Sunday, January 31, 2010

Family Fun . . . Chicago Style!

Another great weekend of CREATING for me - this time, it was * * creating * * some fun adventures with my family (remember - CREATING, to me, is not just art or words. It's memories, too!) So, we decided to do something fun with the girls that we have never done before, and took them to the Museum of Science and Industry in downtown Chicago.

I Love this Museum.

It's amazing that I live near (just about 45 minutes south) this FANTASTIC CITY - yet I rarely enjoy it or take advantage of what it offers. PG and I have made it our goal to change that this year. And we have decided to take at least one day a month and bring the girls into the city - for FAMILY FUN! Today - Museum of Science and Industry.

I haven't been to this museum in probably 15 years. So much of it has changed, but much of it was the same. Personally, my favorite part of the museum has always been the Colleen Moore Fairy Castle. I could get LOST in that room staring at that amazing doll house and dreaming. I actually think I DID dream once, when visiting the castle as a young girl, and dreamt of being a princess and living in a place just like that. It was wonderful to bring my own daughters there now, and see their eyes light up at the magic of that castle. So cool.

We also went through a
really awesome exhibit about The White House that I just loved. I love history and learning about this amazing house (and seeing a miniature version of it) was breathtaking. Really - just a great exhibit.

And a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry just would NOT be complete without a stop at Yesterday Main Street. If you live in Chicago and have ever visited this museum - you know all about this little section of the museum that brings you to the 1910's and let's you see what the store fronts of that time would have looked like. When I was a young child, I loved this part of the museum, too. Seeing it now as an adult still has the special feeling associated with it, although it is much smaller than I remember and seemed to have less in it than I thought. Still - such fun.

And finally, a visit to this part of the museum must ALWAYS include taking the souvenir photo in the classic 1902 motor car with vintage hats and accessories. We HAD to do that, and I HAVE to share the photo with you . . .

Katie had to drive the car, while PG and I took the back seat. The lady taking our picture was such fun and caught us all at a great moment. After the "smiling" picture, we switched driver's and Ella took a turn behind the wheel. Just before taking the photo, the photographer said, "Ok, let's pretend you're in a crash and let's take this one with all of you acting shocked and surprised. .."

Well . . . you know us. We are a pretty dramatic family - each one of us. So, we each put on our best "shocked" face. . . that is . . . except for Ella. Ella's face was absolutely FANTASTIC, as the driver of the car. And the picture turned out even better than the first one . . .


We laughed so hard after seeing it. Ella's reaction behind the wheel is absolutely priceless! And totally worth the $5 the photo cost (we HAD to buy both!)

So, we * * CREATED * * some fantastic memories for our family today. I hope you had a great weekend, too. What did you do?

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Birthday Girl!



HAPPY 3rd BIRTHDAY

ELLA FRANCES!!!

Three years ago the world became a little brighter when my Ella Frances joined it. Since then, my life has been even better than before (when I didn't even know it could be). In three years, she has taught me that:

  • Having your face held in the hands of a child is the best feeling there is.
  • Being told "You're a Great Mommy" by a 2 year old can make everything worth it.
  • WASHABLE markers are really the very best invention in the world.
  • MR. CLEAN DRY ERASERS are the second very best invention.
  • The Wizard of Oz is really a magical movie.
  • Playing with flour is really so much fun.
  • Two dimples can get you absolutely anything.
  • The Wii game CAN be conquered by a toddler.
  • There is nothing wrong with eating cookie dough.
  • "Tooting" done by a 2 year old can be very funny.
  • Hannah Montana does have some great music.
  • It is OK to not rock your child to sleep - they will learn how to put themselves to sleep on their own.
  • PG really is the very best Father I've ever met.
  • "We're All Family" are the sweetest words I've ever heard.
  • and that the biggest lesson I've learned from Ella the past three years . . .

I actually can do this Mom thing.
SHE is proof of it. SHE is wonderful.
Happy Birthday, Ella!
I love you more than words can say.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pass the Geritol, please!

So, I've been creating. Like CRAZY! If you remember way back when in December, when I shared my 2010 Word with you (click there to be reminded), I explained that my goal for the New Year was to CREATE. Anything and Everything. Scrapbooks, journals, delicious meals and yummy desserts (I found a new banana cake recipe that is to DIE for, I'll share it with you at another time). But, let me tell you . . . I'm pretty proud of myself so far. For I have been a creating MACHINE!!!! (Well, sort of. . . )

Last week, I worked on a NEW project that I just have to share with you. And before I go into it . . . I will ask you, please, DO NOT JUDGE me. Please. Let me share with you my story, and perhaps you will look at it in a different light.

