Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Flying Dog

I am not a food/restaurant critic, nor do I play one on tv or the internet. If I were however, I would have to give The Flying Dog in Waterloo Ontario at least eleventeen gold stars in all categories: food, service, price, atmosphere.

Last night we took our oldest daughter and her hubby there for dinner for a late birthday present for him, and it was quite possibly the most enjoyable restaurant we've been to in a very long time. From what I understand, it's the location of an old roller rink, completely redone on the inside to give off a sort of an old world feel. When you walk in, it's very dark but lit by tons of candles, with torches on the walls that light up the gargoyles that are quite literally everywhere you look. It almost feels like walking onto the set of a 1930's black and white Frankenstein movie, only it's not at all frightening, it's just very very cool.

The waiter we had last night was quite pleasant with a sense of humor, without being one of those over the top "you're not nearly as funny as you think you are" types of people. Honestly, waitstaff like that can ruin a good time when you're out to eat.

The food was absolutely incredible. There were so many choices that I had a hard time deciding, but I settled on the French Onion soup and Flying Dog Mac & Cheese. Now, lest you think "what, you had mac & cheese??" let me assure you, it's not what you think. Made with bacon and parsley, 3 different cheeses and baked with a delicious crust topping, this is the stuff only grandmas know how to make (and, well, the cooks at the Flying Dog - which may or may not be grandmas, I didn't notice). The French Onion soup was just beyond incredible, it was downright crazy-good. Loaded with toasted onions and cheeses and bread... oh man was it good! I couldn't even finish it all, so I brought it home for lunch today! Yay me. Kev Caryn and Eric all absolutely loved what they ordered too, Louisana Pasta with loads of veggies and seafood, and Pad Thai. I have absolutely no idea what is in Pad Thai, but Caryn and Eric were writing poetry and folk songs about it before we even left, so it must have been quite remarkable.

We went on Half Price Pasta Wednesday, so the prices were just fantastic for what we ordered. For example, my appetizer and entree were less than 12 bucks, and it was more food than I could eat in one sitting. For dessert, there were 2 slices of white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, a vanilla bean cheesecake and a Godiva triple chocolate cheesecake. Yes, the Godiva was mine. So big and so rich I could only eat half of it, and it also came home for lunch today.

All in all, it was a perfectly wonderful dining experience. If you're anywhere near Waterloo Ontario and have never been to the Flying Dog, you really ought to go. Soon.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pink Ribbon Chicks

Fighter Chick Yesterday I was contacted by a lady through my zazzle shop who wanted to know if she could purchase my Chick design in the form of a Breast Cancer Awareness Chick, complete with pink ribbon. When I created that line I had every intention of adding a Breast Cancer Awareness Chick, but just hadn't got to it yet.

Well, now I have. That custom request plus the fact that national breast cancer awareness month is just around the corner gave me the little reminder that I needed. In fact I've added three Pink Ribbon Chick lines. Fighter Chick (shown here on stickers), Support Chick and Survivor Chick.

The Pink Ribbon Chick lines come on keychains, buttons, magnets, stickers, mousepads, mugs, t-shirts, tote bags, hats, aprons and binders. The Support Chick line also has kid sized t-shirts for babies and girls. (Survivor Chick and Fighter Chick products are also now available at Reflections cafepress)

I've known far too many women over the years who have been directly impacted by breast cancer, and just recently learned that the sister of a dear friend was diagnosed with it as well. I'm a strong believer in breast cancer awareness and the education that comes along with it, as well as support and encouragement for those battling it and those holding up the ones who are battling it. As a cancer widow myself, that kind of support and encouragement makes all the difference in the world, trust me.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Monday, September 27, 2010

Great FREE offer: 5 Free Christmas Cards!

You may or may not have already seen this, but in case you haven't I didn't want you to miss it!

What a GREAT offer!

Use promo code HOLIDAYCARDZ at checkout to receive up to 5 free cards


Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Personalized Party Invites

I was especially pleased with how this new custom design came together and I wanted to share it here:

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Why I Can't Stand Justin Bieber

My FB status from earlier today:

"I think I need to write a blog post entitled: "Why I Can't Stand Justin Bieber". Yes, I think such a post is in order."

So, as I mentally prepare for a herd of indignant, defensive tweenage girls to descend on my blog like a flock of half-starved vultures on a fresh roadkill deer, allow me to clarify.

It isn't really Justin Bieber himself, that I can't stand. Having said that, let me say this as well: I've never met him, don't really know much about him or his background, and for all I know he's a wonderfully polite, well-mannered, well-behaved kid. He is from Stratford which is right up the road from me, and in my very limited 12 year experience of living in the area, I find that most Canadian kids (that I've run across) seem to be rather layed back and fairly good kids. On the other hand, for all I know he's a mouthy, inconsiderate, ungrateful, disrespectful punk. In which case it would be most accurate to say I can't stand him. I'd like to just pretend for now that he's of the former camp and not the latter, because quite frankly we have too many teenage kids in our North American culture already, in the latter camp.

Justin Bieber and Donny OsmondI don't study (or pretend to study) pop culture, but the first time I saw him (about a year ago I guess) I thought "he's the Donny Osmond of this era". Sure enough, if you go to google there are oodles of comparison pics just like this one. Lots and lots of people seem to think that Bieber bears a striking resemblance to another little boy pop star from another era.

