Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Farewell 2013, welcome 2014!

I have been thinking about this post for days now, and couldn't decide how to describe this year with one word. For my family and I, 2013 was a pretty epic year. Therefore, I would go for EPIC as description of 2013. This year was the beginning and the end of so many long awaited events/things that it is impossible to describe it in any other way.

Where to begin? I think I want to begin with the most recent development that is (not) coincidentally the surprise I had announced on Facebook. It is official ( and now also Facebook official) that my SECOND BOOK is done! Now all it needs are the illustrations! This time, it is a picture book and it is intended for the littlest readers out there.

Surprise posted? Check! With that out of the way, what else did happen in 2013?
Well, I graduated with GPA 3.97( tune in for graduation pictures in May), I published and launched successfully my very first book ( and calendar), I found an amazing job as a Social Media Coordinator for a local company, which on top of everything else tickled my creative muse to no end, because I had a whole office to decorate. Also for the very first time since I opened it,  I had to stop taking custom orders for my Etsy store, because the demand was much more than I could handle, which is a pretty good thing I think. I helped so many women and men to propose with my message in a bottle this year, that it warms my heart immensely. I also had the opportunity to work with one of the most amazing photographers I've encountered, Jim Miller. Oh, and I cut my hair short again. ;-) Rock on!

But this year was not about me( at least not entirely).

My son picked up the flute, took his first steps in computer programming, and got his black belt in Tae Kwon Do, which was an event that made me so incredibly proud. The perseverance, persistence and good old hard work that he put into this for years was exceptional for a child his age and I am tearing up just thinking about it.

The love of my life got his blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, also an accomplishment that was an excellent example of how much will power and sweat it takes to turn a passion into something much more.

Let's hope next year I can join both- my son and my husband,with my mad boxing skills in my first official match maybe?;-)

My baby girl lost her first tooth, became a Brownie and also played beautifully at her recital ( tears and roses were present of course).

In a way, 2013 closed a bunch of doors and opened others, and although it ends on 13 ( not a very lucky number in general), it was one of the luckiest years for us. Unlike 2012, when we could not wait for it to be over, 2013 leaves my family and I with the feeling of accomplishment. There was a lot of hard work, tears of joy and sorrow, but we came on top! We stuck together like glue when it was tough, supported each other when one of us fell and we enjoyed much more family time than we ever had. The kids had the great opportunity to appreciate what it means to have a working mom, spend more time with their dad and I think we are all the wiser for it.

So, 2013...we are relieved you are going, but we want to thank you for teaching us so much and for setting the path that we've always wanted to take. We can't wait for 2014!


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Good People Project II or how I ended up without a pie

May -July 2013 (128 of 135)

If you have read my previous post, you know what the "Good People Project" is. If not, you are still about to meet one person who made my Thanksgiving possible this year!

Unfortunate things happen usually at the most unfortunate time. However, when you have the support and good will of good people, everything is possible! Today, around noon one of my braces' brackets broke. 1.5" of wire was sticking in my mouth aggravating my cheek. Last time this happened, it hurt like hell and swelled up. In other words, not the best thing to happen to you when :

a) tomorrow is Thanksgiving
b) your orthodontist is out of town
c) the doctor who covers for him closed for the week ( to be fair I eventually got in touch with him, but that was way after the issue was resolved, and the panic that I will spend my time till Monday dealing with this, subsided)

I admit, I was seriously freaking out to the point that I decided to cut the wire myself ( big mistake, did I mention?). When that didn't help I remembered that if there is anyone who can save me in this situation it is my regular dentist. I called, almost in tears, and all they had to say was come right over. And that after one other orthodontist ( not mine or the substitute) turned me down because I am "not his patient".

You know...it's Thanksgiving and I think this is a wonderful time to share something like this.
We are so much in a hurry to "do it all", so much in a hurry to "wrap it up", so much in a hurry to "make it worth our time"...that some of us are missing the point of it all.

The cutting of the wire sticking in my mouth took exactly 2 minutes. The gratitude I have for this dentist will last forever. The truth is that sometimes things that cost us NOTHING and will barely take of our time are the most valuable, human and good things to do. Going the extra mile is all it takes to make the world a better place for everyone.

Did my dentist contribute to world peace today? No, probably not. But he sure made my day, not to mention my family's day, since I won't be crabby and I will cook up a storm tomorrow. That is why I started the Good People Project, because of small gestures, things that sometimes you would miss or miss the opportunity to do, but that mean a lot to someone somewhere.

