Authorlaura

Pretending to be a Photographer 2.0

Over the holidays, we stopped at the beautiful Reiman Gardens in Ames, Iowa. With warmth, butterflies and flowers in the middle of winter, this place is very inviting and inspiring!

Here are a few of my favorite shots from our visit:

butterfly1

butterfly2

butterfly3

butterfly4
My designer takeaway: Practice makes us better, and sometimes it’s even fun to practice!

Holiday Card for the Animal Shelter 2.0

For the second year, a friend who works at the local animal shelter asked me to design a holiday card for them. Of course I agreed again!

They sent me a couple of ideas they liked themed around fun, cartoonish design. They also shared a new logo they’re switching to. We played with a holiday theme graphically, but their new brand colors instead of the traditional green and red for a little bit different feel.

cas-holiday-card-2016-blue-green-1

cas-holiday-card-2016-blue-green-2

I hope it helped them share some goodwill this season. I always enjoy helping out when I can.

My designer takeaway: Throw out the obvious color choices every now and then. Mix it up.

Why You Want to Hire a Mother

I recently went to an interview for a new job, which had some evening and weekend hours. I was asked how I would handle that with a young family. While I know this behavior is common (and not something that would be asked of a father), I want to address why you want to hire a mother.

I feel like motherhood teaches a lot of really great skills that we should want to include on our resumes, rather than hiding the fact that we have a family in an interview setting. These skills include: organization, problem solving, flexibility, dealing with issues publicly, a learner, a teacher, a well-rounded person.

  • As a mother, one likely manages multiple schedules and possessions. She has methods and tricks that make organizing it all work (at least most of the time). A mother’s day begins with problem solving to get everyone ready for the day on time with the gear they need.
  • Ever dealt with a growing baby? Every new parent learns the art of flexibility because as soon as you notice a baby’s pattern of behavior, it changes. You learn, by force, to roll with the punches.
  • Negotiating with an upset person in public? Yup, every mother of a 2-3 year old or teenager has experienced this, and at the very least knows what doesn’t work.
  • Mothers have been humbled to know they have a lot to learn, but they are learning, rapidly and on a variety of topics daily (medical, psychological, educational, developmental, science and more).
  • Mothers are also teachers, from the basic skills like eating … to philosophies on the way the world works. A mother knows that sometimes the least convenient time is the best time for teaching.

I don’t see how an employer wouldn’t want someone with these skills.

Is a mother going to take off from work sometimes to tend to her family? Yes.
But let me ask you this: Do you want to live in a world where mothers’ don’t? I don’t. And for that matter, I don’t want to live in a world where fathers miss out on family either.

My takeaway: We’re all in it together, even if you don’t have children. You were a child once.

Five Life Lessons I Learned From Coaching Youth Soccer

youth soccer

youth soccer

I love soccer. I love to play it and watch it. I really wanted to share it with my kids (knowing full well that they’ll probably fall in love with a different sport. Murphy’s Law, right?)

So when my son’s team ended up without a coach last year, I gingerly stepped forward. But this new coaching role … it was hard! And I have and continue to learn a lot from these little players, both about soccer and life. Here is a glimpse at what I’ve gained:

  • Don’t let one problem person distract you from seeing all the good happening around you. On each of the teams I’ve coached, there are always a couple of players who act out. My first tactic is to ignore this behavior because I don’t want to provide attention for poor behavior. The problem is when one player’s bad behavior affects another player. Then I have to step in. I can handle this a few times, but after awhile, it wears me down and makes me angry. I have to remind myself that even though one or a handful of players are being obnoxious, the others are playing hard and learning. There are coaches and parents donating their time and energy. There are positive relationships being built. There is a lot of good happening around, if you can just look past those annoyances.
  • When it gets tough, just keep showing up. This one goes hand in hand with the first lesson I learned. After those hard practices that make you want to quit, just keep showing up. Just keep trying. Life’s not always pretty, but we make progress if we just keep going.
  • Parenting is part of coaching, part of being a mentor. This lesson caught me more off guard than it should have. I thought I was there to facilitate the fun. Nope. I am a teacher, and it’s not limited to soccer. Life lessons that have come up include:
    • Treat others with respect. (This is so multifaceted: respect adults when their talking, respect teammates when listening and practicing, have respectful physical interactions with teammates and opponents, have respectful conversations with teammates and opponents.)
    • Life is not fair; play the game you’re given.
    • Don’t play down (dirty); play like the kind person you want to be.
  • I want our sons and daughters to see women as leaders (coaches), and that means I might have to step up and be that leader. The first team I coached was an all boys team. I really worried that they’d look at me (a mom, a female) and think “What does she know?” To my surprise, this didn’t happen. I hope it doesn’t for this generation. Then I coached a co-ed team, and I can tell you the girls were thrilled to have a female coach. I hope they continue to see this throughout their lives.
  • Don’t lose sight of the goal: Fun! After those miserable practices where I’ve yelled a lot, I try to think of how I can do it differently the next time. How can I make sure it’s fun, and the team wants to keep coming back? Usually I switch something up: more time to goof around at the beginning, a different warm up drill  or new skill to teach, make them the activity leaders, or change the rules for the scrimmage at the end.

