Hiking and Photography with the Cub Scouts

Last week, Steve and I hosted a Hiking and Photography Belt Loop Night for our Cub Scout den. Similar to the Astronomy Night we did during Trevor's Tiger Year, we created a fun evening that covered each of the three requirements for the two Belt Loops.  With the Belt Loop program ending in just over one year, we're eager to help Trevor and his friends earn as many of the loops and pins as they can.

Before the boys arrived, I filled each of the gold eggs leftover from Trevor's Angry Birds Party with the name of a digital camera part (such as lens, battery, zoom, viewfinder, memory card, etc), then I hid the eggs in our backyard.  We started our evening with the egg hunt.  When they found all the eggs, we sat in a circle and the boys opened the eggs one by one and read the word.  We talked about what the word meant, then each boy found it on his particular camera.

The eggs turned an ordinary vocabulary lesson into something really engaging.

I asked about the importance of photography and why people take pictures.  The boys were quick to mention memory-keeping, but it took some prodding for them to think about other uses, including photography in advertisements, as a way to relay news, and for government-issued ID.

Once I finished with the Photography lesson, Steve talked about hiking safety and preparedness. He showed the boys his hiking equipment and attire, then discussed when each would be used. The boys were very interested and attentive.

Finally, it was time to set out on our hike.  Trevor was so excited.  

Our destination was a hill near our house.  It doesn't look very high from the ground; everyone is always surprised by how steep it feels when you're on the trail! 

The boys each took dozens of pictures along our hike.  These are some of my favorites of Trevor's.

 Obviously, Trevor didn't take this one!  I did.  Happy hikers at the summit.

Steve took this picture of us headed down the hill.  I'm the one in the black sweater toward the middle of the pack.

I'm pointing myself out because it turns out I took a picture looking up the hill at exactly the same time as Steve took the one looking down.  The two pictures together give a better idea of the size of the hill.

It was getting increasingly windy as we hiked.  On the way down, 
the boys kept one hand on their hats and one on their cameras.

When we got to our house, we had a snack and then I asked the boys to review their pictures and share the best with each other.  They all were very proud of the photos they'd taken.  And I was proud of the boys: Photography and Hiking Belt Loops officially earned!


Rhubarb Crisp

How does a big bowl of warm rhubarb crisp sound? Amazing? I thought so. This was the next recipe I made with my rhubarb stash.

I used the same basic recipe as The Best Apple Crisp in the World, but scaled down to make only six servings.

Rhubarb Crisp 

                                               3 c. sliced rhubarb                              1/2 c. brown sugar
                                               3/4 c. sugar                                          1/2 c. oats
                                               1/2 c. flour, divided                            1/4 c. butter
                                               1 tsp. cinnamon

Combine rhubarb, sugar and 1/4 c. flour in a bowl. Set aside. In a separate bowl, mix remaining 1/4 c. flour, cinnamon, brown sugar and oats. Add butter to oat mixture and cut in until it looks like course crumbs. Butter a 8" square baking pan. Put rhubarb mixture in pan, then spread oat mixture evenly over the top. Bake at 350° for approximately 30 minutes, or until top is crisp and golden brown.



We're deep into party planning for Trevor's 8th birthday in June.  He's chosen a Star Wars theme. (Sigh.)  With that party right around the corner, I wanted to hurry and finish scrapping last year's super fun Angry Birds party.

I tried a few colors schemes before combining turquoise with a gradient orange paper.  It reminds me of that very hot June afternoon.  I added pops of green, a sparkly white title, a birthday sticker, and a colorful banner.  I'm really happy with how it turned out.  

Wish me luck with the Star Wars party planning!


Scrapping the Garden

Each year, I create a layout that lists the things we grow in our summer garden. It's a fun way to remember the new things we tried, as well as the successes (and failures) we had. Our first real, good-sized garden was in 2008 when Trevor was 2. This is the layout I made to document what we grew:

Apparently I didn't scrap about the 2009 garden.  Weird.  Here's 2010:

Here's 2011: 


And here is the layout I just finished, about our 2013 garden:

I used this sketch by Tammi Bennett for My Scraps and More:

We've just finished planting our 2014 garden. I can't wait to start harvesting! What's in your garden this year?


