Veterans' Day

“The willingness of America’s veterans to sacrifice for our country has earned them our lasting gratitude.” – Jeff Miller
Veterans' Day is our official holiday that honors those who have served in the US Armed Forces.   It also happens to coincide with the British's Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, which celebrates the anniversary of the end of World War I (that ended on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour of 1918 when the Armistice with Germany went into effect).  In the United States, we used to celebrate Armistice Day as well, but the holiday transformed into what we now know as Veterans' Day in 1954.  Now we celebrate the service of all US military veterans, I include those still serving too. 

It was President Woodrow Wilson who originally proclaimed Armistice Day in 1919.  He said, "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations."

Many people wear red poppies for Veterans' day.  Poppies were the first flowers to bloom in areas of Europe devastated by trench warfare during WWI.   In varied countries around the world they are used as a symbol of the sacrifices.  They are worn on lapels as a gentle reminder of this important holiday. 

So on this day we honor our military veterans and give them gratitude for their services.  We are grateful for the freedoms that they have protected and the sacrifices they have made.  

I encourage you all to attend a Veterans' day celebration or parade.  We thank you that have served our nation whether in times of war or peace.  Take time to encourage those family and friends you have for their time in the Armed Forces.  Shout a quick thank you or give a hug.  Dig up old pictures of men and women in their uniforms, listen to stories from your relatives who are currently serving, reach out and let them know you are grateful.  After all, saying thank you shows our gratitude and appreciation for all they have done and continue to do.  

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them." -JFK


Thankful Burlap Bunting

In my midnight perusing of Pinterest the other night, I ran across an awesome tutorial on how to print on burlap.  I decided to put it to the test today and attempt to make a Thanksgiving themed bunting for my mantel.  It was actually quite easy and quick.  I encourage you all to make something similar!

Materials needed:
  • Burlap
  • Freezer Paper (found by the foil, wax paper, and saran wrap)
  • Iron
  • Ironing board
  • Printer
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue and hot glue gun
  • Twine

I started by cutting my freezer paper down the size of a sheet of printer paper (8.5” x 11”).  Next I cut a piece of burlap to fit that same size.  

Then I placed the freezer paper (shiny side down) onto the burlap.  Using the hot iron, I adhered the freezer paper to the burlap. You should be able to tell where it is sticking; be sure to cover the entire surface so that it feeds into your printer more easily. Afterward be sure to cut off the strings that dangle fro the burlap edges. 

Then I created triangles on a Word document.  I decided on the word ‘thankful’.  I placed a letter within each triangle.  Placing the burlap face down in my feeder tray on my printer, I then printed page by page.
For the next step, I used an older pair of scissors to cut the triangles.  I placed them in the appropriate order to spell my intended word. 

I left a portion of burlap above the triangle to fold over when I attached the triangles to the twine later.
Using my hot glue gun I then folded the flaps over and glued them with the twine running in the fold. I still have not perfected the best way to use hot glue and burlap without allowing it to seep through the holes.  It was minimal seepage, and I did it on a hard surface to allow for removal of excess easily.
My final step was to hang it on my mantel in celebration of the upcoming festivities. I can't wait to use this printing method to make other fun projects and some homemade Christmas gifts for the upcoming season.


Be Thankful

In my experience, being thankful is not something everyone is conscious of year round.  I do not think it is intentional.  Many of us say thank you when someone is randomly kind to us or thoughtful with a gesture, a small gift, or a helping hand.  It is just that in our high speed lives, we often get caught up in the hustle and bustle so much so that we forget to acknowledge the things right before us.  Lucky for us, we have a holiday centered around the concept of giving thanks...Thanksgiving.  It's signature symbol is the cornucopia which signifies the bountiful harvest for which we give thanks.  

As the holiday approaches, I encourage you all to take a moment to give thanks for your blessings in life. You will see certain friends on Facebook count down the things for which they are grateful daily.   If you have kids, you will see them bring home art adorned with lists of their thanksgiving.  What sort of things do you to show your thanks during this time?

