Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Year of the Dog - 2018

It's no secret that I'm a Chinese New Year enthusiast.  I mean ... you don't study Chinese language from the age of 12 without getting a little joy out of celebrating what is now more commonly known as the Lunar New Year.



Me, age 17, preforming YangGui Fei Zui Jiu in TianJin, China.
Basically, I'm one of the hottest consorts of Chinese history, 
but I have recently lost favor with the Emperor, and am debating suicide.  
LOL!  So not me in real life.


So, what's an extra mom like me to do in the year of the dog?!  Well, themed informational tchotchkes of course!

Ok, ok.  Before I get too far, let me say something here.  Since most Midwestern suburbanites like myself are totally oblivious to the Lunar New Year and it's significance, I have made it my goal to "educate" people (when appropriate) about the holiday.  In years past, I have sent age appropriate books to teachers, supplied trinket type giveaways for children, and have even donned Chinese Opera garb and makeup to preform live.

Eeek - me sing?  Yeah, no wonder why I don't do that anymore.  Heh.

This year, since my son is actually old enough to be able to start to absorb the concept of Chinese/Lunar New Year, I decided I may as well send a few fun things to school with him.

That means, first and foremost - costuming.  Because, duh, it's me.


 


Quite honestly, I spent a little more on these mandarin hats for the boys and dresses for the girls than I normally would.  But I figured that I would ask the teachers to return the items to me at the end of the day, with the intention of re-using them again for a couple more years (before my son leaves daycare and outgrows the flexibility of being able to encourage these kinds of shenanigans on his entire class).

With costuming down, my next goal was to get a couple of toddler friendly books about the New Year that my son's teachers could read in class.  To date, I've settled on these two titles:


A book about traditional celebration practices by Grace Lin


A book highlighting the animals of the zodiac by Joyce Wan


I'm not going to say these are GREAT book options, but I've yet to find anything else.  And the nice thing is that these two books cover the celebrations of the new year and the animals of the zodiac, so at least there's a workable amount of information in them.  But - FYI - if you have suggestions for me here ... please, I'm all ears!

In addition to sending the costumes and books to school, I printed off a few coloring sheets that I found online for free.  I figure, in for a penny, in for a pound ... why not spoon feed a day's worth of themed activities to the teachers?






I also debated sending some decorations in for the classroom (IE fold out paper lanterns and the like) but ... I'm to the point that I don't want to be overbearing to the teachers, and this is already a lot, so I figured for this year I'd let this be enough and see how it goes.

Well, I should say, I'm letting the above be enough ... for IN the classroom.  Heh.  Because, what is a holiday celebration without a gift?!

Thanks to my nifty Amazon lists, I was able to find a set of 24 of these gift bags for $3.99:




And in the bags, there are one of two offerings.

For the kids, a zodiac animal appropriate finger puppet for 2018 - dogs that were $7 per dozen:




And for the teachers, an assortment of adult appropriate goodies - one each of a lucky red thread knot, dog ring and a chocolate zodiac gold coin from World Market that's seriously the size of my palm (so I hope it's good chocolate):






Oh!  One last touch.  Each of the faux silk brocade bags will be cinched shut with a tag applied outside, just for extra "informational" measure.




So there you have it.  Costume and books aside (as I will use those again over the years), I spent maybe $30 on giftable items for the entire class - teachers included.  Not really a major investment when trying to share a little love about a likely unknown holiday for us Midwestern folks.

And as for me ... well, I may just have found a little nod to my YangGui Fei past to wear on New Years Day as well:




I mean, I don't just shop for others on Amazon, you know!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Valentines Day

Well folks, today is another "Extra Mom" post.  And it's going to be all about Valentines Day.

Buckle in.




Wait, sidebar.  Do moms get to be nuts?  I mean, aside from the "I drink too much wine because my kids make me crazy" stereotype of a mom, aren't we all supposed to be dainty and proper and wiping our kid's faces?




Heh.  Dainty and proper.  So not me.

