Monday, January 31, 2011

Manic Monday ... 31::365 { One Photo a Day }

It's just another manic Monday... breakfast, dishes, laundry, workout, allergy shot, lunch, shower, chiropractor, Walgreens... and the day's not even over yet. Thank goodness I don't have to go to the grocery store. I hear it's utter mayhem with the blizzard coming. Batten down the hatches!

Spring? You coming? ... 30::365 { One Photo a Day }

Oh, how I would love for spring to come. And for real tulips. I love me some real tulips.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Resolutions ... 29::365 { One Photo a Day }

I signed up for a 16 week weight loss challenge at our local Snap Fitness. The hook was it's free... but only if you do everything they tell you to do, and decide to NOT stay with the gym after the 16 weeks. Then they'll refund your money. The deal is workout 3 times a week in their gym, keep a food journal and have two days signed by a staff member each week, and meet with a personal trainer once a month (four times total). I'm SO not a gym person. But this challenge will force me into a routine. Which I need desperately. And I hope will carryover when the 16 weeks are over { I get my money back } and I'll have all sorts of new options to working out when Spring arrives.

I'm two weeks in, and so far so good. I'm not weighing myself -- I don't want to focus on the numbers. I just want to feel better physically and mentally.

RE: the photo. These are my old shoes that I now wear out and about. I bought a new pair of Saucony at Marshalls a few months ago and only wear them indoors so they still look brand spankin' new in all their whiteness which I didn't think would make for a very interesting photo. I wanted to use my old pair for a little grungier look. I used Coffeeshop's Urban Grit Photoshop Action, and removed the yellow color cast. Here's the original SOOC (straight out of camera) so you can see the difference in what a photoshop action can do. I'm learning!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Mom's Morning Out ... 28::365 { One Photo a Day }

I had a mom's morning out today, and enjoyed a walk down memory lane by heading to Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, IL. I spent the better part of my teenage years, summers in college, and ten years after college living in Arlington Heights, so I shopped at Woodfield regularly and even worked here a couple of jobs. Now we live about 35 minutes away, so it's not very convenient... and with all of the new outdoor malls popping up, there's not much need to go there. But today I had to exchange a pair of Crocs boots I received for Christmas.

Along the way I stopped by a couple of stores and ended up buying a sweater, two shirts, and hat/mittens set for Sean for next winter, an extra potty chair for Sean, and two pairs of jeans & two tops for me all for $60. Everything was on clearance except for the potty seat. Not bad for a day's work... and a joyful morning out for mom.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

27::365 { One Photo a Day } ... First Timer

I had a super busy morning. Online meeting, workout, allergy shot... and driving around in the snow was fun. So when I got home after lunch I promised Sean we would work on a new project together. I pulled out the safety scissors and a brand spankin' new gluestick. He worked on his cutting with a Family Fun magazine, and then I cut out different pictures for him to glue on to construction paper. He LOVED it. And the concentration on his face looks just like his daddy. I have a feeling we're going to go through a lot of gluesticks around here.

26::365 { One Photo a Day } ... The Pantry

I immersed myself into the pantry today. We have an awesome walk-in pantry, but it becomes a dumping ground for lots of things. And you can imagine it was... um, well... a freakin' mess! It took me pretty much all day but it's complete. I have boxes upon bags of things to donate, and two large recycling garbage bins full of cardboard. 

Now I can breathe a little easier. Simplify, simplify, simplify. My mantra for 2011.

Here's a few more pics to document this event. Sorry, they're not the best quality but you get the idea. Now 2/3 of the pantry is dedicated to food (it was only 1/3 prior), and we dedicated three full shelves to arts & crafts, party supplies, etc. 

Can I get an amen?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

25::365 { One Photo a Day } ... Rescue Heroes

Rescue Heroes. Sean's newest love. He's been asking about them for a few months. You see he inherited these from his second cousins, Cullen & Logan, along with a ton of Geotrax. And I secretly banished these guys to the basement in hopes that we could wait a while before introducing them to Sean's toy rotation (this of course sounds like I have an organized rotation system in place... but I don't... unless you call once a year tossing a bunch of "old" toys into storage bins an organized system).

