Monday, July 30, 2012

First Books

Shalini asked about the first books you loved and hated today and I think this is really interesting.  If you want to answer too, you can copy the questions, answer them here, or go over to her post.

First Book I Loved
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
I think I’ve told this story before, but one time when my mom took me to visit my grandparents in Arizona (just the two of us! She took one kid each year.), she saw her childhood copy of Little Women and gave it to me. I read it cover to cover in a day or two and I think that’s the day I really really fell in love with reading. I was a kid/toddler who always loved books and spent a lot of time reading, but I’d never been transported quite like that before. 

First Book I Hated
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
This was an assigned book in high school and I absolutely HATED it. I didn’t feel like there was an actual plot, just a collection of bad choices/profanity all thrown together for the sake of being shocking. I don’t mind shocking if there’s a point, but there seemed not to be.

First Series I Read
If you’re talking FIRST first, a series about a young “detective” named Ned written for 2nd or 3rd-grader-ish ages. They were probably learn-to-read books or something and my elementary school had an entire shelf of them. I liked them a lot. I just spent 10 minutes googling combinations of “Ned” “detective” and “youth” or “elementary”, but I’m coming up with nothing. Anyone know what I’m talking about?

As far as older series go, maybe Little House on the Prairie? (Next shelf over from Ned!) I can’t remember, though, I might have read The Boxcar Children first. I also really loved Nancy Drew.


First Fantasy/Sci-Fi Book I Read
Hmm. I think I read a Madeline L’Engle or two back in middle school. My best friend loved her books, but I don’t like fantasy/sci-fi. Other than Harry Potter (that’s fantasy, right?). 

First Book That Made Me Cry From Laughing
No idea. I can’t really think of any book that’s made me cry from laughing. I guess I rarely find books that funny. I’ve read Tina Fey’s biography, one of Chelsea Handler’s books, and a Bill Bryson or two. They’re funny, yes, but I don’t LOL.

First YA Book I Read and Loved
Does this mean Little Women? I also read tons of Lurlene McDaniel books in middle school and those are definitely YA. I vividly remember being reading The Face on the Milk Carton by Carolyn B. Cooney. I think that was the first book I bought myself from one of those book order forms they do at school.

First Horror Book I Read
I don’t like horror. R.L. Stine was as hardcore as I got with that (meaning: not at all). 

First Book I Was Completely Obsessed With
I’m stumped. I’ve always read a lot. At least a hundred books a year. I become obsessed with a lot of books, but there are so many they do start to run together over time.

(All book images in this post are Amazon affiliate links.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tea for three...years old

Miss M turned three!* She had two birthday parties this year. Paul’s birthday is three weeks after hers and it seemed a little much to make our out-of-town family drive to two parties at our house within a month, so we took Meg’s parties to them! Paul gets his own first birthday party this year, but starting next year we’ll have one family party in June for both kids.

It was nice to have parties in each of our hometowns, though, as it allowed family members (cousins and such) who wouldn’t normally drive all the way to a party at our house to come. We threw identical parties in each place.

On the menu were cucumber tea sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly tea sandwiches, barbequed chicken, potato salad, dipped marshmallows, and teacup cupcakes.

I don’t have any white lacy-type tablecloths, so I went to Goodwill to hunt for some. I didn’t find any, but ended up buying flowery sheets to use as tablecloths. I also bought this dress, cut off the top, hemmed the skirt, and used it as a table runner (see below with the hats).
I did consider keeping the dress to wear to the
Blathering, but sacrificed for the good of the party

Honestly, the main reason I picked a tea party theme was so we could make these hats. Kelle Hampton made them for Nella’s tea party birthday and I just love this idea. (Though she used hot glue and I stapled them. Also - buy paper plates. I originally had styrofoam, but the kids broke the prototypes in a few seconds flat so I had to go back to the store for new plates.) I took Meg to Michael’s with me and she picked out the butterflies, ribbons, and stickers for the hats. She also picked out the colors for the…

Dipped marshmallows a la MamaBub

You should totally make these. They’re just as easy as Megan says and everyone raved about them. I served them in a vase.

Teacup cupcakes

The teacup cupcakes were the star of the show and my favorite part of the party. I found pictures of these on many sites, but never any instructions. I ended up spraying the cups with cooking spray, pouring in the batter (each one took enough batter for two regular cupcakes), then setting them on a jelly roll pan and sliding the whole thing into the oven. I didn’t turn the oven on until after the cups were in it so they’d heat up slowly and not break from the extreme temperature change.

I bought the teacups at Goodwill, since I don’t have 18 teacups and didn’t want to use the ones I had anyway. This way if they cracked in the oven or got dropped on the concrete shelter floor at the party it wouldn’t really matter. All 18 survived both parties and I’m keeping a few of the prettiest ones and taking the rest back to Goodwill.


This was super simple. I printed the letters (and circles) on cardstock, then cut them into triangles with a paper cutter. The purple bands on top are pretty paper I found in the clearance bin at Wal-Mart, cut to fit, and attached with a glue stick. It’s strung together with leftover wired Christmas ribbon (it’s glittery with snowflakes all over it, but no one noticed).

