Saturday, November 23, 2013

Spirited Chattanooga: Painting the Chattanooga Skyline

Some of you may not know this, but I was a Fine Art student in college. My classes were predominantly graphic design focused, but my degree actually came in the form of a Bachelor of Science in Fine Art.

I spent a lot of time in the art building. Hours and hours in the studio. I really loved oil painting. I wasn't great at it but I found the process to be very therapeutic. Just me and my canvas spending hours and hours in a studio full of natural light and some my favorite music.

I miss those days.

Over the years I have done some abstract art for my house, but it isn't something I have spent much time on in the past decade.

I was recently invited to attend a painting class at Spirited Chattanooga for a friend's birthday. Part of me felt like it would be a bit hokey, but since I don't get many opportunities to have a "me" night I decided to go.

The teacher was a young woman, possibly a college student. She started everyone out with a stencil and then walked the class through the process of mixing the acrylic paint to achieve the colors that we would lay on the canvas. 

As someone with a degree in art, it was a fairly simplistic class, but the thing that surprised me was how much I miss sitting in front of an easel.

I remembered how Professor Pitt (during my Harding days) had us duct tape our hands to our pencil for a drawing class so that we would learn to use our arm instead of our wrist to draw. 

As I sat, I focused on adding depth to my colors; making the dark spaces truly dark; and how I was applying the paint. But mostly I just enjoyed sitting there with my easel and limited distractions.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

See Jack: Birthday Edition

This is an ongoing series of videos that I am sharing so that our extended family can keep up with how Jack is growing and changing in these early years.

This set of videos are from Jack's 2nd Birthday party so that family and friends who were unable to attend due to distance or prior commitments can share in on the fun!

See Jack have fun on his birthday hayride.

See Jack get raspberries from his cousin Izzy. He thinks this is hilarious.

See Jack enjoy his birthday cupcake.
Later he enjoyed a slice of cake and another cupcake!

See Jack and his cousins play with the remote control car that Uncle Mark gave him.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pinspiration for Birthday Parties

As a graphic designer, I have been collecting ideas of inspiration for well over a decade. Really, this compulsion goes back to when I was a kid and would flip through catalogs and magazines and circle things that I liked. 

In my early graphic design years, I hoarded collected pages from magazines. Daniel recently made me throw a bunch of these old clippings out. About 5 years ago, I shifted to creating desktop folders on my computer where I stored all of my images in neatly organized folders (topic and year the image was pulled). I still collect images on my computer, but in the last couple of years I have also started pinning ideas I come across. It helps me to quickly get inspiration for projects and see what trends are happening right now. I'm sure that Daniel is thrilled that I gave up collecting samples of magazine pages!

Invitation inspiration on left {via here and here}, Jack's invitation on the right.

For our last minute birthday party, I found several invitation designs (on my laptop) that helped me to hone my vision. Frogs were the theme since Jack LOVES frogs right now.

2012 Photo Collage on left, 2013 Photo Collage on Right

After I had my invitation created (which we just emailed out), I moved forward with creating my Photo Collage of Jack from the year. I did this last year with his monthly photos and we loved it so we ended up leaving it up all year long. Once again, this yearI used the birthday card theme and included a photo from each month of the year. I really liked how this turned out, and I plan to keep the calendar up and update it every year.

Chalkboard inspiration on left {via}, my version on the right.
I also utilized our large menu chalkboard to write out a birthday message for Jack (Pinterest has great ideas, much better than my little handwritten message).

Inspiration Cake recipe {via}

Since we were going with a laid back, easy party, I turned to Pinterest to see where my head has been at in terms of cakes. I found a cool Funfetti Cake with Marshmallow Cream icing that I thought would be delicious (it was!). 

Cake Design Inspiration on Left {via}, my version on the right.

For decorating the cake, Pinterest provided inspiration in the form of a sprinkle cake with a number in sprinkles. I ran with this idea, but took it a step further incorporating the little shield with the #2 that I had used as an element on Jack's invitation. I loved how this turned out! 

My decorating process.

As a graphic designer, it was easy for me to print out my design, tape it onto wax paper and then cut it out with an exacto knife. The sprinkle part was super easy and I loved the effect.

CupCake Design Inspiration {via}, my version on the right. The recipe is a family tradition.

For the cupcakes, I used my family's traditional Pistachio Cake recipe, after seeing this frog cupcake image on Pinterest. Then I spooned the icing into a ziplock back and piped it onto the cupcakes and added sugar googly eyes that I picked up at Walmart. These were delicious and really fun while being super easy to make.

For drinks, I found a green punch recipe on the Food Network web site and a decadent Crock Pot hot cocoa on Pinterest. Both were delicious. 

Punch recipe {via}

Once again, Pinterest came through with helping me flesh out my ideas. Not all of the ideas were from Pinterest, but it was a good starting point. I love to look at the different ideas out there to kickoff my brainstorming sessions. 

Here is a link to my Party Ideas Board on Pinterest.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Frogs Snails and Puppy Dog Tails Birthday Party, Jack's 2nd Birthday Party

Two weeks ago, our sweet little Jack turned two. In between our weekly travels and preparing our house to be sold, we had little opportunity to plan a party. 