That is how change happens, when every human being genuinely cares. Not because they have to, they are paid to or they are scared to, but because they just DO. 

I am thankful that I had the opportunity on Thanksgiving to give my thanks by giving my Thanksgiving pie to someone who did the good, human thing everyone hopes to get for Thanksgiving. He gave me the gift of good will.
Thank you, Dr. Levine for being there for me, and not for the first time at that.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Good People Project

May -July 2013 (89 of 135)
Recently I've been debating with myself if I should post about positive experiences that I had with this or that during the week. On one hand, I don't want anyone to think that I am trying to advertise a brand, product or a person, when I am not( if you've been following me for a while, you know I always disclose that), but on the other hand I think we all need a piece of something positive in our life, and I'm thinking, why not this?

Recently, whenever I log into my FB account  all I can see is news on who killed someone, who is being incarcerated, how the healthcare sucks, gas prices are high, people are starving, demonstrations end up in blood baths, mass shootings...should I go on? And that's before I even get to my friends' timelines.

So, is it so strange that every single time I see someone do something nice or make me smile, or just plainly being awesome...well, I feel compelled to share. I WANT to share, to show people that they matter that what they do doesn't go unnoticed and to make them smile the way they made me smile. Yes, I go the extra mile when my server at Red Lobster was extra nice and talk to her/his manager, I fill out positive review forms in my dentist's office, I call my deli guy's supervisor to tell him how my cheese was sliced and each piece was separated with a piece of paper, so I don't have to use 10 pieces at once when they stick together, I contact public relations at Ellis hospital to tell them how their staff made a traumatic experience bearable, just because they cared, and on, and on ...And you know what...people notice. Not because it's me, not because I personally care, but because someone somewhere noticed how they went the extra mile in their work. So, why shouldn't I go the extra mile and share with as many people as possible? There is so much bad and ugly in our everyday life that we need these little rays of sunshine.

So, I decided to start " The Good People Project"( TGPP) and I'm inviting you to participate and share with me things, people or situations that made you believe people are good, well meaning, charismatic creatures, who live to share love and help one another. You can post a comment on there any time and I will give the person who you "nominate" for TGPP on my Facebook account, so more and more people can see them. Well, I would rather you don't nominate your own grandma, but you know what...if she is the kind of awesome that makes life better for people around her- do. And don't forget to send me a picture, so I can show how the coolest grandma looks like.

 Today I would like to say a long, long overdue shout out to James O'Connor from " Fleet Feet" for helping me choose the best running shoes I've had in my life. It happened a year ago, but I've  been feeling bad that I never really wrote about it, and he is one of the people who I don't personally know, but made an extreme impression on me with being knowledgeable, well meaning and friendly person.

Let's share the goodness- YOUR TURN!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Happy Birthday, my love!

Alex 37th Bday49
I was really debating if I should publish this post or a different one as my "come back from the dead" ( aka. graduated-with-my-Master's-degree-and-finally-have-more-time-for-my-blog) post; however, the more I thought about it, the more I felt like it is very appropriate.

Most of you know that behind every great man, there is a woman who makes him look fabulous, feeds him well, inspires him, in other words, takes care of everything that needs taking care of, while her man conquers the world by being great every minute of his day.
Well, we are not talking about that woman today.

We are talking about the man that stood behind me, through thick and thin, while I was juggling graduate school, a job, a house, two kids, a dog, 4 fish ( 2 of them died, RIP) and a chameleon every single day for the past 730 days. Was it though? You betcha'! Did he regret it? I think I made him regret it more than once although he would never officially admit it, but that's OK, I regretted it every day until I graduated, so he gets a free pass. :-)
Alex 37th Bday23
So, this amazing man, named Alex, became 37 yesterday, and since the best thing I could think of to write on his card ( check out the size of that card, huh) was a poem I wrote for his birthday, I think it might be worth sharing. It's called " To Alex", check it out if you want. All I can say about him is in this poem. No more, no less.

