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10.28.2016

Easy DIY Pokemon Pumpkins

 
The boys and I have totally fallen into Pokémon Go addiction.  We are having so much fun with it that G has changed his birthday theme for this year from Minecraft to Pokémon... but more on that later.
 
Pokémon is actually pretty easy to incorporate into simple DIY projects since Poke Balls are such a prominent theme of the game and show.  Basically, anything round can be a Poke Ball.  Case in point: pumpkins.
 
We recently made these Pokémon pumpkins in about a day's time (including dry time), so it's not too late for you to take on this fun project with your kiddos before Halloween.  We made a regular Poke Ball and Pikachu, but you can make different kinds of Poke Balls or simple Pokémon.  Here's how to do it!
 
Easy, DIY Pokémon Pumpkins
 
What you need:
  • Pumpkins (real or craft pumpkins; the craft pumpkins will last longer, and take less time to make)
  • Spray paint (red, yellow, and white if using real pumpkins)
  • Painter's tape
  • Scratch paper
  • Acrylic paint (black, white, pink, and red; I recommend heavy body acrylic paint)
 
Instructions:
  • For the Poke Ball: Using painter's tape and scratch paper, tape off the bottom half of one of the pumpkins.
 
 
  • Spray paint the top half of the pumpkin red.  I found that this only required 2 quick coats with the craft pumpkin.  Note that with white craft pumpkins, you don't need to spray paint the bottom half white.  If you are using a regular orange pumpkin, you will have to repeat this step and paint the bottom half white after the top dries.
 

  • For Pikachu: Spray paint the other pumpkin completely yellow.  Two quick coats did the trick with this craft pumpkin.



  • After two coats, let both pumpkins dry completely.


  • For Pikachu: After the yellow paint dries, you can paint details from Pikachu's face on one side of the pumpkin with black, white, pink, and red acrylic paint. 
  • Optional: add some ears cut out of yellow foam, with painted black tips. 

  •  For the Poke Ball: carefully peel the painter's tape and scratch paper off after the spray paint has dried.  It doesn't matter if the line isn't perfectly even, or if the paint bled, since you are going to paint over the center line.
  • Paint a wide black stripe around the center of the pumpkin.  Heavier body paint will allow you to cover any spray paint flaws with a single coat.
  • On one side, paint a large black circle over the black stripe.


  • After the black paint has dried, use a heavy body white acrylic paint to paint a smaller white circle on top of the black circle. 
  • After the acrylic paint has dried, your pumpkins are ready for display.


Happy Halloween!

10.24.2016

Some Play! A Thoroughly Enjoyable Performance of Charlotte's Web at ZACH Theatre



One of our favorite family activities is going to the theatre.  In Austin we have been very fortunate to have great children's theatre with ZACH Theatre's Theatre for Families series.  Plays in this series are geared for families with young children, which means that in addition to fun stories, the performances are interactive, short (great for toddlers' attention spans) and full of that theatre magic that kids love! 

This weekend we went to a matinee of Charlotte's Web at ZACH.  I can truly say that this one was just as enjoyable for the parents as it was for the kids!  Read on to see my review.  Charlotte's Web is playing now through December 3, 2016, and you can get your tickets here.


 
Like all children's theatre at ZACH, there were activities to keep the kids entertained before the show started, and start engaging them with the story.  For Charlotte's Web, the kids got to write their own messages for one of the spider webs hanging in the lobby.  Though with a story as classic (to both our kids and us adults) as Charlotte's Web, we didn't need a lot to engage with the story in advance! 

Photo credit: Kirk Tuck
 
After taking our seats, we were surprised (and happy) to see a band playing live music in the middle of the stage.  The 'Zuckerman Family Band' (also the cast of the play) was an opening act for the show, playing a set of bluegrass music.  The hubs and I love bluegrass, so this set a great tone for the play.  Kids of course love music, and with bluegrass's stomp-and-clap energy, the whole theatre got into it!  Little did we know that bluegrass music (including covers of some great classics) would act as a soundtrack for the play, with musical interludes carrying us through the seasons and emotions of the story.  It reminded us of a children's play version of O Brother, Where Art Thou?... We absolutely loved it!

The kids love going to plays at ZACH!  They also both already loved the story of Charlotte's Web, so they were really looking forward to this play!

 

Another great thing about the Theatre for Families plays at ZACH are the playbills.  They include activities and information about the plays in ways that are very accessible to the young viewers.


