Category Archives: projects & DIY

Let’s See What Develops, Pt. 7

August 3, 2015

I know I’ve been MIA for a while.  I got everyone off to camp successfully and then I went into hibernation for the past two weeks.  I wish I could say I was in the South of France, visiting vineyards and noshing on butter slathered baguettes.  I wasn’t even digging my non-booted toes into the sand down the road in Virginia Beach. I was home. I was doing a whole lot of nothing.  I caught up with some friends. I did a little “personal maintenance”. I started back to the gym.  I took a nap. I went to the museum. I did what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it.

Alas, the staycation is over.  V came home Friday and hit the ground running.  M and C come home this coming Saturday and then we will be starting our final lap of summer vacation.  I can’t believe it’s August. I can’t believe that in this month alone, the following things are going to happen:

  • M will turn 10 years old
  • We will be having a party with a gaggle of other 10 year olds to celebrate.
  • School starts in three weeks.
  • I will be having a party with a gaggle of other moms to celebrate.

In the meantime, however, I need to return to my photography questions that I had been so diligently working on several weeks ago.

See, I love photography. I love pictures. I love looking at them. I love being in them. I love taking them. The other day, I texted a college friend a snap of a photo from the summer we met ::koff::koff::1993::koff::koff.  She wanted to know how much it was gonna take to never let that photo see the light of day again.

These days, however,  while I am an avid Intagrammer, I have been neglecting my DSLR. My camera body is pristine from lack of use. My Lightroom is laughably outdated. I need to make a change beyond toting my camera around with me like another member of the family. I need to examine what it is that I love about photography, how I got here and why I want to keep taking pictures. Some introspection was in order.

The photography blog, Click It Up a Notch, has a series of photographer interviews that I read voraciously. The more I read, the more my mind sparked and fired, ideas pinging around faster than I could grab them. If reading about other photographers created such a response, what would happen if I posed those same questions* to myself? Over the next few weeks, we’re going to find out.

*photographer interview questions courtesy of Courtney Slazinik of Click It Up a Notch.

Share Links to 3 of Your Favorite Photography Tutorials and Tell Us Why

photo, photography, portrait, nikon

Nikon 18-55mm| 34mm |f/3.5 | 1/500

Tough question, because there are gobs of great tutorials, tips, tricks and tools out there to help photographers do their best work.  These three tutorials have helped me the most on my photography journey.

  • 20 Things I Wish I Knew About Photographing in Manual Mode by Carrie Swails.  As I talked about before, shooting in manual was one of the best pieces of advice that I’ve received so far on my photography journey.  It’s daunting, I know. There are so many setting on the camera, why not put them to use, right? My approach to manual is more like if I can understand what it is, how it works, how my choices effect the outcome of the photo, then, I can better understand everything else about the other camera settings that I have.  If I don’t realize how ISO, aperture and shutter speed — when they come together correctly —  create great images, why am I even shooting in the first place?  Of all of the tips listed, #11 is the most resonant:  Photographing in manual is hard, but it will force you to learn your camera inside and out and you’ll be a better photographer for it. It takes practice so don’t expect everything to come naturally the first time out. Practice, practice, practice, and then go practice some more — in manual.
  • How to Achieve Nice Bokeh [In Plain English] by Annie Tao.   When I first started shooting, I really wanted to master that creamy, blurred background you find in photography. I didn’t know what it was called, let alone how to do it, but I was determined to figure it out. After lots of Internet searching, I learned about bokeh.  What’s great about mastering this technique is that it makes your image visually pleasing.  Your subject pops out.   You can camoflage any less than ideal background noise.  This tutorial touches on all of the pieces that make achieving that dreamy background possible:  lens choice, aperture choice, and opting to use bokeh in the foreground to show an alternative perspective.
  • 9 Ways to Get Meaningful Expressions in Child Portraits by Elizabeth Halford.  This article has been a great resource for me as a portrait photographer. I refer to it often, especially as prepare for a session with kiddos.  Working with kids, I’ve seen everything from those who have had their photos taken so often, they have more a rictus grin than a genuine smile, to kids who just flat out refuse to engage.  Halford provides a variety of easy tips to help coax the truest smile and the sweetest expressions from any child.

Recipe Friday: DIY Detox Water

June 26, 2015

I’ll admit it.  I want a flat stomach.

I don’t need rippling ab muscles.  I’m not trying to wash clothes on my stomach. I just want a smooth, flat space from under the girls to below the bellybutton.  I want the “pooch” to disappear.

I know that a few months ago, my post 21 Day Fix photo popped up showing me with a more defined midsection.  I worked hard for that definition.  Really hard.  Which is why I’m so frustrated with how things are going now.  Two months of not working out at all and I’m back to my pre 21 Day Fix measurements.  I’ve heard the adage that there’s someone out there who wishes your weakest/heaviest/worst was their fittest/thinnest/best. I get it. I totally get that, but. . .

I want a flat stomach.

Two years ago, I shared with you all my experience with diastasis recti, the separation of the abdominal muscles due to weakened core, pregnancy or hormonal changes. I had heard of this condition before; basically, the sheet of abdominal muscles separates.  It’s not life threatening (at least, nothing I read said that it was), but you are supposed to use caution when doing crunches and sit-ups in the off chance that your cause further separatation of the mucles.

