Monday, May 27, 2013

Statement Necklace

I bought some really beautiful beads from JoAnn a while ago and wasn't sure what I wanted to do with them.  I really liked the colors and the textures together.  Instead of making something myself, I actually handed them over to my 13-year-old daughter and asked if she would design a statement necklace with them.  I'm so happy with the result!

She used seven of the larger beads as focal points and put together an interesting combination of Indian silver spacer beads, Czech fire-polished beads, and metalized plastic.  Once she decided on the design, it was fairly easy to string the necklace onto Soft Flex and add a clasp. 

I really enjoy beading with kids--they have a freedom and creativity that I just don't have.  They are always willing to try out different ideas.  And now I have a new piece of jewelry to wear the next time I go out!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Summer Time Fun

Summer is one of my family's favorite times of the year.  We love the longer days, sleeping in, working in the garden, and lazy days with nothing planned.  Each of the kids usually has a couple of summer camp activities or swimming lessons, but we kind of prefer the unstructured days with the freedom to do what we want whenever we want. 
Since M has been a bit sad about the school coming to a close (she loves going to school and seeing her friends), we made our annual Andrews Family Summer Time Fun List so she would have something to look forward to.  Our list is pretty informal.  We basically write down every possible thing that sounds like it might be fun to do.  Then we pull out the calendar and see how we can get to as many of these activities and ideas as we can.
So far it's worked pretty well for us.  We don't usually get to everything on the list, but we save it to use as  next summer's inspiration.  This year, some of our list includes the following:
  1. See redwood trees
  2. Bubbles
  3. Cherry picking
  4. Swimming with friends
  5. Play dates with cousins
  6. Leaf pressing
  7. Letterboxing (visit here to learn more about this really cool activity.  In the past 7 years, we have done this in 2 continents and 6 states!)
  8. Gardening
  9. Picnic at the beach 
  10. Visit Angel Island
  11. Ride bikes and skateboards
  12. Build a geodesic dome
  13. See the new Monsters, Inc. movie
  14. Make cheese
  15. Make lots of ice cream
Last summer we tried having theme weeks (i.e., Olympics Week, Scrapbooking Week, Beading Week, Science Week).  The girls are considering if they want to do something like this again.  Our theme weeks were definitely a lot of fun, but required some planning and organizing.

I hope that this gives you some ideas and inspiration for your own summer plans!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Stella & Dot Inspired Necklace

I really love Stella & Dot jewelry....the bright colors, the creative combinations of different textures, and the use of interesting materials.  So pretty and gorgeous!  I especially like the Aileen necklace.   It's got cheerful colors, a little bit of sparkle, and it is a versatile piece that can be worn with lots of different outfits.  Since I'm always on a budget, I decided to try to make my own using the Stella and Dot version as inspiration.  

The S & D necklace uses faceted semi-precious stones interspersed with gold nuggets.  I went through my stash and made a trip to Michael's to find the beads to use in this piece.  I ended up using a variety of glass beads.  While not an exact match, I tried to look for beads that were similar in shape and color to the Aileen necklace.

Originally, I thought that the necklace was made from links using eye pins and gold beads on either side of the colored bead.  When I looked closer, I realized that the necklace was actually made of wire wraps and gold wire.  Since I had already started, I just went ahead with finished with the links.  Putting together the necklace went more quickly this way anyway. ;)

I was happy with the way it turned out.  The necklace is long enough to be worn as a single strand or as a double strand choker.  The colors are springtime and cheery, and the necklace has more sparkle than is showing up in the photos.  Hope that you find some inspiration with my Stella & Dot inspired necklace!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Day Five of Live Below the Line

We finished the five day challenge, and M celebrated with a chocolate chip cookie.  Considering that she's eight, I think she did an amazing job with sticking to the challenge and her goal of fundraising for  She actually helped to keep me focused during the week.
We had to make a couple of minor adjustments to our diet for the last day.  While most of our meals were similar what we ate earlier in the week, M went on a field trip needed to bring a bag lunch.  Since it would have been difficult to pack rice, beans, and a water bottle for this outing, I made her a melted cheese sandwich and gave her a box juice that we happened to have. 

During the five day Live Below the Line challenge, we actually stuck to our original list of ingredients and only made some minor changes as the week progressed.  Since we didn't eat our full allotment of beans (3 pounds), we used some of the leftover food budget to eat a little watermelon.  We only ate about 1 pound of onions instead of 3, so we made sandwiches with a couple of slices of cheese.

