Monday, November 29, 2010

Off with their heads!

I've had this idea in my head for a long time to cut out my family's heads...
on paper.
And oh, how cute they turned out!

While painstakingly cutting around the little chin and nose of my toddler, I realized that making these silhouettes was great therapy.  His outline was so cute; his cheeks still have some baby chub to them!  And here I was getting impatient that he isn't acting like a big boy. Well he's not a big boy yet, and I don't want him to be. Not if it means he'll lose his adorable baby cheeks!
There was no way I could get mad at my children after memorizing their adorable little profiles.
It's great medicine for any frazzled mom. Just take some scissors to their little heads, on paper I mean, and you'll finish a cool, calm, and collected role model of a mother. :)

So here's how I made my silhouettes:
I took a profile picture of each member of the family (photo 1 below). It was very difficult to get the baby's photo (obviously), but my husband's as well!  He had the kids in stitches with all his goofy and grotesque faces. I threatened to use one of the silly ones on my wall and he stood still long enough for me to snap the picture.  Boys! I tell ya!
Then I cropped each photo to a 6 x 8 inch size, trying to keep the heads all relative, and printed each one (photo 2). The goal here is to just get the outline of each head, the rest doesn't matter.

I taped each head to a piece of black card stock paper and carefully cut out the profile (photo 3). You can try using a craft knife on a self-healing mat, but that didn't work for me. In this photo, I have my baby's head already cut out and am starting on the toddler's. Be sure to include all the little idiosyncrasies that make each child unique, especially wayward hair!
Next I taped each silhouette to a 6 x 8 inch white piece of card stock paper.  This I then taped to an 8 x 10 inch piece of scrapbook paper (photo 4). Obviously the scrapbook paper is optional, but I wanted a bit of color on my wall and a unique design to go with each person's silhouette.

Each silhouette then went into a black frame, and voila! Here is the finished product!

I need to pick up two more black frames, then decide how to arrange these on my dining room wall.  Should I go with a 3 x 3 arrangement, such as in the first picture above?
Or should I line them all up in a row?
Or should I arrange them like this?

I think that I'm kind of leaning towards this last arrangement.  It reminds me of a family tree.
I am so pleased with how these turned out!  I think that I am going to re-do these every couple years (that's why I simply taped the papers rather than glued them).  And my kids absolutely love them too!  Connor asked me if he could hang his on the wall in his room above his bed. Then, the other day when I walked into the living room, the kids were playing with each frame, "walking" them around and having conversations with them.

"Look Mom! We are walking this way!"

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

I am thankful for many things. The top two things however, are my faith, and family and friends.  If I had nothing else but these two...then I'd be okay.

Friends are a blessing. (I'm wishing I had a photo of another good friend)
Thankfulness is something we all strive to teach our kids. What better time than Thanksgiving? At the dinner table this year, try this activity that I enjoyed last year: take turns going around the table and saying what you are thankful for.  It's fun to see what your children will come up with!

I found these two letters on my computer from two years ago:

I am thankful for my friends, Demetrius and Derek and little Sean and big Sean. I like Miles too. I love to play with them.
I am thankful for my books. I love to read.
I am thankful for my family because they help me learn.
I am thankful that God made me and that he made people.
I am thankful that God made light and the sun so that we can see.
Connor, Age 4

I am thankful for T-Bone and Derek because I like to play with them.
I love Jesus. I am thankful for Him.
I am thankful for my family.
I can’t go far away from my toys.
Aubrey, Age 3

Ha! I love the part about the toys. 

I just asked my current three year old what he is thankful for.  His response:
" Donovan.  Ummm food. Aubrey. Connor. Dad and Mom. I'm thankful for cups because I drink out of them."

I love toddlers.  They are so practical! :)

Happy Thanksgiving!  Enjoy your families and enjoy your food! 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

B's Senior Photoshoot

This beautiful girl...

is a High School Senior,

and is soon to be a High School Graduate (yes, in December).

She has all her ducks in a row and will graduate one semester early. Way to go!!

The future is yours! May the years ahead of you hold happiness and success!

