Category Archives: family

Pumpkins – and Bunnies?!

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Yes, it’s true – I’m a devoted “bunny mother”.  Hubby and I adopted two adult rabbits from a local shelter in the spring of 2010, and we’ve been enjoying our furry little “bunnies” ever since.  I try not to post about them too much, but thought it might be fun to do a fall/spring mash-up and photograph our bunnies with the pumpkins we purchased during our trip to the pumpkin patch a few weeks ago.

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Bunnies and rabbits are most often associated with Easter and spring, but don’t they look cute posing with the bright orange pumpkins?  Cypress, our female rabbit is the all-white rabbit, and Pinto, our boy, is wearing the spots.

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In case you’re wondering, yes – it IS hard to get our bun buns to sit still for a photo shoot.  Hubby was my bunny wrangler, and we bribed them with small pieces of carrots and banana – two of their favorite treats!

Halloween will be here before we know it, so I’ll take this moment to wish you all a Happy Halloween from our little family – bunnies and humans alike!

Warm regards,
Melody

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Vintage Snapshot Ornaments

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Look – my newest Design Team project for crescendoh.com!  If you have a pile of precious family photos that are languishing in a box or drawer, this Vintage Snapshot Ornament project is for you.  These ornaments can be used in many different ways, and are easy to make.

Consider hanging them on a Christmas tree, a found wooden branch, or around the necks of vintage glass bottles.  They’d make unique tags, and could even be hung from the “branches” of a family tree you paint on the wall!  This project may be particularly appealing to scrapbookers and family historians, and a set of these ornaments would make a lovely gift.

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Directions

Begin by printing or copying the black and white images you’d like to use.  I printed scans of old family photos onto regular copy paper using my home printer.  Crop the images into a square shape.  My finished ornaments vary slightly in size, but are 2 ¼” x 2 ¼” on average.  Glue the cropped image onto a thin piece of chipboard or a thick piece of cardstock that you’ve trimmed to the same size as the photo, using a glue stick to adhere the two pieces.  (I used cardboard from a Panera bagel box!)

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Slide black photo corners onto each corner of your image – the front should lay on top of the image, and the back should lie on top of the chipboard/cardstock piece you attached to the photo.  Affix the back piece of each photo corner to the chipboard/cardstock with glue or a glue dot to ensure they don’t shift or fall off.

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Trim a piece of white cardstock to the same size as your photo.  Stamp the cardstock with a frame image from the Little Miss Mason stamp set, choosing a frame of appropriate size and shape.  Use an alphabet letter stamp to add information about the photo inside the frame, like the person’s name, date, or the occasion.  You can also write the information in, if you’d like.  Set this stamped piece aside.

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To make the hanger, attach the two ends of a piece of narrow black ribbon to the back of the photo/chipboard piece, using double stick tape.  The ribbon should be centered, and should extend down at least ½” from the top edge.

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Finish the ornament by attaching the stamped piece of cardstock to the beribboned photo piece.  The back of the photo piece should be attached to the back of the stamped cardstock, sandwiching the ribbon in between.

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Please note: If you’re using digital copies of black and white/sepia photos and you have photo editing software like Photoshop, your images will look more uniform if you desaturate the images before printing them.  If you copy paper photos, you’ll get better results if you color copy them, though they’re black and white.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek at my newest DIY project.  Do you have some precious family photos you’d like to make into snapshot ornaments? If so, please let me know if you have any questions…

Warm regards,
Melody

p.s. Have you entered my newest GIVEAWAY yet?  I’ll announce two winners on Tuesday, so enter today!

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From the Archives: some blogtastic posts you may have missed the first time around…

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I’ve been a very busy girl!  I’ve published over 135 posts in the last year, and since you may have missed a few – especially if you’re a newer reader – I thought I’d mention the ARCHIVES feature that resides along the right side of this page – just below RECENT POSTS.  Simply select a month and go!  You may start at the very beginning (August 2010) and read forward, or just skip around.

In addition, here’s a compilation of links, by category, to some of the more popular posts I’ve published in the last year.  I hope you’ll all find something interesting (and possibly “new to you”) to enjoy!*


Photography

Visual Nutrition

The Joys of iPhone Photography

Harvesting Bounty at the Farmers Market

 

Life in General

A Flower For Neva Lenora

Letting My Inner Child Out to Play: Roller Skating

Mad for Movies!

 

Art

Making the Most of a Travel Journal

Collage Basics: Less is More!

