Love is in the air…

3 Feb

Saw this cute Valentine’s Day garland and thought…heck!  That’s some easy seasonal decorating.  So…I made one to hang over our bed…you know…cuz that’s where romance happens.

Stealing ideas again…  You’d think I have none of my own.

According to the weather-man, Valentine’s weekend is slated to be bogged down with epic amounts of snow.  The sad news is that Chuck and I probably won’t be able to celebrate with our traditional dinner (Chuck proposed on Valentine’s Day and then he took me to a romantic dinner…every V-day since then we’ve gone back to that same restaurant to drink in the nostalgia of that special day).  The good news is that I know Chuck and I will spend our snowed-in weekend snuggling, with each other and with this guy…

Besides catching up on DVR’d TV shows, I’ll be sure to spend some time reading while snowed in.  I’ve literally stockpiled over a dozen books since my birthday which I have not had the time to read (student teaching has a way of sucking up time like a black hole).   Here are the ones cluttering my nightstand at the moment:

I’ve started all of them save Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.  I know…quality literature, right?  I really thought that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was fun, so I want to see if this one meets my standards for adulterated classics.  I received The Art of Racing in the Rain from a coworker for Christmas and started it but then never completely finished it, so it’s still waiting on me to return my attention to those last couple chapters.  And yes…I know I’m not a parent, but I think Scream-Free Parenting can help me become a better teacher…same reason for reading How to Talk So Kids Can Learn.  And The Host?  Well that’s just a random one I picked up at the library by Stephanie Meyer…I certainly won’t pretend that the Twilight series was well-crafted literature, but it was captivating in a strange way… I like to keep abreast of what secondary students are reading and I knew all of the Twi-hards would be picking this one up, so I thought I’d see if it’s as fun as Meyer’s vampy reads were.


Oh!!!  In other news – I am participating in my very first craft swap.  I’ve signed up to be a part of the Postcard Swap organized by iHanna (a cool crafter, author, and blogger I’ve been following on Google Reader).  I’ll update you when I finish my postcards.  I’ve not decided if I should scan them and post them on the blog or not…I don’t know if I should keep them a secret from the recipients, or just go ahead and share.  I’m excited to see who I get to “meet” in the swap and can’t wait to see what kinds of artsy, crafty postcards I receive in return.  I’m trying to think of something cool to do with the postcards sent to me…if you have any ideas, let me know!


Snowy weekend…

31 Jan

This weekend it snowed (AGAIN) in Virginia…  I love snow as much as the next guy, but I’m already tired of shoveling it.  If it would clear itself from the sidewalks and driveway, I would love it much, much more.

Last week I decided on a whim to create a crafty banner for my blog.  I’ve been following Feeling Stitchy for over a year now and have admired her embroidered blog banner since she added it.  I decided to embroider one of my own, just for fun (needed a little crafty something to do while killing time on Thursday night…).

Alas, today I noticed that another of the blogs I follow, Crafterhours,  recently updated their banner to something embroidered and crafty, so now I look like even more of a copy cat.  On my defense, I read all of my blogs on Google Reader, and I usually don’t see the actual blog design/layout, so I had no idea they had updated their banner… *Sigh*  Good thing I don’t aim to be unique and trend-setting, right?

Anyway, I dug up one of my mom’s old embroidery hoops, some canvas, and some colorful embroidery floss, and got to work.

A few years ago, when my mom was moving from one house to another, I inherited a bunch of goodies, including a Bernina serger, a shoe box full of embroidery floss, several embroidery hoops, and a huge bin of fabric scraps.   If you know me, you know I like things (crayons, clothes in my closet, etc) to be in ROYGBIV order, or something that closely resembles it…  I LOVE organization…I waste many hours a week organizing things, only to mess them up later.  So, anyway, after taking my inheritance home, I quickly set to taking all of the floss and wrapping it around cards (also inherited) and organizing by color.  I really do love to just look at my little box of floss…

If I hadn’t spent so much time wrapping and wrapping and wrapping floss around the cards I inherited, I would totally buy some of these fancy cards, found at this Etsy shop.

I also selected a cute little flower button, from my equally organized button box.  And, yes, I also love to look at my little button box, organized by color…  (You can tell I’m a Hokie, because I’m running low on orange buttons)

When Chuck walked in the living room and caught me embroidering, he said, “I didn’t know you knew how to do that”.  I explained to him that I don’t, really – but that I was gonna do it anyway.  I just kinda winged it for this little ditty, but I do have a really cute book on embroidery that I used when drawing my little birdie…you can see the inspiration on the bottom left corner of the cover.