I was a little too young to be mortally afflicted with Osmond Fever in the Osmond Brother's hey day in the early 70s, but my older sister was in fact stricken with it and since we shared a room and the radio and stereo were hers, I heard Donny and his brothers all the time. I do mean, ALL the time. Donny this, Donny that, I love Donny, I'm going to marry Donny, Donny's favorite color is purple, Donny's birthday is December 9th, Donny, Donny, Donny... sigh... Donny. In exactly the same way tween (and older) girls today have Bieber Fever (why does typing that make me want to go wash my hands?) girls of the same age back in the early 70s had Donny Fever.

The one big difference that stands out to me between Justin and Donny is the level of exposure. While there certainly was a fairly large selection of Osmond (and Donny, by himself) memorabilia such as lunch boxes, posters, etc., it wasn't even close to the level of what it seems to be with Justin Bieber. I say seems to be, only because it seems like there is almost nowhere you can go in our culture without seeing or hearing some kind of Bieber-esque related media. It would seem that the advertising and marketing people associated with making loads of cash off the Bieber Fever phenom are working over time to literally shove this kid in our faces.

This, is what I can't stand. To the sick freaks making a killing off his success (and in some cases actually generating that success), he's just a product. He's no different than a pair of Levi's, a Dodge truck or a can of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. The more his "people" get him out there on posters, school supplies, cds, youtube vids, talk shows, and even prime time crime dramas, the more exposure he has, the more money they make, and everyone goes off giggling to the bank.

The problem with that is, he's not a Dodge truck. He's a kid. More frightening than that, he's a teenaged kid. He's 16 years old and I guarantee you even having never met him, he has NO idea what he really wants to do in life, where he sees himself in 10 years, what his worldview is, what matters the most to him, or any of that sort of thing. None of us really had those things down firm at 16 but odds are, most of us didn't have a crew of people shoving us into the limelight at that age either. No doubt he's enjoying the fame and fortune (as any of us likely would at 16) but at what cost does this fame come? All anyone has to do is read the "entertainment" headlines to see article after article of former child star who eventually had a monumental meltdown when thier cutesie-poo childhood looks were gone, or those who were diggin' the high life so much at such a young age they ventured off into drugs or alcohol abuse and now at 22 look twice their age and can't keep it together with duct tape and super-glue. Granted, not all former child stars end up like this but far too many of them do. And every one of them that did, were pushed and pulled and exposed to the public over and over and over again and expected to play the role that had been cleverly marketed for them. That's a huge amount of pressure on a 16 year old kid. Eventually, a lot of them finally just crack (no pun intended), and while it's always sad to see it happen, I think most of us can understand why.

That's the main reason I can't stand Justin Bieber, or rather, the Justin Bieber that his "people" shove in the faces of the public. The other reason I can't stand him, really isn't his fault at all but again the fault of his people. Not only is he shoved in the faces of all of us, all the time, but he's specifically being marketed to girls between the ages of roughly 9-14. Girls who have been told over and over again how cute and wonderful and awesome and cute (did I say cute? because I've only heard it at least a thousand times in the last week) he is, and how they MUST have his cds, mp3s, posters, binders, shoelaces, earrings, attend his concerts, become a fan on his FB page and watch anything and everything that he's going to be in, on tv.

Now I ask you, how many 11 year old girls do you know, that have a steady source of disposable income that can afford to purchase all this Bieber-related stuff? None? Me too! So, who's buying it all for them? BINGO, Mommy and Daddy are! It's the classic ad campaign that has driven us parents nuts for years and yet still works because there are parents out there that give in to it ALL the time. Market your MUST HAVE product at the teen level, and it's almost a guarantee that it will be a success. Right now (and this will change in a year or two, it always does) Bieber is a MUST HAVE product and he's selling well. Not to teenage girls that don't even have their own money, but to their parents who cave in and buy this stuff for them.

Now this is not to say that I'm down on parents ever buying anything cool, fun, trendy or entertaining for their kids because we all do it on some level. It is to say however, that the ones being hooked by the Bieber ad campaigning are making a lot of people very, very wealthy and at the same time, contributing to the totally abnormal and unrealistic lifestyle of this 16 yr old kid - just to make their own kid, happy.

Kind of creepy when you think about it that way, isn't it?

So there you have it. That is why I can't stand Justin Bieber. Your mileage may vary.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Bloggers Without Makeup

I'm fairly certain I've written on this subject before. After 6+ years of blogging it's almost a given that I have, but today I'm going to write about it again.

I really used to like Over the years though it's turned into celebrity central and is almost always filled with celebrity headlines. Who's getting married, divorced, having an affair, spotted with their children, seen without makeup, then & now, etc. so forth and so on. Headline after headline of useless, trivial, unimportant information that they want you and I to consider "news". Recently I clicked on one of their Then & Now slideshows, and one of their Stars Without Makeup slideshows. I wanted to know, what makes this news? Why should I look at this?

