Sunday, September 28, 2008

Disney Book - A Great Beginning

Finding the perfect present for a parent is hard. Sometimes it feels nearly impossible. This year I have it all figured out.

When my Uncle Earl died a number of years ago he left my mother a bit of money. She had a dream that the family would go to Disneyland for a vacation. This inheritance made that possible. She saved the money for several years, waiting for the cousins to get old enough to enjoy and remember the vacation. My sister's kids had never been farther than an hour or two from home. I am not sure my brother's kids had ever been anywhere beyond Colorado and Wyoming. Indeed, many of them had never been on an airplane. It was a big deal. It was to be the trip of a life time - and it was! To mark and celebrate that occasion I am making a photobook for my mother for Christmas. After doing lots of research I have decided to go with Shutterfly. I was most impressed that they provided templates and guidelines to ensure your book would be lovely. Another bonus is that you can opt to have a full color wrap around cover at a reasonable price point.

It is a huge task. I have waded through the photos and made many bunches of related photos. From there I put them onto blank pages. Next, I tried to decided how I wanted to embellish them. I looked at tons of examples. I was feeling a bit intimidated by the whole digital scrapbooking thing. Then I found the solution when I was looking through the Shutterfly gallery. I search "Disney" and found many great ways to tackle such a project. In the end I decided on a very simple manner. Each page will have a backing that is an enlarged, very lightened photo. The full color, regularly sized images go on top of that and then the journaling is added. I was thrilled when I found a Walt Disney font from

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Continual Search for Fonts - A Fun Link

I have a life long love affair with fonts, typography, and things where they intersect. I think a girl cannot have too many fonts on her computer, especially if she has some sort of font manager(which I have yet to get). Fonts make me happy. When I design a new unit for my students I make sure everything for that unit has the same font and that each unit has a different one. I get MANY, MANY, MANY of my fonts from defont.come and they work great! This week I discovered a new one, MyFont. I think it is German. I was thrilled when I found that they offer a Walt Disney font since I am working on our photoalbum of our family trip from two summers ago. (I know, I am behind - it comes from having to work, raise kids, you know how it goes.) If you love fonts, you might want to check it out, too. There is enough English that you'll be able to figure it out, just be sure to scroll down past the advertisements.

Enjoy! (I know I do!)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Baby Squirrel Update - or- Hey, Is that a Squirrel on Your Head?

If you follow my blog you will know that my neighbors are raising two baby squirrels that had fallen(or perhaps were pushed or plucked out by a nasty, mean magpie) out of their nests. You can read about it and see the before photos in this posting. Now, much to our collective amazement, both are thriving. We love to go see,hold and feed them. The smaller one is such a champ. He has grown fur and opened his eyes. His little face is so sweet. His eyes are that same blurry blue-black color of a new human baby. He likes being able to see. It makes eating so much easier. He likes to snuggle in my hands since they are so warm. Then he crawls up into my hair and that is where he is happiest. He cuddles in, making a grunty purring like noise of contentment. He is at the stage where he eats, sleeps and goes to the bathroom. Growing up is such big business.

The older one is a small brown and orange comedian. James and Midge build an imitation of a tree (made from various branches they cut from their trees) that hangs from the ceiling. His nest is made from an old, wool purse that is strung in the crook of two branches. One of his favorite games it to hide in his bed. He makes a small noise that seems to mean that you need to come near. If you poke your finger in there he will poke his head out. It seems that it is almost a squirrel version of "Hide & Seek." He loves his people. If you walk under the "tree" you must be ready to suddenly find a squirrel riding atop your head. Another fun game is to jump from your shoulder to the nearby coat rack. Who knew a squirrel would be so social?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cyclocross Season Finally Begins

We love cyclocross season.It is kind of like off roading on your bike. The course today was full of bumps and a few tight turns accented by tufts of mowed down wild grasses. There was also a stint through a dried up dam of some sort. As tough as those sound, I think the toughest part might have been the thick, wet grass on the football field. I was very proud of how well my kids performed. Ethan came in fourth place after racing on a flat for the last 20 minutes of the race. (He was out there for about 26 minutes). If we had a set of spare wheels this could have been dealt with. I was not expecting this problem since we put Mr. Tuffy's Tire Liners and Slime filled tubes on his tires. But, technical issues are all part of the game. Ellie came in third. The finish was tight. She saved herself with a strong sprint at the end. It's good to be back to racing. As nice as it is to have weekends that are not dominated by races, it is fun to go. This weekend has been a nice mix. Yesterday Ethan and Ari went fishing in Kitteridge while Ellie, Anna, her mom, Laura, and I went fund raising for "Pedaling for Pennies." She is trying to raise enough money to win a nice winter team jacket and her team dues paid for a year. Each girl raised $86 and were happy that people were so generous.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pedaling For Pennies - a Benefit Ride Completed