While I do intend to publish the recipes I made for his B-day, with the exception of the banana cream pie because it is a friend's super-duper-top-secret family recipe, which is COMPLETELY to die for (why otherwise I will make it instead of a cake, right?), I cannot but brag about the present that I made him.
Alex got his blue belt in Jiu Jitsu recently. He's been working on this for the past 2 years and it's been tough. So, I decided that the best present ( on top of everything else) will be a woodburned belt holder for him to display each new belt, cover the word that this belt signifies( in the meaning that he conquered it) and think about the next challenge ahead. It was an insane task, since I had to woodburn the whole thing in a couple of hours, when he wasn't  home. I can't tell you how much my hand hurt afterwards, but just seeing this smile was completely worth it.
Alex 37th Bday62

The woodburned belt stand has the logo of his Jiu Jitsu club and I would like to send a special shout out to Peter Borgia for helping me out on the Jiu Jitsu Belts symbolism. Thanks, Pete!
Unfortunately, I don't have a better picture of it ( yet), so this one will have to do.
Alex 37th Bday64

Wow...that is a LONG post. Sorry if you guys got bored, but I completely and totally missed you and I intend on spending much more time with you from now on. I have a ton of content piled up and waiting to be published, so buckle up, it's going to be a bumpy ride! 

Before I finish this post so you can take a breath, I want to say this:
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MY LOVE, you are my everything and you make everything worth it!!!
Alex 37th Bday9

Friday, June 7, 2013

History in the making

I have been working on a "secret" project with a very talented photographer, Jim Miller, who is also the owner of Desolation Road Studios and Desolation Road Photography , and I can't wait to share. As it comes to "secret"projects, often they take a lot of time and preparation, so be patient and I will share more soon. In the mean time, take a peek at these:
It's all in the light, they say. ;-)


Jim and I did many shots with different hair styles, make up and clothes, but I have to say this set was my favorite. And in case you are wondering- yes, it's a mustache! :-)


It is awesome when you meet someone creative as you and you work on a project together, not knowing how things are going to turn out, but just having faith that when two creative natures collide, something awesome is going to come out.

High Key 3
 Interesting time piece. 
 We are of course planing to work on another project soon, when I graduate ( I can't believe I have just 2 months left!), but we will have to really work hard to top this one off.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Sneak Peek on Kalin's MineCraft B-day party

I remember how excited I was when I was turning 10. Double digits! However, it was bitter-sweet for me, since that was my last birthday to be celebrated. At least that's what my parents said for many reasons, I remember the next one I celebrated was my 15 B-day, when incidentally I found out that the Art high school I was accepted in is moving and I won't be able to attend it anymore, but that's another long story. In any case, on my 10th birthday I was extremely excited for one reason- for the first time I was going to choose my own cake. Because it will be my last birthday to be celebrated, my parents decided to let me choose whatever cake I want.ANY cake I want. I couldn't sleep with excitement. After a deliberation and many sleepless nights, I ordered it-a two tier chocolate covered cake ( I never saw a cake like that in my life before) with three white roses on top. It was perfect! The roses were made out of fondant of course and I've never seen anything so delicate and fragile that was going to be eaten afterwards. Little did I know, that years later I will make cakes like that myself.In fact I was so mesmerized by that cake that I was convinced that I will order the same exact cake for my wedding. Talk about planning when you are 10, heh..

I cannot believe how time flies...Now my son will be 10 in a week. It seems like yesterday he was my little baby, sleeping on my stomach, making the cutest baby sounds you've heard and smelling as nice as only babies can smell. I can't wrap my head around the fact that he will be 10. I just can't or maybe I don't want to. It is a bitter-sweet moment again and there was more than one tear shed when I began planning his birthday this year.I mean, I always want to please him on his b-day and I always go along with his ideas on themes and stuff. I never had that growing up and I want it for my children. I am always excited to do it and although sometimes I complain  how much work it is, how much effort it takes, it always warms my heart to know that my kids got something they wanted in celebration of the fact that they've been born and became a part of our family.

 This year's theme I embraced wholeheartedly and I couldn't wait to start organizing. As you can imagine, there wasn't a lot of choice with Minecraft Birthday Party supplies, so I had to make them ( yeah, what's up with that Mohjang, we should talk!).
You can deduce my impatience from the fact that I began the preparations three weeks before the actual birthday, and YES, I CANNOT WAIT to share them! :-) So, NOT as usual, I will let you have a sneak peak and see some of the things I prepared for the B-day party:

What's a party without invitations, right?
 What are invitations without envelopes? Creeper envelopes, yay! I'm just glad the kids were not home when I made these, because my cursing supply was exhausted by the printer's lack of cooperation.

MInecraft B-day1 (3 of 12)
And here you can see the whole shebang, except the decorations of course,they will be in the next post.

Isn't this cool???The gum spiders were probably one of the most time consuming things, because I had to come up with a pattern for the legs and then cut them by hand.

