Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Christmas Meme

Merry Christmas everyone! I was tagged by Cheryl to do this festive meme, so here goes...

01. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
I'd say, about half and half. I love buying cute wrapping paper and tying packages up with ribbons and bows. These gifts are much more fun to open as well. Gift bags are nice though - and reusable.

02. Real tree or artificial?
I grew up with an artificial tree. It was enormous. It had to be carried up from the basement branch by branch, and my brothers and I always enjoyed doing that. But, I absolutely love the smell of pine and the tradition of picking out a tree at the nursery each year, so my husband and I have always gone with real. I do feel guilty, though, when I think of all the trees that get cut down each year, so we are thinking next year we might try one that can be planted after Christmas.

03. When do you put up a tree?
Early December. My birthday is the 7th, and the tree MUST be up before then.

04. When do you take the tree down?
New Year's Eve day or New Year's day. As beautiful as our tree is, I'm tired of it by then.

05. Do you like eggnog?
Meh. It's okay. I usually have a small glass on Christmas Eve, because that's when my parents would drink it. So, I associate it with the excitement and festivities of that particular night, but I really don't care for it all that much. I guess you could say I choke it down in the name of Tradition! ;)

06. Favorite gift as a child?
A huge stuffed brown rabbit. It was almost as big as I was. He wore a black tie and a red plaid vest. I named him Bentley and loved him dearly. (I thought of him as my own personal Velveteen Rabbit.)

07. Hardest person to buy for?
My mom. She is particular about things that I am not, so I have to really try to think like she would while I am shopping for her.

08. Easiest person to buy for?
That's probably a tie between my husband and J. Both are excited by small things and very appreciative.

09. Do you have a nativity scene?
Yes. We purchased it from a talented wood carver at Winterfair one year. We have subsequently gone back to his booth in the years since to buy more as gifts.

10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
Hmmmm. It's probably a tie between a box of chocolate-covered cherries that I received when I was about nine years old (disgusting!) and a quilted vest embroidered with little dogs. I kid you not.

11. Favorite Christmas Movie?
White Christmas. I just love Rosemary Clooney's voice, the costumes, and the crazy funny acting of Danny Kaye.

12. Favorite Christmas Song?
Um, I'm not sure... Honestly, I find a lot of them annoying. Oh, but I do love the Chris Isaak Christmas!

13. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
We stay in Columbus. We spend Christmas Eve with the in-laws and then divide Christmas day between my maternal grandparents and paternal grandparents, all of whom live nearby.

14. Have you ever recycled a christmas present?
No, I don't think so. Maybe an ornament...

15. Favorite ornament or theme color?
When J is old enough I am sure my favorite ornament will be one he makes for me, but for now it's one from my childhood. A glass reindeer that appears soft and glowy when hung directly in front of a Christmas tree light.

OK, so to carry on the fun, if you are reading this, consider yourself tagged! I'll also specifically tag Casey, Mike, Mark and Steph. (I will be completely shocked if Mark participates, btw...I don't think this is his kind of thing!) Please stop back and leave a comment if you do participate.
1/1/09 UPDATE: Thanks to little brother Mark, my mom got wind of this post and takes offense to being my answer for the person hardest to shop for. I attempted to clarify the reasoning behind that answer and in no way meant to imply that she is picky! :)

Monday, December 22, 2008


1. Uncle C reading with J.

2. Seeing our little guy start to bounce back to normal (i.e. ornery) after being sick for 4 days.

3. This exquisite turned wooden bowl my parents gifted to us this Christmas.
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Saturday, December 20, 2008

web 2.0

2008 has been quite a techie year for me. I started my first (and second) blog; created profiles on Goodreads, Flickr, Twitter; explored other web 2.0 technologies like Bloglines, Google Reader, YouTube, wikis, etc. within a work project; and just generally spent a lot more time online than in years past.

And, what do ya know? Before the year is out, I've stumbled upon a few other virtual gems, thanks to TIME Magazine's reviews of the 50 best websites of the year. Like Lookybook: flip through the pages of hundreds of picture books. Rate them, review them, and purchase them. It's searchable and browsable: by subject/genre, author/illustrator, or new.

