Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

peas1
Highest hopes for "Whirled Peas" in 2008, and wishing you happiness, health, and good humor.

(Necklace by Rachel Sudlow)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Ten Tips

poster... that might help if you're a newbie kindergarten teacher. Well, *any* grade teacher I suppose, but these have worked out specifically for me during the past decade-plus, so I'll keep this advice in the early childhood education realm for now.

* Gaining experience is a gradual process, so it will take some time to develop your own consistent voice. As you develop it, don't forget to hear and listen to others'. Their ideas and interpretations can help you find ways to enjoy your job or rethink a problem to find a solution.

* You don't know it all, so ASK questions.

* Pendulums swing far and wide in the world of public education, never really coming to rest in the middle. It's up to you to find the best middle ground, get a good foothold, and remain flexible (sign up for a Pilates or yoga class now...a climbing class wouldn't hurt either).

* Learn something new and add it to your repertoire if it will benefit your students, but avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

* Understand that dictating, bribing, and threatening are NOT the same as teaching, guiding, and facilitating.

* You are partners in education with parents of students and colleagues, even if THEY don't think so. Behave accordingly.

* You're going to meet a lot of diverse, colorful, entertaining, strange, even dangerous people. Understand that if evil can manifest itself in any shape or form, so can good.

* Your students should enjoy school and learning because of you, not in spite of you.

* Learn discretion and exercise it. There will be MANY moments with colleagues, administrators, parents and students that will work out for the best if you think it, don't say it.

* Finally (and this is the ultimate in "inside-scoopness"), don't do cut-and-paste activities the day before Picture Day. Really.

{The number poster can be found here}

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Teacher Tendencies

My own teacher tendencies have been on sabbatical while we spend this year in the Bordertown, but I still feel that familiar *tug* when I stumble across the following:

Bulletin board trimmers:

trimmer1trimmer2trimmer3trimmer4 (all available at BK's Schoolhouse)

Classroom organizers:

photo1photo2photo3 (available at Calloway House)

and school-themed quilts:

abc (Dori Hawks at the Quilter Community)
school (Ginger's Needlework and Quilting)
crayon (at The Quilting Cupboard)

Only-five-more-months, only-five-more-months, only-five-more-months...

Happiness

After Christmas, happiness is...

playtime with the family,

leftovers, heated through *just right,*

pink and brown Nestle Qwik mixed together,

catching up with old friends via phone, laughing over the absurdities of military life,

first dancing to Hootie and the Blowfish paying tribute to Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys at the 2007 Kennedy Honors:



and then crying my eyes out over the beautiful tribute (with beachballs) by the all boys' choir, "Libera"



It's been a wonderful holiday!

Monday, December 24, 2007

*That* Moment

look1




look2





"Merry Christmas to All, and to All a good night."

I'm Dreaming of a Brown Christmas...

...because here in the Bordertown, we get wind, wind, and more wind, which stirs up the desert earth, blowing grit and tumbleweeds through the air (no, the weeds weren't rolling along the ground, they were flying through the air!):

dirt1

dirt2

These collected in one corner of our backyard but were certainly not the biggest we found when the wind stopped:

weeds1

These young ladies (former ASU students) figured out a creative holiday solution:

tumbleweedsnowman

And apparently a can (or several) of spray-flocking can whiten and brighten:
weed2

Look at what the City of Chandler, Arizona creates with tumbleweeds!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Cake Creation Crew

What did I tell you?

No Candles, Just Cake

None of these come close to my daughter's first attempt at baking a cake (chocolate with vanilla frosting) for me today, but they'd work in a pinch should I ever decide to celebrate my birthday with the following themes:

The "Less is More" Birthday
(gorgeous meringue-topped cupcakes by Chokylit's Cupcake Bakeshop)
meringue

The "No, I Really Don't Mind the Fact that My Birthday is SO CLOSE TO CHRISTMAS" Birthday
(holiday cake by Margaret's French Bakery)
holiday

The "This-is-SOOOOOO-Me" Birthday
(gorgeous red, white and black cake by Pink Cake Box)
redcake

and finally...

