Friday, February 29, 2008

Fontalicious Fun and Fancy Dog Crate Covers

This is one of those weeks where I have been busy every night. Last night I had Parent/Teacher conferences and was at school for 14 hours straight. The night before that was Women Cyclist Night at Wheat Ridge Cyclery. Ellie and I helped to represent the Junior National Cycling Association. The event was a blast. Colorado is a megacenter for amazing women cyclists and it showed. Nothing like hob-nobbing with the pros. We even got cool schwag (free giftie type stuff) from some of the vendors. Our favorite would have to be the multitool from Trek. The night before that I was Mama's Taxi Service which seems to be on call often. The night before that was Honor Court at Boy Scouts. Well, you get the idea... The end result is that I am stir crazy today. We still have stuff to do that will keep me away from where I can be creative. Thus, I must fulfill the need for creativity in another way. Today that way is inspirational links. First up is an amazing site, Kevin and I could spend lots of time on her blog. One section of her "What's New!" segment showcases the dog crate covers she made. Her scrapbooking room makes me inspired to clean mine. (I am pretty sure there is a table in there somewhere. I used to be more organized until I can kids!) She has a section called Fonts for Peas where she takes a person's handwriting and turns it into a font. I might have to try it. My fun handwriting might be too unruly for it to work. We'll see. Somehow I then found another fontalicious site with more free fonts such as Scriptina. That was found at Smash! magazine.It is serious fun!You might have to check those links out!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Essay Grading Bog and New Inspiration

I am one of those few people who knew what I wanted to be when I was about four years old. I knew I wanted to be a teacher, even before I had experienced many of them. In some ways I almost feel like it was a calling given to me from God. As I progressed through my schooling I tried it out; I was a peer tutor, I taught Sunday School, was a summer camp counselor, etc. It was when I was in high school that I had to figure out if I wanted to be an English teacher or an Art teacher. My art teacher told me I had the talent and the attitude for it, but that I would always worry that my job would be cut. And he was right. From time to time in Colorado the art positions have been removed from some districts for a while. Thankfully they all reintegrated art back into their schools - can you imagine life without art?! Okay, I digress, how unusual of me... Anyhow, when I was deciding no English teacher said, "Tammy, you could be a good English teacher, but, THINK OF ALL OF THE GRADING YOU WILL HAVE TO DO!!!" Amazingly, I got all the way through my B.A. without considering this. Grading kills me from time to time and this is one of those times. Essays are the worst. I actually enjoy reading them. They are like a little glimpse into the mind of the writer - I love that! I hate having to mark the various missing parts, the mechanical and usage errors - that's what it killing me these days. The kids groan when I assign and essay. I tell them I would rather write one good one than grade, oh, say, 80 of them. They don't think I am very funny when I say that. Today I am in a grading bog hell. I have to give myself little treats for getting an essay or two done. Grade two, look at a blog. Grade two more, go to the English office and look for goodies. You get the idea.I have eight left to grade before I am ready for writer's conferences tomorrow. Those will be enjoyable. In this process of cajoling myself to finish grading, I discovered a really cool, lovely, enviable blog called "A Bit East." I could not borrow a photo from her amazing site, so you will just have to see it for yourself. She is an inspiration! Okay, I can make it through this, only eight more to go... (reminds me of a Robert Frost poem, "...miles to go before I rest...")

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Big Catch - Or How to Have a Unique Birthday Party

There are times when you have to step back, put societal tradition aside and listen to your kids. Ellie's birthday was one of those times. She has had some birthdays were we hosted large parties. Other times she has shared her birthday with another friend that had a similar date, the two of them celebrating together with their friends. These were fun, but some were also stressful. There were times when the people at the party natural drifted off into clicks, which was hard for Ellie. She could not be with each group an equal amount of the time. When that happened some of the ones who got less of her time got mad. At the end of those parties Ellie was stressed and tired. Her energy had gone too much in that direction. She fixed that by celebrating with just one person for several years. That was enjoyable and caused less stress. This year she was ready for something different. She has plenty of friends who she loves, but who did not get invited. She was still legitimately worried about the clicks and who would fight with whom. She set that aside and decided to invite the people she hangs out with the most. I struggled a bit with it, worried that some of those friends will feel left out, but I had to let her do it her way. It is good to listen to her. As women we have so often been taught to follow rules and tradition, instead of listening to ourselves. While I certainly believe in tradition, I am happy that she has not lost herself to it, like I have from time to time. I took her lead and we all had fun.

