Wednesday, December 21, 2011

December Must Haves

Top ten things currently putting a smile on my face:

My Whole Foods is selling clementines from Spain in these delightful little wooden crates.  They just look so sunny and lovely on my kitchen counter!  Brent has been known to eat 5 at a time, so this is my second crate.
I know I'm late to the party.  I don't know what's wrong with me, and my only excuse is that I am completely out of touch.  Anyway, I "discovered" ADELE this week, and I'm slightly slash highly obsessed.  1, 3, 5 and then 2, 6, and 7 are where you'll find me most of the time.  Blasting on my BOSE as we speak.  Can't.Get.Enough.

Sentimental Ornaments
I like uniform trees in magazines, but mine will never be that way.  I love sentimental ornaments too much.  We grew up with a 'hodge podge' tree of ornaments we made and collected over the years.  When my mom downsized her tree a few years ago, she let us pick the ornaments we wanted to take to start our own trees.  I picked a lot of my favorites, and I love that ornaments from my childhood are on my tree now.  I can't wait to add ornaments that my future children will make.  The ornament below is my favorite.  My family makes fun of me mercilessly for it, but I just love it.  I made it preschool.  Who needs a fancy tree when you can have glue & glitter yarn blobs?

Christmas Cards
I kind of thought we wouldn't get a single Christmas card this year since we moved, but we have wonderful friends!  Everyone seemed to find us and we have received cards in droves.  I had them on the fridge when I realized that there was just not enough room, so I broke out the famous T-Rog Christmas card tree as in years past.  Love looking at your smiling faces!  Just so you don't think we hate you, we did not send cards this year.

Read it Later
This app is GENIUS. I get so many emails and articles and things I want to read daily, but just can't read them all at the moment I receive them. Enter: READ IT LATER. Love. It works just like Pinterest. You install a "bookmarklet" (for free) to your browser, and anytime you encounter something you don't want to read now, but want to read later, you click on "read it later", and it saves the article in your own personal reading list (you sign up for a free account). Oh... but that's not the best part. The articles you click AUTOMATICALLY sync to your iPhone and iPad (if you've installed the free apps there). THEN, you can access your reading list anywhere, anytime - even if you don't have wifi!!!! I know, it's crazy. So because I travel so much, I've been saving articles to my reading list and then reading them all on the plane on my iPad even though there is no wi-fi. When you've read it, you click "read it", and it transfers to an archive. I know. Brilliant. Do it.

Glitter Nail Polish
No, I'm not in middle school, but I do enjoy a good glitter nail polish, especially around Christmas. Nicole's "Orna-ment for each other" is my current pick. Maybe not on nails, but toes... totally acceptable, in my opinion :-)
Love to Life
I am loving the Big Daddy Weave song "Love Come to Life".  I sometimes listen to this as I run on the trail (along with ADELE, duh) and I can't help praising God!  My heart cries out for this song to be true in my life.  It's worth a download.  It reminds me of a verse in 1 Peter, which I'm studying right now.   This verse always challenges me - 1 Peter 1:22:  "Love one another deeply, from the heart."

They lyrics say:  "Would you reignite this heart spark here in the dark?  Bring your love to life inside of me.  Why don't you break my heart till it moves my hands and feet?  For the hopeless and the broken - for the ones that don't know that you love them - bring your love to life inside of me.  Love come to life!  Love come to life!  Bring love to life inside of me!"

Peppermint Bark Ice Cream
I've learned the hard way not to get too attached to Haagen Dazs "Limited Edition" ice creams because they are not kidding that they are limited edition.  They WILL take them away, and they will not feel bad about it.  Lesson learned in the "Fleur de Sel" ice cream tragedy of 2009.  Still, you won't be able to resist this peppermint bark ice cream I found at the store yesterday.  Yes, please. 

Big Buddha Bags
My aunt works at a showroom that sells Big Buddha, so I am lucky enough to get access to floor samples of Big Buddha bags!  They are super cool, and I got two from my mom for Christmas.  This one is my favorite.  It's pretty big, so it's going to be my new airplane travel tote.  Love!

