Saturday, July 25, 2009

Life is Good

I love the Life is Good product line. Today, I picked up these stickers (about the only LIG product I can afford!) at the Diamond Brand Outdoor center in Fletcher. Everytime I go there I get to thinking about camping and hiking and in other ways exploring these here mountains! :)

Art in your mailbox: child-created "Thank You" postcard

How'd you like to open your mailbox and find this from a firm you recently did business with?

My husband Craig, owner of a termite and pest control company serving the Hendersonville and Asheville markets, Blue Ridge Termite and Pest Services, came up with this fantastic idea -- to send this card, the artwork for which my daughter created, to all of his new customers.

Before, he just used your standard "thank you" postcard, with a pretty mountain picture on the front. But this--this card will get noticed! People will want to look to see who sent it, and why!

Here's a view of the back, which really didn't come out well in the scan:

I told my daughter she could earn money creating postcard art like this :) (And frankly, this is not nearly her best work--she's a pretty good artist!) If you'd like child-created art for your business, get in touch and we'll work out a deal :)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Fun family project: homemade art cards

Thanks to a free, hour-long afternoon program at the Hendersonville County Public Library, my daughter learned how to make "art cards." She was so enamored with the process and her creations that she decided to hold a "class" in our home--complete with "sign up sheet"--to get the rest of us involved in something she loves.

Dad signed up first, then me, then my oldest son. My middle son, who's not the artsy type, didn't sign up. But she was okay with that :)

Here are the results of this very fun, very quality family-time, easy art project. First up are images of some of the cards my daughter made at the library.

Next up, images of the cards we made this afternoon!

My daughter's cards first:

Now, oldest son's. (Click for a closer look to appreciate the details!)

Even dad joined in on the fun (again, click to appreciate the details!)

And, finally, mine:

These cards are really easy to make.


Construction paper
Stick glue
Old cards of various sizes

We used addition/subtraction flash cards, regular playing cards and trivia cards we've outgrown as the bases for our cards. First, we glued a card to the corner of a piece of construction paper and cut the construction paper to the size of the card. Then we did the same thing on the other side, using a different color paper. Some of the cards are two-sided, although you can't see that here.Next, add stickers as you like to the construction paper. And you're done!

We also made some cards that have construction paper on one side and a magazine image on the other. Simply tear out the page with the image you want to use ... apply glue to the card ... then hold the paper and card up in the light so you know where you want to stick it. After you get it on there, you can bring it down to the table and "press." Then, simply add stickers to suit.

As I said, some of the cards we made are double-sided; I did not indicate that in the photos but I don't think it matters. What matters is that we learned new things while looking through magazines for photos, had fun dancing with our creative sides, and spent good time together as a family!

Do you "have" a genius?

If you're interested in or even a little bit curious about the creative process, then you might enjoy this 20-minute video capture of Elizabeth Gilbert, author of "Eat, Pray, Love" speaking on creativity at the recent TED conference.

What she shared here totally shifted my thinking--in a very good way! :)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Buy a bag; help villagers in Malawi, Africa

I read about this family helping villagers in Malawi to create and sell products. Buy a bag or three or other handmade, African products to help villagers who want to make a living. I did!

View this particular bag here:

View the homepage here:

New twist on an old idea: a visual resume

This is cool. I want one!

Click here to see the actual image.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Why I'm a Writer

The Shape of Happy Memories
By Renae Gregoire

Dateline: Freshman Year in College, 1994
"Wake up, class!" Professor Harrison boomed jovially, quickly clapping his hands twice by his right ear, as if clapping would jostle the remnants of sleep from our bleary, first-period eyes. He held that pose long enough to take in the sea of tired faces staring back, his posture ramrod straight, his chin pointed high, his hands in wait as if he would, at any moment, clap again and break out in a Salsa. When the soft buzz of chitchat and rustling backpacks grew dim, Professor Harrison relaxed, bringing his hands and attention to the papers on his podium. The clapping was over, for now at least.

We waited. In his large-rimmed black glasses, a neatly buttoned baby blue Oxford and color-coordinated, wrinkle-free navy slacks, he appeared the very picture of intelligence, poise and confidence, a look that complemented his rococo speaking-style and thick Caribbean-tinged British accent. "Today," he continued, his strong voice full of energy and passion, "We shall plumb the depths of Shakespeare's wonderful Hamlet; I am sure all of you have read it by now and are prepared to share your thoughts, yes?" Without waiting for a response to his rhetorical question, he breathed on, "Very well then; let us begin."