The inspiration for my most recent creation is my kitchen. Here is a photo of part of that room.
Last year PG and I had it painted in (what I call) Robin's Egg Blue, and Chocolate Brown. I love the color combination, and I LOVE my kitchen. Of course, I would love if it were bigger and had more cabinet and counter space. I would love for a larger eating area. But - it is what it is, and it is warm and inviting and the great heart of our home. And I LOVE it.

So now, without further ado . . . I give you . . . . my most recent . . . CREATION.
Yes, a Plastic Canvas Napkin Holder. Yes, It Is! And I am PROUD OF IT!!! So, THERE!

Now, I'll remind you . . . I asked you to PLEASE DO NOT JUDGE ME! Let me tell you why this plastic canvas napkin holder is so important to me, and why I was absolutely thrilled to CREATE it last weekend.
I was first introduced to Plastic Canvas probably 30 years ago by my Grandmother, Josephine. Josephine was an absolutely amazing woman who I will have to tell you more about at a later time. But she was the original crafter in our family, and was the family member responsible for all things handmade and fabulous. Every holiday in our house was celebrated with handmade favors, chotchkies, or corsages that Grandma made for each of us. She was fantastic, and all her craftie goodies were just as fantastic as her. Many of them were made with (you guessed it) . . . plastic canvas (gotta love it!)

Grandma also had a really awesome napkin holder that was made out of plastic canvas. She had a couple of them, actually, and my sister is the proud owner of one of them, and my mom has the other. I'll have to take a photo of their napkins holders to show you - for they were designed like a house with windows and doors and so plastic canvasie charming that they are still being adored and used by my Mom and Sister.

When I was a young girl, I remember sitting with Grandma and working on various plastic canvas projects. She was always so proud of me and so encouraging in what I did, and I loved her for that. I remember making a whole bunch of plastic canvas stuff for the bathroom in my parents house that my Dad primarily used (a kleenex box, a towel holder, a cup holder, etc.) and I remember my Dad proudly displaying my * * CREATIONS * * in his room. So incredibly sweet.

Fast forward to last week, when my mother-in-law started talking about plastic canvas and her wish to introduce Katie to the hobby. I had flashbacks of my own Grandma teaching me how to make things, and I was hooked. So my dear mother-in-law went to the library and took out books of patterns and even found websites with patterns available (yes, believe it or not . . . there is a whole plastic canvas cult out there!), and purchased various sheets of plastic canvas and yarn. I found myself sitting at her kitchen table, feeling like a kid in a candy store, and secretly wishing that I, too, would make something. That was all it took. And within a couple of days . . . my very own napkin holder.

PG was so encouraging this past weekend, as I excitedly would show him my progress hour by hour. It wasn't until the last stitch was done and the napkins were displayed ever so gently that he turned to me and said, "Can I get you your GERITOL now?" While I smacked his arm (and laughed), inside I knew that, yes, this may be a very old lady thing to do. But I know that Grandma Josephine is looking down and smiling at me and absolutely thrilled that something she taught me 30 years ago made me so happy today, 30 years later.

I'm making a kleenex box, next. And I can't wait!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My Extra Special Package

So, I made an unauthorized purchase last week. Unauthorized purchases are those that are made without the spouse knowing. And while it was unauthorized when it was made, my catholic guilt got the best of me, and I fessed up to it just days after making it.

My unauthorized purchase was for a book and a special art plaque by an incredible artist and writer, Kelly Rae Roberts. I stumbled upon her blog at least a year ago, while perusing the web for artists and inspiration. And I found exactly what I was looking for when I found her site. Her art inspires me. Her words motivate me. Her style brings a smile to my face and a joy in my heart.

For the past year I have * wished * upon * a * star * for her book & some piece of her art to join my life. And while I wished and wished, I also waited and waited for a time when finances weren't so rough and when it wouldn't seem too much of a bad thing to spend some $'s on myself. It's not that they were that expensive. It was more balancing the needs vs. the wants.

Anyway, last week I decided the time was right, and I really needed the book. So, I place my order and patiently waited for it's arrival. While ordering the book, an art plaque on her website just "spoke" to me (don't you love it when things "speak" to you?). I
had to order it. Yesterday, the package came. My heart skipped a beat when I saw the envelope by our front door. And when I read the envelope . . .

I knew I was in for a treat. "To the Lovely Leanne . . . " read the envelope. You see, that is what is so great about Kelly Rae. She is bright. She is inspiring. She is kind and sweet. I don't even know her. She doesn't know me - but just addressing my envelope that way (to the Lovely Leanne . . . ) sent instant joy into my day. And that is a really really COOL thing, don't you think?

So, here is the plaque that I treated myself to.