Drawing a Blank? Prompts for Writers & Artists

 

Recipes

Something Sweet: Triple Chocolate Cake Recipe

Something Sweet: Blueberry-Lemon Muffins Recipe

Something Sweet: Almond Brittle Recipe

 

Crafts

Green Craft Project: Upcycled & Embellished Metal Cans

A Helpful Hint for My Fellow Paper Addicts: Making a Paper Swatch Ring

Paper, Glass & Wire Butterflies

 

Travel

A Photographic Tour: Peru

A Photographic Tour: Ireland

A Photographic Tour: New Orleans, Louisiana

 

Haiku

Nature’s Lace

Often Overlooked

A Santa Barbara Morning

 

Ethnic Markets

Little India: So Near, Yet So Far Away

Chinatown

Shopping at a Korean Market

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Friendly Giveaway Reminder

My blog birthday giveaway winners will be announced on August 30, 2011 so please enter today.  You could win a $15 iTunes gift card, a pack of my handmade photo notecards, or a $25 Visa gift card!  (Giveaway details/entry HERE) I hope you join the fun…

Warm regards,
Melody

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Haiku: Bailey Dawn

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Welcome, little niece.
I can’t wait to hear you laugh!
Your life is a gift…
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A new baby joined my family yesterday, and I’m tickled pink to have a new niece.  I love her so!

I hope you’re all having a wonderful week thus far…

Warm regards,
Melody

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Webtastic! Some favorite sites…

Finding a great website can be like stumbling upon an unexpected treasure, and today I’m sharing a few of the sites and resources I treasure.  I’m including sites that cover a range of topics since my interests are rather varied, and hope some of them resonate with you, too.

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Artsy-Craftsy

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Cynthia Shaffer
http://cynthiashaffer.typepad.com/blog/

Cynthia is incredibly skilled at needle crafts (sewing, knitting, crochet) –  among other things – and just may be a creative genius.  Her blog and website are a real treat for us creative types!  Keep an eye out for her upcoming book, which will be out in early May. I got a sneak peek, and it’s gorgeous!

Craft Test Dummies
http://www.crafttestdummies.com/

Jenny Barnett Rohrs’ site is an incredible resource for crafters.  Not only does she review crafting products, she shares craft projects and hosts some killer giveaways!
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Writing
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Jane Friedman
http://janefriedman.com/

I follow Ms. Friedman on Twitter.  As the former publisher and editorial director of Writer’s Digest, she’s an incredible wealth of knowledge and is focused on the intersection of literature and media/technology.

Anne R. Allen
http://annerallen.blogspot.com/

Ms. Allen, a Central Coast writer, is also a blogger and her posts are interesting, informative, and thought provoking.

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Hilarious & SO Wrong!

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Cake Wrecks
http://cakewrecks.blogspot.com/

The Cake Wrecks tagline is “When professional cakes go horribly, hilariously wrong”, and some of these cakes have to be seen to be believed.  I’ve laughed until I’ve cried, and suspect you will, too!

Awkward Family Photos
http://awkwardfamilyphotos.com/

These photos are terrible and wonderful all at the same time.  This site is a great way to get more laughs in your day!

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Odds & Ends

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New Dress a Day
http://www.newdressaday.com/

The fabulous Marisa repurposes castoff clothing purchased for a song.  The transformations are fascinating!

Zen Habits
http://zenhabits.net/start/

Leo Babauta urges his readers to follow the advice of Thich Nhat Hanh.  “Smile, breath, and go slowly.”  A great site to visit if you think you might need to slow down, simplify, or pare down your clutter.

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Please feel free to post a comment and share a website you’re partial to – just keep it clean!  (wink)
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Warm regards,
Melody

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Magic Cookie Bars Recipe

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I love the holiday season: the special time with family and friends, the decorations, the music, and the food!  I love that each family celebrates differently, too – unique traditions, meals, recipes.  Now that I’m an adult it’s fun to hold on to old traditions and create new ones.  Before I get to this month’s recipe, here are a few of my favorite holiday-related “ingredients”, typically enjoyed during the month of December:

The smell of fresh Christmas trees – Enough said.
Decorations – I especially love the lights!
The song “Feliz Navidad” – I remember dancing around to this song when I was a kid.  It made me happy, and still does.  The original version by José Feliciano is the best!
Holiday baking – When I was young we had sugar cookies, Magic Cookie Bars (recipe below), and fudge at Christmas.  Yum!  This is one tradition I’ve chosen to carry on.
“Waltz of the Flowers” – When I was eleven and taking ballet, my class performed a dance to this song from Tchaikovsky’s The NutcrackerThe Nutcracker is on my play list every December, and it invokes feelings of both nostalgia and festivity.
Tamales – One of my husband’s family’s traditions is making tamales, and they’re SO good!  Whether you choose a tamal that’s sweet or one that’s savory, they’re corn husk-wrapped goodness.

