My favorite things: Red Stamp

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

So I recently discovered something that I love - it's an app that I am using (maybe excessively?) called Red Stamp.  They call themselves 'Modern Correspondence' because they make it so easy to text, email, or add to your social media - invitations, notes, and (my favorite) thank yous.

They offer a wide variety of templates to choose from (think charming and modern like Shutterfly Tiny Prints style) - depending on the type, subject, or reason for your note.  They also allow you to use pictures straight off of your phone (which if you're anything like me, you are hoarding two million pics of your kids on it) to add to the note to quickly send off to friends and family.  

Best part:  its a free download. (at the App store - I'm an iPhone user, so I can't say for certain if non-iPhone users can get it - sorry!)

Disclaimer:  Red Stamp has no idea who I am, nor are they offering any incentives for this review - I kind of just love them anonymously :)

So I've been Red Stamping myself all over this place recently.  I send fancy love texts to my husband during the day:

And I have found it super easy to send off invitations to a small group of people for our mini parties.  Like the invitation to my momma friends for our Kid Halloween party:

The Red Stamp note arrives as a picture text to the recipient.  So much more cute and fun than an otherwise blah text for Brandon's super impromptu birthday (slash excuse to go to wing night: "hey, wanna get wings for B's birthday today?  Sorry last minute" - which is so boring.  But instead thanks to Red Stamp - I sent out this fun text invite:  

But my favorite thing to do with Red Stamp is to send quick and personalized thank yous.  With two small kids (and various other living creatures in our house) I have been so frustrated with my inability to send thank yous to my family and friends for all of the helpful things and sweet gifts they send our way.  I wish I would have had Red Stamp when Gemmi (and Grey) was first born so that I could have snapped pictures of her in the trillion cute teeny baby outfits with a quick thank you to the gifter in her first few weeks at home.  Alas, I have been playing thank you catch-up now that I have Red Stamp - sending them to the grandmas after our crazy trip to NYC

And to my friends Karpy & Matt for the Halloween card & matching tattoos that they sent to Greyson a few days ago:

An app that allows me to make quick, good use of all of my iPhone hoarded pictures - and gives me the ability to say cute, personalized thank yous with a few taps of my fingers?  It's kind of my new favorite thing :)

Superstorm Sandy update:
here in Western PA we are kind of bearing down under the storm as she continues to weaken while she hangs out for awhile over our state before moving north to Canada.  We have had steady rain, some snow, high winds - but still have power, which is much more than what many have at this point.   My heart goes out to the East coast as they try to recover and make sense of the destruction after this storm.  I have been in contact with many of my NY friends and they report that they are okay, albeit surprised and disorientated.  Sending love to just to the South of us while they weather through blizzards, some without power.  Stay safe - we are thinking of you.  xoxxox

Thank you Thursday: Someone who is a breath of fresh air

Friday, October 26, 2012

I have a friend, her name is Steph.  Of all the people graduating from college in 2005, and of all those people that applied and were accepted to Teach For America, and of all the people that were selected to teach in New York, and of all the people assigned to our Institute summer school in Philly, and of all the collaboratives within the summer school - we were chosen to teach together.  That's where we met - in a place where we were facing some of the biggest challenges of our young adult life while also being more inspired than maybe we ever had before.

After institute, we both headed to New York to teach ESL in different schools, but saw each other at regularly at our shared grad school classes.  And then a few years later, we both started working for the same company - which is still true today.  Although I work remotely in Pennsylvania, and she is working with schools in Hawaii we stay in touch through snail mail care packages, and texts, and phone calls .

When I originally pinned this pin, I thought of Steph:

Because spending time with her, is like a candle; or a breath of fresh air.  When I am feeling creatively drained, or spiritually uninspired, or drowning in life muck - Steph is always able to inspire and guide me back to a place that I can keep marching on - or usually after her influence - I'm not marching, more like dancing, or twirling, or bending into new yoga poses.  She introduces me to new artists and songs, she sends me postcards with beautiful artwork on them, we sit in bookstores for hours reading each other interesting passages from astrology books.  She puts magic into life like a fairy godmother who drops fairy dust before my eyes and tells me to follow it where ever it goes.

She is someone that makes me believe that perhaps we have past lives.  And perhaps in all of my past lives, somehow Steph and I have found each other and have become friends.  Because it seems unlikely that you can meet someone so in sync with you in this life by chance - that it must be someone you've met again and again - like we have this unconscious shared history.  And if that's the case, isn't that just the most wonderful thing.

