Are You Orna-Mental?!?

I don’t know if you get a little freaked out by figuring out appropriate gifts for everyone, but I do. The big question on my mind this week was what to do for my daughter’s daycare class.
I tend to get a little OCD and go overboard for acquaintances, which I’ve learned can come off as overbearing or even overwhelming. Trying to come up with something that’s kind, thoughtful, dietary-friendly, not too difficult to make, but not boring is tough!

DIY ornament gift

PROS: cheap, easy, non-allergenic, kid-helpable, non-denominational. CONS: None! Especially if you love glitter on everything!

It hit me in a flash: initial ornaments! At JoAnn fabrics, they have cute balsa wood letters for $1.35. I picked up some sparkle paint, purple glitter, and gold cord for hanging. The only real work was drilling the holes, which I did while kiddo was at school. The backs splintered a little around the holes, but filled in nicely with glitter! So we painted, glued, and glittered for about 10 minutes, and were DONE! After it dried, I tied on the gold cord with a simple gift tag (left over from my business card project). Voila! Glitter bombed, but a simple gift for any denomination.
What are your favorite mass gifts you like to give (or have received)?

Toddling Around Spain

We just got back from a two-week trip traveling through Spain with our 2 1/2 year old daughter. I know, poor me. But in the true spirit of being Committed, it did get a little crazy.

Toddling around Spain.

Balloons make everything better.

FIRST. 
I loved the trip. The architecture was amazing, the culture is admirable (drinking and eating all the time! Siestas!) The wine was cheap and delicious. Oh, the food…

BUT.
The kiddo was a handful. She may read this years down the line, so I don’t want her to feel like I’m putting her down. It wasn’t her fault–the 9 hour time difference was rough on all of us. And she’s 2 1/2, which means discovering strong preferences, a desire for instant perfection (well, we never outgrow that, do we?), and just general upsettedness at basically everything. We thought her familiarity with travel might make things easier, which it probably did (but didn’t feel like it at the time).

Toddler dinner in Spain.

Sometimes kiddo had a low sitting threshold.

SO.
For this post, I’m going to focus on how we handled the tears and tantrums. (HINT: Wine. Lots of wine.)

We learned a few things on this trip, lessons that weren’t too unexpected:

  • Lower your expectations for how much you’ll get to see or do each day
  • Respect the schedule, but sometimes stretching it to experience something amazing is worth the crankiness
  • Staying in one place is MUCH easier than hopping cities (duh, but it was worth a shot)
  • Twos CAN be terrible, but they can also be amusing
  • Rely on your partner and take the burden if you’re up to it
  • Talk through your plans first (ie, how are you going to get off the train? Who is carrying the car seat? Carrier on the front or back?)
  • The carseat & baby carrier were helpful. We were glad to leave the stroller at home.
  • Don’t forget that you’re ON VACATION and laugh and enjoy the little things as much as possible.

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Halloween, Already?

Halloween in our family is a REALLY. BIG. DEAL.

Actually, we take any excuse to dress up in costume. My husband loves the decorating. I love the candy. The kiddo will hopefully love all of the above.

Since we’ll be traveling this year and missing out on the good ol’ American fun, I thought I’d walk down memory lane and share a few of our costume ideas. I’m sad to not do what we had planned, but hey, I’ll take a trip to Spain over a good costume any day!

The Magician, His Rabbit, and the Assistant

Magician costume for baby

A magical family costume idea for babies or toddlers.

I don’t know where the idea came from–I was trying to find something cute for my then-8 month-old that would work in a carrier and that we could integrate as a family. I found the bunny costume at a consignment shop, and the rest was history!

We won 8 pounds of Vermont cheddar for our efforts. I’m not kidding. We ate it all. Also not kidding.

I wish I’d taken pictures of the making of this, but I’ll try to describe it in simple detail.

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5 Reasons I’d Love to be a Kid Again

5 reasons to be a kid again

Being young is AMAZING.

1. Whenever I’m tired, all I want to do is run. Run like a crazy person.

2. I can eat a bowl full of junk food and feel like a total rock star afterward.

3. Chores are super fun!

4. I don’t need coffee. I’m fueled by 12 hours of sleep and boundless energy.

5. Nothing hurts! I can land face-down on hardwood and be ready to try it again in 10 seconds.

BONUS: When I don’t feel like walking, PEOPLE CARRY ME. It’s awesome.

