Tag Archives: diy

November 2016 | Currently

Holy Toledo.  Tomorrow is December.

This time last year I was a very pregnant, mostly cranky lady.  Currently, I’m in disbelief that baby Nick is nearly a year old.  I was grabbing a few things at Whole Foods on Wednesday (yes, the day before the holiday #lastminutelarry) and someone asked if this was Nick’s first Thanksgiving.  

And it hit me that this was his last first holiday.  So I started, like, sort of crying by the pomegranates.  As you do… when you’re an overtired basket case.  

november 2016 currently

Anyway… let’s talk November.  

Reading

  • I think I mentioned Nature Anatomy last month, but Grace and I have become enamoured with all three of artist Julia Rothman’s anatomy books: Nature Anatomy, Farm Anatomy and Food Anatomy.  They are so beautifully illustrated (in gouache, my favorite medium of late) and full of the most interesting information.  And Grace loves that they are “grown-up books.”
  • Anything Dan Rather posts on Facebook (honesty, I’ve come this close to quitting FB entirely this month, but I’d miss Dan Rather too much… also, photos of kids and babies and dogs); his take on the election and aftermath gives me hope that clearer heads will prevail (or at the very least, remain vigilant).
  • The Old Farmer’s Almanac, because this mostly-young non-farmer is obsessed with weather and seasons and moon phases and tides.  I have no clue how any of these things work, but I like reading about them and couldn’t resist grabbing a copy at the supermarket last weekend.

Listening to

  • The Weepies, Indigo Girls, James Taylor and Stevie Wonder (separately… though with their powers combined, they would make the most amazing super group).  I think I’ve been using music (and maybe weird crafts?) to cope with the election and every day stress.  Listening to old favorites has been very comforting.  And as much as I feel like swearing (or listening to other people swear) some days, the aforementioned artists are totally mom-approved for driving around with children who are prone to repeating everything.
  • Christmas music.  I need to make my own Spotify playlist, though, because the Christmas station in Boston seems to play 12 different versions of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (and sort of creepy inside?…) a day.
  • The ocean (so many walks on the beach this month!)

Watching

  • Very unoriginal, but… Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life (I stayed up way past my bedtime the night it was released to watch Winter and Spring).  I didn’t watch the show when it originally aired, but instead majorly binge watched when Nick was a newborn.  I loved the first three episodes of the revival, but the last one… meh.
  • Still taking a hiatus from the news.  So basically the only information I have regarding tomorrow’s weather forecast comes from Alexa… or next year’s Farmer’s Almanac.
  • Nick was traveling earlier this month and I’m pretty sure I watched every Jane Austen adaptation ever made once the kids went to bed.  I knew I’d overdone it when I caught myself saying “Badly done, Emma” to Clark.
  • Grace’s nightly “show time” (the imaginary programs she passes out and the final bow are my favorite parts), it might be the cutest bedtime stalling technique on the planet

Making

  • A fairly absurd amount of crap projects for our Cape house, especially when I consider how little I’ve been sleeping lately.  I painted two side tables, hand-painted a zip code pillow (more on that later, maybe), wove (weaved?) a little decorative wall thing, started a wampum wreath and just finished cutting out felt letters for two banners.
  • Plank and push-up progress, thanks in large part to the recent Mama Beasts Planksgiving challenge
  • My sixth cup of tea (Santa’s Secret, naturally)
  • A final to do list for baby Nick’s birthday party this weekend

I hope you had a lovely November, and that your December is even lovelier.

Also On Tap for Today:

What was the highlight of your November?

 

 

Don’t quit before the miracle | Midweek motivation

Because your Monday motivational pep talk (…to yourself) may have worn off, here’s a bit of mid-week motivation.

Don’t quit before the miracle.

don't quit before the miracle

Don’t quit before the miracle.  Keep working.  Keep praying.  Keep reaching.  Keep remembering to pack snacks.  And six changes of clothes.  Just in case.

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s your current mantra?  

Today: For my Peeps.

This is probably the last post my teeth want me to write, what with our two unplanned trips to the dentist last week… but um… YOLO.  And PEEPO (that doesn’t mean anything… or at least I don’t think it does).

for my peeps

Easter is just a few days away, which means a lot of things.  In the interest of being inclusive, I’d like to focus on one (very unimportant, not at all holy) aspect of the week. Easter time is high season for Peeps.  I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but I do love a (pure sugar) bunny or chick this time of year.