Our food budget for the week looked something like this:

2 pounds of dried pinto beans ($1.39 each)
1 pound of onions ($0.39/lb.)
3 pounds of cabbage ($0.59/lb.)
3 pounds of carrots ($0.59/lb.)
2 pounds of apples ($0.89/lb.)
1 gallon of low fat milk ($3.19 per gallon)
3 pounds of rice ($0.35/lb.)
3 pounds of chicken leg quarters ($0.78/lb.)
1 bag of Trader Joe's pretzels ($1.99 per bag)
2 pounds of potatoes ($0.32/lb.)
1 loaf of whole wheat bread ($0.48 per loaf--not a mistake!!!  I happened to have a coupon and it was on sale that week....super lucky!!) 
14 eggs ($1.89)
Rather than figuring out exactly how much of each condiment, seasoning, etc. we used, we sort of took a shortcut and just included $1 for these items (and the 2 ounces of coffee we shared at the end of every day).

Total: $21.11 (this left us a little wiggle room for a small amount of watermelon and cheese)

Some thoughts about our experience: When you are living on $1.50 per day, it is truly difficult to make sure that your kids get a variety of different foods in all the food groups.  Also, while I did not mind the food we ate too much, I missed eating different fruits and vegetables.  I missed being able to eat what I wanted when I wanted to.  Such a restrictive diet with limited ingredients requires a lot of preplanning and preparing.

I hope that our family has a greater understanding of and compassion for the difficulties faced by so many other people.  And I hope that we now have a greater awareness and empathy.  I am glad we were able to participate, and there is already talk of joining the challenge again next year.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!!

To all the mothers, grandmothers, aunties, sisters, and friends who care for and nurture children--Happy Mother's Day!  You've got one of the most important, challenging, and rewarding jobs ever.  I hope your day is filled with happiness, joy, and a little "me" time! 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mother's Day Card Ideas

Just a quick couple of card ideas for Mother's Day.  We have a lot of moms in our family (both sides), and I like to at least acknowledge each of these awesome women in at least some small way.  These are all generous and caring women, and they all deserve some kudos for their hard work. 

I didn't have much time to put together a fancy card, and my printer has not been cooperating so I couldn't create my own Mother's Day tags.  However, I used stamps to make sentiment tags and because they are not holiday specific, these cards can be given on birthdays or as thank you's. 

By using sheets of scrapbooking paper from a coordinating stack (I think it was by Colorbok), these cards came together fairly quickly.  Now I just have to write a special message to each of the ladies and ask the family to sign them! :)

Friday, May 10, 2013

Day Four of Live Below the Line

We are through with Day Four!  I don't think M and I really MIND eating this diet so much as we miss the variety and access to different fruits and vegetables.  It looks like we will not be eating all three pounds of beans that I had planned for or all of the three pounds of onions.  Because of this, we swapped for $0.50 worth of watermelon (which was positively delicious after all that cabbage and carrots).  Dinner was once again chicken with sauteed veggies and this time, mashed potatoes. 

As the planner and organizer of the family's meals, it's really difficult to ensure that everyone gets a well-rounded diet on such a limited budget.  A gallon of milk was the most expensive item on our list, and I've been skimping on my own calcium intake to make sure K and M got theirs for the week.  And I can't imagine that only eating cabbage and carrots will give you all the vitamins and minerals that you need. 
Sadly, while I can say only one more day to go, so many other people cannot.  

Learn more about our experiences with the Live Below the Line five day challenge here.  Read more about Live Below the Line.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Day Three of Live Below the Line

We've finished Day Three!  More than halfway there!  Can't say that I will be sad when it is over.  I really do miss eating fruit (besides the 1/4 apple that we each get every day).  And I sorely miss my freshed-brewed cups of Peet's coffee throughout the day....not so easy to get through the day with 3 kids and no coffee! :)

Breakfast and lunches were much the same as the previous two days.  Dinner consisted of chicken, cabbage salad and oven baked French fries.  One thing that I've noticed is that it takes a good amount of preplanning and time to prepare everything.  Cooking dried beans just takes longer than opening a can.  In addition, I have to plan meals well in advance so the kids don't eat the same thing all day long--they would never go for that.  

M has been amazing about the experience and she actually helps to keep me on track.  She's been fairly disciplined about not taking goodies from friends at school and sticking to the rules of the challenge.  So on to Day Four!