It reads all the amazing things that will help me with my goal for CREATING this 2010 Year (like, "Tell your Joy", "Own Your Talent", "Trust Your Creative Spirit", "Quiet the Inner Critic"). It's an amazing reminder of what I need to be reminded of, and I feel as if it was MADE for ME. (How Kelly Rae does that is truly a gift.) It's 4x6 size is perfect and all that I need to have a gentle reminder of focusing on my inner artist. It is now sitting in my bedroom where I will see it first thing every morning. What a great present to myself.

The book, "Taking Flight - Inspirations & Techniques to give your Creative Spirit Wings"
is just . . . beautiful. Her art is so whimsical and sweet, and I absolutely adore these characters she creates.

I can't wait to dive in and absorb the energy that Kelly Rae gives, and I encourage you to take a few minutes to explore her blog and her shop here. You may be surprised where her spirit may take you. I know that tonight, as PG travels and the girls are tucked snug in their beds . . . I have a date with this book, my couch, and a cup of tea. And tomorrow . . . I'm sure to CREATE something amazing! Thank You, Kelly Rae!

Monday, January 25, 2010

PG is out of town, again! : (

This is how I know . . .

. . . because everytime PG is out of town, it snows.

And right now, it is snowing.

That's ok. I received a special **PACKAGE** in the mail this afternoon. It made me smile. It inspires me so! And I'm going to share it with you tomorrow. So, stay tuned!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ella and her . . . Alien

"Mom . . . where did my alien go?" is the line I have heard about 100 times the past few nights, as I put Ella (or attempt to put Ella) to sleep. "Mom, the alien in my bed. Mom, where'd the alien go?" she'd ask. To which I'd always reply, "Oh, honey, there's no such thing as aliens."

"MOM . . . WHERE DID YOU PUT MY ALIEN?" she'd question, again, and again. I have to tell you . . .


this alien thing was getting OLD.


I have spent the past few nights going over 100 areas of concern for my Ella, as the loss of this "alien" was REALLY bothering her. I was about to put a moratorium on the Sci-Fi channel in our house, and had proof positive why "FUTURAMA" is not an appropriate show for our 3 year old, even if her father thinks it's perfectly fine for her. I was certain that the Avatar commercials her Daddy insists on watching over and over had finally taken toll on her sweet girl mind, and was about to ban visits to Uncle Claudio's house when his Star Wars/Star Trek Christmas Tree is up. I'm telling you . . . I was getting SERIOUS on the anti-Alien path in our house.

Then . . .

tonight . . . .

as I fixed Ella's covers and set her bed up for the night. . . .

I found . . .

THE ALIEN!

SERIOUSLY!

There actually IS an ALIEN!!!


But, you'll understand why I had such a hard time finding it the other nights . . . .

. . . I just never saw it under the covers.

It turns out that Daddy got the Alien for Ella out of a vending machine, when he took the girls bowling last week. I didn't even know the Alien existed (hmmm . . . ) but I sure was wrong. You'll be happy to know that the alien has been returned to the rightful 3-year old little girl owner. And yes, you guessed it. . . all is well in our Universe, again.

Good Night!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Transformation 1, 2, 3

HELLO Dear Strangers!!!! My . . . I am REALLY having a hard time with that "Multi-Creatively Challenged" issue that I brought up to you last week! So sorry I haven't posted in a while, but it's all been good for me. Today, specifically, was a pretty great day, and one that I really wanted to tell you about. You see, we had a major day of transformations in our home today . . . and it has left me feeling really really good. One was cleansing, one was rewarding, and the last symbolized growth. Each one was equally important enough to want tell you about them. So, allow me if you will, to share.

#1 - The Cleansing
Over the weekend I once again gathered with my scrapbooking girls and soaked up the creativity and inspiration I have come accustomed to from this great group of ladies. It also was a great opportunity to CREATE - (which, if you recall, was my GOAL for the new year)! At one point during the day we talked about life and setting expectations and reaching for them and working towards your goals. It was a great moment to cheer each other up and remind each other that we are each in charge of our own destiny. If we have a goal, we need to invision that goal and work towards it. And . . . we need to accept the lives we have. If we don't try to change what we want to change, it is our choice. We have no one to blame. This was a HUGE thing for me to discuss and contemplate, and I was so grateful for this conversation on Saturday. I needed it bad.

