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At the Fair

This afternoon, after the kids woke from their naps, we headed to the county fair. It was the perfect weather – sunny and just slightly warm. My parents never took me to fairs as a kid, but I do remember a carnival that came to town every once in a great while. I remember how thrilling it was to see the rides, hear the music and excitement all around. And the food! I love fair food – funnel cakes, cotton candy, caramel apples… I love it all.

Things have not changed much since I was a kid. I saw they still had the classics like a ferris wheel, a carousel, Tilt-a-whirl and the Scrambler, among the newer thrills. And now that I have kids of my own, I feel like I have an added excuse to go on rides and have a good time. It was sweet how often Chloe wanted to hold my hand, and I was pleasantly surprised at how brave she was. In just a couple years Leo will be old enough to join her. I imagine it only gets better.


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Heat Wave

We’re suffering through a heat wave in Portland right now. So far we’ve gotten by with only fans, but tomorrow I’m guessing the AC will get its first run of the season. Chloe’s lovin’ it, though. Yesterday she got to play in the nearby park fountain for the second time, although she will still quite timid. All of the jets except four are quite forceful, and the four tiny jets were crowded with other babies, toddlers and parents. So, today we broke out our new Melissa & Doug Blossom Sprinkler. I bought two on a whim back in March, and gave the second as a birthday gift. It is everything that I’d hoped for. Right now we’re keeping the flow low, so Chloe can get used to it, but it also goes big, and the sprinkler heads are soft and flexible for little feet. I think we’re going to get a lot of use out of it this summer, and since losing our trees, I’m sure our grass is going to thank us.

On another note, I recieved a lot of really insightful advice in the comments of my recent Maybe I should have spanked her post. I appreciated reading every one, and gleaned some good information.  It also spurred me to look at some “raising toddler” help books at the library. The one I’m currently reading is The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp, MD. I was really impressed with how well the techniques from his other book and DVD worked when Chloe was a newborn. I’ve gotten through the first four chapters so far, basically presenting the idea that parents should act as an “ambassador” to their children (vs. being a buddy, or a boss), and how to communicate respectfully using the “Fast Food rule” and “Toddler-ese.” To be honest, I was skeptical about the “Toddler-ese,” but I had an opportunity to try it during dinner tonight. Chloe must have hurt her mouth somehow and was crying. Daddy tried to distract her with redirection, which usually works, but she just continued crying. It was my opportunity to give toddler-ese a try. To my surprise, Chloe responded by pausing mid-wail, which was just long enough for Daddy to redirect her again with the promise of a cookie (it was the end of dinner, after all). Whoa! Was this just a coincidence? Hard to tell. I plan on trying it again in other situations, and if it works even half the time, then I’ll be happy.


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Post-It Draw It Game

I have always liked Pictionary, so its no surprise that I find myself “drawn” to Post-it’s online “Draw It Game.” I’m not one to play facebook apps or video games, in general, but put me in this virtual room of strangers and I can waste time like nobody’s business. You don’t even need to sign up. Just play with the guest username they provide. Watch out though. Despite the admonishment to “doodle clean”  in case young kids are present, it doesn’t stop morons from drawing x-rated junk when it is their turn. Or cussing in the comments. Otherwise, though, it really is simple, good fun whenever you happen to have a spare minute.


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What nifty device can you make with paper, film and a Coke can?

I found a very interesting book on the new arrival shelf at the library yesterday. A book called Build Fun Paper Cameras: Take Eye-Catching Pinhole Photos. My first thought was Hmm, those look pretty cool! My second thought was They still make 35mm film?! It is almost hard for me to believe that everyone just doesn’t use digital these days. I love the instant satisfaction of seeing an image onscreen (especially handy when I notice a detail that needs fixing). Film cameras don’t give you that amount of control, and that idea is… intriguing.

So, I’m curious. I decided to check the book out and experiment. What if I had to physically rely on myself to manage the exposure (and not just tell my digital camera how long to do it for me)? I mean literally open and close the shutter by hand, and not with the press of a button? What would it be like to manually make my own equipment? And wind the film myself? I’m guessing the worst that can happen will be that none of my photos come out, but even so I’ll have made some pretty nifty little paper cameras. So, if you’ll excuse me – I have a Coke can to cut and pierce, film to find and purchase, and 8 sheets of freshly printed card stock to cut, fold and assemble.