soccer2

My designer takeaway: “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

― Theodore Roosevelt

Our BB8 Cake

I always love to surprise my family with a fun birthday cake or cupcakes. When my husband’s birthday rolled around this year, I really wanted to make him a BB8 (the robot from Star Wars) cake. I hunted around the internet, and I just couldn’t find anything simple enough that I felt like we could tackle it. Most of them were 3D made with two ball-shaped cakes. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go there. And, I don’t do fondant, which ruled out a lot. But, I finally found some flat examples that we based our cake on.

Here is what we came up with:

bb8

This is just two round cakes. One pan was slightly smaller. I chopped about a third off the smaller cake and angled the bottom edges. We frosted it all in white. Then I drew the details into the white frosting with a tooth pick.

My mom (aka Grandma) with her steady hand and my kids traced on the orange and gray details.

We were all pretty pleased and eager to show it off to the birthday boy, who loved it.

BB8Adam

My designer takeaway: Research and then simplify!

Finally Finished – Knitted Cowl

Doesn’t it feel great to finish a project? I love checking something off my to-do list.

knittingcowl

Well, I’m checking off a really old knitting project that I started in 2013 when I did my monthly Creativity Challenge knitting class. This was the final project we started in that class, and it is one of the more challenging projects we did. It involves following a pattern and changing colors a lot.

After finishing this 82-row pattern, I can say that I feel pretty comfortable tackling something like this in the future.

In the beginning, I had to sit in a quiet room, alone, so that I could count stitches and concentrate. Now, I’m comfortable sitting in a room with the television on and my family! I’ve gotten much faster at completing a row, but it’s still fairly time consuming. I can use the previous row’s pattern to know when to change colors rather than counting all the time. While it felt tortuous at times, I’ve learned a ton and expanded my knitting comfort zone.

cowl-finished

Now, I’m going to admit how long it took me to finished this project: more than a year! How silly is that! I could only commit to doing one row a night sporadically (being a mother of two young children). I really hoped to finish it sooner, but nevertheless it is done! Now, what about those other unfinished projects from that class … or maybe I’ll rip them out and make socks. 🙂

close-up-cowl

My designer takeaway: Sometimes learning can be painful and painfully slow, but it is rewarding in the end! Keep going!

Groundhog Birthday Cupcakes

My mom’s birthday is February 2, Groundhog’s Day. While we have teased her every year about seeing her shadow, we have never gone so far as to incorporate a groundhog into her cake. This year, I went there (and then I promised her to never do it again). 🙂

groundhogs

I found this cute little cupcake tutorial on Pinterest for groundhog cupcakes. They were pretty simple. I just had to buy a few kinds of candy and cookies. (And, I used cookies rather than peanut butter cups for the head because we have a nut allergy in our family.)

To build these cute little heads, you use melted chocolate chips for glue. Boy did it hold well!

groundhog

Sorry mom, but it was just too much fun! (She loved them!)

My designer takeaway: Go ahead and make the obvious every once in awhile.