Steph is exactly someone who just read that last paragraph and is nodding her head and smiling.  Even though our lives appear so different from each other - she is someone who recognizes the melody to the song in my heart because it sounds similar to the one in her's.

Thank you Steph, for always blowing fresh air and inspiration into my life-
I am so lucky to be able to call you a friend,

Grandmas & Kids visit the city

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The grandmas, kids, and I made our annual trek to New York City via the train mid-September this year.  Last year, we visited Times Square and Central Park and a lot of the tourist hot spots like FAO Shwartz and Macy's.  You can read more about our trip from 2011 here.

For our trip this year, I wanted to take a little more calm of a route and introduce my crew to the less tourist-y bits and definitely spend some time in my beloved Brooklyn.  So I got to planning and organizing our trip on TripIt- which is a tool I love because sifting through my email is just not efficient enough for finding hotel addresses, confirmation codes, and remembering departure times.  TripIt was an enormous help when planning our 2week Thailand trip, but also makes it vastly easy to share trip details for short weekend trips - like our NYC Grandma&Kid weekend.  TripIt has no idea who I am- I'm just telling you because I love it and want to share something helpful :)

And then it was time for our 7hr train ride.  With two grandmas. And two children under the age of 3.

It sure sounds awfully ambitious (or just plain awful?)  but for the most part - it wasn't half bad.  The grandmas were happy to do whatever it took to keep the kids occupied during the trip, we had packed our own lunches for the ride up (thanks Gigi!) and we had a secret weapon this year:  the iPad.  We spent the seven hours resting, talking, and giggling about our overly helpful train conductor.  It seemed like the start to a smooth weekend.

When we finally arrived to Penn Station, I had the ungodly task of waking up two peacefully sleeping children.  Do you know what happens when you wake up two peacefully sleeping children?  Full on tantrums.  And that's just what we got while trying to maneuver our luggage and a double stroller out of Penn Station and out to the taxis.  We sort of all toppled into a taxi and took the very jerky ride to our hotel.

And when we finally got to our hotel room - that would house all five of us for the weekend, we all laughed uproariously.

It was becoming increasingly apparent that our NYC weekend was not going to be smooth, but rather very quickly heading toward the weird and unusual.  We threw our things in the teeny room and while my mum hung with the kids - I escorted Gigi a few blocks to her DevaCurl hair appointment.  My mum and I got us settled in to our "cozy" room and then ventured out to Little Italy with the kids.  The San Gennaro street festival was going on, so it was a total madhouse - we grabbed some slices of pizza and headed over to wait for Gigi.  As always, Gigi's hair turned out amazing - albeit after some very windy hair dresser - which lead to a 2 hour appointment.  And then we made our way to finally get some proper 9p.

After waiting about 45 minutes for our dinner (...great mom with one kid awake at this hour and the other sleeping in the stroller, sheesh).  Our sleepy-eyed, weary crew headed back a few blocks to puzzle piece our way to sleep.  I cannot express gratitude enough that I have a mum and mum-in-law that were willing to share a full size bed so that I could share a bed with my cranky kids.  honestly - I'm the luckiest.

Grey was waking up periodically through the night and each time I felt his head, he was feeling more and more feverish.  I probably slept a total of a half hour for fear that either I or Greyson was going to roll over Gemmi - or any of the three of us were going to roll off the bed.  By the morning, Greyson was sporting a pretty serious fever (to the touch) and I was starting to get a little worried.  We threw him in a luke warm bath and let him play for a long while and that was enough to do the trick and bring his body back down to normal temps.  So, the weirdness continued.

After a short subway ride and a stop at my old neighborhood's favorite bagel shop, we were happily situated on a bench in Fort Greene park nomming on bagels and guzzling coffee with my dear friend - and current Brooklyn resident, Elena.

After the strange start to our trip, we wanted to attempt to slow things down and enjoy the day.  So we  took a stroll around Fort Greene park, Greyson spotted and announced every single squirrel he saw (he can't ignore those hunter genes even when I take him to the city), I got to catch up with Elena & Matt, and we played on the two Fort Greene playgrounds.

Then we took another quick subway ride over to the Brooklyn Children's Museum to spend part of the afternoon.  We splashed, banged, explored, and discovered our way through the museum.  They had so many toddler friendly exhibits.  They even had a section just for babies under 18 months that Gemmi got her first chance to pretend to be a ballerina.  Grey loved the backyard reptiles section which included some frogs and snake-bodies.  They even had a giant albino anaconda that was kind of the coolest thing Grey had ever seen.

