Posts tagged ‘Friends’

January 3, 2013

Tales of a Gift Giver: DIY Gifts for Any Occasion

Being a teacher isn’t the best way to save money on gifts, so I decided to get a little more creative this year and put a homemade aspect into a lot of my family’s gifts. Here is a rundown of my DIY gifts, and how to make them in case you get inspired ; )

For my mom….

Owl Piggy Bank

When my sister came to visit me in Tulsa, we visited Color Me Mine in Tulsa. This is a “paint your own ceramic thing” kind of place, and of course, I chose the owl. It’s actually a piggy bank, and I instructed my mom to use it to save up money for her next trip to come see me. We always end up going shopping, so I figured every time she is feeling stressed out from daily life, she can look at the equally stressed out owl and deposit change in it to save up for something fun later : )

For my sister….

book of awesome

Last Christmas, my sister gave me this book called “The Book of Awesome.” It contains short passages about the small things in life we should appreciate like driving around to see Christmas lights, finally remembering where we’ve seen someone before after staring at them forever, and playing Robin Hood with batteries in your remotes around your house (steal from the rich and give to the poor!). She not only bought the book, but also had marked it up commenting on various things, drawing illustrations, and coming up with her own Awesome things unique to us. I would randomly read it all year, and was absolutely *delighted* to find out they had released a sequel to it. I bought it, and also the holiday edition, and spent hours and hours marking each passage up and thinking up new awesome things. I was actually afraid she would buy the same thing for me, so I tried to add as much as possible and bought that holiday edition as a back up bonus gift, haha. Luckily, she got me Lego Lord of the Rings instead, so I was safe ; ) Taking a coffee table book and personalizing it for a friend or family member is quite awesome on its own, and it is an easy gift to put together.

For my dad….

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Confession Time: I watch a lot of “beauty gurus” on YouTube. I think I follow like 20 now??? It’s a bit ridiculous, but led to a great Christmas gift idea this year. Rachhloves posted a video a long time ago about DIY gifts, and one of them was a jar of notes. Essentially, you decorate a jar and write a bunch of notes with quotes, sayings, memories, etc. for the person to read throughout the year. Well, I am more fond of boxes so I went straight to my local Michaels and bought this basic black wooden box and some scrabble-like tiles (yes, I had the scrabble idea and assumed the store would have it- luckily it did). I spent about an hour arranging the tiles into the perfect way to state the purpose of the box and take up most of the lid. I did this while Inception was on TV, so I feel like I deserve extra points for processing the movie and putting together this gift. After the box was decorated, I just wrote all the notes- most of which are fond memories I share of growing up with my dad. I had bought a bag of randomly sized, colored paper from Michaels, too, which made the notes look a little more fancy and also had been cut down to size. I ended up making 52 so my dad can open one a week. Warning: This can be extremely fun to make and you may want to keep it for yourself by the end.

For my best friend Erin….

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I made Erin the same present as my dad except her box was very different. I bought a white cardboard one for her, and then spent forever cutting out quotes, cute pictures, and inspirational words to decorate the entire outside and inside walls of the box. The longest part of this project was arranging everything just so on each side of the box, especially on the top (because that has the biggest real estate and will be seen the most). I probably went through about 5 different layouts before deciding on one. This was done during the movie Elf, though, so my mind was a little more freed up than when I made my dad’s gift. Once I laid out all the magazine clippings, I painted Mod Podge ALL over the box to glue it down and create a finishing effect. It looked pretty awesome in the end. I used the same note paper to write Erin’s notes, and once again wrote 52 to make it last all year (though I did tease her that she wouldn’t be able to wait and I’d find her laying in a sea of opened notes, kind of like Monica opening all her wedding presents on Friends).

For my grandfather….

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My grandfather is extremely hard to shop for, so I had to enlist the help of 26 4th graders to put his gift together. We just finished reading Dear Mr. Henshaw the last week before break, and as a “final project,” each student wrote a letter to him telling about themselves and an aspect of the class. I took a picture of each student holding a “Hi Mr. Barr!” sign, too, so my grandfather could see all the cute kids who wrote the letters. I didn’t have time to do practically any editing, so the quotes from some of these letters are hilarious. For example:

“I’m ten years old. I bet you’re really old.”

“My name is Ethan. Do you like my handwriting?”

“Ms. Schrumpf teaches us a little bit too much social studies.”

“My brothers make fun of me. They tease me a lot, but life goes on.”

