Thursday, June 30, 2011

Another Summer Kid Project... Newsletters

Every year for the last few years, my kids and I have created a family newsletter.  For me, it was a release in the evenings.  I love playing with graphic software and photos.  Unfortunately for me, we switched computers and platforms (MAC now) and thus almost all of my software is gone.  So, I'm still learning.  I wish I had a week to just play around with all the software out there.  

For the kids, it kept them thinking throughout the summer.  We came up with ...
The way it works is that each kid is responsible for writing an article (or two) about something we've done recently... most preferably in the last week.  The younger children (6 and 7 years old) are only required to write 4-5 sentences.  Thus, all four kids are "Reporters" or "Columnists".  Yes, we have a few recurring columns:  Restaurant Critic, Advice Column, Book/Movie Reviews, and an Interview.  The older kids (10 and 12 years old) need to write three paragraphs.  The older ones are then responsible for typing the articles into the newsletter layout and trying to do some proofreading (spelling, grammar, punctuation).  They are the "Editors-in-Training".  Ultimately, I am the "Editor in Chief" and finish off the newsletter.  We have a "Distributor" and "Marketing", me, who emails all family and friends that want the newsletter and then advertises the chance to get the email on Facebook.  :)  We even send to prior teachers to help them keep up with our kids' lives.  The "Financial Supporter" is a nice touch for my dear hubby.  :)  

We attempt to do one newsletter each week, but since we have a lot of plans this summer, I'm opting to skip those weeks that we are out of town.  I started out with the intent on doing a "Christmas Break Edition" and a "Spring Break Edition"... but those weeks are just too crazy to do it!

Before each week, we have a staff meeting.  At that meeting, we decide on the stories to be written, and who will write each story.  Mommy gets final word, but usually I just go with whatever they come up with.  At our first meeting, we also came up with titles for our columns.  The Restaurant Critic column is titled "Party of Six".  The Interviewing column is "We Couldn't Pick 'Em, But We Love 'Em".  The Book/Movie column is "What's the Story?", and if we get to it, the New-Food-Of-The-Week column is "From Plate to Palate".

Throughout the week in summer, we have "Summer School" in our house.  Two of my kids, in particular, need special attention to keep their skills sharp, and I work with them on their workbooks and reading.  The other two kids read quietly on their own.  After that time period is up, there is about half an hour till we allow electronic devices to turn on (i.e. TV, Wii, PS3, DS, DVR, ... all those little acronyms.)  During that half hour, the kids usually work on the Gazette.  

Just to sort of give it an adult slant, one little column on the front page has an editor's note from me.  Sometimes it's something to tell everyone about (for example, last year, I talked a lot about the new home), and sometimes it's just to show off some silly picture.  

After all editing is done and I save the file, I shrink it down to a smaller size and then save it as a PDF.  That way I'm assured that most everyone is able to view the newsletter on their computers.

My youngest son offered to be the deliverer on his bike this year.  Fortunately I convinced him that printing off 40-50 copies of a 4-5 page newsletter would kill my printer and the ink.  :)  Personally, I think he was aiming for payment.  :)

Here is the first edition of our Summer 2011 series.

I only send to people I know... relatives, friends, teachers... there is information like our address, hometown, names, etc. on there (as you can see by the blue blocks in the examples above.)

The Gazette certainly means a lot of work, but I have found it to be a great way to keep the kids writing, editing, reading, and thinking throughout the summer.  I think next month, we'll incorporate a graph in there too... maybe send out a questionnaire about summer to our readers?

New Tables, part two

They are done... here's a sneak peek.

Yep... black.  I'm not crazy about staining... stains and me don't always get along.  Although, I have done it before:
This table was ordered from an unfinished furniture online store.  I stained it myself.  So... I don't always screw it up... but it drives me nuts.  I think I always end up with more stain on me than on the furniture.

Thus... the paint.

There are touches of black all through my main floor:
The fireplace and TV,

the chairs, lamps, cabinet, vase in the front room,

the chairs and chalkboard in the dining room,

the counters in the kitchen (well, some black in it).

So, black was my first choice.  

Here's the table.

 It looks bigger in this photo than it is.... 

I love the idea of putting things on here that are pretty.... 
However, with kids and dogs, I guarantee the vase would be knocked over and the flowers and candles would be chewed up (I'll let you figure out who would destroy which items.)

So, in reality, this table will hold a tray, a remote, and random books, shoes and toys.  I'm sure.  Maybe I'll move that vase down for special guests.  LOL

 Here is the sofa table.  Although the photo seems to show a fairly well-proportioned table for the space, it neglects to show the 3' of blank wall above the clock.  Oh well, eventually I'll get my big clunky dresser in that space.  Until then, at least this table will match the coffee table.  

