Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Berry Sweet Shower for Erica.

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We had a berry sweet strawberry shower last Saturday at my mom's for Erica and her baby girl arriving in October. Very sweet Kami from OrangePeel came and took photos of all the details, so while you can see some of them in the background here, this post is mostly all about the guests. And the babies who occasionally cried when I held them.
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Robert wore a sailor outfit for the occasion. It was very nice of him to put on his nicest onesie for us.
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Erica's sister, one sister-in-law, her mother-in-law and mom all came to the shower. There have been a variety of showers for this lucky baby girl, but we decided ours wouldn't be complete without all these nice family members.
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Mom and Lu were very gracious to share their house with all the guests and my crazy plans. We started setting up for real on Wednesday, but Mom has been talking through the logistical details with me for months!
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We had a delicious feast with the best little sandwiches and spinach salad with strawberries. We were able to seat everyone at two big tables which is my favorite format for hosting parties. I'd rather be in big groups than small intimate tables around the house. Yes, I am an extrovert.
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Members of our book club in attendance. I knew better than to try this crazy lighting for this shot, but eh, it works. So much fun with so many good friends. And as a bonus, Fiona let me hold her for a little while.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Margarita Happy Hour at Home.

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Lauren gchatted me (do we have to call it "Google Hangout" now?) last week and said, "I thought about it on the way to work; with BOTAR and football this fall, this is probably the most time we've spent together in YEARS. Like maybe since your senior year in college? Or high school?"

She's totally right. This fall will be one of the busiest for the Luhrs ladies, and Lu and I are looking at a minimum of three activities a week together until the middle of October. As rehearsal co-chairs for BOTAR, we're also tackling our first joint volunteer venture. Pretty much every Monday and Thursday night you'll be able to find us doing a little bit of waltz (single twinkle!) with the new class of BOTARs at St. Paul's. Pretty sure we'll have some good stories from this adventure.
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As part of our role as co-chairs, we have a committee! We need all the help we can get because if someone is absent we have to fill in and dance. To kick-off the year, we hosted our committee at my house for a happy hour. It was easier than going out, we could provide all the food and drink easily and also have a short meeting about upcoming events.

Lauren won a blog contest recently for three bottles of Sinless drink mix. We served the margarita mix on Thursday night with some high quality tequila, salt and limes. This is not a sponsored post, so let me tell you the truth - we loved it! It does help that we used quality tequila and had margarita salt.

When we offered everyone a margarita upon arrival, most slightly hesitated and said, "Well..." until we quickly told them that they were super light. Only 5 calories before tequila. The guests agreed they didn't taste "too light," and one guest said that it was better than the Skinnygirl margarita. I can't wait to try the mojito mix that Lauren won from Sinless. 

For some light snacks, we picked up some espinaca and guacamole from Jose Peppers. With fresh chips and salsa, it was $10 well spent. The happy hour started at 5:30, and this was the fastest way to pull these items together after school. We also served taquitos from Our Best Bites, as modified by Rachel. Instead of shredded chicken, she uses 16 oz. can of black beans, puts lime juice on the top with some kosher salt. I also always mix up the spices, salsa and cream cheese in a small food processor because it's easier to blend. They bake in 8-9 minutes, crisp up and stayed warm while people filled their small plates.
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Not everything was made from scratch, and that worked out okay. I was also planning for a shower on Saturday and book club tonight - I didn't space out my entertaining very well! It was just the right amount of food for a bite to eat with happy hour and a short meeting. Lauren and I had the kitchen all cleaned up - and another margarita! - all before 7:30 pm.

We told them at the meeting that we're sisters who get along pretty well, but we're still sisters. We have another set of sisters on our committee, so I think they understood this dynamic! (That pair of sisters lives together too.) It's going to be a great fall. We're ready for all the good (and crazy) that BOTAR rehearsals, football, the American Royal and the Plaza Art Fair will bring!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Summer Manifesto Minibook.

