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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My urge to...

...quilt is growing daily. I can feel the creative excitement building. must. refrain....

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I might have to put away the fingerless gloves

I need to finish up the fingerless gloves that I started earlier this year. But this is so dang cute.

Pattern is available here
The more I look at it, the more I want to make one.

...I will be strong. I will be strong. (Hmmm. I wonder if I have any rust and brown wool handy?)

...I will be strong. I will be strong...

Friday, October 15, 2010

A box of cereal and some crackers

When I was 9 years old, I lived in West Africa.

I have forgotten much about my life there, but I still remember the morning we drove past a crippled old man sitting by the side of the road. In a split-second, I noticed him, wanted to help him, and wondered if he would be offended by a gift of my afternoon's snack of a small box of cereal. And then he was gone.

Yesterday afternoon, I drove 9 year old Mason to an appointment. As we waited at a red light, an old man crossed the street in front of us, his worldly belongings piled high on the bike he pushed along.

Mason watched as the man stooped down and took something out of the gutter.

Mason: "Mom, why did he just pick that up?"

Answering his question allowed me to incorporate a lesson on gratefulness and appreciation for what we have in life. And compassion for others who are not as fortunate. But before I got to the "compassion" part...

Mason: "If he had been next to us, would it have been okay for me to give him my bag of crackers?"

Flashback to when I was 9 years old, living in Africa...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

Thank You, Alton Brown

Alton Brown - Book available at amazon.com
On Saturday, I had the opportunity to thank Alton Brown for a kindness that he showed Mason years ago. I wasn’t going to disturb him and had actually walked away, but in a split-second decision I chose to turn back. I really wanted to let him know that, years later, someone still remembered a kindness that he had extended. Because I think that acts of kindness should be recognized whenever possible. So, I tapped him on the shoulder, thanked him briefly, he shook my hand and then I moved away...hoping against hope that I hadn't disturbed him too much.

At almost 4 years old, Mason had been watching Good Eats almost every day of his life; he absolutely loved that show. So when we ran into a Good Eats filming-in-progress at Harry’s Farmers Market, the mother bear in me just had to introduce him to his hero. Despite some irritations he was evidently experiencing, Mr. Brown immediately switched gears and was so very kind to Mason.

In retrospect, it occurred to me that disturbing someone as they were in the midst of work-related problem solving was not a good idea. However, I was about 7 months pregnant at the time and full of all sorts of motherly hormones so I wasn’t thinking very clearly. Years later, I am still so grateful to Mr. Brown for not rebuffing us and instead making a point of charming little Mason.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Melancholic beauty

I find this beautiful and yet it fills me with such melancholy. Is it because of the fluidity of his movements or, more likely, the music? Perhaps it's his interaction with the hoop, as if it is a living being? How amazing it must be to move in such perfect harmony with something outside one's self.

wheel number from E and M-P on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hooping: A short film


Hooping: A Short Film
This is a cute introduction to hooping as explained to a newbie. I don't agree with all the content (like the part where she says hoopers only use one, maybe two, hoops), but it comes pretty close to matching my opinions.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My favorite hooping video

This is, hands down, my FAVORITE hooping video. It's just so HAPPY!!! It clearly demonstrates the joy associated with basic hoop dancing moves. There are many, many styles of hooping in the world, but I'm personally a fan of the "Marisa Tomei-style." To me, hers is a just-get-out-and-move kind of style. I can do that. I DO do that.

Click the image to display the video, then click the Play arrow.

Gaiam created this video as a preview to Marisa Tomei's hoopBoody kit (available here). They've since replaced that video with another one, but I've saved the link (thank goodness!) and share it with everyone who shows an interest in hoop dancing. I'll be very, very sad if it ever goes to Gaiam's "website composter" (as they call it).

