Spring Cleaning - Day 1

Tuesday, March 31, 2009
It happened accidentally. On Saturday after we finished breakfast, the girls went upstairs to play. I followed after them once I was finished cleaning up the kitchen. This is what I encountered upon entering the playroom:

Yikes! Seriously, they need an "Enter At Your Own Risk" sign on the door.

When I couldn't find them, I started to worry. But then I realized they were in their bedroom...where they were safe! I can't argue with them. I wouldn't want to be in that room either. Frightening!
So, I tried (really hard) to keep my cool. But this was a difficult situation for me. I'm Type A, a bit anal retentive with some OCD thrown in. This was not how rooms were kept in my house. When did this happen, and more importantly, how? I walked away for about 15 minutes to put together a game plan...this room was going to be clean by the end of the day. We were going to see the nice hardwood floor that lies beneath ALL this stuff!
About 6 hours later, here are the results:

Look! Do you see it? It's called a floor! On Sunday, I went out and bought this area rug for $20. I contemplated buying something a little more colorful and cutesy, but I know better than to do that. In a few weeks, this area rug will have paint splattered on it, Play-Doh stuck to it, and Moon Sand embedded in it.
One room down!

Reinventing the lantern

Monday, March 30, 2009
I found this old and rusty lantern in my garage a few weeks ago while attempting to de-clutter. A few years ago, this would have landed in the trash, but thanks to the inspiration I've found on other blogs, the lantern was saved from a life in a landfill!

Before: Rusty with painter's tape...ready for it's face lift!
After: A nautical delight! I used a can of low-VOC spray paint in powder blue. What a transformation!

I'm so glad that I didn't throw this beauty away years ago!

Scenic Sunday

Sunday, March 29, 2009
My blogging friend Miti at Pieces Of Me (yes, great minds think alike!!) has created a Sunday meme called "Scenic Sundays". Miti has encouraged her readers to stop and see the beauty that God has placed before us. It surrounds us but so often we are just too busy to see it. This is my first week participating and I'm happy to share my photo with you.

It's a picture of a sunset taken on Captiva Island, Florida in November 2008. My husband and I take our girls there each November to enjoy a week at our timeshare. When I say that the sunsets are spectacular, I am not doing them justice. They are indescribably breathtaking. One of the things we look most forward to each day during this vacation is our daily sunset walk. One look at the photo, and I'm sure you'll realize why.
To view more Scenic Sundays, click here.

Like night and day

Saturday, March 28, 2009
I'm always amazed by how vastly different my children are. They share the same DNA and are being reared in the same environment, but other than that, they share very little...including toys! My oldest looks like Daddy...brown hair, brown eyes. My youngest looks like me...blond hair, blue eyes. Physical differences are only the beginning.

Emma, my oldest, follows the first child stereotype. She's responsible, smart as a whip, exercises discretion and shows restraint, but can be quite moody. Harper, my youngest, is impulsive, fiercely independent, and sensitive, but has the most pleasant disposition any three year old could have. Emma has a tendency to be high strung. She panics in a crisis. Harper is laid back, almost to the point of being defiant at times.

From a mom's perspective, the differences can be frustrating. It's difficult to meet both of their needs when the needs vary greatly from child to child. Most days are uneventful, but occasionally, when each exhibits the above traits to the hilt, it's a challenge.

My mother-in-law gave me some great advice recently. She told me that every child is different. Her four were unique and each one presented her with challenges. She said the key is not to cater to each one's individual needs but to get them to meet you and their siblings half-way. She said it won't always work that way. But it's never too early to teach them how to compromise.

See, there are some pretty good mothers-in-law out there.

Friday Fotos

Friday, March 27, 2009
The week started with a trip to Chuck E. Cheese...fun for the girls...not so fun for me! Above: My love bunnies!
Below: Harper playing a color sorting game with buttons and a muffin tin. (An idea I found on ABC and 123).

Above: Sleeping Beauty fast asleep this morning.
Below: Later in the day, Sleeping Beauty is wide awake at Starbucks (without the aid of caffeine!!)

One of those days

Thursday, March 26, 2009
I woke this morning to a gray, gloomy day. Plus, Emma is home sick today. My mood is pretty much in line with the weather and the way Emma is feeling. I hate gray days.

I am, however, getting a lot done around the house since I'm stuck here. In between my little projects, I thought I'd post a few randoms.

