seizing the moment

April 29, 2012 § 2 Comments

So at 8:30 this past Monday morning, my phone rang. My friend Stacy told me she’d been excitedly waiting since 7:00 to call me with the news that Julie Andrews was coming to Seattle this weekend to promote her newest book in The Very Fairy Princess series she writes with her daughter. Ms. Andrews would be doing a few signings, but only for those lucky enough to get a coveted spot. My friend knows me so well – I mean, it’s JULIE ANDREWS!

This family is a little (OK, a lot) obsessed with “The Sound of Music.” We come by it naturally: my mom, and her mom, both loved the movie way before I was born. For months after it was released, my mom spent every Saturday in Speedway, Indiana, riding the bus downtown to watch the von Trapps sing and dance through the gorgeous Salzburg countryside! Of course with two generations before me already hooked, I came to love it too. And from the time they were little, I’ve shared the movie with my girls. They love the singing, they love the dancing, they love it all – and it makes me so happy.

My husband Drew and I are all about seizing the moment. We realize not only how lucky we are, but that life is short and our precious girlies will only be young once. We don’t want to leave anything on the table as far as they are concerned. A couple of years ago, we were planning a family trip to Italy around the same time Drew needed to do some work in Graz, Austria. It only took a bit of discussion for us to realize what an opportunity we had stumbled into. Austria means Salzburg and, to us, Salzburg means “The Sound of Music.” We got to work. Unbelievably, the actual von Trapp family home is now a hotel, and we were able to stay there for two nights. We booked a day-long tour with an amazing guide, a woman who knew every detail of both the making of the movie and the actual von Trapp family history.

Salzburg was beautiful – the hills really did feel alive with the sound of music! The girls loved the marionette museum we visited where they got to work with their own puppets. We toured the large and impressive church where the wedding scene was filmed and saw the lovely little church where the real Maria and Georg actually were married. At the famous gazebo where Liesl sang “16 Going on 17,” I forced my boy to dance with me to the girls’ delight. The best part was our visit to the Mirabell Gardens, where some of the most recognizable sequences from the movie were filmed. Drew waited patiently as us girls consulted our iTouch to find the exact scenes from the movie and then acted them out singing and dancing our way through the afternoon. We will never forget it!

And today we found ourselves waiting at the book signing for the chance to meet Julie Andrews face to face. We were close to the front of the line, and it was cute to see the girls peering between the bookshelves to get a first glimpse as she entered the store. She looked so regal, addressed Bella and Sophie by name (her voice is exactly the same as in the movies) and had a lovely conversation with our family. It was thrilling – a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet such an icon. We love her as Mary Poppins and Queen Clarisse from “The Princess Diaries.” Most of all, we love her as Maria and for all the joy she and “The Sound of Music” has brought to four generations of our family. Just to see her in person, if only for a few minutes, was another perfect moment to seize!

pretty candy bars

April 27, 2012 § 2 Comments

This time of year, I find myself needing a few creative gifts as Mother’s Day and other spring events fill our calendar, and the girls’ school activities begin winding down. One of my favorite crafts of all time is decorating store-bought candy bars. I love taking something simple and inexpensive and turning it into such a personal gift. I wrap the outside of the bar in pretty scrapbook paper and then add ribbons and other embellishments. They are so fun to make and the perfect little “just thinking of you” gift. I can’t wait to give mine away to the special friends in my world.

chopped salad

April 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

My friend Nichole and her family moved away last summer, and it has been sad for our family living without the daily interaction from our sweet friends. While we miss them terribly for so many more important reasons – if I can be selfish for a minute, I must say the lack of interesting salads in my life has definitely left a noticeable hole. I don’t know how she does it, but Nichole can make a salad out of almost anything. At every party, she was the go-to person for salads. Fruits, veggies, nuts, cheeses – she has a million combos, and each has its own perfect dressing that she just whipped up. I didn’t even realize how much I loved salads until she came into my life. Since I am nowhere near that creative on my own in the salad department, I’ve been forced to fend for myself (although I did have to send an emergency text to Nichole a while back when I was out of ideas, craving one of her perfect concoctions and desperate for salad inspiration). While I’ll never make a salad quite like my friend, I’m trying and have added a few yummy choices to the mix.