That memory and many strong others surrounding Professor Harrison have been, for the past 15 years, the driving force behind my desire to learn and teach. I see him pushing a rickety cart filled with his very own precious copy of the Oxford English Dictionary; sharing his love of etymology while writing with flourish on the board; encouraging us to think critically rather than to simply regurgitate content.

As I consider my personal literacy narrative, I wonder: why did Professor Harrison leave such a lasting impression on me? Why has he become a legend in my own mind?

Dateline: Youth through High School, 1970s to 1984
Other than a handful of blurry memories, the image of how my early literacy developed is dark--although in reflection, it is a darkness that speaks. I see my mother, reading in her worn, golden-toned armchair, feet tucked beneath her slim legs, glasses perched on her petite nose, a steaming cup of tea cooling on the table to her side. I also see my parent's tall, tall glass bookshelf that, to my then-tiny self, seemed to reach to the sky. Top to bottom, those shelves overflowed with a potpourri of science fiction, history and reference books, many of which, like my dad's "Odd Book of Data," I took with me when I left home.

I see Mr. Black, my seventh and eighth grade English teacher, smiling at me in his dapper suit, neatly trimmed mustache and shiny dress shoes. He called me "congenial" and said I had a nice smile. I was surprised and more than very pleased when he asked me to write a column for the middle school paper. I had never thought of writing--or teachers--as anything particularly special before then.

I see my tenth grade English teacher, Mr. Lombard, a lean, graying, distinguished fellow, rolling up his sleeves and, with relish, teaching me words that I loved (and still love) to roll on my tongue: ubiquitous, epitome, zenith. And although her name is forgotten, I also see my eleventh grade English teacher, a cute, pixie of a lady with a flowing, colorful skirt, a bob haircut and a warm, friendly smile: she is reading my Beowulf poem aloud to the class. I am so proud! After all, this is honors English; and I am surrounded by so many senior hunks! She even wanted to submit my poem to a literary publication, although my sieve of a memory doesn't recall if it ever happened.

Dateline: Today
In hindsight, it is not surprising that my high school report card, which my mother unearthed when I went back to college ten years later, is heavily peppered with Cs alongside a smattering of As, Bs and Ds--the As and Bs in English classes, the rest in just about everything else. When I first saw it again after all those years, I was embarrassed; I thought I had been a better student than that.

And now, in reflection, I also recognize why I so enjoyed and even idolized Professor Harrison, my first period professor in my first semester going back to school after ten years: he, an English professor who obviously loved his subject, brought me back to those happy memories from long ago--good times with good books and good grades, being praised and recognized by passionate, confident, happy English teachers who seemed to like me and themselves, just as I, too, would like to do and be. I also suspect this is why I have now returned to English, with a desire to teach and positively impact others, many years--and many detours--later.

[Note: This is a literacy narrative I wrote for a class I'm taking.]

The Laptop Traveler on TV!



Sunday, July 05, 2009

Followup to TheLaptopTraveler's Appearance on SC's channel 4 with Kelly Coakley

Wow ... can you believe it? A few weeks ago I got an e-mail from Kelly Coakley, one of the TV anchors at South Carolina's Channel 4. Apparently she found this blog and liked it, and wanted to share it with viewers on their Sunday morning show: would I be willing to come down and do a live interview to talk about it?

Great timing, as I had just been thinking about discontinuing this blog because I didn't think too many people were really interested. But now it would have another chance to reach more possible readers ... so of course I wanted to try!

If you saw the show, you'll know it was just two short spots ... so I didn't get a chance to share everything I would have liked. So this post is to give you more information on this postcard-collecting hobby I love. (If you didn't see the show, check back here soon for a link to the video. Or visit, the station's online forum and local blog aggregator--they'll have a video of the show up there for about a week.)

1. Collecting postcards, stamps and banknotes/coinage is a GREAT way to teach your children about the world! You and they can collect from the U.S. and/or from around the world. I'm pretty proud of my geography whizzes; they know more about geography than most kids their age. How involved your child gets depends on their interest -- don't force it on them or it'll never stick.