But lo and behold Sean started asking about his "super heroes" a few months ago. I played dumb for about six weeks, pretending not to know what he was talking about. And then he started explaining he got them from Cullen and Logan, his cousins, and I couldn't really play dumb any longer. The heroes were released from banishment. Sean plays with them nonstop. And they are frequently lined up like you see here, just waiting to rescue someone.

Monday, January 24, 2011

24::365 { One Photo a Day } ... Saving

When your husband is out of work for over a year, you learn how to cut corners and collect coupons. I follow several couponing blogs daily, and have saved hundreds of dollars on groceries, personal care, household items, clothing, toys and more. Just today we received more than $30 in checks in the mail for rebates, surveys, etc.

Mondays are my day to go shopping. I primarily hit Jewel for my groceries and Target for the good grocery deals, household, toys, etc... too many stores makes me crazy. And this receipt is proof of my savings... 56% off retail. Not bad for a day's work. And to add to the sweetness I had a rebate debit card in the amount of $12.86, so I charged less than $20 to my credit card. I won't bore you with everything I bought, but trust me when I say my cart was pretty full.

The good news is I think I'm getting into the rhythm, and feel like it might just be a lifestyle change. Going simple in 2011.

23::365 { One Photo a Day } ... Go Bears (not!)

I took a handful of photos today of things we did to support our Chicago Bears in their playoff game versus the Packers. Such as yummy cupcakes, and a cute little build-a-bear baby bear in a Bear's jersey (how many time can I say bear?). But the Bears lost 21-14. Bummer. The game was really weird... the Bears didn't show up, and the Packers didn't play well in spite of it. Anyway, as a true Chicago fan I say, "there's always next year!"

This was the one non-Bears photo taken today. My heart melted and sighed "awww" looking at his baby blues and that beautiful smile. And the lighting was yummy in the playroom. I need to take my pictures here.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

22::365 { One Photo a Day } ... Playroom

I worked pretty much all day cleaning, decluttering, and organizing the playroom. It really. really. needed it. And surprisingly Sean went along with it, and even helped me pack away some toys he's outgrown.

What I loved best about going through everything was to find things we'd forgotten about -- like these parquetry blocks I got while I was working for Learning Resources. Sean loved them, and we had a fun time working on colors, shapes, and matching. All that fun preschool stuff. And he's clearly got that whole hard-working, sticking out my tongue look down.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A walk in the woods

Sean and I went for a walk in the woods a few days ago, and had the most awesome time. He has been dying to get outside and play in the snow, but we haven't had a lot of time this week. But this day I made the time, and we went to Veteran's Acres Park just down the street from our house.

It is such a gem of a place, and I often have to remind myself not to take it for granted. There's lots of open land, large old oak trees, a big pond with lilly pads (not right now, of course), open prairie, pine groves, forest, and just the right amount of deer to make you stop and gawk with awe. I used to go walking here a lot before Sean was born. I would walk through the woods and into the open prairie, and never fail my spirit would be lifted and transported to a much calmer state of being.

Lucky for me I didn't get my act together earlier in the day, and we ended up leaving the house around 3:30 in the afternoon. This didn't help us much with the dropping temps. But it did provide for some very yummy lighting for pictures.

Since Sean's been born I haven't had much time to go here regularly for walks. That bums me out a little. But now that he's older I'm excited about the adventures he and I can have together here. Promise.

21::365 { One Photo a Day } ... Baby, It's Cold Outside

Baby, it's cold outside. Right now it's -5 degrees, wind chill -15 degrees. We stayed inside all day... I did step out to snap this picture, but that was it. It's too darn cold.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

20::365 { One Photo a Day } ... Snowballs

Sean has been obsessed with throwing snowballs lately, and will take any opportunity -- mittens or not -- to grab a handful of snow and throw it at you. This afternoon we headed out to Veteran's Acres park down the street from our house. Or as Sean likes to call it, Hundred Acre Wood. He was calling out for Pooh and Tigger, but was satisfied with finding several sticks to carry home.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

19::365 { One Photo a Day } ... New Recipe

Super simple. And oh so yummy.

I subscribed to All You magazine to get the coupons, and was pleasantly surprised to find all sorts of goodies inside like this great recipe I whipped up tonight. Give it a try if my photo makes it look at all appetizing...

