Monday, May 18, 2015

Greek Mythology Birthday Party

Noodlebug turns 7 today and we had a Greek Mythology birthday party in the park yesterday.  Because I am in the middle of a move, we kept it simple!

Noodle has loved Greek mythology for years. Ever since he went through my Barefoot Books inventory and found all the books on the subject.  For his party, my friend Susie created the wonderful Greek Temple backdrop from cardboard.  The perfect photo opp!  My son went as Zeus and I went as Medusa.

All Noodle's friends dressed up as their favorite mythological creatures and characters.  For activities, we had "Paint a Shield," "Paint a Greek Pot," and glitter tattoos.  For "Paint a Shield," I bought packages of 16 inch cake circles. They were the perfect size!  At $6.29 for a six pack on Amazon, it was MUCH easier than hand-cutting circles out of foam core.  I made handles on the back of each shield using silver duct tape.  The kids had a choice of using acrylic paint or paint pens. In retrospect, I would have only had paint pens out on the tables. Much easier and less messy to use.

(Noodle holding his shield!)
For "Paint a Greek Pot," I put out photos of ancient Greek pottery along with mini flower pots and paint.  I got the mini flower pots at the Dollar Store. They came in packs of 3.  Again, using only paint pens would have been best but the kids loved the activity.

I bought two kits of Glitter Tattoos and they were a big hit!  Super easy to use.  Much easier than face painting and less messy. Once the glue sets, the tattoos don't come off so there was no need to worry about them wiping off onto clothing. Plus, the stencils made it easy to get a perfect image every time.

For the grand finale, we had a pinata.  I just got a classic bull pinata and we pretended that it was the Minotaur.  Everyone loves a pinata!

For food, we did fresh fruit, cheese, and pretzel sticks and Noodle baked his own cupcakes.  It was a very simple party in the park but the kids had a great time!

As a bit of a joke, I grabbed a piece of cardboard and made a "burnt offerings" station for gifts.  I just propped up the cardboard in front of a big plastic storage tub.

For favors, we kept it simple.  Each child got one mythological character from the Mythical Realms Toob:

I also printed and laminated this free printable for Communications4all:

I think the kids had a great time.

I can't believe I have a 7-yr-old!

(This post contains some affiliate links to products that I used)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Pinterest Fail: Mickey Tie Dye Shirts

We are going to Disneyland next week with some friends and I very much wanted to make some special t-shirts for us to wear.  I saw this fun tutorial from the Kids Activities Blog and wanted to try it.

So cute, right?  I bought similar colors because I thought the shirts could be reused for Fourth of July later on.  I was excited to see the final results.


Wow. Really really bad.  I followed the directions exactly.  100% cotton shirts.  Soaked them in soda ash.  Gathered the Mickey design with dental floss and tied off with one inch of rubber bands. Not sure what went wrong.  The red color seemed to leak a bit so the image became distorted. Looks like a giant bloody heart.  I cannot let anyone wear these ridiculous shirts. We will have to chalk it up to a Pinterest Fail.

Monday, April 27, 2015

ART IS YOU Petaluma 2015

It's that time again!!!  The amazing ART IS YOU Mixed Media Retreat on the West Coast!  I only got to take one class this time but it was terrific!

This year, I took a class called "Resin Heaven" with Jen Crossley.  Jen was a wonderful and patient teacher with a great sense of humor.

Here are some examples of Jen's work that we were attempting to recreate:

First, she taught us how to make our own molds using Pinkysil and rubber stamps.  These molds can then be filled with ICE resin to make the centerpiece of the pendant.  Since we didn't have time to wait for the resin to dry, Jen handed out a few ready-made pieces to complete our projects.

This was really working out of my comfort zone as I had never worked with molds or ICE resin before.  I'm not too great at wirework either!

I kept at it and, with some help from Jen, managed to finish my piece!

It is hard to see but my resin image says "Sixpence."  Don't look to closely at my wire-wrapping!

A really fun class and I learned a lot!

The West Coast ART IS YOU will be back next year in Santa Rosa!  The event will be in mid-April so start planning now!  Get all the details here.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Week Four: Renting in Sonoma County

I had to laugh a bit when I saw this article in a recent issue of the local ARGUS COURIER newspaper.