Paper Elephant

I've been working on the daunting task of cleaning out our filing cabinets.  We have two and they are stuffed.  I'm trying to remove the things we couldn't possibly need (phone bills for places we haven't lived in 10 years, newsletters from clubs we no longer belong to, and other similar things) to make room for things we actually do need to save.  As I'm purging, I'm finding plenty of treasures.  Among them: a paper elephant.

When I was in college, I did an internship at a nearby elementary school.  It was a lot of fun to leave the college campus once a week to spend the morning in first grade.  The teacher I worked with was amazing and taught me so much about curriculum planning, classroom management, student discipline, and assessment methods.  She also taught me how to make an elephant from a piece of construction paper.

Materials: one piece of construction paper, scissors, glue, black pen

Begin by folding the construction paper in half (hamburger-style, if you speak fluent Elementary School).  With the fold at the top, make 5 cuts.

  1. Round off the upper left corner.
  2. Round off the upper right corner.
  3. Cut a small sliver from the bottom near the right-hand side to form the trunk.
  4. Cut a small rectangle from the end of what will form the trunk.
  5. Cut a large upside-down U-shape from the bottom, centered between what will be the legs.

Save all the scraps.  Use them to cut ears, a tail and tusks.

Glue the ears, tail and tusks into place.  Recycle any remaining scraps.  Use the black pen to add an eye on each side.  Fold up about 1/4 inch of each foot so that the elephant can stand.  That's all there is to it!

Here is the elephant Trevor made while I was photographing each step:

A fun and easy project for a rainy afternoon!


Rhubarb Bread Pudding

Three days after buying 2/3 of the rhubarb from my local grocery store, I headed back solely to see if it had been restocked yet. The previously empty spot was totally full. Eureka! I wasn't going to make the same mistake twice and alert anyone else to the rhubarb. I looked around to make sure no one was watching, then sidled over toward the rhubarb, looking as uninterested as possible. I casually started filling my cart with handfuls of rhubarb stalks until I had successfully transferred every single one. I slowly left the produce section and then practically ran to the checkout line. All the rhubarb! Mine, all mine! (insert maniacal cackle here).

When I got home, I washed and sliced the rhubarb, which turned out to be six pounds worth. I put approximately three cups in each of six freezer bags.

It's not nearly enough of a rhubarb stockpile, but I'm happy knowing it's there. That's six rhubarb recipes that I wouldn't have been able to make otherwise.

The first thing I made was a rhubarb bread pudding. I used this recipe as inspiration, but as usual, my version bears so little resemblance to the original that I hesitate to even mention it. I'm not sure what the etiquette is about crediting a recipe that has been radically changed, but better to err on the side of courtesy. Here's my version:

Rhubarb Bread Pudding

                                              8" long french bread loaf                               5 eggs
                                              1 1/4 c. milk                                                     3 c. sliced rhubarb
                                              1/4 c. cold butter                                            1 1/2 c. sugar

Cut bread into 1/2 inch cubes (yield is approximately 4 cups). Put bread cubes on a sheet pan and lightly toast, turning occasionally to toast all sides. Meanwhile, scald milk. Remove from heat and add butter; stir until melted. Butter a 2 quart baking dish and place the toasted bread cubes in it. Pour the milk/butter over the bread. Let stand 10 minutes. In a bowl, lightly beat eggs. Stir in rhubarb and sugar. Add to the soaked bread cubes and stir gently to combine. Bake at 350° for approximately 45 minutes or until set. Serve warm, either plain or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Delicious! More rhubarb recipes to come!


