Thursday, April 30, 2009

National Garden Month

April is National Garden Month, and now on the last day of April I thought I'd share some pictures from my month of gardening. Which really is more like two weeks of gardening here in Maine! Looking forward to summer...



Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Show Mom You Love Her!



Don't forget that Mother's Day is Sunday, May 10th.
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Choose from lots of indulgent bath products, moisturizers, and gift sets. We'll even ship to Mom and include your gift card!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Earth Day, Belated

Last year around Earth Day I blogged about making my kids' lunchboxes a little greener. This year in honor of Earth Day, I ordered these cool snack bags from MamaMade Baby Boutique. They are sandwich sized, but I plan to use them for crackers, chips, cookies and other snacks. Best part: throw in the washer, line dry. And reuse, and reuse, and reuse.

Check out her other items for babies and kids...I'm loving the sock monkeys!!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Gifts from Kids' Artwork

I have two children who are artistic geniuses. Well, okay, maybe not geniuses, but unbelievably talented. Let's be honest: with or without prodigious talent, they have created a prodigious amount of "artwork."

I have a drawer full of preschool finger paintings (I've had them this long...how can I throw them away?!). I can't view the grade school art class products with a critical eye, which means that I also have a filing cabinet brimming with tiny canvases. I have their works on the fridge, my walls, shelves, everywhere. It's a regular gallery around here.

When I was working on reducing my clutter recently, I felt overwhelmed by these stashes and caches. "If I'd been wiser," I thought, "I would have been giving these masterpieces away all along." For those of you who still have space in your cupboards and drawers, a bare spot on your wall, a shelf without a bird-shaped ashtray or pottery knickknack, heed my advice!!

Save the most special pieces from each child each year. Throw away what you can part with, and turn the rest into gifts and cards. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, distant relations, all of them get a kick out of kids' artwork. (Remember, their homes are not yet papered with your child's special genius!) When I look at these paintings I wonder why I never thought to write a note on the back to send to grandparents. For a birthday or other occasion, I could easily have used a bit of scrapbooking paper and turned kid doodles into stationery. And how about scanning a sketch and having it made into a mug or trivet or dish towel, even? It's like gold, folks. Honestly. And then you can throw away the original! It's a win-win!

Kids' artwork makes really great gifts. Giving away kids' artwork makes really clean houses. 'nuff said.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Spring Flower Theme Party Part II

On Sunday I posted about making a bouquet of tissue paper Spring Flowers, a fun project for kids and cute addition to a spring party. Today I'm focusing on the cakes. I can't even think about having a party without cupcakes. It's just not possible! To continue my Spring Flower Theme, I made some candy flowers and decorated my cupcakes with mini bouquets. Here's what you'll need to make these Spring Flower Theme cupcakes:

1. Cupcakes!! Bake your favorites! This is one of our favorite recipes. Let them cool, then frost as you like...we used lemon frosting with a touch of green and yellow color.
2. Colorful candies. You'll want some fruit chews, like taffy or Starburst in various colors. I also used Skittles.3. Tiny cookie cutters. You can cut the candy shapes with a knife, but it's much easier with cutters.
4. Rolling pin, knife, wax paper, and toothpicks to shape and embellish your petals and leaves.Start by taking a taffy candy (step 1 above) and rolling it flat on wax paper with the rolling pin. (You will really have to lean into it, so make a little dent in the center of the candy first, and then rotate the pin from there--it will stay on the candy more easily.) Roll it until it is about 1/8" thick (step 2). Use one of your cutters for the petals of the flower, and use your knife to cut off small pieces of candy to use for embellishments (step 3). For a daffodil, for example, cut a small strip and pinch the edges together to create the cup of the flower (step 4). Put the pieces of your flower together and use a toothpick to add details to the flower (step 5). Use these steps to create flowers in different shapes and colors, as shown above. To make tulips or rosebuds (see pink flower at the top of the photo), cut a long, thin strip of candy and roll it up like a jellyroll. Cut green Skittles in half to create leaves.

Finally, arrange your blossoms and leaves on the cupcakes. Make bouquets of one type of flower, or choose an assortment of colors.

Kids love to help with this project, too. They may need some help with rolling out the candies, but cutting the shapes, rolling petals in their fingers to make roses, and of course frosting and arranging decorations are all fun ways to prepare for a party! (See another post about spring parties that uses butterflies for the cupcakes...this would go well with the flowers, too!)