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I made a pretty ambitious "summer manifesto" list back when school was wrapping up. I'm happy to report that it was really a wonderful summer, and I had a ton of fun. I also made my own mini scrapbook to remember all the cool things I got to do.
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After I wrapped up the project life album from the first part of the year, I was ready to make another mini album. I absolutely LOVED putting together the holiday minibook last year, and I am 100% sure it's the size that I love. The pages are brief and easy to put together, plus it's easy to add either a 4 x 6 photo or my new favorite size I can print on the cheap.
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This time instead of buying a minibook from someone else, I made my own! I chose a few cardstocks I loved from Archiver's in Overland Park, purchased some matching washi tape (seriously, who can ever have enough?), some cardstock and I was ready to craft. I used some heavy cardboard pieces I had at home, ordered another set of Kelly Purkey stamps, and rounded up some more stickers. I can't stop using the Martha Stewart file labels, and they conveniently matched again! (I'm almost out and they have changed the colors. Sad!) I assembled the whole book before I started adding photos. Some of the pages were different sizes, but it totally worked. I embraced the organized chaos and did very little rearranging.
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I printed just a couple of pieces of cardstock for the book - a label for the cover and the to-do list on the front page. The rest is just my handwriting on the pages, stickers and even on photos. I have a small addiction to these stamps and could use them on many pages since a lot of the summer manifesto was about food...
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 In the end, the only things I didn't really get done on my summer manifesto were, "read two books for work," "list two new parties in the shop," "three cookies for the 13 cookie challenge," and "read a bunch of everything else." Grad school limited the amount of reading I did for work or play,  and I only listed one new party. The party is one of my absolute favorites though! I might still list another party. Maybe while I'm sitting on the couch with my Pennsylvania bestie in eight days.
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I love this little book for so many reasons. The photos were taken on both my iphone and my camera, and ome appeared on instagram and others didn't. But they are all photos I love. I like that I could include lift tickets, menus, stickers, and souvenirs from the boys' visit. It's also the perfect size, and I flip through it regularly.
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I have a blank minibook ready to go for my 30th year. It says "For the love of ______" on the front, and I will eventually write in 30. I haven't decided what exactly goes inside yet, but I think it will be just some highlights for the year.

Maybe I should make a football minibook. Or a BOTAR adventures minibook? Or maybe I'll just run my etsy business with Rach, work, volunteer a gazillion hours, take a grad school class and try to sleep more than 6.5 hours a night. #bettergoal #fallbonanza

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Celebrating 60 Years of LJ and VA with a Postcard Project

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My beloved grandparents, Virginia and Lauren, celebrated sixty years of marriage on August 2nd. To celebrate their anniversary, my mom and I started planning a special postcard project back in May. We collected photos of them and a few of their kids and grandkids throughout the years and created postcards with them. Instead of scanning the photos, I took photos of the photos and processed them in Lightroom/Photoshop to add the dates.

We used Moo to print the postcards because they allow you to print different designs on the front of each of the cards. Their quality is topnotch too. I put the same design on the back of all the cards with an anniversary description at the top and their address. Mom added a stamp and wrote a brief letter explaining the project. Together the letter and the postcard went in a A6 envelope, were addressed and sent around the country.
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I've included 21 photos in this post, but we mailed 34 different designs out to family and friends. For several weeks, my grandma went out to check the mail to find postcards with wishes on them. They've received 33 of the designs back in the mail and probably around 130 postcards! We also published a small announcement in the Salina Journal with a wedding photo and one from this year that I took in front of their farmhouse. They probably received another 60 Hallmark-type anniversary cards from this announcement as well.
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I have several favorite photos from the collection - all of the photos from their wedding day in 1953, especially the cake photo. I also love the photos of them dancing because I have the sweetest memories of my grandparents dancing at anniversaries and weddings. The lovely hat my aunt wore at her wedding is also a favorite, and I think I was a pretty cute kid too!

We loved putting the project together, and we know it was fun for them to receive so many congratulatory notes. Thanks to our friends for showing us other similar projects, and thanks to all our friends and family for sending back their cards. Also, thanks Grandma and Grandpa for being such kind role models for the rest of us.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Five Things I'm Loving.

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Here are five things I'm loving lately that you probably should love to.

