Running for Office — 5th Grade Edition

Maude, our 5th grader, recently ran for student council. Our school in New York didn’t offer student council, so this was our first opportunity to try something like this.

Maude was allowed to make 1 poster-board size poster. And give one speech. Here’s our report on both. These ideas worked well (she was elected!) and would be a good fit for 4th, 5th or 6th grade. Feel free to use the ideas if you have the need.

The Poster
I was out of full sheets of poster board, but I had a stack of orange poster board sections from a previous project (bonus point for using up what we had), so we pieced those together with lengths of ribbon to make a full-size poster. The sections broke up the space nicely and ultimately inspired the poster content.

We started with Maude writing her name in her regular handwriting. Then we thickened that up to make it something we could use as a template and cut out. We cut out 3 “maudes” from additional posterboard scrap, sprayed them with a light coat of spraymount and completely covered them with glitter (from the Martha Stewart collection — my all-time favorite glitter). We attached the names to the sections with double-sided tape.

On the 3rd-panel, in her own handwriting, Maude wrote little slogans about herself. Some rhymed with Maude (Maude is not flawed). Some didn’t.

The Speech
Before we started working on this, we assessed the situation. What had Maude heard? What kind of speeches were typical? From what we could gather, the legendary speech that her classmates still talked about was given by a boy who showed up with a bunch of helium balloons. He started by popping a balloon and saying: Now that I’ve got your attention… and continued to pop balloons throughout his speech. Knowing this was the pinnacle, we aimed to hit somewhere between balloon popping and reading the speech straight off a paper.

Here’s the transcript Maude ended up with:

I’d love to promise you, that if I get elected, homework will be abolished for the rest of the year! I’d love to promise that your favorite celebrities will visit our class. Like Taylor Swift and Carmelo Anthony!! I’d love to promise that each of you will get a million dollars!!!

But I can’t.

What I can promise, is that I’ll work hard, attend my meetings and give my best ideas.

To show you how dedicated I’ll be as your student council rep, I’m going to put 26 marshmellows in my mouth — one for each of you. Please count with me.

[Maude then proceeds to put full-size marshmallows in her mouth. She can only fit 3. At which point she puts her hand up in a stop motion and spits the marshmallows in a paper bag.]

Let’s try this again.

[Maude then pulls out a bag of mini-marshmallows, and the class counts with her as she stuffs her mouth with 26 mini-marshmallows. When she reaches 26, she spits them into the same paper bag.]

Thanks, everybody! Vote for Maude!!


So the question has come up: how’d we transport all the goodies from Broad Summit? A good question. Which leads nicely into my final summit report (no really, this is my last post about it, I promise). There are two answers to the question: Totebags. And Toyotas.

Each attendee was given a personalized totebag from Lands’ End so they could haul their lovely gifties home. The bags are ginormous. And I totally have a thing for ginormous totebags — you know, roomy enough for beach towels or blankets, plus food, plus a camera bag, plus all the things your children are likely to collect on any given outing. So I lurve my new bag. I used mine as my carry-on during the flight home. I was wearing navy and stripes and the red looked totally awesome with my outfit. (Because red + navy is yummy.)

To haul the peoples around, Toyota lent us a fleet of their prettiest cars. I did most of my driving in a Highlander and a Sienna (with Laurie and Jordan and Megan and Dorothy). Both cars are very roomy. And extra-nice for me, I was able to see some of the friends I’d made at the Toyota Studio Tour last year — including Jean Aw of NotCot. Whom I adore. At one point, Jean, who attends far more techy-ish events (and far fewer girly events like the summit) said something like: Geez. I can’t believe all the camera equipment attendees brought to the summit — the tech companies should be targeting this crowd…

Question inspired by the initials on my totebag: How many of you weren’t given a middle name when you were born? And related question: How many of you have not given middle names to your own children?

I’m so curious. I didn’t have a middle name while growing up. I was Gabrielle Stanley. And then when I married, I (conveniently) took Stanley as my middle name. I didn’t think not having a middle name was that unusual, but at the summit, the topic came up and I was
the only one out of 30 that didn’t have a middle name as a child.