Please let me know if you liked these cupcake ideas! Did you make other kinds of flowers? Are there other candies you like to use to decorate? Please share your comments below!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Word of the Week: Macarism

This is my new favorite word: macarism. It means to take pleasure in another person's joy.

Love it! Have a great Monday!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spring Flower Theme Party Part I



Here in Maine I'm still waiting for my tulips and daffodils to blossom...just a lot of leaves and stems right now, but I'm so ready that I decided to have a Spring Theme Party! So for the next few days I will have some ideas for Spring Party decor, favors, and of course, TREATS!

Today I'm putting together a fun drinking straw bouquet of spring flowers. You can buy drinking straws with flowers on them, but it's much more fun (and less expensive) to make them!This is a cute addition to a spring party table, and is a pretty simple project for kids, too. To help keep kids' interest during the project, you can cut out some of the petals ahead of time (you can cut several layers of tissue paper at once).


Here's what you'll need:
1. Tissue paper in spring colors
2. Drinking straws
3. Scissors (regular ones work fine, decorative scissors are great, too)
4. Hole punch
5. Double sided tape
6. Blossom Template
Download our blossoms template and print the PDF file onto cardstock. Then cut out the blossoms and trace around them onto tissue paper.


To make a daffodil:

Step 1: Trace two of the pointed three-petaled flowers and one of the circles from the template onto your choice of tissue colors (see step 1 above). Try a contrasting color for the circle (which will make the "cup" in the center of the flower). Use decorative scissors to "ruffle" the edges of some of the petals and the flower's cup. Punch holes in the center of each piece.

Step 2: Slide the two flowers onto the top of the straw, rotating the top layer so the petals alternate with the bottom petals (see step 2 above). Use a small piece of tape to secure the layers to each other and to the straw.

Step 3: Create a cup shape with the circle piece by trimming along the cut line and then overlapping one side over the other, securing with a small piece of tape. Slide onto the straw over the petals and attach with tape (see step 3 above for finished flower).

The five-petaled flowers on the template make a pretty gerber daisy. Cut three or four in your favorite color or colors, punch holes in the center, slide them onto the straw as you did for step 2 for the daffodils, arrange them as you like and tape them together and to the straw. Fold petals down the center to resemble a flower. (See at the top of the photo above).


The rounded three-petaled flowers will make tulips. Cut two or three in your colors and follow the directions as above. (See in photo above, bottom, in two shades of pink.)

Add leaves to the underside of each of the flowers, if you want, by cutting out some of the five-petaled flowers in green tissue, punching holes in the centers, and sliding them up from the bottom of each straw. Attach to the underside of each blossom with tape, then fold along the center of each leaf.

We'll be making some Spring Flower treats next. Please let us know what you think of these flowers! Did you find ways to make different kinds of flowers from our template? Share your comments below!

If you enjoyed this project and you want new DIY projects, printables, and other party ideas, please subscribe to our newsletter! You'll receive a new issue about once a month. 


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Planning a Spring event and need some floral theme favors? Choose colorful blooms in a dazzling palette for bridal shower, bachelorette, or birthday favors. Personalize your lip balm labels, tags, or tags and labels for favors perfect for your guests. Contact us with any questions—we'd love to work with you!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Hidden Talents

This is a photo that my daughter Bronwyn took a few months ago at Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ. My parents gave her a digital camera for her 10th birthday last summer, and she has turned into quite the little shutterbug. After a family party in Philly, my husband reviewed all of the photos they'd taken and admitted hers were better than some of his.

It's not just the subject matter of Bronwyn's photos that makes them intriguing, it's her point of view. No one else sees the world the way she does. It was a "hidden talent" and now we all get to share it.

My husband sometimes drives me bananas with all of the activities he encourages with our kids. Anything that interests them (or him), he's all over it, buying equipment, finding them lessons. While they aren't likely to become professional athletes (or professional photographers, for that matter), I guess the only way you can discover hidden talents is by trying things. Sometimes all you need is opportunity and encouragement.

If you find a hidden talent, don't hide your light under a bushel! These things are meant to be shared. Sort of like Youtube videos. If you haven't seen this one, do yourself a favor. Susan Boyle is astonishing, with a talent that definitely is no longer hidden.

What about you? Did you have a hidden talent? Are you still hiding, or are you shining your light? How do you feel about sharing your talents?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Power of Praise

You ever have a week when everything seems related, like part of the same story? Every event, anecdote, blog, and tweet have been like chapters in the same book lately. Think someone is trying to tell me something?