And I feel special, because it’s an autographed edition, since I bought it straight from the author!  :o)

So, anyway, I just drew out the design straight on the canvas, using a pencil.  Then straight-stitched all of the lines (no fancy embroidery here)… I tried to get the colors to blend from brown to green, and in person, you can really tell that they do, but no matter how I photographed or scanned the little patch of embroidery, the colors look off on the computer.  I got frustrated trying to scan/photograph this, because it either looked too grainy, too fuzzy, too overexposed, underexposed…just yucky.   So, although I really like the bit of embroidery, I’m not completely happy with how the final banner looks on the computer screen, but that’s alright…

I used a lavender colored pencil and colored the canvas within the border…I wanted to add a little more color…but again,  when I scan/photograph the swatch, the color is all washed out.  It looks much cuter in person.

So, anyway…  That’s my update for today.   I promise to have more fun stuff to add to the blog soon!  :o)


4 Jan

I can’t believe I’ve let half a year pass since I last posted!

Okay, quick recap of the past 6 months of my life:

  • annual trip to VA Beach to visit Mary (Got to catch up with some of my VT UK friends, and got to meet the newest little Goodman!)

  • D.C. staycation with Moma, Betsy, and “the kids”

  • Our first experience participating in the traditional summer trip to Rehoboth Beach with the Dhavales, Parishes, Sean, Laura, and Julie (and two darn-cute kiddies)

  • Opera in the Outfield (Barber of Seville)

  • Birth of the newest Kemp (who Chuck claimed was the first infant he’d seen who was cute straight from the womb) and this little baby blanket.

  • Student teaching!!! (and temporary end of income)
  • Melvin got a new heart!!!  (recovery was a breeze for this guy!)

  • My 29th birthday!  (tick-tock)
  • Thanksgiving! (yum)
  • Finished my graduate program – I’m official!! (thank GOD)
  • 2 feet of snow
  • Christmas! (Got a directional flash for my SLR – thanks, honey!!)
  • New Years!

Aaaaand, here we are.  Up to date!


Tech Ed. Semi-Annual “Reunion”

29 Jun

This past weekend we traveled down to Orange County, Va, to stay with an old college~mate of Chuck’s.  Every year since he graduated from the VT Technology Education program, his classmates all try to get together (sometimes for weddings, sometimes just for fun).  It’s become a family affair – everyone brings their significant others and we all have a great time with each other…it’s a wonderful group of young professionals who really know how to have fun.

One of his classmates, Jim,  manages an estate for a (rather rich) gentleman in Central Virginia… Jim and his (amazingly sweet and beautiful) wife, Vaughan, invited us all down to spend the weekend on the lovely farm where they live…for two and a half days we all felt like we were at a private resort.  We ate copious amounts of yummy food, spent lots of time playing games, swimming, laughing, talking, catching up, and relaxing.  It was wonderful!

Because we were having so much fun, I didn’t drag my camera out until midway through the weekend, so I don’t get as many pictures as I wished I had, but here is a pictorial of our weekend:

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Standing, left to right:  Chuck, Me, Don, Clint, Lauren, Vaughan, Casey, Jim, Missy, Craig, Whitney, and Ryan.

Crouching, left to right: John, Ginny, Kevin, and Stephanie.  (Oh, and the adorable pup in the front who didn’t realize she was supposed to smile for the camera: Angie).

Almost everyone from the graduating class was there…we were missing three fellas and one gal, who couldn’t make it for one reason or another.

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This is the view from the house where we stayed…gorgeous!!!

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I need to learn how to shoot sunsets…either the landscape is black and the blazing sky is bright and visible, or the grassy landscape is visible and the sky looks washed out…something for me to practice this summer with my trusty Nikon…

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A little ways up the road on the estate is the “Big House” where the estate owner and his family live.  They have a beautiful, rustic house, overlooking a man-made pond (complete with lit fountains and lily pads) and a gorgeous full-sized swimming pool and hot tub.  We were allowed to go up to swim and sunbathe at the pool and spent every day of the weekend up at the “Big House” enjoying the luxurious, rural “resort”.  I think since I haven’t given away who the owner of the property is, I’m allowed to post these pictures of the house and surrounding area…

Here is the view, looking out across the pond and out onto the Piedmont region of my beautiful home state:

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And here you can see the view from the pool…

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In this next shot, you can see a little bit of the house, to the side of the pool area:

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More pool fun:

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(Vaughan loaned Kayla, Stephanie’s Sheltie, her sunglasses while relaxing in the pool)

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Lovely ladies, sportin’ their shades…

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Craig gives us a lesson in relaxation…(he’s got it down to a science).

