Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Simple Joy of Fort Building

All moms know there are two types of playdates: those that make your life easier and those that make you want to pull your hair out while simultaneously gouging your eyeballs and stuffing cotton in your ears. Or something like that. There are the kids who come over and say please and thank you (and mean it) when you get them a snack or drop them off. And there are the kids who whine incessantly or complain that they are bored or a playdate with that child will inevitably end up with at least one kid in tears, yelling or a broken sprinkler. Every. Single. Time.

Frankly, I'm old. And crotchety. And I just don't have the same tolerance for yelling, whining, sprinkler breaking that I used to have. So I really limit those particular playdates to when I'm feeling particularly generous or guilty or I know I have plenty of wine on hand.

Fortunately Juliette's friend Hannah is quite possibly the best playdate on the face of this earth. Not only is she incredibly polite (especially for a six year old) but she also has a huge imagination and a roll with it personality. And the two girls are just two peas in a pod. I'm stingy with playdates, but I'm telling you, I'd be thrilled to have Hannah over every single day. She's that awesome. When she's over, I know the girls will be playing with dolls, playing school, playing dress up, walking on stilts, doing cartwheels, writing stories or their favorite -- building forts.

The schools where my kids go are some of the best in the state. We are lucky with all the programs made available to us -- art, music, PE, computers, iPads, drama, coding, robotics, the list goes on and on. As with most school districts, the big push in our district recently has been with technology. I sat in on a PTA meeting at Annalise's 7/8 school yesterday where we learned about all the fabulous things the district is doing with their 1 to 1 computer programs in fifth and seventh grades and all the cool kits and robotic stuff and all the technology they have and want to purchase. It's all fabulous. But it makes me wonder -- Is it necessary? Is all the STUFF really helping our kids grow and learn? I'm honestly asking. I'm not trying to be a smart ass (at least not at this particular moment) or even be critical. I actually want to know what service it provides that other materials can't provide. Is my daughter better off because she has her own computer which she uses every day in her class? Do kids need to learn how to code in the third grade? Maybe they do. I'd love to know what the benefits are in the long run. Unfortunately our kids are the guinea pigs with all this new technology. We won't know if so much exposure is good for them for many many years. My thirteen year old's screen time per day has increased exponentially in the past few months because she now uses a computer every day in school and for her homework after school. Is this good for her growing brain? I don't know. So in the meantime, we're going to keep things pretty basic at home.

This leads me right back to Hannah, the ideal playdate partner, and fort building. Yesterday Hannah was over after school. Zachary and his friend Cameron (also a lovely playdate partner) had gone for a bike ride. Annalise was doing her homework before going to four hours of dance. And Hannah and Juliette made a fort. It covered (actually covers -- it's still there) almost our entire family room. It required no adult assistance. It required no special materials. All it required were two six year old girls, several blankets, some heavy books and two big imaginations. But think of all the skills that were used to build said fort:
I'm sure many other things as well. And then when it was done, the girls laid in there for another hour, reading books and playing with dolls and stuffed animals. It was the kind of playing that kids of any era or culture would have understood. Just two six year olds enjoying a simple childhood, the fruits of their labor and the kind of friendship that lasts.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Gluten Free

I'm so not trendy. I never have been. My wardrobe consists mostly of jeans, yoga pants and t-shirts. I've never done Bikram Yoga. Or Soul Cycle. I don't keep up with the Kardashians. I've never dabbled in vegetarianism or eating only raw foods. I don't juice. I don't shop on Robertson or Abbot Kinney. I'm really just not that cool. Would I like to be? Maybe sometimes. Sometimes I'd like to know who the people are on the cover of People magazine. Sometimes I'd like to look like I spent some time putting together an outfit instead of just staring into the void that is my closet and wondering why I don't have a single thing I like. Or that fits. (That's another issue, though.) Certainly in sixth grade I would have liked to have had Esprit pants instead of hand-me-down bellbottoms that I "pegged" to hide the wide bottom. (Dude, it was hard to wear pants in 1986 that had last been worn in 1979. Really hard.)

