Friday, May 31, 2013

Our Lives // Two More Weeks! and a Top Chef

It's hard to believe, but my boys have just two weeks of school left before summer break. Call me crazy, but they've had a wonderful year and I'm a little sad to see it end! The last few weeks have been crazy busy though-- baseball championship games, field trips to the zoo, school performances, birthday parties and more. It's to the point where I think I may have dropped the ball somewhere along the way... but I have no idea where. So yeah, I'm a little sad... but it's good to see the light at the end of the tunnel too.

On a fun note, we got to meet Michael Voltaggio of Top Chef fame (season 6 winner and owner of ink. in West Hollywood) and were able to partake in his innovative molecular gastronomy-style cuisine. The dishes were delicious, fun and beautifully plated.

I didn't want to interrupt him while he was working-- he has that intense, focused look... just like how he was on Top Chef. But when there was a lull, I got a quick photo and chit-chatted with him for a bit. He was pretty chill and asked us how we liked the food. It was all delicious and, just as you'd expect, every dish had that little "something" that made it unique. Obviously taste was important, but also creative presentation was key. And you know I like creative. I'm pretty sure that I was the only guest flipping over the mini hamburger boxes and oval tins trying to figure out where they can be purchased.  :)

I'm so looking forward to this weekend. We are celebrating my FIL's 80th birthday! It'll be nice to celebrate his amazing life and spend quality time with close family and friends.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Buh-Bye Point & Shoot

I finally did it. After a 5 year delay, I put away my old, trusty point & shoot camera (aka The Crutch), and decided to learn how to use my DSLR. Cold turkey. In manual; Pshht... none of that automatic stuff.  :)

It was a hard thing to do-- especially since I've grown rather attached to the point & shoot that I've been using for the past 7 years. But it was necessary. And by god... It was TIME!  So, with the help of the University of Google and this user-friendly book, I was able to figure out a few basic things. I won't attempt to explain things in detail because, trust me... you don't want that. But I did want to share some of the things I was able to do with my limited knowledge.

If there are any remotely professional photographers out there reading this, you probably want to look away at this point. :)  However, if there are any newbies like me that want to switch it out of automatic into the wild world of manual... Read on! If I can do it, anyone can. I won't say that my photos are magically perfect, but they are so much better than before.

ISO-- aka high ISO = more grain/noise. If you want a straight-up photo and are not going for artistic, try to keep ISO low (100-200). I don't have a great example, but there's one here. BTW, Click it Up a Notch is a great resource for photography novices like myself.

Aperture-- aka, make the subject sharp and the background blurry by using a lens with a large aperture (low f stop). To get a photo where everything is in focus, use a smaller aperture (high f stop). Here's a good layman's description of aperture.

not bad considering the lighting was not very good and i  had the ISO pretty high (800).
aperture: f/1.8

again... bad lighting. actually really bad lighting. i increased the f stop so that the entire bunny is in focus. I tried a lower f stop and the only thing in focus was his face. Could be sharper but.. meh, trial and error folks! 
aperture: f/5

Shutter Speed-- aka, capture fast moving creatures kids by increasing shutter speed. use slower shutter speed to capture movement... good example here.

these were all taken at 1/1000 shutter speed

I know it doesn't seem like much, and I'm not striving to be a professional photographer... But seriously? I'm just amazed and happy that I got the camera to work! 

Camera equipment is expensive and still foreign to me, so I'm thankful that my dad loaned me his zoom lens. It's so much better than the kit lens that came with the camera... or at least it seems that way to this newbie. I also bought a 50 mm f/1.8 lens (a mother's day present to myself), which I  used to photograph the "aperture" shots above. Since I usually shoot my blog project photos indoors, I figure it'll really come in handy. Evidently I need a tripod and probably another lens or two to be fully functional, but I feel so much better that I'm using this camera that was gifted to me so many years ago! It's ridiculous that this awesome tool was gathering dust in our closet.

Obviously I still have a lot to learn, but it's a START! I hope to shoot my next project with the "new" camera. Which, uh,  means, I need to start on my next project... whatever that may be. Wish me luck!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day... A time to relax and spend time with family and friends; A time to remember the sacrifices that were made (and continue to be made!) so that we are able to live our lives as we do.

poppies at flanders field, water color by kay smith

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Party // Modern Soccer 7th Birthday Party

We celebrated Smarty Pant's 7th Birthday with a Soccer Party. It wasn't what I had originally planned, but it all worked out and kids & adults had a great time. So here's what happened... four days before the party, I was notified that the Indoor Soccer Venue that I had booked two months prior was unavailable due to issues with the landlord. I'm a planner, not because I'm super organized, but because I don't do well in last minute, stressful situations... Sooooo.... Yeah, all that planning was for naught... I was more than a little stressed out!