From what I remember from anatomy and phys., of the multiple sets of abdominal muscles you have, your rectus abdominis is the sheet of muscles that is where you get your six pack.  The muscles are connected by a tendon that runs down the middle.  The tendon has no elasticity in it, which means if you put on a lot of weight (as in the case with a pregnancy), the muscles separate, the tendon gets stretched.  After you lose the weight, the muscles, which have elasticity, retract, but the tendon is still in the same stretched out shape it was in when you put the weight on, thereby causing the gap between the muscles.

“To check yourself for diastasis, lie on your back with your knees bent.  With your fingers pointing down toward your feet, hold two fingers flat on your bellybutton.  Press your fingers down as you slowly lift your head (keep your shoulders on the ground).  Do you feel a gully between the two muscles?  Measure how many fingers wide it is (mine is about 2.5 fingers wide).  If you can fit two or more fingers inside, you should not do crunches or sit ups.  If this is you, I would recommend halting all traditional abdominal exercises and doing the workout on this page until your separation heals.” — from Dear Diastasis Recti, I’m so over you by Inspired RD on June 19, 2012

The earliest chance I got, I’m on the floor with my knees bent, fingers in my belly button. I’m kind of thinking whatever’s about to happen is going to make me less than pleased, but I soldier on. I start to slowly lift my head and let me tell you, my abs parted like the Red Sea and my fingers were Noah.  Sweet fancy Moses! I’m pretty sure I could have pulled Jimmy Hoffa, Ameila Earheart, and the Holy Grail out of the gap between the muscles.

*le sigh* Ultimately, the gap is what contributes to the nefarious “mommy pooch”, and apparently it can be overcome by strengthening the core.  So, what’s a girl to do? No crunches, apparently.  The website provided a list of alternative exercises to do to strengthen the muscles, but I honestly don’t believe a gap like mine or the ones described can just be “healed” (their word, not mine).

In 2013, I visited a plastic surgeon as part of my second ankle repair surgery. After we discussed how he would work in conjunction with my orthopedist to revise the scar on my leg (so much for that), I asked him about my C-Section scar.  That in turn lead to a convo about abdomnioplasty and diastasis recti.  The doctor had me lie back with my knees drawn up and my feet flat on the table, just like the Inspired RD describes.  He then measured the separation, again, just like described above.  Diagnosis? I’ve got it. And he assured me he could fix it. I think his exact words were, “Oh, I can totally take care of that!”

Totally.

Part of me was hoping he was going to say that my situation was all in my head, just me being vain and it wasn’t anything a few thousand crunches couldn’t fix. Part of me was validated though, and I totally want everyone to stick their fingers in my gut so I can sit up and be like, “See, what I’m talking about?!”

But, surgery isn’t going to happen for a variety of reasons, tops on the list being, I need to get over myself.  Close second is I’m in no rush for more surgery, followed by I really need to get over myself.

So, in the interim, I try to eat right and am counting down the days until I can exercise again.  The healthy eating is coming along pretty nicely. Pinterest — of course — has tons of useful recipes and suggestions, which brings me to today’s recipe.  Detox Water to Shrink Your Belly.

The pin bragged a slimmer stomach in 10 days.  I thought, “I’ve got 10 Days. What’s the worst that can happen? I drink more water?” So, I tried it out.  Honestly, though, I don’t know if it is working.  I’m going to say not working, but only because I have a habit of cozying up with a spoon and some almond butter every evening.  Oh have the mighty have fallen.  Still, I’ve increased my water intake significantly, so, you know, there’s that.

Happy Friday, y’all!

 

DIY Detox Water to Shrink Your Belly

from DIY Beauty Tutorials

 

Ingredients

  • 3-5 slices of cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 tbsp grated ginger
  • 3-4 mint leaves
  • 1/2 tbsp honey
Lemon, ginger, honey, mint, cucumber

Lemon, ginger, honey, mint and cucumber

While the original post included step by step instructions, I’ve made a few modifications to make this recipe more my own.

Every evening before bed, I grab a Tervis tumbler and my supplies. I usually have snapped a few sprigs of mint from my herb garden earlier in the day, so I drop those into the bottom of the cup.  I use a mandoline and pass a cucumber over the blades’ thinnest setting about four times.  Drop those into the cup.  Next, I take out my microplaner and get busy with the ginger.  Ginger is the key ingredient for boosting your metabolism, so I’m pretty heavy handed with it.  I half a lemon and squeeze the juice on in.  Then I top it off with blorp of honey from the honey bear and fill the cup with water. Into the fridge it goes until the morning.

  • detox water, flat stomach, water, ginger, lemon, cucumber, honey, mint, paper straw

    Drink Up!

 

When I get up at 5:30, I clip clop downstairs, grab the water and straw. I also grab a 900ml cup and fill that with water.  Then, back up the stairs to set up a mini hydration station on my nightstand.  While I do my first set of 20 minute squats for the day, I drink water.  While I watch the news, I drink water. While I do my second set of 20 minute squats for the day, I drink water.  The 900ml cup provides refills, though the flavor gets more and more diluted with each pour.  By 7am, I’ve had about 46 oz of water, which is close to 6 cups.  I’ve also been to the bathroom about as many times.

Odds and Ends

June 10, 2015

It’s Wednesday! Of course, this being summer vacation, that really doesn’t mean anything.  Each day is like the one before it and will probably be like the one after it.  Only difference is this day starts with a W and ends with a glass of wine.