A few days ago a neighbor was sharing an experience she'd had with her credit card company. Upset about their rate changes, she'd called them to request a change--and apparently to vent. She complained to the customer service rep about the government aid money their bank had received, and criticized their policy changes. She really let them have it. Not only didn't they give her what she asked for, but during the conversation they lowered her card's credit limit. Twice. She ended up with less than half of her original credit.

Yesterday at Facebook I noticed friends' status updates and comments included statements like, "Why do people have to be so mean?" or, "If someone is miserable, why do they have to make other people miserable, too?" One friend is contemplating a job change to get away from a coworker who makes her work life unbearable. The coworker is constantly picking at people's performance and complaining about everything. She has no kind words for anyone; being around her "sucks the life out of everyone," my friend says.

Then this morning I read Chris Brogan's "In Praise of Praise". Brogan describes his trip to New Zealand, how he was bumped to first class because he "said something friendly to a flight attendant." He talks about how much he has enjoyed praising them for this great flight, how much he enjoys praising in general. "I love the opportunity to praise things. I love being a fan of things...I love experiencing things, and then I love talking about them. I love raving." Would you rather work at my friend's office, or with Chris Brogan?

When my kids were little I remember being frustrated when they'd misbehave. It seemed like the more I criticized their behavior, or ranted at them, the worse they'd act. I had much better luck when I followed the advice of parenting experts, who recommended ignoring bad behavior to focus instead on the things kids did right. Watch for the good things, no matter how small, and praise them. Praise is positive reinforcement, and reinforcing good behavior encourages it. As Chris Brogan says, "Praise is powerful." Why do we stop praising once people outgrow tantrums in the grocery store? Why do we wait on hold for hours to complain about things--and rehash our venting in great detail--but rarely call to say thanks when people do a good job?

Offering praise, even about little things, makes a big difference. It isn't just important to the person who receives it; it shifts the outlook and focus of the person giving the praise, too. Looking for things to praise means finding the positive, watching people not to see screw-ups but opportunities to compliment. It makes you think about being grateful for something someone else is...or does...or gives. Chris Brogan says he's "built to praise." I'm not sure that I am, but I think the message this week is that it's a good thing to practice. What do you think?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

5 Wedding Sites that Inspire

My interest in weddings is not limited to my work creating wedding favors; I also write for the website Elegant Maine Wedding. The best part of working on this site is that I learn about the talent and creativity of local wedding professionals. Today I'm excited to share the sites of 5 inspiring wedding pros. Each offers something unique, and each is worth a look (or a listen, as the case may be!). And they're all here in Maine!

1. New England Couture Cakes
If you know me, you will not be surprised that the cake comes first. I love Ace of Cakes and creative confections are my favorite part of the bridal magazines. The artistry of Peggy Kovensky at New England Couture Cakes is simply amazing. Just look at her portfolio. You will not be surprised to learn that they were voted best cake in Maine by People Magazine in 2007. If you live in Maine--or plan a destination wedding here--you may be lucky enough to work with New England Couture Cakes!

2. Fleur de Lis Floral Design
After the cake, my favorite part of a wedding is the flowers. I do wish I could smell the bouquets through the screen, but I have to settle for looking at the colors and shapes of the blossoms in the arrangements! Fleur de Lis in South Portland has a beautiful online gallery. Boutonierres and corsages, bouquets, wreaths, and all kinds of arrangements are displayed in many palettes. All of your favorites...stephanotis, gerber daisies, hydrangea, callas, peonies, and roses, roses, roses. Simply lovely.

3. R.D. Allen Jewelers
If you get bored looking at diamonds (I know, blasphemous), you can feast your eyes on Maine watermelon tourmaline at R.D. Allen Jewelers. Maine boasts the largest deposit of tourmaline ever discovered in North America, much of it in pale pastel hues not common in the world's other deposits. Tourmaline comes in hundreds of colors, and rarely pieces have bands of different colors which makes them look like watermelon slices. R. D. Allen Jewelers has an eye-popping collection of these bi-color gems, which can be custom set. They are truly unusual gemstones.

4. Cul de Sax Saxophone Quartet
You probably have never heard a saxophone quartet perform Mendelssohn's Wedding March, but if you're looking for something unique for your ceremony or reception music, get inspired by Cul de Sax. An accomplished saxophone quartet, Cul de Sax perform at resorts, museums, and corporate events here in Maine, with a repertoire ranging from the "Baroque to Broadway." Live musicians offer something really special to an event, so consider a small ensemble or soloist for your wedding.