If you’re wondering what to do with the Peeps in your basket (besides get a cavity), I’ve got a few ideas.

Ideas for my Peeps (and your Peeps, too):

Happy Peepin’…

P.S. This post is not sponsored.  Nor is it particularly healthy or inspiring.  But, um… whatever.

Also On Tap for Today:

  • Push-up playdate!
  • Beautiful egg decorating ideas from Alisa Burke
  • Playing “pretend egg hunt” in our 1200 square foot condo… needless to say, many, many eggs have ended up in Clark’s food bowl

Salty or sweet?  (Both is a totally acceptable answer.)

Today: Grace’s 2nd birthday party.

Grace will be two at the end of this month.  I can’t remember a faster two years.

2nd birthday party

Nor can this guy.

Grace had a few special requests for her family party this weekend and we were glad to oblige.

  1. The guest list had to include Baby Nick, Clark and Uncle Zach.
  2. We would listen to “Michael Jackson! Michael Jackson!” music.
  3. There would be balloons.
  4. We would eat a Gaston happy cake (they’re like regular cakes, only happier).

She may have a future in event planning.

Grace’s 2nd birthday party

family birthday party

I think I need to ask for a less freaky hand for my birthday.

The weather cooperated (sorry, mid-Atlantic states), but unfortunately cold season kept a few family members home.  We missed them and made sure to save them some cake (but I might eat it…).

french bulldog birthday cake

We kept the menu simple, mostly because nothing could top the Gaston cake.  Gaston is one of Grace’s favorite books (it’s about a family of poodles and a family of Frenchies), and the folks at Sweet Tooth bakery in Southie did an incredible job recreating the cover.

appetizers

Snacks included:

  • Cheese and herb flatbread
  • Italian turkey meatballs (this was semi-traumatic for my vegetarian self, but I thought they’d be a crowd pleaser and I am trying to branch out a bit when cooking for everyone else… even if that means simply heating frozen ballz from Whole Foods in our crockpot… baby steps)
  • Feta and onion tartes
  • Spanakopita
  • Tortilla chips and salsa
  • Cheese plate with fruit
  • Carrots, hummus and artichoke dip

frenchie food cards

I photocopied a page from my sketchbook (all little drawings of Gaston characters) and used those images for food labels.  Grace helped me make a few decorations over the past month or so, including a giant two and some not-so-giant party hats.

2nd birthday party

2nd birthday party

2nd birthday party

We had our loved ones there to celebrate with, balloons to play with, Michael Jackson to listen to, and plenty of cake to enjoy.  So by Grace’s standards (and mine), this was the perfect 2nd birthday party.

Also On Tap for Today:

What is on your list of special birthday party requests?

Today: Get Messy Thursdays | Words, Week 5

I don’t have much in the way of actual words to share this week (which… let’s be honest… you’re likely 900% okay with this).  I stuck to basic materials (scissors, paper, magazines, glue and a few pens) and made some equally basic pages.  Sometimes basic is good.  I think.

Oh.  The one about cats?  I don’t know why I made it.  (You know I am prejudiced against felines.) It just happened.  And I stabbed myself in the finger while cutting out the word meow.  So.  There’s that.  Life as a grown-up.

Get Messy Thursdays | Words, Week 5

And a random feather I drew this week

True Life: This took ages.  I wasn’t expecting that.  And I might have avian flu from touching a real feather in the name of artistic research.  I’ve been trying to teach myself a bit of patience and discipline by changing up my subject matter and focusing on just plain ol’ pen and paper.  Unfortunately, I keep getting distracted by popcorn.  

Can’t win ’em all.

Also On Tap for Today:

  • Prenatal massage (Hallelujah!)
  • Um… being obsessed with the new emojis (cheese!  chipmunk!  tornado!)
  • To learn more about the Get Messy Art Journal program, click here

Cats or dogs? (Or unicorn emojis?)

Today: Triple vanilla chai latte.

Drive-thrus are dangerous places.  

A few years ago, I swore off coffee. Or rather, I tried to swear off coffee, but the siren’s donut’s call lured me back.  One morning, I planned to go directly to the office, but decided to sneak a coffee for my commute instead.