Pasta with Broccoli, Tomatoes and Sausage

Prep: 10 min Cook: 25 min
Serves: 6
Cost per serving: $1.23

1 Tbsp oliv oil
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
8 oz italian sausage, bulk
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 lb pasta shells (I used farfelle)
4 cups small broccoli florets (from one head)
Shredded Parmesan, optional

Warm olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add sausage and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until it loses its pink color, about 6 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juice and 1/4 tsp salt and cook, stirring occasionaly, until most of juice has evaporated and sauce has thickened, about 10 minutes.

While sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of water to boil. Stir in pasta and cook according to package directions. In last 2 minutes of cooking time, stir in broccoli and continue to cook until pasta is al dente and broccoli is tender. Drain, return to pot and toss with sauce. Serve immediately, with shredded Parmesan on the side, if desired.

Let me know if you try it, ok?

Sean's dino party published!

I totally love ohdeedoh... really love seeing other people's creative ideas. I was encouraged to post my ideas from Sean's dino party, and today I found out that they published Sean's party as one of their highlighted "My Party". Very cool.

If you've linked here from Ohdeedoh, and would like to see more from Sean's party click here. Oh, and welcome! So glad you stopped by.

xo, Amy

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

18::365 { One Photo a Day } ... Mmmm, cupcakes

Sean: "I love cupcakes sometimes, every day."

Jeff chuckling: "You're so cute."

Sean: "I am cute."

We laugh.

Sean: "I'm funny."

He then proceeds to shove the entire cupcake in his mouth. Seems to be the latest thing to do for three-year olds.

17::365 { One Photo a Day } ... Establishing routine

I'm a project planner. It's in my blood, and I finally realized that I need to approach my every day the same as I would if I were planning a project. Instead of spreadsheets I resorted to the good old composition book. So far it's working for me. It forces me to keep things focused and simple. I didn't get everything done I planned, but that's OK. I just moved it to the next day. And there's definitely a deep satisfaction in crossing things off the list. Especially that first item "wake-up"... thank you, Jesus, for another day!

16::365 { One Photo a Day } ... Guilty Pleasure

The weekend is almost over. Fun & productive. I spent the better part of the day proofing and editing the LR catalog index, as well as helping with some last minute copy. I end the night with a steamy cup of hot cocoa (Land O Lakes... Mmmmm!). My new guilty pleasure. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

15::365 { One Photo a Day } ... If you give your Godson a cookie

If you give your Godson a cookie, he'll steal your heart. And if he steals your heart you know what happens? He gets anything he wants.

Friday, January 14, 2011

14::365 { One Photo a Day } ... Dinosaur Bones

A paleontologist in the making. We headed north tonight to Kenosha, WI for Carthage College's Family Fun Dino-nite! Sean brought his own stuffed dinosaur, and was truly engaged with everything he saw and touched. It was pretty cool. We'll have take a trip to the Dinosaur Discovery Museum soon to see more dinosaur exhibits.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

13::365 { One Photo a Day } ... The Dentist

His first dental cleaning. Not a whimper, complaint or even a wiggle. He opened wide and "look ma, no cavities!" He can be the most laid-back kid you'll ever meet. Am I lucky or what?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

12::365 { One Photo a Day } ... Game Day

Game day at Grandma's. Sean wreaked havoc, I kept losing, and Aunt Tede whooped all our asses. Priceless.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

10::365 { One Photo a Day } ... Bunny meet Gingerbread House

Every day we check the gingerbread outside to see if animals have taken part in the sugar-fest. For days it didn't seem as if it was tasty enough for them, but today we caught this bunny going to town on the shredded wheat roof.

It was dusk and getting kind of dark. I shot this through the window on shutter priority 1/30. I was surprised to not have it be blurry. But it was super noisy because he was so far away (and ISO 800), and lacking color big time. So I pumped up the lighting levels in photoshop elements, increased color saturation slightly and reduced the noise by 100% to see what I would get. Surprised to find something resembling a painting. What do you think? Not my favorite, but it was fun to play and learn. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

9::365 { One Photo a Day } ... The Party's Over

The party's over. Time to clean again. Does it ever end?

