Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Wedding Album

Yes - I am addicted to Shutterfly books!!!!  Here is my latest project:

I have been scanning old pictures and turning them into photo books.  We didn't have a professional photographer with a fancy book for our wedding so this is a great substitute.  There's an initial cost (for the book - I look for deals) but they take up less space and I am more motivated to look at and share them.

Friday, January 6, 2012

My Bucket List #1: Road Trip To Wyoming

I spent a couple of summers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (and the surrounding areas) with my dad when I was in elementary/middle school.

I have dreamed of the day that I could go back to share some of those experiences with my kids!  It's top on my bucket list!  It looks like I may have my opportunity during the summer of 2012!!!   As long as we don't experience any financial hardships or health issues between now and then.  I say that only because I know life can change very quickly.

My information packets are starting to arrive!!  I want to make the most of the "road trip" so I'm doing my research.

Mount Rushmore and Devils Tower are a must!  But I want to stop at every "ghost town" and big tourist area that is not far from our path (both on the way there and a different route home).  Of course we have to stop at Wall Drugs!  Even though it is a big tourist trap - you can't see all of those signs and not stop - LOL!

Do you have any suggestions of places to visit on our trip?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tips I Have Learned: Family Calendar

As our family gets busier we found it hard to keep track of what was going on and when.  My husband needed to focus on work but be mindful of family activities and I need to be focused on the family activities/appointments but be mindful of times my husband has to work (outside of his normal schedule).  So, a few years ago I came up with this and it has worked great for us!

We designated a section of wall as our communication wall.  It includes a calendar (the desk size ones - I buy at Target each year for $1) of the current month and the next month  We write in important dates with red ink (birthdays, anniversary - dates that will not change).  Then we pencil in other dates that may change (cheer class, recycling day, doctor appointments, special events, school parties work nights).  I also use a washable marker (so it won't bleed through the paper) to cross off the days.

Notice our wall is a little cluttered.  But - it's functional for us.  We tape up invitations, tickets to events, anything that we need to remember or locate.  On the wall in this picture we have:  a zoo advertisement to remind us of our membership, a notice of my daughters cheer presentation and details, tickets to the Monster Truck Jam, tickets to a hockey game, gift card to Great Wolf for our upcoming trip, registration information for my daughters cheer class, ...  Sometimes this wall gets even more crazy but I always remove items when it's no longer needed.

I have another use for the calendar.  I have a medication that I need to take twice a day.  I don't know how many times I would stop and question if I had taken a pill yet or not.  So, I started using my calendar to help me remember.  I cross off each day in sections - I add one line for each of the two times I take my medication.  By bedtime I need an "X" marking off the day.

California Vacation: Other Fun Places To Visit

Griffith Park & Observatory is another great place to visit while in the LA area!  I don't have a picture of the park right now but it is amazing.  Every time I am there I think of how beautiful it is for photography, a picnic, or a hike.  It's a great get-a-way from the busy city.

The observatory is another location that is in a lot in movies.

It also provides the best views of the city!  

But, it's another area that you may need a back-up day to visit.  Thankfully, we only ran into a problem once where they wouldn't let people stop to visit due to a movie recording.  Also, I recommend planning your visit on a week day.  Weekends are very busy and hard to find decent parking.  If you are driving up the hill toward the observatory and you start to see many parked cars on the side of the winding road - it's not a good sign that you will get to the observatory without a long walk up hill.  There is a parking lot at the top of the hill and during most week days you can park in the lot.

You can see the Hollywood sign from the observatory too!

You might also want to plan on visiting when the observatory is open to tour.  We finally did that in 2012 and it was amazing!  It's free to explore and great for those interested in our solar system!

How much would you weigh on Saturn?

Beverly Hills is another great place to visit!  My husband is in love with the area so we spend a chunk of time driving around looking at houses.

Another great picture opportunity!

Of course you have to check out the palm tree lined streets.
I photoshopped my husband out of this one.

Other things to see in this area are the Beverly Hills Hotel, Bel-Air, and UCLA.