Odds and Ends this week are a handful of things that have caught my eye while I’ve been flipping through the Internet under the pretense of doing work.  Some work has been done, truly.  I’ve been putting some things together to give my website a little face-lift.   I’m working kicking up more content.  And, finding gems like ones below is work. . .the more I tell myself that, the truer it is, right? Here’s what has me looking like a heart-eyed emoji:

1. I stumbled across this company while scrolling through Instagram.  This mug needs to come to my house because truer words were never spoken.

2. Speaking of things I saw on Instagram that I have now deemed necessary to make my life complete, this shirt for the win.  I read this list and hear “These are a few of my favorite things . . .” playing in the background.

3. So, I have to do 20 minutes of deep knee bends, five times a day.  That’s 100 minutes of deep knee bends.  What’s a girl to do to pass the time? I’m a big binge watcher and I desperately needed something to fill the queue.  Outlander wrapped, Game of Thrones is all but done, House of Cards is but a fond memory, and Orange is the New Black won’t come on for a few days, still.   Lucky me, I’ve found Black Sails.  Arrrrgh, I love this show; I may even pick up Treasure Island once I’m all caught up.

4. New favorite kitchen gadget: the herb stripper. While I enjoy cooking with fresh herbs for the flavor that they provide, pulling the delicate leaves off of the stems was tedious. I’m too impatient. I either under-seasoned a dish because I grew bored of pulling off leaves, or over seasoned a dish because I was too lazy to pull the leaves off and just chopped up the bundle, leaves, stems, and all.  No. . .not really, but it was super tempting to do.  Now with this ingenious tool, I’m threading everything through the holes and separating leaves from stalk lickety split.  Fresh salsa, anyone?

kitchen gadet, kitchen geek, cooking, kitchen, chef, tool

This changes everything!

 

5. Sadly, my vacation plans went swirling down the drain when the doc said I’d be sporting this boot for the next three months.  Still, that hasn’t stopped me from imaging what it would be like to be laid up on a white beach with turquoise water lapping at my toes.  I see myself buff and bronze, sweating umbrella drink and hand, sporting this super cute bathing suit. Yes, I can definitely see myself in this.

bathing suit, summer

Summer goals 2015

Any odds and ends catch your eye this week? Share them with me in the comments!

Pinned It, Did it: Teacher Gifts

May 27, 2015

Memorial Day has come and gone, which means we are officially into summer.  I can hardly believe it!  I distinctly remember slogging through January, dreaming of sweaty glasses of lemonade and prime real estate at the pool, while I was shoveling mounds and mounds of snow.  June is all but here, peeking it’s head around the last vestiges of May.  Here we are — summer, summer, summertime.

The beginning of summer means the end of school. This year was V’s first year of preschool and it was  stellar year for her.  She thoroughly enjoyed her two-day-two program.  In addition to making friends, learning her numbers and color, and just being an all around superstar on the playground, V was a stand-out student with her teachers.  I wanted to thank them for making V’s year such a success. I dug through my craft board on Pinterest and found this super cute and super easy teacher appreciation gift.

I have to Ad-Mitt! You’re a Sweet Teacher via Eighteen25.com

DIY, pinterest, crafts, teacher gift, teacher appreciation, easy

I have to Ad-Mitt, this is a super fun craft to create!

You’ll need a cute oven mitt, a spatula, and a bag of cookie mix for each of the intended recipients.

DIY, Pinterest, craft, teacher appreciation, teacher gift, crafts, easy

Assemble your items

 

Tuck the cookie mix and the spatula into the oven mitt and set aside.

DIY, pinterest, crafts, teacher gift, teacher appreciation, easy

It practically makes itself!

Print out the template found on eighteen25.com, attach it to some cardstock and punch a hole in the top.  Wrap some nice grosgrain ribbon around the mitt and through the hole of the cardstock.

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Tie it with a bow and you’re all done!

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The original set of mitts I made were blue and red gingham mitts with black spatulas and chocolate chip cookie mix.  I like affixing the note to some cardstock for a little extra punch, but it’s not required.  Also, if cookies aren’t your jam, you could substitute it for any other type of packaged baked good.  You can make this jazzy or as simple.  Put your own signature on it and make it was awesome as you like.  Whatever you choose to do, no doubt, it’ll be pretty sweet!

What kind of easy DIY gift ideas have you tried? Share with me in the comments!

 

 

DIY Monday: The Swimsuit Project

May 25, 2015

A few days ago, I posted a triptych photo of V chronicling how much she’s grown from year to year.  In each photo, she wears an old J.Crew shirt of mine.  In each photo, the shirt gets a little shorter on her legs and on her arms.  V is my third and last little biscuit, but she is not the first to participate in this photo study of growth and development. Each of my girls has their own unique outfit in which to dress up every year on their respective birthdays.  For C, it’s a Grecian dress I bought on a whim while traveling abroad.  For M, it’s a Lands End bathing suit that I had in my closet when I first came across this project.

In August of 2006, M was turning a year old.  During her first year, I turned to a number of resources to help me navigate the first year of parenthood: family, friends, books, magazines — I was all over it, making sure that she was hitting her milestones, that she was eating from all of the food groups, and that she was engaged in activities to stimulate growth and development — Gymboree Play and Music! Kindermusik! Stroller Strides! My mother gifted me with a subscription to Parents Magazine as part of my “Welcome to Motherhood” starter pack.  In the last issue before my subscription ran out, I came across an article entitled “The Swimsuit Project”.  In it, author Maria Heck describes how prior to her becoming a mother, she came across a photo essay in Life Magazine.  The photo essay depicted a young woman whose mother had posed her in the same bathing suit each year on her birthday.  Heck was duly impressed and promised herself that whenever she had a daughter, she would duplicate the project.  When her daughter was 4 months old, Heck slipped Madeline into a floral bathing suit, complete with bra cups, that had belonged to Heck’s mother.  Every year on Madeline’s birthday, Heck snapped a picture. She did this for 15 years, stopping when the suit fit her daughter better than it had ever fit her own mother.