Monday, November 22, 2010

DIY - chair make-over

Remember last week's DIY project where I gave the little dresser a new look?
This cute chair was purchased at the same time as that dresser.

Goodwill find #2: a wood high chair/stool with a bad paint job.

Sanding this was too much work with all the contours, so I just skipped that and went right to primer (I bought a quick drying spray primer). My first plan was to paint this with a brush. Boy am I glad I didn't go that route! I used an enamel spray paint so that it will be easy to wipe clean. I love spray paint. It's quick, it's easy, it paints legs and spindles smoothly, and it's cheap!  This chair now looks "good as new!"

With my three year old sometimes standing on his knees to eat his meals, 
I thought this chair would be a big hit.  I thought correctly.

And I think it's safe to say that it's a big hit with my one year old as well!

Isn't he the cutest kid you've ever seen? ;)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Fresh Pumpkins Make the Best Pie!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, time to bake those pumpkins!
And before you dismiss the idea completely for its difficulty, I urge you to try it once if you haven't already.  You just might become hooked once you eat a made-from-scratch pumpkin pie.

You need a pumpkin. Mine is a pie pumpkin, or small sugar pumpkin (photo 1), they are darker in color and sweeter than the large decorative pumpkins.
Cut the pumpkin in half, and remove all the seeds and strings.  This is the hardest part. See the gooey, grimy, gopher guts (photo 2). Sorry, I couldn't resist.
Save the seeds if you want to rinse, dry, and roast them or if you want to dry them for planting next year. I roasted mine. Half of the seeds were seasoned with paprika and chili powder, the other half were tossed in cinnamon (or pumpkin pie spice) and sugar. Get creative!  Bake the seeds in one layer on a greased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
Back to the pumpkin: Place your pumpkin halves face down in a baking dish and fill the dish with a little bit of water. This helps keep the pumpkin flesh moist (photo 3).  Bake at 375 degrees for 45 - 60 minutes, or until its easy to pierce with a fork.
Once cool, scrape the flesh out of the pumpkin and puree in a food processor (photo 4). This pumpkin yielded about 2 cups pumpkin puree.

Now we're talking! Lets bake!

One of my favorite pumpkin recipes is Harvest Loaf Muffins. Beware, though, they are addicting! See the recipe over on Jessica's blog.

This pumpkin puree, however, is going in a pie - a caramel-pecan pumpkin pie to be specific.
Are you in charge of pies this year for Thanksgiving?  Here's a yummy variation to the traditional pumpkin pie:

Caramel-Pecan Pumpkin Pie

1 pie crust
2 slightly beaten eggs
1 15-oz can pumpkin, or about 2 c. pureed pumpkin
1/4 c. half-and-half, light cream, or milk
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. allspice
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. chopped pecans
2 Tbsp. butter, softened

In a large bowl stir together eggs, pumpkin, and half-and-half. Stir in the granulated sugar, flour, lemon peel, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Pour pumpkin mixture into your pastry lined pie plate. To prevent over-browning, cover edge of pie with foil. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl stir together the brown sugar, pecans, and butter until combined. Remove foil. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture over top of pie. Bake for 20 minutes more or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean and topping is golden and bubbly. Cool on wire rack. Cover and refrigerate within 2 hours.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Tale of an Attempted Photo Shoot

I had two goals this last Sunday: to get out of the house and enjoy the beautiful weather while it lasted, and to get a good photo of my kiddos for a Christmas card.

We decided to go for a hike. I wasn't sure that 'hike' and 'nice family photo' were synonymous, but I was determined, the day was supposed to be in the 50's after all!
So I chose some half-way coordinating clothes for the kids to wear, filled some water bottles, and loaded the child carriers into the van.
As we were pulling off our road, I realized that the hike we had chosen was at 8,450 feet.  It was bound to be cooler there than at home.  We turned around and grabbed additional sweaters for everyone. Okay, good to go. Mental note - take the pictures before everyone's noses turn bright red.

Our destination was the Veit Springs Trail in the San Francisco Mountains.
It was beautiful up there, and cool.  Once we were all bundled up and had the baby loaded up, it didn't make sense to undo the work just for a picture.  So off we hiked.