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

All-weather exercise

My oldest has developed an interest in a hobby that is almost ideal, at least for this mom. I can sit in air-conditioned (and later this year, heated) bliss, while Mason gets 2+ hours of non-stop fun and exercise. Oh! And there's free wi-fi, too! Where, you may ask, is this haven of parental joy? It's Progressive Skatepark in Canton, Georgia, less than a half hour from my home.


Depending on what day of the week and time of day you go, the fee ranges from $5.00 - $15.00 to use the indoor/outdoor facility for a specific time range or all day. Yes, it's not free, but it is still relatively inexpensive compared to other options available to kids. In the owner Mike DeLuca's words:

"I thought it was so unfair that these corporate skateparks were charging the fees they were. As a skater dad with three kids that skated, it really ticked me off that it would cost me sixty bucks to skate for two hours. I thought why not build a skatepark, charge a small fee to cover the overhead (utilities, insurance, labor and day to day expenses) and give a skater the chance to skate in a clean, well lit and safe environment. While I was at it, give mom and dad a great place to watch there kids excel at what they wanted to do. Today our session prices are still the lowest of any major skatepark in Georgia."

In the raise-responsible-children-area, Mason is so motivated by skateboarding that Progressive is an incentive on which I can base his taking responsibility for his weekly guitar and keyboard practice. No more nagging from this mom! (Well, less nagging, anyway.) If he practices a specific amount of time each week without being reminded, I take him skateboarding. If I have to remind him, then he has to practice anyway and there's no skateboarding that week. (Which is kind of a bummer for me, too, as I actually enjoy hanging out there. Ah, the sacrifices a parent must make!)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A hooping necklace

Love, Earth: Tree of Life necklace
When you're learning to hoop, you don't want to add to the lumps and bumps that the human body already has. I love jewelry, I really do, but wearing bulky shiny objects adds a level of complexity to my hooping that I'm just not ready for. (I don't even wear earrings anymore because I once had a hoop hit my ear and knock a 1 carat stud earring into the grass.) A few months ago, though, I found a piece of jewelry that I can wear while hooping. And I do. In fact, I rarely take it off because I like it for so many different reasons:
  • It's flat and doesn't interfere with my chest or neck hooping.
  • It's relatively inexpensive so I won't be completely horrified if I lose it during a particularly energetic hooping session.
  • It's made of both gold and silver which helps it match pretty much everything.
  • The necklace materials are responsibly mined. (Each necklace includes a tracking number so that you can trace the path of your necklace from "Mine to Market.")
  • The Tree of Life etched on it holds great meaning for me (it is a constant reminder of the connection that we humans, and all life on this planet, have to each other).
The only negative aspect to this necklace is that it's sold by WalMart. Yes, I said Wal-Mart. I don't have a high opinion of that organization, mostly because of its contribution to excessive consumerism and waste, but I suppose we can assume this necklace is an example of them trying to improve their record, yes? One can only hope.

You can find more information about the necklace and the Love, Earth jewelry collection here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Old news


As I was sorting through paperwork today, I came across this note I jotted down back in 2008:

May 16, 2008 6:36 PM

Darren just called to tell me this. It just happened.

It's dinner time and Husband told Mason (7) to remain seated at the dinner table until Cooper (3) was finished eating. They could then have dessert. Suddenly, Mason got up and started wiggling around. Husband said, "Mason, sit down!" To which Mason replied, "I can't! I've got a wedgie." This was immediately followed by Cooper yelling, "Wedgie or not, here I come!"

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sitting on the porch...

...on an early mountain morning. Chatting with my 9-year-old son. Out of the blue he says:

"You do know that when you retire I'm going to give you half my paycheck?"

Me: "And do you know what I'll do with it?"

Mason: "No?"

Me: "Put it in a savings account for you."

Friday, July 23, 2010

Concentrated family time


We're headed to a mountain vacation soon. And (insert smooth segue here!) I've recently been listening to Asleep at the Wheel's album "Ride with Bob." It has certainly put me in the mood for the great outdoors, even if the images it's conjuring (cowboys on horses, ambling across the evening desert against a backdrop of far off mountain ranges in various shades of gray) don't quite match our heavily forested destination.

