Together at last – (not so) Wordless Wednesday

I’ve been wanting to get some new pictures of Ava and Julian together for a while. With Christmas right around the corner, I got my act together, cleared everything out of my dining room, transformed into a makeshift studio, and took these shots last week. When I sent them in to Costco to have them printed (not my usual printer, but an acceptable substitute especially when running short on time and cash), I didn’t expect a follow up phone call from a Costco employee asking if they were taken by a professional. I stumbled a bit before answering, “I took them.” She asked again, “You are the photographer?” And I said, “yes.” The employee said I’d have to sign a release when I came in to pick them up verifying that I took the pictures. Now I know I’m not the first person they’ve called like this and that they are only doing their job to protect copyrights, but I was flattered. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like a professional photographer and it was a nice reminder that maybe I could go back to photography again someday – if and when I’m ready. Thank you, Costco. 😉

This one has replaced a nearly 2-year-old picture of them on our living room wall.

Ava and Julian 12/15/08

And this one accompanied many of our Christmas cards because I just love their expressions. I won’t tell you what I had to do to get such belly laughs, but I will say I was acting pretty silly.

Ava and Julian 12/15/08

Sorry for the lack of content around here these past several weeks. I’m hoping that with the new year will come new motivation to blog and I will get back into the swing of things again.

See more Wordless Wednesday posts at the original WW home and at 5 Minutes for Mom.

Bowled over – BSM

This weekend, thanks to my sister’s suggestion, the whole family went bowling. It was the first time for Ava and Julian (if you don’t count the Wii). 😉

Ava was happy to do it all by herself and, with the help of the bumpers in the gutters, bowled a pretty good game. (And yes, I think the tutu helped her game. *wink*)

Julian had a little extra help with the bowling ball stand (they didn’t have those when I was a kid) and bumpers and, of course, the moral support of his whole family. hee, hee.

We all had a lot of fun, so much that Ava said “we should go bowling every day” and asked if she could live there. 🙂
The family bowlers The fancy bowler (AKA Ava) The fancy bowler strikes a pose

The whole family gets Julian set up The littlest bowler finally cracks a smile The kids with Grandpa and Grandma

Here’s my Best Shot (Ava and I cheering for Julian’s spare!) taken by my sister Carrie, though I’m also quite fond of the picture of the one above – of all of us getting Julian set up to bowl. 🙂
Mommy and Ava cheer for Julian’s spare!

What fun did you have this past week? Be sure and check out the other Best Shots.

A homemade Christmas tree (and BSM)

After writing my holiday eco-friendly crafts post, I got this insane great idea that it’d be lots of fun to make all of the decorations for our Christmas tree this year.  I was hoping to involve the kids in the crafting, but my first two attempts – with popcorn garland and cranberry garland – were not as successful as I hoped. Turns out that popcorn is fairly hard to put a needle through and I didn’t want to risk Ava poking the heck out of herself, so she and Julian ate popcorn while I threaded it. The cranberries were a little harder than I would’ve liked too so I did those myself while the kids ate them and then spat them out because they are, of course, very tart. 😉

I also made the star on the top of our tree by cutting it out of a pie tin (super sharp edges) and gluing it to a piece of black paper.

Finally this morning, I decided on a project we could work on together (at least Ava and I could and Julian could help out later) – salt dough ornaments!

Here’s the recipe that I used.

Salt Dough Ornaments

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 cup water
Optional: 1 tablespoon any type of oil (to make it easier to work with – thanks to Brighid for the tip)

I didn’t have enough sea salt, so I used my kosher salt (after grinding it up in the food processor a bit). It worked just as well. I think table salt is probably what they have in mind for this recipe though. 

Mix salt and flour. Add in half the water, then gradually add the remaining water. Knead until the dough is smooth, this can take up to 10 minutes.

I divided up my dough into different segments and used food coloring on some of it. 

For flat dough ornaments roll out the dough (to about 1/4 inch thickness) on baking paper, wax paper, or directly on a cookie sheet. Use cookie cutters, cut-out templates, or just use your hands.

Add details to the ornaments with a toothpick and knife.

Don’t forget to use a straw to make a hole so you can hang the ornament. (I forgot to do this on two of mine. Oops!)

Baking: Time varies based on thickness of ornament
Temperature: 325°F.
Time: 20 minutes or until dry – They should be hard to the touch, but not brown.

After they are done baking and cooling, you can paint, add glitter, spray with a clear finish, etc. We chose not to do this and let me tell you why I’m glad we didn’t.
a) because Julian decided to start tasting several of the ornaments
b) because a few, invariably, got dropped or stepped on and broke, but because they don’t have any extra stuff on them, I can just throw them into the composter. 🙂

Finally, add ribbon, yard, string, twine, etc. and your ornaments are ready to hang on the tree or give as gifts.