 After one wrong turn, we found our way back to the trail and came across some old stone well houses.  The kids had fun exploring these, as well as the log cabin that was built in 1892 (which has long since fallen down).

The boy who loves rock climbing. Then again, what boy doesn't?
What's a hike without a walking stick?

 Please note: I have a three year old boy. A boy that has recently learned to use the toilet. A boy that says "I have to go pee!" every time we are in some new, cool place.
This boy can now add a cave to all the fun places he has tinkled.

After we were done exploring and peeing in dark places, we attempted to get some pictures.
After this shot, I said, "Oh, that looks nice. Now you hop out of the picture Dean, and I'll try take it quick before Donovan cries."

Or Not!

My son took a couple photos of Dean and I, but since none of them were in focus, we fell back on the distorted close up you always get when you hold the camera out and take the picture yourself.
I really don't think our noses are this big, but at least they aren't red!

Well, lets keep hiking then.  Sweater's go back on, child goes back in the carrier.
"Oh, this looks nice,"  I said once again a little later.
So I unload baby, take 20 photos of the same pose, sigh about the no longer half-way coordinating outfits since two kids are wearing their sweaters, and load the now-fussing baby back into the carrier.
The things we do to get a decent family photo!!

But hey, I accomplished both my goals for the day.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and I should have one good photo out of the 20 I took.
And no, you may not see it, it's not Christmas-time yet!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why would you lie to your children?

"Shhh! Stop that! If you don't be stop that right now, the Boogey Monster is going to come and get you!"

This is what I heard a man telling the toddler in his arms. Seriously! That is what he said!
Why would you lie to your children? Why!?
I think that lying to your child is a terrible parenting method. If you can even call it a method. 
It teaches your children that it's okay to lie.  
Some day they will grow up and realize that there is no such thing as a boogey monster, but you told them there was! So it must be okay to lie. We all know that kids learn best by example. They mimic all the adults and other people around them.  Have you ever seen a toddler pick up a phone, hold it to their ear, and start pacing while jabbering?  Yeah, that's what Mom and Dad do.  And if you lie to them to get them to do what you want??? That's asking for trouble! They will start doing the same - lying to get what they want.
In this case, I think that the parent is also telling his child that he is not important or valuable to him (the parent).  I doubt that the man stopped to wonder why his child was complaining.
If he was hungry, tired, or needed a diaper change, and he was letting Dad know, the response he got from Dad just told him that his needs are not valid.  What a way to build self esteem!

A few years back, Dean and I were planning on going out with the other grown-ups in the family, and we were all leaving our kids at Grandma's with a babysitter. As we were getting ready to go, one of the kids asked, "Where are you going?"
Someone immediately jumped in and said, "Nowhere." 
As if that was going to work! They realized that and said something like, "Oh nowhere fun, they're just going to the doctor to get shots."
First of all, kids have an uncanny ability to see through lies, whether they are big or small ones.
Second of all, I don't lie to my kids. Period.
"No," I said, "We are going out."
I explained to the kids in a simple, matter of fact way where and why we were going, gave them my expectations of them, and told them when we'd be back home.
The kids accepted our reason (with a few tears I'm sure) but they knew it was the truth! 

Here is an added benefit of us always telling our kids the truth, especially when we are leaving them: 
they start to think of others!
While at the lake this past summer, Dean and I were taking turns bringing the kids out on the inflatable boat. My oldest piped up, "Mom, next time you and Dad go on a date, you should come to the lake so you can go boating together."

That day he put a grin on my face that still surfaces when I think about it!

because what's a post without a picture?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

DIY - reform a dresser

Feeling crafty, I picked up some furniture at Goodwill last week with the intention of giving them a new life. My Saturday was planned - spray painting, some more painting, and willing the sun to shine long enough for it all to dry.
That morning though, my hubby woke up and stated his intent to go work on our rental house, and did I want to go along?  I questioned what exactly he was planning to do. "Oh, just clean up a bit, and see what needs fixing," he said.
No. I really didn't feel like going anywhere. I was eager to finish said projects.
"Can the work wait until next weekend, when we are planning on heading down that way anyway?" I asked.
No reply.
"Well, I don't understand why you are going to drive an hour and a half when there's nothing specific that needs fixing, but okay..."
No reply.
It must be a guy thing. Go on, go work with your hands, I thought. If that's what makes you happy.  
But in all fairness, when I thought about my projects, I started to understand.
He takes pride in keeping his house in shape.  I take pride in keeping my home organized. 
There you have it. And since the house we own is currently not our home, we each went our separate ways, enjoying our day nonetheless.