Ellie will turn 11 on March 6th, but we will be full swing into the beginning of the biking season, so we decided she could have her birthday party with some of her friends early. This year is was the "88 Llamas," as they like to be known. I picked up the pack from school and headed to Bass Pro Shop. The kids enjoyed the displays, tried out boats, spent lots of time with the fish and had dinner in the restaurant in the store. We brought along the Red Velvet cake that Ellie and I made. We topped it with an old fashioned cooked frosting that she loves and dotted that with dark chocolate M&Ms. Later we went home to watch "Underdog" while munching on stove top popped corn. Each of the kids brought $10 to spend and each one picked out these fun, fluffy giant stuffed fish. She called it a "good catch" as you can see in the photo above. At home they had a fish fight and many of them used their new catch as a pillow once they conked out. At home even the dog got into the action!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Peeps Show

As I look at other people's blogs I must admit that I have a little spring envy. We might have a sneak peak of it this weekend. I am hopeful that I can get on my bike and ride outside, instead of on a trainer. I have also come across some fun links that I wanted to share. It seems that there is a Peep Diorama contest each year. I found last year's entries at this posting. Number 11 is my personal favorite, "Little Miss Peep." I think the Marilyn Monroe one was the actual winner. I also found the Peeps Diorama blog link. I will admit that it has gotten me think about Peeps differently.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake - or Muffins

Ellie's birthday is not actually until March, but we are going to have her birthday celebration with a small group of friends this Friday-Saturday. We thought it would be easier and more fun since she has not started back in on the racing, yet. Each year she tries to pick an unusual cake for her party. This year it is red velvet. Being the ever-baked-from-scratch kind of cook, I tried out two different recipes. Each of them was not a flop, but a disaster. If I was going for a erupting volcano disguised as a cake theme, then I would have hit the jackpot. Alas, that was not was I was looking for. Ellie then went back to the drawing board. I pulled out an old recipe that I had not made for many years. I remembered loving it, but actually forgot what it tasted like, so I made Oatmeal Chocolate Chip muffins, sans the walnuts. I thought she would go for it. Even though she ate three of the muffins within a hour of them coming out of the oven, she did not select this recipe as the birthday cake prized recipe for 2008. She thought about a giant cookie and ice cream sandwhich, but that had transportation issues since we want to take it to a restuarant. In the end she confessed that she liked Grandma Gay's Red Velvet Wonderful cake. My mom, ala Grandma Gay, is a make-from- a-box mix kinda' gal, so I knew it would be easy. We made it last night and will frost it today. Frosting frozen cakes is the best way to do it. It is a professional cake baker's secret. Those great cakes you get from the pros. are often made ahead of time and frozen, frosted and then thawed. (Wink,Wink - this is kind of a trade secret, so let's keep this on the down low...) Anyhow, here's the recipe that I bet you don't already have:

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake with Walnuts

1 3/4 cup Boiling Water
1 cup Oatmeal
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Sugar (I often leave this second cup of sugar out - they still taste great without it)
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1 3/4 cup Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 tablesppon Cocoa
12 oz. SemiSweet Chocolate Chips
3/4 cup Walnuts, chopped

Pour boiling water over the oatmeal, sugar and butter. Let it sit for ten minutes. Add eggs and mix well. Combine the dry ingredients, add to mix. Fold 3/4 of the bag of chocolate chips and the walnuts into the batter. Pour into greased and floured 9x13 pan, or into a muffin tin with muffin paper cups. Sprinkle the top with the remaining chocolate chips. A few bits of walnut can be great on top, too. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Fushia Rep Weave and Heroes

This has been the weekend I have been waiting for. We got a lot of work done, but we also had some fun. We slept in. We went grocery shopping at a liesurely pace. I finally got my loom dressed and I began to weave.
I love the way rep weave looks (also called rapsmatta weaving) so I read part of a book on the topic, talked to my weaving friend and gave it a go. I am not sure I am doing it correctly, but I am having fun doing it. It is turning out more fushia-ish than I had expected. I thought the purple would come through stronger. It reminds me of spring.
While I was weaving my kids watched "Heroes," a show on NBC about people with special powers. It is a silly premise, but the show is still fun to watch. I like the Japanese guy, Heroe, the best.
I also worked on a gift for a friend at work who is going to have a baby some time soon. I make a special photo album that features one page for each month for the first year of a baby's life. There are also a few other pages. I create the pages, list the month, do the embellishments, etch, but I do not attach the photo mats since I don't know which way the photos will be orientated. The idea is that you can put three photos in the book each month to chart the first year. It is a very popular present, especially among those who don't feel like they are very creative. I also make them for my friends when they become grandmothers.
And we played with the kitties a lot, of course.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

