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Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Fashion Plates, baby!

A few weeks ago, something popped into my head. A memory that came from the deep recesses of my mind. I don't know quite what triggered it, but once it was there, it became a single minded obsession.

That memory was of the beloved 70's / 80's toy...Fashion Plates.

My first reaction to this was to do what I always do when I think of an obscure person, place or thing. I searched the internet. Through my search, I found that I wasn't the only one who had fond memories of creating my very own fashion design portfolio from crayon rubbings. In fact, Apartment Therapy even wrote an article about them last year. And I believe that my next discovery in the thirst for Fashion Plates knowledge was a direct result of that article.

In case I haven't made myself clear, Fashion Plates were one of my favorite toys. In fact, I even saved my well-cared for original set, as well as the EXPANSION SET, into adulthood. These were stored safely in my parents' basement until 2003 when they moved. It was at that time that my dearly adored Fashion Plates met their demise, or at least the Salvation Army.

So that left me with one option - eBay. It was there that I found that demand was quite high for Fashion Plates. Even though there are approximately 7 or so sets in various states of completion listed at any one time, most of the listings have the word RARE in big fat capital letters in the description (I mean, really people, this is a mass produced toy, not a Rembrandt!) As a result, people bid accordingly.

After watching set after set sell at exorbitant prices, I began to think that this little fixation of mine was a bit silly, until last Sunday, when someone had just listed a nearly complete set at a price that, while so embarrassingly ridiculous that it will not be disclosed here, I was willing to pay.

Crayon rubbing.

When they arrived today, I couldn't wait to share them with Lauren. And I wasn't disappointed, as we've been playing "fashion" for the last couple of hours.

Coloring with textures.

She especially likes to draw elephants on a leash next to the girls. Like they're walking them.

Finishing up the masterpiece.

Of course, she was really digging it when I told her that the expansion set would be arriving on our doorstep in the next few days. I know, I know...

Are you going to play fashion with me?

She totally needs a Spirograph next. I'm on it!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Come on baby finish what ya started.

L is for Lauren

I have a terrible habit of starting a project, taking it so far, and then putting it down for an extended period of time, sometimes never to be finished. This past month, I've forced myself to complete a few projects so that I can move on to new things with a clear conscience.

Take this little door hanger. It's based on a pattern in Sew Pretty Homestyle, a book that was given to me as a gift last Christmas. I started on it shortly thereafter as a Valentine's Day gift for Lauren. Even though it was quite a few months late, Lauren loved it just the same when I gave it to her in June. The "L" is in the Apple Chancery font, which makes really nice monograms. The flowers are based off of a Sublime Stitching pattern.

R is for.

I bought this printer's tray sometime before Lauren's first birthday. It wasn't until almost a year ago that I actually started doing something with it. I decided that the theme would be things that begin with the letter "R." While I got off to a really good start, my enthusiasm for this project soon faded as I discovered that not only was it hard to come up with that many objects that began with "R," but it was especially hard to find objects beginning with "R" that fit in all those little spaces!

I was so relieved when I finished it this afternoon. Mark is hanging it in our den as I am typing this.

So can you guess what all these objects represent? Some of them can be a little tricky! To help, here's a close-up of the left side:

Close up of the left side.

And the right side:

Close up of the right side.

And now, the granddaddy of projects that I have procrastinated on, my bridal shower scrapbook:

Bridal Shower Scrapbook

This one is seven years in the making (My bridal shower was held on August 4, 2002). Because I loved the photos so much, it was the first project that I took on when I started scrapbooking in early 2005. After Lauren was born, I began to focus on scrapbooking her exploits, so my bridal shower album was put aside. I decided to revisit it in January of 2008, giving it a complete overall to a style that was more to my liking. Once again, I made great progress at first, but then grew tired of it and put it aside. Fast forward to June 2009 and voila, it's finally finished! Here's the inside:

Bridal Shower Scrapbook - Title Page

Despite the fact that it took me forever to finish, I have to say that I love making 8 x 8 theme albums. I also made one for Lauren's first Christmas (which only took me about a year to complete). I'm definitely going to scrapbook more in this format in the future. Here are a few more sample pages:

Bridal Shower Scrapbook:  Bride's Arrival / Guests

Bridal Shower Scrapbook:  Games

Bridal Shower Scrapbook:  Friends / Groom's Arrival

And speaking of weddings, today is this lovely couple's 40th anniversary:

Mom and Dad Ross

Happy anniversary Mom and Dad Ross!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Do you hear the people sing?

Benedum Center.

Thursday evening, Mel C and I went to see Les Miserables at the Benedum Center. Like last year, I had given her theater tickets for her birthday, so I guess this is becoming our annual night out.

Mel C's melon martini.

We got the night started on the right foot by stopping for martinis and appetizers at Atria's. This is Mel C's mango martini, which was much prettier than mine, but despite it colorlessness, I thoroughly enjoyed my pear martini.

