Monday, February 27, 2012

When You Can't Afford The Real Thing

Men, you can check out right now, if you'd like.  This one is for the ladies.

Do you ever find yourself paying attention to the jewelry worn by people on tv?  I can't be the only one who does this.  I keep mental notes of the stuff I like, in the hopes of one day finding a knock-off at TJ Maxx.  Occasionally, I'll give jewelry-making a try, usually with acceptable results.  By "acceptable", I mean "good enough, as long as no one zooms in for a close look".

We've been watching "Once Upon A Time" every week since it started.  Sometimes more than once a week, if it's an especially fun episode for the kids (like the Hansel and Gretel one...we probably watched that four times).  The evil queen's alter ego, Regina, has this pair of earrings that she wears in what seems to be every episode.  Or that might be me replaying them in my mind over and over, because I like them so much.  Either way, I'm fixated on them.  I want them.  Desperately.

Or maybe I just want to look like her.  That might be it.

Now, I know I could go out and find something like these practically anywhere, but the problem is, I want them to be good quality earrings.  And that kind of spending is just not in the budget.  So I decided to take things into my own hands and make them myself.  Fortunately, I had most of the supplies already...all I needed was the wires and hoops.  Since the tools and beads (Swarovsky crystal pearls, they're so decadent, but only about $4 a pearl) were sunk costs from years before, I only had to come up with $9 for the hoops and wire ($8 for the hoops, $1 on the wire, all sterling silver).

Wire wrapping the bead isn't very difficult.  You can pick it up pretty easily by watching a youtube video like this.

Or, if you happen to have a friend who makes jewelry, even better.  Everyone should have a friend like that.  A couple of years back, I hosted a jewelry-making party with a bunch of friends from work.  My bff (beading friend forever, duh) NiqueSaulet, was so generous with us, sharing her techniques and giving us tips when our work looked like crap.  It was a great way to get started with jewelry-making, and that easy investment of $25 for the tools was worth the tons of jewelry I've since made for myself and for family.

The earrings took about 15 minutes to make.  In truth, if you're particularly talented, it should only take about 5 minutes, but I tend to be a little on the imprecise (read sloppy) side, which results in re-dos.  I'll re-do it as long as it takes to end up with a decent pair.  And no longer.

In case you're not the youtube type, I'll try to explain how I made them.  Start by threading the pearl with the wire.  With your weaker hand, use the round nose pliers to hold onto the wire that has been threaded through the bead.  In your other hand, use the flat nose pliers to grab the end of the wire and wrap it around the round nose for a half revolution.  Then in one fluid motion, change directions and wrap sideways underneath the nose, to create the neck between the bead and the loop.  Do about 3 revolutions of this sideways move.  Here's an image of what you should end up with.
Slide it off and clip the wire.  Crimp the edge, if necessary.
Slide the silver hoop through the wire loop.

And just like that, I had my own earrings, like the ones I saw on tv.  Or close enough.

Turns out I wish I just looked like her.

Big news!  I've got a post published today on Scary Mommy...if you have a free minute, make your way over and check it out.  Thanks!

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Kindergartener With Issues

M:  Mommy, what's issues?

Me:  Issues?  Like, to have issues??

M:  Yes, mommy, what does it mean to have issues?

Me:  It means you have stuff you need to work on.

M:  Mommy, I have issues.

Me:  You do?  Like what?

M:  I have boogies always in my nose.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Who Says Legos Aren't for Girls?

They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks.  I laugh in the face of that.  Behold my first Lego creation, the Technic Rally Truck:

 Plus or minus a few pieces.

For those of you who have yet to notice, I'm a girl.  And though it is a terrible stereotype, I've got to reinforce it by saying I think legos and girls don't innately go together.  Sure, there are those few out there who would defiantly say, "I'm a girl, and I love Legos.  Always have."  But I feel pretty strongly that those people are few in number.  Legos and Boys.  That's how it is.

But why is that?  Are Legos one of those nature v nurture arguments?  Do boys seem more inclined to Lego play because they are conditioned to be so or because they're just born that way?  And do girls show a lack of interest because they've never been encouraged to understand them or is it really due to brain differences?  This has got me wondering.

