Saturday, January 31, 2009

I Love Costco

I do. I love that place! Not only do I love that you can buy everything in bulk, but I love the random deals you can get on other things as well. We generally get standards like TP, paper towel, cleaning supplies, and pet food from there, but ALWAYS come out with other random purchases as well. We only go about once a month, and just plan on spending at least $100 each time. Turns out that on our trip to Costco yesterday, Bella and our niece Lily were the ones that won out!

Bella LOVES raw-hides, and we found this HUGE bag of them. It's half the size of her! She didn't know what to do with herself when she saw through the bag to what was inside!

Okay, so Lily's birthday isn't until May - but I just couldn't resist these cute little summer dresses. They may be pretty simple from the front...

But they have bugs on the butt! Seriously - can you get any cuter than that? Love it!

Last night we relaxed at home - I cleaned and re-organized the craft room in preparation for all of the crafty projects I plan on embarking on this weekend. I had a whole host of random 4x6 prints lying around and decided to use them to jazz up my wall a little bit.

The night ended with a martini (which I didn't finish...), an episode of House, and falling asleep on the couch. Aaaaah... the weekend!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I'm Baaaaaaaaaaaack!

What a week! The Pistons game on Sunday for Travis' birthday was a blast - but after that it was all downhill from there. I've been under a lot of pressure at work, I'm fighting that icky stomach flu that seems to be going around, and I'm SO SICK OF SNOW.

BUT - it's almost the weekend! Thank goodness! And tonight after submitting one HUGE grant to Washington DC, I'm back to blogging. The week has been rough, but sometimes its the simple things in life that help you through:

We did belated Christmas gifts with Seth and Kelly this past week - and they brought us these java-inspired goodies from Petoskey. The mugs are HUGE and as Kelly said "they're great because you can use them for soup, or ice cream, or whatever you want!" Thanks guys!

How can you not love this face? Bella spent several days keeping me company in the home office this week while I typed away. Such a good girl!

Our friend Marcy brought these home from Mexico. Trav brought them back from his office tonight and I cannot WAIT for a little chocolatey treat after dinner. Perfect cure for the blues!

You may notice that my blog is a little different - I've tried to simplify it a little and make it easier on the eyes. I hope you like the new look!

You should also know that I am launching a SECOND blog: Ready. Set. Craft. You know that I've been struggling with the theme of my blog for a while now, and I've finally straightened it all out. This blog will stay much the same as it was - notes about our lives, our work, our pets, our friends and families, etc. For all things crafty, you may visit Ready. Set. Craft by clicking here.

I considered a third blog for fundraising and non-profit type stuff, but figured two may be enough to manage for now! So I'll keep spreading the word about community giving through this blog. It's so important!

I'd love for you all to continue to read this blog - and if you're interested in the arts and crafty type things - please read my other blog as well! I'd love, as always, to gain followers (come on, follow!) and there's nothing better than getting comments and feedback - so keep those coming as well!

That's all for now - I have grants due Monday and Wednesday of next week - so I'm going to see if I can get a little more writing in before my (very supportive) husband and puppy return from the dog park...

Happy Thursday!

Only Thursday?

Hi Everyone, sorry for the lack of posts! A VERY demanding week of work coupled with a bit of the flu is making for limited blogging. BUT... blog revitalization is in the works, and exciting things are coming this way soon. I promise!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Change, and one last Pistons photo

Change will soon be coming to this blog... get ready for it! In the meantime, here's our group shot from on the court before the Pistons game... SO MUCH FUN!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Travis!

Soap Making - Part One

I was inspired by a Martha Stewart Living article on soap-making for Valentines Day. I have this habit of delving into a new project like I am unstoppable, and had grandiose ideas of making these perfect heart soaps first time out to give as gifts to friends and family members. Of course, I've never made soap in my life, but I thought - how hard could it be?! I even used the pre-formed soap bars rather than creating my own base mixture from glycerin, and while the process may no be rocket science exactly - it sure wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. I'm going to need several attempts to get the hang of soap-making!

Step 1: Melting the base
This was the easy part! I bought the base in these little pre-formed bars and just melted them in the microwave in 30 second intervals. They melted very quickly which was great, but the problem came once they were melted and it was time to add in the color and scent - you have very limited time to add them before the soap sets up and the texture of your soap gets messed up. You can't put the soap back in the microwave once you've added the scent and color, because it will burn.

Step 2: Adding the color and scent
I used a red color, and for each of the three batches I made I used a different amount of dye. The package said to use color and scent sparingly, so on the first batch I ended up with a very light pink color and practically no scent. The second batch I added more color and scent, producing a deep pink and just a little smell. The third batch I just dumped the rest of the two bottles in and finally got a nice dark red color and a soap that actually had hints of rose and thyme.

Step 3: Cooling
This is where I believe I had most of my problems. It said let freeze for 10 minutes in the freezer to cool, but I was nervous that if it set up too much I wouldn't be able to cut it with a cookie cutter. I had a lot of problems with fingerprints on the soaps, and had trouble getting the soap out of the bowl, and I think it's because I should have let them cool all the way.

Step 4: Cutting
Per Martha, I used a cookie cutter to cut the heart shapes out. This was tough, the cookie cutter kept sticking, and each time I pulled it out there were little broken edges and slivers of soap all over the place. Certainly not as clean looking as Martha's. The solution I think would be to pour the soap solution into pre-formed molds. You know, those silicone baking molds you can get in a variety of fun shapes? That way you could just pry them out, and not worry about fingerprints, rough edges, etc.

