You Know, That Whole Pinhole Method Sucks, Right? Best Annular Solar Eclipse Party Ever

.

We tried the whole pinhole thing. Lame. Watching a tiny dot just wasn’t doing it for me. Lucky for us…

we got a phone call from our friend Kathryn Ellison. She invited us up to their party where…

our other friend, Sarah Hedengren, had an awesome pair of…

 

welding masks. It’s the perfect way to watch an eclipse. We watched the eclipse while…

 

 kids played and…

the adults had conversation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Marvelous, Magical Birthday Of Seuss

.

One wintery day on the second of March. We got a big note, and that was the start. The start of events you will see. And its all because of our friend Holley Ellison McGhie. She has a pet monkey, it crawls on her head. She even lets it sleep with her in her bed. She had urgent news. It just could not be stopped. She had to tell us before the day went plop, plop, plop, plop.

"It's the birthday of Seuss," that's what she said. "It's the birthday of Seuss," she wrote from her bed. She wrote with her monkey on top of her head. You must celebrate; simply you must. You are my friends that play, play, play, play without any fuss. You must honor this birthday, this birthday of Seuss. You must do this; you have nothing to lose.

Without a second to waste we dashed off to Bliff's Store. Without a second to waste we ran out the door. Bliff's Store is the place to get what we need. Green eggs and ham, we can get there, indeed.

Green eggs and ham is a great way to say, happy birthday to Seuss on this marvelous day. Happy birthday to Seuss this is only the start. We have lots more to do. We each have our part.

Off we went, off we went at a vary fast pace. Off we went, off we went as if in a race. We went to read Seuss books, no time could be wasted. The clock was tik toking, we had to make hasted. There were things to be done on this birthday of Seuss. We must, must, must, must celebrate. It was just no use.

We spread on the floor on this second of March. We read, read, read, read until it was darked. But we could not stop there. We simply kept Seussing. We could care less whether we looked goof, goofy.

So on we read by the lamp of the car. On we read as we drove beneath white stars. Homeward bound we went, reading books in the night. Reading books by Seuss with the car's lamp light.

We read way past bedtime on this birthday of Seuss. We read way past bedtime, but what could we do? This comes once a year; it has been so much fun. I can't wait until we do another one.

What Horrible Deed Did I Do In Heaven To Get Such A Picky Kid?

.

This is my son McCann. He is VERY particular...with almost everything. This usually drives me crazy. Let me give you some examples.

Let's start with food. Many kids are picky about food, right? Let me show you how he excels in this area...beyond most kids. For example, he likes this brand of graham crackers, not...

this brand (or any other brand, for that matter). Once we even tried mixing the two brands together when he ate crackers and milk. We didn't want to waste this box. It didn't fool him, though. His fine pallet could tell the difference - even if we mixed it at only a 25/75 percent ratio.

When he drinks milk, he wants skim milk (the green one on the left) not 2% (the blue one on the right). Fortunately, he is not quite as picky with this as other things. If we run out of "green milk", we can usually convince him to drink "blue milk" for a day, until we can buy more "green milk."

Mustard. Most kids could care less what brand they eat. Not McCann. He only wants the brand on the far left. He hates all the other brands, and even if I sneak one of the "other" brands onto his sandwich or hot dog, he knows it by just looking at it. He doesn't even have to taste it. He can tell by sight that I am pulling a fast one. How crazy is that?

The only spoon he will use is the one on the far left. He refuses to use any of the other spoons. He would rather not eat.

The same goes for these kid spoons from IKEA. Most kids would love them, but he won't touch them.

When he eats Mandarin oranges, it has to be in this square glass bowl.

Not this round glass bowl...

or any of these other bowls. Not even the IKEA kids bowls (like on the far right). Another bowl example - he will eat graham crackers and milk in any bowl, but he has to have a washcloth laid out on the table between the bowl and himself. If not, he throws a hairy fit.

He hates wrinkles. If his bed gets wrinkled, he smooths it out. If the area rug, in our living room, looks like this, he goes crazy and straightens it immediately.

