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Monday
Mar092015

Valentine's Cards via Land | It shouldn't be this difficult

I don't send Christmas cards. I don't send New Year's cards. 

I try to send Valentine's. 

By February, the rush and then deflation after the holidays is finally over. I have a little time to think. Time to, you know, write and address over 150 Valentine's cards.

Key to the Valentine's is including a little photo of the girls. I try to take the photo as close to Valentine's as possible so it really represents how the girls look at the time. This is the same photo I select for my Every Six Month's Photo Project.

Here's is this year's photo. I wrote about taking the photo here.

And here is last year's photo. I wrote about taking it here.

The girls were dressed as Frida Kahlo (in homage to living in Mexico at the time time.) Little Lyra's blonde locks didn't really match the Frida unibrow, but at least give me some points for trying. I wrote about sending Valentine's while living abroad, on a sailboat, here.

A lot of the Valentine's last year were mailed just before we left to cross the Pacific, and as news of what was transpiring on Rebel Heart (almost a year ago now) started to make headlines, many of our friends were getting their Valentine's. I can't tell you how much it means to me when I hear that my friends posted the photo of the girls on their fridge, or their wall, and kept them, and us, in their hearts until they knew what had happened.

This year I was excited to get started. I was in America, with zippy internet, speedy mail service, and no reason to not get my Valentine's out in time. I ordered some Valentine's that came with their own envelopes, made an Excel spreadsheet with everyone's addresses, and spent a night drinking wine with Mele as we printed out mailing and return address labels, along with little labels to affix to the back of the girl's pictures with their names and ages.

I proudly took the huge stacks of Valentine's to the post office five days before Valentine's. FIVE WHOLE DAYS. Yes, that is how on top of things I was. You betcha. People were going to get their Valentines in the mail... on time.

Right.

The only problem? The envelopes were too small.

I swear.

I thought you could mail ANYTHING as long it was the right weight and had the correct postage.

But nope. You can't. The smallest envelope you can mail is 3.5" tall, and 5" long.  

Gobsmacked, I turned around and walked out of the post office with 150 Valentines (STAMPED ALREADY, MIND YOU), scratching my head and wondering what to do. The problem was that Lyra's birthday party was also five days away and I had no more time to mess around with Valentine's, I needed to get the house looking ship shape.

Sadly, I set the Valentine's aside until....after Valentine's.

The size of the Valentines that would ship on the right. The correct size I actually needed, on the left.

After Lyra's party I got back to work. I bought a pack of envelopes that were just a bit larger than the ones I tried to mail and then painstakingly peeled off all the stamps from the small cards and glued them to  the new ones.

See the fuzzy parts on the envelopes there? At the top right of each one? Yep. Peeled off stamps. Every one.

I wasn't able to connect with Mele this time to get more labels printed out, so I started hand addressing each one.

Pic by Lyra

For those of you who know me, and know how truly awful my handwriting is, I'm so sorry. I'm sorry to all the mail carriers too, who had to deciper what I wrote as well. It tooke me several days, but I finally got everything done. Again.

Except for a few that were going to require special treatment.

We have friends who are out sailing and don't have a permanent mailing address. They are out sailing with their kids. With very young children.

On boats.

Just out there on the water SAILING. WITH CHILDREN. How awful of them, right? So selfish. So reckless to endanger those kids that way. Someone should call CPS on them!!

OH wait.

That's what people said about us. Sorry. I got side-tracked.

Right. So we know some awesome families who are sailing with little children (and big children) and I needed to get Valentine's to them too. Luckily, I had an ace up my sleeve. Her name is Cherry and she sails on s/v Rainbow Gypsy.

Cherry and her husband, Alec, were in San Diego for awhile on their boat before heading to Mexico. She was kind enough to take the Valentine's I wanted to send to my Mexico-cruising friends and deliver them by what sailors lovingly call 'The Coconut Express." Cherry will use the VHF radio when shet gets to ports where my friends are anchored and hail them to let them know they have mail. Landfall Voyages and Aboard Astrea, I'm looking at YOU!

