Monday, September 28, 2009

Halllllooooooweeeeennnn!!!

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. I used to think about my costume months in advance because in the old days the term "Trick or Treat" meant you had to trick neighbors by dressing up so that they could not guess who you were. If they couldn't guess you, you received a treat. However we always got the treat even when they did guess us. I tried very hard to carry this custom over when my kids were young so that they could enjoy the holiday as much as I did.

We moved into our present house during the summer when the kids were very young. My oldest daughter and son were in first grade and kindergarten respectively. In addition the bus stop was right in front of our house. Since the development was still in it's infancy, yet there were a couple of streets behind us and many in front of us, I decided on our first Halloween to introduce myself to the kids in the neighborhood.

The first bus collected the kids for the Middle School. Thinking that they were older and less scared I dressed up as a vampire - I did a good job if I say so myself. Well, they certainly weren't prepared for me charging out of the garage and surprising them at the bus stop. Nor were they prepared for me to chase the bus down the street to the next bus stop. I had a good time and couldn't stop laughing.

Shortly thereafter it was time for the elementary bus. I thought dressing up as a vampire might be too much for them. This was the first time that I learned people have a genuine fear of clowns. I always thought clowns were funny so I naturally thought that was a good idea for the younger kids and I wasn't wrong. However, a couple of the mothers of the kids had a very strong phobia of clowns - they were scared! I didn't chase their bus down the street.

While the kids were at school I prepared for the nightly visit of gremlins and goblins and whatever else might come by. Basically we transformed one side of the garage into a haunted area. I planned to stand outside in my vampire outfit, scaring and giving out the treats. It was a success. We had a line of kids who introduced themselves to us and told us where they lived. From that Halloween on we progressed in our decorating and scaring the kids.

What was even better was that our neighbors on each side of us were as much into Halloween as we were. For years kids went screaming from one house to the next. I guess you know you are doing something right when a couple of the neighborhood kids would go home and change into different outfits and come back.

The most memorable time I can think of was when the kids were in high school, the youngest still in Middle School. I was really getting good at decorating the foyer and living room. We had a sheet dyed black covering the entrance into the dining room. Two teenagers, a girl and her boyfriend, came to the door. I was dressed up as usual and invited them to come in. They were very hesitant as they did not live in our neighborhood and of course didn't know us. At any rate the young lady entered first. We had the eerie music on, blue lights and spiders, etc. She was scared but continued to encourage her boyfriend to come in. Finally he did. As he stood in the foyer with his back to the black sheet covering the dining room he kept saying that he knew someone was going to jump out from behind the sheet. The more he kept claiming that was going to happen the more I kept reinforcing that it wasn't - wrong.

Unknown to me one of my kid's had called and needed to be picked up from somewhere. At any rate my husband is the one who took the call so he was the designated person to do the pick up. In so doing the only way to get out was through the dining room. Now hubby is 6' 4". As he emerged from behind the sheet the young man jumped, screamed and darted out the door - never to be seen again!

Our neighborhood kids are now in their late 20's and early 30's. I hear from them when their home always asking if I'm going to decorate for Halloween. I don't do it anymore.

Hubby's favorite part of Halloween was when the kids returned from their trick or treating and poured their bag full of goodies on the floor to be examined prior to eating. I always enjoyed seeing what they got. We always gave out peanut butter filled eyeballs.

In the old days we used pillow cases, then came the paper shopping bags and now the plastic buckets. I wish we had had the re-usable canvas bags that they now have for trick or treat. I made some up to see.








The other thing I noticed of late is that people are starting to have more Halloween parties rather then taking their kids around to various neighborhoods. Therefore I've designed some complete Halloween invitations. I like the inside of the cards better then the covers.






There are many more plus stickers to match the invitations.

Ah, enough Halloween for now.

Have a Firecrackin Great Monday!


Saturday, September 26, 2009

It's Moving Day!!