"Housing Crisis Squeezes Petaluma Residents"

No joke!  You are in a bad situation if you are looking to rent OR if you are looking to buy. There is just no inventory. I broke down and started looking into apartment living this past week.  One bedrooms at the Azure Apartment Homes begin at $2020 a month with three bedrooms going as high as $3480.  At the Park Central townhomes next to Azure, they have a waiting list with one bedrooms starting at $2000 a month and two bedrooms going as high as $3226.  Insane!

We are starting to get a feel for the rentals market although we are constantly surprised by how high rents are.  About 1-2 houses pop up each day.  Houses on the west side go for higher rent.  For example, there is a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house that is 1300 sq ft going for $2700 per month. Another house that looks like it is on the east side is 3 bedroom, 2 bath and 2200 sq ft and is renting for $2900.  More house but not much higher rent than the west side location.

If you are looking in the $1700-$1900, be prepared for 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartments or older townhomes with no amenities. MAYBE a house.  A tiny one. None have much in the way of outdoor space or storage.  When you hit $2500, you can get a three bedroom with a bit of outdoor space and garage.  Often very dated interiors. There isn't much in between.   We had hoped to spend no more than $2300. 

So, do you go for the cheaper option knowing you will be cramped and miserable without any decent outdoor space and will probably have to pay for a storage unit?  Or do you stretch your budget to the breaking point trying to find a place your family will be comfortable in?

We found a property that would definitely be a stretch for us but we like the neighborhood and it has a lovely backyard.  I submitted an application on Wednesday and we attended the open house on Thursday.  I did everything I could think of to give us an edge and I left feeling confident that we had a shot at the house.  I was definitely in better spirits over the weekend. Today, I saw that they are doing another open house on the property tomorrow.  I don't feel they would do this if they felt they had a good applicant.  I really thought this was going to be the break we were looking for.

With only a month to go, we are faced with some tough decisions.  There was only one house we could see over the weekend.  It was small and overpriced but I was willing to consider it. My husband was not.  So, we don't really have any options right now unless something pops up during the week.  I am starting to feel like we should take a less desirable approach.  There is a small 2 bedroom 1 bath duplex near my church.  No yard.  No garage.  Very little living space. But it would be LESS than we can afford.  It might be worth trying to tough it out there for a year and put our stuff in storage.  This is assuming we could even GET the property.  I am feeling like I would rather go small and be uncomfortable for awhile rather than spend a bunch of money for something that we didn't even really like. I think we'll attend the open house tomorrow.  

Time is running out.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Week Three: Renting in Sonoma County

A realtor friend connected us recently with a homeowner whose rental was about to go back on the market.  Everything about it was perfect.  Great location near my son's school.  3 bedroom, 2 bath.  Small yard with planter boxes.  Garage with attached studio.  Porch and fireplace.  About 1700 sq ft.  And the owners were going to put the rent at $2200 which is at the high end of what we can afford but doable. It was going to be a step up for us and that would have changed everything.  We were so excited.  We had an appointment to go view it on Saturday and I had my "elevator speech" ready to go.

At 9:45am on Saturday, I headed over to the venue for the fundraiser that I was chairing that night in order to start decorating. On my way over, the owner called and said they had decided to sell instead of rent.  I couldn't contain my emotion.  I sat in front of the venue for about 10 minutes crying.  I saw the volunteers gathering and knew I had to pull myself together and focus on the fundraiser for the rest of the day. I had foolishly let myself get carried away with hope and daydreams.

There is a slim chance that there is a backup option available but there are already two applications pending.  It is smaller than our current home with no yard to speak of. It is also attached to another home.  Plus, it would be $400 more than we are currently paying. So disheartening to think of paying so much more for so much less.

I went through my morning ritual of checking the local property management companies and Craigslist.  Here is what I found:

3 bedroom, 2.5 bath home for $2700
4 bedroom, 3 bath home for $4750
4 bedroom, 3.5 bath home for $5495
5 bedroom, 3 bath home for $3900
3 bedroom, 2 bath home for $2700

Our absolute upper limit is $2300.