That still leaves two more Valentines for sailing friends (with CHILDREN, on BOATS!!!!!!!!!!) But they are really out sailing. I'm talking the kind of long-distance, out-of-reach sailing that means I may not be able to get a Valentine to them until, oh, Christmas-time of this year, when they have friends or family traveling to meet them in exotic locations. Ceilydh Set Sail and Sailing Totem, I'm looking at you.

Cora and Lyra were happy to help, yet again, bring the Valentine's to the post office.

Any reason to use their back packs to help carry things is a good reason for them.

Of course when we dropped the second round of Valentine's off I thought I was finally done.

But I wasn't.

Seven of the second round came right back. This is the same envelope in the photo above. One side is the front and one side is the back. I *think* the problem is that I wrote the return address a little too large. It looked like the mailing address....but the STAMP was not on that side. The stamp was on the side with the recepient's [correct] address. Maybe it was because the stamp has a white background, so the carrier didn't see it? I don't know. I.don't.freaking.know.

So I tried again. I bought BIGGER envelopes to fit the first envelope and the second envelope into the THIRD ATTEMPT envelope.

Luckily, the girls were ever ready, with backpacks and bikes, to help me get this third round back in the mail.

Let us all hope that the saga of the 2015 Valentines Cards is now complete. 

Friday
Mar062015

Closet Bed | Living Small on Land

It took me and Eric about two seconds to figure out that we'd be sharing the master bedroom in our two bedroom apartment with the girls and using the second bedroom as a guest room/office combo.

We could see right away that our bed would go to the left of the girls in the photo above, under the eaves of the attic, and the girls would sleep here, to the right of the window:

Oh yes. So.much.space.

At least, compared to their last closet bed, right?

You betcha!

To get started, we needed to be able to use a baby gate to keep Lyra wrangled at night or at moments when we needed to neutralize her for her own safety (ie. I need to take a shower without worrying about what my 22 month old is doing.)

My little painting partner 

Eric installed four 2x4s, two on either side of the wall. Lyra and I painted them white, and then we installed the Ikea baby gate we had in the previous apartment. The gate was doubly nice because it gives the room it's own sense of space for the girls. We also installed curtains to draw across the gate in case the girls wanted to read quietly in their room, or we wanted to draw the curtains closed at night once they were asleep for our own privacy.

Then there were these issues to deal with. Yeah, Lyra, that's a NO.

Lyra helped me take off the old face plate and install the new, impenetrable ones.

Thumbs up all around!

I purchased 4" thick, high-density foam from Keystons and cut it down to give it a bit of space at the front for entering and exiting. 

Next up? Time to make a mattress cover. 

I found this mattress ticking fabric at Joann's. I love the old school look it gives the finished product.

I also learned the hard way with the last mattress cover I made for mine and Eric's bed: 4" thick, high-density foam is heavy. If you are going to make a mattress cover, do yourself a favor and sew handles to make the mattress easy to move.

I've got eight pairs of these running all around the mattress. It is now a breeze to move when I need to pick it up for any reason.

Not too shabby, eh?

I also saved myself unnecessary future foam-wrestling by installing the zipper around three full sides of the mattress and going around 2" of the top and bottom of the fourth side. If I need to take the cover off to wash it, it will be a breeze to get the cover back on the foam.

Queen Elsa and her sister, Anna, heartily approved of the new mattress cover.

Of course this was only the first step of many.

Remember the shelves on the wall from the first three photos in this post? They were there when we got the place and they had to go. Because of earthquakes, I didn't want to store anything on them that could fall down on the girls, plus they cut right across where the privacy curtain hung.

Nope. Sayonara weird little shelves. 

I removed the shelves and used them in another project downstairs. I asked my landlord for the exact type and color of paint he used in the bedroom and did a little spackling and painting.

Even with the photo blurry (pic by Lyra), you can see that no trace of the old shelves remain. Picture perfect!

The LED light is from Ikea. I installed it so it follows the same angle of the down-slope of the room a foot above it. The switch is installed so Cora can reach it, but not yet Lyra. Soon though, soon.

Puppy-pile!! The girls love sleeping together.

With the mattress cover done, I needed to make a custom waterproof mattress cover like I did for their last few beds. (You can read about the last ones I made for them here.)