Just as soon as I had an iced coffee in hand,  I pulled forward, hit a pole alongside the drive-thru window and knocked my side view mirror clear off.  No one was hurt, but needless to say, I was– and still am– mortified.  Also, why am I telling you this story?

I panicked and called Nick, who was still at home and met me in the driveway a few minutes later.  I didn’t have time to hide my coffee.  My shame kept me away from the drive-thru for quite some time.  

If you’re avoiding the drive-thru (no need to share your reasons… unless you want to…), I’ve got the recipe for you. This triple vanilla chai latte is so good (and easy to make!), you won’t miss your usual morning cup.

Triple vanilla Almond Breeze chai latte

Triple Vanilla Chai Latte

Dairy free, serves one

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Almond Breeze Unsweetened Vanilla Almondmilk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 scoop of David’s Tea organic vanilla chai (you can use your favorite loose or bagged chai tea)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp organic pure maple syrup (feel free to replace with your preferred sweetener)
  • 1 dash each of ground cinnamon and ground cloves

Directions:

  1. In a small sauce pan, heat water and almondmilk until simmering.  Stir often.
  2. Add your tea (if you’re using a tea bag, open the bag and pour the tea leaves directly into the pan) and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Continue to stir.
  3. Remove pan from heat, add vanilla extract, maple syrup and spices.  Let the pan sit for another 5 minutes.
  4. Pour latte through a tea strainer to remove tea leaves.
  5. Serve hot or over ice (my favorite).
  6. Do not hit anything with your car.

This post is sponsored by Almond Breeze Almondmilk.

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s your current vice?

Today: My favorite online classes.

I spend a lot of time in schools for work, which often makes me miss… being in school.  It also probably explains why I’ve had a cold for six months.  I’m pretty sure I always loved being a student.  Even in middle school, when I had a broken ankle and braces and glasses and an uggo haircut all at the same time.

My favorite online classes for art, photography and creativity

By the time I made it to college, got my math requirement out of the way (dark times), and had the freedom and flexibility to take classes that actually interested me… that’s when things got really good.  I studied French and Fine Arts, which means I did a lot of reading, a lot of writing, a lot of memorizing facts, a lot of dissecting other people’s artwork, and a tiny bit of drawing.  I went to museums and starred at microfiche.  I learned how to translate contracts, took a semester of Arabic, recited poems, and yes… performed a puppet show in Medieval French (probably both the worst and best moment of my years at BC).

As grown ups, there are plenty of opportunities to take classes in person (the BCAE comes to mind), but I really love the flexibility of online classes.  Here are a few of my favorites for those of you looking to infuse a bit of creativity into your day.  Or night.  Or train commute.  Or whatev.

Nicole’s Classes

You may remember my posts from last winter (here and here) when I took the Floral Arranging 101 class through Nicole’s Classes.  While I worked quite a bit while I was on maternity leave, I also found myself with both time to fill (namely, those 2 hour stints when Grace was sound asleep… and yes, I know, sleep when the baby sleeps) and a desire to keep my brain as engaged as possible.

 Their classes include photography, design, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign, and each class runs live for 2-4 weeks.  For the 4 week floral arranging class, for example, we worked through one lesson and assignment each week.  What sets Nicole’s Classes apart, is that it is an app that you download and install on your computer.  Within the app, you’ll find the course(s) that you registered for, video lessons and a gallery to share your course work.  There is a high level of engagement in these galleries from both instructors and classmates, and I found the feedback on each project I posted to be so helpful.  

Classes range from $125-325, but there is also a lot of great free content on the Nicole’s Classes website, including these great tutorials.

Craftsy

I’m currently taking a self-paced DSLR basics class on Craftsy.  They roped me in with a New Year’s sale– I believe I paid $25 for Basics of Digital Photography, which includes 9 lessons and hours and hours of video instruction.  After years of shooting in manual (and… having lost my camera manual, despite downloading it, like, six times), I am trying to step up my game a bit.

In addition to photography classes, Craftsy has self-paced classes in:

  • Art (painting, drawing)
  • Cake decorating
  • Food and cooking
  • Home and garden
  • Jewelry
  • Paper crafts
  • Yarn and fiber arts

All classes are web-based, and you can jump back into your lesson whenever you have time.  I’ve found the class to be very user-friendly and love that, like Nicole’s Classes, there is a lot of interaction with other students and the instructor (there is a chat area on the class’ home screen) and a dedicated project gallery for the class.