On to the Recipe…

This month’s recipe is brought to you by my childhood.  My mom found this recipe on a can of sweetened condensed milk when I was very young, and it’s been a must-bake recipe ever since.  These babies are dangerous; I could literally eat a pan all by myself, but they’re also quick, easy, and great for sharing.

Some people make a version of these bars with butterscotch chips as well, which I think is total blasphemy.  Don’t do it!  If you follow the recipe exactly, including the layering order of the last three ingredients, you’ll be very happy with the results.  Everyone who eats them will be, too!

So, without further ado, here is the recipe for Magic Cookie Bars. Simple, but soooooo good!

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Magic Cookie Bars

(Makes 24 bars)
½ cup butter or margarine
1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1½ cups angel flake coconut – sweetened
1 cup chopped nuts (preferably walnuts)
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate morsels

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  (325 degrees for a glass dish)  In a 13×9-inch baking pan, melt butter.  Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs over butter; pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumbs.  Top evenly with remaining ingredients (coconut, then the walnuts, then the chocolate chips); press down gently.  Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Cool thoroughly before cutting.  Store, loosely covered, at room temperature.

I hope you enjoy these cookie bars, and I hope your ingredients for a festive December all come together beautifully.

Warm regards,
Melody

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Seven Suggestions for a Happier Holiday Season

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The holidays can be exhausting, stressful, and a serious drain on your wallet, but they don’t have to be! These seven suggestions will help you have a more relaxed, mindful, and budget-friendly month of December:

1. Plan Ahead

Grab you calendar and map out your month, if you haven’t already.  Make sure to block out time for the things you must do, the things you want to do, and for some sleep!  Overbooking yourself and/or running around like a headless chicken is a sure-fire way to obliterate the fun and festivity associated with the holidays.

2. Delegate

If you’re like me you may be reluctant to ask for help, but I encourage you to work past that.  Divide the holiday-related tasks among the able members of your household.  What fun will the holidays be if you’re too exhausted to enjoy them?

3. Make your Lists & Check Them Twice

Really examine the lists you’re making. Are you sending holiday cards to people out of precedent and habit, though your relationship has run its course?  Consider shaving a few people off your card and gift list if you realize the ties that bind have loosened over the years.  You’ll save both time and money.

4. Simplify & Scale Back a Bit

Speaking of time and money, put some additional thought into how you plan to spend your time and money this month.  For example, are you going to exhaust yourself making six different types of cookies when three would be more than enough? Will you acquire debt and spend more on gifts than you can afford, instead of coming up with something simpler and more affordable?

5. Savor the Special Things That December Brings

Try to slow down and enjoy the moment without rushing on to the next thing. Easier said than done, I know, but this one is well worth it.  Savor the heady scent of the pine trees in the Christmas tree lot.  Pause and listen to the carolers in the plaza instead of just rushing past them on the way to another store, and enjoy the smiles and laughter of your family and friends as they draw near.

6. Think Green & Save Even More Green

Save money and natural resources by using newsprint, brown paper grocery bags, or other re-used materials to wrap your gifts this year.  Spruce the packages up with ribbon or twine and a nice gift tag.  Recycled wrapping materials can be earth-friendly and aesthetically appealing!  The gift shown in the photo above was wrapped with newspaper, inexpensive red curling ribbon, a re-usable bell, and a tag purchased in bulk from an office supply store.

7. Do Something to Help Brighten the Holidays of Those in Need

If you’re in a position to help those less fortunate, please do.  Whether you donate food to a food bank or spend time serving food at a soup kitchen, I believe the spirit of giving is often at its purest when we give to those we may not know personally.

Whatever holiday you may celebrate, and wherever you may live, I hope the rest of your December is happy, healthy, fun, and festive.  Please keep an eye out for my next recipe, dear readers, which will be posted on December 9th.  This recipe, should you choose to make it, will provide some quick and easy treats to share with those you hold dear…

Warm regards,
Melody

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Still Drawing a Blank? More Prompts for Writers & Artists

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Back in September I published a post of prompts for writers and artists.  The post was popular among my readers, so here we go again!  Here are some more prompts that may help get your creative juices flowing again when they’ve turned to sludge.

For writers:

Grab a dictionary, and flip through the pages.  Stop in a random spot, close your eyes, and point to a word on one of the pages.  Jot that word down, then repeat this nine more times.  Write a short story of at least five hundred words that incorporates all ten of the words you randomly selected.  Alternately, you could play a game of Scrabble with a friend or family member and use ten of those words instead.

Write a scene from the perspective of a couple’s pet after they’ve quarreled.  Does this pet take sides and express a clear bias, or remain neutral?  Does he/she know a secret that one person in the couple is hiding and the other person is oblivious to?  How has the fight and/or the secret impacted the “silent” member of the family?

