Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Monday, January 30, 2012

Lock It In

Yesterday was one of those days where everything worked. Bean woke up on the later side so we got to sleep in a little. We were all in good moods and ready to go explore. My husband and I both got in a good workout, and then we took off in the car to downtown Boston. We went right to our old neighborhood, where we lived before Bean was born. They've built a brand new park across the street from our old condo, where there was once an old grungy park. Bean said it was her "favorite park ever." I guess we shouldn't have moved! We played in that park for an hour, and then took the path into one of our favorite areas, Davis Square. Burritos at Anna's Taqueria for for lunch, and then walking again to find the next park. After another hour of laughing together in a different playground, we packed up and drove over to Harvard Square. We wanted to show Bean her future school, no pressure or anything. Walked through the Square, and then topped the day off with chocolate cake and coffee from Finale. Yummmmm. It was one of those days that was so great, I want to lock in that feeling forever to save for a rainy day. All those playground laughs together, the fun of spending an entire day exploring as a family. You never know what life will bring day to day. It's a coin toss really. So we'll lock that one in, and remember it when the coin doesn't fall our way. 

The park across from our old condo. The city has totally redone it, and now it's one of the nicest playgrounds in the city. I'm happy for the people who live on that street!!

 Albion Park

 At Harvard Square, with Bean in front of her future dorm....

 Rubbing John Harvard's shoe for good luck
We thought maybe the smart would rub off on her by just being in the middle of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Not yet. Harvard will have to wait a few years, there's naps to take right now. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Today this makes me happy: The Feed Your Soul Free Art Project

If you haven't seen this, check it out. The Feed Your Soul Free Art Project is a website that provides FREE downloads from artists invited to participate. It's a fun website with tons of free downloads from some great artists intended to "hopefully bring a smile to your face and brighten your day."  All you have to do is click on the links and print. You can also scroll through the list of artists to view their websites and Etsy stores, to purchase originals and higher resolution prints. Love it.Here's a few of my favorites, but check out the site for details and more freebies!

Angela Traunig

The No Excuses Sketchbook Challenge Update

A few months ago I posted about the Sketchbook Challenge website. I also said in that post that I needed to challenge myself to draw and paint more. I've had the "I'm too busy and too tired to drag all the art supplies out" excuse going for the last couple of years. That's no good.

Thanks in part to my mom for helping me find some great art supplies, and thanks in part to my mother-in-law for a generous Christmas gift to help fund these supplies, I've actually been able to keep up on my own "no excuses" sketchbook challenge. The key for me was to find a medium that was readily available, easy to set up and clean up, and right at my fingertips so I'd have no excuse to not draw or paint even after long tiring days. Here's what I bought, and what I did to make sure I'd be able to keep up with my challenge.

 My supplies: A Caslon mixed-media sketchbook, markers, artist pencils, artist pens, erasers, a T ruler for drawing straight lines, and a gouache paint set. This is all I need right now. The markers, pens, pencils and erasers are all stored in an old cigar case I got at a Christmas gift swap this year.
 I keep all this stuff in a drawer in our living room. That way there's no excuse, it's all right there even if I collapse onto the couch after a busy day. Or if we're watching one of my daughter's Disney movies for the 2000th time. A lot of the time if I pull out my sketchbook while she's watching a movie, she'll drop the movie like a bad habit and join me in sketching. Another side benefit to having all this stuff handy in the living room.
 The markers I like best: Fabrico dual markers in a variety of colors.
 Pelikan brand 24 color gouache paint set with extra white paint for blending. You could also use watercolors, but I tend to like the range of gouache. You can get much darker and deeper colors with gouache, but can also water the paint down to create more of a watercolor effect if that's what you want. This little set is great (and reasonable at about $17), and allows for super fast set up and clean up as opposed to buying all tubes.
 Micron pens with a variety of pen tip sizes. I like the 03 and 05 tips best for drawing. Tuff Stuff eraser stick for easily erasing pencil marks, and a Sakura 0.7 nib pencil.
 One great idea for making set up and clean up even easier for paints: use cereal box liners for paint trays. All you do is toss them after use. Super, super easy. I keep a bunch of these around.
 Four paint brushes with at least one angled, one small round, one Filbert, and one flat.