The "This Sucker's Gonna be Around Long After I'm Gone" Birthday
(cockroach cake found here)
cockroach

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Seven More Random Things About Moi

Ms. Whatsit tagged me for the "Seven Random Things about Me" meme that has been floating around for a bit, and though I had already been tagged previously, I've been in a very reflective mood lately as I wrap up what has been an intense and busy year. Consequently, I've discovered (or re-discovered) additional quirks about myself that for some strange reason, I don't mind sharing.

1) I've always wanted to write a childrens' book. Something simple, yet illustrated beautifully. Something kindergartners would want to look at again and again, and enjoy reading on their own. Too bad I'm not much of an artist, so who to ask to illustrate....Tomie dePaola? Jan Brett? Linnea Asplind Riley?

2) I'm a binder-queen. Instead of hauling around piles and piles of magazines (or teacher resources/articles), I cut out recipes, design ideas, crochet patterns, teacher tricks, book recommendations, etc. and put them all into binders. Moving so often (with a household item weight limit) requires that I always think, sort, be selective, and lighten the load by donating or yard saling, several times per year. My classroom binders are sorted by month as are my see-through plastic storage bins (on wheels, stackable). Book and magazine purists really don't like me.

3) I love twinkle lights and candles, Sharpie fine point markers and sassy paper products. Not very "green" of me, is it?
sharpies

4) Though I am a military wife, I go out of my way to NOT wear my husband's rank. While I don't mind being called "Ma'am" by my childrens' friends or by the high-school grocery bagger at the store, I would rather be called by my first name when spending time with the spouses of soldiers who work with (or for) my husband. No, I don't do "teas" either.

5) I'm not a dog person. Don't think I ever will be. The rest of my extended family makes up for it though, so don't hate me.

6) I'm learning to live in the moment instead of always being in "preparation" mode. Preparing for the move, preparing for my husband's deployment(s), preparing for the new job, preparing for whatever surprise lurks around the next corner. I'm finding it's a very difficult transition for me to make, but worth it because I'm tired of feeling like I'm missing out on enjoying the little things: my toddler giggling after he and I both sneeze at the same time, my teen daughter wanting to get a mani/pedi with ME instead of with her friends, my husband done with work, done with other outside obligations, and ready for a movie night.

7) I never imagined how pleased I would be when my first group of kindergarten students started college (this year), or that I would still be in touch with some of their families. It gives me chills, because *I was their first* teacher in public school, and some of them still mention that they loved it when I would read Where the Wild Things Are.
wildthings

I'll need another cup of coffee for the next step, tagging seven more bloggers, but I'll post this for now so I can get to baking some coffee cake for breakfast! Happy Saturday to you!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Maybe Not "Ho Ho's..."

... but "ha ha's" have brightened my day! I found the perfect gifts for me, myself and I at Anne Taintor's product site, here. I first encountered her "vintage humor" a few years ago while on a shopping excursion with Shannon, and then again with Polly. I have some of her magnets on my fridge, and many notepads (I love giving them as gifts to the women in my life), and look forward to adding more/hoarding more of her paper products in the year to come! She has some great boxed card sets this year, and I found the perfect image for my upcoming birthday:

sleep

not to mention some ha-ha's that I wish I had found before all of the Christmas presents had been mailed to friends and family:

credit cardsreturn

And what would have me, Shannon and Polly rolling?

no one

and

lit

See, still promoting literacy and laughter!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Does My Horror-Scope Match Me?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

So here's what Jill M. Phillips has to say about people born on my birthdate:

December Birthday Astrology


December Capricorns have a great deal of emotional pluck. If plans fail, they simply start again. Because of their good attitude and ability to motivate others, they make excellent mentors. Although they may seem scatterbrained, they have great organizational abilities. Witty and intelligent, they are exceptionally verbal for people of their sign.


Capricorn Information for December
You should embrace:
Details, imagination, a personal agenda

You should avoid:
Stress, demoralization, indifference
Friends and Lovers

Because they have such a likable nature, December individuals make friends effortlessly but are unlikely to reveal confidences or ask for advice. Love is a permanent and practical factor in their lives. They value stability and do not usually seek separation or divorce unless there is no alternative.

Children and Family

December natives love the traditions of family and typically have happy memories of childhood. Though their upbringing is likely to have been strict, they look at this as positive. They are good parents who do everything to provide stability for their child. Though they promote fun, they are strict on discipline.

