Being sick gives you lots of excuses for sitting around and not doing very much. I scrapped another card, this one to use as thank you notes for all of the lovely gifts we've received this Christmas:

Layout credits: Creative Memories: 'Gazebo' Digital Paper, 'Blush Blooms' Floral Overlay, 'Gazebo' Word Art; Digital Scrapbook Place 'String of Pearls': Round Vellum Tag, String of Pearls; Erica Belton for Digital Scrapbook Place: Purple Hydrangea; Ann Langpap for Two Peas in a Bucket: Swirl Border; Rhonna Farrer for Two Peas in a Bucket: Beaded Swirl; Amy Teets 'Sun Porch': Toile Brad

I think I'm flu-ish, but not quite sure. Feeling light-headed, tired all over. Sore throat, can't breathe, runny nose, cough. Thankfully, Dylan and Carys are totally fine now, and amazingly Thalia is still not sick. (Not that she didn't already miss over a week of school this semester for various illnesses.)


A Happy New Card for a Happy New Year

We canceled our trip to Dallas this week because all of us, except for Thalia, came down with colds this Christmas. It's such a bummer to be sick during the holidays. But we definitely don't need to spreading germs to our north Texas friends, so we're laying low at home and resting.

I took advantage of being stuck at home today by creating a "Happy New Year" card to send to our friends who we didn't get to send Christmas greetings to before. I hate forgetting anyone. This is what I came up with, using my digital scrapping software:

Layout credits: New Year 2006 template by Rhonna Farrer for Two Peas in a Bucket; Scalloped Vellum Tag by unknown artist (sorry!); Black/White Bow by unknown artist (sorry again!)

Yes, it's basically the Christmas card done up with a new year's theme. Looking at it right now, I wish I had changed the pics to black and white. Oh well. I'm trying to stick to my rule of not going back and messing with finished layouts! And from now on, I'm going to follow the example of other good scrappers and give credit where it's due for each digital layout that I post.

I uploaded and had them printed at Costco, so they'll be out in the mail soon, I hope!


Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Good Night

We absolutely didn't get around to sending holiday cards to everyone who was on our list or had sent us one. It's been a strange holiday season; I've never been this lax or late in getting our cards out! Blame it on the sucky economy!

For all of you who took the time to send personalized greetings through the US or international mail or even to our inboxes, thank you so much for bringing Christmas spirit into our home. We love catching up with our friends, near and far, at this time of year. The girls especially love looking at photos of other children, even little friends they've haven't met yet. For those whom we forgot/lost your address/ran out of time, our apologies and this digital equivalent:

This is the actual card we mailed out until we ran out of time/steam. Hope you think it's as funny as we did!

Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah on this very special day to all! (and Happy Kwanzaa tomorrow!)

Melissa, Dylan, Thalia & Carys


The Birthday Boy

Dylan's birthday is December 11, exactly two weeks before Christmas. December babies have it rough--they're either forgotten altogether in the holiday frenzy or have to make do with a birthday/Christmas gift.
It's like that around here too.

We try to celebrate Dylan's birthday along with the holidays and usually invite friends over for a combined celebration. This year, we had a few friends on hand when Dylan blew out the candles (#38!) on his rather unusual cake:

Yes, that is a donut cake. A Krispy Kreme donut cake, in fact. Because I'm always making cakes for other people's birthdays, when our own birthdays come around at our house, we like to celebrate with something besides a cake! We usually go for an ice cream cake or cookie cake, but this year I decided to surprise Dylan with a donut cake. I got the idea from seeing Krispy Kreme wedding cakes online a few years ago. The donut cake actually is a pyramid of donuts, although that is not immediately evident in the photo. I used 2 dozen KK donuts (holiday themed), drizzled white and dark chocolate over the donut tower, and added fresh strawberries and blackberries. The kids could not wait for Dylan to blow out the candles so they could attack the cake!

I'm not sure if Dylan even ate his own "cake," but we did polish off all those donuts.


Practice, Practice, Practice

I played around with my new Creative Memories scrapbooking software tonight, instead of watching The Dark Knight with Dylan. Here are some of the layouts I came up with, using some random photos of Carys:

Carys's school pic last year . . .