I am proud of my little (okay, not so little) cherubs. Saturday was Pedaling For Pennies. It is fundraiser for the team. It benefits our team, junior cycling in Colorado and research to help limit Childhood Diabetes. The kids asked people to pledge money for the number of miles they road in the benefit. Ethan completed the entire 128 miles, coming in two hours faster than the year before. This year he didn't even look all that tired, though he had a serious case of hat hair! Ellie's group managed 113 miles since road repairs got underway on the course. If there had been more time they might have made a detour, but the end time was looming and so they got picked up. The girls were happy with how far they made it. Last year they only did 67 miles. (Yeah, look at me, "they ONLY did 67 miles," that is some serious mileage, too.) I am so proud of how well they did. They are now going to collect the money they earned. If they can raise $1,000 between the two of them we will get team fees paid for a year, and a special Blacksheep Cycling Limited Edition jacket to boot.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Zucchini & Garlic Soup Recipe & Our Vegetable Garden

Our garden, like so many of our friend's gardens, has taken off at a full run. It is both rejuvenating to see so much life and growth out in our little dirt patch, and a little chaotic. You could loose a small child or animal in all that foliage. Luckily, I don't have to worry. All children, large or small, who wander in our vegetable garden somehow find their way back out.

The most successful item this year, as it has been for so many years, is the sunflowers that are planted dutifully by the birds each year. I enjoy then and then when they get watered too much or there has been a big rain, they fall over from the sheer top heavy weight of their cheerful flowers and ample leaves. I trim off the flower and buds, bringing them inside to enjoy until the life has left them dried and drooping. I actually thing the veggies are happy for it. The humongous sunflower plants are show stealing divas.

With the garden abundance comes zucchini by the truckload. Okay, not actually, but it is very available. Yesterday a friend of mine, Kirsten, sent me her new favorite recipe. It was turning gloomy and setting up for a long rain, so I thought I would give it a go. Her recipes are ALWAYS great. I made it, served it up with a sliced, buttered and toasted loaf of lovely sourdough bread and it was gone in no time. Thus, I decided that I needed to make a recipe card of it to share. You can copy it and have it printed as you would a 4X6 photo, or you can click on it (which opens it in a new window) and print it out. I hope you enjoy it as much as we have. I think I will give a copy of the recipe to all my vegetarian friends.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Street Car Drags - Street Tuner Mayhem at Bandimere

Bandimere is a local drag strip. It must be a pretty important/good one since it hosted some sort of national competition this last summer. Ellie's friend, Christy, lives a few miles east of it and on some nights they can hear the roar of the engines. We pass it on our way to many different places. Each time we pass it Ellie declares that she wants to go. When Bob, Ethan's boss, offered us free tickets Ellie and I took the opportunity to go.