Health
People born on this date have a common-sense approach to good health. By not overdoing anything, they reap the rewards without losing out on the occasional need to indulge a bad habit. Health problems are typically minor, but problem skin is not unknown. If they make water their main beverage, the skin condition is likely to clear up.

Career and Finances

People born on this date are serious about career ambitions. They work hard, learn quickly, obey the rules, and they know that professional shortcuts can be deceptive. They often spend a great deal of money on home decorating, with an eye for antiques and other objets d'art that will increase in value.

Dreams and Goals

To climb to the top without fudging the rules is a common goal of December people. They know what they want and are willing to work hard to get it, no matter how hard that may be. They never blame setbacks on anyone but themselves. If a goal becomes impossible to fulfill, they replot the course.


Hmmm...... does it sound like moi?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Holiday Decor Voyeurism

sittingAptly named "Absolutely Beautiful Things" has hosted a Christmas Competition (now closed) for the last three weeks. Photos and stories have been shared from all over the world, so go take a peek:

Week 3
Week 2
Week 1

A Storybook Life offers holiday tips for picking out the perfect Christmas tree and taking part in holiday events in your hometown.

Apparently it's a very Diva Christmas at Selfridges in London (thanks to Paris Parfait for sharing her photographs!)

Anti-Yawn is passing out grades (hey, are you a teacher?) in the Ultimate Guide to Tacky Christmas Decorations, and though it's a bit dated, it's still a fun one to read.

If you're maxxed out from the sparkle, glitter, sugar cookies and mistletoe, head over to Normal Room where you can have a peek into rooms from around the world (yes, WORLD).

I think I'll give myself half an hour on my birthday (six days away) to sit back and check through the blogroll, add some more links, read some more insight and words of wisdom from fellow teachers, and just send a quiet, calm wish for peace out into the void.

Merry Christmas, and to you teachers, HAPPY WINTER BREAK!

Holiday Baking

The kids made their sugar cookie batch last night, so I had free reign in the kitchen today, making Toffee Butter Cookies, Pretzel/Rolo/Pecan melts, and my own sugar cookie trees and stars (I know, they didn't turn out nearly as nice as the cookies the kids made!).
cookies1

The Toffee Butter Cookie recipe was from a back-issue of Victoria Magazine (2001), and since I couldn't find it on the new recipe site, here it is:

1 1/2 sticks softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup English or almond toffee bits
Decorative sugar for rolling

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine sugar, butter, egg and vanilla in large mixer bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy (1-2 minutes). Add flour, baking powder, soda, reduce speed to low. Beat until well mixed (1-2 minutes). Stir in toffee bits.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls (I use a small cookie scoop then roll the balls smooth in my hand) and roll in decorative sugar (I used white/clear). Place two inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet, flatten slightly.

Bake 9-11 minutes or until edges are lightly browned (do NOT overbake). Roll again in decorative sugar if desired while warm.
Cool completely.
cookies2

I discovered the Pretzel/Rolo/Pecan melts referenced on Angry Chicken's site, but I changed the recipe a bit to accomodate my gas stove (lowered the temp to 350 degrees, used square pretzels only), so if you decide to try them, make sure to do a test batch before unwrapping too many Rolos from their gold wrappers! Oh, and * use parchment paper * on a baking sheet with an edge around it so the pretzels don't go sliding onto the floor when you take them out of the oven!
pretzels

Finally, I "cheat" when it comes to sugar cookies, because Betty Crocker makes the BEST mix out there! It's usually sold in pouches, but can be purchased in a huge box at one of the bulk food stores. You can add flavoring (I added 1/4 tsp mint extract and crushed candy canes to one batch), make drop cookies (and add candies or Hershey's Kisses while they're warm), or make cutout cookies.
bettycrocker sugar cookies

Of course with these done, I'll be making Mexican Wedding Cakes (also known as "Russian Tea Cakes") and possibly some gingerbread cake to round out the bake-fest.

Thank goodness most of these are being given away and mailed out in care packages...'tis the season to wear stretchy jeans, fa la la la laaaa, la la la laaaaaa...

