In Defense of Crocs

So, Crocs (the lightweight plastic clog-type shoe, not the animal) had their hey-day (quite?) a few years ago, and I’ve always been someone who thought they were ugly and couldn’t imagine wearing them no matter how comfortable they were.

Yea. So this past summer I was huge and pregnant and hot with swollen feet (and an aching back) that desired a little more support than what my beloved flip-flops could provide. And then I saw a pair of light pink Crocs in my size at a favorite thrift store for $1.50 and thought well – maybe I should give them a try…..just while I’m pregnant, of course, because it’s not like I was putting a ton of effort into anything else I wore at that point (or, who am I kidding? ever) and when I slipped them on in the store they were oh so comfy….

And I basically lived in them for….months. Let me tell you, there’s a reason these shoes were/are popular, and I think we can all agree it’s not because they’re stunningly stylish. My feet have never felt so supported yet free!

Fast forward to a month ago. Baby is born (um, she’s 4 months old) and I’m still spending a good portion of time in my light pink Crocs (I’d started wearing socks underneath them. Because it’s winter. Wow, I just realized how ugly/ridiculous this sounds/is).

Then one goes missing. (Only in this house can a shoe just up and go missing).

So when I just HAPPENED to come across a bright pink, Mary-Jane style pair, in my size, at that same thrift shop, well…..

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Let’s just pretend I’m wearing them ironically, mmkay?

DĂ©coupage Vases (teacher gifts)

Happy New Year! I hope the first 20 days of 2014 have gone well for everyone 🙂 Like most people, we had a crazy-busy holiday season, and blogging was last on my priority list.  But I hope to post more frequently this year, because I have lots of projects to share and other topics I’d like to write about!

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I’m co-room-mom in both girls’ classes this year, and teacher gifts are one of my responsibilities. The norm at their school is to collect money from whoever would like to donate, and then get the teacher a gift card along with some kind of “handmade” project from the kids. Last year, the room mom in my (then) kindergartener’s class had each kid fill out a page titled “my favorite thing about Mrs. H.” and then compiled them into a book for the teacher. It turned out really cute, but I didn’t want to do the same thing again this year. You wouldn’t think it would be so hard to come up with an idea, especially for someone like me who likes that crafty kind of stuff, but I literally spent hours searching Pinterest (and the Internet in general) for ideas. I was under certain limitations, mainly that I had to come up with something that the kids could do (for the most part) at home – it’s not like I could go in and command control of the class for an hour to do a project.

I came across a vase that was dĂ©coupaged with magazine pictures, one chosen by each kid in the class. I liked that idea, but instead of using magazine pictures, I decided to have each kid decorate a small square of paper. I sent home a letter explaining this to parents, along with a pre-cut square of white paper, and an envelope to send it back in (along with any money they’d like to donate). I wanted to make it as easy as possible for them to return their square, in hopes that I would get the majority of the completed squares back by my deadline. (Believe me, I know how much of a pain it is to manage the mountain of paperwork, etc., that comes home from school!)

Most of the kids did return their squares within the next few days, and they were all so unique and cute. There were 5 or 6 kids in each class that didn’t return their square though, so I stopped into class one afternoon (with teacher permission) and pulled aside these kids for 5 minutes to have them decorate one.

Of course, procrastinator me waited until the night before the class parties to start dĂ©coupaging. My original idea was to use a planter (and put a houseplant in it), but when I went out shopping, I couldn’t find a square or rectangle planter that was the right size (It’s much easier to dĂ©coupage on flat sides, and I knew it would turn out better this way.)  I ended up buying tall ceramic vases instead.

The dĂ©coupaging itself was a bit puzzle-like. I knew how many square-inches of artwork I had, and had measured the vases in the store before buying them, so I knew that they were roughly the correct size. But it took some trimming white space to get them all to fit, and that resulted in some small gaps at certain spots around the vase. I ended up using small pieces of colored paper to fill in these gaps – going for a random, kids-artwork kind of look. I also dĂ©coupaged colored tissue paper around the top edge of the vase, and wrote the class year (in paint marker) on the bottom of the vase. I used several coats of Mod Podge applied with a sponge brush, and sanded lightly in between coats. I finished it off with a layer of waterproof glossy polyurethane sealant. The vases were left to dry overnight, and the next morning I picked up some brightly-colored flowers to put in them.

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One thing I wish I had done differently is asked the kids to use colored pencils or crayons, because the squares done in marker smeared slightly when I applied the dĂ©coupage . (It may have also worked to use a layer of hairspray over these prior to applying the Mod Podge, but I didn’t have any on hand.) Other than that, I was pretty happy with how the dĂ©coupage vases turned out, and got lots of compliments from the parents who attended the parties where we gave the vases to the teachers (along with a generous Target gift card). Although I came up with the idea, I really can’t take credit though- the kids’ awesome artwork is what really made them great!  The teachers seemed to really like them too – one asked me “how did you do this?” and the other one sent home a note saying how much she would always treasure this as a reminder of her 2013-2014 class.