And now, the pictures…

Ava hard at work 12/14/08 Decorating candy cane ornaments 12/14/08 Ornaments ready to go into the oven  12/14/08

Putting yarn in our ornaments  12/14/08 Finished ornaments  12/14/08  Ava showing Julian how to hang ornaments  12/14/08

A tree on a tree  12/14/08 My little candy cane 12/14/08 Julian gets the hang of it fast  12/14/08

Ava’s happy tree 12/14/08  Last-minute rearranging before bed 12/14/08 Our homemade-decorated tree  12/14/08

I don’t know if we’ll stick with just the homemade decorations on the tree – I think we may add a handful of ornaments we’ve collected over the years – but I will say that despite the extra work involved, I really enjoy the organic-feel and personality that our tree has this year. It’s been a lot of fun. 🙂

My choice for Best Shot Monday is the one of Ava and Julian together putting the ornament on the tree (2nd row, 3rd picture). Ava was being so sweet and helpful to her little brother. It just makes me smile. You can see more Best Shots over here.

Snowy day

Today was our first official snowy day of the season (with more than a dusting of snow I mean) and since the kids finally have new boots (that fit!), they were able to go out and play in it. I don’t mind the snow much myself (I rather enjoy shoveling. Shhh. Don’t tell Jody that.), but the 23 degrees for a high is a little too cold for my comfort. Not theirs though. They didn’t mind at all. 🙂

Ava and Julian out in the snow 12/4/08 Peek-a-boo, Julian 12/4/08

FYI: my blog was down for several hours last night and into the morning and, as a result of several restores, there may be some “Hello, World!” posts showing up in your feed reader today.  Please disregard them. I’m going to be switching hosts in the near future (bye-bye BlueHost). Don’t want to have to deal with what I went through this morning ever again. 

Crafting pizza, mail, and sachets out of felt!

I’m not usually a very crafty person. I would like to be, but I just haven’t gone there yet and figure I have enough things to occupy my time without adding crafts to the mix too. 😉

However, in the spirit of the No Plastic Holiday Challenge (which means no gifts with plastic, not refraining from buying using plastic i.e. your credit cards, although that’s a good idea too), I’m forcing myself to get crafty. I’ve come across more cute homemade kid present ideas on blogs lately than I can recall, but I’ve settled on a few that I want to give a try.

felt play pizzaThe first is this homemade play pizza set made out of felt. No sewing involved, which is a definite plus in my book. Even though I have my mom’s old sewing machine, I have no idea how to thread it. I want to make two of these – one for each kid.

Photo courtesy of: Pink and Green Mama

mail setThe next thing that I want to try making is this Jolly Little Postal Worker set. This one requires some sewing, but I think I could do it by hand pretty easily. Ava loves to play “mail,” so I think she’d get a kick out of this and I’m sure Julian would be happy to join in on the fun. It’s not made out of felt in the instructions, but I’m enjoying working with felt and think that’s probably what I will use. Photo courtesy of: Craft Pad

That’s all I have planned so far for the kids, but I’m extending my craftiness to include some family member gifts too. I got the idea to make sachets from my friend Julie (who has yet to blog about it or I’d link to her post *nudge, nudge*). Basically, I’m sewing (by hand) the homemade felt sachetperson’s first initial on one of two small pieces of felt, then taking two small squares of felt and sewing them together with yarn and putting a loop of ribbon at the top (in case the recipient wants to hang it instead of put it in a drawer). Then the sachets will be stuffed with wool (if I can find a local place to buy some) that is scented with essential oils. I chose to use lavender and sweet orange.

Ava is really big on sewing these days (thank you, Waldorf preschool) and will be able to do a little of the stitching (we use thicker needles so she’s less apt to poke herself), and I think Julian will get in on the stuffing part. I like that they can get involved in the gift making this way. I made a test sachet tonight for Ava – pictured at left – and stuffed it with cotton balls, because I was desperate and do not yet have any wool. It’s not perfect, but I thought it turned out pretty cute. The nice thing is it was quick and easy to make and if I can get the kids involved in the process, it will make the little gifts that much more meaningful to the recipient. And now as I sit here looking at this sachet, I’m thinking we might make some felt ornaments too. Same process, but we won’t have to scent the wool. Cool! 🙂

So those are my upcoming craft projects. Between the crafts and the leadership role I’ve taken on (with a few others) for the urban hen movement (we’re working on a petition and will be hosting a public educational urban hen meeting in a couple weeks), I’m going to have a very busy December.