So how does this decidedly untrendy person, who doesn't even own a Vitamix ("What?" you ask. "How is that even possible?" I know. I probably live in the last suburban house without one.) hop on board the trendiest of all trendy eating habits? Well, you have a child diagnosed with celiac disease, that's how that happens.

So now our house is gluten free. Trendy. Hopped on that band wagon. I feel like such a poser when I ask for the gluten free section in a new grocery store. I am the imposter in the super hip vegan restaurant, which also happens to be gluten free. I wonder if people who see my grocery cart think I'm super with it because I buy gluten free bread. Oh yeah and we do a bunch of paleo stuff too, which I think gives me even more street cred. And I buy kombucha. You see how cool I am all of a sudden? Who knew a sick kid could make you so hip! (I think the freezer full of bone broth and the Farmers' Market sauerkraut brine aren't quite as cool, so we'll leave them out of this for now. But they're really good for healing your gut... look into that!) The Evans family is riding the gluten free band wagon!

Only here's the thing. It suuuuuuuuuucks to be gluten free. It really, really does. Because when you have celiac disease, there's no messing around with the gluten free thing. There's no cheating and having a beer just for tonight because you're out with the guys. There's no girls' weekend dessert splurge. There's no "oh well" accidental slip up. When you have celiac disease, gluten free really actually means GLUTEN FREE. None. Zero. Zip. Literally not one crumb.

Here's a little clue about what gluten free means for someone with celiac disease:

It means all new baking pans and cookie sheets and pizza stones and toasters. Why? Because those crumbs and baked on goodness can contaminate your child's food and that will make her sick. (It also means using the three inch stack of Bed Bath and Beyond coupons you've been saving just for an occasion like this!) It also meant that the women's shelter got a lovely donation of perfectly good baking supplies.

It means reading every. single. label. every. time. You know how it says "Made on equipment shared with wheat" sometimes on those labels? Or even "Made in a facility that also processes wheat"? Yep. That makes your kid with celiac sick. Very sick. So that stuff is out.

It means cleaning out the pantry and fridge and freezer -- donating all food from above plus the obvious ones like, you know, flour. And then wiping down every surface because, you know, crumbs.

It means a twelve year old having to ask a waiter or a food service worker to wash his or her hands, change his or her gloves and clean off the work surface where her food will be prepared. Every time. (If you ever want to feel like a prima donna, here's a good way to give that a go.)

It means trying some really bad food. Really bad. (Bread, crackers, baked goods, hamburger buns that will give you nightmares... they aren't all winners.)

It means having to say "No thank you" a lot.

It might mean you are lactose intolerant as well (at least in the beginning). And then you might have to deal with a mama who, when she sends you away for a weekend, obnoxiously labels everything, "There's dairy in here!" and tapes Lactaid pills to the Kind bars which aren't dairy free (because some of them are, and would she necessarily think to look to see if she grabbed one which wasn't dairy free?). And now you're eating dairy free and gluten free food, and really, is there no joy in the world?

It means having to explain your symptoms (a lot!), which, when you're almost 13, you don't necessarily want to share with everyone.

It means you need gluten free shampoo and sunscreen. "Seriously, is she eating the sunscreen?" you ask. Hopefully not. But skin issues are a huge thing for people with celiac disease. And really, people, think about what you put on your body. Everything you put on your skin gets absorbed and goes right into your blood stream. But I digress...

It means you absolutely can never share a jar of peanut butter or a marshmallow roasting stick with a non gluten free friend.

It means explaining that gluten does not come from: milk, meat, rice, soy, eggs, etc. etc. etc. every day.

It means your whole family will now have to get tested to see if they have celiac disease as well.

It means a whole myriad of symptoms, some of which can send you to the hospital, many of which can certainly wipe you out for a couple days, all of which can have long term consequences.

It means explaining that your problem is SO MUCH WORSE THAN JUST A TUMMY ACHE!!!

It means months and months and months of being gluten free before you start feeling better. (Still waiting for this one!)

