Category Archives: Family

I Hate Greeting Cards

This is nothing new, some of you may be all too familiar with my card giving antics. Blank stationery and invitations are fine, I have a whole collection of that! It’s going into a drug store and picking out cards that I drives me nuts. If I’m crunched for time, or don’t want people to think I’m cheap for making my own card, I will try to look for greeting cards in Whole Foods, Trader Joes, or even while I’m traveling abroad (that’s rare). At work, we print our own birthday cards, and pass them around for everyone to sign. It might be my favorite task at work, and it’s definitely not in my job description! At home, I will usually get Estelle to make some sort of crayon or paint creation on card stock and fold that bad boy in half…poof, just like that, a free greeting card!

I was a little more inspired this past week thanks to some freebie cards I picked up in the Craft Lab located within the gallery of Craft Spoken Here, up through August in the Perelman Building of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

I needed to make a card for my dad’s belated Father’s Day gift. I had an “A Ha!” moment when I figured out that all of his names that we call him have three letters. I folded an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of card stock in half, and wrote out Joe, Dad, and Avô (means grandfather in Portuguese) on top of each other. I drew dots along the letters, used a sewing needle to poke holes on the dots, and erased my pencil lines.

Next, I used some sort of backstitch to sew the letters. I had been wanting to get back into hand embroidery, so I had a couple colors of cotton embroidery floss sitting around and needles with big enough eyes. I wouldn’t even call myself an amateur embroiderer, so I cannot give you stitch instructions. If you are you slightly familiar with a needle and thread, I’m quite sure you can figure it out.

The results, front and back:

After I was done, I covered up the back with card stock using double-stick tape. Not too shabby?! Although, I really should have been folding laundry instead of doing this. Oh well, I think this fed my creative spirit more so than laundry. Dad, hope you liked it!

Stephanie

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Parklet Party

About a month ago, some of us neighbors decided to plan a parklet party. Wait, what? A parklet? Wikipedia defines a parklet as a small urban park, usually located in the space allocated for a parallel parked car. Geez Louise, why? Well, we’re a lazy bunch, and we didn’t want to experience the time and financial process of throwing a full block party. We decided on a date most of us would be around. Aside from the date and a neighbor with a car reserving a parking spot, the rest of it was pretty very impromptu. People brought food and drinks, and by pure coincidence, the parking spot ended up in front of our house. The balloons as caution “flags” were my idea, and using stop light colors was David’s idea. It wasn’t until the next day when we realized that red, yellow, and green are also Portugal’s colors! If we were really fancy, we could have gotten some astroturf or an outdoor rug to better mark off the area (and cover up the scuzzy street), but I thought the potted plants and chairs got the job done. On the menu were burgers, sausages, sides, fruit, and grilled s’mores to end the evening. Actually, a handful of us didn’t really end the evening until about 1 am. Thank goodness for patient neighbors. It helps that we are generally nice and quiet people, and we invited any neighbor that walked by. It was fun, the weather was perfect…actually a little chilly. I will keep Saturday night in mind as we are sizzlin’ at 95+ degrees in a couple of days. Enjoy the photos!

Before the party:

During:

Bubble gun and Barbapapa Band Aids!

Murphy doesn’t usually like his photo taken, so I feel lucky.

Lola is a bit jealous of Murphy’s freedom, or she hates our music choice. Check out the death stare.

Blurry food shot, sorry!

One last shot, courtesy of my neighbor…

Thar she blows folks, our Parklet Party. I hope it inspires you to gather with friends and neighbors soon.

Stephanie

City Pretty: Sister Cities Park

We met up with some friends at Sister Cities Park on Sunday. It is a newly completed park and visitor center in between the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul and Logan Circle on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

There are two water features, a stream/wading pond and a fountain. The pond was designed for wooden boats, but that doesn’t seem to be the way people are using it so far. By people, I mean mostly kids who are perfectly fine sitting in streams and getting soaked.

The building houses restrooms, visitor center, and a small Milk & Honey cafe. They were nearly cleaned out of dinner food by the time we got there an hour before closing time on Sunday. They have pre-made sandwiches, quiche, soups in the fall and winter, cookies, yogurt, fruit, juice, water, tea, and coffee drinks.

The green roof is looking lush!

We finished up our evening with a picnic, and the kiddos dried off in the sun. Storm clouds started rolling in. We made it under our front door awning just in time for the sky to open up, what luck?!

Estelle approves! It is definitely worth a visit. I suspect it will be a big hit with tourists and Philly residents alike.