How about you? Do you have any craft projects you are currently working on? Care to share links? I’m always amazed at the things other people come up with and I could seriously read craft blogs all day. Ya know, in my spare time. 😉

A return to normalcy

After a couple of wild days around here (blog traffic* that was through the roof and a newspaper interview), the Motrinmoms buzz is dying down and things are returning to normal – uh, whatever that means. I guess for me it means today I’m baking seeds from a butternut squash and two pie pumpkins and I’ve got an organic chicken in the crockpot for dinner. I need to make some pear-apple sauce too from several pears I have that are more than ripe at this point. I’ve been slacking off on my cooking lately. Ava is having her preschool Thanksgiving potluck lunch today at school and we took mashed potatoes (made with locally-grown potatoes). Julian is turning 2 on Sunday and I can hardly believe it. He’s already exerting his independence and seems to be as stubborn strong-willed as his big sister and mama. Oh, and my mom arrived into town and will be staying out here in Colorado for an extended visit. Jody and I are hoping to get some date nights (if we can remember how those work) since we’ll have a willing and able babysitter.

If you’d like to read the newspaper article it is here: Local blogger stops national ad – on the front page of today’s paper. And here’s the photo that accompanied it.

111808blogger-a.jpg

The caption: Local “mommy blogger” Amy Gates played a major role in an online protest of a Motrin ad that many moms found demeaning. The Motrin ad suggested some moms “wear their babies” as a fashion accessory and that it leaves moms sore, but it’s a “good kind of pain” because it’s for the baby. Gates posted a twitter feed about the ad Saturday that erupted into an online firestorm. Joshua Buck/Times-Call

* My blog racked in nearly 6,000 visits on Monday – that’s about 12 times the amount of traffic I usually get.

My video blogging (of sorts) debut

Earlier this week I was asked to be a part of a project by Purple States called 50/50/50 – where 50 bloggers, in 50 states respond to questions about the current economic crisis. A new video is added to the site (in alphabetical order by state) for 50 days. There is also an ongoing discussion about the economy and politics in general on the site.

I’ve never done any interviews or video blogging before so this was all new to me (and, I admit, a little nerve-racking at first). I took nearly 20 minutes total video of myself (some recorded between midnight and 1 in the morning(!), when the house was actually quiet LOL and I’m nursing Julian in one of the clips too – can you spot it? Ava even got to “man” the camera in part of it) answering various questions and showing off some of my every day life. It was all edited down to a 2 1/2 minute clip.

Previous projects by Purple States were featured on the Washington Post and New York Times sites, and this particular project has the potential to be picked up by sites like CNN.com, iReport.com and others. I’m excited to be a part of it and honored to have been chosen to represent Colorado.

You can check out my video and those from other states on Purplestates.tv or just watch my video below.

A souvenir from election night

Ava’s picture was taken by a photographer at the Obama victory party we attended on election night and posted the following day on our local paper’s website. I’m not sure if it made it into the actual newspaper or not since I didn’t manage to snag a paper that day (grrr. still trying to get my hands on one), but I got the digital version of the picture and am going to order a print to put in the scrapbook that I hope to someday make for her. 🙂

Ava and other Obama kids play at the election night party 11/4/08

Our Barack Obama Rally Experience (pictures & videos)

On Saturday, Jody, the kids and I drove 2 1/2 hours to Pueblo, CO, to experience our first political rally where both Michelle and Barack Obama were scheduled to speak. According to the LA Times, there were over 15,000 people in attendance.

We were seriously lucky and got amazingly close to the stage thanks to a phone call my sister Carrie made on Friday. Jody and I had been debating whether or not it’d be a good idea to take the kids for the 2 1/2 hour drive, then make them wait for the rally to begin and sit through the rally before having to drive 2 1/2 hours back home. It seemed like a lot to ask of them. I had several questions like if I could wear Julian in my Ergo (baby carrier), if we could bring a blanket to put on the ground, and if we could bring in a bag with diapers, snacks, toys, etc. to entertain the kids. Carrie called the Colorado Springs Obama office for me and said we’d be coming with two small kids and asked my questions (yes on Ergo, no on blanket, yes on backpack with snacks, diapers, etc.). She then told Carrie that since we’d have little kids with us we could use the disabled persons’ entrance.

So we decided we would give it a go, try not to have any expectations and just enjoy being a part of the event. We dressed the kids in their “Kids for Obama” t-shirts, I donned my “Obama Mama” pin and, because it was warm enough for short-sleeves, even displayed my Obama temporary tattoo on my arm and we headed out on a beautiful day to Pueblo.