Lyra is just so sweet, isn't she? She was thrilled by the new sewn-to-size waterproof mattress cover.

Once that was done, it was time for the last step, custom sheets!

The girls' bed is so comfy that Eric and I are both often lulled to sleep ourselves when we get them ready for bed at night.

Until a few days ago, I had just been tucking fabric in around the mattress, but no more. I purchased this queen-sized duvet cover from Ikea and finally got around to turning it into two fitted sheets.

REMEMBER: If you are going to take the time to make custom fit sheets for a bed, do yourself a gigantic favor and make two sets when you do. Especially if you have kids. You can thank me later.

Most tutorials will tell you to cut the four squares out and sew the seams together. 

You could do this, yes.

Or, you could hem the full-size of the sheet you have measured out.

And keep the fabric whole. Sew along the blue line, folding the triangle inwards on either side for a nice clean look (and no exposed seams).

Pay attention and make sure you fold the triangles in to mirror each other on each end. To take it to the next level of fancy, top stitch the triangle too.

See what I mean? Fancy-schmancy.

My butt, or, Cora's view of the world while I'm sewing.

She also snapped this adorable photo of Lyra just up from her nap. LOVE.

With Lyra awake from her nap, I was able to bring the finished product back upstairs (using those awesome handles I had sewn on the mattress at the first stage).

Ta-da!!!!!!!!!

Kid-tested, parent-approved.

And because the girls insisted I include this photo too, which has nothing to do with anything, other than that my kids are the cutest.

More to come on the artwork I'm going to do for one of the walls in their bed, but for now, officially crossing the "bedding" part of their room off of my list, and that feels awesome.

Monday
Mar022015

Lyra Turns Two | Birthdays on Land

Our youngest munchkin turned two.

Cora had been eagerly awaiting Lyra's birthday for months. She was ecstatic when I announced that it was officially time to decorate. 

We hung signs to direct our guests to our new home.

And unfurled a Feliz Cumpleaños banner as well.

Thank you, Veronica, for sending us the banner!

Mele brought the all-important piñata, and Lyra fell in love.

There was still more decorating to do. Mele helped hang the banner you see behind Ella and Renée here:

Ella, Renée, and Mele. I'm lucky to have all of these women in my life.

See those colored paper skulls on the tops of those shelves?

The skulls are a free printable by New Zealand artist Lorna Love. You can snag the pdf here. A huge thanks to Amanda and Corinne for helping me cut and assemble them over dinner one night.

Oh, and that little fabric bunting? You can get one at my Etsy shop, Blue Cora.

My brother Rich came before the festivities; he made two of the most exquisite trifles for Lyra's party.

The girls "helping."

Soon the guests started to arrive. The piñata signaled they had found the right place.

We put the chips and salsa bar inside and the drinks bar outside. The chips, beans, and salsa were a clear success:

Lyra soon discovered that there was endless access to ice chips out by the drinks. She spent the rest of the party occupied with the ice.

Many of the children were excited about the ice and lemonade. Here Daisy multi-tasks by coloring while sipping. Genius:

Daisy's sister, Millie, liked our Women in Science collage, not surprising since her own mother is a world-famous glaciologist.

Women in Science, Minimalist Posters, by the artist Hydrogene.

Millie also pointed out that refraction in the picture below looked like Saturn.

Rock on, little scientist, rock on.

And while we are on this trio of fabulous sisters, the eldest sister, Zoë, volunteered to help serve the trifle.

Wonderful sisters, those girls. Psssst, that is their mom, Helen, in the background, left.

Their dad, Glyn, is on the right. He just launched New Flag, a company selling a new wide-body, rigid, inflatable catamaran. It looks awesome, too.

This is Melvin, baby Estella, and Alexis. Melvin is a postdoctoral fellow at UCSD. Alexis has a doctorate in music, is a professional musician, and is the co-host of The Dig Podcast.

One of the wonderful things about getting older is that you start to know some truly interesting people.

I wasn't able to take photos of all the guests, but here are some action shots:

Eric and Gray. Glyn in the background.

Me, Kristine, and that gorgeous baby.

Joseph and Marci, hamming it up.

Veronica, me, Lyra, Cora, Krister, baby Kai, and Amanda.