At that point in time, Heck decided that, “the chronicle is complete. She has gone from baby to young woman. If anything proves that your child grows up in the blink of an eye, it’s seeing these pictures all together and realizing that the first one was only a heartbeat away from the last.”

swimsuit project, DIY, children, activities, photography, patience

The Original Project via Parents Magazine, August 2006

The article in Parents was Heck’s photo essay of the very project that caught her eye. Like Heck, I was struck by the simplicity of the project, the patience required, and the unique approach in cataloging a child’s growth and development.  I decided that I was going to do this project with, and for, M. We started that night, with my Lands End Tunic Bathing Suit. When C was born, we had hung up the bathing suit from M’s two year photo shoot and I began thinking about what C could wear when it was her turn.  A dress that I knew I would never again wear, but was loathe to part with became her outfit.  For V, a Peter Pan Collared shirt from J.Crew that I could not make work, despite my best efforts.

swimsuit project, diy, photography

M at age 1 through 9

 

swimsuit project, photography, DIY, pinterest

C at ages 1 through 7

 

swimsuit project, photography, DIY, pinterest

V, ages 1-3

I happily relinquish those items to my girls, though, because as time goes by and the photos begin to grow in number, I am overwhelmed at how much my little ladybugs have grown and changed.  Certainly, I had the fortune of seeing this project while my first born child was still young, but I think it’s one that is never too late to start.  A similar take on this project is snapping a pic of your little person in your wedding gown (or menswear equivalent) and then (if you can manage it) bringing that photo out when they get engaged or married.  Use it for the save the date or something.

My advice? Don’t overthink it.  Choose something meaningful to you and snap a photo of it.  Remember to do it around the same time every year. Be patient. Before you know it, you’ll have captured something so mind-blowing and precious, you’ll be patting yourself on the back for reading this post!

If you take on this project, what item would you choose for your little person to wear? Tell me about it in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hilary With One L: Hair Wizard

February 9, 2015

Both M and C have American Girl Dolls.  M has Cecile and C has Addy.  They begged and cajoled, wheeled and promised, anything, anything if they could have these dolls.  What’s a mother to do?

Stop listening to a 9 year old and 7 year old and listen to her gut.

They dolls aren’t played with. Not really. M and C make them dance around a bit now and then, but for the most part, Cecile and Addy are posted up on M’s nightstand and C’s bed, respectively. Sometimes, Hurricane V will come through the room and undress Cecile and Addy, unbraid their hair, and scatter their accessories around before tiring of this destruction and turning her attention to something else.

Cecile and Addy are left looking like the opening scene of Law and Order: SVU.    M and C get bent out of shape with V, but just end up just leaving the dolls naked and in disarray.  These very expensive dolls that they begged, cajoled, wheeled and promised me anything, anything for if I would buy them, are left naked and splayed out.  Even the Velveteen Rabbit got more love that these two.

When I’m straightening up the girls’ rooms, and I see the dolls cast away like so many other Happy Meal inserts, pantless Barbies and broken crayons, I just shake my head. I hear my own mother’s voice in my head, “I’m not buying you another single doll until these dolls have some clothes on!”.  I’ve used that line with very little impact; naked Barbies abound in the playroom.  When it comes to the American Girl Dolls, though, I’m going to have to stick to my guns.  I find myself dressing Cecile and Addy, sitting quietly on the bed, pulling on socks, lacing up shoes, finding the little gloves and matching hats.  I take the hair ties from around my own wrist and use it to secure a very neat French braid or Dutch braid that I’ve given the doll. Yes, I’m spending my own time, playing caring returning these playthings back to some sort of recognizable state.

American Girl Dolls, Addy, Cecile, DIY

BFFs

When M and C discover what I’ve done, it’s never met with any kind of thanks. I think they assume the doll fairy, cousin of the Tooth Fairy or something, flies in and takes care of business.  Things continue along as usual, with the dolls standing around until Hurricane V rolls through again. M has said that if they had more accessories for the dolls, like Addy’s ice cream set or Cecile’s canopy bed, as well as more outfits and so forth, they’d play with the dolls all.the.time.   Right, let me run on out and get that for you.

The last time V disrobed the dolls, leaving pantaloons and socks in her wake, M and C were more upset than usual.  Evidently, the hair on both Addy and Cecile has been literally, bent out of shape.  No amount of palm smoothing, brushing with the accessory brush or finger de-tangling was going to get the knots, frizz and general rattiness under control.  M implored me to fix Cecile’s hair. In her way of thinking, if I can do her hair, if I can do her sisters’ hair, well, then I can do the doll’s hair, too.  “Mom,” she said earnestly, “you’re like a hair wizard”.  That’s some high praise right there.  But, flattery will only get you so far.  Gently, I explained to her that the kind of hair sprouting out from Cecile and Addy’s heads wasn’t going to respond the way her hair did.  Not one to be defeated, M suggested I  “go on the interwebs and You Tube it!”, it being ways and means on how to restore the hair of their respective dolls to their former glory.