It means forever. You will not grow out of this. You won't eventually be able to sneak a bite here and there. Forever you will be gluten free.

It means you're hungry a lot. Whether that's from the malabsorption or from the fact that all you'd really like to eat is a big fat grilled cheese sandwich and you can't; you're hungry a lot.

It means your mama will worry about you every time you are out of her sight and control. (That maybe that nice man in the white van who is offering puppies and candy will also offer you a pseudo-gluten free cupcake and you'll take it because you're just so hungry AND you have a Lactaid pill in your pocket!) And you knew she was going to do that worry thing anyway because that's what she does. And also you've just started junior high school, which is actually on a high school campus, so there was already so much to worry about anyway. But again, I digress. You'll feel guilty that your mama is so worried about you because you really don't want her to worry.

But there are some amazing things that can happen when you or your child gets diagnosed with celiac disease:

It means cookbooks arriving in the mail from friends and family with notes that say things like, "You got this, Chris."

It means you know your parents and your sister and brother will go to bat for you to make sure that you are safe and healthy, even if that means arguing with (sometimes even well-meaning) friends or relatives or that they give up some of their favorite foods as well.

It means making a new friend with the other Girl Scout with celiac disease on the glamping trip, with whom you can share gluten free cookies and marshmallow roasting sticks.

It means you bond with your mama in the kitchen as you try out new recipes.

It means laughter through the fears in Children's Hospital with your mama and grandma, waiting for your biopsy: the three of you best knowing how to put each other at ease, and that is to make fun of each other!

It means bonding with your family as you try disgusting food together!

It means dance teachers who take pictures of gluten free doughnuts or cookies or anything and texting them to you, with just a simple text: "At Sprouts!"

It means amazing friends and family who you know will take good care of your child while she is in their hands.

It means your mom's friend's daughter talking on the phone with you for hours days after your daughter's diagnosis because her daughter also has celiac disease. And she tells you which flours to buy and also gives you permission to throw out the crappy gluten free food you try but don't like.

It means the waitress at the Country Club, who, at the beginning of the summer had never heard of celiac disease and has now become the celiac guru saying to you, "I just put myself in your shoes as a mom and thought how hard that must be for you to put your trust in me to make sure that your child doesn't get sick."

It means eating amazing food like you always have, that doesn't have to be labeled "gluten free" because it's real, whole food.

It means an opportunity to educate others about what celiac disease is all about.

It means other moms buying gluten free cupcakes so your kid can celebrate too.

It means amazing doctors who spend three hours with you so they know exactly what symptoms you have and they know you know exactly what you need to do to take care of this.

It means that you know how lucky you are to have the support system you have... friends and family and other parents who will talk to waiters for you and label peanut butter jars and buy you cookbooks and look over your shoulder to make sure you're asking the man behind the counter at Chipotle to change his gloves (and that he's actually doing just that).

Right now I am listening to the Indigo Girls singing an Elton John song. (I told you I was so uncool!) The lyric says: "I thank the Lord there's people out there like you." Bad grammar aside, I love this line. I really am so very grateful for all the people in our lives who are helping to make this transition so much easier. And there really are so many people! They are so much better than Esprit jeans in sixth grade!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Love for Grandpa

We all know I'm an overly nostalgic person, but I've been feeling particularly connected to my grandpas lately. Last week, our kids' school celebrated their first annual Country Fair. (It was awesome.) Our PTA president, myself and many other parents from our school are also alums and we opted to bring back the Country Fair theme (to replace the Medieval Faire, because really, what about the Medieval time period screams "children's fair"?), but also because the Country Fair was the theme of our youth. Again with the nostalgia. The fair was great; a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. I was in charge of game booths. It was a great job for me and a crummy job for me. I loved deciding on the games, naming them, creating them and working with our co-chairs on the layout. But I despise nagging people to work their one-hour shifts. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. As the fair got closer, I was more and more unhappy with the job, so I decided to do a little something for myself, and this is what I came up with:

Sorry those pictures aren't great. For some reason it never occurred to me to take a picture of them. I know. Duh.