I am SO looking forward to concentrated family time. I truly live for those moments.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A bread pudding aficionado

bread-pudding Pictures, Images and Photos

Last night we enjoyed dinner at an (almost) local cajun restaurant. I was particularly looking forward to their bread pudding as the Internet is rife with rave reviews about that dish. Bad side, I found the bread dense and rubbery so I didn't eat much of it. Good side, I found the bread dense and rubbery so I didn't eat much of it. I much prefer the "pudding" part of bread pudding over the "bread" part, and there wasn't enough of Part 1 to please me.

I've got YEARS of experience consuming bread pudding as it's one of my favorite sweet treats. I don't make it as much as I used to, though, as no one else in my family enjoys it as much as I do. When I first met my husband I actually made it twice a month. It was MONTHS before I realized that he didn't like bread pudding and I was the only one eating it. Hmmm. No need to guess what the ramifications of that episode were...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hula-hooping is also educational



Last Fall, my husband called his dad to tell him about a news story he just heard of a vortex created by the swallows of San Juan Capistrano. In the midst of his conversation, he looked over at our Youngest and asked him if he knew what a vortex was. To which my Youngest said, yes, he knew...it was something circular.

Since we had gone to a science museum a few days earlier, my husband mentally patted himself on the back for contributing to our son's education.

Husband: "So did you learn about a vortex from the museum? From that coin-rolling game you played there?"

Youngest: "No."

Husband: "Then how do you know about it?"

Youngest: "From hula-hooping."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Our house smelled heavenly

Image from OurBestBites.com

Last Sunday a mystery neighbor gifted us with a dozen homegrown tomatoes. That very day, I followed this recipe and popped them in the oven for a couple of hours. They were absolutely divine.

Basically, you just quarter some tomatoes and chop some garlic. Then coat everything in olive oil, salt and pepper, arrange it all on a cookie sheet, and roast for a couple of hours. It is unbelievably yummy and easy. A perfect combination for this busy mom.

After figuring out who our benefactor was, I thanked him profusely. I was so obviously pleased with the tomatoes that he promised me more later this summer. I plan on adding minced, fresh basil to that batch!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New web site...in progress!

My collection of play-with-me hoops. The raggedy, mummy-like white one on the end is my very first hoop. Only two of the others are still in my house; the rest have been gifted to someone!

I enjoy hooping so much that I want to share the joy it brings with all my friends and family. As a result, I’ve made and given away many, many hula hoops to those who have expressed even the slightest interest in the activity. Not suprisingly, this practice is starting to become a wee bit expensive as there are costs associated with making hula-hoops.

To offset the financial impact of “spreading the hooping love” I’ve decided to sell the hoops at a relatively low price. This will allow me to kinda-sorta “give them away” without breaking the family bank. Of course, one thing leads to another (are you now hearing that song by The Fixx in your head?!) so I had to think of a company name and create a logo for the contact cards I intend to keep on hand, get a domain name, create a web site, etc...

We considered a variety of company names and enjoyed a LOT of giggles as we did so. Our ideas included: Hoop! There It Is! (this one STILL cracks me up!), HoopDeVille, Hoop-to-Hoop, Hoops-a-daisy, HooptyDo, HoopAndFlow, Hoopentine, The InsideHoop, TomHoopery, Hooparama, and HoopyDays. There were many, many other suggestions made because we also considered names which included “hula”...like HulaMonster. Get it? Hula Monster? As in, “gila monster”!!!