This is where we are in this life. I didn’t have an American Girl Doll growing up, but if I did and her hair got all kinds of kinked out, my mother would have shrugged her shoulders and said something like, “I told you to take care of it,” walking off with an air of “too bad, so sad,” trailing behind her.  Fast forward 25 years and my daughters are giving me tips on what to do to solve this problem.  And the thing is, they aren’t wrong in their suggestions.  A quick visit to Google turned up pages of American Girl Doll fan sites and

It’s not like we haven’t been done this road before.  Last year, during spring break, I tried to to get the girls playing with some toys that hadn’t been loved on in a while. I broke out M’s Bitty Baby, an another American Girl family member, but M was decidedly against playing with her since her hair looked like this:

  bitty baby, American Girl Doll, doll hospital It’s no surprise that the amount of love shown to this doll is directly proportional to the ease M has when trying to brush this doll’s hair.  The easier the brush moves through the hair, the more she plays with it, the more she loves on it.  There had not been a whole lot of hair brushing going on as of late and this doll has been relegated to the bottom of the toy bin.Thinking I could remedy the situation with the hair and in turn rekindle the romance between M and the doll, I went to Pinterest in search of a de-tangling recipe to alleviate the knots and tangles in this mane.  The fact that I was even doing this was mind boggling even to myself. I wanted to find a quick and dirty trick that would just get things going.  The recipe I settled on called for one part fabric softener mixed with three parts water in a spray bottle.  Spritz the offending tresses and then brush your way into tame locks. photo 1 Fabric softener? Check. Waterbottle? Check. American Girl Doll hair brush where I thought it would be when I needed it?! Check. I was ready to go.Now, before I continue, let me just make the observation: Of all the pins that I saw related to this doll hair de-tangler, none of the pins – NOT ONE – had an American Girl Doll getting her ‘do done.  They were mostly Rapunzel dolls or Barbie Styling heads. In my estimation, doll hair is doll hair. I whipped up the water/fabric softener cocktail and got down to business.There’s a reason why there were no American Girl Dolls in the pins with the doll hair de-tangler.  See, it wasn’t until I was brushing out clumps of sweet mountain lake scented wet doll hair that it occurred to me, “Hmm, maybe I should have looked up how to care for this hair on the American Girl website.”  So, with soggy fingertips, I Google searched American Girl Doll hair care on the iPad.

Guess what?

You don’t use doll hair de-tangler on American Girl Dolls.  Like ever. If you have a curly hair American Girl Doll, such as the one we have, you should only use water and your fingers to de-tangle and style the hair. Here was my face when I read that last part:

Of course you do.

So, I gave the doll’s hair an epic rinse before breaking out all of my hair implements in order to wrangle it back into some semblance of a style.  And of course, I was trying to do this as covertly as possible lest M wander through the kitchen and spy what I’ve done to her doll, thereby rendering it persona non grata in her purview.  About half a dozen hair balls later, I ended up with this:

photo 3

Not great, but not bad. And here we are about a year later with more dolls in need of hair care.  So knowing what not to do, I am going to jump in to figure out what I should do for this particular type of hair.  More googling confirms that finger detangling is the way to go to restore hair like Cecile’s.  As for Addy’s, the recommendations include Downy Dunk, finger detangling combined with toothbrush styling, or just straight-up washing with baby shampoo.  The more links I clicked, the more information spooled out. The more information that spooled out, the more it was beginning to look like Addy and Cecile were going to be added to the wash day line-up, right beside M, C, and V.  “Washing and styling” two more heads? To you sir, I say no, no, and again no.

The biggest take away in this entire exercise has been that I would rather fill out paperwork and send them both to the American Girl Doll hospital for a “wellness check” and “hair styling” (i.e. swap out the old head for a new one), rather than spend a Sunday afternoon finger styling synthetic hair on a doll that I spend more time interacting with than it’s nominal owners.

Yes, there is a teachable moment here. Yes, I will more than likely set up both M and C with the various tools needed to transform our kitchen into a doll sized hair salon. And once we have successfully coiffed Cecile and Addy, they’ll be returned to their respective perches for V to have at when none of us expect it. And I will continue to dress them, match their socks and shoes, and keep them as close to pristine as possible.   It would seem I’ve gotten my very own — well, two — American Girl Doll, afterall. Better late than never, I suppose.

Recipe Friday : Pad See Ew

January 7, 2015

The first complete week of January is behind us and I’m doing pretty well with my “no-resolution” resolutions.  Last time I checked, still the same ol’ Hilary with One L as before.  Not to break my own arm patting myself on the back, but not bad. Not bad at all.

As for my foray into the organization of the linen closet, I plan to visit Target (again) this week-end.  Something is getting organized, dang it! I’ve taken more measurements. I’ve pretty much crawled into Pinterest and camped out there as I consider all the linen closet storage and organization options I have.  What I have discovered, is that not many of those “before” closets look like my current closet.  With respect to dimensions and layout, most of the closets I’ve seen pinned are probably no more than 4 or 5 feet across, like a traditional coat closet. My closet is a little longer than that, which means I’ve had to shift my aspirations of pairs or trios of bins and buckets.  I’m going to need quads and quintets, I think.

All that rummaging around Pinterest turned up a lot of other goodies, too.  I’ve already cataloged a couple of non-food Valentine’s Day treats for school. I found some outfit ideas for this winter weather that has wanting to just walk around in sweatpants all day.  There was this gel eyeliner hack that I saw that I am definitely going to try the next time I get dolled up.

