Sunday, May 29, 2016

Decorative Tape Notecards

I am not good about buying the greeting cards I need in a timely fashion.*  I learned a few years ago that the best way to be ready with beautiful cards when I need them is to make them myself.  I buy blank notecards in bulk at Michael's or Hobby Lobby.  I continually add to my collection of washi tape and decorative masking tape when I visit office superstores, the Target dollar bins, and craft stores.  I have a decent collection of stamps as well, but I'm usually satisfied with the final product before I need to employ any stamps.  With the supplies at hand, I can make a card in less time than it takes me to drive to the Walgreens that is less than a mile from my house.

The cards pictured above are from the first wave of teacher end-of-year thank yous.  Take a blank card, layer several strips of cool tape, and cut off the excess on the sides.  Voila!

End-of-year teacher gifts are a whole other discussion and Pinterest makes it seem as if you need to do something super cute and clever.  I don't.  I usually go with gift cards, but as a former teacher, I know I appreciated any gesture of appreciation, any way that parents and students took five extra minutes to acknowledge that I was good or even okay.  I do my best to write a thoughtful note of thanks to each teacher and to have my kids write inside the thank you cards as well. 

I enjoy projects and crafting.  I enjoy making my own cards.  Not everybody does.  A thoughtful note on a pre-printed card or a piece of looseleaf is also worth writing.  If you're "not crafty" or detest little projects, don't apologize for that.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Vacation Reading -- Nantucket

When I spotted this framed scene of Nantucket at a favorite store (Gather & Collect in Glen Ellyn, IL -- source for eclectic, vintage, reasonably-priced finds), I had to have it.*  After all, Nantucket is one of my favorite summer getaways spots.  When guests to my home see this piece and ask about my Nantucket trips, I'll say, "Yes, I visit every summer when I read the newest Elin Hilderbrand novel."

I read my first Hilderbrand novel, Barefoot, in the summer of 2008.  Anticipating and then reading her newest release has become one of my summer rituals.

These novels can be read on vacation or as vacation.

Hilderbrand's novels are satisfying stories with characters who are interesting, well-developed, and (often) likeable.  The books are easy to read, but they aren't without substance.  The main setting for  every book is Nantucket; readers get a real sense of the island from the perspective of year-rounders and summer visitors.  I find vacation reading all the better when the novel takes place in a vacation spot.  Hilderbrand is a foodie so there are also tons of descriptions of food and drink.**  Great meals are essential to any vacation I take so that's another attraction.  Once you've read a few books, you'll recognize some mainstay characters who appear in all the books, which makes you feel like you really "know" Nantucket and its (fictional) residents.  

The best news is that Hilderbrand has published sixteen books (and at least two e-stories) so if you find that you enjoy reading these novels on vacation or as vacation, you don't have to wait patiently for the next book.  There are already many from which to choose.

I'd start with The Matchmaker, Beautiful Day, or The Castaways, but you actually could start anywhere.  I think Hilderbrand's own favorite is The Blue Bistro.  I've read these books in print and listened to several as audiobooks.  Either format is great.  You can read descriptions of all the titles at Hilderbrand's website.  Your newest ticket to Nantucket is Here's to Us, available on June 14th.  I'm still deciding if I will use an credit, get on the library hold list, or treat myself to the hardcover. 

Once you start reading these books, you'll begin dreaming of a trip to Nantucket.  To fuel that fire, I suggest following @ghinson on Instagram.  He takes gorgeous photos of Nantucket scenes.  How did I find his Instagram?  Elin Hilderbrand's recommendation, of course.

If you don't know already, Hilderbrand is two books into a Christmas trilogy.  If you have a few peaceful hours next November and December, cuddle up to the fire with those.  The first is Winter Street, then Winter Stroll.  The final book will be published in the Fall.

*the Nantucket scene, already framed and matted (a long time ago at Marshall Field's, according to the sticker on the back). was only $28.

**Sometimes the food descriptions are almost too much, but not to the point of being off-putting or anything!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Flowers from Jewel

It's 81 degrees today.  Glory, glory!  Spring took its good sweet time springing though.  Back in March, I started treating myself to fresh flowers.  Life's little pleasures and all that.  At Jewel, my grocery store, you can buy "market blooms" at the bargain price of 3 bunches for $12.  If it's just for my family, I choose three varieties.  If I'm providing decorations elsewhere, I'll spring for six bunches and more variety.