And that is all I need for my "no excuses" challenge. So far it's really worked and my years-long drought with no art seems to be over. If you're one of those busy but creative people with no time for anyting and definitely no energy to pull out a bunch of art supplies and clean them up, give this a try. I bet it'll work.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Quotes Wednesday

Probably the happiest period in life most frequently is in middle age, when the eager passions of youth are cooled, and the infirmities of age not yet begun; 

as we see that the shadows, which are at morning and evening so large, almost entirely disappear at midday. 

- Eleanor Roosevelt

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Today I love this inspiring collage by Annika Lane on Etsy.

The Meaning of Love

Ok I admit, I submitted this letter for a Real Simple writing contest on love. The contest asked you to write about when you learned the true meaning of love. So I did. I didn't really think I would win and I didn't, but I don't really care. What matters is that it inspired me to write. And now that I know I definitely didn't win, I wanted to share the letter. There couldn't be anything more true and I'm thankful to the folks at Real Simple for the inspiring contest.

When Did You First Understand the Meaning of Love?

I first understood the meaning of love through the selflessness of my daughter’s birthmother. 

I am a very fortunate person. I have so much love around me, being married to the love of my life, being close to both of our parents, siblings and extended families, and of course the love of our beautiful daughter who we adopted when she was four days old. I can hardly imagine a life more full of love, so I thought I had learned the true meaning of love several times before we adopted our daughter. But it turns out I hadn’t. 

I thought I understood the meaning of love when I was growing up. I have a wonderful mom, dad, sister, thirteen cousins and dozens of aunts and uncles who I was and still am close to. There was always so much love around. My sister and I were best friends and we did everything together. There were long family vacations, easy Sunday mornings eating Cheerios, homemade Michael Jackson dance videos that we still laugh at today, and plenty of evenings spent outside waiting for the ice cream truck, staring up at the stars on warm Texas summer nights. 

I thought I understood the meaning of love when I was in middle school, when I fell deeply and insanely “in love” with three to four boys/victims who I would follow around and sneak notes to during class. Unfortunately none of them “loved” me back. 

I thought I understood the meaning of love when I was in high school, when I met my first real boyfriend who actually loved me back. When all there was to do was get homework done and then I could spend all my extra time daydreaming about building a life together with him, about being an adult and having my own family. He was my driver to and from school so I didn’t have to take the bus, my prom date, my warmth during my first cold winter in the north after growing up in the south.  This was a great love, but college changed me and a career changed him, so we gave up our daydreams and went our separate ways after high school.  

I thought I understood the meaning of love in college, when I was surrounded by the best friends and roommates a girl could have and a boyfriend who taught me how to be a truly original person.  College was such a fast blur, but the bonds of friendship created during that time of craziness, experimentation, and drama were so strong that I still love and stay in touch with all of my college friends.

I thought I understood the meaning of love in the years after college, when I finally broke out of the chains of my childhood insecurities and learned to love myself. 

I thought I understood the meaning of love when I met my husband Brandon. After a few relationships that were great but didn’t last, I wasn’t sure I had the capacity to fall so crazy in love again. I was worried that if I did the feeling might go away after a while as it had in my past relationships. But I did have the capacity to love again, and that love has never, ever gone away. In fact it has grown far stronger through the challenges we’ve faced together. 

I thought I understood the meaning of love when all of our family and friends stood by us through the painful years of infertility and the adoption wait. We struggled through two early miscarriages, three failed rounds of IUI, three failed rounds of IVF, and a 17 month adoption process that finally brought us to Emma. During that painful time we were blessed with a love so deep from the support of our families, friends and even coworkers as we rode through the roller coaster of emotions in that process. Our friends and family lifted us up when we were down, dealt with the sadness, anger, and jealousy that we felt so guilty for feeling, and were there to encourage us to keep the hope for just one more day to get through it. 

But none of this, and I mean none of it, can compare to when I actually did fully come to understand the meaning of love. I’m not belittling all the love in my life prior to this. Honestly I can’t imagine a life more full of love than the one I’ve been blessed with. But I truly, totally, and wholly learned the meaning of love on the day we met our daughter Emma. 

When her brave and wonderful birthmother so selflessly created an adoption plan so that Emma could have a life that her birthmother couldn’t give her.  This is the true meaning of love. 

When we learned that her birthmother didn’t name her because she wanted us to be able to do that so that we could be a family from the start. This is the true meaning of love. 