Halloween Books

I feel like we haven’t added Halloween books to our stash in ages, so this year I ordered a few. (As I’ve described in years past, during the month of October, we like to light candles each night and ready Halloween books or spooky stories. This year we even have a fireplace (woot!). It totally heightens the drama.) The books we added this year: Bone Soup. A Halloween themed retelling of Stone Soup. Instead of carrots and potatoes, the townspeople eventually share their stewed eyeballs and jars of batwings. The illustrations are the best part. My kids love this. By the Light of the Halloween Moon. A rebus by Caroline Stutson. Simple and repetitive. My preschoolers especially like this. Once Upon a Halloween Night. This is a chapter book. I was looking for something the older kids would like. We’re still not done with it yet, but so far so good. You can find links to some of our other favorites here. What are your favorite Halloween books?

Old & New Friends

I have a couple more Broad Summit posts before I’ve absolutely exhausted the topic. Today I’m thinking about friends I’ve spent time with before — like
Melissa Summers and Chris Jordan. And friends I was excited to meet for the first time in real life — like Asha Dornfest, Kelly Wilkinson (who was my first Guest Aunt once upon a time), Mimi Smartypants and Zan McQuade.

This was true of sponsors too. Some were companies I’ve been a fan of for ages — like
Flickr. And some I’m excited to get to know — like Typekit. I thought Typekit’s presentation was especially cool. They offered all attendees a year long subscription to their font service (I’m really looking forward to trying this out). And because it’s hard to wrap up something like an internet service subscription, they attached the card to rustic metal letters. G is for Gabrielle.

Pumpkin Cookies

Made a batch of pumpkin cookies last night and ate them by the fire. Doesn’t get much better than that. (I like mine sans chocolate chips. So I usually make half the batch with and half without.) Edit: My apologies for not including the recipe when I first published the post. Here it is. I hope you love it. ——————————- Old-Fashioned Soft Pumpkin Cookies I found the recipe years ago at 2 1/2 cups flour 1 tsp baking soda 1 tsp baking powder 1 tsp cinnamon 1/2 tsp nutmeg 1/2 tsp salt 1 1/2 cups sugar 1/2 cup butter (1 stick) softened 1 cup 100% pumpkin (you can find cans of this in the pie-filling section of the grocery store) 1 egg 1 tsp vanilla Glaze (see below) Optional: 1/2 cup chocolate chips or nuts. Preheat oven to 350. Grease baking sheets. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and set aside. Beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well blended. Beat in pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until edges are firm. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Drizzle glaze over cookies. For Glaze: Combine 2 cups powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter and 1 tsp vanilla in small bowl until smooth.

Preserving Children’s Artwork — by Guest Mom Carrie Lundell

Who doesn’t love their child’s drawings? Many children express themselves through art far better than the written or even spoken word, so the attachment is understandable. Yet who among us hasn’t thought about chucking every last piece of art when the pile coming home from school, added to what is created at home, threatens to take over every inch of the refrigerator door and fill every drawer in the house?

Here’s the million-dollar question: what is worth keeping and what gets tossed (during the night and placed in the outside garbage under mounds of food scraps so there is no evidence of the cruel mommy who doesn’t think every piece of her child’s art is beautiful and worth saving)? Here’s what I do:

1. Display the Art
Even for just a day. If your child is proud of their artwork, show it off. Right now, we use simple magnet clips on the side of the fridge. For a cleaner presentation, this company produces frames that open on hinges, allowing you to swap out your child’s art easily and often. Just last week I came upon this ingenious DIY frame with the same purpose and I like it even more. A cute little clothesline like this works famously too.

2. You Save, I Save
Each of my children gets their own “treasure box.” They are allowed to keep anything they want in their box, but it must fit in the box. New art often replaces old art in their boxes as they constantly work to make sure the lid stays on the box. I also have my own acid-free “treasure box” for each of them and hold myself to the same rule — I can’t save more than what will fit in the box. I save only the most special drawings. They are usually the ones with good stories attached, or where it’s obvious my child has spent more than her usual attention span, and I always save “firsts”. Like the first time my child drew a circle with arms growing out of the sides and called it “mom” instead of the typical scribbles.

3. Preserve with a (re)Purpose
Preserving your child’s art in an acid-free box is one thing, but using it as inspiration to create something else takes preservation to a whole new level. My children love seeing their art come to life as “softies”, handkerchief embroidery, carved pumpkins, personalized neckties, t-shirt transfers, and Christmas ornaments. I will admit the time I spend creating with their art might partly be my way of making up for the fact that I throw the majority of their artwork in the trash. If sewing is not your thing, this company creates sterling silver pins out of your child’s art and this shop will turn their art into a sweet little pendant, both perfect for gifting.