My first batch were way too thin, and that made them even less forgiving of imperfect texture:

The second batch were a better thickness, but kind of bubbly and shiny. I cut them too early:

The third batch were by far the best:

Needless to say I'm not giving out soaps for Valentines Day this year, I need to hone the craft. Lots of fun possibilities though -- think of all the fun little plastic novelties you could put in soaps to make the fun for kids? My wheels are already whirring... Stay tuned for part two.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Welcome, Landon!

Congratulations to Justin and Kristen on the birth of their sweet little boy Landon Joseph on 1/22/09. We went to visit them yesterday in the hospital, and everyone is doing well!

Oh, and here's a shot of the completed birthday cupcakes. They tasted great, but the new frosting recipe I tried wasn't up to snuff. I don't claim to be an expert cupcake decorator, but for my first time out I thought I did okay. Here's to more cupcake endeavors!

And just for kicks - Travis' parents' birthday gift to him was wrapped in this newspaper:

Love it. Inauguration, birth, and birthday all in the span of four days. The wonder of it all!

A new baby is like the beginning of all things-wonder, hope, a dream of possibilities.
-- Eda J. Le Shan

Friday, January 23, 2009

Do Work!

I work from home on Friday's and love it. Really. Love it. I roll out of bed, walk into my home office, and type in my PJ's all day long. If I get hungry, I run down to the kitchen to make a snack, if I need a break I put together a quick blog post, if I need fresh air I take Bella out for a quick stroll around the block. It's the perfect scenario. I'm productive, comfy, and on my own schedule. Everyone should work from home. Even my pets enjoy my work from home days. My cat Oliver is keeping me company this morning... nestled napping in a shoe box (hey - who's to judge his idea of comfort?) here in my office:

I got an early start this morning, and need to get a lot done in a short period of time so that I can move on to other things. Travis' 27th birthday is on Sunday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY WEEKEND, TRAVIS!) and a group of friends and family are heading to the Detroit Pistons basketball game on Sunday. His parents are coming in to town for dinner tonight, and some family friends are coming over during the day tomorrow.

Being the overly zealous individual that I am, I'm working on Pistons themed cupcakes this afternoon, and putting together some ultra crafty poster-boards to wave at the game on Sunday. GO PISTONS!

Knitting is on hold until tomorrow - but thanks to futuregirl and her crew for all of the tips and links on her site. I will conquer this!

Oh, and one more note! If you read this blog - don't be afraid to COMMENT or become a FOLLOWER. Really! I love comments and feedback, and I love to know that people are reading and enjoying my thoughts. Plus, it gives me to opportunity to check out blogs of people I've never met - who are generally spectacular people - or reconnect with friends I've perhaps lost touch with, or don't get to chat with often. So go on, take the leap, FOLLOW or COMMENT. Blogs are fun!


If the NBA were on channel 5 and a bunch of frogs making love were on channel 4, I'd watch the frogs, even if they were coming in fuzzy.
-- Bobby Knight

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Casting On

Realized last night that I needed to put together some quick Valentines cards and goodies for the girls I mentor through the Girls Choral Academy. I wanted to create something shiny and fun that would appeal to elementary school girls:

Then I went to battle with my knitting needles and yarn. I successfully cast on. One whole row. Awesome. I couldn't for the life of me get farther than that. The book didn't help me, and even watching my friend Cindy for guidance didn't help me. A fellow blogger recommended an instructional website with clear video examples. I plan on checking it out tonight.

I'm working on some major grants for work right now - so having these side projects is a very good stress release. I've also decided I want to learn to crochet. Looks like it's going to be a busy, crafty year!

"Above all, try something." Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Letting the cat out of the bag

We arrived home from dinner last night, let the dog out, flipped on the dining room light, and burst into fits of giggles at what we saw (okay, maybe Travis didn't giggle, he probably did something more manly like "guffawed.")

Who knew my work bag could be so multi-functional? And yes, you must ignore all of the *crap* on my dining room table - it's a little insight as to how not-great of a job we do picking up after ourselves during the work week!

In other news I completed my set of 12 valentines cards. Here are the last two designs:

And here is the full-set:

For those fellow crafters out there - I'm looking for feedback on these. Which stand out to you? Which "work"? Which don't? And why?

I'm now feeling a burning desire to knit. I tried to teach myself last year, got as far as casting on, and gave up. But now every time I take a visit to my local Hobby Lobby or Michael's I find myself wandering aimlessly through the aisles of yarn, marveling at the different textures and colors. Do any of you know of good online resources for learning to knit? Videos, photos, etc.? Point me in the right direction would you?

In work news - we've been debating the future of our website. Our fabulous hosting company has been doing so GRATIS since 2001, and has done all of our updates, edits, changes, etc. completely free of charge as well. With the economy being as it is, they can't afford to do that anymore. So, being the newfound advocate of blogging that I am, I suggested we start a blog! We're going to take all of the date-time sensitive info off our existing website, and keep it as is for general informational purposes. On the cover, we'll have a nice large link to our blog where yours truly can keep the world updated on everything from the Arts Center class schedules, to fundraising events, to Library hours and contact info. I'm very much looking forward to it. I'll be setting it up over the next week or so, and will post a link to it when it's up and running. Stay tuned!

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
-- Mary Oliver

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

More Valentines

Knocked a few more Valentines cards out last night - just a couple more to go! I was inspired by the pretty "love" stamp I've been using, and have used that as the unifying theme between the cards to (hopefully) define them as a "set." The stamp is actually one of the clear latex variety that adheres to a stamp block, rather than the traditional rubber variety - not only do these stamps tend to be cheaper, but I find that they leave cleaner impressions as well.

I have tried to use a lot of layering, and different textures in these cards to make them more interesting. I'm learning though that generally the simpler the design, the more effective the card. I hope to finish up this project tonight, and move on to something new!

"I love you, not only for what you are, But for what I am when I am with you." -- Roy Croft