When I was a kid, we didn't have much money.   I remember wanting and wanting a Barbie doll for years.  When I finally got one, at age eleven, I gazed at it, in all it's Barbie-beauty, wondering what to do with it.  I hadn't had much exposure to doll playing, and when finally given the chance, I didn't know what to do.  I remember feeling disappointed, wanting to play in the way I had seen the girls do for so many years.  But somehow, I hadn't developed that play skill set.

It's not really a sad story, though.  I had fun playing marbles with my brother and beating the boys at tetherball.  My point is, I didn't have exposure to Barbie doll playing, so when I had the chance, I wasn't all that interested.

I think the same could be said for Legos.

When I became mom to one, two, and then three boys, I realized that there were areas that I was going to need to become very familiar with.  Star Wars was one.  Camping another.  And Legos.  When P got his first bucket at around 5, I had no idea how I was going to play along with him.  I mean, I knew the universal "let's build a house" routine; other than that, they were just a bunch of bricks.  But to him, these pieces provided unlimited creative options.  It was fascinating to me, to see him come up with each new creation.  But me, I just wasn't wired that way.

As he has grown older, and more boys have come along, we've grown more sophisticated with our Lego architecting.  With the help of the many kits out there, we've taken a turn at nearly every line Lego has to offer, from the basic starter kits to the more elaborate sets which take thousands of pieces.  (Note:  when I say "we", obviously I mean "hubby and the boys").

And now, after many years of slowly easing myself into it, I finally created something I can call my own.  M received this kit for his birthday, and after attempting it himself, getting frustrated, and throwing it at the wall, he allowed me to have a go at it.

I totally get the desire to throw it at the wall.  Take a look at a typical instruction step:

45 tedious, torturous steps and 2 hours later, I had completed it!  I would've finished it sooner, but the diagrams were, at times, less than intuitive.

This accomplishment is years in coming; after being exposed to these creations for almost ten years, it is finally clicking for me.  To be honest, I used the kit and instructions; so I can't say that I'm fully Lego-actualized.  It's a work in progress.  But here's what completing this kit has done for me:  it has helped me open my mind to thinking like a kid who sees each piece for what it can do, not just for what it appears to be, sitting there in the bucket.  Exposing myself to all the different ways each piece can come together to create something fantastic is rewiring my mind to work a different way.  It's like taking a tour of a museum to expand your horizon and become inspired.  It's a form of creativity, but not in the conventional "let's paint a picture" sense.

So does this form of play give boys a leg up on their future?  Well, it certainly encourages sustained focus and attention to detail.  But have you ever seen a class full of boys try to sit still and stay focused?  The girls clearly have the advantage in that area.  While Legos help level the playing field in those areas, I wouldn't consider that a leg up on their future.

But then there's the theory that this unique form of creativity primes the mind for success in the areas of math and science.  Here's an loosely related article I found on the subject:

The Mathematics of Lego (source: Wired Science)

It's a bit of a snoozefest, but what I take from it is that playing with legos (particularly the sets) reinforces some profound math laws without us even knowing it.  And we all know that our subconscious picks up on stuff all the time, saving it for when we really need it.  Like during math class.

In summary, I'd like to wrap up with this:  Legos are (at least in part) a learned interest, girls should be encouraged to understand and enjoy them, and anyone who can complete a kit without uttering a profanity should feel very proud of themselves.

Friday, February 17, 2012

When Bad Things Happen to Good Shoes

Just another day in the NW household, squeezing a load of laundry in between basketball practice and dinner.  But today's different.  Hmmm...something doesn't seem right about this load of laundry.  What's this?

 Is that a....a boot???

 How the heck did that get in there?

My better half walks over to see what I'm chuckling about, and he says "you washed your boot?  You wouldn't believe how dusty that boot was so I vacuumed it the other day.  I put it in on top of the dirty clothes when I was done, I can't believe you didn't see it!"

"You put it in the laundry basket???"  I say in disbelief.

"Yeah, I put it there right on top, nice and neat, after I finished vacuuming it.  I can't believe you didn't see it there."

Seriously? By the time I did the laundry, 3 days later, it was nicely tucked between the the fruit of the looms and the fuzzy socks.

I'm not too sad's a free pass to a new pair of shoes.  And I wasn't too attached to them.