1. To-do lists. You probably already love or hate these. I love them right now because they're the only thing helping me make sense of all that's happening lately. I've been back at work a month already, and there is so much to do to get the year going for teachers and students. RV Parties has been busy lately, and I've been keeping track of all the party tasks with long lists on my desk. I'm still using my binder, and it works well throughout the week. But I also have and use this little notepad from Rifle Co. for weekend and day specific to-do lists. I often stamp the date at the top to feel official. #nerdalert Oh, and my fall grad school class starts tomorrow.

2. Even though I'm trying to get 100 other things done (see #1), I'm also watching a ton of Friday Night Lights. Rachel gave me the complete series for my birthday, and I'm in season 5 now. I wish someone would have made it clear to me HOW MUCH I would love seasons 4 and 5. Coach Taylor and city kids? Be still my heart. I love East Dillon - go Lions!

3. I used my birthday money (I saved it almost a month!) to buy a Kindle Paperwhite. My old Kindle found a new home with Mom and Lauren, and I love this little guy. Like a lot. I picked out the leather saddle cover, and it's pretty preppy. I am also working on getting a KCMO library card so that I can read ebooks from the library. It's pretty fun!

4. We saw "The Way Way Back" on Friday night, and honestly, I'd see it again tomorrow. I laughed so hard I couldn't breathe, and I cried. I think because I work with pre-teens/teenagers, have spent enough summers in youth ministry and have high school brothers that I loved it more than some people might, but I thought it was delightful with terrific characters. We saw it at Standees in the Village, and it was a dream. The food was good, and it was nice to go from dinner in a good restaurant to a show without even changing locations. Glad I could finally go - it had been on my summer manifesto list since June!

5. Shiner's Ruby Redbird is officially the beer of the summer for me. I had it for the first time when I was visiting Lindsay in Dallas. I found a 12 pack of cans when I got home, and Jon found another 12 pack for me last week. With just a slight touch of grapefruit, it's the best beer for summer.

Please let me know if there are books I need to read on the Kindle, movies I should see at Standees or places to buy East Dillon merchandise.

Friday, August 16, 2013

#MPC6

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This was the sixth year for the Mission Pub Crawl, which is just a ridiculous tradition (you can read more about it here and here). I've only missed one, and it must have been when I was in Virginia and the pub crawl was still held in May. Now we love the pub crawl in August because it marks the end of summertime fun and the beginning of school for so many of us. We ordered Mom a shirt, and she joined us for dinner at RJ's Bob-be-Que and at the end of the night to drive Lu home.
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This year we got shirts again. I always tell myself, this is the last time, no more shirts and inevitably, we end up doing them again because people start asking. I think people who didn't get one this year were kind of jealous, and we might get shirts next year. We used Acme in Lawrence, and I cannot recommend them enough. I did all the work over email, including the design. They let me choose TWO kinds of American Apparel t-shirts (v-neck and crew) without that affecting the overall design costs. And they made stickers. We gave them to people who didn't buy a shirt, and it was very unifying.
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I had my camera, but sometimes I get lazy and don't photograph everything and everybody. Thankfully my friend Meredith had a disposable camera that added cat details to each photo when it was printed. This great shot of me at the Clarette Club is missing a cat, but it's still a pretty classic photo from the final stop of the night.
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About 60 people joined us throughout the night. We may be getting increasingly too old for this, but if you pace yourself, it's not too bad! I made it to church on Sunday, no problem. The reality is that I couldn't plan another party where I could get sixty people I really like to hang out in my neighborhood with as much success as the pub crawl. It's just the best excuse to see lots of people I like in one place. Also because we move from place to place throughout the night, we can talk to different people and catch up. We're not stuck in a corner of a restaurant trying to talk across big tables. We're dancing, bowling and talking our way through Mission. Happy happy day. You can come next year.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Birthday Brunch at Farmhouse.

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Today is Tara's birthday. We celebrated over the weekend with a breakfast brunch because as Tara says, "Pancakes are her love language." And I think she might also say that "Breakfast is her favorite food group." If she doesn't say that, she could! We were going to go to Nica's on Southwest Boulevard, but they recently reformatted their restaurant and are now only opening at dinner serving Cajun food.