Craftsy also features a community marketplace where you can buy patterns from independent designers, view projects from other classes and read articles on their blog (two recent posts: create a custom wirework heartbeat necklace and vegan caesar salad with roasted chickpeas and almonds).

Alisa Burke online classes

Alisa Burke is one of my go-to ladies for creative inspiration.  Her classes are fun, accessible and inexpensive and cover everything from technique (lots of watercolor and ink), to sketching prompts, to sourcing unexpected tools and materials. 

Alisa releases new classes each season (many of them with seasonal themes such as summer sketching) and each class includes video lessons, text and visual examples.  While most of her classes are for visual artists (of all levels, truly), she also offers several classes for those who own creative businesses.  

Oh, and her blog is definitely worth a visit — lots of stunning photography of the West Coast, tutorials, family art-making, interviews with other artists, etc.

Recommended reading

If an online class isn’t in the cards, here are a few of my favorite books that might help you make room for creativity:

You know what they say.  You’re never too old to get an awful middle school haircut to learn.

Also On Tap for Today:

Have you ever taken an online class?  Favorites/Wish list classes?

Today: Easy paint projects.

You know that saying, A little goes a long way?  That’s the theme today.  Got a little paint leftover from a bigger project (say, that time your husband painted the nursery while you spent the day eating ice cream)?  Or maybe you can’t bear to throw away a nearly empty bottle of nail polish?  Or perhaps you’re simply making room for creativity (Yes, my people! Yes!) and want to use what you have hanging around.  Like… your keys.  Or your roommate’s nail polish.

I’ve got just the project (or two) for you.

Easy paint projects

Plant markers

It could just be me, but um… most plants sort of look alike. Until the flowers or fruit or vegetables show up.  But until then, I’m like… Is this the cilantro or the jalapeño?  Does it need moderate or full sun?  Should I water this today or in a week?  And while I’m busy pondering, the thing dies.  Sad, but (kind of) true.

Super easy solution: Dip a popsicle stick in paint, wait for the paint to dry (obvi) and use a Sharpie or label maker to, you know, label the plant… and you’ve got yourself a semi-cool looking plant marker.  I like to pretend I ate four Yasso frozen Greek yogurt bars just for the sake of this project, but I ate them… for the sake of eating them.

Color code your keys

Another case of mistaken identity: Most of my keys, whether for my office or home, look like the other keys on my ring.  For months, I’ve spent the better part of five minutes trying to get into my own office each morning, branding myself as either super-unorganized or super-likely to be a robber.

While it may be tempting to label your keys something like “front door” or “office,”  that seems unsafe and you know my motto (safety first, fun second).  Instead, I broke out a few bottles of nail polish and color coded my keys.

I used 2-3 coats for each key, and found it only took a few minutes to dry.  With that said, I wouldn’t tempt fate and start this project right before you’re headed out the door.  Also, my office keys read “duplication prohibited.”  I am hoping decoration is okay.

DIY memo board

This project is a tiny bit more involved, but it’s a fun way to repurpose an unused or mismatched picture frame.  I was hoping to find a little memo board for Grace’s room, but I couldn’t find a non-hideous white board, so I picked up an inexpensive frame and made my own.

After removing the glass from the frame and carefully cleaning it, I applied three coats of mint green paint to the backside, letting each coat dry for an hour or so.  I used an oil paint pen to draw a little note on the frame, and up on the wall it went.  Right now we use it to keep track of library due dates and packing lists for day care, but eventually I’d like to use it to leave little love notes for my girl.  You know, once she can read.

ID your sunglasses

My family has precisely five things in common with the Kennedys:

  1. We’re New Englanders.
  2. We’re Catholic.
  3. We enjoy politics.
  4. We love the Cape.
  5. We wear Wayfayers.

We all spent the 4th of July together, and I accidentally stole my sister’s sunglasses at least four times.  I probably wore my dad’s glasses to the beach.  Who knows.  I might be wearing my brother-in-law’s glasses now, were it not for my semi-clever solution.  When we got back to Boston, I broke out the nail polish again, and painted a little dot of mint candy apple on the inside arm of my glasses.