. . . and this year's pic

I found that I like doing layouts in the 12 x 12" page size, although the digital scrapbooks are cheaper in the 8.5 x 11" size. Up to $30 cheaper in fact. Oh well! I've always scrapped on 12" paper so it's what I'm used to.

Nothing is more daunting than a blank 12" page, so for inspiration I pulled out some old scrapbooking magazines that I'd saved for future layout ideas. My second layout is based on one by Margaret Winters in Becky Higgins' Creative Sketches 2. Got my digital scrapping juices flowing!

It also took considerably longer to do each page this time because I played around with all the embellishment options! Buttons, ribbons, borders, stitching, overlays, doodles, endless hues of paper, etc. Addictive, no?

Thalia will likely have a fit when she sees these layouts and will want her own digital scrapbook pages! She loves paging through her traditional scrapbooks, but those aren't on the computer. Hmmm . . . what have I gotten myself into?


Jumping In: Digital Scrapping

All the photos we took documenting the first 3 1/2 years of Thalia's life (and there were MANY photos from 2001 to 2004) were all shot on a "traditional" 35mm non-digital camera. Therefore, we have rolls and rolls worth of photos in archival, photo-safe boxes of Thalia as a baby and toddler. Some have been scrapbooked in traditional scrapbooks and preserved in lovely layouts. Others lay in waiting.

In contrast, almost all of Carys's photos taken since she was born are digital, thanks to Dylan's parents gifting us with our first digital camera in 2004. It was great to have the digital camera and take unlimited photos of the new baby, but the downside of course was filtering through them and choosing the best ones to print. While I have printed some of the ones taken when she was a baby, the majority of the images exist only in the digital world. Therefore, Carys's photos have been in limbo almost since she arrived!

A few weeks ago I decided that it was too huge of a project to go through all of Carys's digital photos and print them off. So I decided instead to invest in some digital scrapbooking software. Digital scrapbooking has always fascinated me. The completed pages look just like traditional pages, only better sometimes. You get a dizzying array of papers and embellishments to choose from. More than I would ever have in stock in my home craft center.

I'm starting from the beginning with Carys's photos, so here is the first digital page I created with my new Creative Memories Storybook Creator Plus software of the day she was born, May 20, 2004:

It took me less than 10 minutes to throw this page together, and this is after changing the background papers about 4 times. And the software has a gazillion page templates for when I'm feeling lazy and just want to pop the photos in. I did this page from scratch, but the other option is quite tempting as well. My layout doesn't have the bells and whistles I've seen on other pages because I haven't quite figured out how to add all of them without the page looking a little crazy. The beauty of the software is I can play around with it and learn as I go.

I still love traditional scrapbooking more though. I love using my hands and cutting, pasting, moving things around on the page. I get a real feeling of accomplishment when I've spent a half an hour on a page and it turns out great! I've still got a whole room full of real paper, stickers, rubber stamps and other embellishments for a traditional scrapbook, and I intend to create a traditional scrapbook for Carys as well. But for now, it's exciting to get my feet wet with digital scrapping and finally wade through the four years worth of Carys's pics!


Decorating for the Holidays!

Ha! We've (over)decorated our house for the holidays already, so I've added a bit of the holiday spirit to our blog! Thanks to Tracy for clueing me in to The Cutest Blog on the Block for their free blog backgrounds. It was so hard to choose just one! This one matched our color scheme perfectly.

I've also redecorated over at Who Are You Calling Little? and will likely do so at The Sweet Spot as well.

I also found out that you can do a similar facelift to your Facebook page, which is for your eyes only, but it was too complicated. Annoying FB applications!



Poor is the New Rich, Part 2

Photo from Google Images

We're back! We (that would be me) took a couple of weeks off from blogging after the marathon NaBloMoPo challenge of November. That was an exhilarating experience, got my blogging juices going, but was also the tiniest bit stressful. However, after not having posted anything in over two weeks, I realize how much I missed it!

Bear with me--I have something to boast about! Those of you who read our blog may recall our earlier post about our family's plan to ride out the recession. Dylan thought it was embarrassing to even write about our cut-backs because they seemed so trivial and shallow. After all, dropping a premium cable channel hardly merits a pat on the back. But I thought it was a funny and real snapshot of our family life so I didn't delete the post.