Uniformly Wrapped Presents 
I like my tree to be hodge-podge, but my presents have to be uniform.  It's part of my OCD.  All of my family's presents were wrapped in green & white print paper with red tulle bows.  Brent's presents are all wrapped in red & white print paper with white tulle bows and green "B" letters (idea from Pinterest, duh).  I also don't like Christmas themed paper like with Santa or something (sorry if I just offended you).  I like more modern printed paper that just happens to be in Christmas colors. 
And just for good measure...
My cute puppy (but you can't have him.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Cookie Roundup

This afternoon, Brent left for Houston to visit some companies and see his family.  I wanted to send him off with Christmas treats for his mom, dad, sister, and brother-in-law, so I devoted early this morning to baking!  I am not a huge baker, so this was an accomplishment for me.  I decided to choose one cookie I've had every year since I was five and three new ones.  I don't really have a sweet tooth, so whenever I bake something, I usually end up giving most of it away.  Sometimes it satisfies me to just bake something, and I've been known not to eat any!  Weird, I know.  This round was pretty good, though, so I sent all the "pretty" cookies to Houston with strict instructions for Brent to protect them on the plane (here's hoping), and I'll happily munch on the leftovers here at home! 

Peanut-Butter-Stuffed Ginger Cookies  from Rachel Ray (recipe here)

Cherry Shortbread Cookies  from Rachael Ray (recipe here)
Chocolate Peanut Butter Ritz Sandwiches from "Spoon Fork Bacon" (recipe here)
Candy Cane Cookies  from my MAMA via Betty Crocker (Recipe here - seriously, the best cookies EVER.  They have Crisco in them.  You won't regret it.  And no, mine don't look like the Betty Crocker picture.  Mine are rustic.)
What are you baking this season?  And if I go on another baking spree, who will eat what I make?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

DIY Nursery Art

A few weeks ago as I was planning Maggie's shower, I was thinking of what I would give her as a gift.  She had already received a ton of things from her registries, and I knew that she was wanting some personalized wall art for the nursery.  She had looked at some pieces on Etsy, so I did some browsing myself.  Some of the coolest things I found were prints that had animal silhouettes and the child's name.  Here was my main  inspiration from Etsy: 

I decided that they looked simple enough, and I could create some personalized art for Maggie in an afternoon.  Maggie's son will be named Thomas Campbell.  I knew he needed one canvas with a sheep since that's his nursery theme and one canvas with a deer since his daddy is a hunter.  Here's how I did it:

  • 2 stretched canvases (I used two square canvasses because I thought they looked modern)
  • background color acrylic paint (I liked two shades of blue)
  • white acrylic paint
  • paintbrushes
  • pencil
  • adhesive letters (I found lots of varieties in the scrapbook aisle of Michael's)
  1. Search online for pictures of animal silhouettes.  I just searched google images for "sheep silhouette" and "deer silhouette" and looked for the best ones.
  2. Draw an outline of the animal on the canvas.  I just looked at the picture and drew the animals freehand with pencil, but you could just as easily print out the images and use them as stencils to trace on the canvas.
  3. Using white paint, paint the animals all white.
  4. Using your darker background paint, paint the rest of the canvas, around the animal outlines.  Depending on the colors you choose, you may need more than one coat.  I did one coat of light blue and two coats of dark blue.
  5. Go back with smaller brushes to make the animal outlines sharp - I did multiple touch ups with both the white and the color.
  6. When it's completely dry, stick your adhesive letters on the canvas to spell out the name.
Here are the finished creations!

Blazer says, "Mama, where is the one with a doggie and it says 'Blazer'?"

Monday, December 5, 2011

Celebrating Maggie & Campbell!

Yesterday, we had the opportunity to shower our friend Maggie with love in anticipation of the birth of her son, Campbell, in just a few short weeks!  Maggie is such a dear friend, and I was glad we could celebrate her.  I had a moment during the shower where I just looked around and felt SO GRATEFUL to the Lord for bringing me so many friends.  Just a few months ago, I didn't know a single person in Durham.  Not one.  Now, I have a friend close enough to throw her a shower, and we have many more friends close enough to come to the shower!  I am truly, wonderfully blessed, and I'm so grateful for all of the ladies you see here and for those who aren't pictured because they had to leave the shower early :-)  Love you (L-R) Kelly, Aimee, Lindsay, Maggie, Lindsay, Kristi, and Emma and (not pictured) Lindsay and Brittany!