So fast-forward to today, when I walked into my kitchen and had an instant feeling of overwhelming stress. One that I knew HAD to change. You see, I have a messy corner in my kitchen. A REALLY messy corner. It is so bad, that this corner makes me think that I could easily turn into one of those hoarders that you see on those reality TV shows lately. My corner is hidden next to my refridgerator, and is luckily positioned where you might not see it when first entering the room - but visitors always managed to catch a glimpse of it when moving around in the room, and that really bothered me. My corner is so bad that . . . well . . . here it is. . . .
Ok. There. You saw my messy corner. It's out there now. I can't take it back. And actually . . . I don't want to. You see, today I kind of got it. I walked into the kitchen this morning and I realized that this corner really mad me angry. This corner really bothered me. THIS CORNER really needed to be changed. And all of a sudden . . . I could hear the words of the ladies from this weekend. I HEARD them say that if you had a goal (in my case . . . a CLEAN CORNER), that you needed to go towards it. That you needed to FIX IT. And that you had NO ONE to BLAME but yourself, if you didn't. It was as if all of a sudden the lightbulb went on, and I needed to CLEAN THAT CORNER! So, I started. . . I started sorting through piles of recipes, Katie's school papers and scrapbook magazines, and started to PUT THINGS WHERE THEY BELONG (genius idea, isn't it?) I actually PUT the tooth paste in the bathroom, and the craft supplies in the craft area in the house. Now, PLEASE don't think my whole house is this much of a mess. I swear it's not. But this corner . . . I don't know why - but it has always been the catch all. But NO MORE! My Mom stopped over while I was in the middle of this project, but I was in such a MESS-FREE CORNER MODE that I hardly visited with her (sorry mom!) You know, the Gemini in me just needed to address this right then and there. And I did. About 3 hours later (yes, 3 hours!), this is what I got to . . . I recognize that I still have SOME work to do (I mean, do I really need 3 tape dispensers? I don't think so.) But I think I made HUGE progress. And my goal now will be to take 15 minutes every day and make sure I keep it clutter free . . . and tackle any stuff that might creep back into it. But it was a huge transformation (#1 - The Cleansing) and I am proud of it.

#2 - The Reward
Around 2pm today my friend and plumber, John, came over to install my dishwasher. This dishwasher, to be exact. Now, it may look like an ordinary dishwasher to you. But to me, it represents so much more. Our dishwasher broke on Halloween night, right after our guests left our house and we had a pile of dishes loaded into the machine. About 10 minutes into the load I could smell something burning in the house (um - that can't be good!) and PG investigated long enough to find that our dishwasher was the cause of the burning. Bummer.

To make a long story short . . . we have been operating sans dishwasher ever since. You may recall I shared a while back that 2009 was financial nightmare for PG and I. Going out to charge a dishwasher was NOT something we were going to do. We knew that we would have to just hang in there until the time was right (oh, and the bank account, too.) So we passed the holidays with dish pan hands and counting pennies. We worked hard, we stayed focused. We dreamed of the days when Cascade would come calling and we hung in there. And I'm PROUD TO SAY . . . tonight, as I type these words to you, there is a DISHWASHER DOING MY DISHES!!!! WAHOOO!!! This is a HUGE transformation in our home (#2 - The Reward) and I am PROUD of us!

#3 - Growth
The final transformation in our home today is that of my darling oldest daughter, Katherine. For this evening I took her, at her request, for a haircut. I walked into the salon with a little girl, 6 years of age, and left with a BIG girl. Still 6. But growing up by the minute and becoming such a beautiful little lady. Here is my Katherine, and transformation #3. . .

Still sweet. But even more sassy (uh-oh). I don't think I can call her "Katie" anymore. When we walked into the house after getting her haircut, her Daddy looked at her and just covered his mouth as tears filled his eyes. I think we both saw a different Katie tonight. And that is a HUGE TRANSFORMATION (#3 - Growth) in our home. I am so proud of her.

So, my friends, that brings you up to speed on my amazing day. I'm so glad I was able to share it all with you, and look forward to sharing something else with you very very soon. Until then. . .

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thankfulness

I just received a phone call from PG . . . who is waiting for his luggage at the baggage terminal in Midway Airport in Chicago.

"Daddy is Home!!"
the girls are shrieking and jumping through the house in total delight. They have been so good for me, and they have missed their Daddy so very much.
Tonight we will all sleep very soundly,
for our universe is once again whole.

And while I am at Peace with my family . . .

. . . a candle for those suffering in Haiti.

May God Bless the people of this land and may the world come together to help those in need.

Peace

to You and Yours.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

She was So Proud of ME . . . and . . .

Ella is definitely a Daddy's girl. When PG is in town and home, there are few moments when she wants me. It's all about Daddy. Daddy must help her get dressed. Daddy must snuggle with her. Daddy must read her a book before bedtime. Daddy. Daddy. Daddy. Most of the time, I am pretty o.k. with all of that. But sometimes I get a little selfish and wish she would long for some Mommy love.