The funny thing is, it turns out we're not the only ones who are so blessed that we can merely cut back on the extras in our lives instead of giving up "real" comforts. Other families everywhere are already quietly doing the same or being encouraged to do so.

On Halloween, I was contacted by Kathy Peel, founder and CEO of Family Manager Coaching. My friend Tyra had given her the heads up about our "Poor is the New Rich" post. OMG, I was so surprised and honored when Kathy Peel asked to interview me! She is the nicest person. Her Family Manager website is awesome, full of great articles and tips. I couldn't believe it when she said she loved our blog! *small happy scream!* Anyway, the resulting article from our conversation appeared on the website for The Takeaway, a national morning show on National Public Radio (NPR). The audio from Kathy's appearance on the show, in the segment "How to Make Wise Spending Choices," can also be heard or downloaded from the site.

Five days after Kathy Peel's NPR appearance, Tyra also referred to us in her Dallas Morning News 'Briefing' column on the same topic. What a little thrill! *another happy scream!* Thanks for the anonymous shout-out!

It's not that hard to think of little ways to save some dollars here and there that don't hurt. Perhaps we'll reach the point someday where our sacrifices will hurt, but hopefully that day is still a long way off. I do know that all four of us are aware of what's been given up so far and that they were little luxuries, not necessities. And maybe one result of all of this will be that our kids will be more responsible about money, spending and budgeting than I have been. I don't recall ever knowing or discussing how much things cost relative to other things I wanted when I was a young child, but already our girls have that awareness. It's touching and sweet sometimes, their concern for how much something costs. That kind of lesson in itself is priceless.


Something for Everyone

This weekend, our family did our usual bi-monthly "charity run" along with some "second-hand selling." This combination of giving away junk that's been sitting around in our house unused or unwanted plus actually selling some of it for cash always gives me and Dylan a little thrill. Sad, I know.

First, the "second-hand selling" part: we sold some baby and toddler stuff, mostly clothes and some toys, to our favorite children's resale place, Once Upon a Child. We've been selling to and shopping at OUAC since Thalia was about 2 months old. They pay cash for your stuff and sell gently used clothing, shoes, toys and baby stuff at good prices. We bought a never-used wood high-chair there in 2001 for about half the price we would have paid elsewhere. One Rubbermaid tub of clothes, shoes and toys got us $54. Not bad. And that was probably the smallest haul we've ever brought in to the store. We even picked up a pair of Levi's for Thalia for the bargain price of $7.60, which they conveniently deducted, tax-free, from our $54.

Next, we sold books and magazines to Half-Price Books, just about my favorite book store in any city. We always have fun browsing in the kids' section while they price our "buy." We made $16 on one brown paper bag full of books and mags. Seriously not bad. And I can't even tell you what was in the bag, that's how unwanted those items were! The girls got to choose one new (used) book each, paid for with our earnings.

We swung by Goodwill to give away whatever wasn't sold at OUAC plus about two garbage bags full of clothing and shoes (mine and Dylan's). Our closets are looking much leaner and lighter now without the stuff we weren't wearing!

Overall, we think our regular visits to different charities to give things we don't use anymore has made a very positive impact on the girls. They are very aware of what "charity" is and the different ways our donations help local charities. We occasionally go through all their toys and pull out the items they've outgrown or tired of, sell the ones that are like new, and donate the more used ones. Also, selling our things to OAUC or Half-Price teaches them that recycling clothing and books is a good thing--someone else will buy them at a good price, and we can use the money we earn to buy clothes that actually fit them and other books they haven't read!

What's Old is New Again

My "scrapbooking/craft station" in the already crowded office that Dylan and I share (I get 3/4 of the space, he gets 1/4) had really gotten out of control since summer. And summer is the last time I actually did any scrapbooking! The craft table was piled high with papers, scissors, ribbons, photos, etc. that were all dangerously close to sliding off. Unopened packages of "embellishments" such as eyelets, stickers, paper flowers, etc. were lost in all of that as well. Until today.