There's pretty decent variety. Here's a sampling of what I'll be enjoying: My Friend Rabbit by Eric Rohmann, First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel, Ping Pong Pig by Caroline Jayne Church, as well as scoping out the selections from authors/illustrators such as: Jane Cabrera, Gail Gibbons, Eric Kimmel, Harriet Ziefert, Trina Schart Hyman, Janet Stevens, and many more.

Find your favorite techie time-waster by checking out TIME Magazine's 50 Best Websites for 2008.

Friday, December 19, 2008

shots of the bigshot

A couple pics from the TWO Year Birthday Bash...

"Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to You..."

Make a wish!

Eating his cake so neatly...where's the fun in that? And wait, when did he learn to use a fork???

Ever the polite young man, "Thank you coming!"

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

This week I <3...

Sheesh! What a week, and it's only Wednesday. We are a little under the weather, frantically trying to prepare for Christmas only a week away, and we are recouping from two weekends in a row of birthday bashes for me as well as my little guy.

So, here's a brief post about the things that are getting me through the week sane. I <3 these things all the time, but this week especially.

~ Books. Specifically, Paper Towns (which is SO hard to put down); Birds and Words (yay! my parents gave this to me for my birthday); and, a set of Eric Carle's of split-page board books.

~ Hot tea. When it's cold and I feel crappy, I crave nothing more than tea. This Vanilla Comoro tea from Harney & Sons is sweet. Extra sweet and soothing with a spoonful of honey.

~ Pajamas. My friend surprised me with a cute set from Old Navy for my birthday. At least when I'm wearing cute ballerina slippers and a matching set of PJs, I don't feel like a total slob.

~ The World Wide Web. Where, oh where would I be without the Internet, especially when there's lots to do, and you feel run-down, and there's a sheet of ice coating your driveway! I've been able to browse online for gift ideas, so that when I get the time and energy to go shopping, I'll have a goal in mind; I've helped my cousins create a photo calendar for our impossible-to-buy-for grandparents thanks to Shutterfly; and I saved money and paper and time by inviting and thanking our birthday party guests via evite.

~ And last, but (in no way, shape or form) least: sugar and sweets! The leftover red velvet helicopter cake and cupcakes from J's "Happy Birthday Party" (as he adorably called it).

Find the red velvet cake recipe here. Very simple. Very yum.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

three beautiful things

  1. the laughter and noise of kids at a birthday party
  2. the calm quiet of the house during a late afternoon family nap
  3. getting mail from an author
In a previous Three Beautiful Things post I mentioned Hush Little Polar Bear, a book among our current faves. After checking out the author's web site I decided to send him a brief note complimenting him on his work and thanking him for the part he now plays in fostering J's love of reading. And, he responded - quite kindly!

Hi Katie,
Thanks so much for your email about HUSH LITTLE POLAR BEAR! What a nice surprise! I'm glad to hear how much you and your son enjoy the book. Getting a letter like yours with pictures of your son reading makes my job feel especially worth while.
Would it be ok with you if I shared your letter with my editor? He and I worked hard on that book, and I think he'd find it gratifying to hear how much your son enjoys it.
Also, thanks for the link on your blog. I appreciate your willingness to share my work with others like that. I checked out your blog. It's great! We have "Joe Joes" at our Trader Joes too. Good stuff.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

deck the halls

A tradition I have insisted on since I was a little girl is to have the Christmas tree up and decorated before my birthday, the 7th of December. As much as I loathe the dreaded birthday-Christmas combination gifts, I am okay with holiday decorations in the birthday celebration mix. Not sure why. It just feels like my birthday that way.

A tradition my husband has insisted on every Christmas we've been together is getting a Frasier Fir at Oakland Nursery. They are a full tree with a wonderful aroma. However, they are the priciest type, I believe, so we always end up with a short squatty one that still sets us back $40. This year we stumbled upon a new variety, the Canaan Fir: Ohio-grown, strong piney aroma, sturdy long-lasting branches and needles. For the typical $40, we were able to bring home a massive 7--8 footer! C had to make a couple of extra cuts to it in order to get it in the house and upright.