The whole process got me thinking a lot about my grandpas. My dad's dad, Grandpa Bill, was a sign maker by profession. He created the stencils which would be used to paint a sign on, say, the side of a truck, for example. And he was a calligrapher and lover of all things hand-made. In his retirement, he perfected calligraphy, jewelry making, painting, copper on enamel plates (some of which are hanging in my dining room to the left of me as I write), gold leaf and furniture restoration, just to name a few. From him I inherited my love of all things hand-made and a love for the process of creating something with my own two hands, as well as the appreciation for things made by others. I especially learned a love for creative, beautiful lettering. I wish I had a fraction of the talent he had and hope that some day I will have the time to practice and focus more on the art. I also inherited from Grandpa Bill a desire for perfection, which is something I fight against every day! :) This project was meant to look "unperfect" so it was great for me!

Thinking about Grandpa Bill also got me thinking about my Grandpa Joe, my mom's dad, whom I knew much better. From Grandpa Joe I inherited my love for sports, particularly baseball. He was a wonderful athlete, who would be so proud to see his grandson (who bears his name) finally excelling at sports and really learning to love the game. We also share a love for Boston, his hometown, which we never visited together. I hope that my own parents have the chance to share their hometowns with their grandchildren. What better way to learn their history and stories. And my gramps loved to tell a story. From him I learned the joy of hearing and telling a great story (sometimes over and over to the same people). We love to make people smile. And the man cried. A lot. Nostalgic, loving, sentimental, just like his granddaughter. And stubborn as all hell. Yeah, we share that, too.

I'm missing my grandpas terribly lately. How I wish my Grandpa Bill could see that, though I never perfected the art of calligraphy, for nothing I do is ever perfect, I have grown to love the process, and find great joy and peace in the craft. I never see a hand painted sign which doesn't make me think of him. I wonder what he'd think about Pinterest and etsy. In a day and age of quick and cheap and plastic and free shipping, would he appreciate online resources for a reconnection to the past? If he were a generation younger, would he have his tech-savvy son helping him set up his own etsy shop? I wish I'd paid more attention in those calligraphy lessons, lived closer so he could have taught me cloisonné. Taken a trip to Vermont with him to admire the gold leaf signs. And my Grandpa Joe I miss every day. I wear my Boston Red Sox hat for him and wish we could have enjoyed a game at Fenway together just once. He never got to see Zachary play "real" baseball, but I know nothing would make him happier than playing catch with him just one more time. I wonder what he'd think about watching Annalise and Juliette dance. I can hear him laughing and cussing and maybe even doing a little imitation just to get a laugh. But I know he'd be proud of them, too, even proud that his granddaughters are great athletes, too. (He was slow to come around to the idea of girls playing sports... not one of his best traits!!)  I'd love to hear his ridiculous stories just one more time, even the ones I've heard a hundred times, seeing his blue eyes fill with tears. I wish I had another chance to meet both of them again. In my old age, I've realized just how much I learned from each of them. I wish I'd learned that sooner.

On to the signs...

So I stole a pallet. Well, I didn't exactly steal. I asked permission first, then parked illegally, and shoved that puppy into the back of my van. It was much bulkier than I thought and I was glad I'd talked a friend into helping me shove it in. And then Jason took it apart, which really was not a pretty process. At all. Perhaps we should have looked at the online tutorials on how to take apart a pallet first. Anyway, we got it apart and Jason cut 24 pieces, of varying lengths for me. No pictures of this part. Like I said, not so pretty.

Then I painted the pieces poorly. The idea was to make it look like the signs were old, so using a pallet was perfect, as was painting them quickly and sloppily. This was so super easy and fast! (Which was necessary, since this was all done two days before the fair.) I used regular pre-mixed house paint from the hardware store... No time to be picky about colors, though I did add some gray to the blue, as it was a little darker than what I wanted. Here are some of the painted pieces.

You can see how the pallet was perfect for this because it made each piece a little more interesting.