For visual artists:

Take a trip to your local hardware store and browse the aisles, keeping an eye out for an inexpensive item that interests you.  Washers? Sand paper? Wire mesh?  Make a piece of art incorporating this item, something that would pleasantly surprise the unsuspecting manufacturer of the item.  Variation: visit your local thrift store and find something junky that can be used artistically in a new way.

Visit your family’s photographic archives, and select an old photo.  Make a copy (color or black and white), and incorporate it into your artwork somehow, whether you work in watercolor, fabric, collage, or something else entirely.  I used this prompt to create the collage above, which is a housewarming gift for my father, and it features a photo of him as a little boy.

I hope you find these prompts inspiring and fun.  Enjoy!

Warm regards,
Melody

p.s. If you haven’t subscribed to my blog yet, please subscribe today – you’ll be entered to win a drawing for a $25 Visa gift card!  The gift card winner will be drawn on 12/1/10, so be sure to subscribe by midnight PST on November 30th.  The lucky winner will be announced on December 2nd.

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A Flower for Neva Lenora

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I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a tenderhearted and nostalgic person.  I often cry at weddings, sometimes get weepy when reading a novel, and occasionally shed tears when someone nicks or bruises my heart.  Make no mistake: these qualities don’t make me weak.  I’m vulnerable, but strong.  Tenderhearted but resilient.  I just happen to wear my heart on my sleeve, and am touched by some things that others wouldn’t give a second thought to.

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It’s no surprise, then, that a chance discovery of a decades-old bloom that’d been pressed between the pages of a book made me stop and catch my breath.  After my grandmother passed away I received some of her books, and was astonished to find something tucked in between pages 126 and 127 of one of these books.  “From Edgar Robinson, 1922” was written on a sheet of paper in my grandmother’s writing, and this piece of paper cradled a pressed flower.  This little time capsule brought tears to my eyes as I imagined the girl my grandmother was and the crush she inspired in young Edgar Robinson.

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Born in Kansas in 1908, my grandmother, Neva Lenora Stussy, lived in Missouri and Idaho before her family moved to Taft, California during her teen years.  That’s where she met and married my grandfather, Lloyd Laycook.  Though they moved several times during my mother’s childhood, my grandmother lived most of her life in Kern County, where she died in 2006.

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My grandmother was a sweet, patient and kind person.  She was a talented seamstress, a great cook, and an excellent baker.  She walked miles daily well into her 80’s, and was an avid reader.  She loved owls, hollyhocks, and her favorite color was blue.  And though I spent very little time with my grandmother in person (our relationship was mostly conducted through cards and letters), I like to think I’ve inherited some of her personal traits.

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I also like to think that my grandma was watching as I opened the pages of The Aldine Second Language Book and found the flower she’d been given so many years ago.  I hope she knows that she’s loved and missed, and I hope to see her again some day.  Until then, her book and her flower are among my prized possessions – along with my tender and nostalgic heart.

Warm regards,
Melody

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Watching Their Lives Unfold

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I’m a devoted aunt.  I have eleven nieces and nephews, and I adore them all.  With ten on hubby’s side, and one (almost two) on my side, we have nieces and nephews ranging in age from 1 ½ to 18 years old.  There are currently six girls and five boys.  The newest niece or nephew is expected to join us in December, and I can’t wait to meet this new baby!

I’ve known our oldest nieces since they were three and four years old, when I started dating their uncle, and it’s been such fun to see all the kids as they grow and change. It’s also pretty freaky, truth be told.  Yes, the transition from crayons to learner’s permits and frequent texting has been gradual, but it’s alarming when you realize there’s a full-blown teenager in front of you – largely because I remember my teen years and know what mischief may be afoot!  I was a rather well behaved teen, but I had my share of adventures and I look back at some of the stupid things I did and cringe.  Thankfully I survived that time in my life relatively unscathed. I have continued to fumble my way through life, always well intentioned and trying to learn from my missteps and mistakes.

My husband, José, and I sometimes chat about our nieces and nephews – wondering what’s coming in their lives.  Who will go to college?  Who will learn a trade?  What careers will they choose?  Who among them will choose to marry and will they have children?  And while those things are important, my hopes for our nieces and nephews are very simple: that they’ll be happy, healthy people.  That they’ll make decisions that benefit themselves and those around them, and that they always appreciate the good in their lives while striving to work through the bad with a bit of grace. Those are my base goals in life, and think they’re a great foundation to build from.  Beyond that anything is possible, and I’m looking forward to watching their lives unfold in the coming months and years.

To any of my nieces and nephews who happen to read this: You’re wonderful!  I love you!  Strive to look at the bright side and keep on growing…

Warm regards,
(Aunt) Melody

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