Update on Project 41

As you know, I've been working on Discover 42 for about six weeks now.  I'd planned to leave Project 41 behind as of my 42nd birthday, but that didn't quite happen.  When the Baskin-Robbins March Flavor-of-the-Month rolled around, I tried to ignore it.  The flavor was Bananas Foster.  I don't like bananas and I especially don't like banana ice cream.  I don't like rum-flavored stuff either.  After a year of eating the Flavor-of-the-Month no matter what it was, I was thrilled that I wasn't obligated to eat this one, which I knew I wouldn't like.

But then I started wondering... what if it's actually really good?  I thought I'd hate Jamoca Heath, but I actually loved it.  Same with Movie Theater Popcorn.  I spent far too much time thinking about that crazy Bananas Foster before finally breaking down and asking Steve to join me for an ice cream date.  We read the description: "a Bananas Foster flavored ice cream complete with brown sugar rum flavored ribbon and praline pecans."  

Rather than have another Gingerbread Junction experience, I decided to just ask for a tasting spoon rather than committing to a whole scoop.  That was a good decision.  Neither of us liked it (I hated it; Steve just didn't like it).  We each chose flavors we hadn't had before (mine was Bobsled Brownie and Steve's was something about peanut butter) and they were both delicious.

Meanwhile, I had finished my layout about Project 41 and posted it on the Baskin-Robbins Facebook page on a whim.  Within a week, I found a large box on my doorstep with all these goodies inside.

A tote bag, travel mug, ice cream scoop, t-shirt, pencil, pin, gift card, and what appeared to be a tasting spoon but is actually a flash drive.  Awesome!

When April rolled around, I once again was tempted to go try the Flavor-of-the-Month.  Trevor and I went ice skating together last Wednesday (his first time ever, my first time in 20 years), so afterward I suggested we continue the ice theme by stopping for ice cream.  Obviously, he thought that was a great idea.  

April's Flavor-of-the-Month is The Amazing Spider-Man 2, a "red and blue vanilla flavored ice cream with a dark chocolate flavored web and popping candies that combine to make it a superhero of a flavor!"

This is how it looked:

Trevor opted to get a seasonal flavor that I hadn't heard of before: Easter Egg Hunt: "Get a hop on finding all the hidden candy eggs in our field of green white chocolate flavored ice cream with a sweet creme swirl!"

Both ice creams were tasty and we had a lot of fun together, as always. 

So, while Project 41 may officially be over, the jury is still out on whether or not I'll continue making monthly visits to Baskin-Robbins to try the Flavor-of-the-Month...


Deck the Halls...

Another Christmas layout!  Remember the December Photo-a-Day challenge that we turned into a one-day Photo Scavenger Hunt?  I used some of my favorite photos from that to make this layout.

Obviously, with 14 photos on a 1-page layout, I needed to keep the page really simple.  I like how it turned out and am happy that some of my favorite holiday decorations are now in the scrapbook.


Obsessed with Rhubarb

I have minor obsession with rhubarb.  It's one of my favorite foods. Unfortunately, rhubarb doesn't grow in our hot California climate, but for years that wasn't a problem. My grandparents lived in the Seattle area and grew huge quantities of rhubarb, which they would freeze and share with us. Growing up, we always had rhubarb in the freezer, so I could make rhubarb sauce or rhubarb pies (or just snack on the frozen pieces) whenever I wanted. I no longer have a source of rhubarb, so I'm obsessive about checking for it at stores (it's never there) and ordering it from menus (the occasional strawberry-rhubarb pie).

Last week, Trevor and I were picking up groceries when I spotted a flash of red across the produce department. Could it be... rhubarb?! No way! I'd never seen rhubarb at that store. I made a bit of a scene, raving like a hysterical lunatic about the glory of rhubarb to Trevor. This was a big mistake, as several people heard and followed me over to the rhubarb, thus preventing me from selfishly taking the entire pile. I took 2/3 of the pile, then reluctantly stepped away to allow the others to have what remained. If only I'd kept my mouth shut, it could have all been mine!

When I got home, I cut my precious rhubarb into slices.

