Archive | May, 2015

Everything is Awesome

29 May

Happy Friday!

As if the three-week run of temps in the mid-80s wasn’t enough of an indication, Memorial Day’s passing means summer–season of warm nights and mosquito bites–is officially here!

The beginning of summer is my absolute most favoritist time of year. It’s time for picnics and outdoor movies when it’s nice, puddle hopping and reading when it’s not (which is basically every other day here. Since when is Atlanta the tropics?). It’s the time to grab that iced coffee, roll the windows down, and crank up the tunes. I hope summer 2k15’s playlist lives up to the bar set by last summer’s. I’m grooving on this track right now.

 

It feels like everything good and exciting is just ahead of you. For me that includes not one, but two beach trips. (Look for a post about emergency bikini-readiness in the near future!)

But a lot of good stuff is right here, right now. Here’s what I’m grooving on this month.

Venus Swirl

If you’re me, you’re wondering why you can spend 50% of your shower attempting to shave your knees and still see those light fluffy hairs the second you hit a patch of sunlight. Lo and behold, somebody finally took the technology that dudes use to hug chin stubble and made it into a lady razor. If you’ve heard of this and are wondering if it actually works? It does.

There’s now a baby-smooth place on the hollow of my ankle that probably hadn’t been graced with a blade in like, four months. Imagine that if you will. The only downside is you’ll have to get a second job to afford the refill cartridges, but hey. Beauty is pain.

Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure Topcoat

After trying about 42 brands of top coat (many of which were high end) trying to get a “gellish” effect, I got this one in a Hail Mary pass at Target. It’s a miracle! Check this out.

The blobs you see are from crappy cuticles and lack of skill.

The blobs you see are from crappy cuticles and lack of skill, not chipping.

This is day five of this manicure. On my right hand. And I type all day, do the dishes, and have a very deep purse to dig in.

One caveat is that it takes a bit of time to dry completely. So don’t do it an hour before bed or you’ll get sheet prints.

Turn, Turn, Turn

Fact, we’re living in a new golden age of TV. I’m always looking for new favorite shows to watch, especially a little off the beaten path. But if you’re part of a couple you know that you don’t always have the same favorites. P and I both got into this AMC show hard.

I’d never even heard of it, but Netflix’s scary accurate algorithm predicted I’d five-star like it, and I five-star did. (How did it know I am a Revolutionary War era nerd when most of what we Netflix is Wild Kratts and Daniel Tiger? I’ll sure as hell never know.) We actually finished the available episodes weeks ago, and I still keep wishing I could watch it.

Mic Drop

BBC is making a TV drama about the Bronte Sisters.

Mic Drop Again

Colin Firth is playing Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady on Broadway.

Another openin’ of a Another Show

You may recall that a short play I wrote was accepted and produced in an original works festival called Onion Man Summer Harvest last year. This year I’m performing in that festival. P directed me in this short. We did not kill each other, even though he made me do improv (revenge for my making him help demonstrate choreo for Hairspray). The one I’m in is called Amber Light and it was written by one of the actors who performed in the play I wrote last year. This year she’s playing a character in a totally different play whose name happens to be Amber. How cool is that?

My scene partner J is rad-a-ma-tazz. Ours is one of only two heavy pieces in the showcase, so of course we can’t take a normal backstage photo.

That photobomb hand belongs to the playwright. We kept saying we were going to crop her out until we realized: she probably should’ve legit been in the pic HA.

Alas, it’s hard to get support for new work in this city of perennial Steel Magnolias and Legally Blonde revivals. If you’re in the area, I’m officially inviting you–it runs through June 7. Tickets are cheap as heck and available here and at the door.

So many good books

I’m pretty much living 80% of my life in other worlds right now. Look for a book review post coming soon!

Sketchy

As soon as I get done with Harvest Fest I’m diving into another show called The Hundred Dresses. This will mark the first time I’m officially playing a mother on stage. It’s a mainstage production, not a junior show, yet I’m one of only three adult actors—the rest are fifth graders. But these are talented fifth graders so it’s OK. One of my dear castmates from Blythe Spirit is doing the costumes. But the super-cool thing is that my super-artistic mom will be featured strongly in this show. I don’t want to give too much away, but she’s finally getting to almost fulfill her childhood dream of being a fashion illustrator and costume designer. I’m basically more excited for her than for myself.

