Sunday, March 29, 2009

"70 Years of OZ Oh My!" and Blue Monday

I'm going to cheat and do one post for both Blue Monday and our recent visit to the "70 Years of Oz Oh My!" exhibit at Crown Center in Kansas City, Missouri. My "blue" you ask?...Mary Catherine's "Dorothy" costume, of course!

On Saturday night, we informed the kiddos that we were going to do something special for Family Fun Sunday. It involved going "someplace special" where Mary could wear her Halloween costume. In case you missed my Halloween post, you can see pictures of our very own Dorothy and Cowardly Lion here.

Needless to say, Mary Catherine, AKA Dorothy, was very excited about what we were doing as she loves any opportunity to wear her costume. As we got ready to go, I was a bit ashamed of her footwear: (little did I know how those worn out shoes would come into play later on in the afternoon)

The "70 Years of OZ Oh My!" exhibit is celebrating the 70th anniversary of "America's favorite movie" (according to the brochure) with an interactive exhibit for the whole family. In addition to the tons of hands-on exhibits, mazes, slides, photo-ops, etc., there was an incredible display of one woman's collection of decades of Oz memorabilia.

Oz enthusaist and collector, Jane Albright happened to be at Crown Center and touring the exhibit on Sunday. Jane was with her daughter and husband/photographer when she stopped us as we were passing in the atrium (I never would have known that this was the woman behind the collection!). Jane fell absolutely in love with Mary Catherine's toe-worn, beloved ruby slippers and asked if her husband could photograph them for her collection! As if on cue, my four-year old began tapping her heels together like this:

Here are a few other photos taken while touring the exhibit:

Mary Catherine and Benjamin with Jane Albright, Oz enthusiast and collector.

Mary Catherine posing with "Glinda the Good Witch". All this time, I thought her name was Glenda! Notice we are missing the COWARDLY lion! Benjamin would have absolutely nothing to do with Glinda.

Mary & Ben checking out the spooky "I am the Great Oz" display. Notice Mary's expression...he was kind of scary, especially with the green lighting!

Follow the yellow brick road!

Giant banner greeting visitors and guests to Crown Center. To learn more about Crown Center, and the Hallmark Visitor's Center click here.

Just a peak at Jane Albright's incredible Oz collection.

I hope you enjoyed this little tour through the Land of OZ! Perhaps it brought back joyful memories of watching this beloved classic when you where a child. For more Blue Monday posts, please visit our lovely hostess, Sally, over at Smiling Sally.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cottage in the Woods

This post is for Becky over at Sweet Cottage Dreams.

In my parents' subdivision of 70s-style ranch houses, there was one little custom-designed cottage that I absolutely loved. My parents had gotten to know the owners and they had a daughter my same age. In fact they had two daughters, Anna & Lucie (now aren't those such sweet, cottagey names?!!!).

Anna and Lucie's home was magical and I loved playing there. It was every bit as gingerbread on the inside as it was on the outside. If memory serves me correct, their mother was an artist...or at least very artistic! Anna and Lucie's bedrooms were on the 2nd story of this little cottage home. What was so fascinating to me was that the 2nd story was open; it was one giant loft!

In addition to a totally gorgeous interior, the backyard was like a secret garden. Because their property backed up to the neighborhood park, a creek bordered their backyard as well as these really tall, old trees. Their yard was enclosed by white picket fence (of course!) and included a little cottage playhouse. Warm summer days found us neighborhood girls often enjoying the cool dampness of Anna and Lucie's backyard, shaded by the giant birch and oak trees, surrounded by beautiful blooms clumped together here and there.

Today, the house is home to a different family, but the love and care of the house and yard is still evident. Unfortunately, as you can see from the pictures, ivy has overtaken the front facade. My parents said that the current owners had removed the ivy once already, but it has returned with a vengance!

Today, I live in my own magical place. While definitely more "farmhouse" style than cottage, I love my home's uniqueness among those in subdivion-land. It always warms my heart when people ask how old our home is and are shocked to learn that it is merely years and not decades old. My hope is that someday my own children and their friends will have magical memories about growing up and playing in the "farmhouse" with the "wrap-around-porch"!

Anna & Lucie's Cottage

My Childhood Home

My Children's Childhood Home

Monday, March 23, 2009

Blue Monday ~ Vintage Barbie Doll Dresses

Happy Blue Monday! To celebrate my first-ever participation in a "Mr. Linky" activity, I chose Blue Monday because blue is my favorite color.

This post shows my much-loved and hand-sewn Barbie doll dresses. These "Gone with the Wind" dresses, as I affectionately referred to them during my childhood, were designed and created for me by one of my grandmother's "beauty shop" customers.