To be continued…


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Cool Online Game

gettheglass.com

If you haven’t already, check out this creative online game. I can’t believe how well it was designed, with gorgeous graphics and advanced interactive details. It sort of reminds me of Myst. Very impressive for a milk campaign. We came in at about 9400 out of 41,000. How well can you do?


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What we're playing

The last time I had lunch with Christy, my boss when I used to work at adidas, she and her assistant taught me a new card game called Skip-bo. It was pretty fun and I had meant to pick up my own deck, but then forgot. I was recently reminded from reading a post on Still Life in Yarn which mentioned the game briefly. I finally picked up a box at Target. David and I have been playing multiple games back-to-back. It’s been really fun to interact with him this way. Kind of like quality time.


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Free Holiday Cheer Board Game

Holiday Cheer Game

Holiday Cheer Board Game – download free pdf here

A couple of weeks ago while I was shopping at Michael’s I made several spur of the moment holiday purchases, including 2 foamy-style rubber-stamp blocks and 3 packages of epoxy stickers. I have no idea what made me pick these items up because I don’t stamp, or use stickers (much). There was just something pretty and tactile about them that made reach out and place them on the check stand. (Actually, I was just going to buy one stamp, but it didn’t have a sku tag, so the checkout girl asked if I could grab another. Then I heard myself saying “I’ll just take that one, too”). Thank goodness they didn’t cost much!

So I’ve had these foamy stamp blocks on my desk for a while now. David asked me why I bought them and I guiltily mumbled something about probably returning them, or using them for… something. Later, I found myself tossing one around and noticing how it bounced merrily before settling. Then I thought Eureka! I could design a holiday game for my nephew with it! (Okay, so I didn’t say Eureka!, but that word perfectly described how I felt. As in: Whew! If I can make something useful/fun, then I can be excused for making an impulse buy. After all, it must have been fate at work that day, right?).

This picture is misleading. These are the two stamps I bought, but only one is used for the game.

How to Play: Here was my thought process. The foamy stamp block would work like a die that you roll (there is a snowman side, a snowflake side, a kid’s face, the words “Let it Snow,” and two blank sides). Whatever lands face up is the icon that you’d move your game piece forward to on the board. Sounds pretty easy right? The only kicker is that when you roll a blank side you lose that turn and don’t get to move forward. I designed the whole game board with this idea in mind.

I should mention here that I don’t know anything about three and a half year old boys, or any kids at all for that matter (although two of my good friends are now expecting!). Paolo, our nephew, lives in Austin and we rarely see him. I could be totally wrong about skills at that age or his interest in something like this. However, the other night when I explained this game to Marcy, she said it sounded like Candyland, which I looked up and is rated for ages 3+, which is perfect.

To make a long story short, you can download my Holiday Cheer Game here. It’s pretty large, with a full size of 17 x 22″ so it has to be printed out (or tiled) in four sections if you’re printing it out on regular letter-sized paper, like I did. Then I pasted the sheets to a larger piece of thin cardstock for durability/foldability.

Playing Cards: Unless you happen to find the same stamp block at Michael’s, the best way to play is to print out a second set of pages and cut out the squares from the game board to use as cards. Instead of rolling a die, you would set the stack of “cards” face down and each player would draw a card and then move his or her game piece forward to the nearest icon indicated. You would also have to cut out some “blank” cards to use as “lose a turn.”

Holiday Cheer Game

These are the simple plastic playing pieces I made . I would have preferred something more 3D, but they seem to work okay.

Game Pieces: I made game pieces out of Shrinky Dinks plastic (I am having such fun with that stuff!), but any small objects will do. Playing pieces from another game, a set of erasers, coins, bottle caps or anything that will fit on the squares should work.

Advanced Play: Depending on the level of the players, you can make the game harder by adding additional rules. For example, instead of two players sharing a square, maybe the original player gets kicked off his space and moved backward to the nearest same icon. Or maybe he moves all the way back to start! It’s up to you.

Have fun!


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Easy Halloween Fun on a Mac

inverted mac screenshot

Want to have a little fun by dressing up your mac in orange and black for Halloween (and giving your co-workers and boss a good scare in the process)? Here’s how:

1. Click on System Preferences in your dashboard (the silver rectangle icon with the apple logo on the right and a light switch on the left).