- I broke out my new glue gun this morning, and literally am gluing everything in sight. In fact, I want to break things in order to glue them! I'm having a ton of fun. I've fixed two picture frames, a nightlight, a trophy, and some broken Easter decorations.

- Also broke out the Easter decorations. I hate the mess that is made in the process of decorating, but everything looks so pretty once it's in place.

- Of course, in between all of this, I'm doing laundry. I'm always doing laundry.

- I'd really like to vacuum, but since Emma is resting comfortably and quietly, I'll have to save that for tomorrow.

- I've eaten way too many black licorice jelly beans, but they are just so darn good!

- I really have to finish writing Harper's birthday thank yous. I used to be so good about that kind of stuff. These days I have a hard time getting motivated to do such things. When my parents passed away, I wrote the thank you notes for the flowers, food, contributions, etc. And I think I just associate any thank you card writing with that.

It's one of those days that, when you're childless, you can curl up on the sofa with a good book or watch TV. When you have kids, well, you know...

Making our preschool rounds

Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Is it really that time already? Time to start touring preschools? I can hardly believe that my baby is three and she'll be off to school in the fall. I remember it clearly when I did the tours with Emma. I procrastinated like crazy and didn't start the research until late August. Yes, that was a mere 2 weeks before Emma was to start school. I panicked about availability. I worried that there wouldn't be a spot for her anywhere. I won't put myself through that again.

Since we no longer live in the same town that we did 4 years ago when Emma entered 3-year preschool, we can't send Harper to the same preschool Emma attended. And I wouldn't choose to do so...I wasn't incredibly fond of the school. We've got to take a look at a few schools. Now, I'm not fanatical about where she goes. This isn't the Upper East Side of Manhattan. We have no plans to throw $50,000 at her preschool education. But I want to be somewhat selective and prioritize what's important to us. At this point, socialization is our top priority. Since she's been home with me since birth, her exposure to other children has been limited. Other than her several, weekly activities, the time she has spent with peers has been minimal.

We toured a school on Monday and loved it! It offers a 2-day/week class for 3-year olds with a choice of 1 of 3 time slots. Because it is operated in conjunction with our local municipality, registrants must be residents of our town. It's located at our local recreation center, which conveniently, is located 4 minutes from our home. Yay! I love that!! I was impressed by the curriculum, and the average tenure of the teachers is 10 years.

I want to get her in to this school. But, and it's a big but, there is no open registration. Registration begins on April 27th. First to show up are the first to secure a spot. So, can you guess where I'll be on the morning of April 27? Yep...camping out at the rec. center!

I was a guest reader!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009
To celebrate Read Across America!, Emma's class has invited parents and caregivers to be guest speakers throughout the month. I readily volunteered, and yesterday, the spotlight was on me.

I read "Knuffle Bunny" by Mo Willems. It's a heartwarming story of a little girl who accidentally loses her prized lovey, a bunny, while running an errand to the laundromat with her father. This story is special to us as a family because both Emma and Harper have had lovies that, if lost, would surely have devastated them. As a special treat, I baked cupcakes for the children, and we gave each child a bunny basket. We won the book and accompanying bunny in a raffle at last year's Read Across America kick-off celebration at the local high school. I've actually never seen the two packaged together, but you could try Amazon.com if you are interested in both. I purchased the adorable bunny baskets at Target (in the dollar section). Target has such cute seasonal baskets. You must check them out!

I had a wonderful time reading to the children. They were delightful and so well-behaved.

Everyone Loves A Party!

It's time for the year's most anticipated blogging event. 5 Minutes for Mom is hosting their annual Ultimate Blog Party this week! It's a virtual party for bloggers and has become a tradition in the “momosphere.”

I can't wait to get started! I'm looking forward to some serious blogging fun. And I don't have to buy a new outfit, shoes, or get my hair done!!

But first, I'd like my visitors to know a bit about me.

I'm a happily married, stay at home mom. My wonderful husband Henry provides me with the opportunity to stay home and focus on our children. I'm so grateful for his hard work and dedication to our family. Our daughter Emma is six years old and in first grade, and Harper is three years old and will enter preschool in the fall. I started blogging as a way to keep faraway family and friends in touch with our daily adventures. But soon I realized that it was an enormous creative outlet for me, something I very much needed as a stay-at-home mom. I was able to showcase my writing and photography skills in a way that was previously impossible. From blogging, I've gained a greater appreciation for all things creative. There are so many incredibly talented people in the blogosphere, and I've become inspired by so many of them.