Les Mis!

This was my fourth time seeing Les Mis, but Mel C's first. Since this version was a Civic Light Opera presentation, and not the Broadway production, there were differences, mostly to the sets and the blocking. So poor Mel C, who was none the wiser, had to listen to me blathering complaints the whole time about the changes. The biggest was the omission of the turn table in the middle of the stage, and I have to say that I really missed it. Javert's suicide looked ridiculous without it, and the barricades were especially lacking. Oh, and Eponine was played by a blonde, which I still can't get over. Otherwise, it was my beloved Les Mis, with the beautiful score and wonderful lyrics that I can still recite word by word in my head.

Chandelier inside the Benedum Center.

Unfortunately, I can't say that about the others around us. Like when we saw Wicked last year, a group of kids sat behind us who would burst out into song now and then. At intermission, Mel C decided to chat them up, using their cinnamon roasted nuts as a conversation starter, since although you can smell them throughout the theater, you can't actually find them anywhere. When asked how he knew all the words to the songs, one the boys said that he had the whole soundtrack bootlegged on his computer. Then he insisted that Mel C take what was left of his nuts, which Mel C politely yet firmly refused, for fear she would be arrested for propositioning a minor.

When it was all said and done, we had a marvelous time and are already looking forward to next year's outing. Will it be Young Frankenstein or Grease with Taylor Hicks?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees.

All you need is love.

Lots of nature happenings around our home, so I thought I'd take a few photos of the action. Speaking of action, now I see why Japanese beetles have made a comeback in our area.


Here's one of our lovely daylilies. Although this isn't just any ordinary daylily, it's a Chicago Fire Daylily. Mark made sure I knew that.

Our birdhouse.

Mark finally installed the birdhouse that I bought him for his birthday. It's situated in the front of house, right near one of the windows in the addition. I hope something takes up residence so we can observe undetected from the inside!


Finally, last year we were graced with the presence of one of nature's littlest wonders, a hummingbird! We are very happy to see his return this year, and it's become our habit to look out for him at all times. It's gotten to the point where even from our kitchen I can spot him hovering around the bee balm all the way across the yard. Of course, I thought I would be a big time nature photographer and get some cool photos of him. Out of around 50 photos, this is the best I could come up with. I'll try again sometime, but I think I need a faster lens. Until then, I'll stick with mating beetles - at least they're stationary!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

To buy, or not to buy.

Be our guest.

Today I read an interesting article on Apartment Therapy called, The Ethics of Shopping Cheap. Just last weekend, we purchased furniture for our addition, all of which came from either Ikea, Pottery Barn or Pier One, so the article got me thinking about the overall contents of our home. In fact, Mark was just lamenting that too much of our furniture has come from Ikea, but looking around, I think it's more 50% store bought to 50% second hand, the vast majority of which is antique or at lease vintage, depending upon how loosely you use the word "antique."

We started purchasing second hand furniture sometime around the year 2000. One of our earliest purchases was a four post bed, found at an antique fair for $50. Lauren sleeps in that bed today. In fact, all of the beds in our home are second hand. The bed in our spare room pictured above was found in an antique store, while the nightstand next to it was from in my nursery when I was a baby.

Presents, baby.

The desk in this photo is also in our spare bedroom. Believe it or not, one evening before trash pickup day in our old neighborhood, we passed by it sitting on someone's curb. I begged Mark to go back for it, because it was the kind of desk I always dreamed of having when I was a little girl. So yes, it was free. Right now, it's serving as my sewing desk (although it doesn't see a lot of action).

One point that is made over and over again in the comments to the article is how difficult it can be to find quality second hand items, so difficult that we're often forced to buy brand new at the big box stores or else go furnitureless. This is very true. If given a choice, Mark and I would have nothing but second hand stuff, but it can take sometimes years to find what you want. Much of it depends on the region where you live, and in our opinion, our area of Western Pennsylvania just isn't that great for antiques. Because of that, many of the items that we have were purchased outside the area. For as long as I can remember, Mark has been searching for a desk of his own. Over the years, he has seen many on eBay that he liked, but they were all located hundreds of miles away. Rather than settle, he goes desk-less in hopes that he'll eventually find one within a reasonable distance from our house.

Still, Ikea isn't so bad. We still have a pair of dining chairs that we bought in 1997 when we moved into our first apartment. So who knows - maybe they will be the desirable antiques of tomorrow.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What's going on.

Life is a bowl of cherries.