J was pretty impressed with seeing a live tree in the middle of our living room. He was also impressed with himself for the way that he "helped Daddy".
When it comes to decorating the tree, I always enjoy looking through our ornaments, finding ones I forgot about alongside the cherished favorites. But, this year we cannot find one whole box of ornaments; and, of course, it's the box that holds most of our favorites: my glass reindeer that looks so glowy when placed right in front of a tree light; the personalized sailboat ornament from our honeymoon; the wooden black bear carving from our trip to the Smokies; the "It's a girl!" 1978 globe; and, best of all, the homemade ones our parents saved and bestowed upon us. I really must look harder to find those because I love them (and our tree looks rather bare). J slowly and deliberately repeated "or-NA-ment" as he picked through one of the boxes, identifying snowmen and Santas. After much prodding, he agreed to help me actually hang the ornaments on the tree. Although, for him, this process just involved moving the same ornament over and over again to different spots on the tree.
Moments later, he hit the jackpot and discovered a gaudy, glittery train ornament.
He absconded with it straight to his LEGO table and began chugging and choo-chooing around and around. Within minutes, J's "uh-oh" alerted me to the fact that the ribbon and hook had already become dislodged. Later that evening I found the pitiful thing further crushed from its rough ride with J. Oh well, better it than my glass reindeer!

Happy decorating! Hope your holiday preparations are as fun-filled.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

three beautiful things

1. My little guy eating an apple. A whole apple! It's messy and noisy and hilariously adorable.

2. Christmas trees tied to the roofs of cars.

3. Trader Joe's "Joe Joe's". Oreo-type chocolate sandwich cookie with bits of candy cane crushed into the creme filling. Move on over Thin Mints!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Closeups @ the Conservatory

Yesterday was our photo session with Jessi at Franklin Park Conservatory. She spent an hour with us as J urged us on to find the fish! We had an amazing time. I haven't seen any of her images yet, but from the fun we all had I know there will be some wonderful shots.
After our session, we let J wander (run) around a little more and I found this pretty bench.

Before we left, we went downstairs to check out the Christmas train. There was also a cute display of kids' handmade gingerbread houses. They were all very creative. There was even a gingerbread Big Red Dog sculpted next to a gingerbread doghouse labelled Clifford!

I think J could have watched that train go around the track for hours. It was hard to pull him away.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

three beautiful things (but four pictures)

1. My boy's hand on my knee as we read together.

2. The illustrations in the book we are reading. Hush Little Polar Bear by Jeff Mack. (Check out his web site - what a cool guy! He even sells prints and greeting cards of his illustrations!).

3. My guy's illustrations.

Thanks to Clare at three beautiful things for the inspiration behind this post. This was nice. More to come.

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What we're reading

I am a Garbage Truck has been fascinating J for several weeks now. It's also expanded his vocabulary to now include "hopper" and "hycleen truck".
J's always thrilled by the chore of taking the trash or recycling out. He races to the window when he hears the trash truck and typically asks about the possibility of seeing the trash truck every morning when I get him up and change his diaper. I guess it's typical boy stuff, but it is interesting that he has just sort of gravitated to some of this kind of stuff, without C or I pushing him.

Oh, no! What happened to the letters? "Chicken Boom!"

Fifteen Animals by Sandra Boynton is another daily read. "Bob."

And this Little Scholastic book, Peek-a-Zoo, which has lots of fun manipulatives, shapes, colors, animals, and textures to identify and explore.
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You know how toddlers pronounce certain words in their own way and sometimes it is just too adorable to correct and eventually you start using their terms as well? C and I do this all the time, and half the time we are only talking to each other.

Example. Last night C told me about their evening since I was out at a work Christmas party. They went to C's brother's house for pizza and "J had a bina when we got there and then ate some pizza." The word banana does not exist in our vocabulary any more! If we said "banana", J would know what we meant, but I guess we figure bina is shorter and also kind of cute!

A typical morning conversation between J and I goes something like this.

"Good morning! How did you leep? Did you stay warm under your pee-wee?"

"Up. Wanna play."

"Well, let's change your diaper and eat some breakfast."

"Breakfett. Me-meal. Blue-blues. Bina."

"Oh, baby, we don't have any blue-blues. But, you can have a bina in your oatmeal."