Now I have a few months to come up with something for their end-of-year gifts 🙂

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For this project, I used:

Mod Podge CS11202 Original 16-Ounce Glue, Gloss Finish

(similar) 9in Matte Black Square Ceramic Vase

The City Flea

A few months ago I was accepted as a vendor for this summer’s The City Flea  – a “curated urban flea market” held at newly-renovated Washington Park. Due to date conflicts in June & September, I was only able to do the July & August events – the former of which was last Saturday.

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The back of one row of booths

The City Flea isn’t your typical flea market – it’s all handmade, vintage & upcycled goods. I heard someone say it’s like “Etsy in real life” and that’s actually a pretty accurate description (but add some food vendors, and beer).

It was packed! We had a ton of traffic in the booth pretty much all day, and sales were also very good. In fact, I was wishing I had brought more merchandise! Last time I did an event like this I was cursing myself for taking along so much stuff (only to pack it up later to bring home), so it was surprising to feel like my tables were kind of bare during the latter part of the day.  I’ll definitely pack more next month.

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3 or 4 different people told me that their Grandma still keeps Ritz crackers in a tin just like this (circa 1986) one.

It was HOT, and of course, it’s a ton of work setting up and tearing down an entire 10×10 booth in one day.  But overall it went smoothly – my husband actually took the day off work (a rare occurrence) to help, and the girls were about as good as a 4 and 6-year-old can be at something like this. Luckily, Washington Park has a playground and spray fountains where Steve and I could take the kids for breaks.  They also spent some time chilling under our tables 🙂

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For those of you in the Cincinnati area, the next City Flea is on August 17th from 10-4. I’ll be there! If you let me know you’ve read my blog or are a Facebook fan, I’ll give you my special family & friends discount 🙂

Piper turns 6, thoughts on Kindergarten, and a purse.

Last weekend we celebrated Piper’s 6th birthday – let me just go ahead and say the usual…I can’t believe I have a 6-year-old, blah blah blah (but it’s very true). 6 seems pretty big as it is, but then I realized that next year she’ll turn 7 – WTF?! SEVEN?! That seems way older than 6 for some reason. I remember being 7!

Anyway, this year her birthday was on a Saturday, and our parents (and my brother) joined us for dinner at Piper’s restaurant of choice. Aside from slipping off her high-top chair and slamming her chin into the table, I think she had a good time. She insisted that we not let the servers sing to her, but happily accepted the free ice cream sundae 🙂      sundaeAfter dinner we all came back here for cake & presents. Except for the present from her sister, which they mutually agreed she could open before dinner (it was a Pinypon, and somehow Kady reasoned me into letting her get one too).

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The next day, Piper had a “friend party” at Michael’s (the craft store), where 9 little girls painted suncatchers and decorated (and ate) cupcakes. And acted totally crazy with a bunch of balloons.

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On another note, I can’t believe there’s only a month left of school! Piper’s kindergarten year has absolutely flown by, more than any other year since I’ve been a parent. Overall, it’s been an excellent experience for all of us. Her teacher is wonderful, and we’ve been really happy with both her school, and the school district as a whole.

Somewhat aside: Her principal is particularly awesome. On different occasions, I’ve seen him: moving carts of large musical instruments, taking pictures at the kindergarten holiday parties, refilling the hand sanitizer they keep in the hallway, facilitating the kindergarten bus lines on a 2-hour-delay day (no small feat), and, at an outside-of-school event, wearing his own infant in a baby carrier on his chest while socializing with students. While I’m sure they did important work, my main memory of my elementary school principal(s) are listening to them speak at assemblies.) I think it’s great that even the littlest students know him by name and face, and he’s out and among them often and not just some authority figure sitting in an office. The Assistant Principal seems nice too – after one PTA meeting, he came up and told Kady he liked her dress. And told me a bit about how his own young daughter also wears only skirts/dresses too 🙂

I definitely noticed too (although it wasn’t a total surprise) that kindergarten isn’t what it used to be. I don’t remember my kindergarten experience, but according to my mom, it was a lot of playing and just getting used to being away from our parents. My Dad says that he took naps and colored in kindergarten. All of this (except the naps) sounds more like what happens in the 2-year-old class at the girls’ preschool.

In Piper’s kindergarten class, at this point, every kid can read (albeit at different levels.) Most of them can sound out and write words and sentences without assistance, at least to enough that  you can decipher them despite any mis-spellings. They’re finishing up working on single-digit addition & subtraction. They do read stories as a class – but then they talk about things like fiction vs. non-fiction, themes, plot, characters, etc.