The same holds true for the bathroom rug. If a corner is turned up, like this, he freaks out and fixes it. Or, if the rug isn't straight (turned so it is perfectly lined up with the tub) he has to fix it.

When McCann lays out his blanket on the floor, he makes sure it is smoothed out perfect. If it was laid out like this, he would go ballistic and start straightening it.

When it comes to clothes, he will only wear long-sleeve button down shirts and long pants with a zipper and snap. No t-shirts (long or short sleeve), no sweats, or shorts.

When he is not in those specific street clothes, he only wears (long sleeved, long pants) pajamas...when he plays on the iPhone indoors...

when he plays in the snow outdoors...

when he rides his bike...

when he's watching TV...

when he's playing sports...

when he helps daddy cook...

you get the point - he's always wearing PJs - even in the Valentine's Day card we made for his classmates. If he's not in PJs, then he's in long-sleeve button-down shirts and zip-up long pants. Nothing else.

Now for the final example - the one that inspired me write this post. Tonight, when McCann was doing his kindergarten homework (about money), he didn't want to use the dirty penny (on the right). He insisted on using the shiny new penny (on the left). Crazy, isn't it - that a kid would be worried about such a thing? But he does. That is my McCann. Sometimes his pickyness drives me crazy. Sometimes it amazes me. Either way, he is a unique and special kid. I love him!

Please Take My Money

At the beginning of the school year, I received the bill for Brandon's school fees. No problem. I went in to pay it, but Mrs. Freeze, the secretary in charge of this, was not in her office. I came back again on another day...still no Mrs. Freeze. This happened five times, before I finally gave up. I thought to myself, "They'll contact me eventually." Well, they just did. In this photo is the note saying I "must" pay these fees. Well, I went into his school today and (you guessed it) no Mrs. Freeze - now my sixth trip to Brandon's school to pay this bill. And, it's not like I've gone the same day of the week at the same time of the day. I have gone in the early morning, late morning, early afternoon...you get the point. Anyway, I have a beef with Mrs. Freeze. If you want my money, Mrs. Freeze, please show up to work.

Unfortunately, Brandon's school is not the only place where I have this trouble. One of our doctors (see bill above) has an accounts receivable person that has a very odd schedule. Something like, every other Tuesday before 11AM, every 4th Wednesday between 1 and 4 PM and every Thursday when it's a full moon. Inevitably, her (scarce) available schedule always falls on times that I work and we have a dickens of a time getting our bill paid. (10 phone calls later...Uhhh!)

My last grievance in this area (sort of in this area) is with PayPal. I hate PayPal (let me rephrase that..."HATE!") Their efforts to maintain their customers' financial privacy severely hinder their ease of use. For example, I once had a credit card that expired. I went on to PayPal.com to make this update. They kept on telling me, "This card is already in our system and can't be used on another account." Well duh! I know it is already in your system and the account that it is attached to is MINE! After many attempts, I finally gave up and never used PayPal again. But, this is not the end of the story. About a year later, I got an email from PayPal saying, "It appears your credit card has expired. Please click on this link to update it." I did. Guess what happened. You got it right. They gave me the same message. "This card is already in our system and can't be used on another account." What a bunch of morons.

You would think it would be easy to give money away, but apparently it isn't.

Brandon Goes Strictly Ballroom

My son Brandon made it onto his school competition dance team. (He is on the left with his partner Aspen.) Today was his first DanceSport competition. 

The kids come dressed in their finest...

couples are assigned a number…

and they dance.

Brandon's number was 704.

The couples ranged from young kids...

to teenagers…

to college age competitors.

It was fun watching Brandon dance. Here are some photos.

Why I FedExed My Sister’s Bridal Shower Invitations: How To Throw a Party That Will Be Remembered (ideas from Pinterest and designermom.com)

*

As I mentioned in the title, I FedExed my sister's bridal shower invitations. I'll let you know why in a moment, but before I get to that, let me start from the beginning. . .