This was actually really easy to put together. I used a spare binder and some page protectors, had the kids paste their pictures on paper and decorate them like frames, and then stuck all the letters and pictures in the book side by side. And BAM. Present. I think if you’re a teacher, getting your class in on making a gift can be great- but only if you can tie it into a teaching objective (letter writing!). It’s a great way to share what you do with someone else!

For my brother-in-law….

grab and go popcorn

Dan is SO EASY to shop for because I can basically throw Dunkin Donuts gift cards at him and he’s ecstatic. However, Dan’s birthday is December 25th, so I run into the dreaded TWO PRESENT CONUNDRUM. Luckily, Dan and I share a love of fantasy movies, especially Lord of the Rings, that Katie isn’t really as into (and by not really into I mean doesn’t care at all). So, I made a homemade coupon in Dan’s Christmas card offering to take him to go see The Hobbit in any format (there are three ways to see it- basic, 3D, and 3D High Frame Rate) and a $10 snack budget. We went on New Year’s Day and saw the fancy 3D High Frame Rate one at the new and improved Downtown Disney Theater (I hadn’t been to the NOT Fork and Screen side in a long time and was very impressed with its multiple fancy snack bar choices and grab and go popcorn- as seen above). We’ve done movie outings together before (again-usually to the one’s Katie doesn’t care about). I know we saw Tron in IMAX 3D and some of the Harry Potter films, and it’s fun. Homemade coupons may be cheesy, but when a free movie outing is involved, they are golden.

So yes- gift giving this year was pretty awesome. I definitely had to step it up a notch to make up for the fact that I am poor, but it turned out to be really fun to put everyone’s gifts together (and go see The Hobbit!). Hope this gives you some DIY ideas for upcoming birthdays, mother’s and father’s days and the occasional anniversary : )

PS- For each of the kids in my class, I wrote a hand written card. I do this every year because I remember LOVING when a teacher wrote a heartfelt message that was unique to me. This takes me about four hours, but watching each kid read their fairly long message of encouragement, appreciation, and care is totally worth it. Plus, I always get a couple of cute notes back and I gain the trust of some of those hard to reach kids ; )

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August 5, 2012

My Fall 2012 TV Line-Up (Complete with New Show Previews)

It has been way too many months since I have had a decent weekly line-up of shows, but I suppose that’s always how summer is.  Starting in September, my TV watching skills will come into play as I juggle 23 ongoing TV shows and try out 7 new series (all new shows are given a 3 episode test-this is the rule I’ve developed over time that ensures you will know after 3 episodes whether or not you want to commit to watching a show regularly).  Unfortunately, NINE of these shows air on Thursdays.  My DVR skills will definitely be put to the test on this insane night of competing television, but I’m confident I can handle it (thank god Project Runway will almost be done by the time the other shows start- and it airs reruns!).

Below you will find my finalized TV spreadsheet (sorry it’s a bit blurry in JPEG form).  Shows in the same color conflict with each other, and bold shows represent new series I plan on trying out.  For all the new shows, I’ve included a brief description and a trailer below in case you are interested in watching them, too.

Fall 2012 TV Spreadsheet

Partners– Mondays at 7:30 on CBS

Two guys, one gay and one straight, have been friends since they were kids.  As adults they try to balance their friendship with their romantic relationships, but sometimes run into trouble.  I’m really excited about this show because I love Michael Urie (Marc from Ugly Betty), and I also love that his boyfriend will be played by Brandon Routh (he played Superman!).  Plus, I appreciate that the show takes an unconventional approach by showing how guys can be best friends despite having opposite sexual orientations : )

Emily Owens, M.D.– Tuesdays at 8:00 pm on The CW

Mamie Gummer, daughter of Meryl Streep, plays the lead in this Grey’s Anatomy-like show.  The only difference?  The main character is a recovering nerd who is trying to put the past (unsuccessfully) behind her to have a shot at being a calm, cool adult.  I find her much more relatable than a lot of the characters on Grey’s Anatomy, and as that show is being dragged out too long, this show is just starting and brings a fresh perspective.

Go On– Tuesdays at 8:00 pm on NBC

Since Friends, I will pretty much try most of those actors’ new shows.  This is why I watched Mr. Sunshine, Cougar Town, Dirt, and (only the pilot of) Episodes.  Go On is Matthew Perry’s new sitcom about a guy who finds friends and support in a dysfunctional grief group.  I love the bit in the trailer about “March Sadness,” and appreciate that the show seems to balance humor with some real drama about Perry’s character recovering from the death of his wife.  Be sure to catch the initial sneak peek preview on August 8th after the Olympics.