We had a good time. I spent some time on the tracks when I was growing up since my father paints race cars for a living. I was surprised how much I remembered and how it felt. I both enjoyed it and missed the fact that my father is not part of my life. It creates an ache in me that can only be fixed by him. Ellie enjoyed it, but it was not quite what she was expecting. After questioning her, I realized that what she wants to see is a real drag race, with dragsters with parishoots and the whole deal. This set of races was for anyone who wanted to show up, pay up and go. The trends were a bit surprising. The fast looking cars with nice paint jobs or the sports cars were often the slowest. A lime green VW Bug beat a Porsche. A big stomper truck so jack up that you needed a ladder to get in beat many other small, light cars. There were station wagons, SUVs and a lot of little, old cars that looked like junkers. One of the top cars was a hatch back wind-up looking car most likely from the 1970's. The paint job was awful with black spray paint over primer, but boy was it fast! It could do the 1/4 mile in 10.2 (which translates to 139 mph!) In fact, most of the winning cars were like that. It was clear that most, rather all of them, spent their money on the engine and not the paint job. After a while we wander around at the car show portion. She loved the auto stereo section. I didn't like the way the bass thumped in my chest and was pushing to move on. We both thought the remote control drifter cars looked like a lot of fun, but we could not play since we did not have any cars of our own. We checked out the cars. Many had the hoods up to show off their sparkly clean and apparently impressive engines. A few of the guys even set up little venues with the cars on carpets bedeck led with statues, fake gem stones and signage. A few looked like their were gussied up for the red carpet awards. Our favorite was the cool low rider truck you can see in the photos I've posted above. Another part,which we both thought was tacky, was the Miss Whoocie, oh no, I mean Miss Street Tuner competition. The girls paraded themselves around wearing skirts so short that my kitchen towel has more cloth to it. They had push up bras and nearly nothing their panties. Their butts hung out way past their "skirts" and they still felt the need to bend over often. They also strutted around in their stiletto heels. I was disgusted and made Ellie promise that she would never demean herself like that. She laughed and reminded me that she wears long boy's swimming trunks over her girl's swim suit. We stayed a bit longer and enjoyed the "burnout" contest. The goal is to produce a longer, more impressive plume of smoke from your tires than anyone else. You can see the winning car above. As he drove off his tires popped. Let's hope that he was the winner who got a new set of tires since he will need them to get home.

It was time well spent with my girl. We had fun and now she knows what that is all about.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ellie - My Girl is Nearly a Young Lady

So many of the recent posts have been about Ethan. Ellie's turn has come. Trying to capture who she is in a few words in blog is impossible, but I would like to try.

Ellie, at 11 1/2, is on the cusp of becoming a young woman. She is standing at the bridge, crossing over from being a little girl to being a wonderful young woman. Some days she tests the waters, taking on responsibilities that she would have shunned just a few months ago. Other times she is still flitting around, afraid to go into the basement alone or having a fit. At times I almost think I could see the change if I could just stand and watch her for long enough. She simply does not stay put long enough for that. I see her being thoughtful, solving problems and taking charge, leading. I see how she tries to be patient with her younger, more squirrely friends, remembering what it was like to be that age. I see her personal strength, physically and emotionally. I see her stubborn nature easing into personal resolve that will help her meet her goals and find success in endeavors that are important to her. I see how she can be empathic. I also see how she can try and make things go her way.

Sometimes life gets in the way of the plan I have and the time I wish we had to fulfill them. So often she has an idea or plan and I have work to do. Other times I have set time aside for the two of us only to find that she already has other things in the works. It seems that life is just flying by. I try to capture it, like a bird trying to fly away, and enjoy it before it is gone. We have so many young people in our lives who have recently become adults and embarked on their own journeys. They remind me how fleeting our time is. Much of what I feel is summed up in "Slipping Through My Fingers" by Abba. (Sometimes I get teary eyed when I listen to it)

Schoolbag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning
Waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile
I watch her go with a surge of that well-known sadness
And I have to sit down for a while
The feeling that I'm losing her forever
And without really entering her world
I'm glad whenever I can share her laughter
That funny little girl

Slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
The feeling in it
Slipping through my fingers all the time
Do I really see whats in her mind
Each time I think I'm close to knowing
She keeps on growing
Slipping through my fingers all the time

Sleep in our eyes, her and me at the breakfast table
Barely awake, I let precious time go by
Then when shes gone theres that odd melancholy feeling
And a sense of guilt I cant deny
What happened to the wonderful adventures
The places I had planned for us to go
(slipping through my fingers all the time)
Well, some of that we did but most we didn't
And why I just don't know

Slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
The feeling in it
Slipping through my fingers all the time
Do I really see whats in her mind
Each time I think I'm close to knowing
She keeps on growing
Slipping through my fingers all the time

Sometimes I wish that I could freeze the picture
And save it from the funny tricks of time
Slipping through my fingers...

Slipping through my fingers all the time

Schoolbag in hand she leaves home in the early morning
Waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile...

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

My Boy Turns 15 - Wait! Am I Old Enough to Have a 15 year old!?

It is humbling to think that my boy is 15 years old today. I simply don't feel old enough for that to be happening, nor am I ready for him to be that close to being adult who moves away. (This is on my mind as one of our young friends left home to move to Oregon on Tuesday) On the other hand, I am really proud of who he is. I know I am biased, but I see him as a really good, honest and loving person. Being a high school teacher I am so aware of how this road to adulthood can turn dark and murky. Many good kids get lost or led astray. I know, I specialize in working with those kids. Many of them find their way back, a bit battled and scared, but still good people who have a new lens through which they see the world. I know that you can be a wonderful, involved parent and still have your child lost in that muck. I know that many kids survive and thrive in spite of the awful parents they have. Kids are so magical that way.