Here is one of my Goodwill finds: a little 3-drawer dresser, pretty ugly and scratched up, but solid wood.
After sanding it down with a belt sander, I used wood filler on the two holes and drilled a new hole in the center of the drawers. By the way, have you ever used power tools? It's quite fun and it makes you feel...powerful. Anyhow, I then applied primer, two coats of antique white, semi-gloss paint, and the new hardware.
Ta-Da! The finished product is cute, yes?

I knew exactly where I'd use it.  With cold weather blowing in, I had hats and mittens littering my entry bench. So this dresser's new home is in our front room, and in its drawers hide the winter paraphernalia.
I love it!

This project took several days to complete.  First off, its fall, and the days don't get very warm here in Flagstaff in November.  The can read that the paint must be applied between 50 and 90 degrees. That meant I had about 2 hours each day in which to paint, and with three coats of paint to apply that meant three days of mess on the back patio. Secondly, in case anyone has forgotten, I still have four children. They don't disappear when I want to paint (darn it anyway). So Saturday saw me painting while the kids jumped on the trampoline and ran all around me.  One of their stunts was to start in the house and then run out the door, across the patio and lawn, and onto the trampoline, which just happens to be the same level as half of the yard. Just as I was about to paint the last drawer, my oldest smacked his toe on the door jam and started screaming bloody murder. Oh great! I set down my brush to go inside and tend to his cut.

When I stepped back outside, this is what I saw...
actually, the drawer was knocked over too
"Why are you taking pictures?" my puzzled daughter asked me.
"Because I'd rather take pictures of the mess than cry," I said.

Monday, November 15, 2010

KB Family Photoshoot

A few months ago, I did my first family photo-shoot (of a family other than my own).  I did not want it to be my first shoot, since technically they paid for their pictures (it was a service auction for our church), but the timing just never worked out with the other family I arranged to shoot. 
Ha! Shoot. Yikes, how do you word that one?  
Anyhow, it was a lot of fun, and a learning process for me. 

Here's the "Queen" of the family, as Mom likes to call her.

I know who the boss of this family is! And she looks loved to bits too!
This is such a cute family.
Mom and Dad are so easy going...
 and fun!

Thanks for letting me share these pictures, K and B! And thanks for trusting me to take your pictures, amateur that I am. :)  

Friday, November 12, 2010

Vegetable Alfredo Lasagna

My kids do not eat vegetables.
Do your kids eat them?
I have three picky eaters.
Where'd I go wrong?
Anyway, they (my kids) sent me to the library, saying 
"Mom read this book!  We know we should eat, but you are doing it all wrong!"

This book has a lot of great advice.  It's a method for meal times that is stress-free. Its great! If you can get your childhood out of your head and remember not to say, "If you don't eat your dinner, no dessert for you!" 
I guess I need to tell them to buy the book for me so I can make it my new centerpiece.

Anyway, back to vegetables, which my kids won't eat...
unless they are in this Vegetable Alfredo Lasagna! And its packed full of spinach!
This is a delicious recipe. While its a bit of work, its worth it!