When PG is out of town (as he is now) - that's MY time with her. And I love each and every minute of it. I am off on Wednesdays, so those are REALLY one on one Ella and Mommy days (when Katie is at school.) Tonight Katie was invited to have dinner at a friends, so I found just Ella and I sitting at the table enjoying a lovely bowl of vegetable soup, and singing the ABC's. Really loud. Ella would sing first. Then I would sing. Some rounds we sang together. Some rounds not. Some rounds we sang while holding our mouths, as if "yelling" the ABC's to someone. Sometimes we sang with our eyes closed. It was however Ella wanted it to be, and it was a blast.

When I finished one of my solo ABC performances, Ella slowly clapped her hands and said, with the most endearing tone, "Mommy, you did a real good job. I am so proud of you." It was so sweet how she said that. So supportive and kind. I loved that.

But . . .

We are all real in this house. It's not all fairy tale.

About 2 minutes later, Ella spilled a spoonful of soup onto her lap. And she said . . .

"Oh, ssssssshhhhhhhhhhhiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii . . . (pause pause) . . . tttttttttttttttt."

"Oh, No! Ella! We don't say that word. What's the matter?" I said, while really trying to not laugh in front of her.

Knowing that she shouldn't use that word, she recovered by saying, "I don't say bad words. I know. But, Mommy, I dropped my celery."

Well, I immediately did what a Mommy should do, and reminded her that that was not a nice word and she should NOT say that word.

But I have to tell you, like mother like daughter. . . I would have probably reacted in a very similar way had I spilled my soup. And while I'm not happy that she picked up that word from the wide vocabulary of mine . . . I'm proud it was said at the right time. Ah, well.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday Morning Happiness

Happy Sunday!

It's day 7 of PG being out of town. For those of you who may not be familiar with me and my routines . . . day 6 of a long PG trip is usually when things start to turn UGLY in me. It's usually the time when I really start to feel burned out, stressed and like I'm loosing patience with the day to day CHAOS of our home. So last night, that was me . . . CRAZY UGLY Mommy. Ugh.

After a stressful night of attempting to get these two children (and, let me remind you . . . ONLY 2 children. You know, I think the Lord gives you what you can handle. Because I am certain if I had more than 2 I would probably turn into Mommy Dearest! I am in awe of those Moms out there who handle many MANY children. And then those single moms and dads who handle many children. You are ALL my heros!) I digress . . .

So, after a stressful night of attempting to get these two children into their pajamas and into bed, I found myself on the couch . . . asleep. I was drained. I managed to get my tired body into bed, and I was down for the count.

The next thing I know, it was 8:00AM and I woke to the quiet sound of movement in the kitchen. I wasn't sure which child I would find, or if they both were awake and into trouble. So, I quickly threw on my glasses and headed downstairs.

There, right before my eyes, was Katherine Josephine. With a grin from ear to ear. And a table prepared and ready for our morning breakfast . . .

"Good Morning Mommy!" she said. "I wanted to surprise you and have our breakfast all ready for us! I poured the juice, the cereal and the milk. And I made YOU oatmeal!"

She knows just how much I love oatmeal on a cold winter morning. It was at THAT moment that I found complete and total HAPPINESS in my CHAOS.

*Sigh*

PG is gone for another 4 days. And while we can't wait for him to return . . . I know that we will be just fine until then.

Wishing you ALL a Wonderful Sunday Morning, and Much Happiness in your Chaos, too!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Ella has discovered "The Wizard of Oz" and it has been playing, pretty much non-stop, in our house for the past week or so. It's funny how you can know a movie so well that you can recite practically every single line from it, with the same inflection and tone as on the film. It's also funny how a line from a movie that you have heard a million times before can suddenly hit you like a ton of bricks and make you think. Gees . . . I hate when that happens (the thinking.) It always disrupts my rather clueless state! ; )

Today I actually stopped what I was doing when I overheard the Wizard say to the Tin Man,

A heart is not judged by how much you love;
but by how much you are loved by others.

Seriously. I'm sure I have heard that line a gazillion times in my life. But today, it was almost as if it was the very first time. A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others. So great, isn't it? I'm going to let you ponder that for a day or two.

In addition to hearing these great quotes from the WOO (Wizard of Oz), I've had those damn Munchkins in my head for days (and I say that with love, really!)! Ask my Mother-in-law, Rita, who has unfortunately been the receiver of my solo GLEE performances at work . . . as I sing "We Welcome you to Munchkinland!" or "From now on you'll be history. You'll be Hist - You'll be Hist - You'll be History. And we will glorify your name. You'll be a bust, be a bust, be a bust, in the Hall of Fame!" I think I've been the receiver of a few flying paperclips this week! Ah, well!

Believe it or not, Ella LOVES when I sing along with the movie. I think she is just amazed that I actually know the words to it. It's pretty fun! So, if you haven't watched WOO in a while, pull it out and make a big bowl of popcorn. See what you might get out of it this time. It's filled with wonderful heartfelt messages that are sure to warm anyone during this cold winter weekend!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I am Multi-Creatively Challenged

Hi. My name is Leanne.