A little bit of paint and suddenly I’m wearing my own glasses, opening all the right doors (with the right keys), and packing precisely what Grace needs for the day.  Oh, and yes.  I can safely distinguish between our jalapeno and cilantro plants.  Mostly because we now have a hearty crop of peppers.

Also On Tap for Today:

What is your favorite way to use up that last bit of paint?

Today: Floral Arranging 101 (Week 1)

I recently came across Nicole’s Classes, a selection of online video classes on topics like photography and design, while headed down a spiral of late night Internet consumption, when I should have been trying to get back to sleep.  Which reminds me, the next person who encourages me to “sleep when the baby sleeps,” … well, you don’t want to be that person.  Just kidding.  Kind of.

Back on topic: I’ve always been enchanted by flowers.  I worked for a florist when I was younger and loved watching the designers carefully choose their flowers and artfully arrange them.  When I saw that a Floral Arranging 101 class was about to begin (and would wrap up just before I head back to work… cue all of the nervous, excited, conflicted and overwhelmed feelings), I bit the $125 bullet and signed up.

The class, taught by Chelsea Fuss, spans four weeks and features one project per week.  Each project is supported by video tutorials, recommended materials and flowers, and access to the instructor for feedback.  This week’s project was a hand-tied bouquet, along with an aqua pack for transporting the bouquet.

I’m having so much fun with the class, and figured I’d share my weekly progress here.  We like looking at pretty things, right?

After a few failed flower shopping trips, I found this selection at my favorite Whole Foods in Cambridge.  I would have loved a bit more greenery, but I’m happy with how it turned out.  And those tulips that could possibly pass for peonies or cabbage roses?  I am obsessed.

I really get so much satisfaction from seeing a project through to completion (I can’t tell you how many things I’ve started only to get distracted and stray… okay, I can: a lot.), having a chance to engage the creative part of my brain, and work with my hands (on something other than the ancient art of diapering) a bit.

Also On Tap for Today:

Got a favorite flower? 

Today: Last Minute Larry’s Valentine Gift Guide.

Just before Christmas, I threw together a Last Minute Larry gift guide, featuring presents found at the grocery store (and if you’re going that route, here are a few last minute Valentine’s Day deals you’ll love at Whole Foods Market).

I did a bit more advance planning this holiday, as Grace’s due date was 2/15.  I figured Nick and I might well be ringing in the sweetheart’s holiday in a labor and delivery room… but instead we’ll be at home with a very happy, teeny, tiny baby.

While I’ve had a gift stashed away for my husband for a few months, some of you may be scrambling (as I usually am), so I thought I’d share a few inexpensive, last minute ideas.

You can’t go wrong with flowers and chocolate

You just can’t.  I think a simple bunch of white tulips is perfect for any occasion. Including Tuesdays.  Which is to say, you don’t need an occasion to give someone (or yourself, obvi) flowers.  Same goes for chocolate.

Tea for one

I love sharing my favorite teas.  Pair a few tea bags with a cute mug (try Homegoods for inexpensive, fun mugs) and you’ll have your Valentine warmed up in no time… quoth the lady in Boston presently wearing a bathrobe over a sweater.

Spruce up something ordinary

I am forever trying to justify the extent of my washi tape collection by embellishing any and everything I can get my hands on.  I found these cute notebooks at Target and added friends’ initials to the covers.

Give something tasty

These gluten-free thumbprint cookies take less than a half hour to whip up and say, “These are sort of healthy… I must really love you.”

Hit the beauty aisle

To know me is to love me to be semi-concerned with my nail polish obsession.  At a few bucks a pop, however, a new polish or lip gloss makes a fun little gift for a friend.

Get a little messy crafty

I love making things, but hate cleaning up the ensuing mess.  And cleaning glitter off Clark’s snout days later.  If only Pinterest (click here for my Valentine-inspired board… side note: my account was hacked by some dude in France, and I created such an airtight new password that even I can’t figure it out… ) had a messiness rating for each project I pin.  Regardless, I love homemade gifts.

A few ideas that seem manageable:

Then again, the best gifts (hugs, kisses, and telling it like it is)… are free.  So maybe just skip the shopping, baking, and crafting altogether?  Wishing you and your loved ones a very happy Valentine’s Day!

Also On Tap for Today:

What is your go-to last minute gift?