When I had the pleasure of a brief conversation with Emma’s birthfather the day after she was born and he told me that he was there for her birth and that she was beautiful, and that he hopes God blesses us and thanked us ten times. This is the true meaning of love. 

When I learned a few months ago that Emma’s birthmother had reached out to our agency for pictures and letters and admitted that she thinks about Emma every day and was just afraid to be in touch, she wanted to leave us alone. This is the true meaning of love. 

For all of you parents out there, think about how strong and fierce your love is for your children, and how much love it would take to admit that you wanted them to have a better life than you could give them.  Creating an adoption plan for her child was a totally selfless act that I know left a hole in Emma’s birthmother’s heart that will be there forever. That is why I believe it is the strongest love I’ve ever known, and I thank her every day for the gift she gave us and for helping me to finally understand the true meaning of love. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Happy Snowy Winter Weekend

We've had a really light winter so far this year. Last night we got just enough to play outside, with more on its way tonight. Winter is finally officially here. Have a happy snowy, cold, windy winter weekend.

Snowy swing set, great for climbing and a really fast slide down the icy slide.
 I may get annoyed with snow sometimes, but it certainly doesn't bother Bean. 
She loves it.
We made the world's tiniest snowman.
 Made animal tracks around the house.
 And filled up trucks full of snow to bring it out of the lawn.

Etsy Favorites Friday - Knot and Bow

Today's Etsy Favorite - Knot and Bow. I love their paper goods and stickers, and especially love the Me & You pencils. These would be great for Valentines Day. Here's a few of my favorites from this fun Etsy shop. See more at the Knot and Bow Etsy Store.

Library cards - great for taking notes or collages
 Me & You engraved pencils
 Kraft paper heart stickers
 Recycled Kraft paper tissue paper

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fishs Eddy NYC

Not that it would make any sense at all to do this, but if I were to one day get bored and decide that I want to start over and get all new stuff for our kitchen to make it look more like a cool diner, I'd go right to Fishs Eddy in NYC and get everything there. This place is amazing. I could get lost in there, and spend all my money. The flagship store is on Broadway right across the street from ABC Carpet and Home, another must-see store in NYC where I could easily blow my entire savings account. Maybe I'll just add a few of the Fishs Eddy pieces, instead of starting over. Yes, that makes more sense. Here's a few of my favorites from this great store.

Vintage plates, bowls, and mugs - they always have a ton of different kinds in the store.

 I totally need this mug.
 Simple color band dinnerware open stock in a variety of colors.

 Jadeite cake stand, and others in the Jadeite series
 Manhattan blue plate special series bowls and serving trays

 Green glass butter dish

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Quotes Wednesday

I'm officially changing the name of Chalkboard Quotes Wednesday to Quotes Wednesday. There's too many fun places to write quotes to limit it to chalkboards! I felt like today's quote belonged more on my daughter's easel, in the midst of her scribbles. 
Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New Idea Tuesday - DIY Play Kitchen

A few months back I featured Love and Life Cards in this post for Featured Artist Friday. We ordered our Christmas cards from Love and Life Cards, and they were great. Great quality cards, excellent printing, reasonable prices, and free shipping. I'm always checking back at the Love and Life Cards blog It's The Little Things. Last week they featured a DIY play kitchen, which was made with a flea market side table, a little paint, and lots of leftover scraps from their basement and home renovation.  I love the use of the old hot and cold knobs, the leftover back splash tiles, and the found wood scraps and light switch. Such a creative idea!! See the post and more pictures and directions here. Thanks for sharing Love and Life Cards!

Side Table DIY Play Kitchen Before:

Side Table DIY Play Kitchen After:

Monday, January 16, 2012

What We Did This Weekend

In addition to watching the Patriots trample over the Broncos and making one of the VERY BEST crock pot meals I've ever made from here, we had a great long weekend with friends and family. 

Ran the mall on a cold, cold day with friends

 Bundled up for her new "big girl" ballet class

Made progress on potty training, and won a giant Buzz Lightyear doll for getting 10 stars in record time

 Dressed Buzz up in princess gear. He didn't know what he was getting into coming home from the store with a little girl.

Birthday party at open gym for a classmate

 Chilled with friends for football Sunday

Created an indoor tricycle track on the unfinished side of the basement to practice biking, so she's ready to take off when the warm weather returns

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