26 August 2011

Giveaway: Hallmark Back-to-School Confidence Pack

Update:  The winner was #5, Meri of The Streiffs.  Congrats!

After Blogher 11 a representative from Hallmark contacted me and asked me to review some items from their new Back to School Checklist.  I got a kit a few days later.

First off were three greeting cards from the Hallmark Kids Collection.  The ones I got were age appropriate for middle, high school, and even college aged kids.  They're sweet and funny all at once.  I'll hold onto them for a while, until my kids are old enough to appreciate them.

The second item was a pack of Lunchbox Notes.  I love sending little notes in my kids' lunches.  I have used pre-printed messages before, but the Hallmark ones have a feature that I especially like-- some of them are customizable.  They allow you to check a box on a list, write a note or draw a picture.  I am super excited for these.

The third item was a Recordable Storybook.  I had fully intended to give this book to my mother-in-law so that she could record it for my kids (after two months of daily grandparent contact I knew they'd be having withdrawals).  But, when I opened the box and saw that it was a copy of Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney I knew I was keeping it.  I gave the same book to Craig as a Christmas gift, the day before we were married, so it has a special place in my heart.  I plan on having Craig record himself reading it and then using it when he goes on business trips.

The book has very clear, easy to follow instructions for recording and the ability to re-record if you aren't happy with your first (or second, or third) attempt.

And, because Hallmark is super awesome and generous, they've given me a Back-to-School Confidence Pack to giveaway to you!  To enter please do the following:

1. Follow my blog and leave a comment telling me that you did so (or that you already do).
2. For a second entry share my giveaway on Facebook or Twitter and leave a comment telling me that you did so.

The winner chosen at random and will be announced on September 2, 2011.  Best of luck.

*The only "compensation" I received for this review was the products themselves.

25 August 2011

Darling craftsmen

This sweet little home is on the same block as the "possibly perfect" home I posted two weeks ago.  I love the dramatic roofline that creates a perfect porch.  The shed dormer is darling.  I especially love the side of the home--the brick fireplace, the triangular roof braces, multiple windows.   Of course I'm also fond of the landscaping--I love the look of a mature, "unattended" flower bed.  Love it.

22 August 2011

A breath of fresh air

Before we headed west my home, church, and community responsibilities had become stifling.  I was stuck, unmoving, in a never-ending sea of monotonous responsibility and expectations.  I was tired of playing catch-up from our weeks of unemployment, of putting others before my family and myself, and even of everyday chores like driving to and from kindergarten.

I wanted to escape.

I knew that a weekend away wasn't going to suffice.  I needed to be completely removed for a significant period of time.  Thankfully, Craig's job is very flexible and all the starts aligned, allowing us to flee our "normal" life for two months.

This time away has been rejuvenating.  In fact, I'm trying trying not to think about our leaving in three days.  This has been too good.  We have been surrounded by extended family whom I love and am happy to call my dearest friends.  Our children have had cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents doting upon them all summer.  The weather has been amazing-- dry, cool at night and not too hot during the day.  The lack of responsibility has allowed me a period of relaxation.

I'm crossing my fingers that it will be enough.  I'm hoping that when I get back I can throw myself full-force into all that reamins for me to do, and any new responsibilities that might come my way.  But, I have to say, summering away from one's life is true living.

19 August 2011

The Corps

For the last year my brother-in-law, Shawn, has been working for the Conservation Corps.  One evening he took us to a site he where did some work.

At this particular site the Corps, along with community volunteers, reclaimed a stream that had been buried underground, cleared out invasive plant species and planted native ones.

 The landscaping is still young, but with a little vision you can tell that it will be gorgeous when it matures.

 Shawn showed the kids around, telling them about native vs. invasive plants.  He showed them the work he had done and explained its benefits.

He's such a fun uncle!

 Craig and I loved seeing his work and are so proud of his efforts to make our world a better place.

18 August 2011

Surprise Baby Shower

My sister-in-law Jamie is the kind of person who doesn't like anyone to go to any trouble on her account.     Because of this there was no baby shower planned for her.  But, since it's her first baby and this family LOVES babies and all things baby, we had a surprise shower for her, in conjunction with our family picnic.

 Jamie and her partner, Ian, were so cute opening the gifts.  They had a good giggle over the Pee Pee Teepees (courtesy of another SIL, Stephanie).

Tiny shoes are always fun, and I love this picture of Ian.  He looks so delighted.

 Ian was also very good about modeling the clothing and this towel.  Jamie would open a gift, look at it, then drape it over Ian's chest for us to admire.  Too cute.

 Goosey made this blanket (with a little help from Grandmommy) for baby Fritz.

Jamie and Ian are studying the diagram on how to swaddle.  They are going to be the most adorable parents and we are super excited for little Fritz to come this Fall.

17 August 2011


This week's home is all about setting.  How lovely to live in a home on a cliff, overlooking the Puget Sound.  I'd love to have rhythmic ocean waves lulling me to sleep each night.  I also admire the evergreens surrounding this home.

16 August 2011

Larrabee State Park

 On Saturday, after family portraits, we had a picnic at Larrabee State Park.  The drive to the park is worth the trip.  It's along Chuckanut Drive, a gorgeously dramatic scenic route that hugs the Puget Sound shoreline.