Some back story: Over the summer we decided that storing all of our music CDs (over 2oo of them) in large binders would be a great idea. All of our CDs fit into two binders that fit on a shelf underneath our TV. We no longer needed the 4 ft x 2 ft CD shelf from Pottery Barn. However, I was loathe to get rid of it. It was in perfect condition and could be useful for . . . something. Well, it sat empty for most of the summer and fall. We allowed Thalia to use it to house her Littlest Pet Shop collection, but when she routinely forgot to put her toys away and left everything on the floor, I took the CD storage back.

Meanwhile, in the past few weeks I've been thinking of ways to tame my out-of-control craft station. Michaels sells a Making Memories Embellishment Center, which looks like this:

It retails for around $75. I thought it was a great idea. It also reminded me of something I had in my own house--the CD shelf.

So today, I turned the shelf into my own embellishment center:

I bought the same Making Memories plastic storage jars at Michael's (need to pick up some more) and started filling them.

I also discovered a box of Creative Memories Consultant supplies that I had received earlier this month but had not opened yet. Inside the box was a demo kit for the custom framing options that are no longer offered by the company. I wondered what I was going to do with the frame samples, and then realized that the black easel that held the frame samples with velcro (much like the frame samples at Michael's custom framing department) would be perfect for storing other things!

I ripped the velcro off the frame samples and attached them to some of my new storage jars. So now I also have a new storage system for small items:

A long velcro strip down the center of the easel is perfect for attaching the lightweight jars. I whimsically attached them to the easel!

Unfortunately, some of my embellishments were too large to fit in the little jars. So I found a new use today for a very old hanging jewelry organizer:

It's now my hanging embellishment organizer!

And finally, to get handle on the many, many spools of ribbon I buy, I created my own ribbon organizer:

The design is painfully simple--a bamboo skewer stuck into a block of styrofoam, which in this case was actually one of my "fake cakes" for demo!

As they say: Reuse - Renew - Recycle!


The Elusive Family Photo

Thanksgiving 2008

How hard is it to get a family pic, nothing fancy, just a photo with all four of us in it? Actually, it's very, very difficult! And you'd think that we'd go out of our way to at least try to get one on major holidays such as Thanksgiving. But we never do! And how sad is that, especially when we're all dressed up and the table looks great?

Last year I went all out for Thanksgiving on account of my two aunts who were visiting from the Philippines that week. They'd never celebrated an American Thanksgiving before and were excited and curious about it. I wanted them to experience a true, traditional Thanksgiving. I bought a lovely new centerpiece that practically ran the length of my dining table, picked up new serving dishes, cooked all the traditional dishes including the turkey (which is a very big deal), and basically went crazy doing everything Thanksgiving-ish!

When I looked at the photos we took that day, I realized we didn't take a single photo with everyone in it, despite the fact that both my aunts AND my parents AND our own little family were all there at the table. My Dad wasn't in any of the pics at all! One of my aunts was in exactly one photo, as were Dylan and I. We only got a shot or two of my beautiful table, and not all the food was on it yet. And we didn't manage to even get a family pic with the four of us. I was so disgusted with our collective photo abilities. I vowed we would do better next year.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving 2008, yesterday at our friends' house. Despite our best intentions to get pics of each family there and the food, we didn't get around to taking the individual family photos until around 9 pm, and we'd been there for almost 6 hours already! Several of the guests had already gone home. We took no pics of the fabulous vegetarian spread. But at least we did get a family pic, which is an improvement upon last year. I guess we were all having just too much fun to be bothered with photographing it!



Image from Google Images

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.... It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. ~ Melody Beattie

This evening at our friends' Thanksgiving dinner, our host read this quote by Melody Beattie after the grace. What a simple but powerful idea-- an attitude of gratitude changes everything.

Today I asked the girls what they are thankful for. Thalia said "my family and friends. And my toys." Carys answered "my Webkinz, Mommy, Daddy, Thalia and friends." In that order, by the way. Perhaps children already know the secret to a full life; they are grateful for all things, large and small.

Thanksgiving Day is over, but the reminder to be thankful each and every day will hopefully stay with us for the next 365 days to come.


21st Century Christmas List

I was a child of the 70s: my "bible" during the holiday season

When I was little, my Christmas wish lists were made by poring over the Sears Wish Book toy section and further fleshed out by the "I wants" experienced during commercial breaks in between Saturday morning cartoons and visits to friends' homes and playing with their cool toys. Toys R Us did not have scanners to create kids' registries back then. My list was written while spread out on the living room carpet in front of the TV.