What I found rather interesting was that over and over again the captions on the pictures of "now" and "without" makeup were rather demeaning and insulting. See, these are glamorous movie stars and pop stars and models, so they're apparently supposed to look pretty and polished 24 hours a day. I guess. I guess if you're a celebrity you're not allowed to be human.

More than anything, what I found was that these celebrities in the "now" pictures and in the without makeup pictures looked... almost... normal. They looked like anyone you'd see at the grocery store, or walking their dog at the park. The ones who have aged, looked the way they're supposed to look for their age. Well, the exception there would be the women who have had so much cosmetic surgery done that they just look frightened, and frightening. The sad irony of aging women who get this kind of surgical procedure done in desperate hopes of hanging on to a youthful appearance, is that they just end up looking like the Joker from Batman. Big, fat lips that make them look like they've been stung by a swarm of bees, and eyebrow arches so unnaturally high they have this perpetually scared look about them. Most of the others though just looked normal. Drooping eyelids, crows feet, jowels, wrinkles and all. The way elderly people are supposed to look!

The same goes for many of the stars without makeup. Many of them apparently take pretty good care of their skin because they look healthy, and have a natural beauty about their faces. In many of the pictures of the stars with their makeup, they just look so fake and it actually takes away from how naturally pretty they are.

The headlines and the captions on these pictures send a very clear message:


To which I say, pffffffft! Not only is it perfectly okay to look normal, it's perfectly ridiculous to go out of your way every day of your life to look fake. Now I'm not anti-makeup or anything like that, but to put so much emphasis on making sure your war paint is perfectly applied every single day to cover up your real look, is just freakish to me.

The vast majority of the time I don't wear any makeup at all, and I've been like this for many years. For me it was just a personal decision. One day it occured to me what a huge waste of time and money it was to have and use foundation, liner, lipstick, blush, eye shadow and all that sort of thing every single day when all I was doing was dishes, laundry, teaching the kids and maybe running to the grocery store. In fact, (and this is just my opinion of course) it looks far more bizarre to me to see a woman at the store all dolled up, than it ever does to see one looking fresh faced and... normal.

Now don't get me wrong, I do like to get prettied-up just like most women do. I like to paint my nails and try a new shade of lipstick, and put some make up on now and then if I'm going someplace special. In a way I guess I see it the same way as either wearing high heels or sensible flats when you're running errands, or for men wearing a 3 piece suit or a pair of jeans and a t-shirt when taking the car into the garage. I think there's a time and a place for getting pretty and a time and a place for being without the glam. The message that our culture likes to push though, that's it's not okay to look natural, really gets on my last nerve. Especially considering the vast majority of us couldn't look as glamorous and polished as these celebs with all the makeup in the world. That is not the natural look most people have.

That's fake, and to me, being fake is not okay.

(This post was brough to you without makeup, and in my pajamas.)

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Friday, September 24, 2010

Good Job!

When I was homeschooling, one of the brightest spots in my day was giving out awards for a job well done. If one of the kids did an excellent job on a spelling test, or got all their math problems correct, it was my delight to put a really cute little sticker at the top of the paper and hand it back to them.

There really is something quite magical about a fun little star sticker when it's handed to a kid along with praise for a job well done. Their faces light up and they proudly display their work (and sticker) for all to see. It doesn't really matter how old you are, I think we all like to be recognized for our hard work and told "good job". The kids just get the stickers to go along with that recognition.

As some may know, we're no longer homeschooling and these last few weeks I've been on a cleaning frenzy, de-cluttering what was once our schoolroom. It's a huge job to sort through years and years things piled and filed and stacked in bins, drawers, shelves and boxes. Yesterday I came across one of my favorite teacher tools ever, and that was the giant roll of motivational stickers. Since we're not homeschooling anymore, I can't hand these out the way I used to so I wanted to do something a little more permanent with them. I've redesigned (and even created a few new ones) each sticker and put them on these fun 3 ring Good Job Binders in the form of a single graphic:

Two different styles to choose from, primary colors for boys and lighter pastels for girls! Now, all day long at school (they'll even work just fine for homeschooling kids as well), my kids or your kids can just be super-encouraged anytime they take their binder out and use it. The binders are also personalizable, so you can add your child's name to the front and the spine of each one.

Normally, I post about new stuff and fun stuff on the store blog, but I wanted to share this here today with my Reflections readers. I might even decide to order one for myself. Big girls like stars too. :o)

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fall Comfort Food: Soup, Soup, Soup!

(UPDATE: if you have a soup recipe at your blog please let me know and I'll add it to the end of the post!)

... and soup!

Kev and I decided a few weeks ago that once the fall weather is in full gear, we're going to do a sort of Soup Bonanza around here. He and I and all of the kids really love soup, so we're on a mission to begin trying all sorts of new and wonderful soups, stews and chowders. I'm usually the reluctant one when it comes to trying new foods, so this will be quite the adventure for me. I do have my favorites; Mom's Potato Soup, my turkey/bacon soup (the best use of leftover holiday turkey, ever), Campbell's vegetable beef, and bean with bacon. I really like a hearty chicken noodle as well, because some days it just works out that way that nothing in the world is as good as a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup.

