DIY Upcycled Shirt Project

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Being in a sorority and working on college campuses for ten years, you start to acquire a large amount of t-shirts. For some reason I let them stack up. A few months ago, I went through the stacks of t-shirts and found some to give away, some I wanted to sleep in or “grunge” in, and others that I put into other stacks for projects. (Yes, more stacks!)

After pondering what type of projects I could do with old t-shirts, I made the decision to start a project…keeping in mind there would be an 11-year-old who would want to take part in the activity.

Here’s the first Upcycled Shirt Project we accomplished:

Dog Toys & More!

Little Miss Leopard Lair started the project by selecting a few shirts in different colors. We then took the scissors and made cuts along the side of the shirts. (see image below).

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The next step was probably the most fun…pulling at the cuts to tear the shirts into strips! This caused a great deal of laughter and some Incredible Hulk Muscle Flexing moments!

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The edges of the strips start to curl in making them look like tubes. That’s ok. Select about 5 or 6 strands of 3 colors of shirts and place them into 3 separate piles. Make sure they are not tangled and they are all about the same length.

Using a shorter piece of shredded shirt, tie the 3 bunches together at one end. (making it all look like a funny pony tail!). Then start braiding the colors until you get to the end. Leave a little bit at the end so you can use one more shorter piece of shredded shirt to tie it together.

Your finished product should look something like these. She had so much fun that she made them in all different sizes to give to all the pets in the family. Little Miss Leopard Lair even talked about sharing the idea with Student Council as a fundraiser idea that will be 100% profit for the group as there wouldn’t be a cost if all the members donated a few shirts each!

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Once she got the hang of it, she started to whip out quite a few in no time! Then she got really creative and made a bracelet. For this she did it the same way but cut the shirt strands in half (or used the sleeves from the shirts torn the same way). Below is a photo of the Dog Toy she made for her new puppy and her matching bracelet:

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This was a fun and easy project to do. Little Miss Leopard Lair has asked to make more of them during Spring Break. Fortunately there are plenty more t-shirts in the craft project pile for her to use!

Have fun making use of your stacks of t-shirts!

(This project & blog post is approved by the Nik-Dog!)

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Nerdy in the Halloween Kitchen

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Nerdy in the Halloween Kitchen

 

I don’t typically get into all the Halloween decor and dressing up. As a kid, I always dressed up as something “cute” like a Bunny in a Magic Hat, a Good Witch, or Shirley Temple.

For Halloween 2014, I helped my Apartment Complex put together a Halloween Party for the residents where we provided some haunting treats and costume contests. It was a great deal of fun for everyone, including the 4-legged residents!

 

Mr. Leopard Lair and I chose to embrace our inner-nerdness and put together our nerd costumes five minutes before the party. I guess Mr. Leopard Lair is King of the Geeks as he was the winner of the Costume Contest!

 

Here are a couple of the Halloween Treats I made that were a hit at the party:

Creepy Bugs

Creepy Bugs: Celery, Peanut Butter, Raisins

Strawberry Ghosts

Strawberry Ghosts: Strawberries dipped in White Chocolate with Mini-Chocolate Kisses

 

Go Bananas!

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I’ve always enjoyed cooking and baking. Something I think I learned from my Grandma Gussie. I thought part of Stories from the Leopard Lair could include some of the Kitchen Experiences as well.

To start, let’s have some Banana Bread. This was my first time making Banana Bread (that I can recall). We had some bananas turning brown and I did not want them to go to waste. I looked online for a recipe and came up with this one:

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Photo by: LeopardBuffalo

Banana Bread

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3-4 mashed ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt (I used a yoplait strawberry yogurt because that’s all I had!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk.

Place sugar and butter in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 1 minute). Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add banana, yogurt, and vanilla; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist. Spoon batter into an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

The above instructions were from the recipe I found from myrecipes.com.