Every play we've seen at ZACH has found unique and magical ways to bring the story to life.  Charlotte's Web was no exception.  Aerial acrobat Winnie Hsia played Charlotte, and her aerial choreography was so spider-like, it was amazing!  I was very impressed, and the kids were totally in awe whenever she was on.

Photo credit: Kirk Tuck

Photo credit: Kirk Tuck

The rest of the cast was also a talented bunch.  We got se see some actors that we'd loved in previous ZACH plays (Amber Quick, Allen Robertson), as well as some new faces.  All were great actors and musicians. 

Photo credit: Kirk Tuck

We all got emotional at the end (fortunately we were all familiar with the story, so weren't shocked by the sad parts).  The way the music carried you through the emotions of the storyline, and the tender way the characters interacted, made it impossible to keep a dry eye. 

 
The kids got to meet the cast after the show, which was really special.  While we are already looking forward to the next play at ZACH, don't forget to take your family to see Charlotte's Web (playing now through December 3, 2016; get your tickets here)!
 


10.21.2016

Gift Idea for the Whiskey Connoisseur in Your Life: Choice of Connoisseurs Whiskey Stones

 
Disclosures: I received a complimentary set of whiskey stones from Choice of Connoisseurs for review purposes.  The opinions are completely my own based on my experience using the product.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive commission from Amazon if you make a purchase using the links.
 
My husband loves whiskey.  In fact, he fancies himself a connoisseur of whiskeys and bourbons.  We had heard about whiskey stones and reusable ice cubes for chilling your drink on the rocks without it getting watered down, but hadn't tried it until recently.  Not wanting our entertaining game to be lacking, we were glad to have a chance to review Choice of Connoisseurs Whiskey Stones just in time for holiday parties.  After giving them a try, I can say that not only are these an essential for your home bar, but they are also a great holiday or host gift idea for the connoisseur in your life!


Choice of Connoisseurs Whiskey Stones are granite whiskey stones that are stored in the freezer (like reusable ice cubes) until ready for use.  Since they are not ice, they don't melt or water your beverage down.  They are non-porous and won't change the flavor of your beverage, which I wondered about when I first heard of them.  Another artisanal feature of the stones are the rounded edges, which protect your glassware from scratches.  At a price of around $20 for a set of 12, these are a great, inexpensive stocking stuffer or host/hostess gift.  Or why not kick the gift up a notch by giving them with a bottle of Maker's Mark?

 
The set of 12 is a great quantity for entertaining.  The set also includes tongs and a velvet storage bag.  After an initial freezing time of 4-5 hours, you can use however many you want of them at a time, whenever you'd like.  Then they are easy to clean and reuse by keeping them stored in their velvet bag in the freezer.

 
 
One thing to note: these do not make your beverage ice cold (which can add to a reduction in flavor).  Instead they lower the temperature in the old Scandinavian tradition of chilling a beverage with frozen pebbles.
 
Get your set of Choice of Connoisseurs Whiskey Stones from Amazon here, and get another to cross the whiskey lover in your life off of your holiday gift list! 
 

 

10.18.2016

Easy Kid's Camping Craft: Leaf Rubbing Tree

 
We took our Camp Fire club camping this past weekend.  The kids had a great time exploring nature and getting dirty!  The younger kids especially love learning about nature through arts and crafts and interactive play, so we try to incorporate a few craft projects into the camping weekend.  Today I am sharing one of the crafts we did this weekend: a super easy leaf rubbing tree!

What you need:
Blank paper or a leaf rubbing book (see my printable below)
For the leaf rubbing book: brad, yarn, washi tape
Crayon (ideally a triangular or flat-edge crayon)
Scissors
Tape
Brown yarn
Empty toilet paper roll

This is a lesson and craft you can do while camping, or at home if you want to get your kids exploring outdoors.  I started with this simple lesson on parts of a tree for the little ones who still needed to learn basic tree anatomy (our Little Stars 3-5 year olds are learning tree anatomy and plant lifecycles this year, but the older clubs already had this foundation).  All the kids at the campout participated in the main craft, which was inspired by this craft from No Time for Flash Cards.  I was looking for something different they could do with their leaf rubbings aside from the usual placemat.
 