We toyed with the idea of having a toddler hayride since we live in the country and also to have a toddler book exchange in lieu of presents from friends, but we just didn't seem to have the time to pull it all together.

So, on the Friday after Jack's birthday, we decided we needed to pull the trigger and make the invitations and get this party planned. And so we did.

We literally planned it in a couple of days. We knew that due to the last minute nature of our party (just over a week's notice) that it would be difficult to gather all of our friends and loved ones, so we were surprised and thankful that so many were able to show up despite the short notice.

It ended up being just family, but it was still a big turn out and we enjoyed getting to visit with everyone.

The theme of the party was Frogs, Snails and Puppy Dog Tails and I made my family's traditional Pistachio Cake in the form of cupcakes. I added googly sugar eyes to the cupcakes so they were fitting of silly little boys. 

I also made a Funfetti Sprinkle Cake (using this recipe) and used the shield and #2 from the invitation I designed as an element on the cake. It was a fun project. 

In terms of food, we went as simple as we could and ordered pizza. Daniel's family all offered to bring various items (drinks and more desserts) so we had plenty to eat. I also made a fun green punch (using this recipe) and a decadent hot chocolate (using this recipe) for the adults.

The hayride was a big hit with the kids. Living in the country has it's perks. We borrowed a trailer from one of Daniel's co-workers and picked up bales of hay from the local Home Depot. 

The kids had a blast jumping in the hay and riding around the yard behind the four wheeler. We would definitely consider doing this again if we have a big enough property once we move.

Our family was incredibly generous and got Jack some really fun gifts. He is in little boy heaven. Cars, trains, tools, stickers, clothes, and so much more.

We are so blessed that Jack is able to see so many people in our family throughout the year. Even when life is hectic, it is nice to pause and take time to be together and celebrate a birthday.

This year's party was simple and stress free. I still utilized Pinterest to come up with some ideas and will share, in more detail, some of the elements of the party. Pizza parties are definitely the way to go!

Friday, November 15, 2013

10 Things

Over the last couple of weeks, the Things meme has been circulating Facebook again. Remember back when we all did it in 2009? I just reread my 25 Things list from then and some of it surprised me... 
1. The avid reader things still stands, I now have 504 books in my To Read list on Goodreads instead of 98. Though since writing that in 2009 I have read 214 books.

4. Having kids no longer scares me. I also no longer watch Super Nanny.

8. I am still an avid meal planner and grocery shopper. 

9. If it's not on my list, I don't buy it. Period.

17. We got a dog. She does make our lives harder (as predicted), but she also makes our lives better. 
18. I still haven't owned a car that is less than 8 years old.
22. I no longer have a clothing budget... I almost never buy new clothes and when I do, it's usually with birthday money.
Here are a 10 new things you might not know about me (though, you probably already know way too much about me since I blog so much).
1. I hate clutter. It drives me crazy. Piles of paper on the counter are the worst.

2. My solution to clutter is to put it all in a basket and hide the basket in the closet. Ta-da. No more clutter. Daniel hates this solution. 

3. It makes me incredibly sad when someone I know gets divorced. I guess it's like death, it makes me realize that no one is invincible and that is saddening.

4. I am fascinated by history and politics. I can't wait to read the history books in about 10 years about politics that we have lived through.

5. I love my son with all of my heart, but I am always thankful when we put him down for bed.

6. I can't function without internet. It's like losing a limb.

7. I'm OCD about what direction you hang a shirt on a hanger. 

8. When we lived in Charlotte, I went through a period where I would get panic attacks in the middle of the night. I would wake up and think someone was in the room and I would be completely unable to move. I thought I was going to die of fright and I couldn't run away. I have only experienced these a couple of times since moving to Alabama.

9. The women in my family used to cram onto a bed together and talk for hours. When I was really little I would pretend I was asleep and learn all sorts of interesting things from my mom and aunts talking. We no longer do this and I kind of miss it.

10. The two ways I am most fearful of dying are in a tornado or flipping my car off a bridge into water.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

See Jack {late September}

This is an ongoing series of videos that I am sharing so that our extended family can keep up with how Jack is growing and changing in these early years. I am several weeks behind on these posts, so I am posting 8 videos instead of the usual 5 in an effort to catch up. Enjoy.

See Jack have fun with Mommy. High five and cut the pickle is one of his favorite games.

See Jack have a little fun at the Main Terrain Art Park in Chattanooga.

See Jack wear a cloth bag on his head. Anything can be a hat in Jack's world. 

See Jack play with his Lego Wagon. I hope he doesn't get it in 
his head that he should ride down the stairs in said wagon.

See Jack respond to Daddy working on the roof. 

Bonus #1... See Daniel work in the lift we rented. 
He fixed a couple of spots on our roof.

Then he pressure washed the exterior of the house as part of the 
"getting our house ready to sell" process. In this video Daniel is using
the lift to remove some overgrown ivy on our front porch.

