Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Etsy Shop Sale

Today through "Giving Tuesday" (December 2nd) I'm offering $5 off a $15 or more purchase in my Etsy shop.

Use the promo code THANKSGIVING at checkout.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Creativity Jar

I just put together a Creativity Jar.  It's a mason jar filled with small craft items: pipe cleaner, clothes pin, fabric squares, ribbon, puff balls, stickers, beads, craft sticks, rubber bands, etc.  It is meant to spark kids' imagination and encourage them to be inentive and create art or other things.  This one will be part of a Christmas present for an 8 year old girl.  Hummingbird designed the label; it might change.

I'm wondering if it's something people would buy something like this and if so how much one would be willing to pay.  I would love your input.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

New Liturgy Books

In addition to working on artsy craft projects with my kids, I been using my long hiatus to edit and format a full-length (or mostly so) Divine Liturgy prayer book for older kids.  Like the toddler one I put out in April, these can be personalized with photographs from your home parish (or other parishes if you like).  I've done one with a lilac cover because my girls really wanted lilac, and one that boys may prefer with dark blue.  The text is almost identical (I did use "handmaiden" in the girls' and "servant" in the boys' for the priest's part at communion.  Where the toddler book has outlines for placing photographs, I opted just to leave large chunks of space in this one.  I figured this allows more flexibility in choosing sizes or decorating around them for any particularly artistic kids.  

I've proofed this about a dozen times and followed along with it at mulitiple services, so I think it is typo and problem free.  If anyone orders a copy and finds a problem, though, please let me know so I can make corrections.  Also, this version uses traditional "Thee/Thou" language.  If there's interest in a "You Who" version, I'm up for some more editing.  So if that's something you'd like to see, leave a comment or email me.

Anyway, I'm really excited about these and my kids can't wait to get out copies.  You can order your own on Amazon or Createspace (girls, boys).

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Upcycle CD Pascha Candle Holders

30 bead, multi-colored prayer rope
Our church just held its first annual arts and crafts fair.  The girls and I made all sorts of crafts for it: paper collage art, photographs, clay coil pots, prayer beads, and our favorite, upcycled cd Pascha candle holders (or multi-purpose trays other times of the year).  The sale went pretty well, but many people suggested I should open an etsy shop, so I'm working on creating an online shop.

Until I get it up and running, I wanted to post a few pictures. We're selling the prayer beads and candle holders for $5 each, and we take custom orders if you have color preferences.  If you'd like something before the shop is set up, just email me!

With flat bottom
Without flat bottom

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Prayer Request

For two months my mom has been in and out of the hospital.  It started with stroke-like symptoms that turned out to be a seizure.  Her first time in the hospital 2 spots were found on her brain.  The doctors have been slow and indecisive about what it was and how to treat.  A few weeks ago they did a biopsy on one of the spots (and removed "all" of it).  For whatever reason, the full results were slow to come back.  Today we were told it is a high grade glioma.

The prognosis is not good.  Lately, or not so lately, I feel like God is most definitely ignoring my prayers.  So, although I don't really do the public prayer request, I am asking now for all possible prayers.  We could really use a miracle right now...

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Homeschool Input

Bumble Bee is set to start Kindergarten next year... but despite doing well on the classical selective enrollment test, she has been waitlisted or not accepted to 12 magnet and gifted schools in Chicago.  Too many parents are no longer moving out to the suburbs when their children reach school age!  The competition is fierce for the classical/gifted schools, and the magnet schools are based on random lotteries.  

Our neighborhood school is a level 3 school, which means it's a failing school, at the bottom of the heap.  I'm not thrilled about the idea of sending her there.  Chicago has one public "virtual charter school" (homeschooling with the help of CPS). I thought I would do that, but even there she's number 48 on a waitlist.  So, I'm thinking about doing homeschool with her.  Illinois is amazingly lax about requirements, and she's not even legally required to be in school until she's 7!

I was reading up and found a program based on Charlotte Mason's ideas of teaching.  I rather like what I was reading about this program's curriculum.  I also saw, however, that there is an Orthodox online school, St. Raphael's I think it was.  It seems like it would need to be supplemented.

Anyway, I know that lots of you out there homeschool, and I would love to hear about what has worked and not worked for you.  Over the years I have picked up activities here and there from your blogs to use in our down time.  Now, I'd like a little more guidance on putting it all together and having a unified curriculum.

Please comment....

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Uncontrollable Laughter

It is not often that our entire family is struck by uncontrollable laughter, but at dinner tonight we all found ourselves infected with giggles.

Hummingbird was telling us about a book she was reading in which the main character cut herself while shaving her legs.  After describing how disgusting it was, she said, "I don't ever want to shave.  Do I have to shave my legs?"

I answered, "No, you don't have to, but in American society people will make fun of you if you don't."  Then I added, "I don't want to shave either.  So, I only do it when I'm going out in public with my legs showing.  I almost never shave in the winter when only Dad will see."  (more information than anyone wants, I'm sure...)