Thankfully, with a friend's help, we were able to secure a park with a field, pavilion and picnic tables (btw, easier said than done). The weather even cooperated-- It was warm but nowhere near the 100+ degree temps of the previous weekend. Hallelujah!

pros: The kids got to play soccer, tug-a-war and dodgeball on the field AND play on the park equipment. The parents got to enjoy the beautiful weather and relax in the shade.

cons: I didn't get to hang-up the decorations that I made for the party. Bummer.

Later that day, Smarty Pant's asked why I didn't hang up the decorations for his party. I was surprised (and secretly pleased) that he cared/noticed, so I decided to surprise him on his actual birthday. I hung up the decorations on our family room mantel.

the tutorial for the hexagon paper medallions can be found here

Click "read more" for the full post

Monday, May 20, 2013

Our Lives // Happy 7th Birthday!

Happy Birthday Smarty Pants! It's hard to believe that this cute, little guy is now 7 years old!

Our oldest, our thinker, our driven one, our guinea pig... 

Seven. Definitely a big boy now. And what a year! It's like all the stars aligned and the developmental milestones just clicked into place-- reading, writing, independence, a deeper understanding of the world around... I wish I could slow down time so that I can really cherish and remember these amazing moments. But since that's impossible, I try to remember to really take in and enjoy the present. It is a joy to watch him grow and develop into a kind, smart and caring young person. I'm looking forward to what this next year has in store.

Have a wonderful Monday!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Party // Hexagon Paper Fans

This month we'll be celebrating my oldest son's seventh birthday. He loves sports so we're throwing him a soccer party. He's not into any characters or movies these days and shrugged when I bugged him for input, so I decided to draw inspiration from the humble and wonderfully geometric soccer ball. Not a bad theme actually-- black, white and hexagons would work for many non-kid, non-soccer parties as well.

Since paper medallions (aka paper fans) are a big bang-for-your-buck party staple, I wanted to see if I could come up with something in a hexagon shape.

After a little trial and error, I figured out a way to make Hexagon-shaped Paper Medallions.

Click "Read more" for the tutorial

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Inspired By // S-S-S-ummer!

It's May and we're still in the thick of Spring. It should not be 100 degrees. Nope. Don't like it. To quote the wilting Daisy Buchanan "'s so hot"... "and everything's so confused." Yep, Daisy and I both don't do well in heat-- Perhaps the only thing we have in common.  :)

Here are a few things that get me inspired for the hot and carefree days of summer...

Click "Read more" for the full post

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Make // Sunglasses T-Shirts

My boys are almost seven and almost five. They sorta care about what they wear, but... not really. Their fashion sense became noticeably worse when they started wearing school uniforms. In fact, one day I asked the almost seven year old to change and he came down with his brother's red athletic pants (only 5 inches too short) and a green stripe button down shirt... N-I-C-E! 

So Mama had to do a fashion intervention. I bought him some trendy jeans (um, not pictured below... those are his grass stained uniform pants. slight oversight on my part) and made him this cool, on-trend, age appropriate t-shirt. I'm mean... look how happy the kid looks. All dancin' and posin' and stuff.  And I didn't even have to shell out the big bucks.

Click "Read more" for the tutorial

Friday, May 10, 2013

Happy Friday // 5.10.2013

What makes you happy? For me, it's the little things-- Beautiful blooms in our yard, two brothers enjoying each other's company, a school play...

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Inspired by // Agate

I'm drawn to agate; the semiprecious stone with variegated lines that comes in a variety of colors and patterns.  With it's one of a kind shape and marbleized look, it is striking, contemporary and unique. While I love the actual stone, when done right, I can appreciate the faux just as much.

waterproof faux agate wall  by alex turco via houzz
created with an enlarged photo and acrylic!

framed marbelized paper via kristen f davis designs as seen on little green notebook

agate druze rings via radlabs

while this looks like stone, it's actually part of a layered wax type piece by keetra dean dixon and jk keller

click "Read more" for the full post

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Make // Velvet Paper Spring Flowers

I first shared this tutorial at SEI Lifestyle...