 

Tell me, why would you LOVE to be a kid again?

The Easter Bunny Doesn’t Poop Chocolate

I know that a mythical bunny leaving candy-filled plastic eggs on your lawn has nothing to do with religion. But it’s a tradition that I love and I love that my daughter is old enough now to get into it. What I don’t want her getting into is a sugar-induced-toddler-frenzy ending in some form of tragedy. So even though I bought 12 different kinds of Easter candy to decorate cupcakes, very little of it is going into those aforementioned eggs. I’m stuffing those plastic vessels with fun non-chokeworthy gifts, including hair ties, stickers, and DIY crayons.

This post is about the crayons I attempted to make. Some were successful. Some were pitiful.

I should have found these tutorials (SheKnows, MakeandTakes, GabrielsGoodTidings) before starting, but as usual, I thought I’d just figure it out and forge ahead.

But here’s what I did:

1) You’ll need: crayons, a silicone mold (for making confections), a ziploc baggie, a cookie sheet, and a blunt object (to smash crayons). Optional: exacto knife to slit crayon peels. And you’re smart people–you know which to give your kids and which to keep away from them.

2) Preheat your oven to 225-250.

3) Follow along:

Start with crayons

Start with crayons, broken or whole.

Peel your crayons.

Peel. This can be made easier with an exacto knife.

Crush 'em. I just put them all in a baggie and smashed with a meat tenderizer. You can keep colors separate if you like.

Crush ’em. I just put them all in a baggie and smashed with a meat tenderizer. You can keep colors separate if you like.

Froggy mold for DIY crayons.

This froggy mold came from Japan, but you can get silicone molds at Ikea.

Melt the crayons.

Melt ’em. Fill the molds completely. This was about 5 minutes into baking.

Fill your molds completely.

I tried adding more bits halfway through. I do not recommend this. Just fill them enough at the beginning.

Some good, some bad, some ugly DIY crayons.

Some came out, some did not. Read my tips below.

Basically, I’d recommend filling your molds overfull. Don’t let them melt to liquid because the colors get really muddy. It’s fun when they swirl a bit, but too much and it’s not as pretty. But what toddler really cares? Right? And don’t (like me) try to add more chunks halfway through to make the molds full. Basically, you’ll have a liquid mess at the bottom, and crayon chunks on top.

Overall, this was super easy. It took about 15 minutes altogether and could be fun to do with the kiddos.

We’ll see what mine thinks of the Easter bunny after she opens her eggs!

In the Bag: The Diaper Bag Dilemma

With a 17 month-old, I’ve officially been through 4 diaper bags, with 3-4 unofficial options as well. Why? Am I picky? Am I destructive? Am I disorganized? Do I get frantic? Kind of.

The thing is, different situations call for different bags. Ladies, you know what I’m talking about! You have your big, multi-purpose handbag for everyday outings or when you need to carry the utilitarian stuff. The cute, sassy clutch works for evenings out because you only need a couple of items for the night.

Though you may not be dancing the night away and getting free drinks with your little one in tow, you may have a preference for a smaller bag sometimes.
Here’s what I’ve learned about diaper bags.

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Feeling Flashy: Using Your Flash When it’s Least Expected

Recently, I took a web-based photography class via CreativeLive, taught by the incredibly talented Roberto Valenzuela. Though the class was geared toward wedding photographers, I gleaned some valuable information as an amateur photographer (cough cough). A cool tip I learned, which I’ll share with you here, is how to use your flash to create some beautiful shots.

When you think of flash photography, you think of low light, indoors, red eyes, blown out skin…just BAD…right? Well, it’s a tool, and it can be used in a way you wouldn’t necessarily think of!

This weekend, we visited a pumpkin patch at around 2:30 in the afternoon. It’s a notoriously “bad” time of day to shoot because the sun is still really bright, but lower in the sky, creating deep shadows, too much contrast, and it makes people squint if you try to eliminate shadows and have your subject face the sun.

Enter the flash. 

Sunflower photo no flash

It’s an okay shot, but the flower looks dark and sad.

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