All You Need is Love - A Valentine Celebration

It's funny, I just wanted to have a nice family dinner and enjoy some togetherness for Valentine's day. I know that many people see it as a day to celebrate romantic love, but over time and with the help of my friends, it has grown to be something more like Thanksgiving - not a day of thankfulness, but a day of who I love, regardless of what kind of love it is. Anyhow, I digress, the evening turned out to be much more than that bit of togetherness. It much more. We started with a simple, but nice dinner followed by movie and some ice cream. I stopped by Baskin & Robin to get some of everyone's favorite. They were low on many flavors so we ended up with Mint Chocolate Chip. Then we began the movie, "Across the Universe." I love artsy movies, so I was excited to see it. Larr wanted to see it because of the Beatle's music. Larr and I, and sometime Ethan, sang our way through through the movie. We really enjoyed the movie and singing along, but most of all I loved how it reminded me of the history my husband and I share. We met on a blind date in 1983. In fact, our anniversary of meeting will be next week. The songs, covered by people other than theBeatles, reminded me of different times in our live together. Singing to overly loud music as we drove from college to home for the summer one year, to the songs we sing when we hike, to the songs we played at our wedding. Now the songs have become intertwined with the lives of our children. The first album Ellie put on her Ipod was a Beatle record. Ethan has nearly all of the songs on his laptop. I don't consider our family to be musically orientated, but maybe I may have to rethink that. The movie was enjoyable as a story, as eye candy and as a surprise walk down memory lane. I hope that your Valentine's Day was a good one, too.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Valentine Inspirations

These are items at The Great American Quilt Factory. I took photos of them when I was there last. I thought I better share them with you before tomorrow. Happy Getting Ready For Valentine's Day - I am hoping to whip up some fun stuff for my family this evening.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Going Warp Speed or How to Floss Your Cat's Teeth

Once I got over the need to change projects (as I mentioned in yesterday's post) I was ready to move full speed ahead. I had two beautiful, handdyed hanks of cotton/rayon fiber. I fell in love with them the first time I wandered around the store and signed up for the class I am now taking. I then would "visit" them from time to time, fondling them on occation. (If you don't love to work with fibers this may sound a bit weird, but it is all about the wonder of color and texture.) I finally decided to buy them a few weeks ago. Then I dye some mop cotton a bright fushia-ish color called Cotton Candy. I had hoped to get the loom dressed by the time I went to bed last night, but it did not happen. It turned out that it took me quite a while to wind the yarn into balls so that I could put them on the warp board. (The warp board is a way to get a large number of specifically measured pieces of yarn done in an efficient manner.) I wish you could see the colors better - what looks yellow in the photos is actually a wonderful bright, lime green. There are also subtle shades of light purple and a small bit of periwinkle in the yarn. It may have taken me a while to do this as I had a lot of help - furry help, that would be. You see, my cats felt the need to play with, taste and otherwise try to obscond with the yarn as I was working with it. I think over 100 yards of yarn must have flossed Toby's tiny feline teeth. In the end it all worked out just fine. I will have to zip home as quickly as possible in order to get the loom dressed in time for class tonight.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Getting Ahead of Myself & Listening to My Internal Voice

Last Tuesday I finished the weaving I made for Ethan. I promise to post a photo of it some time soon. I was happy to find that his was a little less bullet proof than the one I made for my sweet Ellie girl. My mother-in-law's birthday is coming up soon so I decided that the next project would be for her. She has a lovely dinning room that could use a table runner so I thought I would take up that project. Thinking fondly of the table runners we got from weaving friends for wedding gifts so many years ago I selected five cones of CotLin in her colors. Harriet, the shop owner, thought they would look lovely and that since I seem to be a natural weaver I would probably produce something great. I worked at the calculations and putting together the warp for a few hours. Then I began to dress my loom. It was then that I found that maybe this project was a bit of a leap for me. My others were done with wool that was much more chunky than the Cotlin. The CotLin is about as thick as dental floss. The other projects were around 80 ends. This project has 278 ends. As I began to dress the loom my brain and fingers grew tense. While I was handling the yarn correctly, it was being resistant and trying to tangle. It reminded me of a child who is long overdue for lunch. My internal voice reminded me that this is for fun, so it should be fun, not a long struggle. Wondering if there was a hint or trick that could make this easier, I called a friend and Aunt Lynne for advice. They assured me that it is good yarn, but maybe not the one for this project. After some discussion I decided to save the warp threads in a baggie and begin a different project. I think I will do a rep weave instead. I have already dyed the threads and collected all that I need. It will be fun. I made the mop cotton Cotton Candy (fushia-ish) and the other threads are handdyed with shades of royal purple, periwinkle-ish and lime green. It will be fun to make, but it will not be for Eleanor. Her colors are champayne, beige, gold and various shades of sage green. Her project will have to wait. I think I will be glad to have listened to my internal voice. Sometimes I can be stubborn and not accept that I can't do something. It is a small victory for me to say, enough already.