One of my favorite restaurants in the Seattle area is Purple Cafe & Wine Bar. With several locations, it is always a great place for tasty food, wine flights and atmosphere. I’m sure all the food is delicious, but I have a very hard time moving past their amazing chopped salad. Finely chopped lettuces, onion, peppers, avocado, garbanzo beans and pancetta make this the perfect salad you can eat as a meal. I found myself thinking about the salad so often that I’ve adapted my own version – so simple and easy to make with just a few ingredients that I usually already have in my fridge. I’m sure Nichole would have the perfect balsamic dressing recipe to make this even more delightful, but I’ve found that this girl can be happy with a little Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette to get it close enough. A great salad for warmer days!

Chopped Salad

butter and romaine lettuces
red onion
red pepper
bacon – crisp
feta cheese – crumbled
garbanzo beans

Finely chop lettuces, onion, pepper, avocado and bacon. Mix together with feta cheese and garbanzo beans. Toss with a balsamic vinaigrette and enjoy.

inspiring trees

April 20, 2012 § 2 Comments

Our little downtown park has recently added a temporary art installation: Dr. Suess-inspired tree socks covering the trunks of all the trees, part of an exhibit by Seattle artist Suzanne Tidwell called Artificial Light. Years ago, we had one of Bella’s birthday parties (a fairy party) here, and the sight of the guests – building their own fairy houses and running through the meadow in wings and flower crowns – was magical. But this new display has elevated the park’s allure and, since it’s only here until June, we need to enjoy it while we can. Beautiful and inspiring, it’s definitely the perfect place to spend an afternoon hanging out and making daisy chains. Happy weekend!

tiny art

April 17, 2012 § 1 Comment

I’m definitely more “crafty” than “artsy,” but every once in a while I get the urge to make my own masterpiece and, when that feeling comes, I love to make a few inchies. If you don’t know, inchies are tiny works of art using any and all art medium, with the constraint being that the piece fit a one inch by one inch space. Crafters like me have gotten into the mix by incorporating stamping, collage and other paper-crafting elements into inchie art. Ellen Hutson is one of the most inspiring inchie artists to me and uses the cutest inchie stamps designed by Lockhart Stamp Company. Another great resource is Inchie Arts, their website has tons of ideas and supplies. Coloring in my own little inchies with the amazing Copic markers I’ve begun collecting feels to me as good as breaking into a new pack of Crayolas during the first weeks of school when I was a little girl – ahh! And the thing about inchies: they are honestly too tiny to mess up. I love that even I can be an artist on a one-inch canvas.

sharing books

April 15, 2012 § 1 Comment

We are a family of bookworms. When the girls were little, we loved going to bed and waking up by reading a fun stack of our favorite picture books – books that now I will never be able to part with. But as the girls have grown, we’ve moved into new and even more exciting territory: the chapter book read-alouds. It’s probably not a coincidence that this is something that has become part of our family life given that my dad reading aloud is definitely a favorite memory from my childhood. The first chapter book I read to our family was Charlotte’s Web, and by the time we got to the part when the lovely Charlotte comforts Wilbur as she is meeting her tragic end, Bella was fully engaged, weeping along with Wilbur. She was so affected, loved the story and wanted to hear it again immediately. And I’ll never forget reading The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane to both the girls, crying so hard myself by the end that I could barely get the last words out.

This Spring Break, it was fun to have my dad read a bit of The Hobbit, our current read-aloud. He’d read it when I was little, and once convinced, he dove in again – it was like stepping back in time. He used the voices I remember, and I was thrilled the girls got to hear a little of his version. We just laid back and took it in – it was a good night.

We also love listening to books on CD. The Harry Potter series, read by Jim Dale, is a particular favorite with my girls. In fact, anything read by Jim Dale can transport you to another world. We have recently discovered a new series: Peter and the Starcatchers, a new twist on the classic Peter Pan story. We started reading the first book ourselves but, once we discovered that Mr. Dale was reading the audio books, we made the switch. On our ski weekends this year, we were consumed with listening to the series in the car, sometimes coming home after our long drive to sit at the kitchen bar, huddling around the iPod, unable to break ourselves away from the story. I love that we are book nerds.

It’s definitely fun to read alone, and each of us loves the down-time provided by checking out and escaping into our own little book world. But, there’s something different and amazing about reading a book together as a family. Having our own little book club and sharing that imaginary world together is a wonderful way to spend our time.