In the early 1930s after finishing the 8th grade, my grandmother completed "beauty school" to become a beautician and eventually open her own shop in Detroit, MI. Most of my grandmother's customers were the Polish ladies from the local neighborhood and Catholic parish. I have many wonderful memories of getting to go to work with my grandmother for the day, rinsing perm rods in the wash basin, sweeping up hair, and unrolling the rollers from "set" hair-dos. I can still smell the permanent wave solution, shampoos and conditioners and hear the droning of the "old-fashioned" hair dryers. I would listen in awe as the ladies chattered about in Polish, a sound so familiar, yet uncomprehensible to my American ears! A special treat was when I was given a few dollars and allowed to run downstairs (my grandmother's beauty shop was upstairs over a Croatian bakery) and buy myself a cookie or donut.

One customer in particular was a family friend of my grandmother's and quite the accomplished seamstress. In addition to these beautiful Barbie doll dresses, she also sewed several toddler dresses for me in various pastels with as much lace, ribbon, and crinolines as you see on these doll dresses!

The Blue "Bubble" Dress

Each dress had a minimum of three layers or crinolines.

The complete "vintage" set. These Barbie Doll dresses are about 40 years old so I suppose that makes them "vintage". Does that make me vintage?!!!

Recently, while conversing with an "old" new friend via facebook, she shared with me how much fun she had playing with my beautiful Barbie doll dresses on my parents' front porch. As you can imagine, these dresses were quite the hit with the neighborhood girls. They were glamorous and brought sheer delight to us 10-year olds! Today, my four-year old adores these dresses and gets the same satisfaction from playing with them as her mommy did. Together, we carefully change Barbie's ball gowns and allow our imaginations to run away with us!

For more BLUE finds, please visit Smiling Sally here.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Little Bit of Magic!

Last week I traveled to St. Louis with the babes to see my parents, sbilings, and nephews for "spring break". My sister suggested that we go to the Magic House, which is this fabulous hands-on children's museum. I was a bit hesitant to agree as I remembered it being geared more towards grade-school age kiddos and for the price of admission was thinking my kids would get more out of the wonderfully FREE St. Louis Zoo. But, my sister had a surprise up her sleeve...the Magic House had recently expanded to create a TODDLER zone. A Little Bit of Magic is the hands-on zone for the wee ones ages 1-6. My kids had a blast. Without further ado, I present to you "A Little Bit of Magic":

Benjamin in the sand exploration zone.

Mary playing the "bubble" organ.

There was a "housekeeping" zone that included a full grocery store in addition to a home and auto zone. For any of you current and/or former St. Louisans, the grocery store is sponsored by Schnucks.

I thought the waterplay area was pure genius! I love how they have a tiled floor, large basins, running water, plastic smocks and BABY seats for the infants to also explore water!

Mary working on hoisting herself up using a pulley.

This is a picture of Mary Catherine climbing inside a life-size beanstalk. This beanstalk is designed with giant leaves and/or petals to climb on as you make your way to the top. My 4-year old has no fear! She got right in behind a group of 2nd graders and worked her way to the pinnacle! You go girl! (No, the giant bean stalk is not in the zone for wee ones!)

Floor artwork desgined to provide the climber with the illusion that they really were at the top of the giant's bean stalk!

In Fairy Tale Land they had a miniature version of Jack and the Bean Stalk that was the perfect size for Benjamin.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Irish Dancing Memories

Although I can claim no Irish lineage, I was properly enculturated into all things Irish when I attended an Irish-Catholic grade school while growing up. We were not your typical uniformed-clad Catholic-grade school; this Catholic school was home to several Sisters of Mercy from Meath, Ireland. Sister Rosario Delaney arrived in the United States for her American-teaching assignment in 1964. By 1979 (the year I was in the 3rd grade) she was promoted to Principal. Sister Rosairo is STILL principal today, although rumor has it that she is eagerly anticipating retirement and return to her beloved Ireland.

If you can picture this, in addition to our studies, the nuns schooled us in Irish dancing. Yes, the nuns would actually demonstrate (in full habit) how to properly kick up our legs when doing an Irish jig. Although I can no longer remember the names of the different dance steps and routines that we performed, I can recall dancing on-stage (in our homemade costumes) during the annual St. Patrick's Day festival like it was yesterday. As patrons dined on corned beef and cabbage served in the basement cafeteria, the girls would perform their dance routines while the boys sang Irish tunes. I can still hear the boys singing, "When Irish Eyes are Smiling."

To celebrate St. Patrick's Day, today, my little ones started off the day with some sugar-coated cereal...Lucky Charms. This was followed-up with a lunch of scrambled green eggs and ham. For dinner tonight we are having homemade baked potato soup! Yum! Here are a couple pictures of my own two lucky charms. Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone!