I give kindergarten teachers so much credit (for many reasons), but I think their jobs are particularly hard because the kids start off at such vastly different levels. I volunteered in Piper’s class a few weeks after the school year started, and noticed there were a couple kids who were just learning to identify their letters, and others who could practically read chapter books. Yea – those were the extremes of each side – most kids, Piper included, fell somewhere in the middle. But I’m sure it’s a challenge to help the kids on the lower-end catch up while still challenging the higher-achieving kids – and not “neglecting” all those kids in the middle who still need to strive and improve. Especially when you’re one teacher in a room of 20 kids. But  I have to say that Piper’s teacher definitely knew what she was doing, and while there will always be kids of varying abilities, there is a vastly smaller range between what the more-and-less advanced kids in the class can do these days.

I’m so ready for summer. It never seemed like that big of a deal when the girls were in preschool, but now I’m so looking forward to not to deal with the dual AM kindergarten/PM preschool rush. The IL’s generously got us a pass to Coney Island for Christmas, and I anticipate spending tons of time at the pool this summer, making several trips to the zoo, and just hanging out with nowhere to go/be.

Since this whole post was entirely outside of the apparent-theme of this blog, here’s a picture of a purse I made last week (the print is tiny butterflies, and the lining is a floral vintage sheet.) It was the first thing I ever sewed from a pattern (this one), and I found the whole process way more time-consuming than I expected. I’m pretty happy with the results, although in the end, I don’t love my fabric choices (I think it needs more of a color “pop” somewhere.)

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I had to leave this on the side of the road….

….due to lack of car space & manpower (Sob!) It was kind of beat up, and I doubt it works, but what a beautiful piece of furniture! My mind was swimming with ideas for it, but after 10 minutes on the side of a busy road, rearranging my trunk and attempting to slide it over to my car, I came to the realization that there was no way I was getting it home. I only hope some other junker got it! Would hate to see this one go to waste.

On the bright side, before heading to a night-before-kindergarten dinner last night (yes, Piper started kindergarten today!) I took a drive around my parent’s neighborhood and came upon a house where it looked like the tenants had recently been evicted. I don’t normally dig through trash cans, but I took a look inside one that obviously didn’t contain actual garbage, and I found this beauty!

Only a junker could appreciate it, I’m sure….but I can’t wait to upholster a chair with it. I also got a couple pieces of pottery, a big jar full of unused matchbooks, and this neat little “spanish guitar tuning pipe” in a leather case.

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I have about 30 pieces of extra furniture in my house that are just waiting for me to work on them. All I need is the time to do it! I hope to be back to share some finished projects soon….

Well, Hello…

If anyone still checks in here – thanks! I’ve been crazy-busy and thus MIA for a few weeks (although I did stay semi-active on Facebook). Unfortunately, the crazy-busy was mostly boring not-worth-reporting stuff, but we’ve had a few fun happenings lately.

First, Piper’s 5th birthday. I know every parent says this at every birthday, but I can’t believe I have a five-year-old! Seriously – anyone with kids will understand – it feels like, oh, maybe a few months ago when we were brand-new parents dealing with a newborn.

And now….

For her big birthday present I turned a flower bed in our backyard into her own flower garden. I have about the blackest-thumb there is (not to mention I just don’t like getting down and digging in the dirt) but she loves gardening with my parents. This flower bed has been pretty much neglected for the last few years, so I bucked up and weeded and mulched it, came up with some decorations, painted a sign, there ya go – Piper’s Garden.

(This picture is from her birthday, the day I finished it. It’s since gained a bunch of flowers and a few more decorations.)

For her gifts, we got her a bunch of just-her-size gardening stuff (shovel, trowel, hoe, kneeling pad, gloves, watering can, etc.) She just loved it all.

We’ve also gone to a few birthday parties, including a princess-themed one, and another with a Star Wars theme.

I accompanied Piper’s preschool class on a field trip to Lunken Airport

Of course there was Easter –

I saw the amazing Hunger Games with the BFF

Piper had her first horseback riding lesson (which went amazingly, considering she’s quit dance class twice and is terrified of everything from ants to getting her hair brushed)

I volunteered at The Crafty Supermarket

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And there was plenty of playing outside, in this amazing weather we’ve been having! Then yesterday was my birthday (sorry, no picture – we (I) went on a Goodwill shopping spree and then to a kindergarten parent-orientation meeting).

Other than that, Steve’s been working a ridiculous amount of hours, I’ve been busy work-wise too, and have also had a lot going on in my volunteer role as a CASA.

Thus, I’ve had very little time to work on projects lately (boo!). But luckily, I haven’t been too busy to accumulate lots of new stuff to work on! I’ve come across some great roadside finds, done plenty of thrift store shopping, discovered the amazing world of online estate auctions, and had a former co-worker/friend give me first dibs on pretty much everything she owns prior to an inter-country move.

I have lots to share, which I’ll do soon! You’ll also be treated to a guest post from one of my favorite mom bloggers, Melissa at MeloMomma.

So please stick around – I promise there won’t be any more weeks-long blog breaks!