My blog does not follow a single theme but is rather a collection of all things important to me including but certainly not limited to my family and friends (especially my adorable daughters), my creative endeavors including photography and crafting, my trials and tribulations as a mother and a wife, my successes and the many fabulous finds that I've encountered.

My goal as a parent is to raise my children in a environment filled with love and appreciation. I want to give my children the opportunity to experience life in all it's glory. I want to raise global children who are aware of the world around them and who are aware of all the opportunities and experiences that await them.

As part of this phenomenal blogging event, there are giveaways galore! Here are my top picks:

#19 $50 gift card to Target from Shoot-Me-Now
#89 $100 gift card to HomeGoods
#50 $50 gift certificate to Paperlicious

I'd love to win these too!
#21 $50 gift card to Target from Agoosa
#71 Flip flops for Mom & Daughter from Top It Off
INTL 11 $50 gift bundle to YouCanMakeThis.com

All of the prizes are fabulous, and I'd love to have any one of them!

I hope you'll browse around and like what you see! Thanks for stopping by!

And the winner is...

Monday, March 23, 2009
KENDRA!! Congratulations, Kendra!!

Using Random.org, I randomly chose the winner by starting at the number 1 and ending at 11. The random number that was chosen was 2, and Kendra posted the second comment. Although there were 12 comments posted, the 12th comment did not apply to the giveaway, and thus, it did not count towards the random drawing.

Don't fret! There will be another giveaway in the near future so be sure to check back regularly!

Thanks again to all who participated! And remember, even if you didn't win, you can still clean green!

Friday Fotos

Friday, March 20, 2009
The week in photos...

Above: Saturday's circus. I love that there was a big top!
Below: Our very own circus performer!

Above: Enjoying circus food!
Below: Our cat, Peppy doing what he does best!

Above and below: Waiting for the St. Patrick's Day parade to begin on Sunday.

Above and below: In the spirit of things on St. Patty's Day...Irish cheeks a smilin'!

Below: Harper's second visit to the dentist. She looks more terrified than she was.

A Springtime Giveaway - My First!


What's the best way to start spring? By spring cleaning, of course!

As spring begins and Earth Day approaches, what better way to celebrate than to do some spring cleaning! But this year, as an incentive to get my readers to clean green, I am giving away a wonderful selection of environmentally friendly cleaning products from Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day! Yay!!

One fabulously lucky reader will win these must-haves:
One 12.5 oz Liquid Hand Soap in Lavender (my all-time fave!!!)

One 11 oz. Surface Scrub in Lemon Verbena

One 16 oz. Dish Soap in Lavender

One 16 oz. Countertop Spray in Lavender

And as an added bonus, I am throwing in this adorable canvas tote. If you're still using those yucky plastic bags to do your grocery shopping, it's time to stop!

Wanna start greening up your act? Great! Here's how to enter:

This giveaway is open only to U.S. and Canadian residents with a valid mailing address!

1. Leave a comment for me to let me know why you want to win. Hey, it's perfectly acceptable to say you want something for free! Who doesn't?? You must leave a valid email address or URL so that I can contact you to arrange shipping.

2. If you are a follower, leave a second comment saying so. If you're not a follower, what are you waiting for??

You must leave your comments by 10:00 pm EDT on 3/23. I will use Random.org to choose one winner. The lucky winner will be notified via email and will have 72 hours to respond. If the lucky winner does not respond, another reader will be chosen using Random.org.

Good luck to all and thanks for participating!!

To view the full line of Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day products, click here.


What Kind of Soda Are You?

Thursday, March 19, 2009
If you were a kind of soda, what would you be? My Lenten commitment is that I have given up Diet Coke. So as I suitable substitute, I thought this quiz might satisfy my craving. Curious to find out what kind of soda you are? Take the quiz here.

Here are my results:

Diet Coke
You are energy in its purest form. No need to complicate things with sweetness. And while people may hate your aftertaste, you are seen as a necessary evil.

Your best soda match: 7 Up
Stay away from: Coke

I'm curious to see how we compare...what kind are you? What's your best match and who should you stay away from?

The Problem Playdate

Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Emma had a playdate a few weeks ago. The friend has been here several times before and has never been a problem, so I expected nothing less this time. Boy, was I in for a surprise.

Since it was a Friday, I suggested that Emma invite her friend to stay for pizza. Emma wanted Dominos pizza and her friend excitedly agreed. We are off to a great start.