It is worth noting that the fine folks from Nica's 320 opened a beignet only storefront in River Market. We walked past it on Saturday, and I'm pretty sure I need to go back after church very very soon. There was a line. You know how I feel about waiting in line for food. 
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We were able to make reservations at the last minute for Farmhouse. I've been twice before, once for dinner and another time for happy hour. I was pretty excited to try the brunch but found it to be mostly middle of the road. We had two french presses of coffee (I think Roasterie), and all the coffee drinkers agreed it was the worst coffee ever. I make Roasterie at home all the time and make a much better cup of coffee with my drip coffee maker.

The best part of the whole meal was the bacon. And it was phenomenal bacon. James (aged 2) loved his eggs so much he ate two over medium plus almost all the eggs off his mom's egg benedict. There were some fancy dishes at the other end of the table, so maybe I just ordered something too plain. I did remember to bring some candles for Tara's pancakes. But mostly I would just like some more bacon.

Abbey's mom arranged the gorgeous flowers from her garden the morning of brunch. She just has all those pretty things blooming all the time! We had a good time celebrating Tara, and it was fun to be in a different part of town.
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After brunch we all walked down to the market, with Robert and Everett in strollers. It was still super crowded at 11 o'clock, and we managed to grab a couple of things as we walked around. And this cute picture of James and his mom. I wish you could see his cowboy boots. He told his mom they were made for walking, but he mostly wanted to be held. With Tara's birthday today, we're all officially in our 30s, otherwise known as the "Go be awesome" stage of our lives.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Amigoni Winery and Voltaire in the West Bottoms.

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You know what I love? New restaurants. Boulevard Beer. Having long hair. Saturday night was a regular trifecta of that fun stuff with friends. We went to Amigoni Winery down in the West Bottoms for a drink before dinner. It's been open for a while, and the building is gorgeous!
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Jon and I had beer, which may seem like a strange choice at a winery. I was just saving a reason to go back again and try the wine. It's almost American Royal season, and I'm pretty sure I'll find myself down there a few more times!
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Our dinner reservations down the street were at Voltaire. It's in the old R Bar location, and I was immediately pleased to see the lights weren't dimmed as low. They kept the long couch, which I loved, and the menu features small plates.

We were prepared for small plates and able to decide on a few shared appetizers to start. The spicy chicken wings came highly recommended and were absolutely amazing. Order them. We also had cheese and charcuterie and calamari, all super tasty. Each of us ordered a main dish, which was just another small plate but meatier. I had three perfectly prepared scallops, which is something few people can do. We had the dessert, which was good carrot cake but no Mission Antique Mall.

School starts on Monday for sixth graders. Seventh and eighth graders are back on Tuesday. It feels like fall around here, even though the temperatures are still in the 80s. I'm ready for back to school clothes - it's almost picture day - and BOTAR to get into full swing. I have plans to spend some quality time down in the West Bottoms and at the Royal, and I think I'll stop by for a cocktail and a snack again at Voltaire!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Recap and Real Talk: Taylor Swift Concert.

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Last Friday night we went to see Taylor Swift - Lauren, Gabby (17), and our first cousin from western Nebraska, Molly (14). The young ladies are going to be a senior and a freshman, and we did it up right. Dresses and cowboy boots, dinner at the Bristol, and great seats for a sold out show. Dad said, "Everyone down here (at P&L) is wearing little dresses and cowboy boots - did you all call each other first?" Silly dad comment.

Also, how much do you love this photo of us? For some reason my dad got artsy on the last frame and tilted the camera with the new lens. TOTAL success.
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We loved the show. She sang almost all the songs we loved off her new CD, a couple of her older songs that are just classic, and really put on a show. Ed Sheeran opened, and we were super impressed with him too! Check out his stuff on YouTube - he's a British Jason Mraz of sorts. After we left the concert, Diet Coke was passing out little cans for the ride home. I still don't love the stuff, but I do love Taylor Swift.
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Now for some real talk: I cried a few times during the concert. It was a great show, but it also got me thinking about life. I was super thankful to be there with three important ladies. I love them dearly, and I want the absolute best for them.