Me and the consistently fabulous, Kaye!

Left to right: Sacha, Zoë, Millie, Ella, Miles, Helen, Amanda, Krister, Kai, and Monique.

Mele helped me roll up the carpet in the living room and push the table to the wall. This gave us a spot for kids to color and chill, room for grown ups to chat, and babies to play.

Baby Estella holds court beside her mama, Alexis.

Left to right: Maya, Frankie, Tuti, Cora, and Sandee

We had truly perfect weather that day. While the rest of the country was freezing, our friends came in shorts and sun dresses.

Goddamn, I love this city.

Dan and Renée play with their boys Leo and Xavier.

It's the middle of February and we're all putting on sunscreen.

No big deal.

Cora and Lyra playing chase and showing their boundless love for Mele.

The guys talking about the Ruckus.

Baby Miles in awe of how close the airplanes get.

We didn't serve cake. No, our dessert was a trifle more awesome.

(YouSeeWhatIDidThere, RIGHT?)

My sweet, sweet, crazy little Lyra.

In that moment, she was serenaded by dozens of friends.

Friends who sang to her with love. I'm so grateful for their friendship. These are our friends. Friends who have been our friends for a long, long time. I think even little two year old Lyra could feel how special that moment was.

I won't forget the Happy Birthday song that day.

Lyra's party dress is handmade by Veronica of Alexa Idolina on Etsy.

After the cake, Lyra went directly back to walking around with a 'big-kid' cup and chewing on ice.

And then we busted out the piñata.

I would love to tell you that all of these kids got a chance to whack that thing.

But it isn't true.

Lyra got a try.

And Cora had a go.

The wee Daisy had a turn.

And then, noob-piñata-parents that we are, an older kid skipped ahead of the smaller kids still waiting.

And he tore that puppy apart.

It took Sacha exactly two swings to knock that donkey to kingdom-come. I think the kids who didn't get a turn were sad for about one millisecond.

Like zombies digging in for BRAINS, the kids forgot their tears and dug deep for a taste of that candy.

As the party wound down I tried to get one, JUST ONE, photo of our whole family.

....These are the results:

Okay, nope.

:sigh:

NOPE

Eric and Cora were incahoots for the NOPE factor.

Dammit, Eric.

Still a NOPE. Little Vincent has now joined to officially photobomb us too <3

Still a NOPE.

I think this is our least amount of NOPE. 

So it goes.

It was a wonderful day. I was thoroughly exhausted when it was all said and done. Exhausted, happy, and grateful. 

Thanks, friends for making it a wonderful day.

Party over. Clean up done. Only six more months until the next one!

Friday
Feb272015

This Moment ~ Eating at the "Restaurant" 

{This Moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your moment in the comments for all to find and see. 

Happy Weekend!

I'm so in love with our back yard. It's big, shaded, safe & secure. The girls can play for hours outside.

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The 'This Moment' movement is via SouleMama. You can view all my 'This Moments' here.

Wednesday
Feb252015

Picture Gallery Wall: COMPLETE! | Landlubber Life

{ Part one of this project can be found here. }

Ta da!!!! Lyra loves showing off the final product. 

Jumping right in from where my last post left off:

Once I had all the frames up on the wall, and remember, each frame was marked with blue tape and a number, I took careful pictures again. This time my goal was to be able to remember where the frames would go once they were all spray painted. I had to be very exact with my my numbering so I'd know which frame was which.

Next: I took all the frames down and did several things as part of this step. 

  1. Cleaned both the frames and the glass.
  2. Made sure that there was a piece of blue painter's tape on the glass of each frame and on the back of the frame too (numbers corresponding.) That way I could re-unite the correct glass with the correct frame once I had spray painted them.
  3. Measured each frame and made a list of sizes so I'd know how many pictures of which size to order.

This process was long and tedious.

It was made better by listening to multiple episodes of my friend Alexis' podcast called The Dig, and also lots of coffee. TONS of coffee.

^^Note my blood on the bottom left. That's right, baby, blood, sweat, and tears on this project.

Okay. No tears. Well, sorta. And blood only because I got inattentive while cleaning all the glass and sliced my thumb. Weeeeeeee!