He doesn't need to know that.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Party On The Grid, Tron Style

For M's 6th bday, we decided to throw him a party.  Jolly jumper, games, prizes, the whole nine yards.  In our household, we have a rule:  birthday party every other year, family get together in between.  So they have two years to wait, anticipate, and plan their big event.  And I don't like to let them down.

Fortunately for my boys, I'm a lover of all things par-tay.  Throwing them, that is.  God forbid I have to attend one or am the guest of honor.  That's a terrifying thought to this introvert.  But throwing them, I love.

So when M asked for a Tron theme, I was all over it.  It started with the cake.  After years of making eggless, soyless, and milkless cakes so that L would always be included, most of the allergies are now outgrown, and I'm venturing out into store-bought cake territory.  Both M and I had hearts in our eyes when we spied this one.

Because M's bday is just weeks after Christmas, I was totally behind on planning this fete.  But the wheels were spinning.  I may have mentioned this before...when I become interested in something, I jump in with both feet.  Something like an obsession, this trait is both a blessing and a curse.  But with less than 3 weeks to get this party started, an obsession was what I was going to need.  A Tron-themed party is perfect fodder for this overactive imagination, and I took the challenge head-on.

It started with the flyer-style invites, which were easy enough.  But that just whet my appetite. The birthday boy was going to need a customized helmet.

(You're going to be seeing a lot of blue tape in this post, just warning you.)

And then I moved on to the black flooring that would turn our dining room into "the grid".

(I warned you.)

T-shirts became my next project.  As you can see from these final products, I don't let technical difficulties (like my failure to reverse the image) get in my way.

(I'm a wizard with that blue tape.)

After all this creativity, I thought to myself:  what am I missing?  Identity discs!  Of course, how could I forget identity discs for everyone.  That's how I ended up with these.

Did I go overboard, as I am want to do?  I think so.  Do I now look like the kooky mom of room 23?  Probably.  But I had myself a good time doing it.

And M had told me he had the best birthday party everrrrrr.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Berman 'Do

The other night, I glanced over at L, and I thought to myself, "he looks familiar."  Not in the "of course he should, he's your son" kind of way, but more in a "who does he remind me of?" way.  It didn't take long before I realized that he reminded me of Rodger Berman, Rachel Zoe's husband.

It's the hair.  And the round cheeks.

This is L.
This is Rodger Berman.

My slight displeasure over realizing that all my mindless tv watching has seeped into my subconscious turned quickly to pride and a congratulatory pat on the back.  Why?  Because I cut L's hair!  That's right.  Cheapskate me, who recently wrote this lovely bit about how much I hate paying for hair cuts (Ridiculously Inconsistent Guest Blogger) am the talent behind this haircut.

This is a big deal, folks.  Did I tell you I crunch numbers for a living?  Edward Scissorhands, I'm not.  Heck, I remember in kindergarten, being totally bummed to hear my teacher tell my mom that I needed to work on cutting.  Funny the memories we hold onto.

Anyway, the Berman 'do must've cost him, what, 90 bucks?  That's a total shot in the truth, he looks more like a $150/cut kind of guy.  Personally, I like L's cut better.  Better texture, better angles, ha.

I don't want to get a big head or anything, but...anybody need a haircut?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Boy Toys, Part 1

Ever wonder what it's like to be the only female in a house full of XYs? 

For starters, there are lots of sword-like objects.

And, of course, blasters.

I found more after I took these photos.

Coming soon:  Part 2, Action Figures.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Love Notes

My better half and I were emailing the other day. After 20 years together, we're clearly past the love note stage...
From: Whisperer, Number 
Sent: Wednesday 11:39 AM
To: Better Half
Subject: gag

The ladies on the other side of my wall luuuuv to eat and talk at the same time.  It is like your worst nightmare…muffled, gurgly throat talking…and all I can do is hear them through your ears.

Right now there’s three of them over there, sharing something crunchy and talking about giving birth.  I’d put on headphones, but all my music websites have been blocked. 

You’re totally rubbing off on me.

From: Better Half
Sent: Wednesday 2012 11:43 AM
To: Doyle, Tanya
Subject: RE: gag

Just chime in... "uh, is that cheetos I hear in your throat??"

What do you and your BH email about throughout your work day?