We spent the weekend starting to fill the POD that was delivered on Friday. It feels strange to pack with no idea where you are going to land.  When we moved into our current home almost four years ago, we downsized and got rid of a lot of stuff.  I know we will be downsizing again.  I can deal with that.  It is just hard to think that we will be paying so much more.  I'm definitely getting discouraged.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Week Two: Renting in Sonoma County

We are starting week two of our search for a new rental home.

Here is what we are hoping for:

2 or more bedrooms
A bit of yard for gardening and play
A garage or storage space

Here is what I would LOVE to have in addition:
A fireplace
A porch
The possibility to adopt a cat

We don't need anything fancy.  Gary does a lot of work from home so a third bedroom for an office would be lovely.

Here is what we currently have:
4 bedrooms, 2 baths
1400 sq ft
Fenced in yard
Attached 2 car garage
$1900 a month

The fourth bedroom meant that Noodle and I had a workroom where we could create together. It was lovely.

Last week, I called about a small rental home on the west side of town. It was a 2 bedroom, 1 bath that was a little less than 900 sq ft. It had already rented. At $2100 a month.

This one came up today:
It is a very sweet 2 bedroom, 2 bath home.  A little over 1200 sq ft with garage.  My heart leapt.  Until I saw the rent.

$3000 a month with a $4500 deposit.

My family is not poor. Although we struggle, we have two working adults in the family and we are fine. We both have good jobs. However, even for us it would be difficult to come up with first month's rent AND an almost $5000 deposit.  Yet, this is what we are faced with.  Even if we could figure out how to find the money to rent this place AND beat out the other dozens of applicants, how would we ever afford $3000 a month?  And we would be downsizing yet again.

Then, I think about families who aren't as fortunate as we are.  How can THEY afford to live here? They can't.  Our homeless population is growing every day.

Here is another one:

This little 2 bedroom, 1 bath home is going for $2450 a month.  About 1000 sq ft. No garage.   $3200 deposit.

Over the weekend, I drove by another two bedroom, 1 bath house that was about 900 sq ft going for $2450 a month.

Many people have asked us why we don't buy.  First of all, we would be buying at the top of the market.  Houses for sale are just as bad right now with multiple offers and houses selling for $20,000 to $30,000 over asking.  Also, we don't have a good down payment right now. We are working on paying down debt and improving our credit.  The time isn't right for us to buy. I wish it was.  It would solve a lot of problems.

I am trying to push down fear and anxiety and put one foot in front of the other.  There is still time.  While we continue our search, we are dismantling our home of almost four years and packing boxes.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Renting in Sonoma County: A Personal Story

(Image Source)

Back in October of 2011, we were scrambling to find a new rental home.  We felt so lucky to stumble upon the little house we live in.  It is a modest four bedroom, two bath 1400 sq ft home.  It is $1900 a month and we loved that it had a big fenced in front yard and an attached garage.  The yard has been wonderful for Noodle and the neighbors are great. The four bedrooms meant that my husband could have an office and Noodle and I could have a workroom.  We downsized a lot when we moved in but it has been a great place to live and we hoped to live there for many years.  We have worked hard to take care of this house and improve the yard. I planted daffodils and we pulled up all the ivy that was choking the backyard.  On Sunday, we weeded and prepared the beds for Spring. I even built Noodle what I hoped would be a fun living teepee for Summer.

On Monday, I came home from work to a 60 day notice on our front door. Without any explanation, our landlord has asked us to leave.  We have been excellent tenants and have never been late a single time with the rent in the almost four years we have been there.  Our only thought is that the owners want to sell it.  We are devastated.

We are facing some difficult obstacles:

1) This could not come at a worse time.  I am chairing the school fundraiser on April 11 and Noodle and I both have birthdays in May. I am turning 40 this year and had hoped to go to Disneyland. Now, it appears I get to celebrate my birthday (and Noodle's) by moving.

2) The rental market is awful where we live. There is no inventory and tremendous competition for what few houses are available. My realtor friend told me that 25-50 applications are going in on each rental.

3)The few houses that are available are currently for rent for unbelievable amounts.  One 2 bedroom, 1 bath house that I had hoped to view just rented for $2100 a month. It is around 1000 sq ft.