Oh!  Another sidebar.  Trust me, this will become relevant in a minute.

So, I don't know if I've mentioned yet, but I'm kind of an Amazon freak.  *Amazon Prime - HOLLA!*  In my down time when I'm bored, since I'm not really much into TV, I search Amazon for unique gift and costume ideas and other ... random things.




Yeah ... don't judge.

Since I spend a fair amount of time messing around on Amazon, about a year or so ago all my bookmarked "discoveries" started to clutter up my wishlist and make it unmanageable.  So, being the OCD person I am, I decided to hack the system and create a list for all my various whimsies.  That meant quite a bit of new list creations and sorting - but in the end all the work was worth it, as things became much more easy to navigate: now if I'm looking for something, I just go to my list for Halloween costumes, or list for daycare "party favors", etc.

As it stands right now, I have 11 (yes, 11!) different Amazon wishlists.

Whatever.  I'm not obsessive.  I'm "organized".

Anyway, back on topic.  Valentines Day.

One of the things I had flagged awhile back on my Amazon "daycare party favors" list was a teacher's gift for Valentines Day.  It was a simple, base metal necklace with a CZ stone that looked something like this and cost a whopping $2.




While I liked this concept as a Valentine gift, I just left the necklace to rot on my Amazon list because I couldn't really stomach the idea of giving cheap jewelry, that may or may not turn your neck green, as a gift.

But then - I had an idea.  Lovely-Jewelry and Accessories to the rescue!

A friend of mine who lives down the street from me runs her own costume jewelry business.  Remembering she has direct relationships with a handful of overseas factories, and at least one of which who can do decent sterling jewelry, I decided to reach out with a bulk buy request (6 necklaces).

After a little conversation with her contacts - poof!  I was in the money, and a few weeks later I had put together this:





Disclaimer - only the necklace was from Lovely-Jewelry and Accessories, the rest I came up with myself.  Even the poem!

Also, one small disappointment of note: the card that I mounted the necklace to ... I thought was a bi-fold card when I purchased it.  I was a little sad when I opened the package to find out it was basically a single sheet of card stock.  Oh well, I guess ... what can you expect from a $1, 8 pack of cards from Target's "Hot Spot"?  LOL!  Despite the lack of a bi-fold, I punted, and I think the idea still turned out pretty cute.

Since the above necklace did come from a Chinese factory (and was $4 a piece, FYI, in case you want to contact my friend for your own), there was a little of down time between when I ordered and the necklace's arrival.  In all, I think it was maybe 2 or so weeks.

While I was waiting, I started working through what my son would use as his Valentines exchange with his classmates.  For that process, I had a few basic parameters:

1 - no candy or junk food (toddlers don't need that garbage)
2 - try to avoid plastic toys that may just end up in the trash, or break and become a choking hazard
3 - make the item somewhat reflective of my son's personality

Ok, seems easy enough?  Starting out, I headed on over to Oriental Trading and found this cute bumble bee:




For quite some time, I had planned on getting this bee.  It seemed like a perfect fit, since my son loves to sing the "Baby Bumble Bee" song, and I know they sing it at school quite a bit.

Honestly, I didn't decide to pull the plug on the bee until about a week or so ago when I realized my son's class has 15 kids in it ... which would require me to buy 2 dozen bees instead of 1 dozen.  At $19.99 per dozen, plus shipping, it just seemed silly to spend almost $50 on a stuffed toy that may or may not be well loved by the end recipient.  I mean, no matter how many times they sing "Baby Bumble Bee" at school, a stuffed animal is a stuffed animal.  And stuffed animals always seem to end up at the bottom of the toy bin after a few days.  So why sink $50 into that?

Meanwhile, over Christmas, my sister had given my son a hand crochet banana for his play kitchen.  Being that my son loves to eat bananas, this new toy (with peels and all) was a big hit for him.

Sudden inspiration!

