Thursday, August 30, 2012

Shaking the Tree

I've been working on a quilt - it's one crazy quilt.  There are lots of fabric colors and designs, and I had this insane idea to hand embroider over the seams.  The squares are uneven and the embroidery is crude.  It's a bit of a hot mess, but one of a kind.  And I am spending a LOT of time to finish it.

When my dad died, I realized I knew almost nothing about my family name.  My dad was the only child of essentially a single mother.  That's when I became interested in genealogy.  I've been shaking the trees on both sides of my family since then and I've been amazed and amused at what I have found.  I have learned that even though it's exciting to know you are a descendant of Charlemagne, Holy Roman Emperor (really!), at some point the names become meaningless without some backstory.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Watermelon Blues

As the summer ends, there are things that go away. One of those things is watermelon. There are also people who are going away - high school graduates off to college and a dear friend who is off to the seminary. A week ago we had a party to celebrate our new seminarian and I made this recipe.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My New Toy!

My relationship with Singer Confidence has hit a rough patch.  The machine is chewing on thread, stretching it tight between the tension disc and the needle.  I've been very patient and caring, and Confidence is responsive about 50% of the time.

This morning I was casually looking over Craig's List.  OK, I'll admit, I was looking for a casual fling to take my mind off Confidence.  Then I saw it, advertised at 10:00 a.m. this morning:

Sunday, August 19, 2012

PrettyPrettyCindy on Etsy

Yeah!  I know I've been talking about it for a while, but Pretty Pretty Cindy is finally a reality on Etsy!  I've already had my first sale - My Boucan Checker Afghan

But even better than that - I finally got my remaining inventory listed yesterday!  It took a little longer than I expected, but I'm so pleased with the results.  I have four sections in the store - Girl's Dresses, Headbands, Crochet and Quilts.  Here's a few samples from each section (just click on the picture to see the Etsy listing):

Calico Corner Headband
Here's one from Girl's Dresses (the headband is for sale in the Headband section):
Turquoise and Pink Paisley Size 4 5

Here's one from Crochet:

Raspberry Sherbet Catherine Wheel Afghan
Finally, here's one from Quilts (my quilts so far are just rag quilts):

Chocolate Pistachio Rag Quilt
I was very lucky to have the cutest models: Emma, Charlotte, Julia and my own Mackenzie (in some head shots of headbands).  Aren't they the prettiest?  My dresses look so good on them if I say so myself.  Thanks to their mom, Jennie, for sharing them.

I have a special thanks to my dear friend Kate from Songs Kate Sang Photography for taking all of these gorgeous pictures!  She is so talented and if you are in the Phoenix area, she would love to take your portraits.  She also has a popular blog at Songs Kate Sang and writing inspiring words at Beautifully Rooted.  She has such a kind heart and I'm proud to call her my friend.

So there it is, Pretty Pretty Cindy.  I'm happy to find an outlet for my creativity.  I hope someone else might enjoy it as much as I enjoy making it.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Jewel of the Desert

Last week I attended a legal conference on water law.  The conference was fairly mundane, my third consecutive year of attending this conference.  The one thing I look forward to every year is that the conference is at the Arizona Biltmore, the Jewel of the Desert.

If you have never visited or seen pictures of this world famous five star resort, it is an architectural dream.  It opened in 1929, seven months before the Stock Market crash that began the Great Depression.  It's unmatched character is the heavy influence of Frank Lloyd Wright both then and now.  It is timeless.

The entire structure is made from pre-cast concrete block, made on site and known as "Biltmore Block."  The strong geometric lines were designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright.  (Not many people know that Wright had a school of architecture - Taliesin West - in what is now Scottsdale.  He was not a stranger to the desert.)  Everything in the hotel follows these lines, from the mission furniture to the light fixtures down to the carpet.  It's like a step back in time.

Movie stars and politicians could be seen at the Biltmore pool; Marilyn Monroe called it her favorite pool.  My claim to fame is that my niece and nephew have each worked poolside at the Biltmore, my niece fetching towels and my nephew regulating kids going down the slide :-)

Every President since Herbert Hoover (in office when the Biltmore opened) has stayed at the Arizona Biltmore (with the exception of the current President).  There is a cool hallway off the lobby that has a picture of each President at the Biltmore, usually on the golf course.

So many people think Phoenix is a recent oasis that popped out the desert, but it truly does have a history.  A living testament to that history is the Arizona Biltmore.  If you visit Phoenix, or just live in the area and have never seen it, its a jewel in the desert you cannot miss.