After lunch and another quick train ride, we made our way to the Brooklyn Bridge.  Grey threw stones in the East River, and we took a ride on the carousel (Lenny, Grey, and I).

Oh and I took this picture of my angel boy.

Since we were so close, and we are truly an ambitious bunch of women, we decided to walk the Brooklyn Bridge back over to the city.  At this point, for unknown reasons, my children simultaneously became "mumma's babies."  Gemmi screamed until I was the one holding her and Grey gave Elena the stare down while she pushed the stroller, all the way up until he fell asleep.

We did manage to get this picture of the three of us.

By the time we reached Manhattan we were all pretty tired and hungry...I'm going to go ahead and blame it on those two things that hazed our brains into thinking it was a good idea to head back into Little Italy during the San Gennaro street festival for dinner.  I wheeled that double stroller through the crowd like a salmon and we were swept up into a restaurant that seemed overly nice to take on 4 tired women and 2 cranky kids.  It was so nice to sit down and have a drink that we didn't even realize until almost an hour later that we were still waiting for our food.  It did finally come at about the 70 minute mark; surprisingly though the kids weren't too misbehaved - could have been since they were sharing my lap and getting attention from Mum, Gigi, and Lenny across the table for a solid hour.


The walk back to our hotel was incredible...not the good kind...but like the I-can't-believe-that-even-happened kind.  With our fussy Gem in the double stroller alone, Grey on my shoulders (because he flat out refused to get in the stroller), we fought the drunk human traffic from the festival back to our hotel street.  I looked back at Lenny who was pushing the stroller at one point and she had a look of panic mixed with irritation and a hint of disbelief on her face.  It really felt like the street festival that never ended.

We finally made it back, tossed the sleepy kids and bed, and Lenny and I ventured back out for a few grown up drinks and chatting.  There is nothing to say about that except that I am so glad to have you as a friend, Lena.  Thank you for spending an entire Saturday with our crew.  xoxxo

The next morning, we headed  back up to the train station a la taxi and waited for our turn to board.  We didn't get pre-boarded but we did end up being able to annoy enough two single young men to giving us one of the 4 seats.  It was a tight ride home, but the kids slept for a good part of it.

Honestly, at this point, so many weird things had happened that it was kind of just hilarious to us.  None of us had slept for any significant amount of time that weekend since we had all shared cement-like full beds with each other.  We had walked nearly 8 miles the day before, the train was stopped in the middle of a bridge for nearly 30 minutes because of messed up train schedules, and some random woman asked to use my phone on the train and she borrowed it for almost 10 minutes while she stood in this tiny closet type thing at the end of the train.  It was all just very bizarre.

The last five minutes of the train ride is a terrifying and hilarious memory that the three of us still can't talk about without laughing.  The kids and I were departing at Altoona (for Phia's birthday party), and we stood up and waited at the train door at the conductor's request a few minutes before the stop.  I was first in line, holding the bags and the stroller, Gigi was behind me with Greyson, and my Mum behind them with Gemma.  The kids were both crying for me to hold them and being so near them it was just unbearable for Gemmi to see me but not have me hold her.  At one point, she had her 7 month old fist shoved into Abba's windpipe, a hold of Gigi's hair in the same hand that she was choking Greyson with the neck of his shirt.  The girl was determined to fight and drag her way to me.  By the time we got off the train, the grandmas placed the kids into Brandon's confused arms and walked away cracking up.

It was a bizarre and strange trip to New York this year.  There were a lot of things that went wrong, or took too long, or were just plain wacky.  But I foresee that we will attempt it again next year.

I am so lucky to be flanked by two women that can find humor in the types of things that others would let ruin the trip.  It is important to me to make the trip so that the kids can experience a piece of their mumma's history.  And because it is important to me; the grandmas make it important enough to themselves to laugh off the uncomfortable or annoying parts to enjoy spending time together in a new place.

thank you Abba and Gigi.
there are no better grandmas in the whole world for my kids.
i love you,


Monday, October 22, 2012

We're back from vacation all tanned up and relaxed (at least for a little while longer).  And to quench your Team Studer thirst (hahaha, yea right) -

A short story.

He was working 10 hour days.  And she was staying up past midnight finishing her work.  This had been going on for weeks.

The baby was cutting teeth and the toddler had unfortunately mastered shouting the phrase, "Don't Tell Me NO, I'm your MOther," with uncanny emphasis on all the really good parts.