Scotch tape as a guide to applying eyeliner for a flawless cat-eye.  Yeah, I’m definitely going to try that because this is my current eyeliner situation:

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I know I’m not the only one, right? Right.  But, back to my new finds on Pinterest.  There are some new hairstyles that I plan to try on the girls, provided they sit still long enough.  There are some hairstyle how-to’s to help me on my #growit #noheat hair challenge.   On my craft board, there are some nifty DIY crafts that I want to try. I’m determined to make some Sharpie Mugs that don’t flake off or wash off after one use! Oh, and the food board.  Can’t forget about my bestie!  Even though I’m still working this clean cleaner moderately clean-ish eating plan, I still make regular meals for the kids. Yeah, I know I said I wasn’t going to be a short-order cook, but many a plate went uneaten (theirs) and many a tear was shed (theirs again) when I served up something that wasn’t 1). Sushi for M 2). Chicken wings for C,  3). Chocolate for V, or 4). Anythinganything, from a restaurant.  While some may argue that the kids should eat what the parent eat and that I’m making more work for myself by making separate meals. . .yeah, I don’t have a response to that except that I tried it and it didn’t work. So, I’m doing what works for me.  This recipe for Thai Stir Fried Noodles works just fine.

Happy Friday, y’all!

 

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DIY Fall Wreath or How I Spent My Tuesday Night

October 27, 2014

The Hubs travels for work during the week, leaving me with lots of minutes without any adult interaction.  After a day filled with running to and from school, lessons, grocery stores and the like, I get the children bathed, fed and in the bed with a precision that makes the military take notes.  This, however, has lead to a persistent problem that once the house is settled and quiet, I have just enough energy to flip over to the Property Brothers and do very little else.

I’m trying to break myself out of that habit, with moderate success.  Part of the problem was that after the girls would tuck in, so would I — a little dessert, a little glass of wine, and the next thing I know, it’s 10pm.  Apropos of nothing — not even the tightening of my waistband — I decided that my nightly routine was going to change.  While I couldn’t just leave the kids unattended for a quick run, nor did I want to try to jump-start my brain into doing tasks that are best reserved for when I’m in top mental form (hello, mornings with coffee), I decided to get crafty.

I’m a creative person and derive a real sense of satisfaction from making something out of nothing.  Some projects come easier to me than others, but I do love a challenge.  I decided that I wanted to add some pops of color to the house for fall, never mind that Christmas decorations are already available in most stores and fall is about to be officially over in a matter of weeks.

I decided I would make a wreath. Growing up, my mom could take some pine-cones, a few sprays of hydrangeas, a couple of sprigs of greenery and before you could say “Fall Foliage”, she’d have crafted a beautiful wreath or centerpiece.  I had a glue gun, an A.C. Moore rewards card and half a dozen Pinterest ideas: I was to step into her crafting shoes.

Tuesday afternoon, armed with my list of supplies and a fist full of coupons, I hit the craft stores, tossing items into the cart like Supermarket Sweep.  I gave myself an hour to get what I needed and get out.  That was more than enough time to choose my items, check-out and still be on time for pick-up.  Besides, I’m comfortable in the craft store, so I knew I didn’t have to run up and down aisles looking for things, or seeking out store clerks who are crabbing their way to the exits for their smoke breaks.

My list had 5 items on it.

I came home with twice that and then some.

The problem was, I had narrowed down my Pinterest pins to two wreaths.  They were very similar and I decided to blend the elements that I liked best from each.  That meant spending an inordinate amount of time in the floral department looking for sprigs, sprays, and other accoutrements to coordinate with this melded vision.  Tickety-tock went the clock and I just clotheslined the shelf into the cart and boogied out of there.

The boogieing didn’t stop there — I got the kids in the car, we ran some errands, we came home. They did homework, piano, read library books.  I sent them upstairs to bathe.  They came downstairs for dinner.  They ate and I cleaned up the detritus from the afternoon. I sent them upstairs to get ready for bed.  They came down, pj’s sticking to them where they forgot to dry off from their baths,  for dessert.  They ate dessert and I cleaned up the detritus from bath time.  I sent them upstairs to brush their teeth. They came down for more hugs and kisses. I sent them upstairs for tuck-ins.  They came down for to remind me to come upstairs for tuck-ins. This bedtime routine has more steps than the tarantella, but finally, we got heads in beds and butts between sheets.

I finished up the remaining household chores that needed my attention before turning to my bag o’crafts.  This was the turning point in the evening.  Do I reach for the remote or do I reach for the glue gun? I looked at my watch: 9:25pm.
Crap.

But, I was already committed, so I spread out my wares and got to work.

I made it about 45 minutes — the time it took me to cover that 9″ letter D in jute twine — before packing it all up and calling it a night. Still, it was very relaxing and faintly hypnotic, sitting on the floor, glue gun at my hip, wrapping, wrapping, wrapping jute twine over the curves of that wooden letter.  I went to bed that night with the sent of hot glue in my nostrils.

Wednesday was another hit the ground running type of day.  My big girls get out a little early on Wednesdays so I had to be judicious with my time if I wanted to get everything done.  I woke up wanting to work on my wreath. I had this overwhelming urge to finish it and hang it immediately.  The satisfaction that comes with the successful completion of a craft is pretty powerful. I can see why and how Martha Stewart built an empire.