Arrow– Wednesdays at 7:00 pm on The CW

I think I’m only giving this a shot because I watched Smallville for so long. Smallville incorporated the Green Arrow as a regular character in the series, but Arrow is devoting a whole show to the superhero.  The Green Arrow story is about a rich guy who survives a plane crash his parents perish in.  He ends up on a deserted island for awhile and when he returns to his city life, he becomes a vigilante.  I was planning on passing after watching the trailer, but apparently the footage shown at Comic Con really impressed the crowd.  Now I’m curious about watching it…

Animal Practice-Wednesdays at 7:30 pm on NBC

My feelings for this show are kind of hot and cold.  I think it could be pretty funny, especially since the main character reminds me of Jeff on Community, but it might also be too over the top.  The premise is a smart-ass vet balances saving the lives of animals with goofing around with his co-workers and hitting on girls.  It has potential, but like Go On, it needs to balance the humor with drama to create long term appeal.

Beauty and the Beast– Thursdays at 8:00 pm on The CW

This show has A LOT of competition on Thursday night.  Kristin Kreuk plays a police officer who keeps getting saved by a mysterious “beast.”  This beast turns out to be a genetically enhanced soldier that was supposed to have been killed off because he was a failed government experiment.  He escaped, but has to stay hidden to ensure his survival.  Kreuk’s character feels the need to protect him because of the many times he saved her.  I feel that between the hot young actors and the classic storyline, this will probably do well.

Made in Jersey– Fridays at 8:00 pm on CBS

I really try to avoid court room dramas like the plague, but this one just may reel me in.  It has an Erin Brockovich feel to it because its about a Jersey girl trying to succeed as a lawyer in the competitive New York arena.  She uses her street smarts to close some tough cases (think Elle Woods and hair care knowledge), but will take some time to really prove herself.  If the show remains character driven over case driven, I’ll probably love it.  Otherwise it will get dropped (by me) after three episodes for sure.

There are three new shows that aren’t on my schedule because they won’t air until midseason (likely January).  I wanted to include them here in case you still can’t find a show that fits your particular niche.

The Carrie Diaries– The CW

This show follows the story of Carrie Bradshaw (the main character of the Sex and the City series) as she navigates the tough reality of being a teenager.  I absolutely love Sex and the City, and I hope this show maintains the character of Carrie well.  They will have the show set in the 80’s to keep up an accurate timeline, so that’s probably a good sign.

Mistresses– ABC

Despite big TV promos, I really wasn’t feeling any of the new ABC shows this Fall.  Last Resort seems to political, Nashville seems to country, and The Neighbors is actually about aliens…PASS.  Mistresses, however, is planning on taking a shot at that Desperate Housewives vibe.  GCB failed at this last year, but perhaps this one will make it.  I have a feeling it might be a little too sexy for my taste (when every single character is sleeping around with everyone else I get bored- let’s put some real stories and dialogue in there please), but we’ll see.

The Goodwin Games– Fox

How did I miss hearing about this show until now?  It has a great cast that includes Becki Newton (from Ugly Betty and How I Met Your Mother) and Scott Foley (from Felicity and recently, Grey’s Anatomy), a reconnecting family plot line, and a good mix of humor and drama.  These things all make for a Kelly show.  The premise is that three siblings are reunited by their father’s death, and end up competing for their inheritance in games their father really created to bring them closer.  The trailer for it looks really cute, and I can’t wait to check this one out next year.

What new shows are you looking forward to in the Fall?  And what favorites are you anxiously waiting to return?  For me, I’m definitely looking forward to the return of The Vampire Diaries-what a cliffhanger!

June 5, 2012

5 Cheap Cures for the Summer Blues

Since I decided to become a teacher, I still get a summer break.  And since I still get a summer break, I still hit that same period about a couple weeks into summer break where I feel completely bored. Yeah, sure, I’m grateful for the extra rest, but eventually sitting around doing nothing becomes less exciting.  I know a lot you are not teachers and don’t have this summer break problem, but perhaps you still feel a little bored with the lack of television options (another brutal reality for me the next few months) or you still feel phantom summer break boredom pains from your younger ears.  Here are a few ideas to add some fun into your life until the end of August rolls back around.

1. Rediscover Magazines

Remember when getting mail was fun and not just full of bills?  You can have that again!  Magazines are extremely cheap now because the industry is dying out with so much media being consumed online.  While print magazines may be out in a decade, you still have some time now to embrace their twilight years (at excellent prices, too!).  Amazon has several magazines available for only $5 a year!  This is how I subscribed to Marie Claire.  I feel you can get $5 worth out of any yearly subscription, especially if you are interested in the overall subject matter.  My sister got me into Marie Claire because while it does have a lot of fashion pages, it also has articles about real girls doing real things you can either relate to or admire.  I particularly loved the article “Love and the Single Girl” in this month’s issue.  Knowing there are single ladies out there thwarting parents from buying online dating subscriptions for them or being asked to move to make room for a couple, yet still completely content with their lives, makes me realize that being single at 24 is not a life sentence.

