teacher gifts (and a giveaway)

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Have I mentioned B's preschool class has 4 full-time teachers? (1 head teacher, 2 aids, and a speech therapist, because some of B's classmates have developmental delays). That translates to a lot of one-on-one attention for the kids...but it also means we give a lot of teacher gifts. Plus, this spring her head teacher underwent chemotherapy and surgery (she's okay), so there was a regular substitute who the kids got to know very well.

That makes 5 gifts...I wanted to give something personal and creative but not expensive, so I decided to make some cloth coffee cozies and pair them with gift cards to a coffee shop. As B said, "teachers and mommies like coffee." I wonder why??


To make the cozies, I traced one of the cardboard sleeves from Starbucks, adding an inch or so around each side for seam allowances, and used that as a template. I used scrap fabric and quilt batting to provide the insulation.

There are several patterns online if you search for "cloth coffee sleeve," but honestly, it's easy just to trace and sew on your own like I did. Just remember to layer the batting on the bottom, then one piece of fabric right side up, then the other piece of fabric right side down (so the right sides are facing each other). Sew around the edges, leaving one end open, and turn it right side out.

Next, sew the open end closed. I also sewed around all the edges again to give a finished look. Finally, fit it to your cup and sew the edges closed, or you can add velcro to make them adjustable. It took about 10 minutes to sew each sleeve.

I tucked a note and the gift card inside each cup and wrote the teacher's name on the outside of the cup with a Sharpie.

GIVEAWAY: I have an extra cozy here, and I'd like to send it to one of you! To enter, just leave a comment on this post. On Friday night, I'll choose a winner at random. To increase your chances, "like" this post on Facebook, link to it, or Tweet the link, then come back and let me know in the comments and you'll get another entry. GIVEAWAY HAS NOW CLOSED


Good luck!

millions of peaches

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Yes, even in the desert. Even when the temperature is measured in triple digits. You can still find a shady orchard and pick your own peaches. So, we did.




We brought home about 9 pounds.




Next up: peach ice cream, peach pie, peach smoothies, grilled peaches, peach preserves...

while you were out (bathroom before & after)

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Big things tend to happen when the hubs is away. Way back, when he traveled on weeks-long expeditions in the uncharted wilds with no phone contact, I'd find ways to keep busy. Rather than lie awake at night brooding over his safety, wondering if the bush plane would pick him up on time...I'd focus on other stuff. Happier stuff.

Our dog Ollie, our "first born," our "bastard child" was actually an impulse buy. I adopted him eight years ago while Kris was trekking in Corsica. Surprise, honey! Also, many years ago, when Kris was away, I blew my first freelance paycheck on a race-worthy mountain bike. It cost more than my first car. We weren't married, and it was my money to spend...but we had talked about marriage and a house and saving. But the bike was just so pretty and so fast. And I did race with it a handful of times before the kiddos came along.

Things also tend to break down when Kris is away. At our old house, the hot water heater busted and leaked while Kris was in Alaska. I'm adept at fixing garbage disposals and dishwashers because they've failed frequently during Kris' business trips. And, of course, you know what happened when Kris was away last fall...

Kris' adventures are less dangerous than they used to be, and slightly less frequent. But I still like to keep myself distracted whenever he's away. So, when he traveled for work this past week, I set my sights on our ugly brown powder room:

It's tiny and the beige walls just made it feel so dark and gross.


I realized we had some paint leftover from our master bathroom. And a couple pieces of artwork in the garage that had not yet found a home. So, I was able to do a quick transformation:




The wall color is "China Blue" by ACE. And I spray painted the mirror frame a sunny yellow. That was my only expense for the room, actually: $3.49 for a can of spray paint. Not a bad makeover for $3.49!

Eventually I'd like to replace the light fixture with something smaller and more modern. But for now, it works, so it stays.

Kris says he loves it. But really, he's just glad I didn't buy a couch or adopt another puppy.

Photography note: I took the "before" photos with my iPhone. For the "after" photos, I stood in the pitch-black bathroom and bounced my flash off the ceiling. Without a flash (using just the bathroom light), the photo looks like this:


Not bad, but the walls look gray, which isn't accurate at all. The photos with the flash give the best representation of the room.

life is good

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We sipped cold beers from the bottle and popped fat, organic blueberries into our mouths like candy. The clean, smoky smell of grilled free-range chicken and roasted fingerling potatoes wafted through our neighbors' backyard. The kids were in the grass, gathering the grapefruit and oranges we'd just picked from their tree.



Someone mentioned the Rapture. What if you knew it was going to happen? How would you spend your last day on earth? Would you see the world? Stay close to home and pray? Does travel time count against your last 24 hours? Who would you want with you?

I thought back to this past week and realized I wouldn't do a thing differently. Not every week is so lovely, but during the past seven days I savored my time with my kids and my husband. I also jetted off to surprise one of my best friends who is recovering from major surgery--spending fewer than 24 hours with her, yet hours packed with rest, laughter and sweet conversation.

The desert wooed me this week with a few rare, mild days. I walked to the local coffee shop with new friends and our babies and sipped lattes on the patio. The last of the ripe citrus hung low on trees, begging to be plucked before the heat settles in.