Stephanie

Memorial Day Weekend

We decided to stay home this weekend. In my opinion, three-day weekends should be the norm! We accomplished some minor, but important, things around the house…basement tidying, summer clothes switch out, AC unit installation, testing bedroom paint samples. More importantly, we had fun and relaxed! We did lots of hanging with neighbors and friends.

20120529-212203.jpgPool time!

20120529-212235.jpgDid I mention it was hot? Poor furry Lola.

20120529-212247.jpgBlowing bubbles at the fountain

20120529-212316.jpgAC unit is in, thanks to brawny David!

Our “love where you live” adventure for the weekend was a first-ever trip to the Forbidden Drive at Valley Green Inn in Wissahickon Valley Park. It is mind-boggling that the park and surrounding neighborhoods are technically still in Philadelphia. Our neighbors joined us on this trip, it was helpful that they had been before. We saw a horse, wild strawberries, a tiny snake, lots of waterfowl, and waterfalls! I was glad to come home to the pool, a little too much hot and sticky nature for my liking:)

20120529-212440.jpgGrumpy toddler snack break, Ahoy Ladies!

20120529-212459.jpgValley Green Inn

20120529-212529.jpgTiny waterfall

20120529-212539.jpgSlightly larger waterfall

20120529-212746.jpgOne last snack break before we headed home.

A big thanks to all service men and women who make such fun and safe weekends possible.

Stephanie

Car-free and Carefree?

20120526-214607.jpg
Hauling nearly 50 pounds of kid and car seat is anything but carefree!

First, let me start this post with a few disclaimers.

1) Living without a car in the United States can really only be done in big cities with proper infrastructure (easy biking, amenities within walking distance, and ample public transportation). Are you curious about how your city/town rates for walking? Check out WalkScore, our address scores a 91 out of 100 if you need a reference point.
2) We did not sell our cars to be green. Please don’t take this as a “look at how green we are” proclamation, the environmental factor is important, but it is an after-thought.
3) While car-free living is common among plenty of urban and non-American demographics, it is not a common family lifestyle amongst our peers and neighbors. Philly is still very much a car city. Nearly all of our neighbors have at least one car (one even has a huge Ford F-250). A lot of people in our neighborhood commute to work via public transportation, but still own cars.
4) We don’t bike often, but we have bikes, and we want to start incorporating bikes into our daily transportation options. The first big step would be to find a convenient outside space to store them when not in use. Buried bikes in the basement are obviously not working for us!

I wasn’t really sure how to offer up this information in a logical way, so I decided to interview myself, using questions that sometimes arise when we tell people we don’t have a car. Yes, a mock interview. Kind of weird, but maybe it works.

Q: How long have you lived without a car?
A: We both had cars when we first moved to Philly. I sold mine soon after moving here in 2006, and David gave his car to his brother a year or two after that. So that’s about 4-5 years without a car, I think. My memory is really poor.

Q: What pushed you over the edge to ditch the cars?
A: The biggest push was cost, mainly car insurance costs. Since we already had cars, we didn’t even consider the cost of a new car. We wanted to be legit after we were engaged/married adults, so we looked into updating our address on our existing car insurance. The costs would have quadrupled. I don’t know the exact numbers, but it was shocking. More people + more cars + smaller streets + on-street parking = HIGH RISK for cars in the city. Also, since we don’t have a car, we don’t often worry about gas prices and the surprise costs of auto repairs. Another issue that we heavily considered was parking. On a busy night, you can search for 30 minutes to an hour for a street parking spot somewhat close to your house. That’s not how we want to spend our time. The final straw was knowing that there was decent public transportation and a booming car-share service in Philadelphia. Easy access to Philly Car Share cars definitely sealed the deal for us.

Q: How do you buy groceries?
A: This is probably the most often asked question. When house hunting, we specifically looked for neighborhoods near a decent grocery store. We have a pretty standard Acme within walking distance to our house. We make a weekly menu and shopping list, grab the granny cart, grab some bags, and walk on over to shop. We both work near a Whole Foods, and can pop in for a few things as we need them. We have a Wednesday farmer’s market in the neighborhood if we want to splurge on fresh fruits and veggies. Last but not least, corner stores and bodegas for quick things like milk, eggs, Cheetos, and Mexican Coke. All shopping trips, even the granny cart trips, require you to think about the weight of what you are buying. I use the hand-held shopping basket as a guide when I know I have to carry stuff. If I cannot carry it in the store, I sure as heck don’t want to carry it home. We hardly ever buy in bulk.