They had run out of milk for the second time that week and the dogs chewed through her favorite shoes to which she came very close to sitting on the floor and just sobbing it out.  He announced to no one in particular for the forty third time that month that, "We need to get the driveway fixed."  The baby spilled the dog's full water dish and the toddler was found eating a snack that was discovered under the couch from since who knows when.

And then, a break; an opportunity - they got a call from their family requesting the children for an evening of non-parental fun.

He said, "I'll make dinner." And she said, "I'll get the wine."  And he cooked while she talked on and on about funny news articles and about how the kids are doing things that are simultaneously sweet and annoying.  She read aloud the pinterest recipe while he rummaged through the spices cabinet and neither one of them dared open the dishwasher because they forgot to run it that morning and it smelled of old formula and gogurt.

They stepped over the giant sword strewn on the kitchen floor and pushed aside the high chair still caked in oatmeal in the dining room.  They dimmed the lights so as to make it almost impossible to see the macaroni&cheese stain on the tablecloth and the dog hair collecting in the corners of the room.

He said, "I'm just so happy with the way this turned out."  She smiled, "This is quite a feast." He looked up at her, surprised by her misunderstanding, " No, I mean - our life."

And she smiled at him.
And he smiled at her.
And they were happy.

Chocolate Giveaway Winner!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Time is up to enter into my 'best ever ever' (that's what Greyson would call it) chocolate giveaway!  And now to announce the winner of her very own 1/4 lb. box of artisan chocolates & collection of chocolate&nut patties from Cocopelli Chocolatier.

I am happy to announce that thanks to the random generator selecting comment #6 as the winner:

We all collectively congratulate (and sort of feel jealous for) Rachael who will be receiving a sweet (literally) little package in the mail shortly.  

Rachael, please email me at with the address that you would like the chocolates sent. 

Thank you all for participating and sharing your chocoholic stories with us.  I am glad to know I am not the only one hiding my chocolate from my loved ones!

two words that should ALWAYS go together: Chocolate Giveaway

Sunday, October 7, 2012

I have a bit of a confession to make:  I'm a chocoholic.  I actually claim to have a dessert compartment somewhere in my insides because it does not matter how much 'real' food I will eat at meals - I always have room for sweets.  Its a gift really.

Well, I got an excited call from my sister, Kayla, last week because she was anxious to let me know that she had an 'in' with a chocolatier that was interested in participating in a blog giveaway.  And then my mouth started watering and my husband told me I had a crazy look in my eye.    

Lauren Roybal is the owner of Cocopelli Chocolatier in Santa Fe, NM and she is passionate about making people happy through all things chocolate and sweet.  I have since learned that Lauren has always been a chocolate lover and through a series of opportunities and experiences in her life - she realized that she was sort of destined to open up a chocolate shop.  In an email she wrote to me she said, "Good chocolate is something to celebrate, to be picky about, and also to hope is to inspire others to find local artisan baker/chocolatiers."  She had me at "good chocolate."

The thing is, Lauren isn't just my new favorite person because she opened a chocolate boutique - the most awesome part about her is she is a real life hero.  Lauren may be the owner of Cocopelli Chocolatier, but she is also serving in the National Guard as a pilot flying an H-60 Black Hawk helicopter for Medevac - where she participates in search&rescue and fire fighting missions.  (She came off of active duty in September 2011 but still flies regularly).

She is a soldier AND she makes chocolate...pretty sure those are the makings of the most awesome superheroine ever?

So then Lauren sent me over some of her artisan chocolate to try and review for all of my readers...

And can I just say that it took me all of 30 seconds after taking this pic (while still sitting in the car after getting the mail) to immediately gobble up one two pieces of her chocolaty heaven.  And now here we are a mere 4 days later and I'm ashamed proud to admit, there are only 3 pieces of chocolate left...and that's only because I am attempting to have some type of will power over my sweets addiction.  I claimed my family couldn't try any to ensure the blog review was authentic, but its really because I didn't want to share.  oops.

Each sweet treat in my Cocopelli Chocolatier box was a delight and a happy surprise.  I have a thing for chocolate and sea salt - so my absolute favorites were the sea salt topped truffles.  But a very close second were the swirl pieces (like the one in the pic on the lower right) because it had sort of a cookie type bottom layer that was crunchy and divine.  Each truffle was both beautiful and savory in its own unique way.  I honestly felt like Lauren had created and hand selected each piece just for me; each truffle a little piece of delicious artwork.