However, I made a few alterations to the recipe:

  • As noted above, I used one of the yoplait strawberry yogurts because that is all I had on hand in the fridge. I wasn’t about to go to the store, nor send Mike, just to get plain yogurt.
  • I don’t have a loaf pan, so I used my 9×9 pyrex.
  • After coating the pyrex with cooking spray, I sprinkled some cinnamon and brown sugar along the bottom and sides of the pan.
  • One review said they had added some chocolate chips to the batter once in the pan and gently stirred them in. I thought that was a great idea…but I was out of chocolate chips. Not worth a trip to the store. How did I make it happen? Ummm….I found a chocolate bunny in the candy dish. Chopped him up with a knife and swirled in the crumbles.

This was delicious! And it is now in my recipe book for safe keeping. It will be perfect for the upcoming cool weather with a cup of coffee. The few alterations made this popular recipe my own creation…and that…I LOVE!

There She Is…

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Photo: Miss America Organization

I look forward to the Miss America Pageant every year. Many people who know me are already aware of this. It’s much like the Super Bowl to me. In fact, my Miss America Watch Parties often incorporate a little of the football theme. Food. Beverages. Cheering. Draft Picks.

Trying to choose who will be the next Miss America is fun for me…and including my friends in the fun makes it more exciting. So how do I pick? I do a small amount of research. Small. Of course I follow Miss America on social media and keep up with the different activities they have throughout the week. Looking through the albums from their dinners, shopping experiences, photo shoots, rehearsals, and preliminaries…I browse through and see who stands out. Is there someone who has that Miss America glow? Who looks like they are having the most fun, relaxed, poised, relatable? From there, I make a list of my “ones to watch” and I may see if I can find their talent video on line from a previous pageant…and watch their quick People’s Choice video on the Miss America website.

This year my stand outs were:

  • Miss Mississippi- In my first glance of photos of their DC visit and Atlantic City arrival, she REALLY stood out to me. Later I learned that she had been on American Idol which is a cool tidbit.
  • Miss Kansas-I really liked her haircut!
  • Miss New York- She was at the top of my list of who had that “Miss America Glow.” There was something in her that made me want to learn more about her. I later learned that she performed a vocal routine with a cup. (Everyone says it’s a red solo cup, but from all the images I have seen, it’s a taller cup and appears to be a thicker hard plastic. A solo cup would crack easily and not make the right sounds she may have been looking for with her routine.) I thought that was a different talent. Reminded me of the “back in the day” Miss America competitions when there was horseback riding, hoola-hooping and ballet rollerskating. I learned that she is very passionate about her platform, held many educational events and fundraisers, worked with a prison outreach group, police departments. As you can see, just by seeing her in a few photos, I wanted to learn more about her.
  • Miss Ohio-on my list after she won a Preliminary Talent Award for her Ventriloquism act. It’s not an easy talent.
  • Miss Oklahoma-She’s always on my list, no matter what. After attending Miss Oklahoma pageants and seeing how they compete, then seeing their progress at Miss America…they have a great team of people who help prepare their titleholder. More than likely a Miss Oklahoma will win a Swimsuit Preliminary (which this year she did!). She wasn’t always a standout in the crowd, however you could see her poise and know that her students really love her! Her tag was “Crown the Teacher.”
  • Miss Texas-again, always on my list. I am a Texan and I support my state! This year Miss Texas was a strong contender for the title.
  • Rounding out my initial “ones to watch list” was Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama, Virginia, and Idaho.

After watching the “Countdown to the Crown” I updated my list; then again after parade of states. Those who play along with me selected their Top 20. We have until the end of the commercial break after Parade of States to make the selection. I go with 20 because you never know if there will be a “surprise” or a change.

My final 20 were: Arkansas, DC, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia.

This year the People’s Choice was announced first for the Top 15. This was selected by the public. Contestants made their own short videos about why they should be Miss America. And then people could vote. Miss Idaho was selected as People’s Choice. After naming the 15th semi-finalist, of course the show added a quick surprise and drama and told the judges to select one contestant to add to the semi-finalists who may have been overlooked and they wanted to see again on stage. They chose Miss North Dakota.