Dress collage

Sunscreen Smackdown

Consumer Reports just came out with the results of its 2015 sunscreen test. So did the Environmental Working Group.

And they are totally at odds with each other.

Both of them say that the majority of sunscreens don’t actually do what they say they do, but they completely disagree on which is which (No-Ad made the top 3 for CR, while I’m pretty sure the folks at EWG would sooner eat No-Ad than put it on their skin). Am I the only one that find this kind of thing hilarious?

EWG says spray sunscreens will keel you and yer chilren, while not one, not two, but five of the sunscreens that passed the CR test are–you guessed it–sprays.

The root of the problem is that EWG says that mineral (aka natural) sunscreens are the safest, while CR maintains that–well–they don’t actually protect you from the sun.

The end result is that for another year, we’re left to stand in the sunscreen aisle utterly flummoxed about what’s best again, and probably end up not using it right again, and getting melanoma again (wait–what?).

The only sunscreen the two managed to agree on is….guess.

Freakin’ Coppertone Water Babies. That’s right, the same crap that made that gritty, stingy reapplication at the beach hell on earth for us as tots.

…And one huge let down

I tried Bulletproof Coffee just for the heck of it. It’s a thing. It’s a gross thing though. I just used the knife I’d buttered my toast with to stir my coffee–so I guess maybe I didn’t really do it right? It just made my teeth feel scummy all day though. Do not want.

What are you into this May?

DIY Tutorial: Lip n’ Lotto Favors (free printable)

19 May

I’d like to share with you a very easy craftish gift I made for Teacher Appreciation Week. I did them at the last minute because obviously. The bad news is that it’s too late for Teacher Appreciation Week this year. The good news is…well…they’re easy to do last-minute (and in all seriousness, you can still use these for thank-yous, grads, end-of-year happies, party/wedding favors–all kinds of stuff!).

20150507_181411

Every holiday, even some of the more obscure ones, my family always gives each other lottery tickets. Even my three-year old gets his own scratch-offs. He’s trained now; when he sees it fall out of the greeting card, he immediately goes to his piggy bank to get a coin.

So naturally, it was the first thing that came to mind when puzzling about what to get his preschool instructors for Teacher Appreciation Week. Cheaper than a fruit basket, healthier than baked goods, more original than a gift card, and (sorry, #honesty) more attractive than a child-made art project–and what better gift to give an underpaid teacher than a chance to strike it rich and immediately quit her job teaching your child?

At approximately $4.50 per card it’s pretty economical if you need to make multiples. We did one for every teacher at his school, because there aren’t that many to begin with, and they really do take turns watching each other’s classes.

20150507_175544

 

Materials:

lip balm of your choice – something for which you can think of a clever pun is ideal.

scratch-off lottery tickets

hole punch

string or raffia or ribbon

shiny new quarters (optional)

card stock or other high quality paper

Hot MUNAY!

Hot MUNAY!

Step 1:

Have someone lucky get the lottery tickets.

Sadly, in our family that is T. Do I look like Mother of the Year stuffing dollar bills into the scratch-off vending machine and making my tiny child push the buttons? Maybe not. But hear me out: in 3+ decades of life, I have won ($1 usually) on scratch-off cards maybe……4 times? In Tenny’s 3 + years of life, he has won on scratch off cards approximately 7 times. And once was for $20. I don’t math so I can’t tell you the exact odds in this scenario, but if I was receiving a lottery ticket from someone in our household I’d be banking on him.

Step 2:

Design your gift tags.

Iknow Iknow, my kid isn’t really a baby. But in our case it was still kind of appropriate. I’ve noticed that T requires a lot of speshul love and attention. (Why is my son on the teacher’s lap during reading circle when everyone else is sitting on the rug? I can’t be sure, but I bet it involved whining and tears).

Also, I think Baby Lips are fun and cute.

If you choose to use them, you’re welcome to print my version of the cards using the link below–it prints 3 to a letter-sized page, and there’s room for you to insert a name on the bottom right as you see in my version (just give me a shout out if anyone asks where you got the idea, k?).

Download the Printable

With a little creativity you can use any brand though. I was originally intending to give Burt’s Bees and put “Thanks a million for BEE-ing my teacher!” but I changed my mind because they didn’t have enough of the same flavor, and I didn’t want to cause a Battle Royale over who had to end up with Mango.