It is all too necessary that we acknowledge our reasons for which we are thankful.  It is a time of reflection that allows us to recognize these things and to focus not on our problems and stresses but on the opposite, our good fortune.  In White Christmas, Rosemary Clooney best advises us all, "When you are tired and you can't sleep, just count your blessings 'stead of sheep."  This sound advice can go a long way in making you feel happy and satisfied with your life.  The benediction is key to allowing yourself to live in the now and to be content and positive with regards to your life. 

This reflection typically brings a tear to my eye.  Be sure to do this; collect your thankful thoughts in a figurative cornucopia of your personal blessings.  It will honestly make you feel delighted and untroubled. Focus on the good; for so often, we choose not to.

Who/what are the people, traits, gifts, and things for which you are most thankful?

I hope that this calming reminder will give you peace in your day as you consciously count your blessings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXKxazgio2s


Halloween 2014 Recap

Although it is now dead and gone, Halloween 2014 was a blast for me.  I painted many faces, dressed up everyday the week leading to the big day, and got to be my overall festive self.  I figured a recap of the awesomeness could not hurt.  

I began the week as a half dead human.  My friend Michelle took the time out of her day to paint this one for me.  It's always fun to be on the painted side.  You hold still and trust that it will turn out as expected.  When I finally got to look in the mirror, I was very satisfied with the result.  Bravo Michelle for this creation! 

Saturday consisted of dance rehearsal with some face painting intermixed in the fun.  We had to do a trial run of Emme's Dia De Los Muertos makeup, and I wanted to try a trickier face with Hailley as my model for the day, hence the Chesire Cat appeared. 

Sunday of the week, we had October birthday celebration and family game day.  I had this hair brained idea that panting everyone's faces into cats while there would make for a purrrfect family photo, and boy did it ever?! We had pink, purple, blue, brown, and orange cats, one giraffe and one fox.  It always feels good when someone allows you to bring an idea to fruition, and this one came to life before my very eyes.  Isn't this one of the best family pictures you have ever seen?

Tuesday for dance class I decided to be a Sugar Skull.  I wanted to incorporate colors and rhinestones.  I painted quickly because it was a busy day but the results were great!  The kids at class that day were awesome too.  I had super heroes, zombies, a banana, a couple of unicorns and more. I love that they embrace the holiday and go full out for costumes the whole week too!

Wednesday was kitty cat day.  I couldn't wait to see all of the kids dressed up in their cat attire.  This one is fun because its easy to participate with a head band and construction paper (for ears), and eyeliner (for whiskers).  The showing did not disappoint.  It just so happened to be National Cat Day too which made the celebration even more fun.  

Next up, Thursday Vampire Day!  I love this day every year.  We have made this a tradition since Halloween of 2009.  We dress up like vampires and initiate our new teachers by "turning" them into vampires in a photo series. The kids and I look forward to this one every year.  This year we got to turn Kelly and Sarah; wonder who next year's victim will be?

I also had a model allow me to try another tricky looking face paint on her: the broken doll face.  My model, Peyton, hung in there for the 25 minutes it took, and the outcome was fantastic.

Finally it was Halloween Day! Friday, October 31st! A few people had asked me to paint their faces, I agreed eagerly.  I was excited to try a few new and old face themes: scary doll, crying vampire, deer, and a couple of zombies. 

I was lucky enough to marry into a family that enjoys this holiday as much as I do.  They dress up and make it a family and neighborhood affair with princesses, Power Rangers, super heroes, knights, and of course, many, many Elsas.  Complete with a maze and sips of witches brew, it is an authentic celebration.

For the third year, my awesome hubby allowed me to choose his costume and go with a theme.  Although Elsa and Kristoff aren't romantically entangled in the movie, it turned out fantastically.  The kids in the streets recognized us both, and we had lots of fun pretending to look for Anna like they are in ABC's Once Upon a Time currently. 

Hope your Halloween was as festive as mine and that your sweet tooth was satisfied.  Now its time to be cognicent of everything for which we are thankful and to eat all things pumpkin flavored. Adios All Hallow's Eve, until next year... 