Whatever you decide to save, make sure to write the child’s name and date on it.Also, remember to record and attach “the story” if it has one. It’s all going to be vital information down the road. You always think you’ll remember, but you won’t.

Thanks to Gabrielle for having me here this week. I’ve had a great time sharing with all of you! I hope you’ll take the time to create, preserve and share your family heirlooms.

Putting Heirlooms to Good Use — by Guest Mom Carrie Lundell

Family heirlooms wrapped in acid-free tissue paper and stored safely away from sticky fingers in a cedar chest will easily last for the next 100 years, but the joy and meaning that comes from pulling treasured items out of storage and repurposing them for greater use in our lives is sometimes worth the risk of a slightly shorter heirloom “shelf-life”. Hopefully none of you think my ideas are akin to the horrors of painting a piano (which I love, BTW).

-Turn a piece of Grandma’s old china into a dessert stand to use at family special occasions.

-Can’t bear to part with a concert T full of memories from your youth? Let it live on in all it’s glory as a newborn baby gown.

-Grandma’s sweet, old linens can be turned into beautiful Easter dresses.

-Think about splitting up Great Grandma’s unfinished quilt tops and turning them into numerous baby blankets, children’s clothes and even throw pillows.

-If you are lucky enough to have a hanky collector in your family, baby bonnets, curtains, and wall hangings are all great options for putting them to good use in a place besides your runny nose.

-Favorite childhood toys can become decor for your child’s room and stay protected when displayed in a shadow box.

-Avid crocheters will usually leave behind stacks of beautiful doilies that no one knows what to do with. Use them to accessorize clothing or integrate them into your home decor.

If you are not lucky enough to have these types of family heirlooms lying around (I have to supplement) but still have a hankering for a “family heirloom-esque” project, items from garage sales, estate sales and thrift stores can easily be substituted for any of the above. Not quite as meaningful, but fun nonetheless.

Find more of Carrie at This Momma Makes Stuff.

Les Petites Chefs Birthday Party Report

Seriously. It was a fantastic party! Really amazing. And it would have been equally great for girls or boys. If you live anywhere in the metro Denver area, bookmark Sticky Fingers — if not for a birthday party, then for their kids cooking classes — they are a class-act all the way around. Here’s the report:

About an hour before the guests arrived, Sticky Fingers showed up to prepare the space. They brought balloons. And the most colorful assortment of kid-friendly kitchen ware. I couldn’t stop taking pictures. (You can click the photos to see them bigger.)

Once the guests arrived, it was time to decorate chef hats. With stamps, stickers, markers, ribbons and every other sparkle-rific material.

When the chef hats were sufficiently glamorous, it was time to get down to cooking (after thorough hand-washing of course). The recipe was posted on an easel and the kids made the gnocchi from scratch. At each step, the Sticky Fingers girls gave kid-friendly, patient, cheerful instruction (“When you’re using a knife, make a bridge with your hand and then cut under the bridge…”). The guests measured ingredients. Cracked eggs. Grated cheese. Mixed. Kneaded. Rolled and formed. (For those of you who are worriers, please note that there were at least 3 additional hand-washing sessions throughout the cooking process.)

While the gnocchi boiled, they worked in teams using morters and pestles to crush lavender, then mix it with honey, oil and vinegar for the pasta topping.

The gnocchi finished cooking just as the dressing was complete. Then it was time to feast. It was a pretty exotic meal as far as kid food goes — Parmesan and Ricotta Gnocchi over Peaches with Prosciutto and Parmesan plus Honey Lavender Dressing. But the guests loved it!

As everyone finished their meal, we brought out the pretty cupcakes and sang Happy Birthday.

For party favors, Sticky Fingers brought laminated recipe cards featuring Olive’s special recipe. And we included ruffle-y aprons as well (Bonus: I went to Jo-Ann’s to pick up fabric to make aprons, but found these cute red and white ones for $2.50 each. Yay! Because, really, I was out of time and not looking forward to a late night sewing aprons…)

While we opened presents, the Sticky Fingers girls cleaned up every last crumb and loaded up their car. (Best part of hiring out your party!) Olive was super pleased with the whole thing. So were the guests. So was I.