This morning Thalia and I worked on her Christmas list. This is the first year she has created an actual list of things she wants. Last year, she wrote a polite and friendly note to Santa requesting "whatever you would like to give me." Good gracious, what a difference a year makes!

We worked on her list using my laptop while cuddling together under the covers. No sheets of notebook paper or pencils. Her list is saved as a MS Word file (she dictated, I typed). No Sears Wish Book or any other 600+ page catalogs spread out in front of us. Just several browser windows open to Amazon.com and other pertinent sites, such as Nintendo.com when listing the DS games she wants. When she would come across something that looked interesting but knew nothing about, we would read the reviews on Amazon. If others said it was lame, then it wouldn't make the list. She added the top selling DS game on Amazon, based strictly on its popularity with other kids.

We had a great time working on her list, which isn't quite finished yet, but it really struck me how times have really changed! Next year she will certainly be able to navigate her way around the Internet enough so she can write her Christmas list herself. Of course, she still added some items that she knew were cool because her friends have them (that will never change) or had seen on TV or online. But gone are the days when a handful of big department stores sold everything you needed or wanted and poring over telephone book-sized holiday catalogs for your Christmas list ideas was the thing to do.


August: Last Days of Summer

Melissa says: Finally caught up with posting our summer pics! August 2008 was pretty low-key but jam-packed with summer camp, parties and back-to-school prep. We did squeeze in a family vacation to Austin and Dallas (more about that in a later post), but for the most part, August was all about staying close to home.

There were friends' birthdays to celebrate:

Thalia poses with her begoggled Girl Scout pals . . .

while Carys shows off at a pool party.

Carys and her birthday pal create art at Artworks studio for kids . . .

with spectacular results!

Carys and Thalia climb out of a volcano of red foam "lava" at Radijazz, a unique party place in Austin.

A birthday party at Brackenridge Park with playtime at the playground . . .

and a ride around the park on the Train!

Special events to attend:

Our favorite Austin performer, Joe McDermott, live at Pottery Barn Kids!

Carys (denim dress) gets down dancing to her favorite of Joe's songs

. . . and then takes a break with a friend on the floor of Luby's (ick).

Meeting the Alice in Wonderland after the Magik Theatre's performance . . .

and getting her autograph too!

Fun activities at summer camp:
Thalia is all-smiles moments before going onstage with her fellow campers at the all-camp showcase.

Thalia (white dress in the back) and her camp friends, led by their counselors, perform a very mellow, breezy Hawaiian dance. Very mellow.

Thalia and her best bud's crazy luau dance on the last day of summer camp!

And then finally it was time to go back to school--early bedtimes, new schedules, new rules, school supplies, new clothes, lunchboxes, haircuts, etc.:

Thalia, a brand-new 2nd grader, on the first day of school!


Thanksgiving Isn't Thanksgiving Without the Turkey

We have been invited to share Thanksgiving dinner with our very good friends in town who are vegetarian. We've done Thanksgiving with them before, but the last time was at our house and the husband wasn't completely vegetarian yet so we did serve some turkey breast slices.

This year, however, their entire family is totally vegetarian, and the menu is meatless of course. Dylan and I are completely ok with that, and everyone knows that it's the side dishes that make the meal anyway. We'll have sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry, vegetables, cake and pie, in addition to some unique gourmet vegetarian dishes our friends are preparing. Yum-o!

When I informed Thalia and Carys that we wouldn't be having turkey on Thursday, I was quite surprised at the response I received. They were actually upset and indignant at the thought of a turkey-less Thanksgiving! It's not like we don't get enough turkey on any given day; they get turkey sandwiches nearly every day in their lunchboxes. Thalia informed me that "Thanksgiving isn't Thanksgiving without the turkey." I told them they wouldn't even miss it. They were unconvinced.

This morning, amidst the 20-40 pound turkeys for sale at Costco, I spotted some tiny little roasted whole turkey breasts that would be perfect for our family's brunch on Thanksgiving (we're eating around 4:30 pm at our friends' house). So I gave in and bought a teensy bit of turkey. So now I'll have to make my special gravy, which I am known for. And maybe I'll prepare my wild rice stuffing to go with it, since we'll be having bread stuffing in the afternoon. Possibly some green beans too, although I don't know if those will be on the menu later either. Ha! So much for my no-cook Thanksgiving this year!