I will constantly recommend Entertainment Weekly till I die, but I am also one to love me some pop culture news.  Entertainment Weekly offers an extra tablet edition of their magazine free with your subscription, which is great on the go and offers extra interactive features (ex. jumping to a trailer of a movie you are reading about).  This has been especially useful to me while I am in Orlando.  EW runs about $25 for the year, but for $9 more you can get it for two years (remember, it’s “weekly”).  You can check out EW’s offer here, or pay less for a shorter subscription over at Magazines.com here.

I know there is a lot of digital media for us to consume, but nothing quite beats sitting down for an hour to flip through a magazine by a pool, curled up on your couch, or killing time during travel.  You will always get a little more written content than if you read the articles online, and you will help make sure future generations get the opportunity to post pictures from magazines on their wall (I still have EW covers as decorations in my apartment…haha).  Click here to check out Amazon’s current $5 deals on magazine subscriptions (through June 17th).  Also make sure to stalk Groupon and Living Social for magazine deals, as I have gotten a couple $12 subscriptions there, too.

2. Try out Fitness Classes through Summer Deals

Gyms are not stupid.  They know we as a human race hit summer and go oh….swimsuit season…damn those extra pounds!  I think even skinny people feel awkward sometimes when they pull out that swimsuit that has been at the bottom of their drawer the past few months.  But this ends up working in our favor because the gym and exercise class deals that pop up are great!  A lot of boot camps run shorter session deals where you can do a few weeks of classes at a highly reduced rate.  Tulsa Fit Body Boot Camp, the place I went in March and April under a Groupon deal, is offering 2 weeks of classes and a meal plan for $25.  You can e-mail tulsafitbootcamp@yahoo.com for more information.  For my Orlando friends, Fitness-n-Fun boot camp is offering 6 classes and a consultation for $29 on Living Social (ends by June 6th…so check it out now).  I just bought the Jazzercise deal on Groupon today (ends in a few days).  It’s offering 10 classes for $39 or 20 classes for $59, which is really good compared to their regular monthly and start up fees.  I’ll probably end up using this half in Orlando and half in Tulsa since it’s valid at any location.

If you are really tight on cash or really fickle about your choice of exercise, most classes offer the first class free to try.  You can be really budget conscious and spend weeks just hopping around to different classes.  Gyms will offer similar free day or week passes, though they might bug you a lot afterwards to make a financial commitment.  Just think of the summer as a time to play the field, exercise-wise, to find that one place you could see yourself making a long term commitment to come Fall ; )

3. Make New Friends, But Keep the Old (TV-wise of course)

After May, my busy DVR takes a 4 month siesta- this is probably crucial to its ability to function, but can be quite a bummer when night after night I struggle to find anything worth watching.  This is where my DVD/Blu-Ray player gets its yearly workout.  When June comes up, I usually dust off my DVD collection to find those few shows I feel I’ve taken a long break from and need to re-watch.  In past years I’ve gone through Buffy, Friends, Lois and Clark (90’s love!), and Roswell.  This summer I chose some old Grey’s Anatomy episodes (select seasons…I don’t have the patience to watch some of it’s dark periods, a.k.a. The Dr. Hunt Years) and The Vampire Diaries (TVD).  I’m watching TVD with my friend Erin, which has been really fun.  TVD is probably one of my top favorites on TV right now, and I’ve never re-watched episodes since they aired (minus one in Russian while I was in Moscow, haha).  Watching shows with friends who haven’t seen them is much more exciting than watching them by yourself, because you get to see them go through all the shock and awe you did when you first saw all the drama play out.  There’s nothing quite like marathoning through an old favorite…

…except maybe marathoning through a show that’s new to you!  I tend to pick up at least one new show each summer that’s been on the air already by watching reruns, taking advantage of the Hulu Plus free week trial, mooching off a friend or relative’s Netflix capabilities, or visiting the magical place called the Orange County Library System (once you go OCLS, you don’t go back…sorry Tulsa).  I’ve picked up Big Bang Theory, Parks and Recreation, Covert Affairs, Downton Abbey, How I Met Your Mother, The Middle, and Chuck this way.  It’s even fun to do this with series that have finished because then you can relish in not having to wait after any cliffhangers (people who did this with LOST are so lucky!).  Here are a few of my recommendations for TV shows to catch up on based on your interests and time:

a) For people who don’t want to catch up on too much before the shows start next year, check out Revenge and Once Upon a Time.  Both of these were freshman hits for ABC this year, and have a pretty good following due to their unfolding mystery plots.  You’ll want to be up to date on these for break room conversations next year at work.

