 2014

Make a Personalized Trick or Treat Bucket

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Halloween.  I love to cover my house in pumpkins, skulls and all other things spooky.  The fall tends to reignite my desire to craft, so naturally I make a few new things for Halloween each year.

This weekend I decorated buckets for my sons for Halloween.  Over the years, we've most used bags, but I love the look and durability of a bucket.
When Jam Paper contacted me recently about partnering with them on a fall-themed craft, I knew just what I wanted to make.  Fortunately, they sell reasonably priced and beautiful colored buckets (along with a huge variety of paper supplies, of course) which are perfect not just for trick or treating, but for so many other things.
I started with two of their large colored buckets, one green, one black, as well as a few packages of colored gift label stickers.  I also chose a sheet of letter stickers to personalize the buckets with my sons' names.
I needed a pair of scissors and some yellow grosgrain ribbon for extra decoration too.

This was an easy craft to make, especially that you're essentially just creating a collage with the colored stickers.  I started on the Frankenstein bucket and made some jagged purple hair for my monster using the purple Jam Gift Label Stickers.
I determined that I'd need 4 to go across the front of the bucket horizontally, and then I make a jagged "hair line" along the bottom edge of the stickers.
It was as simple as peeling off the back of the sticker and lining the stickers up along the bucket rim to create Frank's hair.
You actually don't notice the seam in person; it's just noticeable here due to where the light was hitting it.

Continue making Frankenstein's face in the same manner, cutting some zigzag black pieces for the eyebrows and mouth, maybe orange and black for the eyes.
Then I stuck on the face.  In the case of this monster, I think the simpler the better when it comes to designing the face.
I did put a few spooky words like "boo!" and "eek!" along the sides of the head, and some letter "t's" made nice Frankenstein bolts.
I added my son's name on the back too, by cutting out a tombstone shaped sticker and adding RIP plus his name under it.
For the black bucket, I wanted to make it resemble one of those vintage black cat designs.  I used the same technique of cutting out pieces to create a cat face.
Green eyes,
an orange nose and a jagged orange mouth (made from two long strips of sticker pieced together)
and some purple ears and whiskers.  I added some white accents around the eyes, ears, and between the nose and mouth with white label stickers.
To add a bit more flair, I tied some strands of grosgrain ribbon on the bucket handles at each side.
I think they look adorable!  They'll be a great way to hold treats on Halloween night.
I happened to have some extra large glow-in-the-dark stickers lying around, so I used them to add my younger son's name on the back of his bucket.
The possibilities are endless for decorating these buckets, and because you can peel/wash off the stickers (they're sturdy, but still are removable) you could use this bucket throughout the year or change out the design each Halloween.

You can find more craft ideas on Jam Paper's blog, as well as on their Facebook and Pinterest pages.
Disclosure: I received sample products from Jam Paper and Envelope to facilitate the making of this project.  All opinions and ideas here are my own.

September 4, 2014

Hippo Haven at Adventure Aquarium

A few weeks back, the boys and I met some friends at Adventure Aquarium, where they've just reopened the Hippo Haven exhibition.

We've been to Adventure Aquarium a few other times, and have always been impressed with the hands-on, family-friendly exhibits, and Hippo Haven was no exception.
When you walk in, you're greeted by a dramatic vista of the exhibit.  The use of contrast in shadow and light makes for a memorable entrance, almost like waiting for a performance on stage.  The atmosphere is enhanced by low-playing music as well, kind of a low hum that adds to the drama of the exhibit.
 There's so much to take in and see as you enter the space.  You have the option of going upstairs to Hippo Lookout for a wider view
or meandering along the path to see the two female hippos, Button and Genny, close up.
Genny was born 13 years ago in Disney's Animal Kingdom, while Button was born 17 years ago in Parque Zoological de Leon in Mexico.
They're amazing creatures that seem to tiptoe-dance along the bottom of their water habitat.  It's so cool how graceful they appear, considering what large animals they are--they can actually outrun humans!
There are a few vantage points from which you can view the hippos, even being able to see them under water in the lower level.
The fish swimming about are an added bonus, making the hippo habitat a bit more authentic to their natural living conditions in an African river.
The kids were amused by the hippo gals' "toy", a torn up tractor tire.

As you make your way to the lower level of the exhibit, you can sit and watch Genny and Button or watch a video about hippos.
Sprinkled throughout the exhibit are interesting facts about these beautiful animals.
Having worked in museums, I'm impressed with the way this exhibition has been reworked.  It entices visitors to enjoy and learn about these amazing animals in a unforgettable environment.

Of course we had to stop and see Lizzie before we left, along with the other amazing displays of aquatic life throughout Adventure Aquarium.
Adventure Aquarium is open year-round, and I'd imagine this time of year is a great one to take preschoolers and toddlers because school is back in session and field-trip season hasn't yet begun.  And of course weekends are a great time to visit with older children.   We've been to Adventure Aquarium multiple times over the last few years and always learn and see something new.
Disclosure: I received tickets to Adventure Aquarium to facilitate this post.  All opinions are my own.