Toddler and Teen United

...to decorate sugar cookies of course!

cookies1

cookies2

Friday, December 14, 2007

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Using My Teacher Voice

I have a teacher voice. A mommy voice too. Being a kindergarten teacher and mother means that my "voice" doesn't match the voice of a drill sergeant, doesn't match the voice of a ticked off assistant principal in a high school, and certainly doesn't match the voice of an assertive police officer in a touchy situation. I have to *explain* as I make a request, because the young ones I tend to deal with don't have as much background knowledge or frames of reference that will clue them in quickly to what I need modified or addressed. Emergency situations are an entirely different matter, as no one misses or ignores any tone I use with alarm, and no one needs an explanation before trying to determine if they feel any motivation to respond as quickly as possible when they hear me use it.

We attended my daughter's Christmas band concert this evening. It might have been an enjoyable event if only the audience's behavior wasn't such a long, drawn out train wreck. My blood pressure rose as my anticipation of my daughter's performance plummeted. Teens and their siblings ran through the audience in the gym, running up to orchestra and band members snapping pictures on cell phones as the performers were warming up and tuning their instruments. Parents loudly chatted, played with cell phone ringers (no, they weren't turning them off), and ignored their offsprings' shouts, inappropriate comments and choice of vocabulary. I withstood four hits to the back of my head from teens running up and down the bleachers, not a single apology uttered once. Full-fledged conversations were being had in regular speaking voices throughout the first two musical pieces performed, and those of us who turned around to look at the chatters got rolled eyes, laughter and pointing as a response. Finally, I put my hand on a student's foot (he had been kicking my side tapping his foot offbeat to the music) and whispered "Sweetheart, it's not your turn to talk or make noise, it's your turn to listen." I followed it with a smile, and received a quick blush and nod in return.

My teacher voice worked on one student out of nine. You see, once young Master Foot was seen correcting his behavior, his cronies had to get louder and more obnoxious, perhaps in some attempt to avenge his honor. And every parent around me *let it go.* I watched a handful of other parents try to move inconspicuously away from other obnoxious teens and children, to no avail. There was no escape, no quiet area where we could listen for our child's solo, listen to inspiring music, or enjoy the progress the band had made since the beginning of the year. I just about left the concert in tears, only because my other reaction would have been to have taken children by the collars to their parents and demanded an answer to "what the he** are you thinking?!?!?!?!?!"

I spent the first ten years of my life in this very Bordertown, living on the "poor" side of the mountain, maybe a mile from where we're posted now, so I know it wasn't always like this. I remember when the haves and the have nots equally spent time raising children to be welcome. Immigrant or local, English-only, Spanish-only, or bilingual speakers, all parents, grandparents, and neighbors encouraged (required!) children to say "please, thank you," and "apologies." "Excuse me," "no thank you," yes Ma'am, yes Sir," were also regularly heard and rewarded with "what good manners you have!" Young children were left with babysitters, children old enough to attend performances were expected to sit still, save questions for later, and make necessary comments quietly. They understood the audience wasn't there to see them, they were there to see the performers. Every school-aged child in the district attended two theater performances a year as a district requirement, and yes, we knew the expectations our teachers and families had of us. No longer, apparently.

As a side note, I'll offer that it's difficult to keep an audience on track and engaged when both the band and orchestra directors apparently have no clue when it comes to the choreography required when beginning, intermediate, and advanced musicians all perform on the same night, in this case, on the same gym floor. I'm fairly certain my old orchestra teacher, Mr. H., has passed on, and is probably rolling in his grave. If Mr. A. is still alive and kicking, he's certainly been admitted to the Looney Bin by now if he's witnessed performances like this, by both students and directors alike.

So, using my teacher voice, here are some suggestions (not that the local teens, teachers, parents, or musical directors care):

1) Please learn that there are times when it's your turn to talk, and times when it's your turn to listen. You don't always get to choose which times happen when. Consideration isn't a sign of weakness, it's a sign of respect, respect you'll receive in return.

2) Even if no one has formally taught you how to behave at concerts, plays, debates, worship services, or meetings, it's okay to read the cues provided by the seemingly more reflective, calm, and observant audience members, and follow their lead. No, Joey belching out the alphabet during a band performance of the Hallelujah Chorus is not the best choice of role model. Sorry.