And I am "Multi-Creatively Challenged."

You see, I've been having an AWESOME WEEK doing some really creative things . . . and in doing so, I discovered a pretty big revelation about myself that I wanted to share with you. You see, I can not "Multi-Create" (another one of those 'Leanne Invented' concepts.) I seem to throw myself 110% into a project (this week = scrapbooking), and then I can't create anything else (this week = No inspiring and interesting Blog posts). So, while it bums me out that I loose my writing mind, I know that you (my faithful blog reader) will stand by and wait for me to come up with something inspiring to tell you about. Won't you? Oh, I do hope so.

Since I have nothing inspiring to write about . . . I thought I'd share with you a couple of the things I've been scrapbooking. First, a really cute Winter Wonderland mini-album.I can't take credit for ANY of it (it's a BoBunny kit that you can purchase here.) I just LOVED working on it and having this precious album in the end. We had a lovely little snow storm the week of Christmas and PG took some of the most adorable photos of the girls that I used for the Winter Wonderland Album. They were perfect! And the album kit was quick and easy - and really got me inspired to CREATE some other great stuff!

The next thing that I worked on and completed (YEA!!!) is my December Daily 2009 album. I wrote about it back here. I had kept up with it until around the 12th of December, then kind of let the project get away from me. I sat down yesterday and finished all of the remaining days, and wanted to share just a few of them with you.

While I can't take credit for the idea of this album (remember when I've told you about Scrapbook Goddess Ali Edwards? It's all her idea!), I can take credit for the idea and designs of the pages themselves. I stepped totally out of my comfort zone with this project, making it with a variety of sized pages and different textures and papers. I added more emblishments than I probably would use usually, and tried to make it a really FUN MESS of holiday stuff! I have to tell you, I am really happy with how this came out! It took more time than I thought it would, but the finished project is a lovely collection of this particular month in our lives that I am so happy to have. I will definitely do it again . . . maybe in a few years.

The other thing I have been spending time on this week, is my Big Picture Scrapbooking class. It's called "The Challenge of Me" and it has encouraged me to really focus on MYSELF in the New Year (a big change, but the timing is perfect!) It has forced me to ask questions to myself like, "What does LIFE mean to me?" and "Am I healthy?", "Who are my Role Models?" and a number of other really interesting questions that I probably have never really written about before. I am only 1 week into this 4 week course. The course was $25 dollars, and I have to tell you - it is worth it. I make myself sit down and scrapbook at least 1 hour every night, and it is inspiring me in so many ways. Definitely worth it. I'll share some of those pages when I get more completed.

So, now you see what I've been up to this week. That, and work, taking care of the girls (while PG is out of town), shoveling snow (which Chicago got a HUGE amount of today), and doing laundry . . . my days are kind of packed.

I hope to get some inspiration for a couple good Blog posts within the next couple days. I never understood writers block before (because I never really wrote until this blog). Now I completely get it. Thanks for hanging in there, though. And let me know what YOU are doing these days. I'd love to know!

Monday, January 4, 2010

I can FEEL it!

Wow! What a difference the New Year makes! At least, for me.

I'm feeling very energized this week, and am creating lots of new stuff already (YEA!!!) It is always a fantastic moment . . . when I am actually feeling the creative energy and letting it work itself through me. I've been Scrapbooking like CRAZY the past few days, and I'm SO thrilled with that. Scrapbooking has always been a great release for me, and I'm really in the zone right now.

PG is out of town. He just left today for 10 days away (bummer!), so I'll be using the ol'AMORE coffee cup for the next 10 mornings (sniff sniff.) But, we had an extremely productive weekend putting away Christmas decorations and getting the house de-Christmasized. Don't you love the words I come up with? I swear, I don't know why Websters isn't knocking on the door! ; ) Anyway, as much as I LOVE Christmas (and I'm pretty sure you know I do!), I equally love taking things down right after the first of the year. It seems like I'm always ready to pack away all the festive decorations, and focus on something new. So, Good Bye dear Tree! Good Bye dear Nutcrackers! "Parting is such sweet sorry! That I shall say good night till it be morrow!" (sorry - just need to break out in Shakespeare every once in a while.)

Now the house is clean, the furniture is rearranged (which is also something I need to do after the holidays), and it feels like there is a clean palette in my space . . . . Ahhh . . . I love that.

So, what better time to do something new? I started my very first Big Picture Scrapbooking class over the weekend. If you remember, it was #4 on my 2010 Ta Da! List. Oh, and I moved the exercise bike back to the family room (part of #2 on my List). I can't even believe that here I am, January 4th, and have already followed through on 2 Ta Da! items. Yes, 2010 is going to be an AMAZING YEAR. I can FEEL it. Can you???