This is my sister Gina with her fiance Paul. He is the bubble boy... Okay, he's not really the bubble boy, but he is fun (as you can tell from the photo) and we are happy they are getting married. After they got engaged, my sister asked me to throw her a bridal shower for family members. It is not normal for her to ask me this. Why you ask? Well...

because I am a boy not a girl, and most guys don't throw bridal showers... for ANYONE. So why did she ask me? Because I've thrown a lot of parties over the years and have learned a thing or two about creating a memorable event.

Okay, now back to the FedEx boxes. Why did I send my sister's invitations this way? It's simple. First, I wanted my sister to be the only bride who could say her bridal shower invitations were sent next day air- it sets hers apart from any other shower. Second, I wanted her to have a higher turnout than any other bridal shower. This also sets hers apart. Who sends out invitations via FedEx, anyway? Nobody. Just crazy people like me. BUT, sending the invitation via express mail alone sets a precedent that will automatically increase attendance. According to my research, the average bridal shower has a 40% attendance rate (unless you hire a Master Bridal Consultant. Then it is 50%.) We had an 87.5% attendance rate. WAY above the average - more than double. The first step in making that happen was sending our invitation via express courier (of course you don't have to do that to stand out. You could send it in a box via US Mail and still make a big impact.)

STEP ONE: PLANNING

The first thing to do when planing a party is to create a theme and a logo that will be carried throughout the whole process - tie everything together. I created the theme "Paul and Gina sitting in a tree..." with a water color of a tree as the logo. You will see this every step of the way.

For example, we had the logo on the tent cards that sat next to each dish of food in the kitchen.

STEP TWO: THE INVITATIONS

This is an example of a normal invitation - a simple card in an envelope.

Another method, that has become poplular, is using an online service like Evite.com. I actually combined both ideas and went above and beyond. Let me show you.

I started with my scrumptious brownies. Now that's different already, isn't it?

I wrapped them in waxed paper to make them neat and fancy.

Then I placed that into a nice box...

then put the invitation on top.

(Here is a close up of the invitation.)

Then I topped the box off with green ribbon (to match the logo) and a sticker of the logo. Looks nice doesn't it? And it's unique - uniqueness is very important.

Then I FedExed them. (Again, you could send them via US Mail in a box and be just as effective and cut back on cost.)

Now, if you were paying attention, you noticed that the invitation didn't actually have a date or a time on it - just a note to visit http://www.PaulAndGinaSittingInATree.com

The website had a time and date page, a place/location page (with a link to Google maps), a menu page, a page about Gina and Paul and an R.s.v.p page. This picture shows the menu page. For the meal we had homemade chicken noodle soup, Pugliese Bread, and Oriental Salad. For dessert we had cheese cake, carrot cake, chocolate cake with Ganache, lemon silk, and banana cream pie.

SIDE NOTE: I created the website for free on wordpress.com

ANOTHER SIDE NOTE: I got the domain name for only $4.95 from GoDaddy.com. To do that you need to...

1. Go to Google. 2. Type in the keywords "domain names". 3. Find the GoDaddy link in the first few search results (the one that says, "sale for $4.95 domain name".) 5. Click on that link and follow their directions.

STEP THREE: THE ARRIVAL (YOU ONLY HAVE ONE CHANCE TO MAKE A FIRST IMPRESSION)

My brownie-in-a-box invitation set the precedence for the party, but I needed to continue that once the guests arrive. That is why I decorated the outside of our house...so they would have the same feeling of over-the-topness even before they walk inside the door. I lined the path to my house and my drive way with these mason jars that had tea lights in them (we used 70 of them, but next time I will triple that). It created an ambiance that is fitting for a bridal shower and continued my goal of keeping expectations high. The mason jars led right up to my house where I ...

had white lights around my front door. (NOTE: This is not my door. I forgot to take a picture, so I stole this one off the internet.)

Also, as they walked in, I had this poster framed and on an easel on my porch.

STEP FOUR: THE ENTRANCE

As soon as they walked in the door, we checked their coat. I had these cards made and we cut slits in the top and slipped them onto hangers. When they came in, we wrote their name on the card and took their coat to the back to be hung. I figured this was another way to set this party apart, but it also added an element of organization.