"No, silly, you can't have a hucker! It's only 8 am! Now, let's get dressed and put on your gray hocks. Do you want to wear your Robeez or your Big Boy Shoes today?"

I was never really one for babytalk when J was an infant. I'd coo at him and such, but I mostly talked to him about what we were doing and seeing throughout the day. So, it's a little odd that I've adopted many of his words. The Ready to Read-trained librarian in me says I should probably speak correctly so that J gets a feel for the sounds and patterns in these words. But, having an eloquent and well-spoken toddler isn't any fun!

Trust me. Fun is climbing up on the hofa, sitting down with some books, like our favorite Goodnight Gorilla, and laughing at the you-peeper who doesn't realize the gorilla stole his keys!

Or, running through the house playing a game of gitchu.

Or, best of all, tucking the little guy into bed at night, covering him up with his pee-wee, saying, "La loo." And having him respond with a smile, "La loo too."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Feliz Navidad

One of my goals when starting to blog was to create an opportunity for myself to write about the things in life that are very important to me. With the holidays upon us, probably the biggest things on my mind right now are giving thanks and expressing kindness and love through gift-giving. These same thoughts reside in my friend Katie's mind and heart all year-round, not simply at this time of year. She is a volunteer in the Peace Corps and has been working in small villages in Guatemala for the last 2 1/2 years. An International Studies and Spanish major in college, Katie has always been destined for big exciting and worthwhile work.
Katie's main purpose for working in Guatemala has been to engineer and establish systems for clean drinking water. Along the way, she has found a more focused niche of providing clean water as well as hand-washing stations in communities with schools, and also providing the necessary guidance and education along with those new facilities.
Stunned by the lack of many schools in these villages and the dilapidated condition of the ones that do exist, Katie has embarked on a courageous and inspiring project to raise the money needed to build two desperately needed schools. Perhaps we can do something to help bring her - and the communities and families there - closer to their goal.
A classroom inside a school nicknamed The Chicken Coop.
A school built last year in the village of Xenimajuyu.
The grateful recipients of one of the newly built schools.
A plaque dedicating a new school library.
If you'd like to find out more about the project or Katie's experiences in the Peace Corps, check out the links below to her Travelpod Blog as well as her secure donation web site.
Katie is truly an incredible person. She makes friends very easily. She's well-traveled; independent; confident; strong. She's extremely intelligent (hello, she skipped 1st grade), but also a little ditzy, if we're being totally honest here. She's funny. She even stayed my friend and didn't make fun of me when I wasn't allowed to go to her 11th birthday party because it involved seeing a PG-13 movie. And, best of all, when I write her a letter, she writes me back! No kidding!
I've talked (that is, emailed) with Katie just a handful of times in the last year, but undoubtedly when she returns to Columbus this Christmas, we will get together and chat and laugh and hang out exactly the way we did in high school. I am so lucky to have a friendship like ours - one in which we do our best to stay in touch while she is off on some new adventure, but then so effortlessly pick up where we left off the next time we get together. Of course there are new things to learn about one another, but there is never a moment of awkwardness or strangeness between us. I know that is hard to come by. And I am so proud of her, so grateful for her unwavering friendship, and so inspired by the amazing work she is doing for others in a completely different part of the world.

Read Katie's Travelpod blog here.

Read more about the fundraiser here.

(Photos courtesy of La mona feliz's flickr account.)
1/22/09 UPDATE: Katie has reached Goal #1! She has secured donations to cover the costs of building a school for one of the communities she's come to know while working in Guatemala. Hooray! Imagine the committment, work and dedication she's exhibited to get to this stage. Now comes the meetings with the mayor and other community leaders to get the plans really rolling. Good luck, Katie, and Congratulations!!!

Finished Flannel Board

Wow! I started this project over a month ago, and here it is, finally completed! We've been playing with our flannel board since day 1, but just today got around to mounting it to the wall. As soon as it was up, J dropped his tractors and trucks and came over to give it a try. He's multi-purposing those black blobs in the upper right corner; they were jack o'lantern eyes, but as of today they are balloons.
I have the day off tomorrow and I'm hoping to add a few more flannel creations to our bin. We need some more vibrant colors up there! Stay tuned...

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