Vegetable Alfredo Lasagna

9 lasagna noodles
1/2 c. chopped onions
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1-2 carrots, shredded
4 c. fresh, chopped spinach, or
  10-oz pkg. chopped frozen spinach, 
  thawed and squeezed dry
1 c. chopped broccoli
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
17-oz. jar Alfredo sauce, divided
15-oz. carton ricotta cheese
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
1 egg
2 c. shredded Colby, or Monterey Jack cheese
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

Cook the lasagna noodles, set aside.
In large skillet, cook onion and garlic in olive oil until crisp-tender. Add carrots, spinach, broccoli, salt, and pepper.
Remove 1/2 c. Alfredo sauce for the bottom of your 9 x 13 pan. Stir remaining sauce into skillet. Mix and heat thoroughly. Set aside.
Combine ricotta and Parmesan cheeses, egg, and Colby or Mont. Jack cheese in a large bowl. Mix well.
Layer noodles, one-third of the cheese mixture, and one-third of the Alfredo sauce mixture into your pan. Repeat layers. Top with mozzarella cheese.
Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake 10-15 minutes more.

Note: I sometimes add chopped, cooked chicken to this recipe. It pleases Dad that way too! :)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Photoshop Elements Post

- because I was so excited about my discovery: clipping or grouping.  I knew how to merge layers in Photoshop, I never knew how to clip them. In case that means nothing to you, let me just tell you that it has enabled me to create my own stroyboard template! After doing a couple family portrait photo shoots this fall, I was looking around for a good storyboard template.  All I could find as a free download was this basic, four photo template.
our family's photo-shoot October 2009
And while this is all well and good, it's typical that I have multiple poses I want to show, or many fun shots from a trip.  I needed a bigger storyboard.  Yesterday, while learning some digital scrapbooking tricks, I realized I could apply the clipping method to a storyboard.  All I needed was a shape, and I could clip a photo to it without having to try crop the photos to just the right size. 
family trip to San Diego, CA 

It will be fun to create more templates! 
I'm off to play some more (and I now admit to being a photoshop nerd!)

Whole Different Ball Game

Ever been in a situation when in just a fraction of a second, your mind swirls with several alternative ways to deal with something? Here's a story of mine I found from a couple years back.

With Brant sleeping contently in my baby wrap against my chest, my sisters and I were enjoying the warm sunshine and visiting while walking along Lynx Creek. The kids alternated between splashing in the creek and running ahead of us on the trail, having a grand time calling to each other about the treasures they found. 

When it came time to leave, Aubrey was, of course, reluctant to leave the water and was working up a crying fit, ready to throw herself on the ground if she had to. 
So I said "Aubrey it's time to go. Do you want to hold my hand or Tasha's hand on the way back to the van?"
She decided she would hold Tasha's hand and came along quite willingly.

"You see," I told my sister "the trick to dealing with toddlers is to give them a choice. They feel more in control of the situation and are more likely to cooperate if they have an option."
Aubrey was skipping along, the creek and her stones forgotten.

"I'm slowly learning all the parenting methods when it comes to toddlers," I said.
"Yeah, you'll have it all figured out by the time you have you're tenth one!" laughed sis.
"Well by then, I'm going to have to figure out a whole different ball game - teenagers!" I said. 

As we were talking, we came upon a young man baiting his small son's fishing pole. I noticed them and continued to explain to Tasha, 
"Well by the time I'm on only my ninth one, these three will all be teenagers"

A man's voice, sounding quite shocked, said "Ninth?!?"

I froze in midstep and sentence for a millisecond. Oh my gosh, I thought, he heard us! He is going to think I'm a lunatic. Do I laugh it off and say I'm just kidding? Do I say yeah, unfortunaltely I'll probably have nine, don't you feel sorry for me? Or do I act like its something every mother out there wants and have a positive comeback?

The beautiful day had affected my mood. I chose honesty and the latter. "I hope to have that many," I said in an upbeat tone.
To my astonishment and delight, the man grinned, then laughed.
"That's awesome!" he said. "Good luck!"

"Thank you" I replied with a pleased smile. 

All this time I don't think we stopped walking, and we all laughed our way back to the parking lot. There was a lightness in my step after our short exchange and I am eternally thankful that the nameless man had the good grace to tell me good luck instead of scoff.
Spring of 2008

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Here goes nothing

 I've been thinking about blogging for a few weeks now. I didn't want to start for two reasons:
 #1 because it seems so popular and #2 because I am busy enough already. 
But I love to write. And I love to take pictures.  And I love to share what I've learned. 
So, here goes nothing!