Friday, February 08, 2008

HeartLight and T.A. Barron - The Reading Conference

Each year I look forward to going to the local reading teacher's conference (CCIRA). Each year it is a bit larger.

One of my highlights is hearing what Jim Burke has to say. He is one of my heros in teaching. I think he is amazing.

I also look forward to meeting some of the authors whose books we read. This year the speaker was T.A. Barron. You might now him through his Young Merlin series. I have many of his books in my classroom. I have also had to replace a few of them as they got so much use. He was the lunch time speaker. He was enchanting and thought provoking. He talked about his family and how his five kids responded to the death of their grandfather. That part made me weep. The stories became, Where is Grandpa? He talked about writing Heartlight while his first baby girl slept next to him. He wanted to write a book with a female hero so that his daughter would know that women could be heros, too. That character's name is Kate. Kate was so compelling that she demanded three books be written about her. I find it a magical way to shoe your love for your daughter. He talked about letters he had received from his readers. One woman wrote to him about how that book helped her describe her young son's look in his eyes when her daughter asked about him. I had not known about this series, but am looking forward to reading them with Ellie. I wish I had the first book in the series, signed by him to give her as a special gift. He also talked about The Hero's Trail. It is a book about young heros, some who you might know about and many who would be new to you. I got a signed edition of this for our friend, Emily. He also talked about the young heros award he has created and named after his mother. I think Mr. Barron and his lovely family would make great dinner guests.

The evening ended with a person from Walden Media sharing copies of Prince Caspian and showing us the movie trailer. We also watched the trailer for Nim's Island. I had not been excited about that movie, but I have changed my mind.

I hope you enjoy the links. Perhaps it can help you feel a little like you got to go to the conference, too, minus that academic content, of course.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Valentine Inspriations!

I only have a few minutes to do an update. I wanted to share a few inspirational finds:

Heather Bailey has a fun Valentine project. The link shows the fun Valentine photos. She has a link to instructions on her sidebar.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Let the Indoor Training Begin, Ladies + a Recipe for Stuffed Apples

The racing season does not actually start until March, but the Lady Blacksheep want to get a jump on it so they began Friday evening indoor training sessions last week. It was more fun that I expected it to be. I might even join in next time I go. Ellie is in the back. They are working out to a "SpinerVals" DVD. They feature a bunch of people on trainers with a trainer. They go through a workout, complete with heart rate information, what gear you should be in, etc.
After the girls got done working out they had a fun snack of stuffed apples. Denise, the head coach for the girls' team told us the recipe:
Fun Stuffed Apples ala Denise
Cut the top off of the apple (making it look like a little jar) and hollow out some of the apple.
Combined natural peanut butter, honey roasted peanuts, chocolate chips, raisins and some honey and put it in the uncored apples. Replace the top of the apple. Eat and Enjoy!
They were a bit hit! Ellie made them twice already.
Ellie is looking forward to the next indoor training session.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Our Valentine Card Making Party

We had a wonderful time at our party the other night. Ellie tells me she thinks it is getting better every year. I am sure that is true. She is already planning next year and she is sure we will have to invite more people. I thought it would be fun for you to see some of the photos. One photo shows how we set up the places at the tables. We have supplies in the middle. This includes things like paper flowers, buttons, sequins, rubber stamps with stamp pads and/or brush markers, glue dots, tape runners, ribbon, stickers and so on. At each person's place you find a stack of 12 kinds of paper, two different idea sheets (Including one from Martha Stewart & Michael's), felt and 4 sets of cards. We also included scissors, paper punches and I had my Cricut machine available for use. The funny thing is that all but one person says that she is not creative, yet look at all of the beautiful cards! I don't actually make cards at my party;I am too busy helping, encouraging and admiring to focus on creating.