Sunset Boulevard is full of many well known spots.  I suggest a drive down the road with time for unscheduled stops when you see something you like.  We have visited the Viper Room, and attended a concert at the House of Blues.  Other places you might be interested in:  the Laugh Factory, the Comedy Store (owned by Pauly Shore), Sunset Tan (had a reality show), the Hustler Store, Roxy, and Whiskey A Go Go.

Other places to check out in Southern California - but I'm not ready to blog on yet:

  • Legoland (http://www.legoland.com/)
  • Knott's Berry Farm (http://www.knotts.com/)
  • La Brea Tar Pits - Los Angelas (http://www.tarpits.org/)
  • Whale watching (December - April)
  • SeaWorld - San Diego (http://www.seaworld.com/)
  • Hotel Del Coronado - San Diego area (http://www.hoteldel.com/) - beautiful with a rich history.  We have stayed there for a few days but you don't really have to be a guest to enjoy a visit and walk on the beautiful beach!

  • Tijuana (Mexico)
  • Camp Pendelton (San Diego - Marine base)

California Vacation: Hollywood Sign

You just can't go to Hollywood and not get a picture of the famous Hollywood Sign!  

We usually spend a chunk of a day driving around the hills with winding roads that may lead us to a close spot of the sign.  The thing is, you can't actually drive up to the sign.  We have discovered many areas that end with gated roads which lead the rest of the way up the hill.  

We have never been behind the sign, which we have discovered you can hike to.  We plan to attempt that on a future visit.

The best area we have found to get close to the sign but not interfere with surrounding houses is in the area near 6113 Mulholland Hwy (near its intersection of Ledgewood Dr).

Our favorite place to stop is one that we found many years ago and we often see in movies and on television.  It's a dog park!  There is a small area fenced off for kids to play and there are picnic tables.  It's near Mulholland Hwy on Canyon Lake Rd (near Arrowhead Drive).  I wish I had an exact address but the road names and intersections should help.

These pictures were taken while at the dog park:

Update:  We finally did the hike to the back of the Hollywood sign!!  It was a hot day and a pretty decent hike up for my kiddos (they did not enjoy this).  But, we can say we did it!  And the hike down wasn't bad at all ;-)

On the way up!

We made it!!!!

There are many great views!

Kids Thermos Makeover - Part 1

I was hoping to do this post on in one but the second portion was a big fail so here is part 1 and part 2 will hopefully come soon!

My kids and I LOVE these for cold drinks - it keeps ice cold all day!  Look at how nice the paint on this newer one is.

The picture isn't as nice after it has been used a lot!

One day I came across a blog post someone did about "etching" their child's name on things like this.  It looked very cool, easy to do, and permanent.  Of course, I can't remember what was used to do the "etching" so part 2 will hopefully be about how I made these cool again.  This post covers how to get the old paint off to make it look like a new product (even though it will not be a Spongebob cup anymore).

I simply used a paint remover, soft scrubbing pad, paint brush and rubber gloves.

I found this cute little bottle in the
model car section of a craft store.
I put the thermos on a protected surface, applied the paint remover (with the brush) in small sections at a time, and then gently scrubbed the paint off.  Once I had all the paint off I washed it to make sure all paint was off.  Of course I was extra careful to not get any remover inside the thermos.  Even though it was washed many times prior, I just wanted to be careful.

Here's what I ended with when I was done.

Now hopefully I will figure out my next step to personalize these for my little ones. I have figured out that the etching cream for glass is not the same cream that was used in the blog I read - LOL!

Helping Out In Your Childs Classroom

It seems to me that every school and every teacher has a different way of handling parent participation in the classroom. Along with how to get things that they need in the classroom.

I grew up attending a small school where there were many needs but no real way to get them if the government didn't provide it.  Now that my kids are in school I am experiencing something very different.  The schools my kids attend have very organized ways of getting what is needed.  One of the schools reminds me of the Seinfeld episode about the "soup nazi".  The committee at this particular school is very uniformed and strict. I feel that it actually discourages many parents from getting involved.  With that said, here are some ideas I thought I would share for those of you who want to get involved but are not sure how.  These ideas do not have to be limited to just the parents of the student!