I added them to a pan with a little bit of water and a sprinkling of sugar, then cooked it gently over medium heat until the rhubarb broke down.

I added a bit more sugar and the rhubarb sauce was perfect. There are a lot of ways to enjoy rhubarb sauce. One is just plain in a bowl, like the way you'd eat applesauce. Yum. It's amazing over vanilla ice cream.  It's also delicious with a dollop of whipped cream, which is how we enjoyed it, still hot from the pan.

It is SO good. I wonder if I can special-order a freezer's worth of fresh rhubarb...


The Ninja Costume

I was looking back at old Halloween layouts recently.  They're some of my favorites.  The costume Trevor has chosen each year says so much about who he is and what has been going on in his life.  This last Halloween, he wanted to be a ninja.  This was no surprise, as he is a HUGE fan of Lego's Ninjago books, TV show and building sets.  I've discussed my poor sewing skills many times, so I was dreading having to make something as complicated as a ninja costume. Fortunately, Grandma came to the rescue and searched the stores for something that Trevor loved.  I was very relieved.

Here's the layout I made about his ninja costume:

I used this sketch by Tammi Bennett for My Scraps and More.

I love that the sketch has a spot for journaling!  So many don't.  I flipped the sketch and added a second photo and a fourth paper strip.  As you can see, Trevor is holding his pumpkin ninja in one of the photos, so I echoed that with my homemade embellishment.  I started with a glittery chipboard letter O, turned it on its side, then backed it with cardstock and added googly eyes and a stem.  I love that his eyes are looking toward Trevor in the scan.


Another Christmas Layout

I have another Christmas layout to share, this one from Christmas Day.  After spending Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with my family, we raced back home to host my inlaws at our house. I chose four pictures to scrap.  Of course, I had to include the photo of my nephew Sean opening his Dollar Bill Dispenser

My goal for this layout was to use some of the many Christmas die-cuts in my stash.  I started with the tree, then pulled out some coordinating paper scraps.  (And I do mean scraps.  The blue scraps are only as big as you see.  The red piece that looks like it extends across the page is actually two smaller pieces with the photos barely covering the gap between them.  That's half of a lime green doily.)  I chose three ornament die-cuts, thought briefly about adding silver floss to hang them, then immediately decided it would be much easier (and would look just as good) to draw the strings.  Finally, I chose two mittens and connected them with a small piece of red yarn.


A Big Day for the deRosiers

When Steve and I got married in 2004, he was working as an embedded systems engineer for a company that made player pianos and I was teaching fifth grade. Between us, we made good money. We had no debt except the mortgage on my house. We had savings. The economy was in fine shape and our jobs were secure.

We knew we wanted to have a baby in the somewhat-near future and that we both wanted me to be able to stay at home to raise our child. For two years, we did our best to live on Steve's salary and put every penny I made into savings. It allowed us to learn what our lifestyle would be like on one salary, plus provided a huge cushion in case something bad happened. And then it did.

When Trevor was 3 months old, this happened:

We got a call at 4:45 am telling Steve not to come into work because the building was gone following a six alarm fire. He started working from home full time, which was wonderful (hence, the layout title of 'A Blessing in Disguise.') But the company was severely wounded from the fire and Steve was laid off just before Trevor's 2nd birthday.

I was absolutely devastated. Our only income, our source of health insurance for the three of us... gone. I was absolutely panicked over the thought that I might need to return to work if Steve couldn't find something new in a reasonable amount of time. Fortunately, it took less than 4 months before he had a new job. Overall, the job was better, but it meant that Steve now had a long commute. Trevor had a very hard time adjusting to Daddy being gone so much after nearly two years of having him home. I did too. But it was such a relief having him back to work.  

You can imagine how devastating it was, just 11 months later, when he was laid off from the new job. It took seven months to find the next job. By this point, the economy was in bad shape and layoffs were common.  In Steve's industry, the norm was now to hire for a specific project and lay off the entire team when the project was completed. Over the last few years, this has happened to him over and over. I can't even keep track of how many different layoffs we've been through - at least seven. Almost all of the layoffs blindsided us, coming at a point where we were just starting to feel secure, just before the one year mark.  