Is there anything as wonderful as coming inside on a cool and breezy autumn day to the smell of a big pot of fresh soup simmering on the stove? I suppose there are a few things as wonderful, but not many. One of my most treasured memories of childhood was coming inside from playing in the snow and mom serving up a big hot bowl of potato soup (or a mug of tomato soup with a pat of butter and a dash of salt and pepper) with grilled cheese sandwiches. Ahhh... nothing warms the bones and takes the chill out of snow-fingers, like a good old fashioned soup dinner. No wonder it's called Comfort Food!

Right now there are some fantastic Campbell's chunky soups on sale at the local grocery store for less than half of their regular price (yay, bargains on wonderful things) so I'm going to stock the panty with a load of those. I'm much more interested though, in making my own soups and stews. I love my crockpot and I can't think of a better use for it this fall than to be the starting point of an incredible pot of homemade soup.

With that in mind, I'm hoping my readers might like to answer a few questions:

1. What is your favorite soup?
2. What is your favorite side dish to go with your soup?
3. Do you make your own, buy canned, or a combo of the two?
4. Do you have a favorite soup/stew/chowder recipe you'd like to share?
5. Do you have a favorite soup cookbook that you'd like to share?

Okay so that was slightly more than a few. Soup is serious business though, and requires much careful planning. I'm looking forward to hearing from you on this!

UPDATED: It occured to me as I was printing out Kim's delicious sounding Lentil Soup recipe that I needed a new binder just for soups, stews and chowders. So, I made one this morning. You can get one here, if you're a big soup nut like me! I plan to have mine stuffed so full that I'll need two of them!

Kim's Lentil Soup

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Farewell Wanda

(General disclaimer: men, this post will bore you senseless. This is just between me and the girls, since they'll understand where I'm coming from on this, and you'll just fall asleep. You've been warned, so just click away now.)

I'm not really sure when or where it happened, but somewhere between the age of about 20 and now, I took a turn and found myself in a time warp when it comes to what ladylike means, and what ladylike looks like. Allow me to explain, if I can. This may come off as rather random so hopefully you can follow along. Hopefully I can too.

When I was younger, ladylike was my mom when she'd get dressed up to go out on a Saturday night. Not that she was sloppy or anything during the week, but during the week she worked in a toolroom in the ship yard so it was jeans, blouse and sensible, concrete-floor-proof shoes. On Saturday night though, out came the pretty dresses, the panty hose, the gorgeous high heels and the subtle shade of red lipstick, always matted for just a touch of color. Mom was just so pretty when she'd get "dressed up" and us three kids were always wowed when she'd come out of her room. Classy, elegant, ladylike.

Somewhere along the way though, ladylike seemed to drop out of our culture for the most part. As I grew up, our culture changed so much that what was once proper and acceptable in polite society became more and more outrageous. Either along the lines of what I call Hootchie Mama style (sleezy, trampy, too tight, too revealing, too low, too sheer, too high, too nasty), or along the lines of excessively casual which loosely translated is what I'll call Sloppy Poppy (nasty sweat pants, stained shirts, ragged old shoes). Granted there are certainly more styles than this in our modern culture but those are the two I see the most often. One I really like but that I don't see as often as I'd like is what I'd call Smart Casual. Maybe a pair of jeans topped off with a pretty blouse and cute, trendy shoes. My oldest daughter dresses this way. I often see a new top she's wearing and tell her "oh I love that, can I have it?" I have a friend not too far from here who also dresses this way and I just really like this look. Practical and comfy but still cute, feminine and stylish.

Somehow though, ladylike (class, style, elegance) has become seriously rare and even to this day I seldom see it. There are a few ladies in my church that pull it off every time I see them (in church or around town running errands) but beyond that it's a rare sighting. Lest anyone assume I'm pointing a nasty ole judgemental finger, I assure you I am not. Just today I was so convicted of this it isn't even funny. Not that it's funny in the first place, but you get my meaning I'm sure.

Part of what I do with my online shops after I'm done creating a new design, is write keyword rich descriptions and tags for the product so that someone going to google for example, can actually find the product. To see what I mean, type into your search bar "christmas memories avery binder with pretty ribbons". Your results might not actually be the same exact as mine, but when I type that in, my new Christmas binder comes up as the #1 link in that search. If you're searching from within zazzle however where that binder is located, the specific keywords are: christmas, memories, pretty, red, gold, ribbons, snow, flakes, christmas binder. Searching for those words or a combination of those words will also yield the same results. I want people to be able to find what they're looking for so specific, accurate tags and keywords are important.

Now, you're wondering why I explained all that, aren't you? It's pretty simple, really. I write these tags and keywords every day, to describe what I've created. It occured to me today, what kind of tags and keywords I'd have to accurately write to describe what I was wearing. Not that I was wearing any sort of outrageous or nasty stuff, but if I were to be accurate the keywords would have to be along the lines of casual, pants too short (all my pants are, it's a curse I've carried since I was 12), sweat jacket too big, ugly socks (I can't find thick ones that keep my feet warm that are also cute), old, faded purple t-shirt, over-stretched scrunchie. When I realized what the keywords would be for my own outfit, I was rather embarassed.

I'm not even sure when or how it happened, but I think in my shock and resistance to becoming either a Hootchie Mama or a Sloppy Poppy I sort of went off into some other weird style that might be called Whatever Wanda.