A disclaimer - I did NOT receive any compensation, consideration or even recognition from the Arizona Biltmore for writing this post.  (I did use historical pictures from its website, but the current pictures are mine.)  I love history, this is Arizona history, and the opinions expressed here are my own.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Random Olympic Thoughts

We're getting closer to the end of the Olympics now and my DVR is full.  I'm sure I will miss it when it's over, although I must admit that I'm getting a little overloaded with all the events.  With only 53 medals up for grabs, the U.S. is in the lead over China.  I think we got past all the Chinese Olympic events.

After watching over a week, there are a couple of things that occur to me:

1.  Bob Costas is the next Dick Clark.

2.  If Tim Daggett or Elfi Schlegel says a gymnast "shouldn't have a problem here" or "she's absolutely the best vaulter in the world right now" or any number of positive things about upcoming gymnastics, it's the kiss of death.

3.  You can't help but smile at our fun Olympic swimmers (but you will have to click through to YouTube to see the video):

4.  Best quote from my husband:  "Watching the volleyball finals. Hoping the hot chicks in bikinis win."

5.  McKayla Maroney is not impressed

6.  Most photoshopped Olympic athlete - McKayla Maroney

7.  The German heavyweight weight lifter who dropped the 432 pound weight on the back of his neck - ouch!

8.  Not to be outdone, a German diver lands on his back.

9.  Did anyone else see that short piece of former Olympic gymnasts (Shaun, Nastia, Carly, Mary Lou & Nadia) right before the women's all around started?  They were so serious, saying things like "this is the most important moment of your life" and "this will change your life forever".  Heck, why not try a little more pressure: "If you blow this your life will be ruined."  "If you screw this up, don't bother coming back to the U.S.A, loser."  Excuse me, but no matter how important the Olympics are for these teenagers, I hardly think it will be THE MOST IMPORTANT day of their lives.  If so, everyone but Gabby Douglas would have hanged herself.

10.  Samuel Jackson is the most prolific (and profane) Olympic tweeter ever! (If you have sensitive eyes, don't go there.)

Wow, this has really been a fun Olympics!  AND it's not over!


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Back to School

You would think when you live in one of the hottest places in the United States that schools wouldn't get started until after Labor Day.  Nope.  School started yesterday - it was 114 degrees.

Ahhh, well, summer in Phoenix.  Here are my lovelies on the first day of school:

Can you tell which one is going to a brick and mortar school and which one is going to an online charter school at home?

A year ago I wrote about my son's ADHD and his difficulties in school due to deficits in executive skills.  In January I wrote about how we were trying to address his issues through a 504 plan.  Those two posts basically summarized our difficult experience last year and our attempts at the beginning of the school year and the middle of the school year to find a way to deal with the problems.  It didn't work.  By the end of the year he was failing nearly every subject.  Funny thing is, based on his test scores in class, he was a B or C student.  He was failing because he couldn't turn in the homework we worked on for hours the night before.  He couldn't remember where papers were, or what he was supposed to do on assignments.  He had no organization, sense of deadlines, executive skills.  I'm sure it sounds like most boys, but for our guy it's making him think he's a failure.  If you want to understand more about what a lack of executive skills can do to a child, check out this article from WebMD.

This year we're trying a different approach.  He is starting 6th grade and we knew there was no way he would be able to handle different subjects with different teachers with different expectations and teaching styles.  By the end of the last school year, we made the difficult choice to take him out of a traditional school, opting instead for an online charter school.  It's a lot like home schooling, but with a very structured curriculum.  My husband is taking on the big task of being my son's learning coach, sitting with him every day while he goes to school.  It's a bold experiment, with the goal of getting his executive skills up to par in time to return to traditional high school.  This timeframe is not random - research shows that children with ADHD who have deficits in executive skills (also known as executive function) are usually about 3 years behind their peers in this important aspect of learning.  It poses a direct risk and obstacle to learning in a classroom environment.  In addition to the curriculum through the online charter school, we will be working on exercises and practice on learning executive skills - how to prioritize, organize, focus on a task, use notes, planners and a calendar to know what is coming and summarize what you have learned.

I hope this isn't going to be a post I have to repeat this time next year.  I do hope that by January I will be able to report some progress and a more motivated and positive kid.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Pumping Up the Party

A couple of months ago I went to an awesome vendor show - Cool Off in Style.  (We got in because it was at our church hall and the event coordinator invited us).  The party was all about how to step up your party - wedding receptions, corporate events, birthday parties, bar or bat mitzvahs or family reunions.  Even if you don't live in Arizona, these types of vendors are probably available in your area and would add a huge kick to your party!

This awesome party was hosted by Pour Masters Bartending Service and wow, do they know how to throw a party.  They sponsor this event every year in June - just when it's really getting hot in Arizona!  It's a great break for what otherwise is a long hot summer.