We took the kids to the zoo for a birthday party and stayed long enough to wave to the zebras and ride the carousel. We napped and cooked and danced and laughed and made big messes every day. We didn't always clean them up.

I felt ill Saturday night and Kris took care of the kids while I curled up and finished a book I'd been reading. It was a welcome retreat.

Then we closed the weekend with a casual, fun dinner with new friends. It felt easy, like the years-old friendships I've missed so much since we moved.

We're rounding the corner on our first year in the desert, and so much of that year has been challenging. And, with the weatherman predicting a high of 105 on Friday, it would be easy to brace myself for more suffocating heat, more isolation, more challenges this summer. But I don't think that will be the case at all. I predict we'll be bobbing around our pool with new friends and exploring museums and escaping to the mountains. And I've begun my list of projects to complete inside the house, under the cool blanket of air conditioning.

Hopefully we'll have a few more precious evenings of grilling out with friends and sipping fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice on the patio in the mornings.


I think I kind of like it here.

positive reinforcement

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Me: B, you get a pink star for being a good listener today. And another star for being helpful.
B: Yes, but sometimes I pick my nose a little bit.
Me: I don't have space on the sticker chart for that.
B: There are whales underwater, and sometimes they blow their nose. But not in our pool. I tell them they can't pee in our pool. I only pee in the ocean now.
Me: Ok, you can have a star for that.

making babies

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So, fast forward a few weeks to this past Saturday. Another hot day. Another opportunity to make cupcakes.

The best part of this project was B. She flipped through the cookbook and found cupcakes shaped like babies. And for the next several days, she told EVERYONE she encountered that she was going to "make babies soon." I took her to the grocery store with me, and she stopped this strange man in the baking aisle and told him she needed ingredients to make babies. The look on his face was priceless.

Turns out all you need to make babies is a few marshmallows, Starburst candies, mini vanilla wafers, jelly beans and frosting.

I made one of the blankets out of fruit leather, and it just wasn't as cute (see the punk on the upper right?) Once again, Mommy's attempt to make healthier sweets fails miserably....

the cupcake series, redux

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Last fall, my aunt sent us this cupcake cookbook, and I joked about cooking my way through it à la "Julie & Julia." 

By "...anyone can make" do you think they mean these people?



Because, I don't have the motivation to take on such an endeavor. But, as it turns out, a 3-year-old does. The opportunity arose a few weeks ago on a 100-degree day. We were inside, bored, and Kris suggested that he and B make butterfly cupcakes. The book makes it look....not simple. But doable.


 
So, I offered to buy the ingredients and Kris and B would work their magic.

The first steps were simple. They prepared cupcakes from a mix, set them aside to cool and then frosted them. (The book offers recipes to make the cake and frosting from scratch, but Kris went the easy route, anticipating the challenge ahead)

Then came the fun...making paper-thin chocolate monarch butterflies on wax paper and transferring them to the tops of the cupcakes. By this point, B had already lost interest. So I helped Kris make a few butterflies. Our techniques differed. I molded the slightly melted chocolate (kind of like a thick paste). Kris melted the hell out of it, then added a little bit of water (his crucial mistake) to make it more "fluid."


In the end, his butterflies were more beautiful. Mine were more functional. His never set fully, so they didn't transfer well off the wax. Mine, while sturdy, were too heavy to be supported by the cupcake. B didn't care either way, as long as she could eat them.


Which she did.

Next up, we made cupcakes in the shape of babies. I'll post about that tomorrow...

baby name wizards

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Kris and I just watched the premiere of "Pregnant in Heels," a Bravo reality show featuring Rosie Pope, a "maternity conceirge" on Manhattan's Upper East Side. In short: Rosie's paid big bucks to hold couples' hands and help them navigate the incredibly terrifying world of diapering, decorating, and finding a night nurse so they don't lose a wink of sleep. (If you're reading this and you hired a night nurse, no offense. I'm just jealous.)

The episode we watched profiled this couple who hired Rosie to help "brand" their baby with the perfect name, one that would ensure a lifetime of wealth and success. They commissioned a think tank of corporate and linguistic experts, and once they narrowed the list down to 5 promising names, Rosie held a focus group to gauge first impressions and dissect the names even further.

Their rules were strict: No Js or Rs. No "decorative" names. Nothing too popular. Easy to spell. Avoid the letter "e"

Can you guess which names were high on the list?

Miles
Wynn

For those of you who don't know...we spelled Bronwynn with two n's because we really love the name Wynn and considered it for a nickname.

Can you believe we came up with such brilliant names for free??! I'll sleep better tonight now that our choices have been validated by a brain trust.

Spoiler: In the end, the couple vetoed these options and went with a name that NO ONE recommended and several experts hated (Bowen). 

P.S. Kris wants me to tell you that we're for hire.

there is so much I don't know

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How is it that the thing my 3-year-old resists most is the thing I most crave?

Rest, my dear. You'll thank me later.

But why, Mommy? I'm not tired. Why?

Because we have fun things planned. You need to rest so you'll enjoy them.

Why?

You're tired.

I'm not.