Baby, Baby, Baby OH

Step 3:

Print the cards and cut them out, then punch a hole in both the cards and the tickets.

I put the corner of the ticket (where the $1 sign is) the upper middle of the card and punched both together. This was so I didn’t accidentally put a hole through the winning number or something. Yikes.

Optional step: You can also tape a shiny new quarter to the back of each card so the lucky recipient can get to scratchin’ right away. 

Step 4:

String the ribbon or what-have-you through the holes in the card and the lip balm.

20150507_175406

20150507_175435

For this project you don’t have to unwrap and rewrap the balm in some cutesy and skillful way, like many other balm-based gifts I’ve seen. This works with the original packaging with the hanging hole already punched in. The Lazy Girl Way for the win!

I used plain old gift string, the kind you tie on a balloon. I like doing the curly thing with the side of the scissors–it’s literally the one crafty thing my mom was able to impart to me, so I don’t care how uncool it is–I’m doing it now and forevermore. And also T likes green and I felt he ought to contribute something other than his magic fingers. But feel free to get artisanal with it, with some recycled kraft raffia or whatever if that’s your jelly.

Million Dollar Baby

 

Step 5:

Find a cute way to arrange them and you’re done! Yay!

20150507_181257

Did I dump our bread onto the stove in order to use this basket? Maybe.

For the record, they were a big hit. The whole week the teachers were coming up and telling me to thank my husband (I didn’t manage to get these ready until Friday which is P’s day for drop off, so he ended up with the credit. I know, what?). The cafeteria lady even won $20 on hers! I’m telling ya, ol’ Lucky Strike T over here.

Have fun!

NAMB: Is this a birthday party or a wedding?

1 May

Is it just me, or are birthdays for small children getting utterly out of control?

I don’t mean out of control like my 7th birthday, where I invited every girl in my class to sleepover and all twenty-two of us paraded around the house in our PJs playing toy instruments at 11 PM. My poor parents.

I mean out of control like you realize that March is too late to start planning for your kid’s 2nd birthday…in July. I mean out of control like, you’re starting to wish you had an event planner to manage the various elements of your soiree.

This is clearly just my opinion, but seriously: if you are using words like “element” and “soiree” in reference to a birthday party for anyone under 50–even in your head–you need to #checkyoself.

I mean, I think we all know on some level that children’s birthday parties have become some sort of toxic cocktail of perfectionism, one-upmanship, and Pinterest. And I’m hardly the first to make fun of the phenomenon of over-the-top birthday parties and borderline insane parents (see the now-infamous birthday list email, or how about the kid that didn’t show up for a party and got an invoice for his cost incurred). But if my social media feed is any indication, the trickle-down effect of these crazy, wedding-like extravaganzas is very, very real.*

*seriously–I just witnessed a 30+ comment thread on custom themed birthday cakes in my actual life. No, not whether they’re necessary, but the best place to get one.

Ask for pictures from a child’s birthday party, and instead of a bunch of smiling kids you’ll see forty angles of lavish table layouts. We’re talking blowouts for kids who are turning 1, 2, 3….ages where they still think playing in the bath tub is the height of good-time fun. Who is this shindig really for? Look in the index under parents, impressing other.

We need to stop the madness.

In that spirit, I have created a primer of good and bad words for children’s birthdays. To hammer the metaphor even further, we’ll play it like Red Light, Green Light. Next time you find yourself in conversation about a birthday, notice what key words pass your lips and follow the directions accordingly:

Green – go for it!

Cake – No party, indeed no birthday, is complete without cake. Go hog wild and let the birthday kid pick the flavor! Ice cream is always good too.

Mess – Accept it, embrace it, encourage it. Have you ever been to a fun party that didn’t get a little messy?

Invitations – I’m really old fashioned and like paper invitations sent via snail mail*. Even if they come from a pack at Target, it’s awesome. I mean, when you see an envelope in the mail with your name on it, you know you’re really and truly invited somewhere. I’m not against Evites per se, but I do get a little wistful when it seems like parents are putting more thought and effort on things like themed labels for the food (and taking pictures of said labels) than they are on requesting the pleasure of a guest’s company.

*tangent–I said the phrase “snail mail” to an intern the other day and he had no idea what I was talking about. Is that an old term or something??