Box Tops are a great, and free, way to help out your school.  Simply clip them off the product that you purchase and then turn them into the office at your school.  They will know what to do from there.  Most of the schools my little ones have been to have contest twice a year.  The classroom that turns in the most box tops gets a prize.  One school is giving a school wide prize if they hit their yearly goal.  Another school my daughter went to (a small school) did not have contests but encouraged the donations so they could purchase balls for the playground.

Paper Gator (http://itsfun4me.blogspot.com/2010/12/paper-gator.html) is another great way to help the schools gain extra funds.

Ask your teacher, or even the office staff, how you can get involved in a way that will help.  Last year my daughters teacher asked for volunteers.  I participated once a week at a scheduled day and time each week. Early in the year I worked with the kids one on one to learn their alphabets (upper and lower case).  Later in the year I worked with them one on one to increase their speed reading of mixed alphabets.  It really helped me better understand what my daughter was learning and to get to know the kids she played with.  That information was very helpful for our discussions at home.  Some of the parents that could volunteer later in the day helped with reading groups.  This was great since the normal day consisted of one teacher, one teachers assistant, and 25 kids ages 4-5!!!  It allowed for smaller groups.

This year I volunteered for two days a month in my daughters class.   I interact with the kids a little but this teacher mostly wants help with hanging art projects.  I like helping out but I personally feel a little less productive.  Especially since there is only 1 teacher and 24 kids!

Here are some other ideas if your time is limited:

  • Ask the teacher if he/she has any needs in the classroom.  I donate magazines that my kids are done with (that are still in good shape) so they can use them with their reading program.  Maybe they need books, toys, games...  They don;t always have to be new but just in good working condition.  With young kids it's hard to keep things stocked when toys are broken or lost often.  It's also my experience that teachers often buy the toys and games out of their own pocket to keep a variety.
  • I volunteered once to come into the class as a mystery reader.  I brought a book from home and read it to the kids in the class.  They really enjoyed this!  As a bonus, I left the book for the class to keep so they could continue to enjoy it after my visit.
  • Repairs and cleaning!  A side from teaching our kids, there are extra things in the class that have to be done now and then.  Many times this is left to the teachers.  Last year my daughter's class had cloth seat back covers with pockets on their chairs.  The pockets held their individual supplies (since they sat at tables instead of desks).  By Christmas break they were looking pretty bad.  So I offered to take them home over break to wash and mend them.  The teacher was really excited about my offer and was happy to have them looking fresh when the kids returned to school.
  • Donate snacks and extra school supplies.  I have a special place in my heart for little ones who do not have snacks (so far my kids have been required to bring a snack of their own every day to school) or the required supplies.  This emotional burden should not be left solely on the school.  Every year I donate extra snacks and supplies so the teachers can have them on hand when needed - and hopefully the kids don't know was missing.
  • I love to place book orders through Scholastic Books but I always place my order online.  Partly because I want to use my credit card but also because each order placed online earns a free book for that child's class!
  • I always take pictures at any school events I attend.  The next day I send a cd of the pictures to the teacher so she can have access to them.  They always appreciate not having to be the "photographer" while they are trying to run an event.
  • This isn't so much a "how to help" tip but something I feel very sincere about.  I NEVER give a gift to the teacher in front of the kids (unless it's from all of the kids)!!!  I remember once as a child sitting in class watching the teacher open gifts.  The feeling I had at that moment has stuck to me all of my life because I did not have a gift to give.  I never want another child to have that feeling.  All of the gifts my children give to their teachers are delivered to the office or given to the teacher during "office hours" away from the other kids.  The teachers always find a private way to thank my kids so they feel special about the gift - without interfering with others emotions.
I'm very curious to know what ideas you have so please share!

Tips I Have Learned: Garlic Press

I have always dread unpeeling garlic!  Now, I'm getting comfortable with it but I still avoid the task when possible.  That's why I was happy when I was told about this.

The dreaded garlic...

I always peeled garlic before pressing.

But then I was told that I don't have to peel the garlic first!

If you press it with the peel on you will get the same results!!

Just the peel left to dispose of!
I do remove the hard ends (near the root of the garlic) if they are large enough to interfere.