Thursday, November 29, 2012

I love seeing all the stylish gift guides that come out this time of year, but I'm always more curious about the toys people actually own and love because as lovely as some gifts are, they don't always appeal to kids or stand up to wear as well as we'd like.  On that note, Meta, Merrilee, and I thought you might like to know about a few of the toys we each own and love.  Here's my list.
1.  Kid O A to Z Magnatag- you use a magnetic stylus to pull up little metal beads to "write" and then erase them by running your fingers over them.  Creed hated to practice writing so I picked up this toy and even he cannot resist its charms, but Ollie sneaks it away every chance he gets.  2.  Melissa and Doug Discovery Magic Set- I was surprised at how well-made and sturdy these magic tricks are.  They've survived many a performance and still work like new.  It's recommended for ages six and up, but Creed got this set for his fifth birthday and all the Five-year olds loved it and have no problem with the tricks.  3.  Plan Toys Animal Memo- The tiles are all so cute and their thick, curved shape make them easy for little hands to turn over.  4.  Haba Block on Tackle- I don't know that you need this particular pulley, this is just the one we happened to get on sale, but the pulley from one floor to another in our house is the first thing kids want to play with when they come over (they have to be supervised with it of course)  5. Janod Rocket- Creed's been able to take this apart and put it back together since he was tiny and the magnetic pieces have always amused him.  6.  Haba Ball Track Construction Set- My favorite thing about this marble run is all the interesting pieces that you can add to it.  We plan to add a piece each year which always renews interest in an old toy, and it's the kind of set that's worth holding onto for grandkids someday.  7.  The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game- If you've ever playing Hi-Ho Cherrio, this is basically the same game only so much cuter!  8. Schylling Musical Bells- Not only are they pretty, they have really pretty tones, but you just might have to leave the room if the whole neighborhood is over playing them because they are LOUD.  9.  Automoblox- Every time my kids take these out and about, people stop us to ask them about them.  These little wooden cars have interchangable parts so you can collect them and build all sort of cars.  Creed prefers the small size (which are much more reasonably priced) because we have more of them and he loves to switch up the pieces. Ollie prefers the large ones because little people sit in them and he loves matching the shapes on their feet to get them all into the car.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I keep getting emails from people with questions about how I made the chalkboard Christmas tree I had hanging in my living room last Christmas.  I wasn't going to post about it because there's not really much to it, and I didn't have any good pictures of it, but when I mentioned that to my sister, it was Candice to the rescue because she had pictures of Ollie in front of it last Christmas.  How could I keep these to myself?
 Can you believe how tiny he was just a year ago?

 He was a stinker when we tried to take pictures so I'm so happy Candice caught a few!
What's that you say? You wanted a tutorial, and my cute baby photos did not make you forget.

It all started when we were staring at our big, empty living room walls and wishing we could buy a giant Christmas tree, but it was not it our remodellers' budget nor would have it been safe for Ollie.  Then I remembered this idea I saw for a chalk Christmas tree on a drop cloth, and I knew we could do a huge version so I was off to Lowe's to pick up a painters canvas drop cloth and chalkboard paint.  The only advice that I really have is to lay a cheap plastic drop cloth below because the paint will seep through the fabric onto whatever is underneath your drop cloth.  I only did one coat, because I didn't want to buy another pint of paint, but had I known we were going to keep this up and continue using it, I probably would have done a second coat.  The fabric soaks up a lot of paint so you'll need more then you think.
 Since my drop cloth was so big, I drew my Christmas tree while it was still laying down in our garage and just touched up any smudges after we hung it up.  So simple and cheap for such a big effect.
 By the time Valentine's Day rolled around, I still hadn't taken it down so I just washed it off and drew something new.  My advice for erasing is to first vacuum your old drawing to remove as much chalk as possible and it will be much easier to erase (I just use our shopvac).  After that I use a wet washcloth and wash everything else away.  Use lots of water and scrub lightly or you'll scrub off some paint like I did the first time.
 Now we use the chalk board for just about every holiday/party around here.

But I have to say last Christmas is my favorite
All the pictures with Ollie are by Candice (the rest obviously are not)

Gift Guide 2012

So since moving to Provo, I've been blessed with two wonderful friends who happen to be just as obsessed with kids toys as I am.  I love seeing the fun toys at their homes so when Meta and Merrilee invited me to join them in putting together some holiday gift guides, I was happy to join in.  So to start off, here are a few things I know Ollie would love to find under our Christmas tree (and maybe a few of them are being shipped to us right now. Shhh! Don't tell)