What do you think? 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

New Tables, part one

So, I haven't fallen off the earth, nor has a bear or coyote eaten me (although just today I learned both have been spotted in my neighborhood... yikes!... not a happy thought for this indoor suburbanite chick.)

My June is always, always, always crazy.  Pure nuts.  But alas, VBS (the last, but most important, commitment) is over.  It gave me a cold, but I like to think that God knew it was coming... and just waited till my VBS duties were over before it hit.  So, I suppose I can live with a cold now...  especially since it's still three weeks till hubby and I leave on our "grown up" vacation.  :)

Haven't mentioned that... yes, just US!  To a... get this...

An All-Inclusive Adults-Only Resort on the beach!
Just us.
Two adults.
No kids.
Hot weather, pampering resort.
Thank you, Nana and PapPap and Gran and Granddad for watching the kiddos.  
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!  
Yes, I'm giddy!!!


During the month, I did manage to squeak out of the house a few Saturday mornings to visit some yard sales and thrift stores. 

I have had this vision of my living room.  Here it is now....

Wood floors, stone fireplace, woven-wood blinds, great views, six beautifully trimmed out windows... I was thinking simple and "natural".  BTW, imagine a nice big fluffy shag off-white carpet.  Yep, it used to be there... before the puppy arrived.  I won't go into details over that catastrophe.  I keep hoping one day, a rug will once again make its way into this room.

When this one grows up....

I don't really want a cabin or country feel, but something natural.  My green La-Z-Boy camelback sofas aren't cutting it for me.  Yes, they are comfy... yes, they are still in good shape... and yes, they'd look great in the one-day-to-be-finished-basement.  :)

I want two leather sofas.  Maybe a sectional if it fits well.

But once I get those two long sides, I need a chair for the side of the room at the bottom of the photo... and a big square coffee table.  

The current coffee table probably cost more than most furniture in my house.  It was purchased, no sale, from Pottery Barn.  It's cute.  There is a small drawer in the middle for remotes and "game pieces" and the two other pull-outs are game boards (checkers, etc.)  It's cute... but unfortunately it's not well made.
The laminate is peeling, the knobs have fallen off, and it's all dinged up.  So, since I cannot afford the leather sofas just yet, I figured I'd start looking for a coffee table first.
(This shot is taken while standing on the stone hearth... looking past the living room, past the empty breakfast room, into the pride-and-joy of my home, the kitchen.  See my oldest cleaning the island... {{love}}.  What a cutie!  Just when I'm ready to pull out my hair, the kiddos prove to me I did *something* right in their upbringing....

I digress...

Ever find something at a store, and then kick yourself for not buying it?  I found a square table at the local thrift store, half-off, for $27.  It was simply made, but painted with white and blue flowers (ick)... so I would've needed to sand and paint it... but it was solid wood.  I decided it wasn't "perfect", but then later changed my mind.  When I went back, the thrift store wouldn't honor the 1/2 off deal anymore.  Ugh... it wasn't worth $54.  I was upset, but figured there must be something else out there for me.

So, I began looking at yard sales.  All tables were rectangular or made of laminate.  I wanted wood.
And then there they were one day...

A matching sofa table and square coffee table.  Both solid wood.  They were dinged up a bit, but since it was pine, I figured my kids would bang it up anyway.  I'm not a perfectionist (anymore)... we have bangs and scrapes and natural-distressing on most of our furniture.  Hey... I have four kids!

See the legs on the sofa table?  That was the original finish.
Just like this...
Wanna know the price?
$10 each!
Yes, just $20 for both!!
I almost didn't get the sofa table, but decided the one I was using now, wasn't "chunky" enough.  See?  It's cute... but too fragile-looking in that corner. 
I really would prefer a nice black dresser in that corner... but until I find one, maybe the new sofa table will do?

 So far, I've managed to find my husband's palm sander.  (Most tools are still in boxes.)

And brought the wood down to this...

Since these pictures were taken, I've completed a few more steps.  Once I get them positioned in the room, I'll be sure to show you.  

I'm kind of proud.  Refinishing/repainting furniture isn't my cup of tea... I'm impatient and all those steps drive me bonkers.  So... you'll have to let me know how I did.  

Especially since I have three more pieces of furniture waiting in the garage for some updating....