Well, I've decided today to ditch Whatever Wanda. For whatever reason that may be entirely in my own head, I don't see myself (personality wise) in the ladylike department, but I sure can see me in the Smart Casual department. Now I love t-shirts and will wear them until I drop, but from now on whenever I go out, even to run boring errands, Wanda is not going with me. I could get away with Whatever Wanda when I was 10, 15 or even 20, but I'm 46 years old in just a few months and it's high time I at least make an effort to grow up in the warddrobe department.

I'm looking forward to going through all my clothes and filling bags for the local Goodwill. I made a rather lame attempt at this a few years ago but became lazy and never really put much effort into it. This time it's different though. Farewell Wanda, it's time to leave you behind.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Wedding Goods Clearance Sale

I've decided to downsize. In one of my online shops, that is.

As of today, everything in The Wedding Shop has been marked down and will be on sale until Friday September 17th when I discontinue everything there and close that section out.

I am considering opening a brand new, stand alone Wedding Shop, but that decision isn't firm yet. I do have some new, modern, fresh designs in mind for some great new collections but it's a very time consuming project to design entire collections. Either way, the old designs are gone after Friday so if you see something there you like get it while you can!

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

The Ultimate NON Novelty Novelty Shirt

also comes in pink, for girls!

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Status Report

I have a million things on my mind so a status report seemed in order.

Drinking... coffee, with a generous helping of cafe mocha cream. It's my favorite.

Finishing... the laundry. I have a lot of kids, and that means a lot of laundry. If I manage to get ahead of it so that there isn't a mountain of clean, unfolded laundry on the guest bed in the laundry room, I feel quite victorious. If I can manage to get it all sorted, washed, dried and folded, then I'm just Super Mom. I have 2 more loads to fold and I'm there.

Reading... honestly? The Home Depot home renovation magazine. Seriously. I found some wonderful ideas for shelves & bins that I hope to put into place for use in several rooms. I'm not only on a cleaning frenzy these days but also an organization frenzy. It feels SO good to have things where they belong again and actually know where they are when you go to look for them.

Loving... the fact that this is the second day I've been able to go all day without any kind of advil, tylenol or anything else for my knee pain. After 2 weeks it seems the damage I did to my knees while running is at about 98% healed. They still throb or twinge now and again but nothing at all like they were for a while there. I've taken two very short walks in the last 2 days and tomorrow (Lord willing of course) I plan to get on my bike and begin cycling for my morning workout. It's hard adopting new routines but I really miss my daily workouts, so I'm really looking forward to this.

Thinking... about how easy it is to begin to feel a sense of spiritual starvation when you've been away from church for too long. Oh I know full well how some will insist they're just fine with the Lord without being in church, but I have to say I'm not one of those people. I need that fellowship, that togetherness. I need to hear the word preached, have my heart convicted and my anxieties calmed. I need to join with the saints and sing songs of praise to my God. I need those things and I've been missing them for a zillion and one reasons. Illness, lack of sleep (I've resigned to the fact I will never get used to Kev being on midnights - I've tried desperately to keep my own routine and schedule and I have failed miserably), being down to one vehicle, being out of town, having family in from out of town, etc., so on and so forth. I sure want my "going to church on Sunday" routine back.

Pondering... along the same lines, why so many people call themselves Christians when they're not and they know it. Not singling anyone out at all here but it's one of those things that frustrates me. Someone once told me that the hardest people to share the gospel with are the ones who already think they're Christians, and aren't. These are people who say they believe in God and the Bible so they think that makes them a Christian. Yet, you ask them the simplest of questions about the person and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ and they can't answer you, because they truly know nothing (or next to nothing) about Him. They say they're Christians, yet when pressed admit they know very little about the Bible, don't strive to live a holy life that pleases God, and will often make excuses for the way they do live. That's not Christianity.

Remaining... determined to get this last 30 pounds of pregnancy lard off my body. Yes it's been 7 years since I was last pregnant, and that's how long I've been frustrated that this last 30 will not go away.

Fighting... the temptation every day to just give in, be fat, and learn how to somehow be okay with it. I'm totally not okay with it since my clothes never look right or feel right and that's the part I hate the most. It really is a daily thing to say "get your shoes on, get up, get moving" when after 7 years I still have this weight. If you'd like to volunteer to be in my person cheering section, please feel free to do so. Thank you to those of you who already are, you know who you are and your messages and encouragement are making a HUGE difference.

Considering... how blessed I am. Yesterday I had almost all of my kids and their tribes here for a birthday for Jordan and it always makes me feel happy when my kids are in one place where I can see them all. It's funny but our mama kitty often reminds me of myself. She has a new litter of kittens and she's fine as long as they are all in the box with her. As soon as they're big enough to move around and start tumbling and playing around the room, she starts meowing and acting anxious to have them all right there next to her. In a sense, I'm the same way. I know they grow up and move out and build their own lives, but when they all come home (even for the afternoon) I'm blessed. If I could purr, I would.