August 26, 2014

Begin Again

It's been a quiet summer--at least here on my blog.  I'm sure many of you can relate, trying to keep that marathon of long summer days under control, not burning out too quickly.  School has begun again for my first grader (what??? I know, I can't believe I'm typing that) so I thought I'd try to begin again with this old blog here.
Emotions were strong yesterday for S.  Like his mother, he has trouble acclimating to new situations.  A few tears were shed as he trudged up those bus steps, but I'm confident he'll settle in over the next week or so.

I've been busying myself (I know, it's only the second day) with canning and freezing stuff from our garden.  The tomatoes were fabulous this year, so I want to be able to enjoy them in December, if they last.
Crock pot tomato sauce--freezer or canner?  Haven't decided yet.
I messed up my pickles though; I forgot to add water to the brine so these will induce extra puckering of our mouths!
There's also been a lot of yarn on my knitting needles, which is so uncharacteristic of me in summertime.
This slouchy hat above was a lot of fun to knit.  You can find the pattern, called "Minty" on Knitty (it's also on my Ravelry page).
This shawl got me through a long plane ride to and from San Francisco; I knit practically the entire trip.  Soren and I flew to see my brother in July and had a blast.  I miss that foggy city.

So that's what's been going on around here--boys getting bigger, seasons dissolving into the next.  We're embracing beginnings here!

May 12, 2014

On Mother's Day

I learned this weekend that the key to having a nice Mother's Day is dropping any expectations.  Isn't that the key to peaceful parenting in general?  It seems like any time I have an expectation (the kids will just nap in the car, one diaper is enough for a quick trip out, we don't need an extra set of clothes) it just blows up in my face.
I went into Mother's Day with no expectations.  True, I knew it was going to be a cloudless, beautiful day, but that's about it.
Taken at The Rodale Institute on Saturday
I was lucky to start the day at yoga with my bestie, then stop for a leisurely cup of coffee before heading home to pick up the kids and trek to my parents' house for a cookout and hanging around, reading the paper and even taking a quick nap.

Finally, we finished the day at an outdoor show, listening to music as the sun went down, watching the kids run around, dancing and tossing balls.  It was the perfect day.
Despite how challenging being a mother is for me, I'm so grateful to have taken the plunge and experience what it is to be a parent.  It's taught me so much about myself and given me a deeper connection to humanity.  And it's made me appreciate my own mom so much more.  
Hope you had a great day too!

May 9, 2014

Buy One Get One Free #TeavanaOprahChai at Starbucks #sponsored #MC

I participated in an Influencer Activation Program on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Starbucks. I received a promotional item and a gift card to facilitate my review. 

Last week, I met up with my friend Candice in Brooklyn; it's been too long since I've seen her so I made my way into the city to spend some girl time with her.  We walked around her neighborhood, and of course had to stop for some coffee and tea at Starbucks.
I've heard about their new Oprah Chai from Teavana (a store that I love to visit, especially when treating myself to a special loose tea--last summer it was Blueberry Mojito) and was curious about it.  Candice and I spent quite a while talking (a lot about our kids, naturally) as well as the deep stuff like life goals.  I won't get into personal details, but she's had a hard year and I'm so impressed with how confident and grounded she seems, despite everything she's gone through.  Go CanCan!  What doesn't kill us...well, you know.

I only wish we lived closer so we could let the words flow over a tea or coffee break more often, especially in winter, when a Starbucks and a hot drink is often the highlight of one's day.

About that tea: the Oprah Chai is Oprah's signature blend of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black tea and rooibos which stemmed from her daily tea ritual.
Oprah worked with teaologists to develop the blend, but what's most intriguing about it is that with each purchase, Starbucks donates a percentage to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation, which benefits youth educational programs.

I love chai tea and was eager to enjoy it at Starbucks as well as brew the loose tea at home.
I found that my home brew was heavy on the cinnamon, which I liked, but I would have hoped for more of a balance of masala spices.  Still, it was yummy especially blended with milk and a little honey.

The Starbucks barista made it better--its spices were more harmonious.  And that foam is a nice touch, something that I can't pull off at home.

Who knows, maybe the tea sold for home brewing is heavier on the cinnamon, or maybe I just got an odd batch.

On Mother's Day, May 11th, Starbucks is having a BUY ONE GET ONE FREE deal on the Oprah Chai; when you buy yours, hers is on the house.  It's a great excuse to take your mom out to celebrate and spend some special time together.  I'm sure she'll just think you're thrifty and aware of great deals, not cheap.  :).

Tea has always been a conduit for connection and conversation, and who better to connect with than a mom (not necessarily you're own!).  Visit Steep Your Soul for tips, information and inspiration on making space for pause and reflection over a cup of tea.
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