When we finally got to Pueblo, about 30 minutes before the rally was set to start, we parked a block from the disabled persons’ entrance and made our way there. A police officer outside of the line told us that we’d have to go to the main entrance – FIVE blocks away. I explained that we were told to go to the disabled entrance because of the kids and he was skeptical. He said we could try to get in, but they might just turn us away and direct us to the main entrance anyway. Unsure what to do, we started to walk down the street to the main entrance when I said, “Ya know what? No. We are going to try to get in back there.” So we headed back, told him we’d take our chances and waited in line for about 10 minutes while I formulated my story, even verifying on the phone with my sister the name of the person she talked to. (Carrie and her friend had got to the rally before us and were out in the crowd, about 2 blocks away from the stage.) When we got to the front, the security guards didn’t bat an eye, they just had us go through the metal detector like everyone else and we were in! We walked around some Port-O-Johns and a building and discovered that we were in the media area and about 30 feet from the podium where Obama would be speaking!! SCORE! 🙂

I took both my SLR and P&S cameras and am so glad I did. I got a few videos, some snaps, as well as some good pictures of Barack and Michelle. The only thing I didn’t get that I wished I had, was a picture of Barack and Michelle with their daughters. They all came out on the stage for about 30 seconds at the end, but by that time I was holding a tired and very much ready to leave Ava (Jody had been walking around with a tired, cranky Julian for the entire rally) and was unable to get a shot off. Despite that, I was very happy with the pictures I got.

Julian looking sleepy in the Ergo – Excited Ava and Jody waiting in the security line – Before the rally began, Julian was ready for a nap
A tired Julian in the Ergo on my back as we walked to the rally 11/1/08 Ava and Jody waiting in the security line before the rally 11/1/08 Excitement mounts before the rally, but Julian is ready for some Zzzzzs 11/1/08
Cute baby for Obama – Our view of the media (which we were standing right beside) – SWAT team on the roof
Baby for Obama 11/1/08 We were in the media section 11/1/08 Members of the SWAT team 11/1/08
Michelle Obama spoke briefly before introducing Barack – Love that Obama was speaking on Union Ave. (since he’s all about unity)
Michelle Obama speaks at the rally 11/1/08 Michelle Obama introducing Barack 11/1/08 Barack Obama speaks on Union Ave. (nice) in Pueblo 11/1/08
Obama speaks to the crowd
Barack Obama addresses the crowd in Pueblo 11/1/08 A very small part of the crowd 11/1/08 Barack Obama in Pueblo 11/1/08
More of Obama
Obama speaks on Union Ave. in Pueblo 11/1/08 Barack Obama in Pueblo 11/1/08 Barack Obama in Pueblo 11/1/08
Obama – Ava and me with Obama speaking behind us
Barack Obama in Pueblo 11/1/08 Me, Ava and Barack Obama 11/1/08 Pueblo, CO Another of Ava, me and Barack 11/1/08
The kids run off some energy after the rally ends
The kids running off some energy after the rally 11/1/08

The energy at the rally was incredible and it was amazing to be a part of it. Obama encouraged everyone to volunteer – make phone calls, go canvassing, etc. – in the last few days before the election. I’m hoping to do that again Monday evening. If you’ve already voted and are looking for something to do on Tuesday other than make last minute calls encouraging people to vote, please consider taking water or food to the people waiting in line to vote. Seriously, that’s what is needed (Edited to add: I learned today that you need to SIGN UP to be able to do this – don’t just show up at the polling place expecting to get to distribute food to voters. Call your local democratic office first. However, you CAN bring food to the people working at the polling place (according to someone who will be working) without signing up first.).

While the kids weren’t very excited to be at the rally (it was a long day for all of us, especially them), I am glad we went and that they got to see Barack Obama in person. Someday, I think they will be glad they were there too. (Oh, and Julian finally got that nap in – all the way home.)

If I’ve still got your attention and you want to see a couple of videos from the rally, here’s Michelle welcoming Barack onto the stage (they are so cute together) and a short one of Barack talking about unity.

Oh, and as for my choice for Best Shot Monday, this week I really can’t choose just one. I like the “Obama baby” and the one of Michelle smiling and then I’m also very partial to the ones of me and Ava with Barack behind us because they are priceless. 🙂 You can see more Best Shots over here.

I hope to post about my experience hearing Gloria Steinem talk (I saw her today at Borders) tomorrow. Stay tuned. 🙂

Me and Obama, we’re like this

On Saturday, Jody, the kids and I drove 2 1/2 hours down to Pueblo for the Obama rally. Many more pictures and videos to follow, but I just wanted to say how awesome it was to be a part of history and give you a little taste of what we got to experience.

(Click the pic to enlarge.)

Me, Ava and Barack Obama 11/1/08 Pueblo, CO

Yes We Can!

As if this weekend wasn’t exciting enough already, today I’m going to Borders Book Store to hear women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem talk about how issues in this year’s election will affect women’s lives and families. Wow.