Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Super cute birthday goodie bags for under 5 bucks per kid!

I always agonize over goodie bags, wanting them to be cute & fun, but not wanting to break the bank or fill them with junky plastic toys and/or gross candy. Not to say I'm above that, I've definitely hosted birthday parties where I've essentially thrown my hands up and sent the kids home with a bag of junk that I'm sure was tossed into the trash at the first possible opportunity. I vowed that this year would be different. I started scouring the internet for ideas. I came across an article from iVillage that had a few good ideas including this one...

I loved these little travel sketchbooks from Under the Sycamore
There is a full tutorial on her blog, but although a brilliant idea, it seemed a little labor intensive to me (for this project at least) so I simplified it a bit with modifications to avoid using any glue or sewing! Here's what I came up with!

The finished product; an assembled bag and it's contents. Sketch pad with 4 attached markers, pencil and puzzle eraser, mini alphabet stamp and stamp pad. Cute, right? And all for under $5!
I also didn't have a lot of time (I have a LOT to get done in those precious 3 hours that my kid is in half day kindergarten!), so it was really helpful to be able to get all the stuff at 2 stores: Staples & Michaels. Here's what I got with the price breakdown...

From Staples: scratch pads, erasers (on clearance!), pencils. From Michaels: markers, bags, mini stamp sets, stamp pads, cardstock

 Additional tools needed for this project: scissors, stapler, rotary trimmer (you could just use an x-acto and straight edge), a bone folder is helpful, but not necessary.

First I cut the cardstock into strips the same size as the scratch pads. They ended up being like a quarter inch too short, but I wasn't too worried about that, just put that in the back.

I folded the cardstock so that it would fit from the front of the pad, up over the top and down the back so that it serves as a front and back cover. Next I cut and stapled strips of elastic (I forgot to add this into the inventory picture above because I just had this on hand already left over from a Halloween costume). I cut the strips to be about 2 inches longer than the width of the pads to allow room for the loops and interior fold-over. I just eyeballed this part starting with one staple in the very center (staple through the elastic, cardstock and the cardboard backing of the pad. For the next loop hold a little bump up with your finger and pace another staple halfway between the middle one and the edge. For the last loop just hold up a little bump again and fold the elastic inside and staple it all together right along the edge. Then just do the same thing on the other side. That was the most labor intensive part, and really it went very quickly once I got in a rhythm.

And here's the finished product! I just used scraps of the cardstock for the name tags and punched holes in the bags and tied them with baker's twine. I didn't include the baker's twine in the price breakdown because I have a giant spool of it for things like this and really you could just use any string or ribbon that you have on hand.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

camper life

LADIES! It's camp season!!!

Over the past few years I've attended several lady camps. I'm a two time Ladies Rock camper (2011 & 2012) as well as a two time Oakley Progression Sessions (OPS) camper (2012 & 2013). Years a ago I would have never though that such a thing existed, and when I was younger (when I could have benefited even more) they definitely didn't. These two camps were vastly different, but shared many of the same core principles and I came away from each with a fancy new skill set, a huge sense of accomplishment and major confidence boost that has extended beyond the particular skill I learned at camp and into my regular life. In 2012 I did both camps in ONE MONTH! At first I thought it was kind of indulgent to sign up for two ladies camps in one month, but then I decided that was the wrong way to think about it. It's not like they were two spa getaways, they were mentally and physically challenging weekends doing something very important that all of us should try to do more often -- pushing your limits and getting out of your comfort zone. I could very well carry on with my life staying in situations that are comfortable or I can try to grow as a person. I've learned so much about myself through these two camps and, especially for someone like me who is not exactly the most self confident person, the things I've learned are truly invaluable.

me and my bandmates The Buzzards, Ladies Rock Camp 2012

2012 was my second time doing Ladies Rock (the first time I learned drums and that time I learned keyboards) and my first time at OPS. Both camps seem to have a mix of first timers and old timers, I'd say about half of the women at OPS had taken it in previous years. I think Ladies Rock was about 28 women, while OPS was a whopping 82; with ages ranging from 13 to 67!! Watching the older women was super inspiring, and honestly the prospect of potentially having another THIRTY years of snowboarding ahead of me thrills me. Both camps followed a similar schedule with a morning activity (we started both mornings with yoga at OPS (taught by a yoga instructor/snowboarder) and kickboxing at LR. In both camps it's amazing how quickly you start picking up skills that would have seemed impossible before. I can't say enough positive things about the women teaching/running both of these camps. Everyone was so enthusiastic and ultra positive. It also struck me how women whose skill level is about a billion times greater than the baby step you're taking will cheer on said baby step as if you did an Olympic level trick. I always say that my one of my favorite things about LR was in the video from that year. There is a shot of Chrissy Wolpert's face as she's watching the final performance and the emotion and excitement visible there is just incredible. I got the same feeling from Gretchen Bleiler (an Olympic athlete, who if you're not familiar with check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcLLhIzhc6c) whose face was so lit up and could not high-five me fast enough after I landed my first 50/50 off the small box, something she probably mastered at age 11. Seeing these accomplished women SO pumped for our tiny victories says volumes about them as teachers. I'm so grateful for all of them. Here's a rad video that my friend June put together that really captures the magic of camp.

from the Oakley Women instagram, me in my crazy yellow 70s suit on the box.