Break a Leg

Google Images

This weekend was a busy one for our family--Thalia's play, Cinderella Jr., opened on Saturday night and closed this evening! This was Thalia's second performance with the NOVA children's theatre troupe at the JCC, this time as Sophie the Mouse in a modern retelling of Disney's classic animated film, Cinderella. As in pink Crocs instead of a glass slipper!

Thalia and all the other kids in the troupe were busy all semester learning their lines, song lyrics and dance routines for this musical. Thalia never missed a single rehearsal, despite having only one spoken line in the show! We were so pleased that several family members and friends were able to share these special evenings with us. (Thanks to everyone who came to see the show!)

Thalia on the Cast Board

Dylan and I were so proud to see our not-so-little girl singing and dancing on stage again! The play was really funny too, with all the modern additions and improvisation. Unfortunately, I can't really post any pics of her on stage because I don't have permission from all the other actors and their parents, but we did take pics of our little Mouse after each show:

Thalia visiting with family and friends after show #1. Lola and Lolo brought her a beautiful bouquet of roses that she wouldn't let go for the rest of the night!

More flowers after show #2. Thalia's full costume for Sophie--she opted to be the "cute girl" mouse in the ensemble.

Three generations of Tarun gals--Lola Ofelia, Carys, Melissa and Thalia

After the first performance on Saturday, we continued our celebration in typical Tarun fashion--at a restaurant, of course--where Lolo treated us all to a huge Chinese dinner! Thalia excitedly gave us tidbits about what happened backstage during the show and asked everyone at the table what their favorite scenese were (hers, obviously!). Tonight just the four of us went out to EZ's, which the girls loved, and it was a lovely end to Thalia's short run as a Disney character.



When I wrote the post about the tween bed, I forgot to post this photo of what Thalia's room looks like now (actually the bed is no longer against the fence; we did that until she turned 7 yrs old so she wouldn't roll off). Soon her room will be completely different, and I was surprised at how very few photos we have of how it was.

Thalia's garden room, December 2005

It's is shocking how much my kids have grown and changed since this photo was taken in December 2005. Thalia's legs didn't even dangle over the edge of the bed when sitting across it. Now, she can hardly keep them on the bed in any direction! She's even wearing her dynamic cast in the picture, which she wore uncomplainingly for many months to heal her arm, which we now know can't be healed so easily. Her bed had Dora sheets on it, which she wouldn't deign to have now. And Carys just looks like a round little babyface! I long to reach back through time and pinch those precious cheeks. I miss those days. Life was so much simpler and sweeter, when we didn't have to be somewhere all the time. Time was flexible and could be stretched in different directions.


For Steve and Family

This is my (and Thalia's) favorite song from Sara Hickman's Big Kid album. I thought of it around a year ago when Steve was first diagnosed with the cancer and sent him the lyrics, and listening to the CD again this week after many months reminded me again of how much I like the song. And how much we wish Steve, Tyra, Cooper and Katie well, hope, love and peace. Prayers and love for you all.

I Wish You Well

A carousel to wish you well
Spinning round and round
Until you've ridden to your heart's content
And hopped back on the ground

I wish you well... I wish you love
I wish you all I can
I wish you peace... I wish you hope
Until we meet again

Blessings to the birds I hear
Flying up above
Bringing song into our lives
Nestling in our hearts with love

I wish you well... I wish you love
I wish you all I can
I wish you peace... I wish you hope
Until we meet again

Oh, this old world can seem so big
Everywhere you go
But we can choose to become a friend
With anyone we know

I wish you well... I wish you love
I wish you all I can
I wish you peace... I wish you hope
Until we meet again...
Until we meet again
Until we meet, my friends...



Egg molds from Ichiban Kan (ichibankanusa.com)

The Japanese just make food and eating so much fun. Of course it's true that all Asian groups do so, but the Japanese take it to the next level. They eat with all their senses. We really miss out on so much of the pleasure of eating here in this country.