For instance my middle son, age 9, is not really into the postcard thing all that much. But he did, for a time, write to and swap postcards with several penpals. And he has an album all his own where he stores cards he collects when we travel, cards sent by relatives, and cards I get for him. To really pique his interest, I found a set of "cars" on postcards since he LOVES cars. When I was preparing for the show, digging through my postcard albums, he pulled his out, too, and excitedly started showing me the cards he had collected: postcards from Venice, Italy and Maine from his teacher; a postcard from Downtown Disney that a penpal sent--he liked remembering our own trip to Downtown Disney before we moved to North Carolina.

My other two kids, ages 10 and 8, are a little more into the hobby. They also have albums; they also buy postcards for themselves when we travel; they, too, for a time wrote and swapped cards and small gifts with foreign and domestic penpals.

You can find penpals and get postcards for your children at Sign your child us as a member at Postcrossing (using your name and other details to keep them safe!) to send and receive postcards ... and then check out the forums, where you'll find members with kids looking for other members whose kids would like to be penpals. Or--post a request for a penpal for your child yourself!

Postcards also might lead your kids into two other hobbies: stamp and coin/banknote collecting. Two of my kids also collect stamps; and my oldest also collects coins, primarily US coins, although he does have a jarful of foreign coins he's gathered over the years.

For the stamp part of the hobby, I bought all three of the kids an identical stamp collecting album called Stamp It: The Ultimate Stamp Collecting Activity Book by Leslie Jonath. This book is great--I highly recommend it--because the kids can affix their stamps by topic on topical pages, such as a page called "go for the gold," where they can post stamps that feature the Olympics; or another called "the color of stamps," where they can put stamps of matching colors into colored boxes. My daughter's album has a red stamp with the Queen of England in the red box, a yellow stamp from the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (in Western Africa) in the yellow box, a blue stamp from India in the blue box, and a yellow stamp from Australia in the yellow box.

Some of the stamps they received on the envelopes sent by their (and my) penpals. But to really help them kickoff the hobby, I bought them all a few starter collections, including a lot of mixed foreign stamps for all to share and smaller packages reflecting their individual interests: cats on stamps for my cat-loving daughter, space on stamps for my space-loving son, cars on stamps for my car-loving son, maps on stamps for me--and even a set of bugs on stamps for my pest-control husband, so that even he could sit down with us once in a while to share in our mutual hobby :)

2. On the show, I mentioned that the "best" postcards to me are those that show a unique feature about the place where it's from. But I forgot to add that I also like to collect certain topics, such as maps on postcards, airplanes on postcards, trains on postcards, busy city streets on postcards, universities on postcards, cultural costumes on postcards, local art cards (featuring the artwork of local and regional artists), and cards that represent or commemorate cultural events (such as my cards commemorating September 11th and the death of Princess Diana).

This is such a flexible hobby; you can collect just about whatever floats your boat! If you're into birds, collect bird postcards. Religion, how about churches or icons. Boats--well, boats on postcards! Others try to collect one card from every "living" country; others collect advertising postcards; others still, cards from all the UNESCO world heritage sites. The sky is the limit, really.

I think that's enough for now although I'm sure I'll think of more to share over the next day or three. If you have any questions about this hobby, or about stamp collecting or anything else, please get in touch by leaving a comment! Also include your e-mail (which I believe remains unpublished) so I can reply.

Thanks for reading! The Laptop Traveler (that's me), appreciates your support :)

Hyatt Place Oversized Postcard

We stayed at a Hyatt Place in Greenville, South Carolina for the 4th of July .... this, so that "TheLaptopTraveler" (moi) could be on TV to feature her postcard blog! Anyway, before we left the hotel this morning, I asked if they had any postcards ... the manager said they had discontinued them, but "let me check if we have any laying around." So a very short wait later, and I was the proud owner of a set of four oversized artsy postcards, like the one you see here. Each image is different; I'm posting the one most representative of the Hyatt Place logo.

By the way -- even though this hotel was older than the Hyatt Place we stayed at in Charlotte when we traveled to DC, we enjoy Hyatt Place: free wifi in the rooms, free continental breakfast, super comfy beds and pillows, and a giant TV in your room.

Hyatt Place Oversized Postcard Back

And here on the back, you'll notice the cool Hyatt Place logo on the bottom left of the card.