Raucous laughter ensued from the girls, and DH and I began laughing, too.  Through her laughter Hummingbird tried to ask, "Why would you let Dad see your legs and no one else?"  

I realized that I was on the verge of opening a can of worms I did not intend to open.  Trying to avoid the Birds and the Bees talk I answered something like, "Dad thinks my legs are pretty, so sometimes I show them to him."  Enough to silence any further questions, and everyone's laughter eventually calmed.

It was nice to have a moment of full family enjoyment, and it was nice to end with my children still as innocent as ever.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hating Disney

My kids are loving the movie Frozen.  They memorized most of the lyrics to the songs and whole scenes, even though they've only seen the movie twice.  I even like the movie, overall.  So, I ordered a copy for their Pacha Baskets.  Disney had a great pre-order deal: buy the blu-ray combo, get 4 lithographs and a $20 coupon.  Can't go wrong!

Oh, actually, can go wrong.  After placing the order they emailed to say the lithographs were no longer available.  Okay, we'll still take the movie and coupon...  But wait, here comes an email offering Frozen and Tinkerbell lithographs if you enter a magic code for each movie and pay $3.65!  No more lithographs available??

A customer service email got a "we'll pass along your comment to management."

Okay, I still have the coupon code.  Let me go buy the Frozen costume BumbleBee would like for Halloween & her birthday party.  Oh, wait it's not on the Disney store website any more.  I wonder when they'll get more in.  I hope it's soon because the coupon code expires on March 30.  (I've been checking back regularly since March 18).  Still not available.  Let me email to see when more will be in.

Response: "Unfortunately, we are not given any notification on if or when items 
will be restocked on the website".  Sorry we can't help.

Okay, then can you extend my coupon so that I can get the discount I paid for whenever the site is restocked?

Response:  No, you'll just have to hope for another promotion code when it's back in stock.

I am totally disgusted with Disney's customer service.  I guess they no they hold all the power.  Kids really want their stuff, and parents will just have to pay through the nose for it or bear the complaints of their children.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Annunciation Craft Kit

Next week I will have a new post up on OCN for an Annunciation craft project.  You'll learn how to make clothes pin Mary & Gabriel figurines that can stand in your icon corner and later be put on a Christmas tree.  I had to buy the supplies for the craft in bulk, so I will also be putting together pre-cut kits for anyone who doesn't want to buy her own supplies or do all the cutting.  Kits will cost $3, and each kit will include 2 clothes pins, 2 skirts, 1 scarf, 1 pair of wings, 1 pipe cleaner.*  All you have to add are glue and markers to complete the craft.

To order multiple kits and have it shipped visit my shop.  Use that link also if you want one kit shipped via priority mail. If you'd like one or two kits shipped first class mail, please email me. Finally, anyone who will be attending Holy Trinity's Lenten Retreat this Saturday, March 22 can pick up a kit there.  If you live in Chicagoland, we can also make other arrangements.

While you're in the shop, you can also pick up copies of my books for 15% if you're looking for Pascha basket fillers.

*Note the kit will include silver pipe cleaner and wings.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New Camera

I've been testing out some of the features on my new camera.

Whimsical Angel icon

Hummingbird did not want me to take this photograph, but I rather like it.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Site Migration

I've been working on a new website.  It's still in progress to some extent because I want to move a fair bit of what's on this site to that one.  I may leave some things here, and I may still post some new things here.  But if you follow me here, consider also following me at kellylardin.com.  It will be a little better organized, making it easier to find what you want.  

Soon, it will even have the many kids crafts I did for The Sounding, which were "lost" when that site got a makeover.  And currently there is a teaser for a soon-to-be-released children's book by Elizabeth Johnson on the Book Reviews page.

So, have a look around and tell me what you think.  Also, let me know of any bugs you encounter.  I found one myself this evening that I'll need to work on fixing tomorrow.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Best Pizza Place in Chicago

Tucked away in Lincoln Square is the best pizza place in Chicago.  Spacca Napoli (located at 1769 W. Sunnyside) serves up authentic Neapolitan pizza.  The owner Jonathan Goldsmith and his staff are on the ball, super friendly, and ensure that you will have a great meal and a great time.

As you walk in the door, you can't help but notice the custom-built brick oven.  The kitchen is right there for you to see.  My daughters love watching the guys make the pizzas.  Once the pizzas hit the oven they are ready in 60 seconds!

We have eaten here often because there is a great selection of both vegan pizzas and meat-lovers' pizzas.  Yesterday a friend invited us to lunch, and we headed over to Spacca Napoli.  It had been awhile since our last visit, but Spero, our waiter, remembered us.  He was super friendly answering questions about the Italian liquori and wines on the drink menu.  Our friend is a consummate wine connoisseur with fabulous taste and extensive knowledge, but there were many wines on the list of which he had never heard.