Out of the Top 16, I had 11 on my list of 20. Moving into the Top 12, 9 of my original picks were still in the competition. This is when I started thinking that Massachusetts must have had a great interview. I didn’t know much about her. She was under my radar! She was the only one going into the Top 10 not on my original list. I began to think that she was going to be the next Miss America! Throughout the competition I could see that Mississippi, New York, and Oklahoma were strong contenders. I was impressed with talent this year as a whole. As it has been said, Miss America Class of 2015 was a very strong competitive year. With the final 5 announced, 4 of them were my original picks! Of course I was still in love with New York and Mississippi. But I was thrown for a loop with the judges and how some who were outstanding were left behind. It’s a hard job narrowing it down when you have so many excellent candidates for only one position. After the last on stage question, it was hard for me to place the Top 5. I was really thrown for a loop, especially when Mississippi didn’t make the final 5.

Knowing that competing at Local Competitions and State to get to Miss America…Interview is really the most important. In all the levels of competition (local, state, Miss America), Interview is the first chance the judges have to see and hear from you in person. They have read bios, information and seen pictures of the contestants in the judges notebook. They have in their mind what they are looking for in a Miss America and of course make their list of questions they want to ask to find out who that young woman will be.  THIS IS A JOB INTERVIEW!!! Miss America is a concentrated job for a year. After her year, many times Miss America continues speaking and working on her platform and making a difference. Once named a Miss America, you are Forever Miss America.

Talent also has a high percentage, then fitness and evening gown/on stage question. Those with great interviews and judge(s) very interested in them for the job of Miss America, will more than likely score higher in other areas because they will be wanting their pick(s) to move forward in the competition. Well rounded candidates will pull through to the top as well. All the public has the opportunity to see is what is shown on tv and in social media. Remember, Miss America is a job interview…not a talent show, fitness competition or runway show. Miss America is a spokeswoman for style, service, scholarship and success. She should represent the American Dream, the American Woman of Today, the Girl Next Door…a role model for our girls and young women.

So in the end, Miss New York, 23 year old Kira Kazantsev, was announced as Miss America 2015! Of course I was really excited about this. Throughout the day I have seen numerous posts that have not been very nice. They are speaking poorly of a young, educated, talented, and caring young woman they don’t even know.

Here’s a few things about Miss America Kira Kazantsev I would like to share with you:

She’s the daughter of Russian Immigrants. Her parents moved to Manhattan, New York just before Kira was born. Coming to the States with nothing but each other, they did everything they could as a family to make ends meet. Kira, a first generation American, has lived in many different places across the country including San Antonio! That’s right…she is part Texan! She attended grade school here in the Alamo City. She is a graduate of Hofstra University Honors College where she triple majored in Political Science, Global Studies and Geography. During her college years, she was involved in an abusive relationship. Her personal experience has given her the drive and passion to serve as an ambassador for Domestic Violence Awareness. This platform has been at the forefront of her journey as Miss New York. Kira, along with many other titleholders across the nation, has also been very involved with Miss America’s philanthropy Children’s Miracle Network. Her goal is to become a lawyer…and help make a difference. With her $50,000 Miss America Scholarship she won, she will be able to make that dream a reality.

No, she did not play a red solo cup for her talent. She sang “Happy” and the cup routine was part of it. Was she the best singer of the Top 10? Maybe not. Was she entertaining? Yes! Did she look comfortable on stage throughout the final competition? Yes! Was she having the time of her life? Yes! Is she fulfilling a dream? Absolutely!  Personally, I think that her talent was unique and showed that you don’t have to be professionally trained in anything to do well at Miss America.

Obviously the judges saw something in her that they wanted America to see. Now from what I have said, don’t for one second think that I am saying no one else deserved to win. Every single one of the 53 candidates put in much time and effort to prepare for Miss America. There is only one crown each year.

Is it crazy that she is the 3rd Miss New York in a row to win the title of Miss America? Yea it’s crazy! Before Miss America 2013, there had not been another Miss New York named Miss America since Vanessa Williams in 1984. The Miss New York team must have some excellent directors and supporters of their local titleholders and Miss New York to help them prepare for the next level of competition. I wonder what those who are competing this next year for Miss New York are thinking???

Just remember, it’s not a swimsuit competition or a talent show. This is an extensive job interview for a young woman who is relatable, educated, has poise, can think on her toes, has a plan of action, goals, and determination. She will always represent style, service, scholarship, and success.

Click here to Meet Kira in 50 seconds.