I burned through my work-out that morning, hit the dry cleaners, the library, the bank and the grocery store in record time. I got V fed and down for her nap giving me an hour to work on the wreath before having to rouse her for the afternoon second round.  I spread out my materials, plugged in my glue gun and got down to business. With “Measure twice, cut once” pinging around in my head, I started to place my foliage, my letter, and my ribbons around the wreath.  I arranged and re-arranged. I snipped and clipped.   I went through an entire 15ft roll of burlap ribbon before deciding not to use it as a bow like I had originally planned, but to weave it around the wreath for added dimension.  As the clock marched towards pick up time, I was both frustrated and exhilarated.  Frustrated because I was enjoying myself and didn’t want to stop.  Exhilarated because I was enjoying myself and didn’t want to stop.  I knew that even if I didn’t finish the wreath that afternoon, I could work on it that evening.  Overwhelmingly, though, was the desire to finish it, hang it and admire it in the daylight hours.

You can guess which option I chose.

 

When I hung my wreath upon the door, stepped back to admire my work, I almost broke my arm patting myself on the back.  Victory is mine!

Wednesday night, the girls and I did our usual bedtime pas de deux. I showed them the wreath before they went upstairs and was met with completed incredulity.

C: You made that? You? Made that?

M: Really? No, seriously. Really?

I texted a picture of the wreath to my mom:

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I spent Thursday and Friday re-potting some mums to strategically place on the front stoops along with several pumpkins.  Saturday, I cleaned inside the house, and decided to repaint the powder room at 9;45 in the evening (#epicfail). Sunday, found me back on Pinterest, looking at old boards for some decorating ideas for the aforementioned powder room.  The Hubs was home and saved me from myself (and the coat of Stonington Gray that was everywhere except the walls).

Now it is Monday and the Hubs on the road once again.  Dancing With the Stars will be on this evening and I can feel myself sliding back into the evening routine of sloth, the cold, curve of the plastic remote in my hand.

Better get on Pinterest and see what I can find.  Christmas is coming, afterall.

 

Recipe Friday: Curly Hair Cocktails

August 15, 2014

I have been struggling with my hair lately.  I had gone for a trim earlier in the summer to get rid of this really wonky looking curly rat-tail that has migrated from the base of my skull down to the nape of my neck.  This was not business in the front and party in the back. It was just yuck and it had to go.  So, my stylist snipped a little here, snipped a little there and it came out really well.

It was kind of a tapered bob that I thought I could maintain.  Key word: thought. See, with curly hair, there are different schools of thought on how it should be cut. Should it be cut wet? You’d think so, but then you’ll be in for a surprise when it dries and shrinks up.  Should it be cut dry? You’d think so, but you even dry, the amount of shrinkage from root to shaft varies from day to day. Some days, my hair looks longer than other, because some days I air dry and some days I diffuse dry.  It’s a crap shoot.

After a couple of weeks, my head began to look as though the rat tail just slid over about 3 inches to the right.  I started wearing a bun and a visor, 24/7.  I was worried about shedding and breakage and low porosity and high porosity; it’s a wonder I didn’t worry myself into looking like Mr. Clean.

Truth be told, I started to entertain the idea that I would just big chop my hair one more time.  If this rat tail was determined to assert itself, I was just going to have to assert myself more.  I’m cool with a  tabla rasa ‘do.  It’s just hair and it’ll grow back.  Yo Lee, one of my guest bloggers from earlier in the month, did a Big Chop and wears her hair extremely close.  She looks phenomenal.   My friend Denise, whom you met when she guest blogged on Monday of this week just did a Big Chop and it’s flawless.

I’ve had my phone in my hand, with my thumb hovering over my stylists number, all week.

Before I go ahead and lop it off, though, I decided to give my hair one more try.  I am a part of several boards on FaceBook devoted to natural hair. I’m constantly on Pinterest looking for tips and tricks, as well as other sites such as CurlyNikki.com, BlackGirlLongHair.com, KinkyCurlyCoilyMe.com and a whole host of others.  There is so much information out there. I had to find some products that I could easily find, easily apply, and easily tame the wonky curl pattern at the back of my head. Not only that, these products had to work for me, and Snap, Crackle and Pop. That’s not too much to ask for, right?

Behold the products that are currently in our arsenal.

  • Spray Bottles
  • Organix Moroccan Argan oil infused shampoo, conditioner, and renewing treatment
  • Almond oil,
  • Coconut Oil
  • Jamaican Castor Oil
  • Vitamin E Oil
  • Lavender Oil
  • Kinky Curly Come Clean Shampoo
  • Kinky Curly  Knot Today Leave In Conditioner
  • Jane Carter Solution Twist Out Foam
  • Tresemme Naturals Sulfate Free Conditioner
  • Aloe Vera Juice
  • Distilled Water
  • Vegetable Glycerin
  • Garnier Fructis Frizz Free Serum
  • Deva Curl Poo Zero Lather Conditioning Cleanser
  • Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie
  • As I Am Coconut Co-Wash, Leave In Conditioner, Curl Jelly, and Curl Defining Butter Cream
  • Not pictured: assorted wide tooth combs and detanglers and four different sets of rollers (perm rods, flexi rods, curl formers and plastic rollers)

It’s kind of ridiculous now that I look at it.

In my defense, though, I do have four heads of hair to do at least once a week.  I’m very conscious of how often we’re moisturizing, how often we go to get our ends clipped, and how much water we drink in order to hydrate our curls from the inside out.  I limit the amount of heat I put on our hair. I’m doing every step I can think of to keep shedding down, curls elongated and the tangles at bay.

Well, that’s not entirely true — I do skip the hot oil treatment only because I can’t find 20 minutes to do the treatment properly.  I know, that’s a weak excuse, and just my luck, my lack of follow-through is probably why the rat tail blossomed in the first place. I suppose if I have time to fit a Chipotle run into my schedule, I can carve out the time to treat my scalp, too.