As I've mentioned before, my sister runs an awesome Etsy shop with all sorts of fun, custom crochet things.  But unfortunately, in the wintertime her hands flare up with painful dry skin issues, and it makes finishing projects difficult.

Knowing my sister's hands wouldn't be up to the challenge of making 15 bananas, I headed back to Etsy and ended up stumbling across this amazing seller - Yeeli's Little Corner.  In a manner of a few days, I had this:





Ta-da!  Fifteen custom made bananas - good thing I know a bunch of little monkeys!

With my 3 point check list above fulfilled, I feel good knowing that this Valentine exchange gift will make for a great imagination building toy (and serve as a healthy eating inspiration to boot!).  The banana can easily fit into any child's play kitchen, or might even become the inspiration for a parent to get their child a toy food set in the future.  Plus, I cannot say enough good things about Yeeli, the shop owner, as she was so kind and responsive.  In the end, I have no regrets for dropping the bumble bee.  I am so glad that this ended up working out instead.

So there you have it.  A heart necklace for the teachers, and a banana for all my son's classmates.  Happy Valentines 2018!!




And bonus to you - I'm posting this blog PRIOR to Valentines day, with plenty of time to order your own knock off of my cute gifts.  So, if you like either of these ideas, click on the shop links in blue above to go buy your own.  Trust me, I don't mind being copied if it means giving these two wonderful shop owners more business!!  (And be sure to contact the shop owners directly for volume cost discounts and lead time quotes.  For example, I think Yeeli only has pricing posted for up to 6 bananas right now - I would suggest asking her to quote you costs if you need more than that).

---

Now tell me ... what are you planning for Valentines Day?  Comment below!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

2017 Year in Review

Yikes, I am well overdue for a year in review post.

I suppose the reasoning for that is pretty obvious.  As you can tell, my fitness commitment for the last year has been ... lackluster, to say the least.  And being that this is a somewhat fitness oriented blog, it's hard to admit publicly that I"m not working out enough.

Sure, sure - I have a good enough excuse for my lack of fitness with a new child in the house and all, but still!  In the end, an excuse is an excuse, no matter how good it may be.

Disappointment in fitness aside, my life has been filled with a lot of other fun things ... and still a few races despite it all.  So ... let's do this.  Let's recap 2017.



2017, a year in review!



Races

For 2017, all my excuses left me with the smallest race completion list ever on this blog - a whopping 7 races complete in 2017:

Tri-U-Mah, more aptly named "Dumpster Fire"



Bay to Breakers, easily my best race costume to date




Rainbow Run, a tradition 7 years running (literally)



Freedom 5, where I passed the torch ... again ... and again ... and again ...



Lake Run, my first family costumed race



Howl'oween Kids Run, where I spent my day chasing burgers



Terror Trot, the last of my costume recycling in 2017



Total miles raced - about 23ish miles
Cumulative info:
     Races 82 - 88
     Bibs 78 - 83



Costumes

As you can see above, I was somewhat less creative here in 2017.  This is partly due to the fact that I've saturated myself with race costumes over the last few years.  I mean ... once you've run as a pair of stewardesses with a pilot, a mermaid, a statue of liberty (handing out torches, no less), a unicorn, wonder woman, a skeleton, a hamburgler chasing hamburgers, a robot, a mariachi, a rainbow with a pot of gold side kick, a sriracha bottle, a Christmas tree (of sorts), and a woman on fire ... 

Well ...




Plus, my budget for InkNBurn clothing, and generally race registrations as a whole ... with an 18 month old in 4T clothing (yes, I said 4T clothing, as in the size of a 4 year old) ... you know where my money is going.  And it ain't on race registrations and workout gear.


Keeping Healthy

Yeah, may as well skip this category in 2017.  

Last year, I didn't complete the year of the swim (hence my lack of final recap there), I hardly did any races - and the few I did participate in weren't competitive anyway, and I even let my group fitness participation fall to the wayside.

Rather than focus on the negatives of 2017, what I will say is this: I got sick of being disappointed in myself late last summer, and have therefore started to work towards putting myself back on track.  