On another note... to all of you designers out there, I have a question.
See this room, again?
Although I like the simplicity of it, the all-natural feel... I'm wondering if we should get curtains.  The walls are tan, the stone is tan, the wood is brown, and if we get sofas one day, they'll be tan/brown.  I'm thinking of a nice subtle print in floor to ceiling... and of course, I'll probably wait till the puppy is beyond her chewing everything-in-sight stage.  However, the beauty of these windows is how pretty the trimwork is around them.  Would curtains destroy that look?  What are your thoughts?  I know the picture is dark... the room is lighter than this.  Any feedback is appreciated!!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Summer Bucket List

OK, I know a "Bucket List" is actually a list of things you wish to accomplish before you kick-the-bucket, 
but I made a summer list of things to do, and well, they are in something like a bucket.
Thus, the name "Summer Bucket List"

Years ago, I stumbled across a website (don't ask me which... it was three years ago!) that gave me the idea to do this:
This was used when my kids were 3, 4, 7, and 9... three summers ago.  We sort of misplaced it for awhile, and I paid the price with "I'm bored" a lot.

Basically, when the kids were driving me crazy bored 
or following me around and bugging me need some guidance 
or whining expressing their concerns that they needed a project, 
I would let them randomly reach into my handy-dandy plastic index file box and pull out an index card.  The deal was that whatever was listed, they needed to do. 

Sometimes the card listed super cool activities that Mommy would have to set up for and sometimes they were thinking-activities that made their brains work over the summer.
It worked!  We made some awesome crafts (and most were non-mom-necessary, independent things) and the kids started what has become a new summer tradition (the Gazette... to be discussed later).

This year, I looked through some of the cards and decided many were outdated (i.e. read to your younger brother and sister... they can read now) or a little lame (i.e. watch the clouds... granted, that's cool, but my kids' attention span would only let that happen for five minutes.)

So, I updated!  Enter... the Summer Bucket List

The supplies needed were some sort of box/crate/basket/bin/purse/etc.  I found this little wooden box in my craft storage.  I bought it long ago to use as a family mailbox.  (ahem)  Yeah, I never quite got around to that project, as my daughter reminds me all the time.

So, I painted her up, distressed a tad since the paint job was lacking and because four kids will be playing with this box this summer, added a fun label (a chalkboard sticker from Michaels) and ribbon and a bulldog clip to the handle, and then wrote out my cards.

I found these cards at Michaels for a buck (Paula Deen recipe cards).  At first, I planned to cover the "Recipe for" and "Ingredients" words with stickers, but changed my mind.  I figured "Recipe for Fun" is a cool catch phrase, and the Ingredients allowed me to write out what was needed.  (By the way, I couldn't find my $$ "Distress Ink", so my $1 Studio G ink pad worked just fine.)

They fit beautifully in the box... vertically or horizontally.

I saw that I had a bulldog clip to match the ribbon, so I wondered what I could do with it.  
So, for the time being, it sits on the handle.

However, after a card has been chosen, the clip can hold the card in plain sight, in case the kids forget the details of the quest.
Either on the lock...
 Or on the handle...

 Now, you are READY for those sure-to-come-in-summer-break "Mom, I'm Bored!" whines.

I'll list some of the activities I wrote down.  Most came from brainstorming, but I'm sure several came from ideas found on other sites.  Man, it was so long ago... I can't remember!

Collage Letter Fun:  Cut letters from a magazine and glue into a letter for someone.
Noodle Art Fun:  Glue noodles into a design on paper.
Mask Fun:  Make a mask out of a paper plate.
Robot Fun:  Draw in detail the coolest robot and then explain his parts.
Famous Person Fun:  Pick ANY famous person, research him/her, and write a short report.
Paper Airplane Fun:  Have paper airplane races.
World Travel Fun:  Using the globe, design your ultimate trip around the world.
Sign Language Fun:  Learn the sign language alphabet.
Food Necklace Fun:  Make a noodle or cereal necklace.
Origamin Fun:  Make a few new origami shapes.
Reading Log Fun:  Design a reading log to record your summer reads with a spot to "grade" them.
Leaf Booklet Fun:  Pluck leaves from plants in yard.  Glue to paper and label.  Make a booklet of "leaves of our yard".
Nature Art Fun:  Use leaves, sticks, seeds, etc. to make a nature-person on paper.
Story Fun:  Write a short story and illustrate it.
New Food Fun:  Make a list of foods (dinners, fruits, etc) that you want to try one day.
Kind Words Fun:  Write one kind thing about each person, and then make certificates for them.
Reading List Fun:  Make a To-Do List of books you want to read.
Daytrip Ideas Fun:  Make a list of places you would like to go on nearby trips.
Restaurant Fun:  Make a list of possible restaurants our family can visit.
Review Fun:  Write a review on a movie or book.
Name Picture Fun:  Lightly write your name on paper, and then make pictures in the shape of the letters (i.e. "C" can become an orange slice.
Paper Chain Fun:  Make a paper chain using colors that match your room.
Sidewalk Town Fun:  Use sidewalk chalk to design a town on the driveway.
Alphabet Photo Fun:  Take pictures of every letter of the alphabet.
A-Z House Fun:  Find things around the house that start with each letter A to Z.
Homemade Boardgame Fun:  Use grid paper to create you own boardgame.
Body Tracing Fun:  Trace your body on large paper and color.
Menu Fun:  Design a menu for your own restaurant.
Town Map Fun:  Make a map of your town, your neighborhood, or an imaginary "NameVILLEl"
Fingerprint Fun:  Use your fingerprints to design a picture.
Scavenger Hunt:  Find and count all of the following in the house:  candles, frames, windows, doors, TVs, chairs, pillows, dog toys, clocks, beds, plug-in-flashlights, pocket lights, vases, throw blankets, A/C vents.