b) For those who take forever to go through episodes, try Downton Abbey.  It’s a hit with most and only airs for a short period each year.  It’s been on two seasons already, but only totals 16 episodes.  Note that season 2 is better than the first, so be patient if it seems a little dull in the beginning.  Like wine, it gets better with age.

c) Comedy fans should check out the underrated Community.  They just did an episode almost completely as an 8-bit video game!  If that isn’t awesome enough to entice you, there is also a fake flashback episode, a zombie attack episode, and 3 epic paintball battle episodes.

d) For fantasy/sci-fi fans, Supernatural is still one of my favorites.  It is one of the few TV shows to be banished to Friday and then sent back to a mid-week slot.  And it was just renewed for an 8th season….so I am not the only fan.  Two hot brothers solving supernatural crimes with rich, long-running plot lines to support the series? Win.

4. Create a Personal Style Book

Now this is something I haven’t tried before, but that I thought of while perusing the latest Marie Claire.  There are so many times where I have random thoughts while browsing online, walking through stores, or flipping through a magazine- “I love that print on that top!” or “I wonder what that nail polish looks like on…” or “I need to decorate my apartment like that.”  I feel like in my mid-20’s, I’m finally coming into my own style…or maybe I’m just beginning a new chapter of an ever-evolving life cycle of style (this is coming from someone who wore bike shorts in elementary school (they were comfy!!!) and every single Old Navy solid color top in middle school).  I kind of wish I had a book that had all those likes and interests together.  When I described this to Katie, she said..”Soooo, you want to make a Pinterest book.”  I went to defend it, but she’s right.  It’s a Pinterest book.

I like the idea of Pinterest, but never really got into using the platform.  I’m more drawn to creating a book by hand.  Not only will it take up some time (it can really be infinite if you fill it up a little at a time as time passes), but it’s more unique than a bunch of links on a website.  It creates a good way to get a second use from my magazines, forces me to be more aware of current styles (and the types of things I’m drawn to), and can be a great coffee table book for my apartment : ) I imagine my final product would have pages like this:

The above picture is from a blogger that already created books like the one I’m describing- one for fashion and one for home decorating.  I think this can be a fun project to help you get your ideas together whether you are freshening up your wardrobe, furnishing a new apartment, changing up a room in your house (ex. preparing it for a new baby!), or creating an idea book for special occasions.  I picture this done with a blank notebook with cardstock-like pages.  I think notebook paper might be too flimsy for a lot of gluing, but those notebooks with dividers built in are tempting to separate your idea collections.

5. Learn (some of) a New Language

Raise your hand if you’ve vowed to teach yourself a new language, bought a bunch of stuff to support your learning, and then given up this dream after a week?  ::Raises hand…3?…times::  I really want to learn some Russian so that when I go back to visit our family friends I can converse a little.  I was on a good roll by the end of my trip last year, mastering about 75 words and phrases, as well as learning how to read the language (just pronunciation, not comprehension).  But now most of those words I have to check on in my language book, and I only remember how to sound out a handful of letters.  Boo.  This summer I’m going to try to use my extra time to make a little more progress in my russian language acquisition.

For anyone else bold enough to take on a foreign language this summer, I highly recommend checking with your library concerning any free programs they offer.  OCLS offers an online program that is self-paced called Mango Langauges (oooo, Tulsa offers Mango Languages, too- see here). I worked with this a little last summer before all my TFA training started and loved it.  I made flash cards as I went (which I recently found!) to support long term learning.  All you need is your library card to access the online courses they offer (note that you can’t learn the whole language, but these free tutorials are great for building a good general knowledge to have short conversations with native speakers).  Here is a list of the languages offered:

If your language isn’t too obscure, you can also find CDs and workbook kits at the library to learn the language as well.  I wouldn’t recommend Rosetta Stone until you are fully committed to learning the language.  Even the cheaper kits online can put you out $30, which is only worth it if you’ll stick with it.  Try Mango first and checking out audio CDs for on the go…this could be you by the end of summer : )

I hope one of these (or all of these!) suggestions struck your fancy and will help you cure any impending summer blues in 2012.  I myself will be imploring all five, but then again, I’m an overachiever.  Even if you don’t get a break from work or school, find some time to pretend you have all the time in the world to just relax and enjoy the sun : D