Well, hubby and I are joining the Empty Nester's' Club. Yep, the last of our chickens is moving out. Happiness for her another change for us. Hmm... All I can think of is that commercial a couple of years ago where the husband and wife were in their kitchen when one of their kids came along and tried to unlock the front door to come in. They had changed the locks. The kid looked bewildered while they were smiling. Amazing how I can remember the scenario but not the product being advertised.

I've always enjoyed our kids living at home but I also remember when I was so anxious to move out of my home and start my life. Independence is a wonderful thing but extremely difficult to achieve these days. My mother helped us out more then once - actually many, many times. So our role now is to be there for our kids when they need us.

Hubby and I were fortunate that my grandmother married for a third time and had moved out of her house when we were in search of our first home. She rented it to us for a nominal fee. Hubby was still in college and I had just gotten my first teaching position for $6,000 a year. We lived on meatloaf and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

I remember our first Christmas well. My grandmother's house was big, old and beautiful. She rented the upstairs to another woman but we had access to the third floor attic. What a cool place. The ceilings were at least 8 ft. high downstairs where we lived. That year we bought the largest Christmas tree but had no decorations for it. So me being me blew our budget the first pay of that December. I went out and bought a ton of decorations. The tree was beautiful but there was no money left for gifts or for that matter food. We were extremely happy that so many of our relatives and friends invited us over for dinners and that I had been doing ceramics for the past year.

With the holidays coming and all three kids facing the same dilemma as we did all those years ago, I'll have focused on some holiday gifts I can give them to help out. Last year I designed some glass cutting boards that were really neat along with holiday coasters. I just went to that site and found the cutting boards are out of stock. Guess I'll have to go with the coasters.

I also like the ornaments that you can make at Zazzle but I like my holiday ornaments the best. They are flat but really a nice unique touch to decorating for the holidays.









Baseball Christmas Ornament photosculpture
Baseball Christmas Ornament by FCM_Christmas

The sports ornaments can be personalized by Firecrackinmama.

I have different images that I'll use to make my kids' gifts. Guess they know they're getting one for Christmas now - but they don't know what I'm going to put on them :)

Well, time to go help with the move.

Have a Firecrackin Saturday!!


Friday, September 25, 2009

Oh NO!!!

You know how some days are good and others you know as soon as you get up you should probably stay in bed? Well, yesterday was one of those days in which I should have just gone back to bed and waited for today. Fortunately it was only an annoying day in which it just seemed that I couldn't do anything right or it took extra long to do it.

I got to work early because I knew I was going to be on the road most of the day - turns out it was the whole day. Traffic was terrible, it was hot, I got home late and I had not had anything to eat. The good part was that once I did get to the schools to observe the students, I was warmly greeted and observed some good lessons, particularly the Spanish World Language lesson. It's the first time I actually learned something during a 45 minute presentation. I wonder if she teaches adult classes somewhere.

Enough for a sluggish work day and the wear and tear on my body, oh and my car. When I got home I needed some therapy - working on some online designs. Since I had started creating my poster size calendars, I decided to create one more and to finish loading them on my Zazzle and update my Firecrackinmama website.

I knew just the image I wanted to use. I opened my Photo Shop and went to work creating this beautiful calendar of the resort poolside we visited on our last cruise.


Evidently it was just too much for my DELL XPS. The machine started revving up like a jet plane and got louder and louder. I was trying my best to shut down all the programs and of course the computer but to no avail. So I did the next best thing and pulled the plug before it either blew up or took off. So much for therapy.

There's always a back-up though, my good old DELL Inspriron laptop. I pulled that out but as I said earlier, my day was not going so well. The laptop wouldn't connect to the Internet. Good old hubby to the rescue. He hooked me up so I could be with the world once more but was unable to fix my desktop.

DELL's turn! The reason we buy DELL's is because of their tech support. Fortunately I had purchased the extended warranty on my XPS. Now normally I call early in the morning and speak to very nice Philippians. I like to know what the weather is like there and they are very helpful, but because I need to get my desktop up and running ASP, I tried the chat online.