5. Stacey Kane Weddings
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Stacey Kane's online wedding photo gallery is surely worth millions! The joy, beauty, and humor captured by this award-winning photojournalist have made her as sought after for destination weddings as for nuptials here in Maine. Take a look at her work and let me know if you find it as magical as I do.

Maine has become a popular location for destination weddings, and there are so many talented folks here to work with. For more wedding professionals, please check out the directory at Elegant Maine Wedding. And please share links to the sites and professionals you find inspiring!

Friday, April 10, 2009

To Each His Own

I was talking with a friend of mine the other day about my daughter's new obsession with Twilight. As we talked about which of the characters she was "crushing" on, my friend jokingly asked me which actors I liked. I hesitated, and my daughter piped up, "Don't you like that Wolverine guy?" My friend wrinkled her nose and said, "Ugh, Hugh Jackman? You like Hugh Jackman?" I laughed, but later I thought about it. My first thought was, Hell yeah, Hugh Jackman! Who wouldn't like Wolverine?! But my next thought was how different people's preferences are. It's kind of amazing, when you think about it. And hey, even the Romans knew "De gustibus non est disputandum"...there's no accounting for taste.

Just like me, you like what you like, and you know it when you see it. I like to think I can predict what other people are going to like, but it doesn't always work that way. Sometimes I get it right, and sometimes...well, not so much. Because of this, I go back to the drawing board quite frequently, and try to keep new designs coming all the time. (I also get rid of some of the old ones that don't seem that popular.)

I've just added a bunch of new tag and label designs to the site, including some new cupcake designs to go with this popular new flavor. Let me know what you think of the tags, and please, always feel free to let me know what YOU like! Leave a comment below or send me an email. Are there other products or designs you'd like to see? A wedding or party theme I've missed completely? Do YOU hate Hugh Jackman as much as my friend does?! :0) Let me know! (I won't hold it against you!)

Monday, April 06, 2009

Kiva

I feel so fortunate to be able to do something I really enjoy and in this economy, to still have a job at all is amazing. (I don't imagine I'll be firing myself any time soon, but still...having work to do and getting paid for it is something to be thankful for.)

I realize that there are people who don't have the same advantages here that we have, and luckily there are ways to help entrepreneurs all over the world. If you haven't heard of Kiva, I really recommend checking them out. Kiva is a way to help out a specific entrepreneur in a developing country by lending a small sum of money. When the money is paid back (as it almost always is) you can cash it out, or give it to a new entrepreneur. So your $50 could help someone in Ghana, then in Peru, then Azerbaijan...and so on.

I love this idea for so many reasons: a little money does a lot of good, over and over again; it helps people who are already helping themselves by supporting existing businesses; and it's a way to connect business owners all over the world. A new kind of "global economy," if you will.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Cherry Blossoms

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is underway in Washington, D.C. Sadly, we won't be there to see the blossoms or participate in the festivities, but I found another way that I can enjoy cherry blossoms at home.

A few weeks ago I found this tutorial about paper crafts that includes a project for cherry blossoms. Since cherry blossoms are not easy to come by and they don't last long, this looked like a great way to get a dramatic, long-lasting floral display for spring. (Might also be a pretty centerpiece for a bridal shower!)

I ended up doing mine a little bit differently from the article, so I'm going to share my steps so you can have a few options.

Here's what you'll need:
- several bare branches
- tissue paper in a few shades of pink or white
- glue gun
- template of blossom shapes (optional; print this sheet on cardstock and cut out blossoms to trace)

Layer your tissue paper to cut through several pieces at a time. Draw (or trace) five-petaled blossoms on the top layer of tissue. Cut out blossoms in different colors and sizes so they will look more realistic.

Once you have an assortment of different sized and colored blossoms, layer two different colors together with a dot of glue between them in the center to hold them together. Then place another dot of glue on the bottom center and attach to the branch. Pinch petals upward to resemble a real blossom, then repeat with additional blossoms.

Arrange blossoms along branches at intervals and in clusters to appear more realistic. I also took some darker tissue and rolled it into "buds" to create some unopened blossoms. You could add some green tissue as a third layer beneath the blossoms to create leaves, as well.

This can be modified to work with the theme of an event, too. I used very pale pink and white, but you could use hot pink or coral or salmon pink to match your theme. Then use a large vase, galvanized pail, or other decorative container to hold your branches.

It's only a few short weeks here before our spring flowers come out in Maine, but in the meantime, we've really enjoyed putting together these blossoms. Please let me know if you like this project!

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