Ben was a huge fan of the green eggs and ham...Mary not so much.

Even on St. Patrick's Day, my "sunflower" kid sports ruby slippers!


So Sweet.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Garden Girl

First, thank you to everyone that responded regarding my porch railing dilemma. I appreciate all of your comments and opinions and have filed them away for future reference.

Second, we had a busy weekend around the house; a few fixer-upper projects and the main get the backyard garden started.

Recently, I notice that our bedframe was becoming very loose. Both the headboard and footboard were extremely wobbly and the side railings were askew. No doubt this occurred because of two little monkeys jumping on our bed! So Daddy, Mary and Ben all donned protetive eye equipment, tool belts, and set to work repairing the splintered footboard/siderail.

Later that same day, the "garden" work began. A few weeks back, Chris built a raised planting bed for Mary's garden. Mary and Daddy have been talking about planting a garden all winter. (Mary loves Rabbit from Winnie the Pooh who is always working in his garden!) After tilling the soil, together they shoveled the earth into their planting bed. They decided on what vegetables to plant, went to several different nurseries and came back with "Mooooo-nure", a Burpee Seed Starting 36-Cell Greenhouse Kit, seeds, and a composter. Yes, my dyed-in-the-wool Republican-husband has decided to become a caretaker of the earth...although not an environmentalist...a conservationist. (Actually, as a former Iowan and grandson of a Danish-Lutheran farmer, he has soil in his blood!)

Neeless to say, Mary was up at the crack of dawn this morning and mightly disappointed that her carrots did not grow. In her words..."maybe this Friday or this Spring."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

To Rail or Not to Rail...That is the Question

Hello sweet blogging friends. For those of you that frequently visit and those of you that have just happened to stumble upon my blog, I have a question to pose...should we add porch railing to our wrap-around porch? I seems like a fairly straight-forward decision, but for the life of me, it is one that I am absolutely indecisive about! My dear husband wants to add railings so that, as he puts it, we create a more intimate setting. I, on the other hand, sort of like the open, airy feel that the porch provides without railings.

When I drive through neighborhoods and subdivisions, most of the porches I do see have railings, but most are not nearly the size of our porch (seven-feet deep running three sides of the house). I'm also quite concerned about the cost...believe me, this is not happening anytime soon! As much as I would love to stimulate the economy, our "mommy-stay-at-home" budget just doesn't allow for it. I would appreciate your comments/opinions though for future reference.

In addition, (oh, I cringe as I type this) I would appreciate any thoughts on the front porch swing. Upon returning from St. Louis, this is what I saw:

I am most appreciative of the fact that dear husband finally hung the porch swing that was his gift to me on my first mother's day, BUT he didn't ask my opinion on where I wanted it to be hung. Men! I sort of had a different vision in mind...perpindicular to the porch and back against the one enclosed side (basically where you see the ugly PLASTIC adirondack chairs). Am I an unappreciative wife if I ask him to move it? (Keep in mind that this will not happen in the near took 4 years to get the swing hung, it will probably take that many years to get it moved, maybe at the same time that we can afford railing!)

Regardless, I am so exicted about Spring/Easter pics with the babes on the swing in their little coordinating outfits with Easter baskets, and chocolate bunnies! Although it was a balmy 21 degrees today, I'm positive that my newly hung porch swing will bring about warmer temperatures.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Princess Castles and Birthday Celebrations

The kids and I had a wonderful weekend in St. Louis. It is always so much fun to see Mimi & Papa as well as my siblings, their spouses, and my nephews.

Friday night, I retained Mimi & Papa's babysitting services so that I could go over to my sister's house and help her prepare for Eli's first birthday party. As a working mom (nights as an awesome ICU nurse)of two little ones, she has her hands full! I was able to help her out with some light cleaning while she ran to the grocery store (childless...always a blessing). Without my own two underfoot, her husband and I were able to get the house organized in short order. When I returned to my parents' home, this is what I found...

(My photo does not do it justice as 1) I'm not that great of a photographer, and 2) I had something on the lens of my camera!) It is a princess castle, with tower included, created by my four-year old. My mom asked Mary to leave it up for me to see when I got home because she thought it was so creative. And it is. Apparently, while constructing this castle she insisted on using every single wooden block shape that came with the set.

Coincidentally, when I returned home this weekend, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my good friend, Gillian, had created and published her blog. It is beautifully created and captures the essence of her personality. If you love horticulture, history, and beauty please visit The Middle Lands. One of Gillian's recent posts has to do with the significant role that play has on both brain development and social interation. As an educator, I have long known this to be true and so I am tickled pink when I see my children expressing themselves creatively or using their vast imaginations during play.