I started chatting at 8:30 pm. After a significant period of time explaining many times that the computer would not power up we were told to locate 4 LED lights under the front panel. Hubby and I appeared to be very stupid as we could not see what the tech was asking us to see. That is not until hubby took the cover off the machine and accidentally shined a flashlight behind the panel that had translucent numbers! Yeah, after 45 minutes we had made it through the first step with several more to follow.

Finally we, rather hubby, disconnected and reconnected pins from the power supply to the mother board. That didn't work either. At 10:12 pm the tech finally acknowledged that my machine was dead. She indicated that they were going to ship a new mother board and power supply. The tech will get in touch with me on Monday and my computer should be back!

Meanwhile I am very happy that I had backed most of it up on my very large Toshiba flash drive. So the therapy may not be as fast as my XPS but I still have it.

Here are some samples. Typically I'll buy one to hang on my wall at work and just drool over it wishing I was rich and lived the life of trying figure out what might I do next. However my customers have found much more creative ways to use my Poster Calendars. I had one company order a slew of them for their holiday gifts to various clients. They added their company name and info. Others have ordered them for their sales groups. I love them so I expect everyone else should love them too.









Costa Maya Poster Calendar print
Costa Maya Poster Calendar by Firecrackinmama

I'm late getting around to designing and posting my calendars but better late than never!

Have a Firecrackin Good Day!!!


Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Prime Rib

Ah, it melts in your mouth. Arrangements had been made by my oldest daughter for just the five of us to go to The Prime Rib as part of the Restaurant Week of Philadelphia and of course for her birthday dinner. I've always preached to the kids that dining out should be an everlasting experience and believe me we have had plenty of those!

The beginning of the experience will be the most memorable; just trying to get to The Prime Rib during the evening rush hour. That part of the evening started with fitting five adults into one Saturn Vue, that's five big adults. We spent the better part of an hour and a half thoroughly enjoying high quality time with each other while stuck in the middle of traffic parking lots. Hubby and I were squeezed against the two back doors while our poor youngest who was between us heckled her Dad. The two kids in the front were quite comfortable in joking about our demise.

Obviously as our reservation hour of 6:00 pm neared and we had just made it over the bridge to join thousands of others going nowhere fast, hubby called the restaurant to tell them we were going to be a few minutes late. Hmm... did I say a few?

I had a chance to take a couple of pictures, basically Billy Penn from different angles.



About forty-five minutes later my eyes were greeted by



It was a wonderful sight with valet parking. We literally fell out of the car to begin our eating experience.

We were graciously welcomed and forgiven immediately for our tardiness. I think.

As a woman who prepares meals daily, I am very particular about where we sit in a restaurant. I don't want to be close to the kitchen or the server area, I don't want to be in a main aisle where everyone has to pass by your table to get to theirs and I really don't want to be seated at the first table near the entrance for a variety of reasons. I want to feel pampered and rich for an evening and not feel as though I should throw on my apron and help serve and clean up.

So when we were escorted to our table and stopped abruptly at the first one, my thoughts immediately were to ask for another seating preferably towards the back of the restaurant where it appeared to be more pleasantly atmospheric. It was away from the bar and closer to the piano. However the family sat before I had a chance to pipe my objections, hubby in a corner high-backed chair.



The hostess gladly took a picture of us all. As you can see we all sat comfortably at a well dressed table. Yep, all the good manners were to be utilized at this sitting. When I took my seat, I found I had a great view of the bar activities and I could see the Phillies on the TV. I felt right at home. I have to say the steady stream of customers passing behind me had enough room to pass without bumping me.

Our waiter was very nice and quickly arrived at our table to take our drink order. To gauge the excellence or level of eating establishments, I always order a Dubonnet with a twist. If the restaurant has it, then the establishment must be of high quality. Of course the second test is the size of the drink, the smaller the drink then I feel the establishment also takes short cuts in other places such as the food.