Surprised... by how even though it's been 9 years, I still cannot watch any kind of 9/11 memorial or documentary without crying. I wasn't there, and I didn't personally know anyone who was, but I remember so clearly getting that phone call that said "turn on your tv, now" and turning it on to see the most surreal, horrifying, breaking news report. We got that call just after the first plane hit, and no one really knew for certain what was happening. We watched non-stop for the next several hours, through tears and through prayer and through absolute unbelief. My heart goes out to every loved one that lost someone that day, and in the days and months that came after. I wish I could hug every one of them and somehow make them feel better.

Humbled... by an honor that to many wouldn't really seem like that big of a deal. A few days ago I was notified that has me featured on their main homepage as a "featured proseller". If you go there and scroll down you'll see reflections06 listed there on the right hand side. That's me! A lot of people think that all I do is make novelty shirts, and they laugh those off. Well, I do create those (and I like it) but I create a lot more than just those. Zazzle has a huge range of products you can design for and I absolutely love designing for many of those things. My favorite lately is Christmas photocards, personalized stationery and Sweet Sixteen party invitations (with matching US postage). I love having a place like zazzle where I can put my creations and it's always a pretty incredible feeling when someone buys my work. For many many years the income from this went to paying for homeschooling books and supplies. Now that we're no longer homeschooling, we're using that source of income to completely pay off our last credit card so that we can be 100% debt free. The way it sits right now, if the Lord is pleased to bless this venture for another 27 months at least, we will meet that goal. That's a great feeling, and being recognized by zazzle as a "featured proseller" is a pretty great feeling as well.

And with that... I have some new ideas in mind for the store, so I will end this here and get to it.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Family Friendly Coolness

Reflections Brand shirts and gifts - family friendly coolnessQuite a few times over the last little while folks have asked me if I carry Reflections branded gifts and shirts. Like... Nike or Mr. Cluck's Chicken, or... something like that.

I didn't have those for sale before, but now I do. So when someone says "hey, that's a cool shirt, where did you get that?" You can just point at the url on the shirt and say "go here, she makes all kinds of cool shirts".

The logo comes in 3 groovy color choices and is now available on shirts (only one color for the men's shirts), keychains, bumperstickers, tote bags and really cool hats, for really cool people who wear really cool hats.

You can see all the nifty new gear right here.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

We Will Not Forget: I Remember John Vigiano

This was originally posted at my old blog four years ago as a part of Project 2996.
"2,996 is a tribute to the victims of 9/11. On September 11, 2006, 2,996 volunteer bloggers will join together for a tribute to the victims of 9/11.Each person will pay tribute to a single victim. We will honor them by remembering their lives,and not by remembering their murderers. "
When I signed up for this a few weeks ago, the system there automatically assigned for me a victim to honor and remember. In conjuction with 3,310 other bloggers this week, each and every victim of 9/11 will be remembered.

We all remember what we were doing that morning, where we were standing or sitting, what was said, and the immediate shock and unbelief that washed over us. We all remember the the tears that began to flow, and we all remember feeling so helpless. This week, let's just take some time and remember the people who were there:

His name was John.

John T. Vigiano, age 36, to be exact. John was a resident of West Islip, N.Y., and was killed at the WTC. John was a member of the NYFD.

Obviously, I didn't know John. Many did though, and I wanted to make sure you got to know him a little better too. Sadly, John wasn't the only family member lost on 9/11 to the Vigiano family. His brother, a Joseph a NYC detective, also lost his life that day.

Growing Up Right

Editorial Reviews

Like the Naudet brothers' 9/11, Twin Towers began as a documentary about New York City's public safety workers and became a relevant record of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Law and Order producer Dick Wolf was looking for a new reality show and found a perfect, exciting group to film: NYPD Emergency Services Squad 3. This elite force is on call for a variety of extreme situations--armed sieges, rescues on ice, climbing massive bridges to help potential jumpers--making it a natural for Wolf's type of TV show. The program never aired, but the footage shot is the backbone for this Oscar-winning documentary short. The squad--who always wants to be first to the scene--took a heavy blow when the twin towers collapsed: 14 men died, including Joseph Vigiano, a talented officer who had roots in public service (his dad and brother were firefighters). In a brief 33 minutes, we hear from father John Sr. and the men of squad C about the brothers, the job, and that fateful September day. The film doesn't have the verisimilitude of 9/11 nor is it a dynamic film; it feels more like an excellently produced segment of a TV news magazine. Yet this tribute is unquestionably moving, effective, and a testament to everyday heroes. --Doug Thomas

No, we will never forget.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mom Seasons

It's 8:07 am as I sit down to type this out. My house is quiet, and I've already made waffles for breakfast, packed 4 lunches, washed the dishes, mopped the laundry room floor, folded a load of laundry and stood in the kitchen and watched the hummingbird at the feeder for a little while.

Today for the first time since 1997 on this Back-to-School-It's-Labor-Day-Tuesday, I do not have any kids in my house. No toddlers needing to be chased around or have a stinky-diaper-change, no little kids opening up their Bible workbooks getting ready for another day of lessons, no teenagers taking advantage of being homeschooled and sleeping in longer than they should. Nope, it's just me and the cats, and a nutty beagle wondering why she never gets to go on the bus with the kids. Today I am officially no longer a Homeschool Mom, and I'm entirely okay with it.