As you remember from the invitations, I went with a "banner" theme for this shower, and you could also call it a "Pinterest shower".  You will recognize, um, a LOT of these ideas from Pinterest!  Guests were greeted at the door with a banner of course.
My house is decorated for Christmas, so it was also a Christmas-y shower.
Hot chocolate bar
San Pellegrino... Maggie's favorite
Me with the guest of honor
Individual veggie dips (from Pinterest)
Rosemary chicken salad sandwiches with "C" flags for "Campbell" and cupcakes from a local bakery
Fruit kebabs from... you guessed it... Pinterest
The spread
Some shots of guests and gift opening

We were glad that Brittany's baby, Nolan, could make an appearance too!
Instead of my usual blessing tree, I did a blessing banner... guests wrote messages and clipped them on the banner with clothes pins.

As a party favor, each guest got a set of gift labels personalized with their family's name!  I shamelessly stole this idea from Mindy's blog.   Her friend Marina made gift labels for a recent shower and I thought it was such a great idea!
It was a great afternoon, and we can't wait to meet little Campbell in person!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Invasion of the English Teachers

If you happened to be in Chicago the week before Thanksgiving... I'm sorry.  If you were, you may have seen throngs of middle-aged women wearing seasonal sweater vests and wooden jewelry while dragging rolling crates full of books and correcting people's grammar.  No, you weren't in the midst of a mom convention.  You were in the midst of an English teachers convention!!!   If you have ever been knocked down by a zealous teacher carrying a 100 pound book bag, I apologize on the behalf of our profession.  Moving on.

Last week, thousands of English teachers descended upon Chicago for the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) Annual Convention.  Nerd alert!!  Nothing like four days full of learning and fighting crowds of educators!  This was my fourth convention, and I attended with my best buddies Emily Shisler and Jessica Cook.  Emily is my better half.  She manages high school English across YES Prep, and I manage middle school English.  High schoolers intimidate me.  Little kids terrify her.  So, we're a match made in heaven.  She and I are equally nerdy and love to learn about English, so she makes a good convention partner.  Jess teaches high school English at NC, and she completes the group with her similar nerdy desire to learn and her dry humor that keeps us laughing.  I had the BEST time with both of them.  As an added bonus, Emily grew up in Chicago and went to college at Northwestern.  Neither Jess nor I had ever been to the city, so Emily acted as our tour guide and made sure that in between sessions we ate the best food Chicago had to offer and saw all of the sights.

We stayed at the Palmer House which was pretty ordinary in terms of hotel rooms, but the lobby was impressive.  The beautiful hand-painted ceiling and ornate furnishings made it a really cool place to hang out...  except for the fact that there were approximately one thousand teachers there every night drinking after a long day of learning.  Yikes!
Of course we walked through Millennium Park and took pictures at the bean.  Here is Emily acting as our tour guide and telling us the notable features of many Chicago buildings.
I just wanted to show off my new hat complete with a pom-pom and mittens complete with tassels.  Thanks, H&M.
We went to the 95th floor of the Hancock Tower, the Signature Lounge, at exactly the right moment.  The sun was setting, there was a free table by the window, and they served excellent cosmos.  Yes, please.  We hadn't been to a single convention session yet, but we still needed a cosmo.  Obviously.
There's the tour guide again, getting in the way of my beautiful picture (just kidding!)

Looking down the lake shore towards Northwestern, Emily's alma mater.
I think this looks like a honeymoon in Hawaii picture with the sunset.  Don't you? 
Here's my honeymoon pic with Emily.
After drinks, we headed to eat (what else?) deep dish pizza.  It didn't disappoint.  We ate half of the pizza before thinking to take a picture if that tells you anything.
The next day we had a 45 minute break for lunch in between sessions, so we hopped in a cab per Emily's suggestion and headed towards Portillo's for some Italian beef and/or Chicago hot dogs.  We all opted for the Italian beef, and we weren't sorry.  Until about an hour later when we wanted to nap instead of learn.  But that's beside the point.
The second night we got to have dinner with my very bestest long-lost YES Prep friend Lora Knapp.  She was my team teacher back in the day (good times), and now she lives a high powered life in Chicago recruiting for TFA and living in a chic high rise.  We had a great time catching up! 
I PROMISE that we really did go to sessions, and I really did learn a lot about teaching and supporting teachers and ideas for PD and all that jazz.  Promise.  It's just not really exciting to post pictures of a ballroom full of teachers watching a power point.  If you're interested, email me and we'll chat.  :-)  Heads up.... next year NCTE is in VEGAS!!!!  Clear the way for rolling crates in the casinos, 'cause we're comin' with thousands of our best teacher friends!  Teachers in Vegas.... wow.  That should be incentive enough to follow my blog for another year so you can see what happens....  I'll report it faithfully.
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