Many of the above should be saved for a home journal... a catch-all of places your kids want to eat, Food they want to try, etc.

Enjoy, and if you have any other great "keep 'em busy" ideas, PLEASE feel free to share them!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Me? An award? Cool!

So I was beginning to feel really bad about not blogging in a long time.  Then I received a message from Carol-Anne at Use the Good Dishes.  Yay!  She awarded me the Kreativ Blogger Award!  Carol-Anne has such great ideas on staging and setting up your home.  Cute blog... go check it out!

Well, along with this award comes some requests.  I'm supposed to tell you seven things about me that you probably don't know.  Seeing as though I don't hold a secret double-life as a "double O" agent, I'm afraid these facts could be less-than-exciting.  :)

1.  I went to school at "Moon High".  Yes, Moon.  No spacesuits, though.
2.  I drove past Mars on my way to college every time.
3.  I have two dogs, and am completely a "dog person".  No rodent will make its way into this house with my approval; birds and reptiles annoy me... and after owning a spastic cat, I learned that I am not a "cat person".  Now if alpacas were the size of a labrador, I may have to make an exception.
4.  I was a math major, but please don't ask me to do anything beyond simple algebra.  A brain unused disintegrates, I swear.  I'm fearing the day my oldest son comes home with homework, and I can't help him... and it's approaching soon.. and he will tease me incessantly, I'm sure.  (OK... that has happened already simply because of the techniques used to get to the answers... teachers change that all the time... not due to a brain malfunction.)
5.  We adopted our youngest daughter in 2008 from China.  I was in China during the BIG earthquake, but was too far south to feel it.  Some in our city did feel it, but I was napping on the 14th floor.  :)
6.  On said trip, we saw all of the Chinese Summer Olympics venues three months before the games... from a distance.  Have you ever seen Chinese military?  You don't want to mess with them.  (On a separate note, I LOVED China!)
7.  My youngest son was born on Mother's Day.  Water broke at 3am, born at 7:05.  Yep... got to enjoy Mother's Day all day holding a gorgeous new infant.  Best Mother's Day ever. Unfortunately I have almost given up my special status on Mother's Day... it's always the "birthday weekend" for said son, and he gets first dibs on being the special one.

(Hubby and me on the Great Wall.  Last photo we had taken before the camera battery died!)

Now that you know a little more about me, I need to pass the award along to 7 more bloggers.  If I nominate you and you already received it... be nice and pretend it's a grand new honor.

Kristi @ Addicted2Decorating... love this blog and have been following it for quite awhile.  Much longer than I've been blogging.  I've been inspired by many of Kristi's designs.  (Still plan to do the board-and-batten bedroom walls one day...)

Amber&Madonna @ 2TeachingMommies... I recently discovered these ladies.  What awesome ideas!  I've used several in my classroom and with my own kids, too.  

Beckie @ InfarrantlyCreative... I have no idea how she is able to devote so much time to her blogs, but I love reading them.  I especially love her dedication to the knock-offs, seeing as though most catalogs are too $$$ for me!

Sharyl @ The Little Brown House... I love this site.  I began following Sharyl awhile ago, and she even gave some advice on how to start a blog.  Darling craft ideas!

Kara @ Elements Interiors... I love reading her stuff.  Great ideas, and awesome linky parties!

Kierste @ Brown Paper Packages... I don't know how she comes up with these ideas, but I want to copy them all.  Super clever, and I admire how she keeps her family of five kids in such order.  

Kara @ Creations by Kara... Such great yummy ideas, and wonderful linky parties.  Very clever craft ideas, too!

Ok, if you were nominated, here are the rules:

1. Copy/paste the Kreativ Blogger Award picture onto your blog
2. Thank the person who awarded it to you and post a link to her/his blog
3. Write 7 things about yourself we do not know
4. Choose 7 other bloggers to award
5. Link to them
6. Notify your 7 bloggers of their award

Thanks, Carol-Anne, for the honor!  :)