After our pizzas arrived, and the girls had eaten a slice each, they were ready to go watch the pizza-making.  As they watched, Jonathan told them that at a less crowded time they could go into the kitchen and make their own pizza.  They had done this once before when we visited on a quiet December afternoon about a year ago.  Hummingbird excitedly told me the news, to which I replied, "Well, maybe we'll get to come back soon on a quieter day."   She agreed and ran back to watch some more.  We ordered dessert, and while the adults ate slowly and talked, the girls gobbled theirs down and ran back to watch the kitchen.  Henry and Pablo soon invited them in and helped them each make her own pizza.  While we were still finishing the last bites of dessert, Jamie walked over with two pizzas and two girls following proudly, excited to show off their work.  Bumble Bee made a prosciutto pizza, and Hummingbird's was Italian sausage.  I think I've found their first summer jobs for them...
All of the pizzas were delicious, and we came home with plenty for lunch and an after dinner snack.  So, if you're looking for great pizza (in Chicago) with a kid-friendly atmosphere where adults are also sure to enjoy themselves, then Spacca Napoli is waiting for you!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

It's Snowing in Our Room!

Or so the kids thought when they woke up this morning.  There was frost on the windowsill from the extreme cold (or the poor insulation of our apartment).

Since the girls and I returned from a brief Christmas visit in Louisiana (where we left our coats in the trunk of the car the whole time!), we have been experiencing lots of snow and now the extreme cold.  Last week we had so much snow that we began building a snow fort (I can't shape a ball to make a snowman to save my life).  The first day we made the foundation, using large buckets to build it like a sand castle.  When I tried to add a second layer on one part, it collapsed.  I hadn't packed the snow well enough, I suppose.  Then it snowed over night, which both shrunk and strengthened the foundation.  Later, we managed to add a second layer, and I had the girls pack snow into the crevices for strength.  Friday, we began a third layer on one wall.  Then, on Saturday our neighbor took them to play in the yard so the work stopped.  Apparently, I'm the one who is really interested in building a snow fort.  Sunday we worked our way to church for liturgy and blessing of the waters (for the first time in his 40 year priesthood, our priest canceled evening and Monday services because of the weather).  By the time we got home, temperatures were starting to drop, and we stayed inside.  

Yesterday while DH bundled up in all his old cold weather biking gear to walk to the bus and train for work, I enjoyed not having to wait in the cold for an hour for a school bus to arrive late.  The girls enjoyed a rare (but becoming more common) CPS snow day.  Of course, I had no desire to go out yesterday, and Hummingbird's winter gear especially needs some new pieces if we're to venture out with subzero temperatures.  So, we played (and worked on a school project!) inside and looked out the window to see the snow fort shrinking.  I don't know if we'll get back out to renovate it or not.

I'm sure by now if you've kept reading this far, you're thinking where are the pictures?  Shouldn't she be showing off the fruits of her work?  Well, the pictures are on my PC, and the other side effect of this extreme weather is extreme electricity prices.  You see, this summer we decided to try the real-time pricing plan because we happen to have a smart meter installed, and past trends suggested that with our electricity habits, we could save a fair bit if we actually used the smart meter.  At times in the past few months, real-time electric have fallen to $0 (not sure how that really works).  Yesterday they were skyrocketing.  By 4:00PM they reached $.48/kWh, by 7:00PM they were topping $1, and upon waking this morning, they were at $1.71/kWh!  We get alerts and can watch the trends, so when DH came home I had everything off except the computer and one lamp (with a cf bulb).  He turned off my computer and unplugged everything we weren't using to prevent vampire currents.  He did turn on the energy efficient Macbook, which I'm using now.  

While the girls played with our downstairs neighbor, I cooked a quick dinner turning the kitchen lights on to get it done and then let the family eat in the living room with our most energy efficient lamp. The girls really wanted to watch TV with dinner, but even our new, also energy efficient TV felt too expensive to splurge on then.   So, we went retro for the night with no TV, and almost no electronics.  After dinner I put Bumble Bee to bed (it was her a bit later than her usual bedtime anyway), and she went with no arguments!  Then, Hummingbird and I sat and read our books while DH did some work on the mac.  Although they felt a bit deprived and low without all the gadgets on, it felt rather nice to me.  As we read, we shared parts of what we were reading, and paused for conversation from DH.  Without the pull of email and the internet, I even read the entirety of a book my mother gave me for Christmas (Thanks, Mom).  

We're keeping most of the electricity off today, too.  The kids and I will do some Scratch programming on here later this morning, and then try to start my car for a run to the grocery store -- we're out of milk, bread, and eggs.  I'm sure we'll do more reading and crafts, maybe even play some board games today.  We'll do all the fun things that don't use electricity.  Oh, and in case you think I might be freezing my kids out, no need to worry; we are running the gas furnace non-discriminately.

From the freezing Midwest, I wish you all a warm day, and I promise to post pictures of the snow (both inside and outside) as soon as people stop using their space heaters and my electric rates drop!

Hummingbird's school made the news (about a minute in): 

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