2. Click on Universal Access, shown near the bottom right corner, in the “System” catagory.

3. Now click the radio button for White on Black under the “Display” catagory.

This will automatically “invert” the colors on your screen. For example, anything that was once white, will now be black. If you want to change your desktop color to invert to orange, like the picture above, you have to start with a blue background (because blue inverts to orange).

To do this go to “System Preferences” and choose “Desktop & Screen Saver” near the top under the Personal catagory. Then choose any blue background under “Apple Images.” Repeat the steps above to “invert” and then show off your spooky computer.

To change back, simply click again on the “Black on White” radio button under Universal Access.


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Famously Creative with HP

harajuku paper doll card

A Harajuku Girl Paper Doll Card from Gwen’s HP site

Check out these two fun and elegant interactive mini-sites (can they be called that?) from HP, one inspired by Paula Scher, principal at Pentagram and the other inspired by recording artist Gwen Stefani. Each presentation includes a short video and customized tools that are great for blowing a little time while “playing” creatively.

My favorite was making a Harajuku Girl paper doll on Gwen’s site. I also found it interesting to watch Paula’s video on brand identity, but think it’s a little weird that she’s providing a template for businesses to auto-generate their own identity system. That just doesn’t seem right, especially after saying a good identity “expresses the specific spirit and tonality and ethics of an organization or individual.” Providing these templates seems to defeat this purpose by only providing a “friendly” or “modern” choice. To be fair, there is eventually a link to the AIGA.

Here’s the overview from HP:

gwen stefani

Gwen Stefani For You
Step inside Gwen Stefani’s world and customize her designs and illustrations to make Gwen Stefani’s style your own. Submit photos to the Sweet Escape tour book, create your Harajuku Girl paper doll entourage, print invitations, greeting cards and check out Gwen Stefani’s baby collection. All brought to you by HP.

paula sher

Paula Scher For Your Business
HP and Pentagram designer Paula Scher present advice on brand identity design, video tutorials for small businesses and brand identity templates for small businesses. View Paula Scher’s best-known work, browse through her exclusive design templates and listen to insights on how small businesses build great brand identity.


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Unique & Funky Halloween Candy Alternatives

eye balls bowl
Last year we did not give out candy for Halloween. Instead we found a package of 80 mini play-dohs in a variety of colors at our local Costco. It was nice to give out something different for a change, and the neighborhood kids were really excited to be getting items other than the same old traditional candy.

This year I was hoping to find another interesting, yet affordable alternative. If only I had stocked up during some of the back-to-school sales this fall! There were bins filled with fun pencils, erasers, mini-notebooks, crayons, and stickers for cheap. Now, they’re no where to be had. Party store favors would be a good place to check – a flyer that came today featured a 60ct bag of plastic spider rings for 99¢ (although these might be a possible choking hazard). And Target sells this pack of 24ct party bubbles for $3.99.

party bubbles

play-doh

eye balls candy

Anyway, today at Costco, I decided to revert to candy. Despite this post, I’m not against candy. I’m just against the boring, uninspired kind. For $8.99 comes this pack of 90ct individually wrapped Absolute Sweet “Eye Ballzz” gummy candy. Aren’t they so funky and gross? David tried one, and yes, they’re edible. I don’t know how many parents will actually let their kids eat them, but I’m sure the kids will get a kick out of getting them!

Meanwhile, for those of you who would truly like to give candy alternatives, here is a list compiled from nationalserviceresources.org and palmettohealth.org.

  • Temporary tattoos
  • Stickers
  • Pencils
  • Fancy erasers
  • Pencil toppers
  • Crayons
  • Coins (pennies, nickels, dimes)
  • Small novelty toys
  • False teeth
  • Superballs
  • “Slime”
  • Miniature magnifying glasses
  • Plastic jewelry/decoder rings
  • Necklaces
  • Glow-sticks
  • Sugar-free candy
  • Tiny decks of cards
  • Plastic medals
  • Fake money
  • Origami paper & instructions
  • Bubbles
  • Granola bars
  • pretzels
  • cheese and cracker packs
  • sugar free gum
  • packets of instant hot chocolate or cider
  • miniature raisin boxes
  • single serving nut packets
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