The picnic area had a fun little playground, a pavilion and an amphitheater.  The kids had a blast meeting new friends, playing soccer and being with all the aunts and uncles.  A couple of hours into the picnic we decided to hike down the cliff to the little beach front.  It's more of a pebbly beach made for exploring than a sandy, lounging one.

Goosey and Aunt Stefi hunted for sea glass.  They found three pretty little pieces that I'd like to make into a necklace for Goosey.

Dogger was obsessed with the rocks that had been eaten away by years of waves.  

Lew enjoyed watching the crabbing boats while contemplating his future in piracy.

15 August 2011

East meets West

For years Craig has wanted to take water from the Atlantic Ocean, near our home, and pour it into the Pacific Ocean when we visit the West.  In all our preparations to get things ready to go to Spokane we failed to get the Atlantic water.  

The night before we left our friend, Staci,  gave me a bottle of Atlantic water when I picked Goosey up from Activity Days.  She had been at the beach that day and her husband, Dan, called her and asked her to bring home a bottle of water for Craig.  Craig had told Dan about wanting to do this, but not making it over to the seacoast before we were leaving.

This weekend we were in the Puget Sound area.  On Saturday we had a picnic at a beachfront park, but accidentally left the water in our hotel room.  So, Sunday morning, on our way out of town, we found the water and Craig got his chance.  

He poured it over a cliff, into the Sound.

Thank you Dan and Staci for being so thoughtful and making Craig's desire come true.

11 August 2011

Possibly the perfect home

This gorgeous craftsmen cottage is so picturesque.  I love the hedge with the gate, the window box full of overflowing flowers, the porch....I could go on, but let's talk about the setting.  This home faces a beautiful, wooded park with an amazing playground.

 My kids couldn't get enough of the playground.  This picture only show's about 1/3 of it.  It was so cool.  And, if the park wasn't enough, the house is exactly half a block from a lake with a nice beach.

I mean really, wouldn't you love to be able to take a stroll down here when you need a break?  Amazing.

BlogHer '11

Me and Queen Scarlett
There is no way to fully relate the experience of BlogHer to someone who has never been.  It was awesome and crazy and occasionally disappointing all at the same time.

My roommates (Fomerly Phread, Queen Scarlett and Mrs. O) were amazing.  Sometimes I forget how much I like to hang out with other women, and these three are cream of the crop.  They "made" the experience for me.

The Expo Hall was just plain fun.  It was so interesting to see all the booths, hear their pitches and get swag-- Dr. Scholl's I love you.  We went to two parties, one was a bust (Sparklecorn DJ= Boooooo!) one was fun (Yay Cheeseburgher!).

Highlights:  Seeing Queen Scarlett for the first time in over nine years.  Love that girl.  Formerly Phread teaching the Single Ladies dance in a Blogher session.  A-mazing!  The incredible view from our room--corner room with two walls of windows.

Next year in NYC?  I'm thinking yes.

04 August 2011

Pre-Con activities

San Diego is seriously amazing.  Putting it on my list of cities I'm willing to move to.  The roommates are super fun and ~j is even teaching us the Single Ladies dance.  Oh, and delicious eats last night and this morning.  Blogher hasn't even started yet and already I'm having a blast.

03 August 2011

From the Oakland airport

I'm on my way to BlogHer '11 and have seen three airports in three hours time--one more to go. Spokane was awesome--I forgot how pleasant non-New Englanders are.  The TSA workers were so friendly, courteous and funny.  For reals.  I just glimpsed Portland from the airplane while we dropped off the majority of our passengers and picked up a few more before going to Oakland.  Portland was "my" airport before I got married.  I sat there looking at it, recalling fond memories and being reminded of how much I love Oregon (the trees!  the water!  the hippies!)

I'm sitting in Oakland right now, thinking about this fun weekend I'm headed into.  I get to spend it with Queen Scarlett, whom I've known since I was 18 (longer than my husband), ~j, my friend from Provo to whom I never had to justify my dissatisfaction with our neighborhood, and Positively O whom I am super excited to meet (seriously, doesn't she seem amazing?).

02 August 2011

What I ended up with

Today I made it to an independent shoe store that I've been trying to get to for a month.  They close two hours before my kids go to bed, so I haven't been there before (shoe shopping with children=crazy me).  The saleslady at the store was fantastic and pointed me toward these shoes.

 They're wide, with a little heel and super comfy.

The store only had them in black patent leather, but I saw them on Amazon in brown too (wish list!).  I went ahead and bought them because I really wanted something comfortable to wear at Blogher '11, which is where I'm headed tomorrow.  If they treat my feet well during the conference then Aravon will have a repeat customer in the future.

01 August 2011

Wide shoe shopping

I have wide feet.  I usually wear flip flops, from the time the snow melts until the snow starts again.  In the winter I have worn my Doc Martens until this last season when I found a great pair of snow boots at Land's End.  When I find a cute pair of church shoes that fit I buy them and wear them until they fall apart.  But I'm struggling to find a cute pair of sandals.

I have been to many stores, with no luck.  I want something comfortable enough to walk in, but cute enough to be a little dressy.  So far everything I've found that's wide enough is either uncomfortable or is a hiking type sandal.  I'm hesitant to order something online because who knows how it will fit.

Do you have wide feet?  Suggestions?  Brands you love?
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