My number one choice was actually HoopsADaisy, but that .com domain belongs to a bridal store in the UK. So, after further consideration, I chose Alphabet Hoops...it’s a play on the words “Alphabet Soup,” in case you didn’t figure that out immediately. (Most people don’t/haven’t.) As this Web site is in a blog format and being a writer in my day job, the combination of “alphabet” with “hoops” seems entirely appropriate. And as a mom who pays careful attention to what her family consumes, the slight reference to food also seems very appropriate. (Well, sort of. I haven’t actually ever served Campbell’s Alphabet Soup to my kids, but in the interest of my new domain name, I’ll overlook that fact.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"One hand old"


My baby boy is "one hand old" (Cooper's words) today! Words can't begin to express the pride and joy and love in my heart for my boys.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Happy Easter!


Last weekend, my family made Easter bunnies! With us being perpetually short on time, I was proud that we even managed to sit down and make them. I was actually quite happy to just draw little eyes on the critters and be done with it. My husband, The Graphic Designer, wasn't quite so easily appeased, though. First he suggested that I sew little eyes on each one...I SWEAR he actually referenced "French Knots," but my memory must be incorrect. How would he know to reference those!?

Anyway. When his embroidery suggestion met with a blank stare, he took the initiative and added details that didn't require a needle and thread, just felt and glue. I LOVE the buck teeth he created for them!
This one, created by Mason, looks a little wild-eyed:
But it's loveable, nonetheless, yes?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sad, Sadder, Saddest



Sad: The Godiva Strawberry Truffle cost $2.00.  
Sadder: Cooper grabbed it and popped it in his mouth before we could stop him.  
Saddest: The look of horrified disgust on Cooper's face as he ran to spit it out.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A life lesson

For a 4 year old.
Yesterday Cooper learned that forcing farts has its risks...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Snow Day - Again

The Marietta City Schools released students early yesterday because of snow. The snowflakes were HUGE and beautiful, but we've become so used to snow that neither of  the boys expressed any desire to play in it. Well. There might have been a spark of interest but, really, it didn't amount to much. Instead, we took advantage of the extra time to work on Mason's Franklin Delano Roosevelt school project which is due tomorrow.

Over the last two weeks, Mason has become an extremely conscientious student. I'm not sure what caused this change but I'm inclined to think that it's because Darren implemented a Mason-gets-to-determine-when-he-studies flexible schedule. So perhaps Mason feels more in control of his own destiny? He now makes a point of completing scheduled tasks without any prompting from his parents. We are SO proud of him.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Beautiful Orchid

Mei Lan, my Chinese (and middle) name, means "Beautiful Orchid." That's what I chose for my station wagon's vanity license plate. As I pulled into the left turn lane yesterday morning, I was startled by the tag on the car in front of me. It read "Orchid." I SO wanted to jump out of my car and let the driver know that we had the same words on our tags, only mine was in Chinese. But I refrained.

(Image source: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=1253&picture=orchid&large=1)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

One-on-one's

Breakfast this morning with Mason, breakfast tomorrow with Cooper, dinner with Darren. I've got a string of one-on-one's with each of my boys. And I don't have to do dishes to boot!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Valentine's Day Goody Bags

This year I volunteered to supply the goody bags for my youngest’s pre-school Valentine’s party. A top priority was to not fill the bags with plastic junk that would be looked at for a second and then tossed in a landfill. Since bookmarks are small, useful, and can be designed for any holiday I chose a reading theme.

Each goody bag would be filled with:
  •     A card
  •     A bookmark
  •     A full-sized Kit Kat candy bar (because of its red packaging)
  •     2 pieces of Valentine’s Day taffy (to share with siblings. and because I love taffy)
First the bookmarks. I originally intended to create a cardboard bookmark. Well, I’d like to THINK that was my original intention. Because that would have been the wiser (and cheaper option), but I ended up making ribbon bookmarks. After scouring the web, I found instructions for creating them here and here. (I'm so glad that I found ImogensGarden's blog because that's where I learned to look for "ribbon clamps." Using the right words can save so much time when explaining to a sales person what one is looking for.)