Bonus #2... See my brother ride our four wheeler. 
Too bad I didn't have my camera out when he caught air. 
If you come visit us, there is a good chance you will 
get to ride our four wheeler if you ask nicely.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Jack is TWO!

It's kind of shock that Jack turns two today, but at the same time it feels like he has been a part of our family forever. 

We were recently visiting with some friends who have children who are much younger than Jack. While we visited it dawned on me that I am no longer a brand-new mama. I am no longer sleep deprived (at least not because of a newborn); my mom confidence has soared; and I can now offer advice based on real life experiences rather than just discussing ideas.

In the past month we have been immersed in the start of the holiday season and the traditions that go along with this time of year: visiting the Pumpkin Patch, going to an annual Hayride, and dressing up for Halloween. I think that Jack enjoyed these activities more this year than he did last year.

A few of Jack's "firsts" from the past month include his first plane ride; eating dish soap (thankfully it was minimal and we didn't have to call poison control); and enjoying his first s'mores experience.

Jack now sits in an adult chair without a booster seat. This was partly due to necessity (we were tired of carting so many items back and forth on our weekly travels) and partly because Jack decided that he didn't want to use a booster anymore. Restaurants seems to work best if we can eat in a booth... that way he can't escape.

Jack has fed himself from the beginning, but he in recent months he has become very adept at using a regular spoon and fork. Last night we ate chili and Jack ate it out a bowl for the first time. He loved slurping the soup from his spoon... he thought slurping was hilarious.

I kind of gave up on tracking all of Jack's words and phrases awhile back, but here a few phrases that stick out from recent week: I need cheese. I need water. I need 'nacks. I ride four-wheeler. Boat, I ride it. Skype Grammy? I can do it. I fix it. Carry you (meaning carry me). Watch show? Wash hands. I play games (referring to the Kindle or our phones). Flashlight on, help?

Jack says thank you pretty consistently and we are working on getting him to say please.

I'm fairly certain he doesn't understand numbers, but he does randomly recite multiples of two: I have no idea where he picked that up.

In the mornings when Jack wakes up, he plays in his crib until he is ready to get up. He then yells, "Mommy! Mama! Mawmaw. Mom! Daddy! Daddddeeeeee! Mommmmeeeeee! Mama-Daddy!" until one of us comes to get him.

Jack recently discovered Thomas the Train. He was beside himself and kept shouting TRAIN at the television. He sat, riveted, for an hour. He now asks for Thomas the Train and Daniel Tiger by name. They are his favorite shows.

Currently, Jack's favorite animal is a frog. He loves to say Ribbit and jump. When he runs it is in the form of a funny little gallop that is half running and half jumping. Other favorite things right now include stickers and music.

Jack has become very helpful when we shop for groceries. At first it was a bit of a fight because he wanted to sit in the big part of the buggy and I didn't want him there. It turns out that he loves to look at all of the items I place in the cart. Now when we get to Walmart, he enthusiastically yells, "Shopping Cart!" When we check out, he helps load everything onto the converyor belt, all the while telling me the items he knows. And when we get to the car, he helps hand me the bags of groceries.

Several months ago, Jack learned how to first close and then open doors. In addition to this skill, this month Jack discovered that he could also lock and unlock doors. He has locked both Daniel and I out of our cars (thankfully we had keys!) and he has locked himself in his bedroom. Thankfully he listened when I told him to unlock the door. Daniel showed me how to unlock the bedroom door if it happens again.

Jack now goes up and down stairs without holding onto anything. It isn't that surprising since he started crawling up and down stairs around 10 months, but it still makes me a bit nervous. I have even caught him carrying things up and down the stairs (like a soccer ball).

When it comes to food, Jack loves to eat and he especially loves if he can persuade us to share a dessert with him. Even more than food, he loves playing with friends – especially older kids. He is slowly getting the hang of sharing, so we are thankful for that.

Jack absolutely LOVES riding on our four wheeler and he continues to enjoy playing in the garage and helping his daddy. He becomes very focused and works hard to try to mimic whatever his daddy is doing. He can now turn on the four wheeler, start it, and rev the engine by himself. Thankfully it will be several more years before he can reach the gear shift. I am also slowly starting to incorporate his help in the kitchen. He helped me make a pumpkin pie for Canadian Thanksgiving and he was very proud of his efforts.

Recently Jack has also become very interested in the potty. He wants to sit on the real potty (fully clothed). He then pretends to wipe and flush. He wants to do this over and over and over. And if one of us is not around to oversee this endeavor, he inevitably decides to "wash his hands" in the toilet.

Jack continues to be a great little sleeper – even as we travel back and forth between Central and Eastern times each week. Imagine going through Daylight Savings twice a week, that is how we currently live. We did have to move his Central bedtime back by an hour, for our sanity, but the weekly time change hasn't been a problem since we made this little adjustment.

Our little boy has been such a blessing in our lives. We look forward to celebrating his birthday this weekend with some of our family and friends. Happy Birthday Jack Jack! We love you to the moon and back.

Family Hike at Fiery Gizzard

On Saturday we had originally planned to go on a group hike on the Fiery Gizzard Trail , but it was cancelled at the last minutes. So...