OK, so at about 4:15, the mother drops off the friend and I ask her to come back at around 7:30 for the pick-up. Everyone is in agreement. Excellent.

At about 4:25, Emma and her friend come downstairs for a snack. What? She's been here 10 minutes and you need a snack? But we're having pizza in an hour. Go play. I mean, seriously, is the girl here to play or to eat? Please.

I give them each a small bowl of Cheez-Its and a drink. They seem happy for the time being. But somehow I know it won't last too long. After the snack, they go back up stairs to the playroom where they happily play until the pizza arrives at 5:30. I serve them each a slice of pizza and another drink. While they are eating, Emma asks for more napkins. OK, but I thought I placed a heap of them on the table, knowing how kids can be when eating pizza.

As I am taking the napkins to them, I see a pile of bunched up, dirty napkins in front of the friend's plate. What is that, I'm thinking, and of course, I have to ask. They are napkins with sauce all over them. Apparently, the friend isn't into eating sauce on her pizza that particular day. Did I lose a bet? Is this some sort of punishment?

The friend eats the pizza without sauce but only bits and pieces of one slice. I now have a trash can half full of napkins and almost two whole pizzas staring me in the face. What now?

The girls clean up their dishes and go back upstairs to play. Meanwhile, I clean up the kitchen while I fume over what has just transpired. Seriously. I thought all kids like everything about pizza.

In 10 minutes, they are downstairs again. Emma tells me that friend is hungry for a snack. Well, of course she is, she barely ate her pizza!!!!!!!!!! At this point, I am pretty much at my wit's end, but trying not to show it. I don't want either Emma or friend to think I'm the least bit annoyed by this nonsense. They're just kids after all.

I give friend yet another snack and start counting the minutes until her mother comes to pick her up.

Once she's gone, Emma and I sit down to have a little chat about playdates and snacks. And before our conversation is over, I make sure that she never, ever, ever displays (even remotely) that kind of behavior at one of her friend's houses.

Rainy Days = Creative Expression!

Turn stormy weather into fun with these paint your own rain boots. How cute, cute, cute are these boots? I am totally in love with them.
These sturdy, waterproof pull-on boots come with a set of special paints for decorating with any design that inspires your little artist. The waterproof designs stay on until wiped off with the magical erasing pads included in your kit. Then the boots can be painted all over again. So fun, your kids will wish for rain.

The kit includes: 1 pair of paintable boots, 6 colors of water proof paints, 32 magical erasing pads, 2 paintbrushes, 1 mixing palette, and instructions. Children's sizes come in a light blue tote, while adult sizes are packaged in pink.

The kits can be purchased here and here for $40.

Can you spot it?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009
How good are you at distinguishing a fake smile from a genuine one?

Have about ten minutes to spare? Well, take this quiz on the BBC Web site to find out.


I scored a 17 out of 20. About half way through the quiz, I wasn't quite sure how well I was doing. Be sure to read the directions carefully, as you have to play each smile video.

What's Your Decorating Style?

Monday, March 16, 2009
So, I've been really into home decor and re-design lately. I've completed several small projects and have some others planned for the spring. As part of my research, I've been combing the Internet for different sites that offer design inspiration. Since my walls are white, and I like them that way, I've been adding bold splashes of color here and there. Pillows, lamp shades, wall art.

I've recently discovered Sproost, a design Web site based on your personal style, not a style that the market or current trend dictates. To begin, you complete a quiz to help you identify your personal style. After your style is determined, Sproost recommends different design elements to help you create your perfect room. Or you can create it from scratch by choosing furniture and accessories. It's so much fun!

To begin, click here to take the quiz.

By the way, my style preferences are:
33% contemporary
33% cottage chic
33% Nantucket style

Looking for the perfect baby name? Find inspiration here.

Have you delved into 20 books only to find that you can't find the perfect name? What A Lovely Name has a fun and interesting approach to deciding on a name. Click the link above to take a look.

ABC's & 123's

Friday, March 13, 2009
Any parent of a preschooler wants nothing more than for his/her child to know their ABC's and 123's. When I was teaching Emma her basics, she picked everything up quite easily and quickly. With Harper, I've had to add some extenders to help her relate what she's learned.

Now, there's a fantastic resource to which I can turn for help. ABC and 123 is a learning cooperative focused on giving parents and caregivers the tools they need to teach young children. The site is celebrating it's kickoff today and will continue for the next two weeks. If you are a parent of a young child, you need to stop by and check it out. Plus, they are offering the chance to win giveaways during their two week kickoff celebration. Fabulous teaching tools and ideas combined with good giveaways...it doesn't get much better than that!