Improvise – Story time. Last year P and I went to the Starlight drive-in and there was a birthday party parked next to us…probably a dozen 13 year old girls, split among two or three mini-vans. The party fare consisted of a few pizzas, a cookie cake, a couple of six packs for the parents. No decorations, no party favors. During the long wait to get into the gates, they got out of the cars and played with–you’ll never believe it– a ball. Like the kind you get out of the bin at the grocery store. The entire group, including the adults, was raucously laughing the whole time. The whole thing was on point, without reeking of planning. I bet you your deposit at Legoland they didn’t even have to make a reservation.

Red – Stop Right There

Fondant – I agree those cakes shaped like unicorns and cars look cool. Hell, I watched like 40 back to back episodes of Cake Boss at Northside while I was waiting to pop out T. But #truth, that stuff tastes like the bottom of a shoe. Whatever happened to buttercream?

Deposit – Does anyone else think it’s weird that in one generation, parents went from showing up with ten kids at whatever McDonalds had a decent playplace to laying two bennies down to reserve the party room at HippoHopp? (which is basically a glorified playplace, if you really think about it). Super-screaming red light if the words “non-refundable” are attached.

Dessert Table – Uh….you have a cake, right? Dessert. Bam.

If this is the 3rd birthday, what will the wedding look like?

Schedule – Think about it from a kid’s perspective. School, piano practice, the dentist…those delightful activities are examples of things that are scheduled. Leaving a few things up to chance makes it easier for you and fun for them (see improvise).

Registry –  Not to get too Emily Post, but I really do think this is gauche. Yes, it’s an unspoken rule that you bring a gift to a child’s party. But it’s the giver’s prerogative to choose the gift (and the price of the gift). I swear, half the time I see a birthday registry the stuff on it is high-priced–I’m talking in the $100-$200 range. If you want your kid to have a new kitchen set, that’s what grandparents are for (or here’s an idea– buy that ish yourself). If people are asking you what to get, by all means offer a suggestion–the $15-$30 range is reasonable, although even less is fine too (who doesn’t love some new playdoh?).  I’d even be OK with an Amazon wishlist, as long as you only send it if someone directly asks for it. And whatever you do, don’t provide links on your invitations to a registry. People don’t even do that on a wedding invitation! (Do they? Please tell me people have not started doing that).

Yellow – Proceed with caution:

Custom – Having the baker put your kid’s name on the cake? Yes. Hiring three different bakers to make customized cookies, cupcakes, and dirt pudding in individual ramekins? Overkill.

Game – It’s not a bad idea to have a few activities planned in case things start out slow. But this isn’t a baby shower. If it takes more than ten seconds to explain the rules, forget it. No rules works too–stuff like a bucket of water balloons or even a big roll of butcher paper and finger paint is plenty fun.

Favors – Something to say “thank you for coming” is a very nice touch. But most parents agree that a goody bag of tiny plastic crap toys is kind of annoying. People just do it because they feel like they have to.

Staaahp.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have personalized and/or homemade favors that seen to scream “I’m overcompensating for something.”

Apparently, this includes a personalized note and homemade hair bows. Good grief.

A lot of parents get overwhelmed between the two and don’t give favors at all. But there is a happy medium, if you get creative. On a related note, thank-you cards for gifts are great for character building.

DIY (see also: homemade) – I know some of you maams are crafty and genuinely enjoy (and have time for?) making doilies, and if that’s you, go for it. But if you find yourself up at 4 AM the night before the party, cursing because you can’t find the right pastry tip to ice the clam macaroons or you’re only halfway through the 100 DIY bathbombs for baby’s magical mermaid party, you’re only hurting yourself.

I don’t make this ish up.

I say for us non-Martha Stewart types, pick one thing to make yourself (the cake, the invitations) and get thee to a Party City for the rest.

Look.

I’m not saying parties need to be like they were “back in my day” (#getoffmylawn). A few things, like donations in lieu of gifts and the slow fade of the watch-the-birthday-kid-open-presents tradition, are standout achievements of modern birthday parenting. Things evolve and that’s fine. But when it gets to the point where moms are feeling like they might be depriving their child if they don’t arrange for a candy buffet and miniature fruit bouquets, that’s a problem. For your child, it is and it should be all about the experience–just ask the girls at the Starlight Drive-in.