MInecraft B-day1 (11 of 12) 

The Creeper Juice is just Sprite that I've changed the labels of. 
MInecraft B-day1 (7 of 12)

 Who doesn't love Hershey Chocolate bars? I decided that Steve on the front and back of the chocolate will be best.The Steve on the front is actually made of card stock and glued separately, so it's sticks out a little that gives it a bit of a 3D effect. On the back it says " Kalin's Epic MineCraft Birthday Party". I really like how these came out. 

 Chocolate_Steve (2)

And since I promised in the invitation that we'll "blow up", we would need some " TNT" for that, right? The strawberry Twizzlers came in handy and the transparent boxes I got were just perfect! I wish the printer ( again) cooperated more and the color of the print outs I made could actually be recognized as red, not as a bloody orange, but what can you do.
Annie Presentation (8 of 11)
The pins were pretty easy to put together. I think the actual pins were $3 for 5 pins and you can put any picture you like in them.

The "emeralds" and "diamonds" are just sugar sticks. I'm so glad I thought of it. 
MInecraft B-day1 (9 of 12)
The Enderman goody bags are one of my fave, I just hope they are strong enough to fit everything in them. 
MInecraft B-day1 (6 of 12)

So, the plan is to have the green T-shirts that you saw behind painted by the kids with "Creeper" on the front. We'll see how that's going to turn out, especially if the weather is not nice and we have to be inside. In any case, I am looking forward to sharing the rest of the decorations and the cupcakes.

Ta-Ta for now!


Friday, April 19, 2013

Bittersweet photo shoot

I was beginning to worry that I am not going to be able to take any pictures of the kids with their grandpa because of the weather, but we were lucky. Yesterday felt like a real Spring day  and we took advantage of it to go out and do the photo shoot like we were supposed to.

Annie Presentation (48 of 84)
It's funny to see the gang with their sunglasses on, enjoying the sun just a couple of weeks after we had snow.
Annie Presentation (11 of 84)
I have a couple of black and white shots that I simply love. I wish I could post all of them, but this post is getting entirely too long already.
Annie Presentation (4 of 84)

Annie Presentation (12 of 84)

Annie Presentation (18 of 84)
 Funny faces and smiles, that's what I wanted to see in this photo shoot. I have to admit not all of them were excited when we started ( read that my son was grumpy and not very cooperative), but honestly, who could keep being a grump when the weather outside was so gorgeous?!
Annie Presentation (22 of 84)
I have to admit I kept sniffing at their shoes, because there were dead fish on the bank of the river and I was terrified the smell will transfer to the car.
Annie Presentation (27 of 84)       Annie Presentation (41 of 84)

Annie Presentation (37 of 84)

The little "rock star" didn't miss the chance to shine again. Since before she even knew what a rock star is, she's been saying she would be one when she grows up. That, and an artist " like Mommy". Her words, not mine. :-)
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Some of us got tired, some of us got hungry, but I was very happy that the kids got to finally spend a nice relaxing day outdoors with their Grandpa.
Annie Presentation (55 of 84)Annie Presentation (62 of 84)

When we were at the park I didn't pay attention on what was behind us. So, when we started to leave and turned around, I saw this flag. I don't think I've ever seen it there before, but in the eve of the Boston events, I felt the need to take a picture of it.
Annie Presentation (50 of 84)

We are happy that Grandpa visited with us, we see him so rarely. It is sad that he is leaving, but one thing we will keep forever is the memory of the fun times we had together this year, until the next visit. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

How to make the BEST Valentine's day gift for FREE

I am not talking about balloon hearts, cutesy mugs, sugar goodness or love plants. This is all stuff YOU want to get. Now, ask yourself what would your love REALLY want and you'll see the answer clear as day. I bet that any man or woman would die to have a fashion picture especially shot for them by their loved one. Say it ain't true! 

Annie Presentation (4 of 61)

Would it be a retro style shoot or a Victorian setting photo session, it's up to you and what you have at home. You can make a scrapbook, or a digital picture frame slideshow, or a personalized card, you name it. Whatever it is, it will blow your better half's mind, I guarantee. So, how do you pull this off? I say, use whatever you have at home. If you are up for spending some extra money on this, sure, go ahead and buy stuff. But you can absolutely make the most awesome photos of yourself without a trip to the store. BE CREATIVE!
Annie Presentation 12 enlarged COPY