Honestly, I was chowing down on my box of chocolate like I was Rachel McAdams in the Vow...unfortunately there was no Channing Tatum involved in my little binge- even more unfortunately for me, my very own hotter-than-Channing husband wasn't involved because let's be honest, I'm a little greedy about my chocolate.

not me.
Let's just say I'm feeling kind of blue that I don't live in Santa Fe so that I could regularly stop by and say hello (and thank you -for her service to our country) to Lauren while lingering and drooling into the display case.  My sweet tooth and I give Cocopelli Chocolatier's chocolate two very big thumbs up.

Speaking of Santa I have any NM readers?  If you are reading from Santa Fe - or live near by...or are traveling there - make sure to check out the Cocopelli Chocolatier website for menus, hours of operation, and their list of events and classes.

And now for the great giveaway news - Lauren is happily ready to send over a 1/4 lb box of some of her high cocoa content, artisan chocolate along with a few select chocolate&nut patties* to one of my lucky readers.  Yes, you read that correctly - artisan chocolate delivered directly to you.

To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is "like" CoCopelli Chocolatier's facebook page here, and comment below with a chocolate story that you would like to confess to all of us fellow chocolate lovers.  Maybe it's where you stash your secret chocolate - or what recipes you add chocolate to (even if it doesn't call for it), etc.   I'll start us off with one of my favorites:

I love chocolate all the time, I truly need a little bit of chocolate every single day.  I read somewhere once that if your body is craving chocolate, it really means you're missing magnesium and that can be fulfilled by eating legumes and I literally laughed aloud about it.  When I'm in need of a chocolate fix, their ain't a legume out there that's going to fill it.  

Anyway, when I'm pregnant, my chocolate situation is a little more severe.  So the truth was finally revealed one night when I was about eight months pregnant with Gemma. I was watching tv in the evening and way too tired and big belly'ed to get off the couch so I yelled into Brandon to bring me a chocolate bar.  Very hesitantly he reported back, "sorry babe, we don't have any candy bars."  Which I quickly shouted back, "no we do.  Check in the back of the snack cupboard on the right side, behind the box of popcorn."  B walked in with the candy bar silent and shaking his head.

Hello, my name is Tabitha and I hide chocolate from my family members so they can't find it and eat it.

Enter the giveaway!!  Winner will be randomly selected on Wednesday, October 10, 2012.

*allergies:  chocolate pieces are possible to have traces of nuts.  Chocolate&nut patties could include (but not limited to) toasted almonds, macadamia, chocolate y maiz, etc.  

September kindness 2012: Donors Choose

Friday, October 5, 2012

For many years now, we've decided to participate with Donors choose as our September kindness.  It seems fitting for the year - as its back to school - as well as it fulfills my inner teacher girl that misses the classroom so much.

This year was no different and we went searching the teacher requests for one that we could relate too.  Last year, we chose a local classroom that was teaching kids about our local, famous Johnstown flood.  This year, we decided to get a little more personal and seek out a teacher looking for a project about snakes.  why snakes?  Because a large part of our day, we spend talking about 'snake bodies.'  We are going through a bit of a snake phase and Grey thinks snakes are very cool - or anything really even shaped like a snake body.  So when we searched for projects that contained the word "snakes" in donors choose - we found one!

And I was extra pleased that we could not only incorporate "snake bodies" into our donors choose classroom this year, but the kind of snakes that would help all students begin their mornings off with the best possible start.  Our donors choose classroom we selected is in Alexandria, VA where Ms. H is hoping to make morning meeting a sensory filled and successful experience for all of her students.  Thanks for being a great teacher, Ms. H!

Now we are on to one of two kindnesses for the month of October:  Trick or Treat for UNICEF.  If you haven't ordered your UNICEF boxes yet - you can still do so here.

Fall 2012 To Do List

Monday, October 1, 2012

Since our 50 things to do in the summer list was so much fun - we decided to make another seasonal to do list for fall.  I borrowed a few ideas from various pins (like this one, this one, and this one) and crafted up our own fall to do list - making sure to include some local events and personal family members too.  There are so many printables out there - but I feel like it is more meaningful to come up with our own list and make it really personal (and print it out super boring with only a page border in Word - hah!).

Fall is our favorite season for so many reasons:  football season, our wedding anniversary, back to school (the teacher in me shining out), hoodies and halloween.  But glaringly obvious from our list - its our favorite season because of the delicious food - HAH.  how many of those items included baking and eating? - i'm seeing a trend here, Tabitha.

We are well on our way to knocking off items from our to do list now that we're already through one whole month of the season! We'll post back again after November to give you the full update...but until then - here's some sneak peeks into some recent to do list items completed:

What's on your fall to do list?  How does your family celebrate and enjoy the season?