I love and of proud of my son because he is such a good person who has made great choices so far. He is honest, when many his age are stealing and dealing. He is trying to live an active and healthy life. He has given up soda (okay, well, most days he has) while others his age are trying to give up drinking and drugs. He honors and respects his friends, what they bring into his life and how they enjoy what he offers. He honors and respects his family. He still enjoys spending time with us and is not embarrassed to be seen with us in public, while many of the kids his age act like they spontaneously arrived on Earth without parents. I love how he loves his pets. How he makes toys for the cats, loves on his dog and helps injured animals. I love how creative and thoughtful he is. He has such a rich imagination that he can describe his ideas, inventions and stories in vivid detail.This is not to say that he does not have his bad side, because believe me, he does. He can be moody and bossy, but what would the teen years be without a little angst? I have loving excitement and anticipation to see what he will be come - that (not so little any more) man of mine.

Happy Birthday, My fine young man.
A side note about Ellie. I know that many of these recent posts have just been about Ethan. Ellie is around and largely hanging low. She has taken her turn at being ill for about a week. She recovered just in time to cash in the Water World pass she won at the library. But wait, I will tell that story soon, maybe even tomorrow.

Monday, September 01, 2008

DNC - Ethan's First Concert & Protest March

It seems amazing to think that a week ago our town was abuzz with the Democratic National Convention (DNC). Most of us avoided downtown. Many of the businesses had their employees take the week off or work from home. The DNC took over the town, literally. The organizers even added 40 vendor carts on the outdoor mall and added many beautification's like 200 new boxes of flowers. On Wednesday Ethan joined Aubrey, Jesse and a few others to attend a free concert at the Denver Colosseum (intended for things like rodeos and cattle sales)and then they marched to the Pepsi Center. It was Ethan's first concert. (I think that was a pretty cool way to start your concert-going experience!) There were four bands playing. Two were good local bands (whose names I can't remember). The big bands were "Rage Against the Machine" and "Flobots." Ethan likes the "Flobots" and was excited to see them live. The quality sound of the music was poor, but he still had a grand time. Larr went to the concert with the kids, just in case something went awry and people got arrested. The concert was so loud that even as Larr had his hands over Ethan's ears he could feel the bass sound waves travel through Ethan's mouth and nose, bounce against Ethan's eardrums and exit. Ethan thought it was awesome. Each of the bands announced that they would help lead the non-violet protest. After it was over they meet thousands of people for the four hour + march to the Pepsi Center.

The weather was hot but the marchers did not seem to care. The streets were lined with police in riot gear, swat members riding the streets on horses, motocross motorcycles and on foot. The horses had their own special gear, as you can sort of see in the photo. Ethan says the horses also had massive shin guards. Most of the policemen were pretty cool about it all, as you can see in the photo with Ethan and one of the officers. They all looked like Stormtrooper, so much so that the crowd began chanting the "Star Wars Imperial March" theme song. As the crowd moved down the street the Swat and police members would line the streets and follow behind them. When they passed alleyways they would see groups of 15-20 of them peacefully standing in wait. The business areas had been blocked off with chain link fences. There was also a group of police officers who would move the barriers so that people could not double back. The organizers had created a place called the "Freedom Cage." The idea was that people could go there to protest, but the protesters would have none of it. Ethan says that people only went into there to party. It was a large (say 1/2 block) surrounded by a very high chain link fence, barred wire and concrete barriers. About eight feet out there was another set of fences, barriers,etc. so that the media could not get close to those in the "Freedom Cage." However, the protest remained peaceful so it was never needed for the intended containment purpose. Ethan was just part of the march. I don't think he was actually protesting. However, many of the marchers made an effort to take part in the cause they feel strongly about. The protest was lead by the Iraq Veterans Against War (IVAW). In the end they were allowed to send one member into the main office to talk with someone in charge about their concerns. I think everyone was pretty happy with how it all unfolded.

I think it was pretty cool that Ethan could take part in these historic events. I wish I could have been part of it, too. Don't you think that was a neat way to go to your first concert?!