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John and Ginny brought their dog, Shelly, who had a blast enjoying the pool, river, and pond.  This girl LOVES to swim!

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Chuck and I tend to shy away from the camera (for fear of breaking it, or worse…)  But we allowed a couple pictures to sneak through.

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Vaughan saw me taking photos of some flowers and she led me around to the other side of the house to the “secret garden”…  I’m going to have one of these when I’m a grown up.

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I didn’t get any photos of the pond with the fountains lit up at night because I left my camera at the house when everyone headed up to the pool at midnight, but believe me…it was breathtaking and so romantic.   I did take some shots of the pond and the fountains during the day, though:

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Beyond the pond was a riding ring (but no horses to be seen) and a large, expansive lawn (meticulously cared for…so lush and green!).  Around the pond were benches, which gave such an impression of relaxation and luxury.

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I especially loved all of the lily pads on the pond…

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And below is a view of the house and pool from the other side of the pond…(I wish you could see this photo full-size…the complete view of this place is beautiful and just so perfect…the family who lives here is so truly blessed to be able to live in such a rustic, yet luxurious estate).

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We really enjoyed the beauty of the place, but what made the weekend so enjoyable was the company…  It’s so good to have friends that you can see once in a blue moon and still be comfortable just picking up where you left off.  That’s the test of true friendship, I think.

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This weekend was the perfect start to what I hope will be a wonderful summer…

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(Next week Chuck and I take the pups to the beach for some sand and surf and even more poolside relaxation!)

Baby Birds

22 Jun

This past spring, we noticed a bird’s nest over one of the entryways to the school where I work.  Several of the teachers have been keeping a keen eye on the nest and this past week, it fell from it’s nook and landed on the ground, capsized.  Amazingly enough, the three baby birds were still alive after the traumatic fall.  Someone carefully placed the babies back into their little nest and settled them in a corner of the landscaping where there was some grass covering.  One of the custodians put a little plywood board over the nest to shelter it from the weather.

We worried that the mama bird may not return, since they had been moved, but she did!  Thankfully she’s been feeding them on the ground and continuing her duties as a doting mama.  I took my camera to work last week and grabbed a couple shots of these cuties before they gathered enough strength to wander away from their nest.




If you love animals as much as I do, check out this cool photo set documenting the beginnings of a robin family on Flickr…I was led to this set via Balancing Everything

Dum Spiro Spero

22 Jun

Last weekend I took a trip to see my mom in Columbia, S.C. as a belated Mother’s Day “gift”.  Since my father-in-law’s heart problems started up last November, Chuck and I haven’t been able to travel more than four hours away from DC, so we haven’t been down to see my mom since last summer.  Although Chuck and I hate to be apart, we decided it was best to use our frequent flier miles before they expire this Fall.

I didn’t take Chuck, but I did take his little tiny camera (His is the Olympus: our waterproof, shockproof, portable digital point and shoot – mine is the Nikon SLR which helps me take nicer pictures but isn’t as travel-friendly).  So, although the photos aren’t mind blowing, what’s cool about Chuck’s camera is that it has a video feature.   Since my sister and her kiddies weren’t there, I took some videos of fun stuff while we were at the zoo.  This post is mostly so Betsy can show her kids the cool animals we saw –  just a disclaimer for those of you hoping for my usual crafty stuff.


On Saturday, mom and I drove over to Charleston.  It’s a cool little historic town near the water with cute boutiques, museums, and markets.  There was a craft market the day we visited and we spent some time looking over the beautiful handmade works by local artisans (my mom and I marveled at some hand-woven “mobius strip” style shawls which ran about $85, but were absolutely gorgeous!  Kinda hard to think of wearing a woven shawl, though, when walking around in the humid 90+ degree weather).

After wandering around the market and exploring some of the boutiques, we ate some fresh seafood at a little BBQ joint while taking a reprieve from the heat. Walking back to our car, we took the scenic route and enjoyed the architectural features of of the town.

Andrew Pinckney Inn

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(do you like these photos?  Go here to download the actions I used in PS)

Charleston is chock full of churches…there was one on every street…


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(These photos were a little dull, so, again, I played around with some of the Photoshop Actions I’ve downloaded…I obviously need more experience with PS…)

Something I found really interesting in Charleston were all the porches with entry doors (I think technically these types of porches are called “piazzas” because they are to the side of the house, but my architectural terms are a little fuzzy, so I’m not totally sure). The houses are tall, narrow, and deep and the porch runs along the side – they have a real door at the end, which opens up to the street.  I imagine that the door is there because in the South, porches are an extension of the living space, so you “enter” the house from the street level and find yourself on the porch…then you go through yet another door to enter the inner rooms of the house.  From what I’ve read, these kinds of porches are unique to the south, specifically to Charleston, S.C.