I was pleasantly surprised when my drink was placed carefully in front of me. Believe me it was probably the largest Dubonnet I ever received from any restaurant before. Hmm... now for the eating experience. Prior to leaving the table our waiter left the menu.



Unfortunately I took this image from The Prime Rib site and it doesn't show the recommended wines to accompany the entrees as was on the one we received at the table.

We enjoyed a few sips of our drinks before the waiter returned. I went for the Caesar Salad, thinking it would be the real McCoy with anchovies etc. I of course ordered the Prime Rib with a glass of the recommended wine and kept my eye on the Key Lime Pie for dessert. Hubby always gives me a bad time when I order beef. I don't like the blood running on my plate but I like it red and not well done. He becomes very embarrassed when I describe how I would like my order in this manner. Therefore we practiced before ordering - I wanted it medium rare.

By this time we were all having a great time and the seating was no longer a big deal to me. As I looked around the restaurant everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. We enjoyed the soft music coming from the piano in the back, the various activities occurring at the bar and of course watching the Phillies take the lead. In reality we see each other almost everyday so if we had sat in the back atmospheric section of the restaurant, I think we would have been very bored.

Our salads and soup arrived first. No anchovies in my Caesar Salad but it was still good and a nice size serving, not too big and yet not to small. Dinner arrived in a timely fashion with everyone drooling over their perfectly prepared Prime Rib. I had joked earlier about the steak knives we were given prior to receiving our entrees. They were very large and heavy. I remember commenting that if we needed something that large to cut the meat then we might be in big trouble here. However that wasn't the case at all. The meat was so tender you could cut it with your fork.

We all dived into the food. I passed on the potatoes and beans because I was still thinking about dessert. However everyone else enjoyed them. As a matter of fact I couldn't finish my Prime Rib so I shared it with hubby and my son.

At last it was time for dessert. I think everyone ordered the Creme Burlee but me. That Key Lime pie was absolutely delicious. The only bad incident during this eating adventure came at the very end. I had ordered a Sambuca on the side with my coffee. That was large as well. It was almost gone when I started speaking to my son with my hands in motion. Yes, it spilled and the three layers of tablecloths would have to be replaced. I think that was more in reaction to our bill. You know those large drinks - well they equated to a very large bill.

After paying we headed on out to the street to await the arrival of our car.



We rearranged our sitting in the car making our ride home more comfortable. As we reflected on our eating experience we all agreed it was a great night out! The food was excellent, the company was great and the Phillies won.

I think hubby and I will take more interest in Restaurant Week.

Well, have a Firecrackin great Saturday!


Saturday, September 12, 2009

It Takes Me Forever!

To this day I can get lost in Philadelphia. I don't know if it's just an overall directional problem with me (my husband would say it was) or if I just have a mental block about Phillie. There are so many things to see and do but I hesitate to go by myself for fear I'll be on the late news as missing when in reality I was still wandering the streets trying to find the Speedline. Ok, so really I could be considered missing. Let's move on.

My above thoughts about Philadelphia were as a result of re-designing my calendars. I started with the Philadelphia 2010 calendar and spent hours trying to decide what pictures I should use this year. I think I did pretty well. My favorite is the cover.


I mean when we travel from New Jersey to Philadelphia this is what we see first. I don't know if others will like the cover as much as me but...

I really liked two other months within the calendar. You can be sure you won't find these two pictures in any other Philadelphia calendar.


July

and


May

Once I had the Philadelphia 2010 calendar together I started on my Tropics 2010 calendar. Wow, that one took a long time too but I'm once again very happy with the outcome.


There's a blend of the Caribbean and the Mexican Riviera as well as Hawaiian pictures that just make your mouth water for vacation.

Finally I cheated on the Nature's Beauty calendar because it was taking me forever to do the other two. I used most of the same pictures in this floral calendar because only a few bought it last year - me being one of the few. The quality is great and I of course think the images are just beautiful.