 
Each kid received a leaf rubbing booklet at the beginning of the campout.  You can get the My Leaf Rubbing Book cover printable that I made here.  To assemble the books I printed the cover page and added three more blank pages, which we cropped in half so that we had a cover page plus seven blank sheets.  I fastened the booklets together with a brad.  Since we were doing this craft at a campout, I figured there was a good chance that the crayon would get lost, so I attached the crayons to the booklets with a string of yarn wrapped around the brad, and secured to a triangular crayon (like these ones here) with washi tape.  Triangular crayons are ideal for leaf rubbing!
 


The kiddos took their leaf rubbing booklets with them during our hikes and nature explorations during the weekend.
 
 
When they found leaves they liked, they rubbed them into their booklets.  They even shared cool leaves with each other.  They tried to get a few rubbings on each page so that they'd have more leaves for their craft.
 
 


At the end of the weekend, the kids cut out each of their leaves.  We found that having 10 leaves worked out pretty well for the craft.

Using recycled empty toilet paper rolls, we taped 8-10 small pieces of brown yarn inside one of the ends of the toilet paper roll (as the tree's roots). 

The final step was for the kids to tape each of their cut rubbed leaves onto the outside of the roll (the tree's trunk). 
 
 
The trees all ended up being unique based on the crayon colors the children each chose, all of the different shapes of leaves they found, and the unique ways they arranged them on the trunks.
 

This was a super easy craft with a simple but effective lesson on tree anatomy.  It also added a great bit of interactivity with nature throughout the weekend as the kids looked for different types of leaves.  I hope you have fun with this with your kids as well, whether you are camping or doing this at home!

10.14.2016

Fall 2016 City Style: Travel Fashion for a Trip to London


Shopping for and styling wardrobe for a trip is one of my favorite parts of trip planning.  Our recent trip to London was no exception.  Today's post shares details on my looks from the trip with the city as a backdrop.  These outfits are a nice mini capsule of Fall/Winter 2016 city style, and from what I am seeing on the runways for the Spring 2017 ready-to-wear collections, these tops will transition right through to spring!  I hope you are inspired, and don't forget to pin these looks to shop them later!

Thanks again to our fab London friends Katie (of Kalanchoe) and Ben (of Twenty First Century Gent) for being such great hosts to us during our trip to your great city.  I must also thank Katie for her great photog skills and eye for fashion photography.  Check her photography business out at Katie Heath Photography

 
This first look was shot in the main square of Covent Gardens.  I am absolutely enamored by this Angelay Double Ribbon Blouse from Storets.  It had the tailored-but-funky feel.

 
I wore it with these mid rise raw hem ankle jean leggings from Express and the Kaidance platform pumps from JustFab.  If you're not a member of JustFab yet, click here to join (disclosure: this is an affiliate link, which means I receive commission from JustFab if you sign-up using the link)!


That bow detail, though!

 
Next, we find ourselves strolling along the south bank of the Thames, across from Westminster.  This is an extreme high-low top from Storets (I think it's sold out on the site though!).  I wore it with wide-legged denim culottes (similar to these from Forever 21), and Madden Girl Eezy Fabric Flats in navy from DSW.



I like the way the crisp look of the top contrasts with the frayed hem and creases on the jeans. 

 
For a morning out brunching and antiquing in Notting Hill, this Vivian Ruched Sleeve Top was a show-stopper!  Both the top and navy blue Anastasia Wrap-up Pants are from Storets.





 
This mixed chain swag choker necklace from Express was a delicate touch that didn't detract from the top.

 
My shoes for this look are gray Tahari Altar Pumps from DSW.  These are very comfortable for city wear. 



A London city style shoot wouldn't be complete without a pose by a red phone booth.  This easy, breezy off-the-shoulder poplin top from White House Black Market was great for the unseasonably warm fall day.  I styled it with jean leggings from Express, my JustFab Hadriel open-toe booties (one of my current footwear BFFs), and a floral lace choker necklace from Express.  If you're not a member yet, click here to sign-up for JustFab (disclosure: this is an affiliate link, which means I receive commission from JustFab if you sign-up using the link)!




For our last evening on the town, we did it up a bit for a posh dinner in SoHo.  Fall colors exude in this JustFab mock-neck flare midi dress and coordinating JustFab Jayla platform ankle-strap pumps.  The icing was this statement nested mixed chain and bead necklace from Express and JustFab's Donny handbag in grey croc.  Again, if you're not a member of JustFab yet, click here to join so you can get access to all these pieces and similar looks at the VIP discount (disclosure: this is an affiliate link, which means I receive commission from JustFab if you sign-up using the link)!


Is your wardrobe ready for fall?