1. Fox & Hat by Maileg  2.  Let's go for a Drive by Mo Willems- We're big fans of Elephant and Piggie around here, and I know this will be a particular favorite of car-obsessed Ollie  3.  Skip Hop Soapster Foaming Soap Dispenser- I might love this more than Ollie because he hates having his hair washed and this would free up one of my hands to help with his squirming  4.  Mini Speedy Le Mans  5.  London Bus with Driver  6. Lucy the Crocodile by David Weeks- We have Hano the Gorilla because I found one on clearance and we love it.  These are fairly indestructable and so fun to pose all over the place  7. Nutty the Squirrel balancing toy  8. Cascading Marble Tree- I love the musical sounds this toy makes  9. Stackable Panda Puzzle  10.  Magnetic Bulldozer- What toddler doesn't love to take things apart and this is actually meant to come apart and snap back together via its magnetic pieces  11. What Animals Really Like by Fiona Robinson - This book was hard for Ollie to part with when it was time to return it to the library   12. Modern Phante Chair- as much as I'd love the real deal, this knock-off is more inline with our budget.  It comes in many colors and oh, does Ollie love elephants!

Creed is starting to get a little more difficult to buy for.  He'd love an armful of video games, and while I wouldn't mind getting him one or two, I'd much rather have him off using his imagination and still enjoying being little.  Here are a few things that I think might walk the fine line of cool enough to interest him without being too grown-up.

1.  Penguin Kubix Domino Set- Creed loves setting up dominos to knock down, but it's still a little tricky for him to not knock them down while he's building.  These look slightly more stable and the moving parts would be so fun to mix in with the rest of our dominos  2. Fox Mibo tee   3. Kipp Klapper Bahn- This is just one of many cool pieces that you can add to the Haba marble sets. I love adding something new to renew interest in a toy that we already have   4.  The Book with a Hole by Herve Tullet- Many people know Tullet for his amazing picture book, Press Here, but his activity books are equally creative.  Creed isn't usually interested in coloring, but he was begging for this book once he browsed through it   5.  Secret Message Writing Set- we had a similar set that was a huge hit with Creed   6.  I Duck- this waterproof duck plays music in the bathtub.  You can plug your ipod into the egg transmitter and keep it somewhere dry or even listen to fm radio   7.  Aluminum Triceratops- Truth be told, Creed is not ready for this one yet, but it might be a fun project to do together and the price is so reasonable, I'd be willing to try   8. Lester's Dreadful Sweaters by KG Campbell - I dare you to read the excerpt on Amazon.  You're going to want it too   9. Cable Car Kit- We have a two story entry with openings on both sides, just begging for things to be sent from one side of the house to the other   10. Magical Crystal Growing Kit   11. Delux Magic Set- We have the basic set made by the same company and Creed loves to put on magic shows (over and over and over again).  I'm ready to see some new tricks so maybe this one is more for me   12. This Way to the Moon by Miroslav Sasek   13. Kikkerland Windup- Creed collects little Kikkerland windup robots and this one is high up on his wishlist   14. Robot Bank   15. Crank Music Box- We own one of these and it is the number one item my boys fight over.  I'd say it's time they each got their own, and I love that they have so many different songs to choose from

Don't forget to check out Meta's Gift Guide over at One More Mushroom and Merrilee's Gift Guide over at Mer Mag.  Later this week we'll all be sharing toys that we already own and love.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Wild Thing, I think I love you

Many of you have wondered if everything is ok with the Ford household because I haven't been blogging (so sweet of you to ask by the way). Not to worry, all is well, I joined Instagram and that has met my friend/family sharing needs for the most part, BUT not everyone is one Instagram, in fact some of my best far away friends are not on Instagram.  And this blog is my only form of journaling so I keep thinking about my poor kids won't know the details of this time of their lives unless I start blogging again so I guess I have a lot to tell you about.

But instead of playing catch-up today, let's talk about how magical this Halloween was.  Both of my boys love the book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.  This year the fates aligned because not only does Ollie fit into the Max costume that I made for Creed a few years ago, but Creed was happy about the idea of being a Wild Thing.

I kept Creed's costume simple knowing he would need to be able to put it on himself for his school costume parade. I made the top a jacket (I lust after these beautiful coats by LittleGoodall and tried to come up with something similar, but I wanted Creed's face to be the Wild Thing's face) and I just sharpied scales on some old pants.  I bought a new crown for Ollie from my friend Annie, and we were good to go.

I've been wanting to schedule a children's portrait session with Ashley Thalman, and I figured why not let them have a wild rumpus in their costumes?  I called her up last minute and even though she had a busy weekend, she worked us in.  She sent me these photos the very next day (and many more. I know this seems like a million, but I had such a hard time cutting it down to just my very favorites).  I hope you don't mind me over-sharing; I just love them so much! It wasn't anything formal, just the two of them tromping around the yard, being themselves, and I think that's why they are so great.

Thank you so much Ashley!

I hope all of you had a Halloween as magical as ours.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

New Head Shots

I hate being alone in pictures.  I don't know what it is, but I just get awkward and everything looks so inauthentic.  So last year when Sycamore Street Press came out with a new website, my about me page ended up with a weird picture of me standing in my friend's kitchen with Ollie standing in the sink in front of me.  I kept thinking that I had to have a better picture of myself in recent years somewhere, but after searching, I came up empty handed. 