But I was also humbled thinking about how life is kind of tough sometimes, and it's easy to get discouraged and put down. I would love to save Lu, Gabby and Molly from heartache and just get them to some imaginary/happy finish line. Unfortunately, that's not how it works. Instead, I hope that they remember that they're awesome. And smart. And funny (did you see Molly's face in those diet coke photos!?)

I thought about all the lies that I tell myself about being too tall, too old and too chubby, and I realized that if Lu, Gabby or Molly complained about those things, I'd straight up YELL at them. I'd say, you are more than any of that. So I was also humbled at the double standard I set for myself. I could probably go a little easier on me. I imagine this is how moms feel about their daughters all the time.
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(She's singing a doo-wop version of You Belong With Me. IT WAS AWESOME.)

I got to thinking about if life was a little bit more like a Taylor Swift concert how nice it would be. There would be less judgement, and more singing and dancing around together. We'd make a big deal out of everyone's moms --> We saw Taylor Swift's mom! She was RIGHT next to me! And everyone would just be generally nicer, to each other and especially to ourselves.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Three Books of July.

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I meant to read more this summer but it didn't really happen. Grad school, travel, sewing and about twenty other things I did to check off the summer manifesto items got in the way. It's just hard not to compare it to a month like May when I was still working and yet read six books.

The Supremes At Earl's All-You-Can-Eat has been on a few "must read" lists for 2013, including a list from NPR. It's the story of three African American friends in a small town in Indiana, and it follows them from their high school years to middle aged. It was good but fits in the category of "friends going through life together" drama books. It's better than Angry Housewives Eating Bonbons and definitely better than Wednesday Sisters. If you're not familiar with this genre, I recommend you start with this one. It was well written and engaging, and there are definitely reasons why it is on all those must read lists.

The Art Forger was a birthday gift from Abbey. It was delightful! She gave it to me so I could read it before we heard Barbara Shapiro speak with Rainy Day Books. It takes place in Boston, which makes it automatically awesome. Then the author adds in some mystery, love, famous artists and creates a fast read that keeps you going. I immediately told my friend Andrea who works at Christie's about it because it makes you rethink art, what is real and what is not. As an aside, I'm super mad Rachel never took me to the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston. Guess I better go back to Boston.

Someday Someday Maybe was written by my beloved Lauren Graham. In my book, she can do practically no wrong, but I didn't love love this book like I thought I might. There was plenty of buzz about her new book, but most of my book club decided we fundamentally didn't care if the main character Franny made it as an actress in New York. But that might not be your opinion. My favorite scrapbooker just wrote about how much she loved it AND according to Huffington Post it could be a tv show. Go figure.

If you're looking for new books to add to your list, I'd add The Art Forger first and then Earl's.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Pizza 51 West.

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When Allison and her kiddos moved to town, I was thrilled they were super close. I love Rue and Trace, and they are growing up super fast! I also love that they live within walking distance of Pizza 51 West. I've written before about how much I love their pizza when I took Spencer and Blake on their visit to KC, and I'm thankful for lots of excuses to have their giant slices of pizza. Last Sunday night, Alison, her three well behaved dogs and two well behaved babies, and I went on a long walk and ended up at Pizza 51 West.
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Rue wore a very pretty dress to church that morning and managed to keep it clean all day for our outing later that night! I'm trying to trick her into smiling in this photo. I think she's actually smiling because she can see herself in my new big lens. My parents bought it for me for my birthday, and I'm loving it. LOVE-ING-IT.
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This is a gloriously large piece of pizza. I can't remember what I got exactly, but there were for sure mushrooms, tomatoes and sausage. The only bummer was they got pretty close to the top of the crust with the toppings which left less room for the honey. Be less generous! More room for honey!
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Couldn't get a straight up smile from Trace, but I got a few from Rue. They are great dinner companions, especially when there is food on the table in front of them.
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What we have to leave already? More pizza please!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Color Analysis with House of Colours.