I'm not a professional (not even a little) and don't even know the names of most of the flowers.  Nevertheless, I've learned through trial and error which blooms last the longest and do the best I can with what's available.  It's been fun to choose and arrange the flowers the past few months. 
An early effort for my daughter's sixth birthday party.  And, how about my beautiful spring tablecloth from Kohl's?

I've shared this photo before.  Spaghetti sauce jar, scrapbook paper, and grocery store flowers.  Two solid reads to keep the flowers company.  Start with Julie Buxbaum's Tell Me Three Things.  Great YA novel.

Not a great angle, but this is one of the bouquets I made to decorate when we had guests during my son's First Communion weekend.  He loves green and bold colors!  If only I could find a non-ugly neutral tablecloth.

Some of the First Communion flowers kept kicking.  I consolidated the non-frail ones and think the stragglers looked pretty good together.  #filter  I've mentioned this on the blog before, but that chevron-printed burlap ribbon is from Dollar Tree. 

One of the centerpieces from last week's Cub Scout Blue and Gold Dinner.  Old jar wrapped in scout gift paper with gold washi tape accents.  This bouquet is actually the least attractive of the lot (I sent the others home with den leaders and volunteers), but it's still pretty cute.  Only took a fraction of the gift wrap roll to cover ten jars.  I have enough for many more Blue and Gold Dinners, but let's pray that I won't be planning too many more.

 My "just because" flowers.  Ten days in on these babies. 

Can't forget the flowers in my specialty Diet Coke bottles.  I bought these bottles over spring break and have changed out their blooms many times since.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Couch Commencement

Last week was a busy week, and by Friday, I was feeling a bit depleted.  I had checked out Mary Karr's Now Go Out There (and get curious) several weeks ago and knew it was due the next day.  I opened it up, hoping for a shot of inspiration.  This slim volume is Karr's commencement speech at Syracuse (where she has been a professor for many years) on one side and a cool sunburst flip book on the other.  I read most of it on my couch before leaving to work at a kindergarten picnic.  I finished the rest in my minivan.

If you have fifteen minutes and the desire to be inspired, I suggest you read it.

Some of my favorite insights:

"But don't make the mistake of comparing your twisted-up insides to other people's blow-dried outsides."  

Perfect advice in these days of curated life moments on Facebook, Instagram, and the other scary social media spots I don't even understand.

"'This hard spell might be the start of something truly great I can't foresee right now because I'm scared shitless.'"

Mary Karr wants you to tell yourself the above when times are tough.  This lesson is definitely one that you understand more fully as you age, but it's also one that is so easy to forget when you're in the midst of a hard, scary time.

"Being smart and rich are lucky, but being curious and compassionate will save your ass.  Being curious and compassionate can take you out of your ego and edge your soul towards wonder."

Who can argue against curiosity or compassion?

Please don't think that I've cited all the good stuff here and that you don't need to read Now Go Out There (and get curious).  There are a couple great anecdotes, plus honesty, humor, and a message you can take with you.  And, again, it's only fifteen minutes.

Get it at your library or buy it as a graduation gift (though great advice is often wasted on the young) and read it first.

Last year around this time, I read J.K. Rowling's commencement speech book, Very Good Lives:  The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of the Imagination.  I think commencement speech reading will be a new May tradition for me.  Why not listen to what great thinkers have to say to newly-minted grown-ups?  It's never too late to change course or to at least see your journey or mission in a new light.  Sometimes we all need a little help to light our fires.

P.S. -- Another May pick-me-up has been wearing the floral-printed Pumas in the photo above.  Found them at Kohl's on one of the only days of the year an extra discount was not on offer, but bought them anyway because I heart them so.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Place to Call Home

As a lover of British entertainment, I was drawn to this display at Costco.  A Place to Call Home is an Australian series set in post-WWII New South Wales.  It was described somewhere (can't remember where) as Australia's answer to Downton Abbey.  Down Under accents aren't quite as delightful to me (though still delightful) as British ones, but I like the post-WWII time period, and I think I'll give this series a try this summer.  I didn't buy the DVDs at Costco because it looks like if I add on Acorn TV to my Amazon Prime subscription, then I can stream it.  I'll let you know when I figure that out.  Acorn TV promises "World-Class TV From Britain and Beyond."  Music to my ears.

Are you familiar with A Place to Call Home?  With Acorn TV?