Sunday, June 30, 2013

Crafty Girls #2 - Random Projects

Today was our second Crafty Girls Get Together.  We had hoped that all eight of us could meet again and create and gossip and eat, but alas, it was not meant to be.  Many of us are in education, so you would think that with school being out, it would free up our schedules.... um, no.  Maybe we have more time when we're working!!  Now there's an oxymoron!  Anyway, amongst the members, we had one on vacation, one having lunch with a kindergarten sweetheart, one watching her sons' baseball game, and one had a baby!!  So, three of us met and just enjoyed doing whatever project we wanted to do.

Here are the projects that we did:

A twine wrapped letter with silk flowers

A chalkboard made from an old picture frame:

An old collage picture frame made into a chalkboard (before seasoning with chalk).

And a chalkboard made from the table I found near a trashcan last week.  (The "Crafty Girls" sign was made from pieces of that table as well as the sign below.)  I used an upside down drawer pull at the bottom to hold the chalk.  This one is going on the wall outside my office - I can't wait to do countdowns to events... 10 days until Homecoming, or 3 days until vacation!!  Should be fun!

The top of the table (below) cut down to size and made into a chalkboard.

Pictures of the other project (Ball jars for an upcoming wedding!) will be posted as soon as I get them!

And here they are!  One of the girls wanted to experiment with ideas for her 20 table decorations.  Using a combination of twines, ribbons, burlap, buttons, etc., she's well on her way to checking those off her "to do" list!

Small group, but fun.  I think for our next get together, we'll go with a theme rather than a project.  I can only imagine the ideas that will flow!!

I think this table was someone's high school woodshop project.

When I took it apart, there was a lot of wood.  This doesn't include the top! 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Happy Birthday! Pranks and Cupcakes!

My co-worker's birthday is this weekend.  Of course we had to celebrate!  And if there's a celebration, that is just a good excuse to make cupcakes!  I tried a new technique (more details to follow) and was pleased with the results!

Simple cupcakes with cream cheese frosting!
Just to give you a little history....

I was transferred from a high school where I had worked for eleven years to a neighboring high school in my district.  I had mixed feelings.  Change is difficult, especially when you've been at a school for over a decade and in the feeder track (I worked at the feeder middle school and one of the feeder elementaries) for an additional 18 years.  But I was assigned to my alma mater, so my life really had come full circle.

My first year at the new school was challenging.  No one knew me, I think many distrusted me because I was unknown, the transfer was part of a district shuffle, so I hadn't been requested, nor had I requested the change.  So stress was high, insecurities ran rampant and it took awhile for things to settle down.  My second year was a little better.  I began to feel a bit more comfortable, but was still on edge.  With a new principal this year (a wonderful colleague that I've known since we worked the same job at different middle schools years ago) it's been a tremendously fun year.  Our administrative team has worked hard but we've been able to let our crazy selves emerge so we've been able to offset our job stress with humor.  I love it.  This has been one of the best years ever.

In the fall, my birthday was celebrated by my team.  So nice to be appreciated, but pretty calm and normal.  Our Activities Director's birthday was next.  We held off as long as possible and he began to stress that no one had remembered.  I think he actually whined about it a bit!  Anyway, while he was on his way to Vegas, we did this:

We tin-foiled pretty much everything in his office - from the clock to the push pins in his bulletin board.  He, of course, was happy to be remembered.  I'm sure he grumbled a bit though as he peeled off all the foil so he could find his laptop.

Next, my principal's birthday.  It was time for the Activities guy to strike back.  With some help from students, he did this:

Yep, balloons.   Lots of 'em.

Today was the other AP's birthday prank day. We went to the 99cent store to find some cool stuff to decorate with.  He loves the ocean and body boarding, so we found some great deals.  We waited and waited for him to leave yesterday and finally we were able to decorate.  And.....

 He was very surprised this morning, and of course he loved it!!

So, back to the cupcakes...

No birthday celebration is complete without some treats.  So what's better for a beachy theme than some beachy cupcakes?!  Exactly!!

I used two decorating bags with different shades of frosting.  Cut the tips off and put them into a third bag.  When you squeeze it out, you get a great look.  I also put some drops of food coloring into one of the bags - that made the dark blue.  I added some little foam thingys I found at Michaels and some sprinkles.  Voila!!  (I think only one person tried to eat a dolphin. :)

What a fun day!