I can't even begin to count how many times in the last 15 years I've read the arguments both for and against homeschooling, or even how many times I've written about it myself, or responded to what others had written. It's a huge subject, an important subject and it will be debated and discussed for a very long time to come, I'm sure. As of today though, I'm out of the loop and that suits me just fine.

I would like to offer some parting wisdom however, before I leave that loop for good. It is with much regret that I have not always been as gracious as I could have been when stating my case for homeschooling, and I would like to stress just how important that aspect is. I suppose part of the reason for this is that there are so many ignorant myths about homeschooling that it quickly becomes very frustrating to try and debunk the myths for the billionth time. This is no excuse to be less than gracious, just one of the reasons some homeschoolers might come off as less than patient, myself included.

I have always seen (and so have you, if you've ever been in this situation) folks on both sides of the Public School - Homeschool debate come across as "my way or the highway" kind of folks, and I'm sure there were times when I was the same way. In a way, I would say that was back in the day of beign a Cage Stage Homeschooler. So zealous for doing the right thing that my zeal would often override my good sense and locking me in cage might have been a good idea.

I have been a Public School Mom, I have been a Homeschool Mom, I have been a 50/50 PS-HS Mom when some of them were in Public School and some were homeschooled, and now I am again a Public School Mom. So I've been on both sides of this fence and sometimes I was on both sides at the same time. It's been a unique and wonderful and frustrating and joyful and rewarding and nerve wracking experience all the way through. If there were ever any occupation harder than being a mother, I would have to say it would be that of being a homeschooling mother. It is the most demanding and important thing I think I've ever done, and I'm glad I did it for the 10 years that I did. I've taught from pre-kindergarten all the way through the junior year of highschool and I loved it. Okay I'll be totally transparent and confess some days I hated it for a few minutes here and there but that was only because it's SUCH hard work and sometimes I felt like I just wasn't up to the task. My respect for homeschool moms is immense. They are often made fun of, made the butt of jokes (even by well known Christian pastors, believe it or not) and usually just take it all in stride even though it hurts and is usually degrading. For whatever reason, Homeschool moms are generally misunderstood and that's a shame, since their devotion to their kid's education and well-being is top-notch and should be rather obvious why they're doing such a demanding thing.

What I wish everyone understood, is that one size does not fit all.

• If you're a Christian parent and you don't homeschool you just don't love the Lord and honor His word, or love your children or care about their spiritual well-being.

• If you're a Christian parent and you don't send your kids to public schools, you're stunting their social skills and denying them the opportunity to be salt and light in the schools and shame on you for not caring about evangelism.

Believe it or not, I've seen and heard both of those statements more times than I can count. I've even seen them from well respected Christian leaders, bloggers, pastors, speakers, etc. Allow me to just be real blunt here and say both statements are entirely ignorant and the people who make them seriously just need to shut up. Yes, I said shut up. Ignorant people do more damage with ill-thought out statements and broadbrushing generalizations than they realize and it's time someone told them to just shut up. Trust me, I am being gracious here.

Not all Christian parents are destined to homeschool. There could be a zillion reasons for this such as lack of resources, lack of talents in this area, disabilities (yours or your child's) a lifestyle that does not allow for one parent to be at home with the kids, etc., so on and so forth. There are some valid arguments for not homeschooling and those arguments need to be respected. On the flip side of this of course, there are also valid reasons and arguments for not sending your kids to public schools. Depending on where you live and the atmosphere of the local school district, it would be simply insane to send your precious children off to be devoured by wolves, as it were. The "trend" of homeschooling and private schooling is on a dramatic increase all across the US (and not just with Christian parents, mind you) as more and more parents make the decision to not have their kids exposed to gangs, drugs, violence, rampant promiscuity, etc., in the local school setting. If we lived in an area where that were the setting, our kids would never see the inside of the local school either. The decision to HS or to PS is a huge one, and it will vary considerably depending on many, many factors. Don't ever let someone tell you it MUST be this way or that way, because one size does not fit all when it comes to making this decision.

In our case, homeschooling for the last 10 years was both a huge blessing and in certain aspects a mistake. The mistake part was not allowing our now 20 year old to go to public school for at least part of highschool. She missed a lot of opportunities that living in the country doesn't afford kids, and we do regret that a great deal. It's different if you're in town but where we are, she was very isolated and that's never a good thing for a kid.

The decision to send the kids to public school last year (and our youngest this year) was a very, very good one. They have had (and continue to receive - that doesn't stop when they go off to public school) a solid, Christ-centered education up to this point, and that was our goal from the beginning. Now they also have opportunities to be involved with activities and interests and with kids their age and they all adapted quite well to the public school routines. All of them are very social people (I know, despite being homeschooled, imagine that) and made more friends last year in school than I could keep up with. This was a very busy summer with day visits and sleepovers all summer long with all their new friends and we expect it will be the same for Ruth now that she's in public school as well. We're very blessed that we live in the country and it's a country school where the majority of people (kids and adults both) come from at least conservative lifestyle if not Christian families. Nearly all the kids friends are fellow Christians, and that's a huge bonus.