I still have about five more calendars that were popular last year to get together as well as my poster calendars that went over very well too. I have some new images that will look great in an office, classroom or family room.

Zazzle came out with new products this past week and will be releasing some more new products within the next couple of weeks. The most impressive release this week were the Photocards. I tried my hand at a couple and hope to really dive in on these during the next few weeks.


I took this picture last year right before Christmas dinner because I was so happy with the way the coffee mugs enhanced my table. I designed them and thought they would make nice favors as well as be functional. One of the Zazzle employees thought it was a great image and should be used in advertising. I think it would look great as an invitation to a Christmas dinner or even make it into a Christmas card by just adding text.

It's so easy to customize/personalize items by using the text tools provided in the purchase mode. Just look for the customize button and away you go.

Of course photocards are usually set up as templates so customers can easily replace the template with their own picture. Therefore I had to give it a try.


Now I have to do more of these before too long. I've noticed that people are buying their Christmas cards already. I had someone buy 300 of this card. I don't think I'm on their Christmas list though.


Guess I better get into the spirit of the holidays coming. Halloween is always a favorite of mine. I have plenty of invitations that were popular last year. One of my favorites is


Well I should get back to designing some more calendars.

Have a Firecrackin Great Day!!!


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Real Work

Yep, that horrid four letter word that takes your freedom of doing nothing, having fun, or sleeping in away from you. That four letter word that means the difference between having food on the table or not; having a roof over your head or not; and being able to go on a vacation or not. That's where I am going today - only I like my work. I am one of the lucky ones.

I know I like being out on the road and not stuck in an office all day. I also like visiting different schools and seeing their programs. Most of all I like visiting my kids and working with their parents to provide a great program in an out of district placement. Oh, and of course I like the paycheck :)

Like everyone else the kids like to be recognized for their performances in any and all areas. I've always managed to find something to give as a sign of recognition but never had the ability to actually design my own items. Within the past few weeks though I've started a line in my Firecrackinmama's Zazzle focused on education.

I'm excited about my ordered personalized Achievement cards that I can use a fine permanent marker to write in a student's name and customize the achievement. They should be coming any day now.


I also developed a template that can easily be customized. Each line is a text template so you can replace it with whatever fits your needs.


I've been rejuvenated in creating new things for education including publishing rubrics through my Firecrackinmama.com site. At Zazzle I've started creating all kinds of neat things for the classroom, teachers and parents (still working on all those things though).

I'm most happy with the beginning line of my classroom posters. Many more are coming within the next few weeks.








I wish I had had the GeoKites poster back when I did the Kite Task Performance Project. It was a fantastic project involving over 128 seventh and eighth grade math students. Talk about using diversified instruction, this was it in all it's glory.

Stickers are always a favorite for students. I'm in the process of designing postcard size sticker boards that specify a goal and hopefully six sticker spaces. That should be available next week. These are some of the stickers I completed. Most can be personalized or customized.

The Starburst sticker seems to be the most popular so far.









Fantastic Work Sticker sticker
Fantastic Work Sticker by Firecrackinmama

There are of course many more with more to come.

My other favorites are the Achievement cards and the Scuba Dog Series motivational cards. After I designed them I had to order some to see how well they looked - I ended up ordering a copy of each of the cards and found they came out better then I thought.

To end today's Blog I have to comment on my Home Healthcare Cards. Again I ordered a copy of each type of card. I found and revised a couple because the print on the back side of the card extended into the red line. They are fine now. In addition I ordered the double postcard size with my mother's picture and a single postcard size with her picture. They came out great! I am presently filling them in with the necessary information.




Then I ordered the 100 pack customized on the front with Courtesy of Firecrackinmama.com to hand out to people. I am very happy with how well they came outl!!!


Well, I'm off to my first day back at work.

Have a Firecrackin Great Day!