3) There is a difference between a musical or theatrical performance and a pep rally. Therefore there is a difference between the behaviors demonstrated at those events. Figure out the difference, and behave accordingly.

4) Just because your sister told you that Mary Jane was going to dye her hair blue before a concert doesn't mean that once you get to said concert you need to shout out at EVERY inopportune time "HEY MARY JANE, LOVE THE DOPE HAIR! WOOT WOOT!" Either quietly admire the hair, or laugh about it under your breath, but either way, talk to Mary Jane AFTER the concert please. She'll wait. Really.

5) School band concerts are actually not precursors to American Idol audience tapings, Jerry Springer reruns, or reality show soap operas. If you're in the audience, I'm sorry, but it's not about *you*. It's about the people who have practiced, learned, developed and are sitting on stage now sharing with others. You don't get the stage, therefore you don't get the attention. It's not your turn all of the time, no matter what You Tube, MySpace, and your lazy or absent parents have led you to believe.

6) Band and orchestra directors, when you're rotating different groups of performers in and out of the performance or "stage" areas, *stop rearranging the furniture* and taking twelve minutes (yes, TWELVE) to rotate thirteen students out and twenty-three students in. It's very easy. Set up ALL of the chairs and music stands you're going to need. Then either choose to seat ALL band members, regardless of skill level together on stage, with students only performing when it's their turn (yes, those not performing are capable of sitting quietly with their instruments across their laps), OR center the beginning group in the middle of the seats, leaving the extras empty, and then have them all walk off, row by row, to the left after their performance while the next group of students is walking on-stage, row by row, from the right. If the next group is bigger, they'll take up more seats, but can still seat themselves center stage. Takes a *little* practice, but the end result is faster, safer, more efficient, and more professional than the thudding, crashing, and bashing of chairs, stands, and instruments (!), and the barking of directions to students too nervous to be listening and understanding clearly.

TWELVE MINUTES? No *wonder* you couldn't get the audience back for the closing pieces! DOPE HAIR, MARY JANE!!!!!

Oh wait, that wasn't my teacher voice, was it?

In It to Win It

Answers.com has a writing challenge that I've tried to answer over at Tending the Eclectic Kinder-Garden. Take a look and tell me what you think.

Just Promoting Literacy

...with much appreciation to Rosebud Design Studio! I'm looking forward to declining invitations to holiday parties with

rsvp


thanking future colleagues (and ALL of my friends!) with

thanks

and leaving "neighborly" notes for the weirdos that put up Christmas displays the day after Halloween

lights

More of the holiday collection can be found here, but just to *prove* I'm really a teacher, here's my suggestion for the teacher's lounge:

lunch

I'll keep browsing through the site, because man oh man, some of these would make terrific magnets!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Holiday Fun!

santaSanta blogs!



Bears are everywhere! bear Goodyblog posts about polar bear bookshelves; Paris Parfait found bears playing in department store windows and even caught some "bear-paw-razzi" waiting to snap shoppers in Paris. Polar Bears even ride motorcycles (safely, thank goodness)!


gingerbreadCraftzine tries to keep waistlines whittled by offering a FELT gingerbread house pattern, (cute, but I'm still making the real thing), and though it's two years past, Jeff Barr's photos of gingerbread architecture are still amazing!

Enjoy!

7 Weird/Random Things About Moi

I've been tagged by Science Goddess for a meme, and since I know it's one of Life's Little Rules that you *never* defy a goddess (being a domestic one myself), here we go!

To get started:

1) Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.

2) Share 7 random and/or weird things about yourself.

3) Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.

4) Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on his or her blog.

Okie dokie, here we go:

1) Like the Science Goddess, I too, am a morning person, and not just because I have a toddler who rises before the cock crows. I'm up early, having coffee, reading (even when the toddler sleeps in) and enjoying the solace each day, whether it's a work day or not. At times it's a pain having to wait for the rest of the family to wake up, eat, and get their own batteries charged, especially when I've been up and rarin' to go for two hours.