After the first two layoffs, the others weren't quite as devastating. We knew the routine with unemployment, COBRA, and everything else that goes into abruptly having no income. More importantly, we knew that the next job would be right around the corner. Steve is extremely talented and well-respected in his narrow (but high-demand) industry. He's received outstanding recommendations from the companies that laid him off. Each time, he's been snatched up by a new company quickly, thank goodness.  

So why is today a big day for the deRosiers? Because, after 6 years and even more jobs, Steve has now hit the one-year mark at his current job. Hallelujah!  

I feel so blessed to have such a talented husband whose hard work and perseverance has allowed me to be a stay-at-home mom all these years. I'm proud of us for planning ahead the way we did, for working together, and for being committed to doing what we think is best for us and for our child.  


More Christmas Scrapping

I used a very traditional red/green color scheme for my layout about our December 23 tradition of opening presents with our family of three.  To mix things up a little, I used an icy blue and dark red to scrap about our Christmas Eve and Christmas morning at my parents' house.

The patterned papers and die-cuts I used are from four different collections by two different manufacturers.  They sure look like they were meant to go together!


Trick-or-Treat 2013

I love scrapping Halloween photos.  I usually stick with the traditional black and orange, but for this year's trick-or-treat pictures, I went with bright green, purple, yellow and orange.  The pumpkins are fussy-cut from patterned paper.  

I used this sketch by Laura Whitaker for Let's Get Scrappy.

As is often the case with sketches, I had to create my own space for journaling.  While the photos and the title make the activity, location and date obvious, I definitely wanted to record the names of the friends who joined us.  


Mouse Donuts

Remember the Bunny Donuts I made using powdered donuts?  I set the chocolate donuts from the pack aside, waiting for inspiration (and, frankly, some guilt-free spare time to devote to playing with donuts).  Obviously I was inspired by the chocolate chip mouse, because I turned the first pack of donuts into a mouse.

I used chocolate donuts, brown felt (ears and tail), pink craft foam (ears and nose), white craft foam (whiskers), and googly eyes.  I used hot glue to attach everything.  Easy.  I didn't bother covering the serial number this time, but it would have been simple to add a little oval belly to cover it.

I have one more pack of uneaten chocolate donuts, so if I can keep everyone's grubby paws off them (and resist eating them myself), then I'll share another critter eventually.


Fun with Egg Dye

We did our Easter egg dyeing last weekend.  

Egg dyeing is a family affair.

Even the furry member of the family joins in. Well, sort of. The lack of opposable thumbs means no dye for him.

Egg dyeing is fun on its own, but we like to try something new each year too. In 2011, we tried contact paper masks on our eggs.

In 2012, we experimented with using Glimmer Mist and Maya Mist on our eggs.

Last year, we stamped and hand-painted our eggs.

This year, we set our completed eggs aside and used the remaining egg dye to create some tie-dye art. We keep paper towels nearby when coloring eggs (for obvious reasons), so I used a folded towel to teach Trevor about capillary action (because everything is a teachable moment when you're a former teacher...). He loved watching the colors race up the towel and was amazed when I opened up the paper towel to reveal the beautiful pattern.

Trevor could not wait to try. The first step is to fold the paper towel. We experimented with a variety of folds which each gave different results, none better or worse than the other. The next step is to dip each corner or area of the folded paper towel into different dyes.  

Here's how that one looked when he finished dipping.

You can let the paper towels dry before opening them (which keeps your fingers clean, prevents the colors from running, and makes the towels less likely to tear) or you can open then right away (which is what we did). You can see the paper towel from above opened up on Trevor's right in the picture below.

Art + science = tons of fun!

You can link the dry paper towels together to form a colorful banner, add contact paper to make placemats, or use them as a unique alternative to gift wrap. Lots of creative possibilities!