Tissue paper poms

These are your basic used-at-every-blogger’s-party tissue paper poms, made following these directions. I found ironing each crease as you make the accordion folds makes it a lot easier. I also ironed the tissue paper before starting so there wouldn’t be pre-existing creases, though I don’t think it matters. To travel to the first party I left them folded in accordions and fluffed them once we arrived. We brought them home and then to the next party and they didn’t fare really well, but were good enough, I suppose (you can probably tell in that banner picture all the way at the top how the poms have seen better days).

It was a lot of work to put on parties out of town on back to back weekends, but I think they turned out really well. Now I have to throw one for Paul in three weeks! Then a birthday party for one of my sisters (which has to be gluten free) and a baby shower for the other sister (but not until October). Yikes.

*You know what's a pain in the you-know-what? Writing posts with pictures when all the pictures live on your husband's computer. For boring reasons, I can't put the pictures on mine, so have to borrow his. You can tell how often that happens since Meg turned three in MAY. I wrote this post the week after the second party. Seven weeks ago. But at least I finally got it posted!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Noble or selfish?

Cupcake Mama linked to this interesting article, written by Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former director of policy planning at the State Department, on work-life balance in the Atlantic. The most fascinating part for me was how men and women view priorities.* It made so much sense and I’d never consciously realized it. In a(n overgeneralized) woman’s view many people can do their job, but they are the only mother their children have, making motherhood the more important duty no matter how high-powered their job. “To many men, however,” as she says “the choice to spend more time with their children, instead of working long hours on issues that affect many lives, seems selfish.”

She was focusing on careers in public service, but I think even if a man isn’t “working…on issues that affect many lives”, he often sees working hard and being a career role-model as the best thing he can do for his family – more important than spending time with them. This isn’t necessarily right or wrong (or exclusive to men), but I tend toward thinking being there for your children, often at the expense of work, makes more of an impact. (This is all assuming you have a choice, obviously, which I won't get into.)

What I’m interested in is: do you think men and women view the decision to dial back a career to spend more time with children differently (selfish vs. self-sacrificing)? Is this influence by what society expects of them? Does at least one parent have to be a provider-type role model, showing children what it takes to succeed?

*Obviously these generalizations don’t apply to EVERY man/woman.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sponsored: Shutterfly's Long Live Summer Photo Contest

As you guys know, I've blogged about Tiny Prints (now called Treat, I believe) a couple times before and I just love them. The cards are cute and I don't have to go to the store to fight for space in the card aisle and talk Meg out of a $6.99 singing card (guess what we bought Thomas for Father's Day when I forgot to order cards in advance!).

Recently Tiny Prints merged with Shutterfly, which made ordering cards even easier, as all the photos I've ever uploaded to Shutterfly are available to use on cards. It's pretty convenient to have all the pictures I want in photo books and the ones I use on greeting cards in the same place.

I usually put together a yearly book of family photos, but still haven't gotten to one for 2011, so when Shutterfly contacted me about their summer photo contest I figured it was the perfect opportunity - how awesome would a $500 gift card be? Not to mention the trip to the Bahamas...

Here's a sneak peek at one of the photos I want to enter:

To enter, head to Shutterfly's Facebook page here. (This is supposed to link directly to the contest, but isn't currently working on my computer. You could also go to Shutterfly's main Facebook page here and click on 2012 Summer Sweepstakes.)

From Shutterfly:

Win a trip for four to The Bahamas and a professional photo shoot so you’ll remember your vacation forever. All you need to do is upload your favorite photo and caption based on the theme of the week. Get a gift from Shutterfly just for entering! You can enter at any point during the 5-week sweepstakes period.

• Week 1(7/9): Americana
• Week 2 (7/16): Great Outdoors
• Week 3 (7/23): Water Fun
• Week 4 (7/30): Sports & Activities
• Week 5 (8/6): Parties & Celebrations

• Instant win prizes just for submitting a photo!
• Weekly prizes (contestants can enter one time/week)
• Weekly featured photos: up to 5 weekly entries will be selected from the gallery and featured on the Facebook fan page and awarded a $500 gift card on Shutterfly and a copy of the new Lonely Planet travel photography book.
• Grand prize: trip for 4 to Bahamas, 4 nights, family photo shoot

**Shutterfly is sending me a promo code for a free 8x8-20 page hardcover Photo book for blogging about this contest.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

So uneventful it's almost not worth mentioning

Two weeks ago, Meg climbed out of her crib. So we talked up a big girl bed, put her crib in Paul’s room, and converted his crib to a toddler bed for her (her former crib doesn't convert). And that was it. She sleeps in a big girl bed now. Though, strangely, we seem to have picked up a little house elf who tiptoes around for up to a couple hours after Meg’s bedtime opening and shutting her door and turning the hallway light on and off. Unfortunately he/she doesn’t answer to Dobby.

We alternate nights co-sleeping with Paul. It's about time she started pulling her weight around here.