If you would like not to spend any money at all, you can always print your pictures at home. There are different kinds of quality photo paper available at Staples and even Walmart, if you don't have any handy. 
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 What you would need for your photo shoot? Yourself and your imagination! You can even draw on your pictures after they are done, just like I did in this photo  or make a photo collage with drawings like this one.
Annie Presentation 29 copy

 Here are some things that might help you:

1.Light - get every light you have in the house. It is best if you use daylight but if it is not possible, anything will do. Just remember- you need a lot of it! Make sure that you have a light behind you as well as facing you. It is better to light your face full frontal, since light from above or under will produce shadows that if you are not a professional photographer, you will have a tough time controlling and might not be very flattering at the end.
Annie Presentation (41 of 61)
2. Background- you can honestly use anything- you can use a sheet, a curtain, a piece of paper, a cardboard,  a special photo backdrop if you have one lying around, or a very nicely painted wall. Improvise! If you have a fireplace, attach the top of the sheet/curtain, backdrop to the mantel and take the picture in front of it. You can also use curtain rods to attach your"background", have in mind though that you should NOT take pictures in front of a window where the light is coming from. That will make your face completely dark.

Annie Presentation (34 of 61)
3. Props- anything you can imagine, depending on the idea you have for the photo shoot- jewelry, hats, blankets,bow ties or regular ties, satin sheets, Halloween costumes, glasses, rose petals, fake mustache, food, lingerie, boxing gloves, whatever you have around the house and inspires you ( and your better half of course). Be creative!
Annie Presentation 39 copy

4. A mirror- When I am taking pictures of myself I find it very useful to be able to see how the shot is going to look like and adjust accordingly the light, the props etc. Not that it always works, but imagine how many pictures you will have to take if you are not able to see yourself until you achieve the result you want.

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5.  Time- well, I won't lie, it will take some practice, so plan accordingly.
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6. Camera- ANY camera would do. You just need the option to set a timer on it to take the picture, but now even phone cameras can do that, so no worries. If you have a camera remote, even better ( that's what I use, it is very inexpensive one and it works just fine for me).
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And finally, have some fun! That's all that matters, right?

Happy Valentine's Day!


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Once upon a time there was a studio

Once upon a time, there was a little girl that loved to draw. And as they say, the rest is history.

What is the best Christmas present you can give her, when she is all grown up but still hungry for art, still wanting to create so much that the house is smaller for her? Well, my lovely better half had it all figured out, for when I was desperate what to do with arts and crafts spilling out in every room( especially since I opened my Etsy store), he found the solution.
Once considered practically unusable, a part of our basement was converted to my very own studio- something I never dared hoping for, nor I expected it to ever happen.
Now, please do not imagine that this "fairy tale" happened with the swish of a magic wand. I will disappoint you. Alas, it happened with a more than one swish of a non-magic broom, not to mention how many coats of paint, hours of scrubbing, moving, hammering and kneeling it took to get it to the condition it is in now.

Of course, all of this was possible thanks to the fact that we realized seven years after we lived in this house that we have air vents in the basement and it can be heated or air conditioned. Don't laugh, the basement was not one of our favorite places to spend time. ;-)

In any case, it is the best present I have received this year. The whole family pitched in and we had it done in no time. When we began it looked like this:

Studio 20131     Studio 20133

( I have to admit I forgot to take pictures before we cleared it up a bit, it was not a pretty picture. Maybe that's why I forgot, my subconscious tried to repress the memories  :-)  

Studio 20135      Studio 20137

And this is how it looks now:

Studio 201315

And I am very proud of us, we did it all together with out own hands. The ceilings, the floor, the lights ( all daylight by the way), the white paint, all made it look so much better.
Studio 201316

The dog of course got the honorable place in the middle of the room. LoL So, everything was almost done. Almost, because what is a studio without its sign, right? And here it is:
Studio 201317

The sign was made by me and I think it fits the overall idea of the workshop. Of course it is still not completely finished, we have to install the countertops, but there is still time. Considering that we bought very few things to renovate the place  and reused what we already had, the time frame to finish it and all the effort we put in, it is much more that I could have hoped for.

Studio 201318

And my favorite part - little nooks and crannies for all my colorful supplies. What a treasure the previous owners left us!

Studio 201319        Studio 201322

I believe that the elderly couple that lived here before us used this room as a workshop as well. The gentleman used to make clocks if I am not mistaken and I am surely grateful to him for finding a way to use every last bit of space to put shelves in. Although I did not always feel that way, considering how much time it took me to paint all of them.

So, this is where all the Annie's Art Book magic will happen from now on. It's all mine and I adore it!

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