This Big Picture Scrapbooking class I am taking is called "The Challenge of Me." It seems to have come along at really a perfect time. The whole idea is to take time to scrapbook about yourself and where you are in life right now. It's kind of another therapy session (oh, gees, not another one!) But I have to say, it is perfect for this New Year. It is helping me really take a good look at myself - no fanciness or fluff. Just me. As I am. I'll share some of my pages, as I get them completed.

That's all for now. Just a real quick update on me and life the past few days. I am feeling lots of good energy in the universe right now, and I really needed that. December had some bumps that wore me down and I'm so glad to have them behind. 2010 is feeling much better.

Before I leave, just one last Christmas photo. I've been trying to play around with my camera and my photography skills (blame Ta Da! #9). In my attempt, I've found that I now have about 25 pictures of my Christmas tree and another 100 photos of bits and pieces of decorations around our home. Thank goodness for digital cameras, or I'd be in BIG trouble. This is one of my favorites that I took of our tree.

I have so much to learn about photography. I have NO CLUE what I am doing . . . . and the books are like a foreign language to me. I'm in awe of the talented bloggers out there who have such an eye and brilliant skill for taking pictures. I need to rub elbows with some of them. (
Kiki! I need YOUR HELP!) But, I'm trying! I really am!

And remember, "Some pursue happiness. . . others CREATE it." Go out and CREATE some happiness today! I know I will!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

My 2010 Ta Da! List

Here we go, that time of year to make my list of what I want to accomplish this year. While CREATE is my WORD for the year, I have some specific things that I want to do to either assist in that word, or completely add to it. I do this each year. I don't call them resolutions . . . . don't know why. The "resolution" word just sounds too . . . painful. Silly, huh? Maybe it was all those years of seeing Bally's Chicago Fitness Club commercials on the TV, as they painfully reminded the viewer to resolve to get themselves in shape. Do I need a commercial to remind me of the terrible shape I'm in? Nope. I can do that all on my own. I digress. So, NO resolutions. Just Goals. For the new year.

As a matter of fact, I've decided to call it TA DA's!!!! Not "To-Do's!" TA DA sounds like it is more of an announcement of GREAT magnitude! With GREAT enthusiam! When I was in high school, our Choir Director often said, "Nothing great is ever achieved without enthusiasm!" She was so right. Let's start the New Year off with a little "Ta Da!" So, without further ado. . .

My 2010 Ta Da! List
  1. Make more time for PG and I. Take more "dates" with just the two of us, and laugh more together.
  2. Ride my exercise bike at least 4 times a week. (I actually was doing pretty good with this until Christmas day, when the bike went back down in storage to make way for our dining table to be set up. The table is down, again. But the bike hasn't come back up. Time to pull it out today!)
  3. Illustrate my "Cupcake" story (will share that with you when the time is right!)
  4. Take a Big Picture Scrapbooking class (or two, or three!)
  5. Send cards and letters via US Postal mail more often this year (let's keep these people in jobs, huh? And who doesn't like a hand written letter? Or a hand made card? I LOVE them!)
  6. Remember BIRTHDAYS (everyones) and SEND CARDS this year!
  7. Attend a Womens Retreat or CREATIVE Retreat this year.
  8. Pray more, and spend more time teaching my daughters about my Faith.
  9. Learn more about photography and take better pictures.
  10. Write that book.

I thought I'd stop at 10 . . . although I could probably come up with a few more. But 10 seems to be a pretty good number. And looking over the list, I think it's do-able. I don't think I'm setting myself up for failure (don't you hate that?) I think the reality is there - and that is all a pretty big thing. To be REAL in my list. I'm not including "give up coffee" or "loose 100 pounds" because that is just too off in the future for me. But what I have here, I believe, is a list of 10 things that I really think I can do.

Yes, that looks good to me.

For today, its now time to go and work on # 2, #4 and I think maybe I can work on #1 a little . . . at least I know we can LAUGH today.

Spend some time laughing with the ones you love today, ok? It feels SO good! Oh . . . and, do you have any "Ta Da's" you'd like to share? I'd love to know. Why not blog about them? Post a comment with a link to your blog and I'll post a comment on yours!

Happy Weekend!

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Light of Ella


Every once in a while I have one of those moments when I think to myself, "You know, Phil and I are doing something right." It usually happens at a moment when one of my children does something that just warms my heart so much and when they do something to show what amazingly sweet and kind people they are. I usually follow-up my thought with a, "No, it's not us. These kids are just incredible on their own. They just . . . get it."