Anyway, my research on the internet has provided some interesting results.  There were a few weeks when I was trying to counter, if not prevent, the damage daily swim practice was wreaking on the girls’ hair. I found a website that offered 5 different hydrating moisturizing mists that you could make yourself.  I went to Whole Foods and bought Vitamin E oil, raw honey, vegetable glycerin, lavender oil, aloe vera juice and brought it all home. The kitchen looked like a mad scientists lab crossed with the Chopped Kitchen.

We started with a sweet honey moisturizing mist. Basically, take distilled water, coconut oil, viatmin E oil, raw honey and lavender oil.  Put it in a spray bottle, shake and apply.

From the website,  “Honey is extremely versatile in its uses and works well in your natural hair. Honey is a humectant and will help your hair to attract and retain moisture and prevent frizz. Coconut oil is a moisturizing oil that will penetrate your follicles and add moisture from the inside out. Lavender adds a nice fragrance to the oil and also helps soften your natural hair.”

This combo did all of those things, but it also made the girls’ hair sticky, despite my adherence to the proper quantities of each ingredient.  You know that saying, “You get more flies with honey than with vinegar”? I now know exactly how many flies you get.

We scrapped that one after two weeks and tried and aloe and lavender moisturizing mist, which again included several oils and aloe vera juice instead of water.

From the website, “This simple yet phenomenal spray will not only help moisturize your natural hair but will also help soften dry strands. Aloe Vera and lavender oil help strengthen your hair strands while coconut oil adds moisture to dull hair. You could also use apricot or olive as an alternative to coconut oil.”

This one worked pretty well, but I think I may have misread which oils to include because I could have sworn it said you could substitute sesame oil for coconut, almond, or apricot.

Which I did.

To which M said, “Mom, I smell like Chinese Food.”

Time to step away from the computer and the wealth of information.

That was about two weeks ago.  We’ve been using leave in conditioner to help keep our hair moisturized while we were at the beach.  It worked, but it also saved every single grain of sand onto the girls’ scalps.  We’re back to two strand twists for them until next week when they get their Back to School bi-annual hair cuts.  I’ve been trying to come up with the best way to style their hair (and mine) that won’t leave them (or me) in tears.  So, back to the boards I go.

I had read on another board that their Coconut Co-wash is extremely good and ended up ordering some, along with their Curl Defining Butter Cream in order to do the two strand twists (I know, it’s time for a product intervention).  Shortly after I placed the order, a friend of mine posted how she recently tried As I Am products, and was throwing away all of her other products because the results were amazing.

I was intrigued to say the least and when my package came in the mail, I decided to try her methods and chronicle my results.

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I started with a product laden, sweated out wash and go (top left).  I finger detangled last night with some Jamaican Castor oil and just bunned up the sections. In the morning, I went to the gym sporting pig tails. When I came home, I took my hair down to finger detangle before I jumped into the shower (top right). I used the As I Am Coconut Co-Wash and the Leave In Conditioner, per the directions on the labels.  In the shower, I detangled with my fingers and with my wide tooth comb. I did have some shedding, but no more or less than usual.  Then using the Miss Jessie’s shingling technique (which I’ve never done before),  I put in the Curling Jelly (bottom left).

I sat under the dryer with the heat on low for 30 minutes (bottom middle). Then I fluffed it out with some Jamaican Castor oil on my palms to help reduce frizz (bottom right).  Including the time under the dryer and assorted maintenance in the shower, this took me about an hour, maybe an hour and 15 minutes.  That’s typical for a wash day.

In my opinion, my hair has some massive shrinkage, but the curls are well defined.  If I do this again, or if I do it on Snap, Crackle and Pop, I will reduce or eliminate the time under the dryer. Or maybe I’ll just hit the roots with the diffuser.  There are still lots of options.  My hair feels just a touch crunchy, but nothing that’s overwhelming.

Tonight will be the true test of the success of this method when I put the satin bonnet on and go to sleep.  I’m not sure if I should pineapple it, bun it, or leave it.  Decisions, decisions.   In the morning, I plan to spray with distilled water and fluff out. 

I’ll keep you posted, hopefully with better pictures (i can’t get the hang of selfies at all).

Happy Friday, y’all!

From the Archive: Black & White Wednesday – Freckles

July 30, 2014

 

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I’ve really been feeling freckles.  Spending time outdoors, even with sunscreen and hats, the sun does find a way to my face, making my freckles pop.    We all know that warmer temps mean more skin hanging out, but using sunscreen and other protective gear to prevent burns, blisters, and sun related skin disease is a good rule of thumb year round. Just a little PSA for you.
Hemlines have been steadily rising in conjunction with the thermometer. There’s lots of  exposed expanses of calf, knees and thighs. Collars have been peeled away and necklines have dipped nto more relaxed positions.  Clavicles and the sweet nape of the neck are  showing with with more reckless abandon. Sleeves stripped off, shoulders unabashedly uncovered! Beauty marks, cafe au lait spots, and freckles, freckles, freckles are springing up.
I’ve pared down my beauty routine significantly to let my natural beauty show.  I’ve put away the concealer and foundation in favor of my SPF laced tinted moisturizers.

I’ve heard that freckles are where God and the angels kissed you before you left heaven.  Every summer, as the sun draws them into view, I see count new kisses and, I fall in love with with each of them.

 

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