Right now, I can confidently say I am doing 4 group fitness classes a week (two of which I teach), am committed to starting back on a running program next week, and have signed up for year of the swim attempt #2.  

And ... I'm hoping that this re-commitment to fitness will help me in the weight gain area, as I am not happy with where that is a year and a half post baby (almost two years ... in April!) 



Changes


Aside from my fitness regime changes (at first in a bad way, and then in a good way), I am also learning to adapt to this "mom" thing.  Or rather, this "extra mom" thing.  Because, you know ... Talk Like a Pirate Day and Halloween are just two of the many reasons through out the year that I can dress mini me in a costume as well.

And honestly, my change in a "bad way" has actually been a good thing for me.  By carrying some extra weight right now, and by being "lazy" and not working out as much, I have had to practice self forgiveness and acceptance - two things that I have never been great at, but have gotten a whole lot better at in 2017.  So chalk one up to personal growth.

In regards to things NOT changing, I'm pleased to be able to say that despite having a child, my family's love for travel has not been lost.  In fact, we were fortunate enough to take two adventurous trips this year: San Francisco in the spring, and a summertime flying trip that carried us in a loop from Escanaba & Mackinac Island / Niagara Falls & Toronto / Dayton, OH / Madison, WI and then back home again.



Finally

In all of my year in review recaps, I take a minute to revisit my previous years of blogging ... and not to pat myself on the back this year, but it's kind of nice to see how I've grown:

2013 was when I was peaking in my physical fitness, my life was finally coming together, and I was feeling great about things.

2014 was a year of struggle where I tried to cope with a miscarriage, some physical setbacks, and I still tried to maintain a healthy attitude and life balance.

2015 and coming into my mid 30's, I finally settled into a happy place in my life.  Some time around 2012 or 2013, I learned to accept things in my life for what they were, and to eliminate things from my life that didn't make me happy.  In that process, I found an authentic me that I've just become ... happy with.  Which means, I don't really go into a year expecting it to be AWESOME or BAD anymore, I just hope that I can continue to maintain that authentic me, and have a good time while I do it.  

So aside from becoming a mom in 2016, and growing into that mom role in 2017 ... I just continue to focus on being an authentic me, looking forward to what more adventures are to come!


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Ring in the New Year!

With the holidays bringing the year to a close, you know I couldn't pass up my last chance of 2017 to be an"extra" mom.  I mean - what fun are the holidays if you don't get to shop for a few presents, right?!

So, with a day or two before things shut down for Christmas break, I found myself sending something a little special to "school" with my son.



 



Thanks to some smart shopping on Amazon, the bells and zipper pouches (think of them as gift bags that can be repurposed into a diaper bag crayon holder) didn't set me back much.  And with a little extra print-out inside the pouch, I thought the entire package made for a suitable and somewhat educational toddler gift.


BELLS ARE RINGING, to the tune:  “Frere Jacques”
Bells are ringing, Bells are ringing.
Ding, ding, dong. Ding, ding, dong
Happy little bells, Happy little bells.
All day long, Ring their song


Other songs: Jingle Bells (Dashing Through the Snow), 
Silver Bells, Jingle Bell Rock, Frosty the Snowman, Winter Wonderland, 
Let It Snow, Deck the Halls


In addition to the kids' gifts, we also sent some warm and fuzzy scarves and custom designed hats for the lead teachers, and a few cute fashion scarves and socks for the part time alternates ... with some Target gift cards thrown in, too (I mean, it can't be a bad thing to have a little extra spending cash around the holidays).

Unbeknownst to me, after I already had the bell gifts lined up, I found out that my son's class was also doing a random book gift exchange.  No problem!  Amazon to the rescue again - this time with a penguin book!




I think Amazon has a bum deal going here, BTW.  I mean, with as much shopping as I do with them, they should be paying ME to be a prime member.  LOL!