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Charleston was very cool…it was a nice, relaxing way to spend our Saturday and I really enjoyed getting a little taste of the Southern hospitality and charm of South Carolina.


On Sunday, mom and I trekked over to the Riverbanks Zoo, in Columbia. I’m always so undecided regarding my true feelings on zoos’ exhibition of animals.  I always wonder are the animals better off in their natural environment, where they have plenty of freedom to live as nature intended but might be subject to poaching, predators, and endangered habitats and food sources as a result of human development…or are they better off “protected” in an urban setting, living their lives in a fabricated enclosure, in climates unnatural to them, with intense human interaction?  Which is worse?

Anyway… We spent a couple hours visiting with the animals and enjoyed a cup of Dippin’ Dots before heading home.  At every exhibit, we found ourselves wishing we could share the animals with my niece and nephews, so I took copious pictures and videos, but only a few of them actually turned out decent.  Here is a small taste of what we saw:

Teehee…not the best photo, but if you look closely, you’ll see this three-toed sloth is sleeping upside down with his tongue hanging out.


We spent a long time watching the Grizzlies…


They were just hangin’ out…


and swimmin’…


and grinning at the camera…

Here, you can see  this fella having a snack:

We enjoyed the African elephants…they were covered in red clay and dirt, so they kinda blended into their habitat…


…then I got up close and personal with some giant tortoises (or are these turtles?)  These guys were about two feet long…really big dudes.



we watched some kids feeding the giraffes…


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We caught these two fellas hanging out…

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And of course, the lions…


(They didn’t do much to entertain us, but they were beautiful, nonetheless)


Unfortunately, the week before we visited the zoo, one of the Gorillas escaped his enclosure…So, when we went the Gorillas were not in their outdoor habitat (it was being inspected for more weak spots and the gardeners were trimming back the bamboo shoots).  We did catch one old fella in the indoor enclosure, but it was so sad…he just sat at the window, looking out. It was heartbreaking to see his face…he seemed so despondent.  The information provided at the “Gorilla Base Camp” said there were three male Gorillas in the exhibit and noted that this guy was known to stick out his bottom lip to try to imitate one of the older, larger gorillas (so he’s not just pouting in this video, that’s apparently his preferred countenance).  When you look at his eyes, he looks so human…and sad (I think).

We watched the  Siamang apes playing for a while (they seemed much happier than the Gorilla)…

And then we enjoyed watching the penguins swim about (This video is pretty short…I was trying to catch the little buggers as they swam by, but they zipped by so quickly, I kept missing them!)

As we headed back to the parking lot, we passed by the flamingos…


Although I missed Chuck and our pups, I really enjoyed my time with my moma – we ate ridiculous amounts of good food and got to see some pretty interesting sights while I was there…the flight was short and surprisingly pleasant. (oh! and I bought “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” to read on the plane. I’ll tell you how that is when I finish it…so far I’m liking it a lot!).  All in all, a very wonderful weekend!


Yay! I did it!

13 Jun

I can reveal my latest project now because it’s been given to its intended recipient…

I saw a girl in the library a couple weeks ago with a pin-tucked skirt on and I thought to myself, “That’s a cool design technique that doesn’t look too difficult to emulate…maybe I can incorporate it in an upcoming project…” and put the thought in the back of my mental filing cabinet.  When I decided to make my mom and sister handbags (or pocketbooks, as we call them where I come from) I started off with a purchased pattern from an Etsy seller.  My sister’s bag turned out pretty cute, but only because I used my own intuition where the directions failed me and tweaked the pattern here and there.  When I set out to make my mom’s bag, I wanted to start from scratch and use a pattern all my own.  Here’s what I came up with:

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Here’s a close-up of the pin tucks…I tried to make it look almost like a bow without being too…uh, bow-ish.

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And these buttons complemented the fabric perfectly, so how could I not get them?

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Inside I included a little pocket (complete with “Made by Mandy” iron-on label) and a swivel keyring clip (this is my favorite functional feature….ohhhh….alliteration!).  Just like with Betsy’s purse, I used a magnetic clasp for the closure.

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And there you have it…my prototype handbag, designed and constructed by moi!  It’s a cute little summer purse.  And moma really seemed to like it, so I think it worked out alright!

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