Mother's Day is next Sunday! I'm sure it's already on your radar but it always has a way of sneaking up on me. If you're into making things and need tabletop decorations or a gift topper, try these pretty Spring blooms. They'd also be perfect for a bridal shower, girls' birthday party, Teacher Appreciation Day... any event that goes hand-in-hand with flowers.

To create the form, I decided to use plastic eggs leftover from Easter. I've used plastic eggs before (for these fabric pinecones), and they're no-fuss and easy to work with.

Click "Read more" for the tutorial

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Our Lives // Fire Distraction

We're close to one of the wildfires that is burning in Southern California. We're not currently in harm's way but have several friends who have been impacted by the evacuations and smoke. Suffice to say, everyone's nerves are jangled by the uncertainty that accompanies natural disaster.

view of the fire from our home, 12 pm may 3rd

doesn't it look like the smoke is pointing??  taken may 2nd

smoky air and falling ash. taken may 3rd

sunset may 3rd

Before I sign off... A huge thank you to the fire fighters and first responders who are protecting thousands of homes and lives. We are lucky to have such outstanding, well-trained individuals who go into danger to protect lives and property. As of the last update, the fire is 30% contained, there are 1,900 firefighters on scene, 28,000 acres have burned, 4,000 homes threatened and no injuries or casualties caused by the fire. The weather is significantly cooler, the winds have died down and the moisture is back. Thank God! 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Our Lives // Epic Playdate

What makes a playdate EPIC?

Hmmm... good question. After a couple of minutes much thought, I narrowed it down to 3 things...

1) An Epic playdate usually takes place in a new (to you) locale. It doesn't have to be pricey or hard to get to, just somewhere that your family hasn't been before; The mystery of a new and undiscovered place just adds to the excitement. In our case, we drove up to Dos Pueblos Ranch in Santa Barbara. Who knew such rustic beauty exists just a few miles away from UCSB (not to mention Isla Vista!!!).

2) An Epic playdate differs from traditional playdates because there is much planning involved. No sending the kids outside and saying "go play!". Darn. For our Epic playdate, activities were organized by popular bloggers (including oh happy day, dooce, oh joy!, yes to hoboken, how to be a dad) who know a thing or two about creativity, event planning, and building cool stuff.

3) You have confirmation that the playdate is Epic when...  the kids who never leave your side, forget that you are there (or at least it seems that way). Everyone gets along. There is no whining (not even a little!). The kids can't stop playing long enough to eat. And the number one indicator that a playdate is EPIC? No one wants it to end!

** If you've made it to #3 without #1 or #2 then... What do I know??!! You've already experienced an epic play date!

Our Epic playdate looked a little like this...

>> building compressed air rockets <<

The rocket launchers were awesome. When built right, the paper & masking tape rockets were flying 100+ feet high! When built wrong, the tops of the rockets popped. If you're interested, the full how-to is here (it's way over my craft-making head, but you engineer-types will dig it).

>> participating in a massive paint fight <<
(the kid version of a color run)

Paint-filled squirt guns, paint-filled sponge bombs, paint-filled water balloons... you get the idea. Most of the parents stayed out of the war zone and crossed their fingers that Tide would make it all better again. Luckily our only casualties were a pair of socks.

>> creating sand art <<

The kids had a great time contributing to this vibrant and large scale sand art. Happy Vee wanted to take it home with him... Luckily he was happy with a photo.

>> tinfoil viking whip cream beard races <<

After making viking-wear out of tinfoil, the kids participated in a whip cream beard relay race. Yup, you read that right. Smarty Pant's team won and received the illustrious tinfoil viking bust as a prize. As you can probably tell, the guys from how to be a dad were hilarious.

>> playing epic volleyball <<

Smarty Pants loves sports and made some like-minded friends. He spent most of his time playing epic volleyball. I'll have to remember this the next time we go to the beach.

>> balloon twisting classes <<

Er, I feel like I should apologize to the balloon guys. Four year old Happy Vee is a tad obsessed with balloons (as well as bubbles, gummy bears and water guns), and pretty much wouldn't leave them alone. We came home with about 15 balloon creations.  :)

My kids had an awesome time, got dirty, made friends, hardly ate and after seven straight hours, were still begging for more. We ALL slept very well that night. A special thanks to CGC and Hyundai. We had a fantastic time!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective, and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.