The Big { and not so } Bad Dino-mite Party!

Months ago Sean asked me about his "birthday day". The boy was ready to party! I asked him what kind of party he would like, not really knowing if he even knew what that meant. He immediately replied, "a dinosaur party"... never underestimate the smarts of a soon-to-be three year old.

So the dinosaurs started marching around in my head. And there they stayed until after Christmas because my brain cannot hold all that much party planning. The one thing I did figure out before Christmas was I didn't really like the few dinosaur party themes already out there in retail. So I challenged myself to come up with my own dinosaur theme. Simple and cheap. My new motto.

The dinosaurs continued to dance around in my head over the holidays to spark a few ideas...

His invitation was designed well before Christmas, and sent to family via email. The best part? Free.

Once Christmas and New Year's were over I had the mental capacity to finally start letting those dinosaurs out of my head! I found a fairly simple dinosaur cake recipe/template on the Betty Crocker website here... but quickly realized I am not Martha Stewart. Damn that crumb coat. Nevertheless I'm really happy with how it turned out. So cute.

I also made some easy cupcakes because I wasn't sure if the cake would be big enough for our party. The color is totally off in this picture. Ugh. The icing really is the same green as the cake.

A party would not be complete without party hats. I got the idea to reuse last year's Toy Story party hats (so glad I decided not to toss them!), and cover them with scrapbook paper I found at Hobby Lobby. The trim on the bottom is regular old crepe paper -- I got this idea from Michele of Cakewalk, but I'm not much of a sewer. For me it's not easy, so I whipped out the old mini glue gun and went to town. Not nearly as neat as Michele's but not bad either. And for me, super simple.

And they looked darn cute on the kids!

For decorations I went with simple blue and green balloons, plates, napkins, etc. And I made these super simple pennant banners. LOVE pennant banners. BTW, that's a chalkboard wall... hence, why it looks like a dirty chalkboard. And the chair rail is in fact wine corks. One of my favorite projects last month. You can read about it here.

My brother called our front door the smiley face... didn't plan that, but he's right! A nice, charming dino-esque smile (note the teeth!) when you arrive to the party.

Santa brought Sean these cool dinosaurs for Christmas, which made for perfect centerpieces in the kitchen and dining room. From what I understand from Santa's workshop, these very cool dinos were sourced through Learning Resources (my old employer). At first I was going to use leftover glitter snow to place them on, but Jeff gently explained that ice is what made the dinosaurs extinct. Oops. Oh well. Good thing I had leftover Easter grass instead. The trees are various accessories from some other toy set.

I even whipped up a few games for the kids that were super simple. One was a dinosaur dig that Sean and Hannah loved playing... who cares that there were dinosaurs in there, they just wanted to dig! I bought a huge bag of pinto beans at Sam's and poured them over mini dino counters (also from Learning Resources). Little did I know that pinto beans are fairly dirty so their little hands got dirty fast, but they definitely resembled dirt better than white rice (and cleaned up easier when spilled).

I also used these mini dino counters in Easter eggs for a dinosaur egg hunt (and in the treat bags!) This game was fun for all the kids -- the big kids loved hiding them, and the little kids loved finding them.

And last, but certainly not least was dinosaur feet. I cut these out of green craft foam and added a little elastic to help secure to their feet. Originally my plan was to have dinosaur races (I made two sets of feet), but the little ones enjoyed just walking around with them.

And the piece de resistance was Sean's birthday shirt that was designed and made by Uncle Mikey. Awesome, ain't it?

It was a great party! I asked Sean today what he liked best about his party and he said, "cupcakes... presents... and dropping the balloons!". He and Hannah figured out they could drop the balloon bouquets from the second floor. I kept trying to figure out a reason they shouldn't do it, but the child in me kept my mouth shut.

His favorite presents by far were the dinosaurs. Big surprise, huh?

I'm pretty sure a fun time was had by all, especially the kids big and small. We missed our little twin niece and nephew (who was sick), but promise to make it up to them soon. We're not ones to turn down a reason to get together and party.

Happy 3rd birthday, my little buddy. I'm so so happy you loved your birthday party day.


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