Friday Fotos

Above: Enjoying last weekend's warm weather.
Below: Monkeying around with Daddy.

Above: Emma snuggling with the Snuggie (yes, we have one!)
Below: Harper posing with her daffodil craft from Craft/Story Hour.
Above: Sisters love each other!

I came across these pictures this week while archiving some of my digital photos. Because they are two of my favorites, I wanted to include them this week.
Above: Emma after having her face painted at Disney World - April 2008.
Below: Baby Harper - April 2006. Sometimes I miss having a baby in the house. Looking at this picture brought the baby back for a few minutes! Look at that face!!

Another birthday party to plan

Thursday, March 12, 2009
Emma's 7th birthday is May 11. This means another birthday party to plan. I, unlike many others, like to send the invitation a month in advance. Historically, May is a busy month. Mother's Day, Communions, Graduations, etc. So, I like to give guests PLENTY of notice so that they can plan accordingly.

It is a difficult process deciding on a type of party to have or a theme. Since Emma started having "friends parties" 3 years ago, we've hosted the party in our home. I know what you're thinking, I'm a crazy woman. A home party seems reasonable at the time of planning. However, the day of the party is a different story! I run around like crazy. I'm frantic and frenzied. Last year, Emma had a Barbie party. Each girl brought her favorite Barbie, and we even included Barbie dolls in the goodie bags. I know, I'm insane. Two years ago, she had a tea party complete with finger sandwiches shaped like flowers. They were homemade, of course.

Gone are the days of playing a few games such as pin the tail on the donkey, opening presents and eating cake and ice cream. Gone. Gone. Gone. Kids parties are big business, and the kids, no, the parents get really competitive about outdoing each other. It's just plain ridiculous. My goal is always to have a party that Emma and her friends will enjoy and remember. It needs to be age appropriate as well.

What I love about the home parties is that there are some many opportunities to add special and personal touches from decorating to meal planning. What I don't like is the enormous amount of effort it requires from planning to execution. Whatever we decide, you'll be sure to hear all about it!

I Hate That - Last minute party invitation

Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Emma came home from school today and emptied her backpack...as she always does. In her folder was a birthday party invitation. For a party on Saturday. It's Wednesday. What the @#&%! Who does that? Who sends invitations 3 days before a party? We should be RSVP'ing 3 days before the party, not receiving the invite.

Nothing, I repeat, nothing irritates me more than poor planning and non-existent organizational skills. I cannot tolerate it. C'mon, it's not like the kid ran up to his mom yesterday and said, "Hey, mom, don't forget my birthday is on Saturday." We are well aware of our children's birthdays. Plus, the class invitation rule is that if you hand them out in school, they must be given to each and every child. So, it's not as if Emma were an afterthought. And, it's not the first time this has happened. The Monday prior to Thanksgiving Emma received an invitation for a party on Friday, the day following Thanksgiving. Get real. Who has a birthday party on Thanksgiving weekend, the busiest travel holiday of the year????????

I have half a mind to call these parents and give them my 2 cents. But I never would. I figure they'll suffer enough embarrassment and disappointment when the party is a big flop because they were too disorganized to get the invitations out in a timely fashion.

Wordless Wednesday - What A Difference

What a difference a few days makes! Here are two pictures that were taken 5 days apart.Above: Taken Monday, March 2, 2009

Below: Taken Saturday, March 7, 2009

For other Wordless Wednesdays, click here.


Tuesday's Treat: Banana Bread

Tuesday, March 10, 2009
This morning when I came downstairs into the kitchen, I had 3 brown bananas staring at me, practically screaming at me to turn them into banana bread. I have never been able to find a banana bread recipe that I've liked enough to use it twice. The bread either turns out too dry, too bland, too dark, too sugary. It's always something.

Today, I decided to try a recipe from one of my mother's Pennsylvania Dutch/Amish cookbooks. What attracted me to this recipe is that it's made with buttermilk. I tried it, and LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it. If you enjoy banana bread, this recipe is a keeper!

2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup mashed bananas (about 3 small bananas)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Spray one 9x5 inch loaf pan with non-stick spray coating.
Blend together the eggs, buttermilk, oil and bananas.
Sift together the sugar, flour, baking soda and salt. Add to banana mixture and stir in pecans.
Mix well.
Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake 1 hour or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.