August 31, 2016

Rug Expedition

Having sent both of my boys back to school this week, I am trying to establish a new routine here at home. I've been working on projects that have been put aside for years (hello basement floor cluttered with nuts, bolts and tools!), decluttering, and making things more efficient for our family. I'm lucky to have this time for myself and our home, before I start the process of heading back to work.

Our living room has been the focus of much of my attention.  I moved a lot of the toys upstairs which left some space for a homework area. My third grader will be needing a spot to work, so this space will have a desk and comfortable (but not too comfortable) chair.
 For the moment, it's been used as a reading nook, as the desk is backordered until later in September.
There are still a few open-ended toys in this spot, like blocks and magnet tiles stored in baskets and bins.  One major addition to the space is a new area rug from Rug Expedition.
It's a faux silk rug, on the thin side but very plush and comfortable underfoot.  The boys enjoy lying on it when setting up blocks for their toy cars.  I admit I've had to tell my eldest multiple times that he cannot have the rug in his bedroom, he's that enamored of its soft feel.
The rug is a classic one from KAS in a slate blue Damask pattern.  The blue is such a great tone, and I think the variations in the pattern will prohibit dirt and stains from showing up too much (what can I say, life with two boys).
 I think it will wear well in the years to come.  I'll post some more pics when that desk finally arrives.
In the meantime, consider checking out Rug Expedition. They're a small, family-owned company that would be delighted to have your business.
Disclosure: I received an area rug from Rug Expedition.com in exchange for an honest review of the product.  All opinions are my own.

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!
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