Tuesday, March 19, 2013

ABC, Oakley's Three!

I need a new camera. I threw a birthday party for my newly 3 year old recently and I didn't take a single photo. I already regret it.

If I do say so myself, the party was pretty Pinterist-worthy - for an event held in my proudly "nifty thrifty" home and not involving a professional party planner.

I used punchbowl.com for the invitations for the second year in a row. Their free offerings are customizable yet user-friendly.

The party itself was minutely lower key than Oakley's second birthday; 23 people rather than 30. Thank goodness it was sunny and we were able to get out into the backyard at one point. I'm beginning to understand why parents host parties in rented rooms and parks now.

I never knew before having a child with an "o" name just how great it would be for him. O's are everywhere. They're circles and zeros and faces and wheels and bagels, not to mention a well-used vowel. My son notices them all the time so I did an alphabet theme. I hung Lisa DeJohn's alphabet animals cards on twine with clothes pins, stuck ABC stickers all over balloons, put ABC bathtub stickers on our bathroom mirror, planted flowers in our entrance way planters and stuck in  a couple over sized whirligigs for good measure.

I served the essential alphabet pretzels and a plethora of "o" shaped food including pineapple rings, apple chips, rice crackers, olives, carrots, cucumber, and peppers cut in rounds, and Dad's O cookies. We played a couple simple alphabet games and at the end we handed out goody bags with each child's initial on the front and stickers, a bouncy ball, a whirligig, and an ABC book inside. But really, the cute kids  - all 12 of 'em - made the party.

And yes, I admit it. This party - exemplifying my love of typography and words and pattern and food and fun - was a little bit for me. I mean, my son's only three; he loves monster trucks, Lightning McQueen, hockey, Spiderman, tigers, Dora, Diego, AND the letters of the alphabet. I just chose something he likes that I could really get behind! He had a really good time and so did I. Now it all fades into a blurry memory faster than you can say "cheese". Thank goodness Grandma took a couple photos!

I made a fresh orange and olive oil bundt cake; we just called it
"o cake". The glaze made it extra delish but it also absorbed
all the decorative powdered sugar!

Maybe my boy's really getting into toys now that he's 3
or maybe the other parents are all super in touch with
what 3 year old's like, but every gift he received has
been a major hit (including the stomp rocket they're
all crowding around here).

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Desktop Calendars Galore

I've started downloading free desktop calendars every month to pretty up my office, my mobile office. While I do have a desk I often work on my laptop in other rooms of the house. For instance, I'm currently kneeling on my bedroom floor with my laptop on a cushion on my bed!

I love print and color but live in this slowly-getting-less-beige house so I take my fun and pretty wallpaper pattern where I can get it! Here's a few that I've used recently and a few I wish I'd used. I found so many I like for March that I switched halfway through the month! Check the links' corresponding sites for future calendars as the year rolls by.

December 2012 from Love Mae

Rebekka Seale's January calendar

I used this for February and I can't find the source
now that I'm looking for it!

Sasha Endoh Design's March

March envelopes by Alma

March from Gennine's Art Blog

Marimekko' s March theme

Saturday, March 2, 2013

This Week's Books

The Rain Train by Elena de Roo

I seem to have come across a glut of great books lately. Books that look right up my alley at the library but when I get them home and read them to my kids I find myself paraphrasing or rephrasing the text or wishing there was more or less story. Other times as I sift through the shelves at my local branch using my standard critical approach (title, illustrations, amount of text, and subject matter in that order) and I wonder how many of the titles I pick up belong to wonderful stories paired with unappealing illustrations. If that's the case, back to the shelf it goes. I'm only looking for the best and that still amounts to over a dozen books that make it to this week's short list, the ones we sign out and schlep home. The Rain Train is one that I wasn't entirely sold on upon first read (I think the title first sold me on it over the illustrations) but now I just can't seem to cull it and return it I enjoy reading it aloud so much.

The story is a poem with a lot of great lines. And though I don't recall reading the first page in the library, the opening lines really get me: "When the rain fingers drum out a dance on the pane, / When the windows are foggy enough for my name". And the other set of lines that I savour: "And all of the time / Always the same... / The wail of the wind, / the sway of the train, / The strum of the wheels to the beat of the rain".

Every page pairs poetic description with often-rhyming, sometimes alliterative onomatopoeia, my favorite being: "Past lighted houses -- / Clackety-clack. / Out of the city -- / Shackety-shack". (I always find myself whispering the onomatopoeic phrases.)

Now I don't claim to know what a rain train is, but my guess is that it's made-up by a child lying in bed, falling asleep listening to the rain. This train carries him off through the night to dreamland. The passengers are all in pajamas and carry umbrellas and the last page shows a boy asleep in his bed with a train going by outside his window and it reminds me of the late train that I used to hear if I was up late enough when I was young - perfect.

Beach Feet by Kiyomi Konagaya Illustrated by Masamitsu Saito

This is the other book I can't part with at library return time. The story and the perfectly imperfect illustrations just keep me reaching for this one over others at storytime. The entire book is about a few lively moments of a child's day at the beach. The first person narrator is easily distracted, nicely representing the short attention span of a real child.

Emotion, movement, speed, and even temperature are conveyed in the brilliantly messy illustrations of this book. Toes and fingers are shown to be excited, paddling, or wiggling by their numerous outlines as with the hot toes shown above. My favorite drawing is the intentionally imprecise underwater legs (at right); a few scribbles and realistic shimmering water and moving legs are perfectly achieved. Saito doesn't appear to care about colouring in the lines of his own drawings and the oil pastels lend themselves nicely to blurring and smudging. Attractive, effective imperfection is one of the things I like about the art I like - you know how bittersweet chocolate is better than sweet chocolate on its own? A little imperfection goes a long way in terms of poignancy.