Loads more photos here.

Olive’s Les Petites Chefs Party

I’m really looking forward to Olive’s birthday party this weekend. It’s going to be a busy day — Olive will have her party in the morning, and then be baptized in the afternoon. It’s a double whammy. Although I love putting on fun parties for my kids, I am so lucky I found Sticky Fingers to handle things this weekend — the double event has me feeling too crazy to give the party as much attention as I’d like.

These are the options Sticky Fingers offered for the party activities:

Choose your meal.
• Four Seasons Pizza: roll out honey-wheat dough and personalize with seasonal toppings
• Gnocchi-n-Cheese: squeeze it, roll it, top it! Ricotta gnocchi dressed with a creamy, cheesy pesto sauce and an assortment of seasonal toppings is decadently delicious!
• Upside-Down Pasta and Tomato Sauce: fresh tomatoes, basil and cheese, topped with warm pasta to create better-than-ever spaghetti.
• Noodles & Soup: practice your (butter) knife skills on tofu for your miso soup, peel carrots for a soba noodle salad, then sit down with some chopsticks to the messiest meal of the bunch!

Choose your craft.
• Pasta Art: decorate and string fun pasta shapes onto ribbon to create bracelets, necklaces, bookmarks, & more!
• “I’m the Chef” Placemats: personalize a special placemat that’s yours to use each time you help with dinner! Placemats feature fun mealtime games and will be laminated once decorated.
• One-of-a-Kind Chef Hats: add your own unique flourish to a special white chef’s hat that lets everyone know who’s in charge in the kitchen!
• Cupcake Decorating: a classic birthday treat becomes even more delightful when decorated just as you wish with colored frosting and fun toppings!

Choose a cupcake flavor.
Pick from the many delightful daily and rotating flavors available from Happy Cakes Bakeshop, our
cupcake partner!

Olive picked the gnocchi, the chef hats and vanilla-flavored cupcakes. Perfect. Basically, that means my only responsibilities are invitations, decorations (if we choose to do anything in addition to the balloons Sticky Fingers are bringing — I’m hoping to use the Cricut tonight to make up some garlands), and party favors. And let’s be honest, those 3 tasks are my favorite parts of planning a party. I think it’s going to be great!

You can find out more about Sticky Fingers parties and classes here.

Les Petites Chefs Birthday Party Invitations

It’s going to be such a fun week! Saturday, we’re having a birthday party for Olive. The theme is “Les Petites Chefs” (how chic! how French! how very Julie and Julia of us!) We’re bringing in the ladies from Sticky Fingers Cooking to teach the party guests some kitchen how-to. But more on the party details later. Today, I want to share the invitations.

Last week, I was sent a Cricut die cut machine to test out, so I decided Olive’s party invitations were the perfect reason to pull it out and see what it could do.

After playing around with the Cricut for a while to get comfortable (I had never even seen one of these machines before, so I really had no idea what to expect) Maude and Olive and I designed some invitations that would use a million diecuts and really show off our mad Cricut skillz.

Basically, we cut out oversize hangtags (I’ll note here, that cutting out all sorts of shaped tags in all sorts of sizes and colors will probably be my most used Cricut feature), and used the new From My Kitchen cartridge to cut out assorted cooking-related shapes we could display on the tags.

Then we attached the kitchen-themed tags to wooden spoons. So adorable! We actually tried 3 different ways of attaching our little tags, and couldn’t ultimately decide on a favorite. So we gave out invitations using all 3 versions (and used up a bunch of my ribbon scraps in the process — love it.)

What do you think? Next up to work on: party plans and party favors.


Hey. If you want to get in on the Cricut action, there are a couple of big Cricut-related contests going on. Visit Today’s Mama to see their Great Escape Contest — you could win a Cricut or 4 New Cartridges. And Cricut itself, is running a Great Gypsy Escape Contest — win one of 200 Gypsies or one of 20+ travel packages. Nice!