For Halloween, Carys and Thalia received treat bags from our good friends, and Carys's godparents, in Austin. They are always spoiling our girls with the most clever and interesting gifts, and this was no exception. Inside the bags were these absolutely positively adorable Japanese boiled egg molds! Carys got the bunny and teddy molds while Thalia got the star and heart ones. They were bought online from Ichiban Kan. You pop a hardboiled egg into the molds like so:

Then seal it and refrigerate or cool in a bowl of ice water. Then voila, you have some really, really cute eggs for your kids' lunchbox. If I were a bento-packing Mom, I might then go on to make rice balls or onigiri, cut fruit and vegetables using "food cutters" and arrange bits of cooked meat in little shaped containers. But as I'm not that kind of Mom, my kids were already so excited to have "bunny eggs" or "star eggs" in their lunches. We also found that the large and jumbo eggs work the best.

The girls have gotten a bit spoiled with the shaped eggs now; they wrinkle their nose at regular old egg-shaped eggs. And I'm loving all the cool, strange stuff at Ichiban Kan's website.


Girl Scout Canned Food Drive patch (Google images)

This was in my email inbox today. It made me realize that as tough as it is these days to afford everything we "need" to have, we are so much better off than others who are really hurting. I am thankful today that another Girl Scout leader has renewed my perspective on giving during this holiday season:

Hello, And thank you for reading this email and for opening the attached files. My daughter's girl scout troop and service unit is having a food drive to benefit the San Antonio Food Bank. I know what your thinking, more hand outs, more expenses. With back to school, PTA, Sport, and Scouting fund raisers, and now it's Thanksgiving and soon Christmas, my pocket book won't get a break until the end of January. But I keep telling my self we have jobs with benefits, we have our house & cars, we have money in the bank (living paycheck to paycheck), our 401k and IRAs are down, but it will be awhile before we retire so it has time to recover. And yet all you hear is companies closing, unemployment is up and charitable organizations are struggling. How much is it going to cost me to take a few items from my pantry, can of soup $1.50, spaghetti sauce $1.82, pasta $1.18, wow that's the cost of a mighty kids meal. If you have the time and the opportunity please pass this email forward, take a copy of the flyer and tape it to your mail box, post it in the employee lounge at work. Make copies and send it to school with your children. . . Please stop by on Sunday drop off some food and say hi to these girls who are trying to make a difference. Hope to see you soon. A Girl Scout Leader


Pizza Night

Apparently tonight was that time of the month again--CiCi's Pizza Night to raise money for our cash-strapped elementary school. CiCi's has kept a running tally of all the money each classroom has earned for the school, and Thalia's classroom was in 1st place out of six area schools (WOW!) as of yesterday.

Thalia begs us to take her to CiCi's at least once a week, and now her sister has become enamored of CiCi's as well. Yesterday Thalia explained to me that we had to go to CiCi's so her class could win the prize, whatever that is. "We can go anytime between 5 and 9 pm, Mommy. We could even go at 8:57." Whatever.

Today was a particularly crazy day with me running countless errands, leading Girl Scouts, Thalia's theatre troupe in tech rehearsals all week, and Dylan having to attend a 5 pm meeting at work. So tonight we went to CiCi's!

While we just missed Thalia's teacher, who had of course eaten her dinner there as well, the CiCi's cashier told us when we arrived that her classroom was still in the lead! The place was full of kids and their parents and some teachers as well from our school. Thalia was excited to see several of her classmates and friends from school.

But even more, she was in raptures about eating her favorite pizza-- CiCi's Macaroni & Cheese Pizza:
Photo from Google Images
I've blogged before about her penchant for this odd combination of flavors and textures, but she really does love it. Unbeknownst to me and Dylan, Carys also likes the Mac & Cheese Pizza. By the time Carys demanded her own slice, they had already run out. She made Dylan go and ask for more, and they said they would, but it was a busy night and after 15 minutes there still wasn't any on the buffet. She was very disappointed. We finally convinced her that a bowl of the macaroni with alfredo cheese sauce was just as good (in my opinion, far better).

Carys did try the kind-of-good-for-you Spinach Alfredo Pizza and loved it! So adventurous!
Photo from Google Images
We all left stuffed with pizza, salad and dessert, and the knowledge that we'd helped Thalia's classroom get that much closer to earning the big prize!