Two bags in one and double cupcake liners so the chocolate cake wouldn't wash out the color of the liners.

Foam glittery decorations and some sprinkles!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Vacation, Father's Day and Old Photos

Our trip to Chicago was wonderful.  In addition to us all needing some time away, the weather was gorgeous, the wedding we went to see was wonderful, and it was great catching up with some old friends.

As we schlepped across the city (no car rental for us!) memories of my dad popped into my head over and over.  We'd never been to Chicago as a family growing up, so it wasn't that.  It was more like the old adage that you marry a man like your father.  And I did.

I remember as a kid we'd travel somewhere every summer.  My dad was a teacher at the local community college and when summer school was over (he'd always teach summer school and night school to earn a little extra money) we'd head somewhere - Manhattan Beach (to house sit for my aunt), Oregon (to visit my mother's brother and his family), Minnesota (to visit more of my mom's relatives) or to England and France.

My dad, me and Marcus, the retriever, in Rye, England, 1980.

My dad's mother's side of the family had roots in England.  He always cherished that part of himself.  He made frequent pilgrimages to Bexhill-on-Sea in Sussex to visit his elderly aunt.  Every couple of years, he'd bring the family with him, finances allowing.  He was not a typical American tourist.  We took public transit, we stayed in small hotels or B&B's, we walked from place to place and ate at local pubs or restaurants.  He valued friendships made during WWII, so we would do whatever it took to travel to visit those friends who were important to him.  I can still remember sitting at the dinner table of a friend in France where they served up something on a platter with the head still on.  Didn't faze my father a bit.  I kind of lost my appetite.

Sitting in the garden with his friends in France in 1980.  I still correspond with one of them every Christmas.

The memories that flowed through my brain while in Chicago were ones of my father leading the suitcase brigade from airport to transit station to hotel - brisk pace, not allowing time for complaint, two children whining and wiping sweat from their foreheads.  These were the days of luggage sans wheels and foldable luggage trolleys that never worked as well as you had hoped.  In addition to his relentless traverse across town, he was the constant student - asking people about the towns they lived in, asking about the local economy and history, never running out of questions.  We'd groan and roll our eyes and impatiently wait to move on to the next stop.  While in Chicago, there was a hint of this (I'm sure my father was watching from above getting a chuckle or two) as the four of us crossed town from the L station to the hotel, dragging 2 pieces of luggage apiece, the sun coming out from behind the clouds and my husband leading the second generation brigade.  Yes, I still complained.  But it was almost deja vu and ultimately I found myself thinking about dad rather than how far we had to go and how uncomfortable I was.  A few of the nights downtown were spent at different Chicago pizza places - ones that my husband had loved from his youth.  As we went in each one, he struck up conversations about downtown, the South Side, the Sox, the Cubbies, Wrigley Field, Comiksy Park, anything and everything Chicago.  Being a salesman, he knows how to make people feel important and to strike up a great conversation.  Shades of my dad.

On the train to Calais, France.  Note the baguette and the bottle of wine, 1980.

On this Father's Day I send a hug to my dad and tell him that I did, indeed, marry a man like him (in more ways than noted above - but that's another blog post!) and I believe that my 30 year marriage is testament to my wise choice (or was it my husband's choice??)  Either way, love you dad.  And I still hate walking with suitcases.  Sorry.

My husband, son-in-law and daughter in Chicago, 2013.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Coffeecake To Go

I am in the middle of packing for a four day trip to Chicago. 

I hate packing.  I always forget something.  Always.  One time it was my toothbrush, another time it was my pajamas.  Another my hairbrush.  I am mildly anxiety ridden anyway, and packing doesn't help.  But it's something I must do.  So, what better way to decrease packing anxiety by whipping up something sweet and easy, perfect with a cup 'o' coffee??

I took my Betty Crocker coffeecake recipe (you'll find it here) and used it like cupcake batter.  It worked better than expected!!  The recipe made 9 little cakes which eliminates the partially-eaten, stale coffeecake in the kitchen scenario.  And, an unexpected bonus - I'll take a few with me to the airport because they're easy to carry!  I'm sure having one or two and a nice cup of coffee will eliminate some of that packing stress!!  If nothing else works, caffeine and sugar baby!!!
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Nice, individual coffee cake!!

Just pour in cupcake liners and add topping!

Lovely cinnamon topping!