Rainbow Rocking Chair Project: Turn Eclectic Inexpensive Rocking Chairs Into A Collection

Thing I learned this weekend: Rocking chairs have lots of nooks, crannies and curves. They are not easy to paint. : ) Here’s a sneak peek of my progress on the Rainbow Rocking Chair Project. My goal is 7 chairs — one for each member of the family. So far I have 5. They were all found locally on Craig’s List at prices from $10 to $40 each. (I found #6 on Craig’s List this morning and will pick it up this evening. Yay!) I had lots of green-tinted primer left over from the piano, so I used it on the rocking chairs. I’m such a brat about wasting things like perfectly good primer. It bugs me to no end. When I realized the colors I was using on the chairs were bright enough to cover the green primer, I was delighted to use it up instead of buy more. At the paint store, I inquired about polyurethane and how I should handle painting these indoor chairs for outdoor use. They recommended using a high-quality exterior paint and skipping the poly. They also warned that the intense colors I was picking were sure to fade in the sunny Colorado sun. But I went for it anyway. I can always repaint if they get too faded. I bought quarts of exterior paint in red, orange, yellow, green and blue. (#6 and #7 will be turquoise and magenta. I think.) Warning: the intense colors take several coats of paint. In fact, none of the chairs pictured here are finished. If you could look closely, you’d see they all need an additional coat (or two). In fact, the green one has only been primed. This project will take at least another weekend. Probably two. Plus, I’d really like to add bright cushions and pillows… But what I’m loving about this project is, you kind of can’t go wrong: – Almost any style of rocker would work in this eclectic mix so it’s easy to add more — for guests, or if your family grows. Wouldn’t a couple of child-size ones be cute in the collection? – If a chair gets worn out (they are bound to, being left outdoors), it’s easy to replace. And you’ll have plenty of paint leftover to transform the new addition. – When painting, if you don’t do the best job ever, it’s okay. They’re outdoor chairs and will be used pretty roughly. Mistakes won’t matter. These don’t have to be refined. I’d say only 1 of the 5 I have so far would be worthy of stripping the paint and refinishing — meaning, these aren’t heirloom chairs, you don’t have to treat them like they are. -To save money, you could paint or stain them all the same color. I was tempted to go royal blue for my whole collection. Instead of buying 7 separate quarts of paint, I would only have needed one gallon. And I think they would have looked equally cool in all one color. A note on budget: I planned on $50 per chair ($350), plus painting supplies. But I’ve been able to score on chairs, so it looks like the whole project (7 chairs plus paint) will come in at about $320. Not bad. Do you like them? Have you ever put together a similar type of collection, where you unite a group of objects through paint? I’d love to hear.

Weekend Report

We played all weekend with our friends the Lattins. Saturday night we hit the divey Morrison Inn for chimichangas. Sunday we all spent the afternoon in our newly painted rocking chairs. And Monday we ate watermelon in their shady backyard before hitting the neighborhood pool. We ended the weekend with shakes, onion rings and burgers at Fatburger.

By the way, if you get the chance, I highly recommend the half-a-watermelon idea. It was a wonderful (easy) way to spend a sunny afternoon. Tell me about your weekend. Did it feel like an end of summer celebration? Anyone ready to start thinking Halloween?

I’m thinking this image captures “end of summer” pretty perfectly.

School Pictures

A new company called Stomping Ground has set out to reinvent school pictures. Their sample portraits are adorable!

Thoughts: Can school pictures be saved? Should our own children be subjected to the tacky school photos of our youth? Would you push your school to hire Stomping Ground vs. Lifetouch (or whoever handles your school photos)?

One last note. Ralph had school pictures taken a few days before school even started. One of the options we could pick: pay an extra fee to have zits photoshopped. Blessed middle school.

Olive’s Turn

Dip-dye dress by Kandy Kiss. Leggings by Old Navy. Shoes by Salt Water Sandals. Floral headband by Gymboree. Of course (of course!) Olive wanted (and rightly deserved) a chance to model her back to school clothes. Olive is 7. She is starting to phase out of her pink addiction and on to more sophisticated shades — even some occasional brown. I’m sure you are tiring of wardrobe posts, so I promise this will be the last for awhile. As with Ralph and Maude, many of these items were already in Olive’s closet. I’ll list sources where available. More pics of Olive’s photoshoot here. Plaid shirt and roll-up cargo pants by Target. Turquoise tee by Old Navy. Sneakers by Adidas. Western cut floral top by Ralph Lauren. Corduroy mini by Old Navy. Cable-knit tights by H&M;. Brown Maryjane’s by Payless. Stripe top by Old Navy. Floral top by Osh Kosh. Capris by Gymboree. Blue layering tee by Mini Boden. Sweater vest by GapKids. Brown velour-ish trousers by H&M.; Slip-on sneakers by Airwalk for Payless. Tie-back dress by Mossimo for Target. Skinny jeans by H&M.; Embroidered top by Lulu and Scooter. Embroidered skirt by Children’s Place. Plaid top by Gymboree. Red cardigan by Target. Jeans by GapKids. Floral top by Peek Aren’t You Curious. Screened tee by Old Navy. Purple cropped cargo pants by Peek. Possibly the greatest pair of kid sneakers ever made! We found ours at Zappos.