I think you are. I know I am.

You're tired, Mommy? Why?

I don't know who tripped the Why Switch, but it's on, and I can't turn it off. Why do we need sleep? Why do we comb our hair? Why is it hot today? Why did the mailman come? Why do I go to school today? Why can't I go to school on Saturday? Why is the light green? Why is that truck there? Why is it not here instead? Why is water wet? Why do we poop? Why do ants bite? Why do caterpillars become butterflies? Why can't they stay caterpillars forever? Why can't Spiderman sleep over at my house? Why do flowers die?

I am just me. There are things I don't know. But I look at her eyes and I'm not just me, I'm THE MAMA. And she expects an answer.

I swallow hard and search for the words that will stop the whys...not in a "because I said so" sort of way or in a forced-teaching-moment "let's research this together" sort of way, though there is a place for that. But I'm not sure she really wants precision or textbook answers. Sometimes, sure. But often, I think she wants patience and a witness to her growth. She asks "why? why? why? but, WHY?" and I picture this:



Too many tweets. Her brain is over capacity.

Let's rest together, I tell her, and snuggle her in tight next to me on the bed. In a while, she is still, and I can smell her hair and stroke her cheek and drift to sleep myself. So brief and so sweet. Like caterpillars, I tell her.

déjà vu

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Do you guys remember THIS video? (the first one in that post)

Ok, so watch this one:


video



Same DNA? I believe so.

300/365

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I'm not sure how it's possible, but I've been shooting photos consistently for 300 days. Some I've loved and worked really hard for, some I just snapped with my iPhone so I could tick off my to-do list. It's too early to say, but I think once I reach Day 365, I will keep going, because I'm finally getting the hang of shooting on manual all the time (I used to always shoot on aperture priority mode)... And I really want a new camera body and a 100mm lens :)


We have two perfectly lovely camera bodies (a Nikon D70 and D100), but they're old and sometimes a little slow. One of them is held together with duct tape. I find myself drooling over the D90 or the D300s, which I actually had my hands on at one point (Kris had a loaner for a while that he reviewed for a magazine). Has anyone tried these cameras? Thoughts? Suggestions? 



Anyone want to join me for the next 365? We'll get started in July...

shutter sisters

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Have you checked out Shutter Sisters? It's a great community blog for aspiring and professional women photographers (and I'm sure the guys would be inspired too). They offer a lot of how-to and monthly challenges. I was delighted today when they featured one of my photos! Check it out HERE

peer pressure

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Backstory: For the past year or so (i.e. one third of her life), B has refused to wear anything but dresses. No shirts. No skirts. No shorts. Often she will wear pants under a dress. But that's about it. Also, it helps if the dress has flowers on it and something pink and/or yellow.


TODAY:
B: Mommy, can I wear a shirt? I like shirts now.
Me: You do?
B: Yeah, I don't like dresses anymore.
Me: Oh, really? Why not?
B: Because I'm too sweet to wear dresses. Dresses make me angry.
Me: Why do dresses make you angry?
B: I want to be like my friends.
Me: Which friends?
B: I have some friends. Their names are Ben and Zachary. They wear shirts and pants.
Me: Oh, so you want to be like them?
B: They said don't wear dresses anymore. (pause) Mommy, do you like dresses?
Me: Yes, I do.
B: Do you like shirts and pants?
Me: I do. 
B: I like both too. Maybe next year I'll wear dresses...
Me: You know, you can wear dresses some days and pants and shirts on other days.
B: Really?! OK!
Me: Glad that's settled, then.* 

*Lord help me in 10 years

south of the border

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We just rolled in from Mexico where we competed in the Rocky Point Triathlon with several other families. We stayed in a casa right on the beach--the kind of place that's so airy and gorgeous, you want to hug the walls and never leave. Kris and I slept in a hand-carved wooden bed with no fewer than 3 paintings of the Virgin Mary hovering over us and the ocean mere steps from our balcony...I can tell you I've never slept more soundly. (Also noteworthy: B slept in our room on a floor bed we MacGyvered for her and Miles was in his pack n' play, and it was so peaceful to have my children close all night. Turns out B sometimes laughs in her sleep...to think--her perfect innocent self and the dreams that incite laughter--makes me weep for the sweetness of it.)

The triathlon took place Saturday at a nearby resort. Some intense winds and blowing sand made for an interesting race, but we all had fun.

To sum up, it was a weekend of firsts:

First time our kids have left the U.S.
First time driving across a border (for Kris)
First-tenth street taco (Kris, Gina, B & Miles)
First words in Spanish (hola & agua spoken by Miles)
First tidepool exploring (B & Miles)





First hermit crab catch-and-release (B)


First athletic competition since having kids (Gina)
First place (Kris, leading his division in the bike leg)

I didn't break any records for my performance, but my team finished 9th in our division, and it felt sooooooo good to be swept up in the adrenaline of a group event again....Before the munchkins came along, Kris and I competed in sprint adventure races, and I absolutely LOVE the camaraderie you find at multisport events. Even better when there's cerveza at the finish line. 

Tomorrow I face the reality that no one will be delivering fresh, hot breakfast burritos to my doorstep.

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