While they were drying, I went to my computer. I wrote out each name I wanted on the signs in Word and then I selected which font I wanted to use for each. This way I could be somewhat brainless about painting and just copy the different fonts. I downloaded a few new fonts for the process (which I love to do anyway). is one of my favorite places to look for fonts. Then once the base paint was dry (top and bottom and all sides, since I knew they'd be seen from every direction) I started to paint. I made eight signs in each color, used white paint to write on the blue and red signs and either blue or red for the white signs. Here was my first sign:

It's one of my favorites, too. I love the hole in the sign. The font for this one was American Typewriter and I used just a cheapo paintbrush that I got at the hardware store for all the lettering. Nothing fancy, just copying the computer! Here's a close up of some of the white on red signs:

See how imperfect they are? It doesn't matter. The impact of all of the signs together was the important part. And the imperfection was a clear reminder that things used to be hand-made. Here they are all together. (Again, sorry for the quality of the pictures. Thank goodness for iPhones, though!)

If you look closely, you see all the imperfections, but as a whole, I think they went with the tone and feel of a small town Americana Country Fair.

To hang them, we next bought two 2 inch (I think!) square long pieces of wood. I banged them up a bit with both sides of my hammer, and then painted them poorly with white paint. We installed them with zip ties to other poles either on the playground or the large rented "town square" tent. My husband pre-drilled holes in each sign approximately in the middle of each one so we could easily install in place with screws. The signs more or less pointed in the direction of the various games.  Here they are again:

A little piece of Americana, twenty minutes from downtown LA, in our own small town USA.

I hope a little bit of nostalgia maybe will bring you some joy as it brought to me!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Big Kid Kind of Day!

Six years ago, Annalise started kindergarten. At the time, I was pregnant with Juliette. It seems so hard to believe, but today that kindergartner started sixth grade. And that unknown baby, merely a bump in my belly, is now a kindergartner.

This morning I packed three lunches (well, actually only two lunches and one snack), filled three water bottles, double checked three backpacks, braided two heads of hair (no braids for Zachary!), spread sunscreen on three noses, and sprayed three heads with lice spray. I did not load up a stroller with school supplies (all the big stuff -- packets of printer paper, Clorox wipes, Kleenex) because I don't own a stroller anymore. But our big wagon was full and we dragged that thing down the hill. We had to leave extra early so that we could have time to drop kids off in three different classrooms. Excited, and not even too tired or hot (We did go to Magic Mountain yesterday and it is August 12th!!! The humanity!), they smiled for pictures in front of their classrooms, hugged friends and said goodbye.

I knew this day would come. In some ways I looked forward to it. I even remember thinking when Annalise started how in six years I would get time to myself every day! Six years!!! That seemed like a whole lifetime! I wasn't sure I'd make it to six years! That was double Annalise's age! And yet, here it is. I did make it. I will (OK, in theory!) have time to myself every day. And I'm not really sure I want it. Yes, it will be great to be able to exercise every day. Go to coffee with a friend. Go to Target by myself. Work on the house a little bit. (That's as far as my brain can stretch right now. What am I going to do?) My house is quiet right now. Too quiet. I miss my little munchkin and her constant chatter.

My kids are getting bigger. The crib and high chair are long gone. The stroller, packed away in Grandma's attic. The rocking horse has a new home with my nephew in San Francisco. Tomorrow I will pack up the preschool shirts and tote bags  and drop them off for an excited three year old who will start at St. George's on Tuesday. The transition has been slow and subtle, but there's no mistaking it now: this is a big kid house. We have braces and swim caps and soccer balls and ballet shoes and protractors. We listen to Macklemore and Maroon 5 and not to Baby Mozart or Beethoven's Wig. We watch Goonies and Back to the Future. Four fifths of us have read Harry Potter. And I am one of those veteran moms at the kindergarten yard who, six years ago, really looked like she had her shit together. Those moms who were comfortable sitting at the PTA meeting. Who knew the other moms at the gate. Who knew where to go. I remember thinking, "In six years, I'll be one of them. One of the old moms!" I'm one of them now. Only I don't feel old and I definitely don't feel like I have my shit together. I'm the same mommy who came home and cried, just like I did six years ago. Just like I did three years ago. The only difference is this time I walked up the hill alone. No stroller. No tiny hand in mine.