Wrist Rattle Baby Card

I did a simple, cute little project the other day that I thought would be fun to share. I have this stash of gifts in my basement for birthdays, baby showers, etc. I was digging in the pile one day and discovered a package of wrist rattles. I had an idea to turn them into a baby card.

wristrattlecards

Of course I needed a saying for the card, and the song “Shake, Rattle and Roll” popped into my head. Cheesy works, right! I added a little color, some fun fonts (I’m currently addicted to the font Lilly Belle. I could go nuts with this sweet font. If you don’t have it, download it here.), and two holes to wrap the band through. And, TADA!

wristrattlecardinside

I love this card because it has a nice 3D focal point, it looks great on a simple gift bag or wrapping, and it’s a little gift, too.

wristrattlecard

My designer takeaway: Add a little dimension to your work. It may not fit in an envelope, but it might be too fun to be hidden, anyway!

My Favorite Things #1

I love a list of favorites. Don’t you? I usually discover something new with an honest critique/recommendation.

At this time of year, the feeling of beginning again or starting anew, has had a big impact on my favorites. Here is where my heart is at the moment:

1. Decluttering calendar
For the last three years, I have started to follow a calendar like this. Even though I get stopped each time, I love the progress I’ve made and the philosophy of tackling it in little steps each day. Recently, we even organized our junk drawer. I love to open it now!

coloringexample

2. Adult coloring books and this blog post: How to Color Like a Boss
I have given them as gifts, but this year, I received one! I love telling my family to stay out of my coloring book and markers. I love the excuse to enjoy a “child’s activity.” It’s nice to take the time to concentrate on it, even if it’s just five minutes. The activity seems to suck me in, and I lose track of time. It feels like a good test of color combinations and visual depth.

birddrawings

3. Draw a bird each day to avoid depression
I’m not so much worried about avoiding depression, but I love the concept of having one little drawing to do each day (and I love his collection of birds for sale). It’s like an ongoing artist study. We could easily switch this concept to any animal or object.

4. Audiobooks
I love a good story, written or read. Lately, I seem to be stumbling on to audiobooks that are like performances. It makes the experience so much richer than if I had just read the story. Here’s one to try: JoJo Moyes’ “The Girl You Left Behind”

5. Mini canvases
I bought a pack of canvases to try out, but I’ll admit it, I was chicken to start and “waste them.” One day recently, my son asked for something sturdier to paint on, and I busted them out. I love them. I hope to play some more, even if I do waste some.

6. Trying new recipes
I try to use a new recipe most weeks. Lately I’ve been toying with making a new soup each week. If that goes well, I’ll share with you here! But here is this week’s recipe that I’m going to try, Mongolian Beef. I love using a slower cooker!

7. Minute to Win It Games
Every time I host a party, I search for some minute to win it games. I love this concept, silly and fast. They are games that we haven’t done and won’t inherently be good at. They will make everyone cheer and laugh. My son’s school teacher even incorporated some at their last class party. Genius!

guitarvalentines

puppyvalentines

8. Homemade Valentines
Over the years, I/we have made a lot of Valentines for my kids’ classes. We’ve made puppies, ladybugs, rockets, guitars, fish, superheroes, dinosaurs and more. It’s always a lot of fun and a lot of work. I realized as my kids have gotten a little older and more able to help that it’s a good project for them. They get to not only create something, but also think of others and give to them.

fairydoor

9. Fairy Gardens
While I don’t have mine up and running yet, I’ve been collecting items and ideas. I have a lovely front door and a large log with a vision. I hope to share this with you in the summer months.

10. Just Dance
Our Wii has come back into play since we bought a copy of Just Dance (a old edition). It’s a lot fun with some silly moves and, hey, it has to add a little bit of exercise into our playtime. In the winter, we need to get our energy out somehow!

Holiday Card for the Animal Shelter

This year, a friend who works at the local animal shelter asked me to design a holiday card for them. Of course I agreed!

They sent me some photos and text, and I gave them a couple of options. I’ve said it before, but I enjoy the freedom of working for free. There is an unwritten rule of “I get to do what I want to do (for the most part).” I used colors from their new website and had some fun. I mimicked some of the family holiday cards I’ve seen recently with the animal portraits. I think of this design as the Brady Bunch design. 🙂

front of card

front of card

back of card

back of card

We also ended up adding a decal for the card.

CAS-decal-2015---4x4inches

I hope it helps them raise money and find homes for the animals! It made me feel good to help. What more could I ask for?  

My designer takeaway: A free project every now and then can be freeing and a creativity boost!

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