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A little over a month ago, I received an email from a friend from Junior League. She asked if I was willing to be her model for a small project because I am "always so wonderfully photogenic!" Um, thanks?! That's a tough compliment to walk away from! No money involved, but she offered to do a color analysis for free in exchange for my help. I didn't know what to expect at all, but I knew from perusing her House of Colour facebook page that a typical session usually costs over $150. I was totally game.
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Linda's studio is beautiful. I have natural light in my office, but this room really takes the cake. So super impressed with the layout and the lighting. I sat in the little stool in front of the mirror, and Linda went through a series of color draping to determine the types of colors I should wear. I watched as she went in the mirror, and I feel like I could notice the difference between blue/yellow based colors AND brights versus more muted colors.

The process took about an hour because once we identified that I was a summer, Linda spent some time ranking colors that are really just the best. It's not even about the type of clothes but the colors that make your face and skin pop. I'm not just a summer - I'm a "sweet pea summer." She even helped pick out a white color that would look best on me, just in case I needed to pick out a wedding dress anytime soon. Also, I may have also figured out what my bridesmaids should wear. Just so I really shine too. (I'm 50% kidding.)
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I took home a fun little swatch book with the colors that matched me best from the color analysis. You can see some of them in the photo above and right behind Linda's right arm. There are so many pretty colors. So many!

I went through my closet when I got home, and besides the large amount of white and black that don't do a lot for me, I have a lot of the colors we picked out during the session. Apparently, I naturally knew some of this information. I love navy and am happy to have it as something that will always work. And I'm reaching for more of the soft ivory color shirts in the store when I go in because I appreciate that they do make my freckles pop.

A week after the color analysis I went back and modeled. I sat in the chair, and Lauren from Lasting Love Photography snapped a few photos of Linda highlighting my best colors and chatting with me. It was super easy, I think I did okay and Linda was pleased with the results.

Seriously though, I thought the whole thing was so fun. It also gave me a little bit more confidence in choosing new things for summer and fall, and it's nice to hear some compliments about how you look right before you turn 30. I would recommend the process and hope Linda gets some new likes on facebook. It's really very likeable.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Car Bags for the Colorado Trip.

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I cultivate my "private" pin boards on Pinterest pretty extensively. I don't need the whole wide internet knowing all my secret gift ideas, plans for a one-day wedding or ideas for the next party I'm throwing. When I saw this project on You Are My Fave, I quickly added it to my secret gift board.

Wouldn't you like to know what's on the board? So so many really good ideas, that's what.
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I have a Silhouette machine that was one of the best purchases I've ever made. It's not a great tool/toy for everyone as sometime it requires a lot of patience and a bit of technical savvy, but I love mine. In the You Are My Fave post, she mentioned a sale on the heat adhesive from Silhouette so I jumped to try it on these bags.

I stocked up on these small white bags from Hobby Lobby very slowly using the 40% off coupons on the Hobby Lobby app. Thankfully they were available in a discounted three bag package, so I only had to make a few trips to get enough bags for all the girls going to Colorado. I picked bags with gussets on the bottom because they hold more, but they were a little trickier for dying. I washed the bags in the rinse cycle on my machine to prepare them for their dye jobs.

Abbey came over to help, and it made it so much easier. She's an art teacher, so she's pretty good at crafternoons. We worked side by side, Abbey manning the gray and me on the purple. We used one package of gray RIT dye and one of purple - the gray didn't ombre it up as well as the purple, but there is some subtle gradation there. Like the instructions said, we sundried the bags and then I heat set them on low in the dryer for 30 minutes. I made a simple design on the Silhouette and found the heat adhesive worked pretty well. It took some serious heat from my iron, but it looks pretty secure now!

The bags worked out great for the trip, and I called them "car bags" because they were just the right size to keep by you in the car. Kindles, magazines, water bottles, and five pound bags of gummy bears fit pretty well in the small bags. Some of my friends used them for hiking too! It was easy to keep the bags straight thanks to the helpful first initial on the bag. I am always reaching for reusable totes (I have a small problem, actually), so I figured after the trip they would be good for running to the library or farmer's market.