Tomorrow I will take a yoga class. Yoga!!! And be thrilled that I have the opportunity to do so. Tomorrow we will start up our morning dance parties again and I will be SO happy that we aren't dancing to The Wheels on the Bus! Tomorrow I will have an uninterrupted conversation with a friend! But this morning, I will take the time to miss my little ones. All three of them. And I will mourn the fact that my babies are growing up. And tomorrow I'll celebrate!

Gotta go... Time to go pick up that big girl! Can't wait to hold her hand while we walk up the hill and she tells me all about her big day!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Open Letter to My Daughter's Teacher Who Doesn't Understand Why I'm Nervous About Her Flying Across the Country with Her Class

Dear Mr. H,

Before we get started, think of yourself and the control freak that you are. Soak that in. Own it. Don't try and deny it.

OK, you got that? Now imagine that, control freak that you are, you have a child.

Imagine wanting something so much and then for some reason you can't explain, God gives that thing to you. A baby. For some reason the universe has trusted you to carry a baby. (I know this is a stretch; work with me here.) And for the next nine months your only role, the only thing that matters, is to keep that thing alive. And you do.  And you're in the hospital and you're like "Yes!! I totally did that! I made that kid out of thin air and here she is in the world!"

And then they let you take her home. And you're like, "No, seriously, people, I don't know what the f*&% I'm doing here. Don't make me leave!! WHY ARE THEY LETTING US TAKE HER HOME??? DON'T THEY KNOW WE ARE MORONS???" But they do. They make you take that baby home.

And then you get that baby home and you look at her and think, "I can't even keep a plant alive. I'm not to be trusted with a goldfish. I give this kid a month at best." And yet somehow, you make it through that first month. And then another. And another. Purely on the power of milk from your own breast. (Again, work with me here. Use your imagination.) And then you're like, "Dude! I kept this thing alive ALL BY MYSELF!!" And you do a little bit of fist pumping, because this is by far the biggest thing you've ever done.

But you're not done yet. That kid keeps growing. And growing. And she starts doing things. Chewing on things (other than your breast); rolling over; babbling; crawling; walking; talking; analyzing shirt sleeves. (OK, maybe your kid wouldn't do that , but my toddler was super obsessed with spaghetti straps and cap sleeves. But she's kinda freaky like that.)

And she's so much like you. She looks like you. She laughs like you. She's sensitive like you. And you think, "Wow! She's just like me. A mini me!"

And then you realize she isn't just like you. You realize your spouse is in there, too, and maybe some distant relative or maybe something that is uniquely her. And then comes the hardest part for us control freaks... YOU HAVE TO LET HER BE HER! She's not you. She's her own unique person with her own unique qualities and hopes and talents and fears. And, as a parent, it's your job to let that all come through. To let her be the person she's meant to be.

And so you learn to let go a bit. You take her to preschool. You drop her off for playdates. You let her take trips with her grandparents. You let her walk by herself to school.

And you still teach her everything you know.

And then one day you'll realize she can do things you CAN'T do. She knows about cells and the American Revolution and things you probably knew at one time but don't anymore. And she can run a mile in seven minutes (which you're pretty sure you never could do). And she can do a pirouette. And a double pirouette. And a triple. (And you know you have to use spell check to even write the word pirouette, much less know how to do it yourself.)

And this is the joy of being a parent: knowing that you could have control-freaked that kid into being someone just like you, but letting go enough to let her become who she is meant to be. You'll still be in there: in her looks, in her snarky sense of humor; in the way she writes. But she will also be completely her own person. And this is not only ok; it's beautiful.

But, my fellow control freak, it's not easy. It takes a lot of faith in the world. Faith in her teachers. Faith in the people in your neighborhood who drive too fast. Faith that kidnappers stay the f*&% away. Faith in her. Faith in God. Faith in the universe.