Our Favorite Family Read-Alouds:
any Oz book
Charlotte’s Web
Little Women
Little House on the Prairie
The Penderwicks
Peter and the Starcatchers
Harry Potter

old friends

April 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

We’re just back from Spring Break, and I’m glad to have had some time, albeit brief, to reconnect with some of our oldest and dearest friends. We have been friends with the Newtons for years: first, in our 20s and fresh out of college in Atlanta. Then for the better part of 10 years, we found our way through young adulthood: jobs, promotions, graduate school, marriage and children. Even after we moved to Seattle, we made a commitment to stay close. We try to get together every summer and, while the past couple of years has been harder, we still find bits of time together. Our girls call them “Aunt” and “Uncle,” and their little ones call us the same. Looking at old pictures of the children makes me smile – I can’t believe how fast they are growing, but seeing them together does somehow keep a bit of their childhood forever frozen.

Old friends feel like coming home – no matter how crazy life gets or where its twists and turns take you, it is comforting to know that you always have these kinds of friends, in your back pocket, who loved you when and will always be in your life. And just like I’m sure it is for most old friends, when we get together, it’s like no time has passed. You don’t have to be “on,” and there is an endless supply of conversation: “Remember when …” and “Can you believe we …” Within minutes, the kids are right back where they left off, playing pirates or soldiers or crafting. They laugh easily and each is their most kooky self. It’s magic, and magical things seem to happen. Amazingly every time we’ve been together at the beach, our kids have found buried treasure. They uncover cool old pirate maps, the X marks the spot kind leading to a treasure that’s just perfect for them (how does that keep happening?). It’s their little tradition, bonding them with something they’ll always share. I love knowing that my children, like us, will always have these dear old friends rooting for them in life.

decorated eggs

April 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had so much fun trying my hand at decorating eggs – not the typical holiday egg coloring we do with our kiddos around this time of year, but something a little more crafty. It’s impossible for me to even think about Easter eggs without thinking of my Aunt Doc. When I was little and we’d go to Indiana to visit my grandparents, we would always visit Aunt Doc and Uncle Mac. Lifelong friends of my grandparents, they were more family than friends and definitely earned their affectionate “Aunt” and “Uncle” titles.

Visiting their house was like going to a museum. Besides her doll collection, which in itself was amazing, Aunt Doc decorated eggs and had all of her unbelievable egg creations in glass cabinets displayed throughout the house. Describing these eggs, it’s impossible to convey their detail to a degree that would do them justice. To say that some of them had hinged doors or lit up or played music wouldn’t even give the full picture – they were truly works of art. Just search the web for pictures of “hand decorated eggs” to see some of the amazing creations people have made. The one of Aunt Doc’s that I remember most was Cinderella’s coach, a large ostrich-type egg with golden wheels. The sides were cut out – the doors even opened – and tiny figures sat inside on plush seats. It was amazing!

Upstairs Aunt Doc had an entire room devoted to her craft. There were at least two long tables filled with supplies, and I loved looking at all the tiny specialized tools, like the little drills, tweezers, magnifying glasses and detail cutters. There was equipment to blow out the eggs, painting supplies, hundreds of tiny embellishments and the eggs themselves: from tiny quail to large emu, a lot of which had to be special ordered. She had taken classes on egg decorating – believe me, I now know from experience that blowing out the eggs is tricky to do without breaking the shell – and even competed with some of her masterpieces. I remember how fun it was to look at the eggs that were still in progress, and I loved talking to her about what was going to happen to them and imagining how they would turn out. It was inspiring.

That’s the thing about inspiration, it’s everywhere. Every source is like a tiny seed – maybe not much to begin with or even something you can recognize, but those seeds begin to grow. The seeds for my creativity came from a lot of places. My dad is great at drawing, and a painting he had done – a copy of an old National Geographic cover photo – hung in his apartment when I was little. I remember being so impressed that he had painted it himself. And my mom, who has always loved to sew, was constantly creating sewing, cross-stitch and crochet projects. She loved making things for us and for others, giving away beautiful gifts.

It is no coincidence that 30-something years later I have a room in my house filled with specialized tools and embellishments to craft to my heart’s content. It’s not by chance that I love the entire process of creating my own projects, from gathering the supplies and coming up with the ideas to admiring the finished work and giving away some of my favorites. Being creative makes me happy. So thank you to everyone who has inspired me, including Aunt Doc for her beautiful eggs – her inspiration and creativity planted a seed that helped to grow into something that brings me so much joy. I could never decorate an egg like her, but I know there’s a part of her that helped spark my own creative passion.

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