Friday, August 31, 2012

Get Your Lemonade!

Hey Girls –

My oldest son has been moving a pile of scrap wood around our backyard for about a week.  He keeps telling me that he’s going to build a tree fort.  Here’s the thing, there’s not enough wood to build a fort.  One afternoon while he was moving that wood (two long 2 x 4’s, a couple of short 2 x 4’s, and one rectangular piece of plywood), I realized that although he couldn't build a fort with that wood, he could build a lemonade stand (same thing, right?).  At least he could use his profits to buy more wood to build a tree fort.

With this epiphany, we recruited our crafty and fun neighbors, and what seemed like a little lemonade stand project quickly spiraled into a community service project, five days of crafts, baking, selling, and a neighborhood fort fund.

Day One:  Build

There was absolutely no plan when it came to building the lemonade stand.  We pretty much worked with the existing pieces we had and winged it. 
The two long 2 x 4's were cut to about six feet long.
Supports were screwed onto the legs to hold the tabletop.  
They were cut to be the same width as the scrap piece of plywood.

The plywood was used as the tabletop. 
The diagonal 2 x 4 added some stability.
Here's the stand in its improvised-construction glory.
My neighbors brought over a summery plastic tablecloth that we used for the banner and tablecloth.  We made the scallops by tracing the edges of a bowl and then cut along the edges.

We painted the stand on the first day too.  The yellow color is a combination of different craft paints we had around between both of our houses.  After the “custom” base color was on, we taped sections of the board to make stripes.

Then, we painted green and blue stripes.

Finally, we stapled on the banner and tablecloth. 

Day Two:  Signage

More craft paint, stickers and cardboard was all we needed to have some serious lemonade stand fun on day two.  That’s because we were making the signs.  And we made a bunch of them.  Some for along the road, some for prices, and one just saying thanks that each of the kids signed. 

The cute stickers are from a Discovery Kids stand that 
we had already converted to a ticket stand for the kids' carnival.
It was on day two that the community service aspect of the stand came into play.  The kids decided that they would like to donate half of their profits to a local humane society.  Did I write “the kids decided?”  What I meant was the kids were strongly encouraged (forced) to raise some money for charity not just for more 2 x 4’s.

Day Three:  Uniforms

Michael’s had foam visors on sale 2 for $1.  I couldn’t pass them up when I was there shopping for fabric paint on Day Three.  We used the paint to decorate white t-shirts that would serve as “uniforms” for the kids.   
Here's our attempt at a lemon stencil cut out of a piece of cardboard.  
Each kid added it to the front of their shirts.

The best part of this day was definitely listening to the kids’ t-shirt slogan ideas:  Squeeze Me!, When Life Gives Us Lemons, We Make Lemonade,  Got Lemonade? and my youngest son’s idea…Wheat Thins.  That idea didn’t make the cut.  They did have a lot of fun decorating the shirts and visors though.

Day Four:  Baking

During one of the many lemonade-stand-brainstorm-sessions someone suggested selling cookies too..  So, on day four, we got baking.   

 We made pizzelle cookies, and our neighbors made sugar cookies.  

Day Five:  Fresh Lemonade

By 11am the kids were dressed and ready to sell some cookies and lemonade.  They had already practiced selling pretend lemonade (water) for the previous four days.  During their dress rehearsals they even worked out each of their roles:  work the toy cash register, put ice in the cups, pour the lemonade, and hand out the cookies.  So, on the day of the sale they were a well oiled lemonade selling machine.

They spent about two hours selling/shouting “Lemonade for Sale.”  The nicest people stopped their cars and kindly waited while each child completed his/her job.  They made $34.  They'll be donating half of their profits.  So, they have a ways to go before they can afford their tree fort...but, what do they say about memories?  Oh yeah, priceless.

Still a bit sticky, 

Mrs. Kelly Comment:  Oh, Mrs. Williams!  I love your over-the-top lemonade stand.  How do you say no to cute children with visors and hand painted shirts / wooden stands?  Did they write a business plan too?  PS I want a shirt that reads "Wheat Thins!"