I'm disappointed in myself for updating the blog only five times in June. That's an all time monthly low. Even when I was crazy busy last May, I managed to squeak out seven posts. I've tried to analyze why this is. I primarily blame it on the lack of time. After all, since February I've been working longer hours with a longer commute. However, back when my scheduled hours and commute were shorter, I usually went into work around a half an hour early, and sometimes didn't leave until a half hour to an hour later. So I think that it might actually be a bit of a wash time wise. I'm also having to go to bed earlier, which definitely makes a difference. I love staying up and sleeping in, so I literally go to bed at the last possible moment that will give me a reasonable amount of sleep. Even still, on any given day I feel anywhere from mildly sleepy to grossly exhausted.

Mark attributes my lack of motivation to our lifestyle. After a long day of work followed by a long commute, who has the energy to commit to a time consuming activity? For example, the last blog post took about two hours to put together, and that doesn't include the time that I spent going through the photos the night before. So this theory does have some merit. For awhile, I had a regimen where I would come home around 5:30, cook dinner (or eat take out), play with Lauren, attempt to get in an hour of exercise, watch a little television with the family, get Lauren ready for bed, get myself ready for bed, read a little and finally slip into a fitful coma around 10:30. A little over a month ago, I did something to my leg and decided to forgo exercising until my leg stopped hurting. And lo and behold, my evenings don't feel so cramped any more. In fact, shortly thereafter, I lost 1.5 pounds. I guess my giving up exercise wasn't such a bad thing! My leg still occasionally hurts, but I think that it's caused by running to catch the bus while wearing heals and carrying The Heaviest Laptop on the Face of the Earth. I really need to stop that.

So I hope to do better during the month of July - getting back to writing about the everyday things that go on here, rather than just the special events. If you haven't already noticed, I also started to Twitter again, 'cause if the Iranians can do it so can I. That's my motto.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Playing with fire.


This weekend we hosted our annual cookout. If it falls just right (on the weekend), it also happens to be the 4th of July. And it's more picnic than cookout because I can't grill food to save my life and instead serve hot dogs fresh off the George Foreman and BBQ beef from the slow cooker. However, if you ask Lauren, it's not a picnic, but a party. Thank goodness we took the time to clear that up!

Over the past few years, everyone has come to look forward to Crazy Uncle Craig's fireworks displays. Here in Pennsylvania, fireworks are supposed to be illegal, but the law has gotten a little unclear as of late. Growing up, all you could get in-state were sparklers and those paper snap things that you throw which make a big mess on the sidewalk. However, if you were lucky, you might get your hands on some smoke bombs or snakes which also make a big mess on the sidewalk. And if you were really lucky, you knew someone who went across the border to Ohio and smuggled some firecrackers and roman candles in the truck of his car.

Today, peddlers set up tents filled with explosives on practically every street corner, and not to miss out on a buck, all the major chains and grocery stores sell fireworks too. Everyone has a theory on how this is possibly legal. Some say that it's legal to sell fireworks, but not to buy them. Others say that it's okay to buy them, but you can't actually set them off. Still others think that it's the type of fireworks that makes a difference, and as long as it stays on the ground and doesn't shoot off into the sky, the local fuzz will leave you alone. Since the law is up for interpretation, like good Americans we plead confusion and blow stuff up anyway.

So as soon as we finish dinner and start cleaning up, our guests begin to ask, "When are the fireworks?"

This year, we kicked off the event with what I like to call "The Lawrence Pranty Memorial Sparkler Run." You see, not only was my Pap Pap an egg dying and jury duty dodging expert, he was also a sparkler aficionado. He oversaw the whole 4th of July operation, making sure that everyone's sparkler was lit without injury and that all extinguished sparklers were disposed of properly. He would then close out the evening by running through the backyard holding two sparklers aloft. Here, Mel C and I demonstrate:

Lawrence Pranty Memorial Run.

My nephew Noah watched from the safety of the swing. Smart boy, that Noah!


Then it was time for everyone else to get into the act. These people really love their sparklers.


Devil horns!

Not so tentative.

I mean, they really love their sparklers.

Ladies of the evening.

We then convinced Lauren to hold a sparkler for the first time.

A little tentative.

She was...tentative. Well, let's just say that she didn't prance around the yard with it, that's for sure.

Lauren's first sparkler.

But the sparklers could only satisfy their cravings for fire and destruction for only so long. It was time to bring out the big guns!

Craig admiring his handiwork.

And Crazy Uncle Craig did not disappoint!


There was much "Oooo-ing."

Lauren and Pappy.

And "Aaahh-ing."

Grandpa Ross & Lauren

Lauren and Grandma Pinky.

And cuddling with Daddy when things got a little too loud.

Laurne and Daddy.

I cuddled with Mel C.

Homeland security.

Speaking of Mel C, she acted as our very own Homeland Security, vigilantly keeping us safe from the flames and occasionally "accidentally" squirting Crazy Uncle Craig in the process.

Lastly, to close out the evening, our very own Flying Wallenda, Pappy Bruno surprised us by performing a harrowing balancing act over our fish pond.

Pappy Walenda.