And this week, it takes every ounce of faith I have to let that child get on a plane without me, and let her travel all the way across the country in a metal tube. Let her sleep in a dorm room with only one other fifth grader. Let her travel by bus over snowy roads. And travel back home to me in another metal tube. And faith that my heart won't break from missing her so much.

But I DO have faith in her. Faith in the universe, faith in God, faith in the tube, faith in the bus driver and faith in you. I know you will look after my baby and keep her safe. I know you will. But this isn't easy for me. And I think if you looked at this trip through my eyes and saw all the things which are out of my control and even out of your control, you'd understand why I'm, you know, a teensy bit anxious. Why I've sent too many emails. Asked too many questions.

That's my baby up there in that tube with you right now. My flesh and blood, who grew in my belly and nursed at my breast. Who has a great laugh and a kick-ass grand jete. Keep her safe and bring her back to me Friday a little wiser, a little funnier and full of awesome stories to tell. I can't wait to see her again.

And thank you. You'll never know how grateful I am.

With Love,

Friday, October 18, 2013

Holiday Chalkboards

Last year my friend Amber hosted the holiday luncheon for our school's teachers and staff at her beautiful home.  We had a really fun, creative committee and my friend Jenny of Bloom Designs ( chose a fitting chalkboard theme for the party.  (Check out Jenny's website.  She's amazingly creative and inspired!)  Jenny brought me these cute vintage chalkboards for me to make our signs for the party.  To make the signs, I first typed up the words on the computer and messed around with the fonts until I found ones I liked.  This helps me with the layout, the different fonts and centering things.  It makes it a lot easier than just free-forming it.  I love doing things like this.  My grandfather was a sign maker by profession and, later in life, a calligrapher.  I felt like a piece of him was with me while I was making these signs.  And, even though they aren't perfect (his would have been!), I felt like he would have been proud.  

So in case you're already looking ahead to Christmas, here you are...

This one went above our coffee bar.

This one greeted our guests.

It wasn't.  It was in the 80's.  Not cold at all.

It was a joyous day, despite all sorts of debacles.  It turned out beautifully.

This one is my favorite.  It was displayed over the dessert table.

We've yet to decide the theme for this year's holiday party.  Maybe looking at these again will get me inspired!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Thanksgiving Placecards

Last year or maybe even (actually probably) the year before that we made these for Thanksgiving.  This is how super on time I am with putting stuff on the blog.  Super on time, like I am with everything.  Tomorrow is the Great Shake Out, where all schools in California practice a major earthquake, with after shocks, injuries, staff fatalities, etc.  Our school needs parent volunteers to come to school tomorrow after the "earthquake" and act hysterical, demand kids whose emergency forms they aren't on, leave their cars running in the middle of the street, etc.  Act like a hysterical parent?  Sign me up!  How fun!  What assignment do I get?  The parent who comes late.  Seriously.  That's not fun, that's real life.  I was typecast.  So unfair.

Anyway, I digress.  It's fall, so I thought I'd show these little cuties we made for Thanksgiving some year.  Who knows which one?

I got this idea from somewhere.  Certainly I'm not running on enough brain cells right now to think of something like this on my own.  Maybe we credit Martha Stewart just in case.

These were really simple.  We have tons of liquid amber trees in our town, which drop these little spiky balls.  We went on a walk and the kids collected tons of these.

Apparently we needed a ton because these babies do not like to sit up straight.  Lazy little bastards.  The rest of this is pretty easy.  I made little flags out of card stock.  I just free-formed them because I wanted them to each be a little different.  Then I punched a hole in each flag and wrote the names on each one.  I used a thin, orange grosgrain ribbon for the ties.  I cut them short enough to just tie them once.

The last step was to just tie each one around the little buggers that were the most agreeable.  The tying was a bit tricky.  I tied them mostly all the way and then slid them down the stem and tightened the knot.  This way I was able to get the names to stay right where I wanted it on the stem.  We laid/sat/rested them right on the plates on our Thanksgiving table.  And done!  Happy Thanksgiving!