Read more about our experiences with the Live Below the Line five day challenge here.  Learn more about Live Below the Line.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Day Two of Live Below the Line

Well, we got through day two.  M is starting to feel frustration at eating the same foods over and over.  Breakfast was basically toast, a small amount of banana, carrot sticks, milk, and hard-boiled egg.  Lunch for the kids was a toasted cheese sandwich (I exchanged some veggies for some cheese), beans, pretzels, and apple slices.  Lunch for me was rice combined with beans and sauteed veggies with a dash of soy sauce and sesame oil.  And dinner was based on a Costa Rican dish that HH ate while traveling called pinto gallo....essentially sauteed onions combined with precooked rice, pinto beans, a dash of cumin, and ginger powder.  I made a side salad of sliced raw cabbage and carrots seasoned with a teaspoon of rice wine vinegar and 1/2 a teaspoon of sugar.

It is difficult to make sure that the kids are getting enough calories and that I provide a variety of dishes for them to eat (without them feeling like they are eating the same thing over and over again-because they basically are).  With limited ingredients, I have to use my culinary imagination which I don't have a lot of.  I have to give M lot of credit for sticking with it and trying so hard.  Not so easy when her friends at school are eating yummy snacks and snacks!

To read more about our experiences with the Live Below the Line five day challenge, please click here.  To read more about Live Below the Line, please click here.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Day One of Live Below the Line

Yesterday Maddie and I began the Live Below the Line Challenge.  We spent Sunday afternoon prepping for the week by creating a possible list of groceries, brainstorming menu ideas, and shopping within our budget.  Our "pantry" essentially includes large quantities of staples, such as rice ($0.35 per pound), dried pinto beans ($1.39 per pound), potatoes ($1.59 for 5 pounds), and vegetables (cabbage, carrots, onions).  We bought smaller amounts of items like apples, chicken (just so happened to be on sale for $0.78 per pound), and eggs.  Maddie and I also included in our budget a dollar for seasonings and loose leaf jasmine tea.  And since I'm including my daughter, I made sure that we bought milk.  Gotta keep growing!

We got through the first day.  It took a bit of planning and thinking ahead about our meals, especially for school lunches (no grabbing a granola bar for the lunch bag).  Breakfast was toast, milk, apple slices, and a hard-boiled egg.  The kids had rice with soy sauce, beans, pretzels, and carrots sticks for lunch.  My lunch was a little different.  I just mixed up sauteed veggies with beans.  Dinner was actually pretty good--I really wish that I had thought to take a picture.  We had baked chicken, baked French fry wedges, and sauteed cabbage, carrots, and onions. 

There is a monotony to this restrictive of a diet (i.e., you can have almost unlimited amounts of beans and cabbage, but how much do you really want?).  And I really do miss my coffee and fresh fruit.  But I guess this is the point....many people have far less choices than we do (even on this challenge)....and no access to first world grocery stores.  

To read more about our experiences with the Live Below the Line five day challenge, please click here.  To read more about Live Below the Line, please click here.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Ribbon Hair Clips

I am such a fan of every project and DIY that is on Make It and Love It.  I wish that I had just a fraction of her creativity and imagination.  Anyways, with four girls in the household, there's plenty of hair to fix, brush, and style.  And unfortunately, I was not gifted in this area.  I can barely get my own hair looking presentable, much less anyone else's (poor kids).  I've found that the easiest and most convenient way to pull back the girls' hair is with a hair clip.  Fast, easy and cute! 

She has a fantastic tutorial on how to make them.  The directions are easy to follow, and I enjoyed making lots of different kinds of clips.  You don't need much ribbon, so I was able to use scraps from my ribbon bag.  The clips don't slip out which is great with baby fine hair, and they are gentle on the hair.

And clips look cute on the kids.  For some variety, I glued on an organza flower or a felt flower to decorate the clip--so girly!  A actually likes them and doesn't mind having them in her hair.  They are easy to put together so you can make one to match every outfit. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

It's Official!

It's official!  I am now mom to a teenager.  Egad!  How did that happen?  K turns 13 today, and it is incredible to reflect on how she has gone from being such a tiny and fragile baby to becoming a self-assured, capable young woman.  What an amazing process parenting is and what a privilege it is to be a parent. 
Happy birthday, K!!  We are so proud of you and love you immensely.  

M worked so hard to ensure that K had a really special day.  She did extra chores, got and wrapped presents, and even helped A make a present for her sister.  What an amazing kid!

The last photo is from one of my favorite moments of the day.  A wanted to read, so she got some magazines, sat down in our reading corner and called to her daddy to come and read with her.