Matt Carr at Creative Occasions took a large church hall (very similar to a hotel ballroom) and turned it into a chic nightclub vibe.  The lighting, the couches, the whole theme was amazing.

Time for some fun!  We were immediately drawn to a cool (literally) ice sculpture of a dinosaur.  Now these aren't your boring swans or fish - no, this was ice sculpture with a purpose!

Check this out - the waitress pours a drink down the dinosaur's tail and you catch it as it comes out of his mouth!  Now if that won't kick up your next party, nothing will!  This critter was courtesy of Mark Armitage at Armitageice.

We moved on next to a floor-to-ceiling screen with people standing in front of it.  They looked like they were painting directly onto the screen, but actually, they were virtually writing or drawing on images of themselves.

This one is called Pixalpaint and this would be a huge hit at a wedding reception.  If you look close at the picture above you can see that the writing comes from little "spray" paint cans.  Again, these are virtual paint cans, but they trigger the color of the pixels.  It really gives you the feel of graffiti.  Imagine doing that on images of the happy couple!  When it's all done, Pixal Paint prints the finished product for you as a photo image.

From this we moved on to another popular booth - the pictures on green screen!  You know, the one where you stand in front of a green screen with props and poses and it is superimposed on the background of your choice.  We took a picture home that night to the kids and told them we traveled to New York!  This was all courtesy of Green Screen AZ.  

Our personal photo favorite was the old fashioned photo booth from Arizona Photobooth.  For those of you too young to remember, you go into a small photo booth with as many people as you can cram in there (or in our case, with our sweetie) and take 4 to 5 pictures that come out in black & white.  The neat thing is that at the end of the night, the person who rented the photo booth gets a CD with all of the pictures.  This is an obvious choice for a wedding reception or bar mitzvah.

There were so many other vendors with things we never thought of, like caricatures, tattoos (henna), even people you can hire to reinforce your party theme.

 Perhaps the most unique service for your next special occasion was from Dave at Live Event Artist of Arizona.  This service brings an artist to your event and he paints a gorgeous oil painting of your event while it is happening!  I thought this must be the best "souvenir" for the party host who wants to capture the special day and remember it forever.

I wish I could go to one of these parties every week - it was so fun!  If you live in Arizona and are planning an event, I guarantee these services would add a unique touch.  DJs are nice and dessert tables are good, but just imagine how much your guests will remember your special event if they have something special to see or do.  Even if you don't live in the Phoenix area, you should look for fun and different goods and services to kick up the party!


I did not receive any compensation or other consideration from any of these vendors.  I just really liked each one and wanted to share them with you.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Olympic "Bod"

It's Day 5 of the Olympics and I'm only 1 day behind (I have all of today's coverage recorded).  I've seen so many sports.  I have to give NBC kudos, especially the coverage on their "alternate" channels (Bravo, MSNBC and other cable channels).  Those channels cover sports that might not be so popular  (equestrian, judo, white water rafting) and full length games (soccer, basketball, volleyball).

While I've been watching these sports, I've noticed that there is no "prototype" Olympic athlete.  Women athletes vary by sport - gymnasts are very short (I saw a Romanian girl who is 16 and 4'7"!), while beach volleyball, indoor volleyball and basketball players are very tall.  Women swimmers are bulked up above the waist with thick necks while the rowers and bikers have rock hard legs.  Women weight lifters are . . . umm . . . square.  They are short and built like barrels.   Just sayin'

Men seem to have more similarities.  All appear to be very muscular.  The gymnasts are strange looking, with huge shoulders and legs on short little bodies.  Basketball and volleyball players are just too tall.  Water polo players have amazing bodies but faces like hockey players, and swimmers . . . even when they lose they look good.

Older athletes can be found in sports that feature specialized skills, like archery, shooting and equestrian events.  The average age of the human equestrian competitor is 40, while the horses average about 13-15 years old (which is not a young horse).  Men and women compete against each other.  Sometimes I wonder how much skill and stamina is the horse and how much is the rider.  About the time I start to compare riders to dog trainers, I see a picture of the equestrian cross country.  BTW, that's a woman, and no, she's doing exactly what she's supposed to be doing on that course.

All kidding aside, I've seen some great Olympic moments - the American women winning the gold medal in team gymnastics; Michael Phelps winning his 21st medal in the 200 freestyle relay; the British men's team winning a bronze in team gymnastics; the American girls who won the synchronized diving silver medal; and the astonishing beauty and difficulty that was the equestrian cross country event.

Yep, I'm loving it.  I don't think too many people are geeky Olympic junkies like I am (except for my friend Linda), but I hope you're all enjoying it too.  We still have another whole week!