When we hung their coat, we slipped this cloth bag of Jelly Bellies into their pocket. The card in the bag has the logo on it and says, "Thanks for checking your coat."

Once in the door, they saw two things. First, this calendar guest book. I made a calendar with photos of the bride and groom. Each guest signed their name on their birthday.

We also had these cards on which they could write their advice or well wishes to the bride. We collected them in a bowl, then put them in a leather case for the bride to keep. (The case was green of course, to match the logo.)

STEP FIVE: PARTY FAVORS

I had two party favors. First, I went to a thrift store and bought a bunch of nice frames for very cheap.

Then I had a photo shoot with the bride and groom (Yes, I was the photographer, and no you don't have to be a photo genius to do this. Find a friend or family member that is a decent photographer or use extra shots from their engagement shoot. Another option is to Photoshop the heck out of photos you take yourself.) We framed the best photos and placed them all over our living room. Each guest took one home. Here are some of the photos from our shoot. (Click on them to enlarge.)

The second party favor was a custom-made monogrammed mug (I got this idea from DesignMom.com.)

The white mugs also came from a thrift store. I cleaned them up and drew the monogram on them with a porcelain pen. They are not hard to make. Go to the link below to see how.

DesignMom.com

I filled the mug with chocolate covered strawberries that I dipped myself (much cheaper that way, and they are simple to make).

Here is the finished product.

The girls seemed to have a grand time. Unfortunately, this is the only photo we have of the actual shower. The lighting was bad, and I was busy most of the night in the kitchen anyway.

TIPS AND TRICKS:

The first pointer I have is to plan in advance. If possible, spend a month gathering ideas (at least a week or two). I spend a lot of time browsing Pinterest.com. It's a great idea generator.

Do as much work in advance as possible. If I can cook something ahead of time, I do it. If I can only cook part of a dish ahead of time, I do that and put on the finishing touches the day of the party. I make a list of what I needs to be done each day. (These are my lists hanging on my magnetic chalk board.) I also hang the recipes I need on the chalk board.

I plan in as much detail as possible. For example, this is a layout of the tea lights I had lining my sidewalks and drive way. This is how I knew I needed 70 mason jars. If I didn't do this early on, I would have been scrambling last minute to get the jars i needed. (Write a note to yourself that says, "Scrambling is bad!" )

You don't have to spend a load of money to do a bridal shower like this. Browse Pinterst to get cheap ideas, be creative and go in with another family member or friend to cover costs. For example, my mom covered all the non-food expenses and I covered all the food expenses and did all the work. Well, there you have it - the how-tos of a great party. Now go and plan one.


Do I Smack-Down Terri In My Hospital’s “Biggest Loser” Contest, Or Do I Walk Away, Now That I Have Reached My Weight Goal?

 

Me after I weighed myself today. 185 lbs baby! Ten pounds gone in less than 4 days. Yahoooo!

Every year, at the hospital where I work, the Oncology Unit hosts a “Biggest Loser” contest in January. I had gained 10 pounds over the “junk-food” holidays and decided to join as a motivation to get that extra fat off. Well, it’s only day four, and I have reached my goal. My plan was to walk away from the contest happy and healthy once I reached my intended weight, BUT on the weigh-in day,  Terri, a nurse, was smart-talking everyone (of course, she won last year, so maybe she has the right). Anyway, her sassy words have been playing in my head over and over this week. I love Terri to death, but  I think it is time for a smack-down.

To guarantee a win, I will have to lose about 45 pounds. From my starting weight of 195 that will take me down to 150.   This thought doesn’t make me happy. I like my weight where it is now. I think it will be a little unhealthy to go down that far, plus it will bring back bad memories of my skinny, wimpy days in high school. Actually, wait. I better check on the healthy part of that comment…I’m back. The ideal weight for my height and age is around 155, so I’m doing this!  You hear me Terri? I’m coming after you, so you better get your A-game on. Whoot, Whoot!