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mackenzie-Childs Barn Sale 2012

Hey girls, 

Once upon a time there was a girl who went to a Vera Wang trunk show in New York City.  She was excited and hopeful to find a designer bridal grown at a fraction of the typical cost.  The girl dragged her then fiance with her to a Manhattan building in the wee hours of a Saturday morning.  For two hours, the couple waited.  They rounded velvet ropes and listened to other people planning dress-obtaining-strategies.  As they inched closer to the entrance, the couple was handed a rules sheet.  The rules sheet read, "There is to be no pushing, hitting, shoving, biting, etc..."  Biting!  The girl started to get anxious with her rules sheet in hand.  The other people started getting crazier.  And, just before the girl and her fiance got to the entrance, after a couple hours of waiting, they bailed.

Enter the 2012 Mackenzie-Childs Barn Sale:

Mackenzie-Childs Shop in Aurora, New York (Forgive the photo quality.  This trip was so last minute I didn't even bring my camera...iPhone it is.)
As I've mentioned before, I don't do well in crazy situations so I wasn't sure how I would handle the Mackenzie-Childs Barn Sale.  I had heard stories of people camping out in tents.  

Every year, once a year, Mackenzie-Childs hosts a major sale (this year, three days long) down in Aurora, New York.  Their wares are deeply discounted and plentiful.  If Willy Wonka did pottery, it would be the barn sale.  It's a huge, fantastical world of hand painted eye candy.  
Even the spoke is blinged out!
My mom and I went to the barn sale this year--spur of the moment.  We drove down Friday afternoon.  Apparently this is a great time to go!  We waited in line for maybe ten minutes before they let us into the main barn buying area (no tents, hour-long waits or rules sheets).  Even if you're not a crazy Mackenzie-Childs fan, it would be a fun trip.  The drive down, around Seneca Lake, is lovely.  The grounds of the Mackenzie-Childs empire (65 acre estate) are breathtaking (their gardener has her own blog).  The main house looks like a whimsical castle on a hill.  It's a wonderland overlooking the lake.
These gardens look similar to our house.  Yep, that's the ticket.

Here's a picture (a poor one) of the band playing with Seneca Lake in the background.  
And then there's the barn and the tents.  They were filled with pottery and stemware and furniture, oh my.  On Friday afternoon the employees were still restocking the shelves.  People go crazy.  Most of the wares are discounted between 50 and 80%.  This is significant since they are rarely discounted.  Occasionally a local store might offer a slight discount on an individual piece.  But, those discounts are usually not offered on more than one piece or for more than 25% off.  

Follow that sign!

"Gene, there's a lovely courtly check vase that would work well for that rose!"

Mackenzie-Childs does its sale up right.  The event is well organized.  There were plenty of workers assisting people and handing out bags.  There was also lots of food cooking and filling the air with wonderful scents.  And a terrific band, the Blacklites, was playing off to the side.  It's a big party catering to all senses!  The MC folks really try to minimize the chaos and make the experience fun.  And that's what it is:  an experience.  

Here's what I picked up.  And yes, these are totally random:  

I bought a couple gifts, a garbage can, a switch plate.  I told you it was random.

I kind of love these plastic barn tumblers.
At $4.90 a piece they were the perfect, kid-friendly souvenir from the barn sale.

Prior to our entry, when we waited those ten minutes in line, I didn't get anxious.  I had a touch and go moment when one couple cut us in line (why do people think this is okay?) but mostly I was calm.  They make it fun.  So if you're prone to crowd anxiety, take a deep breath.  It's worth the trip and if I can handle it, you can!  As Willy Wonka once said, "Come with me and you'll be in world of pure imagination."  

Who's with me for the barn sale 2013?

Shopped out, 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sewing with Vinyl

Hey Girls -

I'm about to share with you a very good problem...wet bathing suits.  This is a good problem because it means that my family has been swimming and not cooped up in our non-air-conditioned house with the blinds drawn and doors closed trying to preserve every ounce of cool air in the house.  So, this year, instead of trying to beat/survive the heat in our house, we joined a community pool.  It's been the absolute best.  My favorite part is that somehow my boys don't whine when submerged in water.  My least favorite part is when we finish swimming and we have to tote home their wet suits.  To solve this problem, I went shopping for vinyl and started sewing.

After a trip to Jo Ann Fabric's I bought a remnant of vinyl (12 gauge measuring .7 yards), a 16 inch zipper, and jumbo rick rack.

First I cut two pieces of vinyl 13 x 16 inches and cut a piece of rick rack 16 inches to decorate the front of the bag.