This project could have cost a lot more than it did but I made several trips to Michaels with coupons in hand. I also found that the wedding craft section of that store is a great alternative for charms. If I’d chosen them from the jewelry section, it could have cost as much as $5.00 for 5 items. As it was, the wedding section had a packet of FIFTY (50!) heart charms for $4.99…that combined with a 40% discount made them very inexpensive.

I also returned to the wedding section for a package of 50 mini tulle bags to put each bookmark in. I then secured a bag inside each recipient’s Valentine’s Day card.

But I didn’t make 50 bookmarks. Oh, no. I didn’t have THAT much time on my hands. Besides which, each ribbon clamp package was only available in packs of 5 complete sets of varying sizes. Rather annoying. So as I was using coupons very actively, I only managed to get 5 packs…for 25 bookmarks. (It was annoying at the time, but in retrospect I am relieved that I was unable to find large packs of ribbon clamps. Because then I'd have had to make 50 bookmarks.)

Fortunately, though, the bookmarks were really quick to make. The most time consuming part was gathering the supplies. Plus, my handy husband helpfully applied the clamps for me and I focused on adding the beads. We were able to get them done in an hour or so. (I doubt it took much longer than that as I distinctly remember my sons patiently hovering around us as we worked…and it was getting to be dinner time…and they SO wouldn’t have let us work peacefully if their stomaches were growling…which means I was multi-tasking…but, regardless, it was a peaceful evening.)

I didn’t take any pictures of the bookmarks in progress, but I’m not going to reinvent the wheel with instructions for creating them. The earlier links to Imogen’s Garden and Michaels lead to great instructions for creating ribboned bookmarks of your own.

Now the cards. Creating the cards and the goody bags was the most time consuming part of the project. I scoured (again) the Web for reading-related Valentine’s text but not finding any I attempted to create my own. The final product was corny and not worthy of the beautiful bookmarks. After another I attempt, I found the PERFECT text. It was written by a librarian, her site gave permission for it’s re-use, and I want to credit her, but I can’t find the site now. (So Dear Librarian, or Friend-of-Dear-Librarian, if you should stumble across this blog, please send me a link to your site and I’ll add the info!)

If I’d known the cards would take me ALL day Saturday to create, I might not have done as much Xacto cutting and punching as I did.

Here’s the work table:
(Do you see the penguin waving at you? And the Lightning Thief Guide Book? --- Why, yes, we DID brave the crushing crowds last Saturday to meet some of the movie cast members!)

Here’s the incomplete supply list:
The supply list picture is missing: heart punch, hole punch, beading tools, Kit Kat bar, taffy, paper bag …umm, I’m sure there’s other stuff. But it’ll give a general idea as to what I used.

And the final product:
The inside of the card has a small tulle bag holding a bookmark with “Happy Valentine’s Day” stamped beneath it. On the back of the card is a small picture of smiling cherubs that were also individually punched out and then glued on. (I'm kind of glad I forgot pictures of the inside and back of the card because this blog entry would be unforgiveably long. Well. It's in that category already, I suppose.)

If I were making the card for grown-ups rather than four year olds, I would have used better quality paper for the text (I just used plain old typing paper). And, yes, I know the clamp on that ribbon on the left is too large. I doubt the four-year olds will notice. And, actually, there are a LOT of non-crafty grown-ups who wouldn’t notice as well. (But, of course, if I’d noticed the size discrepancy before production time arrived, I would have chosen another ribbon. Because I’m a perfectionist. Even when it nearly kills me.)

The delivery method:
I love lunch bags. I truly do. They are my preferred method of gift packaging. There’s so much that can be done with them AND they’re bio-degradable!

And that’s that for the goody bags. The party is this Friday. I also volunteered to supply decorations for the class so I’m making a felt heart banner. (Of the style that is sweeping the blogosphere this season. I’ll post pictures of it this weekend. I hope. Good intentions and all that…)