Tonight was one of those moments. And while I really don't want to be one of those Mom's who toots her own horn, I really do want to share this moment with you. It has to do with my Ella. (Sigh.) She is such an amazing little girl. She lights my life more than she will ever realize.

Nine of my dear family members gathered for a special New Year's Day dinner at my Mother-in-laws today. We have been doing this for a couple years now, and it really has become a lovely way to welcome the New Year in. My Mother-in-law (who happens to be an AMAZING COOK) put such an incredible meal together for us, and we spent the afternoon and evening laughing, playing charades, playing a 2009 Bingo Game (that my Mother-in-law makes up each year for the previous year), and truly enjoying each other. We laugh so hard, and always leave starting off the New Year in such happiness.

But it was during dinner today that my heart truly melted, and I realized again how so very blessed I am to have this life of mine. My Ella, my little 2 (almost 3 . . . . birthday is January 29th!) year old does this "thing" that just got me. As we sat around the dinner table, she grabbed the hand of the person on each side of her and instructed the rest of us around the table to "Hold Hands!" until we were all united, hand in hand. Ella then smiled and cheered "We're All Family!" and we all repeated her words and cheered loudly with such exuberance back at her. We then went back to doing what we were doing (eating, drinking, whatever it may be.)

What amazes me is that it is almost as if she wants us to remember, in the midst of our business and gathering, what is really important. F A M I L Y. We all know that family is important. Heck, we are all there and gathered and together. However, you know how sometimes something can be right under your nose and you still don't get it? Well, Ella makes sure we all get it. She proceeded to do this "We're All Family!" hand-holding exercise probably 2 or 3 times tonight, and each time my heart became full with love for not only this little girl, but this family, too.

I am so proud that this child, at just 2 years of age, understands what F A M I L Y is. And it's not just our immediate family. It's her aunt, her uncle, her uncle's mother, her grandmas. All of them. THIS is our family. And they are all important to her. And I am so proud that she realizes that we ALL need to hold hands, to FEEL each other. To FEEL the strength that this group provides each other. And reminds us ALL what matters.

Yes, F A M I L Y.

I am feeling such love for this FAMILY tonight. And counting my blessings all the way. Happy New Year, dear friends. Happy New Year.

2009 - A Year in Review

Happy New Year! I was really looking forward to 2009 ending, and to the New Year beginning. I am looking forward to starting some new projects, accomplishing some new goals, and putting behind me what has been a really rough financial few months for our home. But this morning, I was inspired to look through some photos of the year after reading my friend Cindi's blog, and in retrospect - 2009 was a really fantastic year for us. Here is a little recap of some of the milestones and events that our family encountered in 2009:


Ella turned 2 in January!


I received a ticket for speeding (shame on me) to a Saturday Morning Scrapbook gathering event in February. Uh-oh!

Katie finished Kindergarten and started First Grade this year! Way to go Kate!!

We added a fun playhouse to our backyard! The girls enjoyed this all summer and fall!

We traveled to New York to meet my nephew and Godson, Carlo Gianni Della Ragione, in May. God Bless Baby Carlo!

We enjoyed lots of goodies at the Wisconsin State Fair this summer!

Katie and Phil had a great time at the fair, too!

Katie turned 6 this year!

Daddy spent lots of time with the girls doing lots of great stuff, including a visit to the Zoo!

Both Katie and Ella discovered the joy of fishing with their Grandma Lill!

We grew some absolutely beautiful sunflowers in our backyard this year!

Katie played in a soccer league, and learned lots of new stuff!

And Ella cheered her on at each practice and game!

Phil and I enjoyed an amazing U2 concert at Soldier Field.

And we had a fantastic Halloween Party this year (that Phil was in town for! Yea!)

Ella made great improvement in the potty training area!

And I've watched my daughters take care of each other, play with each other, and enjoy each other more and more each day this past year.
We survived the flu in our house this December.

And we reconnected with some dear old friends.

Phil spent some great time sledding with the girls at his dad's home.

And we had a Wonderful Christmas at home. Together.
Some other stuff that I don't have photos of: We enjoyed a trip to Las Vegas with our friends in February, and got to see Billy Joel in concert during that trip. I moved my office from my basement to a "real office space" in March. I then recouped from pneumonia in June and we all nursed my mom back from a knee replacement in July. We spent lots of time in a new blow-up pool in the back yard this summer, and we have had 2 wonderful weeks with Daddy home in the end of December. It has been one heck of a year. And while I look forward to putting some of it behind us, I am so grateful for the fun and laughs that we had. I look forward to tomorrow, as my goal to CREATE this year will begin (I'm working on a particular project that I can't wait to get a handle on.)
I wish you all a Wonderful New Year's Day and hope you are all enjoying some time with those you love!

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