The birthday party was held on Saturday. We couldn't have asked for better weather. Low 70s, low humidity, and low noise-level as we were able to shoo all the cousins for some outdoor play! We had a wonderful time celebrating with the birthday boy, my family and my sister's in-laws. Oh what fun to be one!

Sunday meant the return trip home to Kansas City, but not before we went to Mass and then out for Chinese with Mimi & Papa. After lunch, the kids did puzzles and "read" books while I packed the car. I "caught" Benjamin reading the latest issue of my creating Keepsakes magazine. Perhaps we have a future grpahic artist in our family...or maybe he just loves all the pictures of cute babies and kids!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Welcome Spring!

This afternoon I looked at the wireless thermometer and it displayed 80 degrees. I didn't think this could possibly be accurate (the sensor sits in the sun), so I took a peek at an outdoor thermometer that we have mounted on the porch. It is currently shaded by the wrap-around registered between 80 and 85 degrees. What?!!! So I immediately turned on the Weather Channel which reported that Lawrence, KS (our closest neighboring town) was reporting 81 degrees. Aaaah....spring!

I purchased this sweet wreath at The Flower Petaler while shopping with my mom in St. Charles, Missouri. My mom and I love to shop the antique shops and craft stores in this lovely historic town along the Missouri River. St. Charles is the original capitol of Missouri and is home to wonderful restaurants, wineries, gift shops, museums, etc. Walking along its cobblestone Main street with historic homes intermingled among shop owners is like taking a step back in time! To learn more about this quaint river town click here.

The kids and I are heading to St. Louis this weekend to celebrate my nephew's first birthday! I'm hoping that my mom and I can get in a quick shopping trip to St. Charles between all the festivities. After a long winter, I'm in need of some outdoor retail therapy!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Blogging Addict

Okay, so if they had BA (Bloggers Anonymous) meetings for folks I think it would go something like this...

"Hi, my name is Valerie and I'm a blogging addict."

Welcome, Valerie.

"I've been blogging since October of 2008. Recently, though, I've become obsessed with creating my own personalized backgrounds. It all started when I discovered that there was more to blogging layout than just the free templates provided by Blogger. I began with the light know, free backgrounds from The Cutest Blog on the Block. I have since moved on to the 'harder' stuff...creating my own backgrounds using various digital scrapbooking kits."

"This is more difficult than it looks for someone who is as un-technical as I am. But, I keep good (bad?) company. Many fellow bloggers have come to my aide to provide me with the technical know-how when I stumble."

"Enablers? Perhaps, but I love them!!!"

I'm not sure what the 12 step program would be for blogging addicts, but I'm fairly certain the 1st step would be admitting that you have a problem! My problem has become quite severe as it sometimes involves ignoring my children, housework and meal preparation to get the "perfect" layout finished!

If this is not a true addiction, than it might mean that I have OCD and that could be true as well...I have been up since 4:30 AM so that I could create a perfectly coordinated blog header for my newly created background!

Monday, March 2, 2009


I did it...with a little help from fellow blogger, Kathy, over at Life in the Slow Lane!

Thank you so much, Kathy, for your wonderful email. Your simple directions, along with a little self-tweaking, allowed me to personalize my blog to make it my very own!!! And your right...I'm certain this won't be my last attempt at creating my own background.

Now, I just need to create my own header as the one that I currently have is looking a bit "shabby". Good thing I'm in such good standing with the gals over at Shabby Princess!

In addition to creating my own background I also taught myself (from a little google search) how to create my own links using HTML code. Gosh...I am thoroughly exhausted...almost like when I put in a full day of teaching! (I think that my kiddos are feeling a bit neglected!)

Please be Patient!!!

When I was a little girl, I received some kind of plaque or book that said, "Please be patient...God isn't finished with me yet." I'm almost certain I received it for one of those prepubescent know those God-awful twelve-teen years.

Anyway, in early February I said that I was giving my blog a little facelift. I have been busily working on creating lists and links of inspiring bloggers, favorite digital scrapbooking sites, and home decorating divas! The one thing that I haven't been able to fully master is creating my own background.

I have been using the wonderful freebies at The Cutest Blog on the Block, but really love the idea of designing and creating my own backgrounds and header. It has been quite the challenge. As you can see, I am struggling with how to get my background to stretch across the width of the screen.

If any on you that stumble across my blog have knowledge of how to fix this quandry...please do not hesitate to leave me a message. I am also going to post a comment on my facebook page in case any of my "new" old friends have the technical ability to edit HTML!

Hopefully, in a few more days (if you truly know me than you know that I was given the gift of persistance) I will have this minor technical difficulty solved!