It’s our fourteenth wedding anniversary today. It feels good. Really good.

As I mentioned last week, to celebrate, Ben Blair and I climbed a 14er. 14,270 feet in elevation to be exact. I was warned how hard it would be, but I guess I didn’t really believe it, because the difficulty kept surprising me. The higher you get, the harder it is to breath. Headaches begin. Nausea visits. Dizzyness warns. During the last thousand feet of elevation, I had to fight my instinct to lie down and take a little nap on the freezing cold mountain.

Ben Blair, who is in much better shape than I, coached me gently to the top. The hike from beginning to end took us 3 hours and 15 minutes. I can’t remember ever pushing my heart that hard for that long.
I found when it was really difficult, if I would just focus on progressing a few feet in front of me, I was fine. And when I needed to stop and rest and let my heart rate try to reach some sort of normal, I was greeted by tremendous views every where I looked.

As luck would have it, at the top
, views were completely obstructed by thick fog. But it didn’t matter a bit. The high was still a high. And happily, my iphone had perfect reception (possibly the one spot on earth with good AT&T; coverage) and I could tweet that we had made the summit. Tweet until my fingers were threatening frostbite and we headed back down on rubbery legs.

On our hike (when I still had breath enough to carry on a conversation) Ben Blair and I talked about some of the milestones of our marriage so far. Fourteen years ago we hadn’t even graduated from college. (I laugh when I remember how young we married.) Some of the highlights in no particular order: We graduated from college. We bought a house, then gutted it and refinished it. We moved to Greece. We moved to New York. We moved to Colorado. We went through several job hunts and landed great jobs. Ben Blair finished a masters and doctorate degree. We started several businesses. We closed several businesses. We sold our house. We built a ginormous table.
We had 5 children.

It is a wonderful thing to take part in a happy marriage. My relationship with Ben Blair is the very best thing in my life. Period.

On Sunday night, I was wandering through the blogosphere and was reminded of another anniversary — a miraculous one. Sunday was the one-year mark of Stephanie Nielson’s plane crash. To celebrate, Nie and Christian also climbed a mountain — a tougher climb than I could ever hope to attempt. Because they are total rock stars.

I was thinking about last year. About the auctions and fundraising. About seeing the blogging world come together in a mind-blowing way. And I had myself a little daydream. At the BlogHer conference each July, there is a Community Keynote. At the keynote, a group of bloggers gleaned by Eden Kennedy, each reads one of their significant blog posts. It is, without hesitation, the best part of the conference. How wonderful would it be to see Stephanie and her wonderful sister Courtney (who chronicled Stephanie’s journey when Nie couldn’t do it for herself) speak at the next BlogHer Community Keynote?

The conference is far away from their home. And of course, Stepanie can’t fly to New York. In my little daydream, a sponsor provided a retro styled Airstream Camper (wouldn’t that be perfect for Stephanie’s super-hip style?), and the whole family made their way leisurely across the country. Stopping at vintage diners along the way. Shopping for souvenirs. With Stephanie’s fans coming out to meet her, cheer her on, and thank her for living a inspiring life.

Of course, it was only a daydream. I have no idea if Stephanie and Courtney would even be interested. I don’t even know if Nie’s treatment regimen would allow it. (And really, as big as the BlogHer conference is, I know there are still thousands of bloggers out there who aren’t really aware of it — I believe Cjane and Nie fall in that category.) But I think the blogging community would love to hear from them in that sort of setting. To hear in person what it was like to wake up and find out you’d missed a few months of your life. To look in the mirror and see a face you don’t recognize. To find out thousands of people you’ve never met have rallied on your behalf and are hanging on your every word.