Luckily, just as the Sycamore Street Press team was updating the about me pages, Candice came to town and took some new pictures of me while we were in the midst of a family photo shoot.

Even though I don't love being in front of the camera, I try to remind myself that it's important to have these pictures. I want my kids to be able to remember me at this stage of life (Heck, I want to vividly remember this lovely stage of life).

Sycamore Street Press updates the inspiration boards regularly, and I love seeing what's inspiring the rest of the team. And as an added bonus, for a limited time you can still spot me with a row of knives behind me with my child in a sink that doesn't even belong to me, and a little friend's hand holding a treat in the corner of the photo. Alas, I already sent in one of these new pics so it won't be up much longer.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

I can't believe we've lived in Casa Ford for over a year.  It still likes there's still so much to do, and we haven't even begun to settle in.  Lately, I find myself obsessing over well-made, functional household items.  We're not buying much these days as we save to buy into Larry's practice, but I find myself putting more thought into what we do buy, and wanting them to be beautiful and long lasting (especially if it's going to be something that I see or use every day).

I remember when I was getting married, I looked around my parent's house and realized how much of their household items they'd had since they got married.  Every time I've been tempted to take a hand-me-down or buy something cheap as filler until we could afford what we really wanted, my mom coached me not to do it because once it goes in your house it's not a priority anymore and it will never be replaced.  And now I can't help but look around at some of the cheapo things we've been moving around with for years and knowing my mom was right.  When we moved into this house, we had very few belongings that I would have been sad to see fall out of the moving truck and be destroyed (most because it's just junk, but I have to admit some of it was just a case of bad taste when I got married at 21 and was still figuring out what I liked. Don't we all wish we could do the wedding registry over again?). Over this year, I've been working on purging some of those things that I never really loved, but made do with, but I still have a long way to go.  I'm finding I don't mind having the empty space, and it's fun to dream about the replacements, even if we won't be buying them anytime soon.

Here are a few little functional household things that I wish I owned because I actually would be sad to see them fall out of a moving truck.

This mirror to go on the landing by the garage door

 These trays, that fit together with such pretty geometry.
 I wouldn't mind tripping over these fabric covered extension cords.
 And this tissue holder that almost makes me wish I had the sniffles.
 Some sturdy new silverware because we are running dangerously low on spoons these days (What happened to all of them? I hope they are living a happy life while they tour abroad)

A drink dispenser of my own so I could stop borrowing one every time I throw a party.

 And if my laundry basket had to be in the corner of the bathroom, couldn't it at least look like this?
Is the fact that this is what I drool over these days an indicator that I'm getting old?

Thursday, June 07, 2012

He marches to the beat of his own drum

So Creed's long been obsessed with OK Go music videos so when the topic of birthday party themes came up, it should be no surprise that he embraced the idea of a marching band birthday party.  He's seen this music video approximately 30 thousand times and it does look like a lot of fun.

I love Miroslav Sasek's This Is book series and I've always thought the Guard on the cover of This Is London looks like he could be in a marching band so I redrew it and tried to copy Sasek's font to write "This is a Party"
Since Creed was turning five, we let him invite five friends, and we asked them to wear red, white, and blue.

I didn't do too much to decorate, but I did put up a new birthday themed chalk drawing (I don't know who did this original illustration, but isn't it great?  I found it in a old piano book from the 50's)

And we got lucky when Target had instruments in their dollar section and they were actually really cute!
And of course, no marching band party would be complete without marching band hats.
Then I put up a paper fringe garland and a linen garland that I stamped with an old letterpress printing block of a drummer marching, and called it good.
I love that Creed would rather have donuts than cake so for the second year in a row, we just stacked up his favorite donuts from Costco. The vintage marching band cake decorations were an Etsy score. (If I had a million dollars there were some amazing vintage drum major hats and batons that I would have bought too, but they were thrilled with the plastic hats.) We also had a bunch of fruit "drum sticks" so I didn't feel like I was only feeding them junk.
After the kids arrived we brought in our lawn chairs and set up a little music class.  Each time we gave them a new instrument I'd tell them a silly way to play it (you just loop this triangle over your ear and shake your head . . .) and then the kids would giggle and correct me and we'd practice playing to a simple rhythm.
They were so serious about it all, and it was adorable.

Once they figured it out, Larry put on a great marching band playlist and the parade all over the house began.
And of course, we couldn't leave out Ollie.
I think Creed had a lot of fun.

I can't stress enough how darling his friends are, but try to get a picture of a group of five-year-olds all looking in the same direction and smiling.

Several months later, the "Creed is awesome" garland is still hanging in our kitchen, because he is indeed very awesome.