I prepared my sewing machine for sewing vinyl by putting some tape on the bottom of the presser foot and on the bottom plate of the machine (next to the pokey things.)  This makes it way easier for the vinyl to slide through the sewing machine.
Look closely...can you see the tape on the machine/foot?

I measured down four inches from the top of one piece of vinyl for the placement of the rick rack.  I felt like a total genius when I taped the rick rack in place so I could sew it onto the vinyl.
Turns out...clear vinyl is hard to photograph.  Sorry.

I ran a single stitch across the rick rack (over the tape) and then I couldn't get the tape off the vinyl.  Then, I felt like a total idiot for taping that rick rack in place.  (I've since used Goo Gone to get that tape goo off the bag.)

Then, I stopped sewing and started reading up on sewing a zipper.  I've never sewn a zipper.  So this was kind of a big deal.  Here are the tips I learned/tried.

1.  Place the zipper face down on the right side of one piece of the vinyl.
2.  When the top edges of the vinyl and zipper are lined up, use clips (I used magnet ones) to secure the zipper in place.  I didn't use pins because it would have poked holes in the vinyl.

3.  Sew along the top edge with your zipper foot (I added tape on the bottom of this foot too.)
4.  Open it up and run another stitch under the zipper, pushing the vinyl down so it is nice and flat.
5.  Repeat the process with the other piece of vinyl on the other side of the zipper.
My zipper fears were unfounded...if you're scared, don't be.  It's totally easy!

After the zipper was in place, I admired my first zipper for a good three minutes.  Then, I unzipped the zipper halfway (that's an important step), put the right sides of the vinyl facing each other and stitched all around the sides of the vinyl.

Before I turned the bag right side out, I decided to add a bottom gusset.  To do this, I simply pinched the bottom corners of the bag so that the bottom seam and side seam lined up.  I measured up two inches and sewed a straight stitch across the corner.  Then, I cut off the excess (below the stitched line.)
Here's the gusset when the bag is right side out.

Now, the best part...turning the bag right side out. 

I love this bag.  When we're at the pool I get absolutely giddy when it's time to change out of our wet suits and head home. 
Swimming or bust,

Mrs. Kelly Comment:  What the h*$# is a gusset?  And, should I know?  Your bag is really cute.  Be honest...did you pick the rick rack to match the bathing suits?  This seems really complicated for a non-seamstress but maybe if I'm really lucky one of my sewing friends (ahem, *cough) will help me make one?  

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Saturday with the Family

Hi Girls -

Guess where we went on Saturday?  If the pictures aren't enough, just use the letters in bold to figure out our destination.

A is for Airplanes

Good thing the security guards hand out earplugs.

Kind of makes me want to own a plane.

I is for Inside
Some of the planes suggest a donation before you tour.  I think it's worth it.  When else can my boys buckle themselves into a seat on an Avro Lancaster bomber plane?

You can even climb into the cockpit.

 R is for Reenactment
I love this part.  The Historical Aircraft Group sets up camp and displays World War II aircraft, tents, vehicles, uniforms, and supplies.

S is for Smoke
This is right before the aerobatic pilot cuts his engine and lets his plane plummet to the earth.  I scream every time!

The Jelly Belly plane even had yellow smoke.  Makes me crave a lemon jelly bean for sure.

H is for Helmet
Remember the reenactment camp?  It's interactive too.  They encourage the kids to jump up in the jeeps and wear helmets...obviously.

O is for Oppressive Heat and/or Observing
What's an air show without kids/me whining about the heat?  Check this out...I think we were justified.
Why didn't I think to bring our umbrellas?  That would have helped up beat the heat.

W is for Wings

It's times like these when I'm walking through scratchy grass in a huge open field, checking out the WWII reenactment camp, straining my neck to check out the bi-planes in the sky, lining up to get inside the Memphis Belle, and eating snacks under the shade of a C-47 wing that I realize with all these boys (my husband included) in my life, I may never get to sit in an air-conditioned auditorium watching a cute dance recital, but I don't mind because if I were somewhere else, I would have missed seeing the aerobatic pilot plummet to the earth...and this....
Aren't they cute?
Signing Off,

Mrs. Kelly Comment:  That last picture is the best.  I have a fear of planes and ironically, my brother is a navigator in a C130.  So, I appreciate these photos from the comfort of my living room and without lemon jelly-belly planes spiraling at me.  Also, I love that your first thought was jelly beans and not your escape route.  :)  
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