Dear Stephanie, congratulations on reaching your significant and magnificent goal. You did it! You climbed the mountain. I tear up just thinking how hard you worked to get there. I think you’re amazing.

What to Wear to 6th Grade

Button down by Peek. Tee by Old Navy. Jeans by H&M;. Red sneakers by Adidas.

At your request, here is 11-year-old Ralph showing off his back-to-school wardrobe. Today is his first day of middle school (gulp). We’ve spent the last 24 hours practicing the right-left-skip-the-number-right-padlock-unlocking-method so he won’t get frustrated when he encounters his locker combination. Oh man! I hope he loves school this year.

I’ve included source links where applicable. As with Maude, much of the wardrobe pictured here was already in Ralph’s closet. But boy clothes are pretty easy — I’m betting you can find similar items to the ones shown here at a dozen different stores.

You can see more of Ralph’s photo shoot here. (Also. I’ll post Olive’s B2S wardrobe in the next couple of days.)

Button down by Mossimo for Target. Ringer tee by Old Navy. Jeans by GapKids. Backpack by Ekco. Tie-dye tee by Maude Blair. Cargo shorts by Mossimo for Target. Black Sneakers by Adidas.

Printed polo by Wes & Willy from Juvie. Plaid shorts by Gymboree. Superman tee by Old Navy. Brown herringbone trousers by GapKids.

Tee by Old Navy. Track jacket by Peek Aren’t You Curious. Screened tee by Peek. Khakis by GapKids.

Green polo by Lacoste. Denim cargo shorts by Mossimo for Target. Batman tee by Old Navy. Jeans by H&M.;

What to Wear to 5th Grade

Gray henley and leggings by Poof. Denim mini by Hydraulic. Plaid scarf by Passport Accessories. It’s been so much fun putting together a back-to-school wardrobe for 10-year-old Maude this year. She’s had more opinions and ideas about what she wants to wear than ever before. Today she had the idea to put together some of her outfits and model them for the camera. Doesn’t she look amazing? I love how flexible everything is — there are 9 outfits here and she could come up with another dozen combos from this stuff. For those wondering if we broke the bank, we spent about $100 on new clothes (I had the best luck at TJMaxx) and $50 on new shoes. Everything else was already in her closet. You can find more images from our living room photoshoot here. Plaid top by Chaps. Skirt by Peek. (Francie Pants underneath the skirt.) Cardigan by If It Were Me. Stripe tee and cargo pants by Old Navy. Hoodie sweater by Pink Republic. Yellow tee and polka-dot leggings by Old Navy. Plaid dress by She’s The One. Skinny jeans – Sqin by H&M;. Yellow jacket by Ismodern. Jean shorts by Old Navy. Feather printed top by Kiddo. Cropped pants by Jean Bourget at Juvie. Houndstooth capris by Gymboree. Mock turtleneck by Target. Shrug by Seven Smooches. FYI: I’ve listed sources (and links where I can), but as I mentioned above, at least 50% of the clothes pictured were already in her closet — so they probably won’t be available in stores any longer. Maude is shown barefoot because we’re still waiting for her shoes to arrive. This year she’ll have 3 pairs to choose from. These Converse from Zappos and these black sporty shoes from Payless. Plus, she has a pair of cute brown and turquoise Asics that are still in good shape — we just need to replace the laces. The only thing left to buy: a backpack.