Dia De Los Muertos Birthday Celebration

Dia de la "Emme"

Our spin on a "Dia de los Muertos" themed birthday celebration for this sweet 10 year old who I have known most her life was nothing short of awesome.  While brainstorming themes for this birthday party, I thought about everything that I associate with her: puppies, rainbows, unicorns, and sugar.  Seeing as her birthday is in November, I put the idea of sugar skulls and Dia de los Muertos to work.  It encompassed the rainbows and sugar, so I took the ball running.

The party ended up being a colorfully picturesque party with candy, face-painting, a rainbow birthday cake, games, and a piñata.

I began with the invitations. I incorporated a sugar skull and some Mexican floral design with mention of the fun that would ensue.  On a budget these we easy and vibrant to appeal to her friends to join in the festivity.

In looking for decor I knew that the more colorful the better. I figured we would need traditional colorful table clothes and backdrops: red, turquoise, yellow, and green. I borrowed some serape table runners to tie the colors together. I spray painted a few sombreros as well in keeping with the theme. We found some beautiful sugar skull decor and figurines as well. Additionally I borrowed some small donkey piñatas for the table decor too.

For favors, I made some floral head wreathes.  I used silk flowers, pipe cleaners and floral tape for this. I cut down the floral stems first. Using the pipe cleaners I wove the them around the base and pulled them together to form an arc. Then adding more in a braided shape I completed the circle. My final step was to take floral tape and wind it around the pipe cleaners to cover them and the base of the flowers. My thought was that these would complete the look after face paint was added. The sweet party goers would look beautiful with these to adorn their sweet painted faces.

The cake was a blast to make. I used a tie dye cake mix and had fun making the design as I wanted. I could not wait to slice into it to see what each piece was going to look like. I used to two rounds to make the layers and white frosting. Using a serrated knife I cut around the edge of the cake to exposed the colors. I added flowers to the top of the cake as well along with some gummy sugar skulls that we picked up at Michael's for the event. I also enjoyed using giant marshmallows and kebob sticks to make sugar skull lollipops with candy decorating markers.

We had to be sure that Emme had a perfectly coordinated outfit.  We picked bright pants and a bright shirt.  We added an iron to her shirt and to her shoes to help tie it all together.

For activities for kids we decided to go with a few games: cupcake wars (a cupcake decorating contest judges by the birthday girls dad), pin the nose on the sugar skull, make your own sugar skull mask, skull balloon races, and of course face painting.

The kids jumped at the opportunity to decorate their cupcakes. The winners designs ranged from punk rock hair, to sugar skulls, to grimy gummy crawlers. They were all very original and unique.

The face painting was entertaining too! Every eager face that sat before me carefully chose their colors that they wanted to add. Some had swirls, some mustaches, some squiggles, hearts and more. As I had planned the floral wreathes gave a great finishing touch.

Pin the nose on the sugar skull had a long line cause so many wanted a chance to win a prize. I drew a giant skull on a poster board and omitted the nose. We pinned it to the fence and using a bandana blind gold and some stickers we had an incredible time. A few spins and point the contestant in the right direction. This play on pin the tail on the donkey was fun.

For the balloon races, we took white balloons and a sharpie and drew some skulls on them. The kids had races with the balloons between their knees. The hopping and jumping across the grass was too funny to watch as they tried to grip the balloon between their knees.

For those who wanted to, we had printed some skulls we found online (here) and cut their shapes and taped tongue depressors to them. We set them out with markers for the guests to color and use to their delight.

For sustenance, we had chips and queso, a colorful candy bar, chips galore, and cake and cupcakes. The candy bar was set up outside with chocolate, skittles (because the birthday girl loves rainbows), gummy worms, eyeball gum balls,and twizzlers. We used a mixture of apothecary jars and the sombreros to hold the candy. We used the gum balls to have a "guess how many are in the jar" contest as well. We revealed the winner at the close of the party and her prize was the jar of eyes.

All in all the birthday girl enjoyed her candy filled, rainbow colored, fun-filled celebration that was a great representation of her joyous and sweet personality. It is sure to be one that she will not forget. I am more than thankful that I got to be a part of it and help to make the day special for her. I loved the way she paused before she blew out the candles to make her perfect wish.  I hope that her special day will be a memory that she cherishes.  I was thankful to be surrounded by family and friends, to have lots of help, and to have a happy birthday girl!