We started OPS working on simple drills, ollies, riding switch and progressed to learning simple tricks on the jumps and boxes in the park. This was all unfathomable to me previous to this. I would have NEVER tried anything in the park, it scared the hell out of me. By day two I was doing boardslides on the big box and landing them! A huge help in all of this was the fact that Gretchen offered to readjust my stance (which I promptly took her up on at lunch on the second day). She took tons of time with me, measured everything out and gave me a whole new stance and that alone improved my ride so much. I think I just kind of winged it when I first started riding and never changed my stance since. The second year I did this camp was similar except I pushed myself even farther. I'm not sure there's any greater feeling than totally conquering a fear. I was SO afraid to try the jumps that I didn't even consider it a skill I wanted to work on that weekend, but once we arrived at our cozy private park with the support of all my fellow lady campers I was like, "what the fuck! Let's DO THIS!" With everyone cheering and yelling "GET IT GIRL!" it's impossible to feel unsure of yourself. This year camp is the last weekend in March, I'm already signed up and I CAN'T WAIT!

learning how to ollie!

I had never even tried a jump before this weekend!

The other amazing thing about OPS are the swag bags. Holy moly, the SWAG! Oakley does not disappoint with a duffel bag full of goggles, sunglasses, hats, sports bra, snacks, bath and body products, yoga mat, etc. It's like Christmas. 

Similar to OPS, we started LR learning very simple things about how a piano is structured and moved on to learning chords and how to actually play things that sound nice! Nicole Lagace went above and beyond as a teacher, making us a keyboard instruction book and even a mixed CD full of songs with good keyboard parts for inspiration. It's hard to believe that in just 3 days women who didn't even know each other can work together as a band, write a song a preform it live by the end of the third day. Ladies Rock Camp this year is from February 28-March 2nd, if you ever had even the slightest desire to do this I cannot say it loud enough: DO IT!!

I could say so much more about both of these camps, they both truly changed me and I would do them both (and probably will!) again in a heartbeat. I will say that if you've ever considered something like this, but have been too nervous/not wanted to make the time/etc all I can say is DO IT! Life is too short, and you will NOT regret it.

Monday, January 6, 2014


We had a weird warm up today, the 7 foot snowman we built yesterday was relegated to a pile of snow a little bigger than a bowling ball this morning. As a result it's muddy. REAL muddy. After school I was in the house, trying to get ahead of the daily clean up/organizing that gets so out of control so fast when, through the window, I saw Finn, boots deep in mud, crouched down, hat discarded in a sloppy puddle and really looking like this was the beginning of something really catastrophically filthy. Without thinking I rapped my fist on the window, hard, ready to give him my most disapproving look. He didn't hear me. I went to the next window, did it again, but again he didn't hear me. Or, let's face it, he was probably ignoring me. 

Then I stopped to think. I saw his smiling face. A vivid childhood fantasy came rushing back to me. As a kid I thought it would be the greatest thing ever to jump into a neck deep pile of mud. I thought about it a LOT. It was like #1 on my list of best-things-that-could-possibly-happen-in-a-fantasy-world. I think it may have originated in my favorite baby book A Hole Is To Dig

I stopped trying to get his attention at the window and waited for him to come in. He opened the door and saw me see his hands, boots, jacket and pants all covered in mud. He looked ready for my scolding. Instead I said, "You call that dirty? I want you to get back out there and not come back in until you're REALLY covered." He looked at me astonished and then started to push past me into the house, too confused I think to even answer. "No, I'm serious." I continued, "I dare you to go out there in your undies and belly flop right in that mud." His eyes grew wide. He searched my face for signs of mental breakdown. "REALLY?" he said.



Of course, afterwards being covered in cold mud did not seem like much fun and he got real angry and upset and said that that was the worst idea I ever had. I told him I was making dreams come true. Still scowling he let me clean him up in a warm tub and then I told him to quit whining and go play some video games. That kid doesn't know how good he has it.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Light Class - week one

So remember that light class I'm taking? The first week was about gathering some supplies (clamp lights, proper bulbs, etc.) and paying attention to the lighting in the photographs you see. Since I'm mostly looking on Etsy I'll post some of my favorite ones I've found there, but first let's have a laugh, shall we? Here's one of the first things I sold on Etsy back in '06

Oof. Granted, not many people had stellar photography skills (unless they were photographers) on Etsy back then, but this is rough. I don't think any part of that photo is even in focus. Over the years I got a little better, but it was always something I knew I was going to have to work harder on. Just to show I'm not a total lost cause here is another photo from recent years.

heatherjeany Sampler Pack

Since my new endeavor will be a wearable type thing I've been looking for similar things with nice lighting to use as inspiration...

Infinity Scarf by
I love how this lighting is really diffused and the scarf really pops. This is also the type of framing I was envisioning for my new pieces so that was helpful to see someone doing it like this.

 long sleeve cowl top by Treehouse28
Besides being one of my favorite clothing shops on Etsy, she's got great photos.

I'm gonna stop here and just express my surprise at how many people use mannequins in their photos, I find this so off putting! Ugh. I don't mind those dress forms, but using a mannequin just seems weird to me. I guess not everyone is lucky enough to have beautiful willing model friends (AMIRITELADIES?!?!)

Ok. Back on track.

head scarf by EcoShag
This photo is a little darker than I was hoping mine would be, but it's got a really nice natural looking light source and I think it really works well for this product.

coat by LfredsSewingShop
I don't plan on doing any photos outside, but if they did I would want them to look like this. The yellow of the leaves with the buttons and coat details? The sun in her hair? So pretty. This also looks like it was done by a real photographer since it's watermarked. Nice work Sarah Jean!

So that's it for now, in the next few days I'll post the results of my first lighting experiments. It was definitely interesting looking at Etsy and just critiquing the photos instead of just browsing products. It was such a simple exercise, but so eye opening!