Build Two Toddler Beds for $75

Friends! I’m so excited to tell you about this project. When we moved in, we decided to put two toddler-size beds in Oscar’s and Betty’s small bedroom, but every bed option that I loved was really expensive. Especially when you multiplied by two. So I decided to build my own. Two super-simple, upholstered platform-ish beds. They are adorable. Especially side-by-side. They are low to the floor, so if Betty rolls off in her sleep, she won’t get hurt (this is Betty’s first bed since leaving her crib). They use crib-size mattresses, so they don’t have a big footprint. And they were a total bargain to build — $75 total for both. So I suppose that means you could build just one for about $37. Here are the directions, in case you want to make your own. The instructions are for two beds, but if you only need one, just half everything. Or find a buddy who also wants to build a bed and work together. ——————- Part one: Build the base. Materials to Build Two Beds (about $25): -4 pieces plywood, 3/8″ thick. 10″ x 51″ -4 pieces plywood, 3/8″ thick. 10″ x 25″ (I had these pieces cut from one 4’x8′ piece of 3/8″ plywood that cost $8.) -4 pieces of 2″ x 2″ wood. 48″ long (I bought one 2 x 2 board that was 8′ long and had it cut in half. They are about $3 each.) -2 pieces plywood, 1/4″ thick. 24″ x 48″ (These are typically available in this exact size for about $3 at Home Depot.) -Screws #6, 1 1/4 inch. (A box of 100 sells for about $5.) -drill. Directions: -Make a rectangular box with the 10″ pieces of wood. Two short pieces and two long pieces. Attach with 3 screws on each side. This is easier if you pre-drill. -On the long sides, make a mark at 2.5 inches along the outside and at 2 inches along the inside. -Align one piece of the 2 x 2 inch wood so that the top hits just under the inside marks. Use clamps to brace or have a helper hold in place. -From the outside of the box drill in along the 2.5 mark at 5 places along the rail. Repeat on other side of box. -Lay 24 x 48 plywood on rails. Attach with 2 screws on each side. And that’s it. The mattress will rest inside the two inch lip. Don’t worry if the box is a bit rough — if the screws aren’t perfectly aligned, etc. The box will be completely covered by fabric. Before you start cutting wood, please read these Notes on Mattress Size: I didn’t include the price of the mattress in the project because most people in need of a toddler bed will already have a crib size mattress from their crib. If you do plan to use a standard crib mattress, you’ll need to make adjustments to the size of the base. Standard crib mattresses are 52″ x 26″, which will be a bit too big for this base. But be sure to measure the mattress you own. They vary. My crib mattress has been used by 5 kids and is failing. So we ordered two custom ones to fit the bases I’d designed. We ordered them from: The Foam Factory. 6 x 24.5 x 49.5 inches. $48 each. Free shipping if your order is over $75. So place your order with a buddy. : ) ——————- Part two: The Upholstery. Materials to Upholster (about $50): -One full-size or queen-size package of hi-loft cotton batting (This was $25 at JoAnns. Watch for sales or coupons and I’m sure you could get it cheaper.) -About 4.5 yards of fabric. You could use much less if you don’t mind seaming it together. For each bed, you’ll need a strip of fabric 16 inches wide by 4.5 yards long. (Fabric prices vary so much, that it’s hard to put this in a budget. In the $75 I mentioned in the title of this post, I’m allotting $25 for fabric. You could certainly spend more. And if you’re a bargain hunter, you could for sure spend less.) -staple gun and staples Directions: -Roll out your cotton batting and fold over so you have a double thickness. -Cut into 3 double-thick strips about 15 inches wide each. For each bed, you’ll use about 1 1/2 lengths of this double thick, 15 inch wide batting. -Place the folded edge of the batting over the top edge of the bed frame. Attach it to the bed frame with a staple gun. -Trim the corners, so that you can attach them more securely. -Keep wrapping the cotton around until your length runs out. Then add the next length. -Turn the bed over and pull the batting tightly around the bottom edge. Staple away. -Once the batting is secure, it’s time to add the fabric. -Measure and cut the fabric so that you have a 16 inch wide piece that is approximately 4.5 yards long. You could also piece 16 inch lengths together to make one long strip. -Starting on the bottom of the bed, staple the fabric over the cotton batting. -At the corners, just fold and staple tightly. -Once you’ve gone around the bottom, turn the bed over. Fold the fabric underneath itself so the edges don’t fray, and staple the fabric over the cotton on the top edge as well. -Where the fabric joins, fold the edge underneath itself and staple tightly. I put my seam at the head of the bed — that way it’s hidden against the wall. Notes on fabric: For my beds, I used Crypton Fabric. It might be the most family-friendly fabric out there. Super easy to clean. And since the fabric is attached to the bed frame, (and Betty is still having “accidents”), I was very interested in fabric I could clean easily and well. Crypton is perfect. I loved working with it. In fact, I’m thinking of using Crypton on a settee I’m having recovered as well. And that’s it. And that’s it. You’re finished! It’s an easy project to do in an afternoon. And you can’t beat that price for two darling toddler beds. Good luck! And let me know if you end up making toddler beds of your own. I’d love to see pics. Update: Well this is exciting. Design*Sponge is featuring this how-to post today as part of DIY Wednesday. Woot!
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