Q: How do you get to daycare and work?
A: In short, lots of walking, subway, and buses. We walk to and from daycare since it is close to our house. We are a 5 minute walk to the subway, that is a huge benefit. David takes the subway, and has about a 15 minute walk to the office after the subway. Excluding daycare drop-off, his average commute is about 25 minutes. In the morning, I take the subway, and usually take a bus to my office from City Hall. After work, I usually walk a mile to the subway, and then take the subway home. Excluding daycare pick-up, my average commute is 30-40 minutes. Walking is my only form of exercise, and it’s often quicker than waiting for a bus. On the rare occasions we drive to work, it takes us just as long (or longer) to commute those pesky 3 miles. Why? TRAFFIC!

Q: What about out-of-town road trips?
A: We mostly use Enterprise for longer car rentals. We use Philly Car Share for shorter day trips. A trip to the suburbs to visit Dave’s family requires a regional rail train trip while carrying the car seat, and bumming a ride from his parents. We usually travel by Amtrak to visits friends and family in DC, Baltimore, and New England. Again, it requires renting a car or bumming a ride from someone once we get to our destination. We definitely see our friends and families less often than we’d like, but that just makes us appreciate our visits more when we do see everyone!

Q: How do you get the supplies for all of your house projects you never seem to complete?
A: You snarky little terd! Well, we usually wait until we can accomplish a few things in one area of town, and reserve a car through Philly Car Share. We can reserve a car for 30 minutes, 2 hours, all day, etc. This is slightly stressful in that we have to return the car at a certain time or face high charges, but it prevents us from wandering around Ikea, Lowes, and Target for hours on end, which then prevent us from spending too much money on things we don’t really need. It is absolutely delightful when I do get unrestricted time in Target, I nearly skip through the aisles.

Q: How do you handle a kid without a car?
A: I’m not sure…it’s still a work in progress. We researched infant car seat stroller systems A LOT when we were pregnant with Estelle. We decided on the Orbit. It ain’t cheap. It was touted as being easy to install without a base, which was a big priority for us. That meant we could quickly use it in a car share and taxi. The car seat quickly snapped into the stroller, and the stroller can be unfolded with one hand. We loved the Orbit infant car seat stroller system. LOVED IT. Then we got the Orbit toddler seat. That thing weighs 20,000 pounds. We hardly ever use the stroller part anymore, but it’s there if we need help hauling the car seat. Estelle hates her toddler car seat, all we hear is whining from the back seat. She is not a car gal. She is getting pretty great at keeping up with my fast paced walking. So far, we’ve handled one kid and no car just fine. Does anyone have any car seat recommendations that have worked well without bases?

Q: Do you think you’ll ever own a car again?
A: We often consider it, especially when we see a car we really like or go through a stretch of needing to rent cars often. I think we’ll probably get a car one day, not soon. David did the math last year, and came to the conclusion that we need to rent cars a whole heck of a lot before it makes any financial sense to buy a car. Sometimes I really miss the freedom associated with cars…especially when driving through gorgeous scenery. Then we hit traffic, my blood pressure skyrockets, my language takes a turn for the worst, and I once again appreciate all of our quality time not spent in cars.

Just for fun, what kinds of cars are you dreaming about these days? I really like the Fiat Abarth. Not that Estelle’s enormous car seat would fit, but they are foxy little cars. We recently rented a VW Passat. It had great leg room, but I felt like a tiny granny in a huge Cadillac when it was my turn at the wheel. I drove a Nissan Versa today for some errands, it felt comfortable and not too big. I guess that’s another benefit of renting cars, it’s always something different!

Did I miss something? Do you have more questions or suggestions? Please feel free to ask!

Stephanie

The Big 0-5

In addition to birthday celebrations on this 4th day of May, we are also celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary. Yes, my dear husband agreed to a two-for-one deal at the time, not considering that he might have to add Mother’s Day for the ultimate wallet-empyting May trifecta. Speaking of trifectas, we’re also celebrating the 5th anniversary of our never-to-be-duplicated Kentucky Derby Party! The toddler will be with her grandparents for a couple days. David and I have plans to relax, eat, drink, and watch the Kentucky Derby (along with some Flyers and Phillies). We might even get some organizing accomplished on Sunday. We are not allowed to paint on our anniversary weekend (by order of our parents), but there were no bans on other projects!

wedding photo by Echard Wheeler

Want more wedding photos and details?! Check out a previous wedding post over at Southfeasterdelphia.

David, Happy Anniversary! To everyone else, Happy Friday, and have a great weekend!

Stephanie