So all that to say, one chapter closes and another opens. I have 10 more years as a mom with kids in school (unless they all go off to college or university, which would be awesome) and it will be an adventure for all of us. I was just as excited today to send them all down the laneway to the bus stop as they were. I remember the first day of school very well, and it was always exciting to see old friends, meet new ones, get back into the routine and start a new year. Right before they left this morning, Samuel said "I'm so glad we're going back to school today!" I'm glad too and look forward to another amazing school year and lots of discussions about what they're learning, things they've heard, field trips, special projects, school concerts and all that good stuff.

But for now, I'm going to completely enjoy the peacefulness in my house, and go have breakfast while I watch the hummingbird outside the kitchen window. It's a new Mom Season, and so far I think I really like it.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Friday, September 3, 2010

Random Friday Ramblings

I have lots of things on my mind so here's just a little of it:

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to listen to a really great debate on the topic "Is the New Testament Evil" between Dr. James White and Mr. David Silverman. My readers already know who James is, but for those who do not know David Silverman is the vice president of American Atheists Inc. The one and the same organization founded by the infamous American atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair.

I really don't understand atheists. Their entire world view doesn't make any sense to me, since they must borrow from the Christian worldview to define who/what they are not. What I found sort of ironic is that the word "evil" can even be used at all by an atheist. Since good and evil are firmly rooted in righteousness and wickedness, how can someone who believes we're all just a bunch of soul-less bags of goo... even lay claim to the word evil? Soul-less bags of goo can't be good or evil, they just are. Truth be told, I don't believe real atheists exist. I think anyone who claims to be one knows somewhere deep in their heart that they are in fact created in the image of God. I think they hate that fact so much that over time they've seared their own conscience because they simply cannot stand the truth and rebel against the idea of being held accountable to a holy and righteous God. What a truly frightening place to be in, when one steps out of this life and into eternity.

I'm not sure when the audio/video of this debate will be made available for purchase at, but when it is I would highly recommend getting a copy for yourself. From the Christian perspective it was a really really good example of how to answer the questions an atheist will ask and the claims they make.


Summer is almost over and in just a few days the kids go back to school (for those who live in school districts where kids return the Tuesday after Labor Day, that is). We've had a super fantastic wonderful summer here, and tonight we're going to celebrate with smores over the barbeque.

I finished off my school shopping yesterday and the one thing I noticed while looking for pants for Ruth is the popularity of skinny jeans. I detest skinny jeans. I know I'm not wearing them, but I detest seeing them on little kids (or big kids, for that matter). I really really really hate that the apparel industry borrows what's "hot" from the teen/young adult trends and works it into fashions for toddlers and children. It's just plain stupid. With that said, I did manage to find some really cute pants for Ruth that were definitely not skinny, and she loves them.

Even though she's entering second grade, this is my first year sending my "baby" off to school and it's both weird and exciting (for us both) and we're anxious about the new school year, in a good way.


I posted this on FB earlier today but I have to share it here too. You know that magical time at night, really really late at night when you're up way later than you should be, and everything is suddenly way funnier than it should be and makes you laugh like a nutter until your cheeks hurt? Well, that's what time it was last night when I read the following from @gublernation on twitter. In case you don't know (and likely don't) @gublernation is Matthew Gray Gubler, who plays Spencer Reid on Criminal Minds. Yes, I follow him on twitter. He's very funny, and here's proof:

"Why are rappers always getting busted with guns? If I were a rapper i would carry laffy taffy, expensive marbles, and a small harmonica"

Not only is it still funny at 9am when the magical giggling hour is long gone, but apparently others thought so too, since that was retweeted over 100 times since he posted it. I dig funny people.


Remember the old commercials for the cleaning product where this mystical white tornado flew through the house and left it sparkling clean? Yeah... well that's not me. I'm more of a slow moving unstable hit-and-miss storm system. I've been on a cleaning frenzy and I cannot tell you how great it feels to clear out the clutter. This week I tackled the girl's dressers, toy closet and toy box and ended that project with 9 bags of garbage (yes, 9, and yes, real garbage bags) and 2 bags of clothes for Goodwill. For the first time in 8 years, their closet floor (huge, walk-in cedar closet) has nothing on it but 2 little chairs. Of course there are still about 200 stuffed animals in a Stuffed Animal Mountain in the loft to decide what to do with, but at least the closet is clean. My project to begin today is Samuel's room. Everything is coming out and I'm cleaning from the floor up. I may not finish it today, but tomorrow at the latest. It's pouring down rain today so it's a really good time to turn on the radio and get some serious cleaning done!


Other things keeping me busy this week? DESIGN! Lots and lots of new stuff in several shops this week:

• Fun new Christmas address labels at Reflections Family Friendly Gifts
• This great new evangelistic style shirt at Reflections Christian Gifts
Autumn themed, cowboys and cowgirls custom birthday party invitations at Birthday Sweeties
• Great new selections in Team Apologian
• Last but not least, a great new stand alone shop for Mylo Hatzenbuhler, The Original Rock and Roll Farmboy! Be sure to check that out and get your very own, original, authentic Mylo Gear today (so you can be as cool as Mylo).

And now... I am off to eat a piece of toast, and then begin my cleaning spree for the day as the rain continues to come down in buckets. We really needed this rain too, even though I prefer hot & sunny.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe