Archive | August, 2012

My six month DIY project, or, why I don’t craft more often

31 Aug

Another little known–OK, very well publicized–fact about me is that I am terrible at crafts. I literally cannot cut my way out of a paper bag. At least not in a straight line.

But a while ago, I pinned this project from Offbeat Mama on my Pinterest Board: a picture bio. This is one I figured I could do. Here is the original:

So here we are, only half a year later (and three months after T turned one–the occasion for which I was making it), and I finally finished my version.

As you can see, I like more pictures.

There are some image display issues with mine, like the paw prints, but they didn’t show up in the printed verison. And yep, I did indeed creep the same blue baby silhouette.

This is a pretty easy and unique gift, and it certainly doesn’t have to be baby-themed; you could do an anniversary or wedding, or a bar mitzvah, or whatever. So if you want to try it, here is how I did it:

1. Write the story. Creativity is great, but not essential. As you can see, I pretty much copied the original.

2. Find some images to go with it. I got all mine free with a Google Image search. I just cut-and-pasted everything I liked onto a Word document to pick from later.

3. Layout your draft. I made it ledger size (11×17) just because that’s the biggest paper I had on hand. I used Adobe Indesign, but you could use anything–there’s a similar freeware program on the web, or you could even use a word processor (if you do that, I recommend putting your text in text boxes instead of writing it straight into the document).

4. Place your text first, then add the images. Mess around with the font type, size, spacing, and even direction to make it fit and look interesting. You might have to add or delete some things. Add the text color last. I based the font colors on my images. Sort of.

5. Print a draft on plain letter paper first. I learned that the hard way. Print final, frame, and finished!

Finding a freakin’ frame is a story in and of itself, but I’ll spare you the details. I ended up with this one from Amazon for about $20. Ta da!

Ménage a trois, and other reading habits

30 Aug

I find many personal habits endearing. For instance, the speed at which people dial their home phone numbers (back when we actually dialed numbers) or the way girlfriends dress alike when they go out.  Reading is one area rife with these kinds of personal quirks. I love all the ways that people read. For instance: I have one friend who, instead of flying through the newest Harry Potter books like the rest of us did, would read only one chapter a day to make it last longer. Here are my personal reading habits. What are yours? (P.S. I serendipitously came across this article on BookRiot about reading habits pre- vs post-kids that’s pretty astute and entertaining).

I read at least three books at once.

I think this habit stems from the weekly trip to the library we took when I was a kid, and the stack of books we’d bring home and devour. It’s a lot harder to simultaneously read books that are more than 10 pages (and no pictures!), but somehow I just keep doing it anyway. Nowadays, I am usually reading one non-fiction reference-y book (like now: Happiest Toddler on the Block), one book that I keep at work for my lunch breaks (generally one that makes me look smart), and one book at home on my nightstand (generally one that makes me look dumb–right now: Deadlocked, Sookie Stackhouse book #312). Usually I’m also listening to an audio book on my commute,  following several blogs, and reading a few magazines.

Book=bedtime.

Reading has become a signal for my brain to shut down and sleep. Unfortunately, I can now only read about 4 pages before I zonk out, which is why it takes me like a month to get through a book. That, and the fact that I read three at a time.

I always have something to read with me.

It’s a crutch. It keeps me from having to talk to actual people.

Paper is king.

After fighting the tide for a long time, I think I may finally be caving to the pressure of the e-reader. But even if I do surrender, it will never ever take the place of a real, live book. I love the weight of a book, the feel of the pages, the smell. Oh yeah, and actual page numbers. This is one of many ways in which I am a 60-year old woman.

I’m a slow reader.

This feels like a confession. You’d think a person who loves to read, also write, and does both all the time would zip through things. I don’t. I wish I could tell you it’s deliberate (like my savoring HP friend). I can’t. This was true even before I got too pregnant busy/tired to read as much. I get distracted, start thinking about something (usually triggered by what I’m reading!), and before I know it, I’ve “read” two pages without really ingesting them and have to go back. Other times, I just want to reread a sentence and think about it some more…like if it was revelatory to the plot, or the wording was neat, or–let’s be honest–it didn’t really sink in the first two times (shaking my fist at you, The Magus). It’s even worse with audiobooks.

How do you like to read?

NAMB: Stride Wrong Edition

29 Aug

Not Another Mom Blog is a regular satirical feature exploring all the vital, life-saving, keeping-your-child-from-growing-old-alone advice out there. NAMB: Because every mother needs something else to worry about.

Hey, parents. Remember the piles of stuff you got before your first child? All the gifts from the shower[s], and all the major purchases you made yourself…the car seat. The stroller. The 4-way convertible crib. It seemed like enough stuff to last not only through the second child, but the second coming. But a year passes, and you discover there was one large purchase you didn’t anticipate, and which all your parent friends conveniently “forgot” to mention. That’s right. I’m talking about baby shoes.

Back in the day, b.k.a. the Golden Age of Infantile Footwear, there was one kind of shoe for people under the age of seven.

Let’s take a closer look.

While a return to hook-and-eye closures is debatable, there is so much to like about this situation.

Gender neutral – boys and girls wear the same thing

One style—No keeping up with the Joneses

No choice—So little Percival needs some shoes. Just head on down to the local cobbler and pick those babies up.

Bonus—These suckers last forever.

But children are different today than they were in 1888. They have needs. Needs like alternative closures, a personal fit profile, and Sensory Response Technology. What? Your child can’t even walk yet? Obviously not, without a self-molding footbed with contoured heel cradle.

Now here’s something worth dipping in bronze

The juvenile foot doesn’t have the capability to strengthen muscles and improve balance. Baby shoes, however, do.

Bottom line: without this shoe, your dreams for baby Mikhaylah to be a reality television star by 3 are slim to none.

You may be thinking to yourself, what must this miracle of modern technology be worth? I already have a second mortgage on the house, but I’m sure I could scrape together what it takes to ensure my child is flying walking by 7 months. Maybe I could hold a bake sale. Oh, little mama, there’s no need for all that! This shoe is yours for only $42.50. We even have some clearance shoes priced at only $31.99! You might have heard the lie that babies and children grow out of shoes in an average of three months, creating the necessity of repeating your purchase four times a year. That’s simply propaganda by the underground revolutionaries who are trying to bring back the Golden Age of I.F.

Also, I’m really not sure how your baby will be able to show his face at preschool without miniature Sperry Topsiders.

And to my baby-deprived compadres:

You probably did something bad recently. Ran over the neighbor’s cat, perhaps, or forgot to call your grandmother on her 81st birthday.  Might I recommend borrowing a toddler and taking them to try a few pairs at the nearest children’s shoe store, preferably during the back-to-school tax holiday? There’s no place better when a little self-flagellation is in order. (Next time, maybe you’ll make the right decision: lie to your boyfriend that you’re on birth control, so you can have a baby like a normal person. But that’s another topic for another time).

My first flash mob

29 Aug

Mobbed it’s not (rule #1: don’t feed the dancers free champagne until after the show), but it sure was fun! Don’t even try to look for me, I was blocked on all sides by the vertically gifted.

OK, if you insist–I’m on third from the right on the second to last row. There’s a lady with blonde hair and a sparkly gold dress right in front of me.

And some pics from the event:

Funny story: I have no idea who the girl in the white dress is. Apparently she just likes being in pictures.

Nail DIY

28 Aug

Today is one of those days when I’m crossing my fingers that I don’t run into anyone I know, because I look a mess. I was out late last night doing a surprise flash mob at Jeffrey Fashion Cares, a charity fashion show (yep, dress shopping for this posh event was the previously referenced secret girly mission). It was really fun, but the bags under my itchy eyes, frizzy-flat hair, and the weird outfit I threw on this morning are quite a sight. But at least I have cute nails!

This graduated glitter look is the only Pinterest project I have legitimately tried. But I like it–sparkly fun, but the subtle colors make it SFW. (The lighting in the room made the color kinda blech-y, but you get the idea).

If you want to try the look, here’s how:

1. Paint two thin coats of whatever base color you like. (Thin so that they dry faster).

2. Apply one coat of glitter polish to the base of the nail. You don’t have to be too precise, especially with clear glitter like this.

3. After drying somewhat, apply a second coat of glitter, pulling it up a tiny bit further than the first coat, about halfway up the nail, to get the little trail of sparkles.

4. Add an optional third coat of glitter to the base if needed. The paint at the base will be really thick, so get comfy for about 40 minutes of drying time.

5. Add a top coat to the tips if you like, to prevent chipping.

Update: if you’re interested, the polish I used was Revlon Bare Bones, Wet n’ Wild Kaleidescope, and Essie no chip top coat (put your money where it counts, I say).

What I’m reading

27 Aug

There’s a great article in the July/August Atlantic by Anne-Marie Slaughter about work-life balance.  The full text is available online and I highly recommend it. It’s a quite long but important body of thought. Not just for working mothers, but for anyone who strives to achieve balance between a personal life and professional achievement.

The author’s thoughts are in alignment with what I’m all about here at Cushion Cut—ladies and gents who do it all. One notable example, referring to others’ adverse reactions when she asks to be introduced as the mother of two boys in addition to her other credentials:

It seems odd to me to list degrees, awards, positions, and interests and not include the dimension of my life that is most important to me—and takes an enormous amount of my time.

Despite the title (Why Women Still Can’t Have it All), the take-home message is that they (and everyone else) can. America just needs to change our work mentality to emphasize quality over quantity of hours, recognize and reward other signs of dedication (like efficiency), and take advantage of technology to allow more flexibility. I especially like the author’s idea that we ought to think of the office as a sort of base camp, rather than the location where all work must be done. All in all, a great read on the current state of the women’s lib movement–which is relevant to guys more than ever, by the way!

Bookmark it and peruse in your free time!

Ways to Say Thank You

24 Aug

You know what I don’t understand? Corporate awards.

WINNING

I’m not talking about awarding people for their dedication or a job well done. I’m talking about the awards themselves: the plaques, the pyramids, the granite slabs, the crystal flames. Not all of them are completely wretched. For my company’s 40th anniversary last year, each employee received a blue glass globe the size of your fist. It’s decently pretty, and quite handy as a paperweight or for chucking at cold-call solicitors.* But then of course, we didn’t have to do anything to get one. It makes a lot less sense in the context of say, a service award. Call me crazy, but I think thirty years of dedication to one company deserves more than a glass clock.

Sometimes I try to imagine the dawn of the corporate award. Some executives are sitting around a table saying, “Steve’s worked so hard this year. He’s brought in more accounts than anyone else on the team. What can we give to him so that he feels really appreciated—I’ve got it! An acrylic block with our company name on it!”

OK. I know that what is otherwise a normal object is endowed with meaning as a symbolic representation of the works or service being awarded blah blah blah. All I’m saying is that there are better ways to show your gratitude. At the very least something useful—like a bottle opener for the six pack we’ll be drinking when it sets in exactly how much of our life has been spent in that cubicle. Other ideas:

A gift card to Kroger?

An extra day/week/month of paid leave?

The actual cash you paid for that engraved crystal bowl?

A build-your-own-sundae party? At Harry Potter World? OK, maybe that one’s just me.

Company owners, I charge you to get a little more creative with your awards. Think outside the brass-topped glass box. Wouldn’t it be neat to have a break from the forced enthusiasm at the yearly award luncheon?

*Total disclosure: I picked out those globes.