2) I really dislike mobs. My early rising gives me the opportunity to avoid them while grocery shopping (the commissary opens at seven a.m. here), and I do whatever I can to get all of my errands done before the lunch hour, because mobs in stores or restaurants mean that there are mobs driving on the road. Do not invite me to go Christmas shopping with you on Black Friday. Do not invite me to go shopping with you on Christmas Eve, or the day before Thanksgiving for that matter, it's not going to happen.

3) I prefer fat free coffee creamer over sugar free. That sugar substitute leaves a disgusting aftertaste in my mouth.

4) I find it extremely difficult to write anything more in-depth than a grocery list if someone is talking to me, I'm hearing sibling rivalry, or a television show is on too loud. I have to "hear" myself, my words when I write, and I can't do that with unpredictable background noise or someone chatting away at me. Can't.

5) I used to dance around to music as I did the domestic goddess thing. Vacuuming, dusting, cleaning the windows, folding the laundry. Journey was my get-up-and-shake-it music of choice. I'm not sure why I stopped. It's a habit I need to get back into now that I think about it!

6) My fingernail polish and toenail polish must match. No burgundy fingers with pink toes for me.

7) Symmetry and balance is important to me. Very. The term "obsessive compulsive" pops into many of my friends' minds when they come to visit me at home or encounter me putting up a new bulliten board display at school. I KNOW when someone has come into my home and tilted my mirror by the front door *just a tad*. It drives me insane when we move to a new home and the overhead pendants in the dining room or kitchen or living room aren't centered with the windows in each location, or centered in the ceiling in a room without windows. Thankfully this need for visual balance doesn't extend to my students' activities in the classroom. They can expand or shift their learning centers, creative constructions, and move through the room freely to share their latest painting, favorite story, or plans for recess.

Whew! Kind of cathartic. Who to tag, who to tag, who to tag... I can't think of seven, so I'll choose three, thank them in advance (I know a lot of you are just trying to make it through this month!), and get this one posted!

Tags to:

Shannon even though she's relatively new to BlogsVille!

Shabby Chic in Suburbia because she's been an inspiration since I discovered her blog (and thank you for the photography tips!).

Education in Texas, a blogger I've discovered just this week- giving me hope that there is some form of teaching sanity in the Lone Star State.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I Heart Dishes and...Hearts

I am a collector. It wasn't until this morning that I realized that many of my collections have something to do with dining, though I do have home decor tchotchke, childrens books, purse and jewelry stashes as well.

I love dishes. Occupied Japan Noritake for the "old" stuff, newer more masculine Noritake for the family holiday china, my Carlyle by Royal Doulton for me, myself and I (it was regularly used while my husband was deployed), and the everyday stoneware that holds up to any meal and any family member, including the toddler who likes to test gravity during mealtime several times a week. Our daughter's china collection has already started thanks to Grammy's initial gift and our tag sale excursions since.

noritake carlyle

Antique stores throughout New Mexico, Texas and Kansas have multiplied my one salt cellar to eleven, and yes, I'm still on the lookout for number twelve.

salts

Ebay has contributed to my Vera Bradley habit...considerably. Placemat sets, napkins, runners, and tablecloths are crammed into the drawers of my china hutch, sorted by the season in which they are used. They're beautiful and they're machine washable. 'Nuf said.

Other food/meal related collections in my home: vintage spice tins; cake plates; platters; copper tea kettles, canisters and cookie cutters. A Russian samovar keeps company with various lacquered bowls, cups, spoons, plates, and covered dishes. russian I'm awaiting the outcome of a beautiful Russian lacquer platter being sold on Ebay as I type. Bid, bid, bid! My epergne is one piece of serving crystal that I use regularly.

So I've decided to branch out a bit. Yes, I have a thimble collection, and Vera Bradley inhabits much of my allotted space for purses in my bedroom closet. My inner diva loves the sparkle of Kirk's Folly (it helps that kindergartners find glitter delightful too... "Hey, I'm buying the brooch for my job, REALLY!") and my husband seems determined to keep me well stocked in ballgowns for our military formals.

What to add? I'm thinking heart shaped ex-votos:

votos

(photo by Peter Vitale, featured in "Veranda," November-December 2007)

Can't eat with them. Can't (and shouldn't!) use them to serve food. And since I "heart" unique art and expressions of faith as much as I "heart" dishware, this could be the start of a beautiful collection!