4) We have a personal obstacle.  When my husband lost his job several years ago, we struggled to get by.  We had to resort to credit cards to make it through.  We have been paying off the debt but our credit took a hit.  There is no deliquency. Just high debt-to-credit ratio. This makes us less competitive as renters.

5) You all know my much-beloved feline companion died last month.  This has been hard for all of us.  We had hoped to surprise Noodle with a kitten for his birthday. Almost all of the current rentals do not allow pets.

Cost of living in Northern California is unbelievable.  Families are getting pushed out as few can afford to live here anymore.  We have 60 days to find a new home.  I am going to share my journey here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Story of Toulouse

Back in 2001, I had just turned 26 and had been through a rough breakup. I owned a three-story townhouse and it felt very lonely and big.  Katrina had just occurred and I heard in the news that many Katrina animals had been evacuated to Denver. They were right down the street from my house at the Denver Dumb Friends League.  Even though I had always been more of a cat person, I decided I needed to adopt one of the Katrina dogs from Texas.  I went several days in a row to look at dogs and each day the dog I was most interested in got adopted right out from under me.  On the third day, I decided to look at cats as well.  As I walked by the wall of cats, I saw one tuxedo cat that looked completely at home and comfortable.  I have always had a weakness for tuxies and black cats. I asked to spend some time with "Slippers" and loved how comfortable and confident he seemed.  I adopted him immediately.

I renamed him Toulouse because Slippers seemed a bit undignified. Toulouse had lived with an elderly lady the first three years of his life.  When she moved into a nursing home, Toulouse had to be taken to the Dumb Friends League.  He adapted to his new life and name right away. He never answered to Slippers but he would always answer to Toulouse.

Toulouse did have some naughty kitty tendencies at first such as using my furniture as a scratching pad.  The vet suggested Soft Paws and he wore those for years. I used colored ones so I could tell when they fell off. Everyone always asked me why I painted my cat's nails.  I would never do such a thing!

Toulouse was an indoor only cat and loved spending time looking out the window and luxuriating by the fireplace.  I would often light fires just for him.

He got me through my wild years in Denver and was there when I met my husband Gary. 

When Gary visited me during a blizzard, we opened the back door and let Toulouse explore a little bit. He came right back inside.

Like many cats, he wanted to be right in the middle of whatever I was doing. I think he is yawning in this photo but I think he looks like he is smiling or laughing.

He was not excited when Noodlebug came along and pretty much ignored him the first few years. Toulouse was never much of a lap cat but, for some reason, he spent a lot of time purring on my belly when I was pregnant.

Towards the end of his life, he liked Noodlebug more and would sometimes sit on him.  That made me happy.  This is one of my favorite videos of all time that was taken when Noodle was about 1.5 years old.

I was so blessed to have Toulouse for 14 wonderful years.  He really wasn't himself anymore over the last year.  Gary and I did everything we could to save him and make him more comfortable but I couldn't watch my beloved kitty suffer anymore. We said goodbye yesterday.  My constant companion of 14 years is gone and I don't know what I will do without him.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Happy Friday!

Funny cats on Friday.You're welcome.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Accountability Rings

We have been struggling in our little family with discipline and yelling. My husband has been failing in the patience department and I find myself struggling there as well. And not just with my son. Intellectually, I know that yelling accomplishes nothing. It isn't going to get my son or anyone else to do what I want. It is just such a hard habit to break and such an easy and comfortable pattern to fall into. 

I have gone back to reading some of my favorite parenting books including POSITIVE DISCIPLINE and I have been trying meditation classes at our local Buddhist center.  Anything to break me of this negative pattern I have fallen into!

Then, I came across this article.  The article talks about how a mom is using a set of rings to stop yelling. All five rings start on her right hand. When she has a setback such as yelling, she moves a ring to her left hand.  I liked this idea of a physical reminder to keep me accountable. 

Like the woman in the article, I am using this set of rings from Stella and Dot.  They are pretty affordable at $39 and I like how simple looking they are.

My sweet girlfriend knew I wanted to do this and she bought these for me.  I am so lucky to have such supportive friends!

I am not perfect. Far from it. But I am willing to do the work to get better. I want to be a better mom, a better wife, a better daughter, a better friend. I am hoping this is one step in that process.  I will let you know how it goes!