But the notes above do show that I had to count not only the various sizes of frames I had, but whether or not I would need to find a picture that was oriented for the portrait or landscape position.

While I initially thought that I'd paint the frames an assortment of colors, I'll be the first to admit that this project was time consuming and I was ready to cut corners where able. I knew that all my chosen photos would be appropriately colorful enough, so I decided to just paint all the frames white and save time and money. 

I've never spray painted before. Holy addicting, Batman! The tutorials I read suggested spray painting frame by frame in a box like this but I disagree, total pain in the ass.

I ditched the box and just laid all the frames out on butcher paper and went to town.

I ended up doing about four coats of paint, or more correctly, I spray painted them twice, doing two coats in each session. For all the frames on both walls I used two cans of spray paint.

Total project cost so far? $8.00.

Crafty McCrafterson!

I put all the finished frames back up on the wall while I took a few days to sort through our digital photos and decide which ones to display. I say this casually, "sort through all our digital photos."  

It was a total mind-fuck.

I asked Eric to send me photos that he wanted up on the wall too, and we both went through our albums on the same night. It was hard. It is constantly hard to re-live last year in any way, and it's bittersweet to see the years that built up to last April too.

When Eric had finished and emailed me his choices, he came up to the office, hugged me, and asked me if I was okay. I poured another glass of wine and we both unplugged from pictures, computers, and the internet after that.

It took me awhile to go back to the project, but I did, and it was worth it.

With Eric's photo list and mine in hand, I started trying to figure out which photos would be best suited to fit the 8"x10", 5"x7", 4"x6", or 3"x5" frames, and of course, how to balance that with the landscape versus portrait orientation of the already planned gallery wall design.

Using coupons for both sites, I spent $30 total at Snapfish for the majority of my prints, and $5.30 at Nation's Photo to order a few 3"x5" ones, which apparently, are not that fashionable to print anymore (a ton of online places don't offer the option to print that size now).

That put the final cost for this project at: $43.70. NICE.

It was time for the final push. All assembled I had:

  1. A flat-head screwdriver for reassembling the backs of picture frames.
  2. Blue painter's tape (for the random frames with no backing.)
  3. A paper cutter (for cutting my own DIY matting).
  4. Scotch tape to really press things down.
  5. Spare white paper for impromptu matting.
  6. Coffee.
  7. Podcasts.
  8. A sugar-high's worth of meringues. (Trust me, I ate more than pictured).

It was on.

I laid out the largest photos first, the 8"x10"s. Once I had sorted where those went on each wall I laid out the remaining 5"x7"s, 4"x6"s, and the teeny-tiny 3"x5"s.

It took awhile but a theme of one wall being devoted to just our nuclear family and one wall with mixed photos of family and friends emerged.

I had to keep in mind what Eric had asked for and what I wanted. And within that I contemplated what I wanted to show on the wall. I wanted an equal amount of photos of the girls. I wanted to have photos of me with the girls and Eric with the girls. I wanted photos of our wedding and photos of the girls as tiny babies too. We both had photos from our time in Mexico and our years sailing.

My brother, Rich, escorting me down the aisle. Catalina Island, November 2008.

I remember as a girl looking at my own parents' wedding photos and thinking what a beautiful bride my mother was and how strangely young both my mom and dad were. They were people I didn't know. And the girls won't "know "us either at this age, at least not with a grown-up mind set. I want them to see that our wedding and our marriage are important and that we value them, as we value our children. I hope the photos I selected show them that.

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Step by step, here's how it turned out:

The girls are thrilled and are constantly pointing at and talking about all the photos.

Two final steps and these are important.

Remember that earthquakes happen (and so do determined children who want to knock frames off of the wall out of curiosity.) I needed to secure all the frames so they wouldn't fall during an earthquake. The stairs are our primary egress for an emergency. I didn't want our path to be strewn with broken glass.

Instead, I used small squares of Command strips on the back corners of the frames and pushed each frame against the wall while I simultaneously used a level to make sure each frame was even. (<----that's the second step.)

Ba da BOOM. It feels so good. So incredibly good, to have one project completely done.

And it looks great too!

Happy crafting, thrifting, and DIY-ing within your budget! Whoohooo!