So there you have it ... my last "extra" mom action of 2017.  And yes, we did have a few spare bells that ended up at home with me, so we will be doing some ringing in of the new year at my place too.

Happy 2018 to all of you, and may you make the best of the new year!


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Happy Holidays 2017!

Things around here lately have been status quo, so I don't have much to blog about that's of interest.  But, in wanting to talk about something holiday-esque, an old friend came to mind.

Almost 10 years ago now - where does time go, yikes! - I made good friends with a designer who worked at the holiday decor company I used to work at.  It's kind of a long story, but basically we ended up getting to know each other during one of my many extended stay business trips to China (side bar: you know you've been at your hotel too long when the staff greets you by name ... and sends you a complementary bottle of wine and chocolate covered strawberries at your 5 week mark).

Anyway, since I worked in artificial trees and wreaths, my new designer friend and I didn't really do much together professionally after our trip - my product category didn't require much from a drawing and illustration standpoint.  But, thanks to many wacky jokes and 12 hour time change induced laughing fits throughout our China excursion, we have been personal friends ever since.

A few years after our China introduction, sadly my friend moved to Houston.  Well, sadly for me at least - I doubt she's missing Minnesota right about now with our sub zero temps and daily snows. 

Despite our distance, over the years we've tried to stay in touch.



Me, visiting Galveston and 
learning how to live the TX lifestyle.





Her, visiting us back home and 
remembering what a good old ski trip and fried feast looks like.


Funny visits to see each other aside, the reason of my post is ... all the recent, seasonally appropriate holiday goop circulating Facebook and other media made me think of one of the best ginger bread houses I ever (helped) make. 

So here it is, a feast for the eyes - but not so much for the belly, as we used industrial glue and several other non-eatable components as well.




In process.  Notice the dog in the second photo, lower left, which is licking up 
the mess surrounding a Mister Bill inspired decapitated head.  That may or 
may not have been made via my influence and inspiration.



Close up detail.  Yes, that is a black hawk helicopter that has crashed onto the scene.


The day after, post many beers and a hangover the finished work was offered to the gods (squirrels).  Amazingly, not a single wildlife item hazarded a bite.  Could have been that industrial glue, I suppose.




Wishing you all a happy holiday, and best of luck in 2018!


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Halloween 2017

Going along with my post from Tuesday, I thought I should do a Halloween recap.

You already saw my costumes from the Howl-oween 5K and the Terror Trot, so you know what I did for costumes then.

Aside from that, on the actual day of Halloween I was a ... well, I thought a classic, though I may be wrong based on my feedback from the current generation:




My outfit on that day was thanks to Tipsy Elves.  PRO TIP: look at their pricing on Amazon first, you will likely save 50% or more.


 


Of course, having three costumes over the span of the "Halloween Season" just isn't enough for somebody like me.  And thanks to my little guy, I get to add a whole 'nother costume category to my repertoire - group costume.  Thus 2017's family theme was Muppets, with me being Miss Piggy, my husband as Kermit, and baby boy as Fozzie Bear.

Speaking of my little guy, I have good fun getting to chose his costumes (for now).  With him just starting to pick up on animal sounds, I particularly get a kick out of his snore/grunt impression of a pig that sounds nothing like said animal.

Maximizing on this pig "impression", for my son's Halloween "school" party I sent him to daycare in a pig outfit ... that is technically a sleep sack, which we can reuse for the next couple of years hopefully.




And it wouldn't be Halloween without treats.  So I sent my son bearing treats for the staff on Halloween day.




Yep, even more extra.  Though this treat was far less complicated - just a glass bottle of Starbucks frap in either chocolate or caramel with a one bag each of Target monster and caramel cashew trail mix, wrapped in candy corn printed black tissue paper and tied up pretty with some curling ribbon.





The copper bin was my favorite part of that gift, and is now sitting on my dining room table as an unintended center piece (I guess I better figure out wear to store that thing before Thanksgiving in a few weeks).

So that was my Halloween - in a nutshell.  What were your costumes like?  Comment below!