It’s Not a Party Without Confetti

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You know what I am talking about, right?!?!

I mean, yea, confetti is a PAIN to clean up…especially if you are utilizing the small pieces. That’s why you GO BIG! (and you make sure you bring along your clean up tools!)

LOL!

San Antonio is a city known to throw some great parties. It’s part of celebrating the history, culture and the community of today. I have been throwing parties of all kinds for years. Entertaining is fun. Hard work…but fun!

Lately I have been entertaining myself with applying for jobs. Exploring different opportunities where I can utilize my skills, expertise, talent, creativity, and can-do attitude…

I remember trying to get my first full-time job my last semester of graduate school. Great phone interview. Great campus interview. Then silence. So silent that I had to move on and get a job since it had been two months…rent was due. Bills had to be paid. My dream job at the time just wasn’t coming together. So I had to be creative and explore opportunities where I could continue to gain skills for my professional tool belt. With an Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications and Master of Arts degree in Communications, Management and Education Administration I already have some great hands-on and versatile tools for any job.

My creativity lead me to the non-profit world. My first interview for a non-profit went very well. When Rick called me to tell me I didn’t get the job, he said I had everything but the experience for that role. Of course I understood. But then again, HOW do you get experience if you aren’t given a chance?

Not giving up hope, I continued to apply for jobs. There had to be something out there for me. My friend Lori saw a posting for another non-profit. So I applied. After my interview, I barely got out of the parking lot and I received a call for a second interview. (Ummm…cool, right?? This gal thought so!) Of course I said yes, and then later that week was offered the job as Volunteer Coordinator for Girl Scouts. No, this didn’t mean I was selling cookies (although I did to help out and there were boxes taking up space in my training room…and I had new volunteers to train!)…

Walking into the office for the first time was…well…ummm…interesting. My office had a large desk, old file cabinet, and a long cabinet. And I think there was a confetti party in there before I walked in because the desk and floor was covered in books, notebooks, and papers. As an organized person (even in organized chaos), this was not good. I spent the first few days touching Every. Single. Thing. in that office. Reading. Soaking it all in. Learning. Organizing. Several staff members would come by and check on me…finding me on the floor covered in papers and files. Eventually I found a home for everything and the office was now in order where I could function and make additional progress.

I am thankful for the messy office. It gave me the opportunity to really see the materials and resources I had at hand. Learning how things worked and thinking of ways to make the program run smoother. Oh…I forgot to tell you…I had NO experience of Girl Scouting except for eating their addicting cookies! Six months later, I received a call…my “dream job” was available again…and I turned down the opportunity to apply.

WHAT?!?!?

Yeop. That’s right. I had a good thing going with this new job. I was learning and growing as a professional. I was making a difference. Volunteer training opportunities increased and participation increased. I wrote a training module for a new older girl program they were offering. It included a ritual-type ceremony and activities where the participants sampled some of the new concepts and could earn their patch or charm for that activity. The connections I made with the volunteers, traveling hundreds of miles to small towns in the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles to provide training and serve as a resource.

After a year and a half, I was missing higher education and was ready to move up. That “dream job” just so happen to be open too! It wasn’t easy finding a job after graduate school. One reason I went to graduate school is because I still didn’t know for sure what I wanted to do…so I continued my education and worked on campus. When the job search was getting scary that last semester of graduate school…I did march up to the President’s Office and asked him if I could work on my Doctorate there. He said no, with a smile of course…there was only a doctoral program in agriculture…he knew that wasn’t my area. LOL! (at least I tried!!!)

So what am I trying to say here?? What’s this thing about confetti and parties?? Maybe I just tricked you into reading this one by using a fun title??

Maybe that’s the case. But as I start exploring new opportunities for a professional career…I put myself out there in a variety of organizations. Throwing it out there like confetti in the wind…maybe someone somewhere will let me take my party to them. I have faith that someone will take a chance on me…

I have been working on patience. But for some of these opportunities, waiting is like putting the Miss America crown in front of me and telling me to not touch it…to work on my patience, I will keep up the positive vibes I feel about taking on a new adventure. As in Miss Congeniality… “Wear the Crown. Be the Crown. You ARE the Crown.” (It’s all visualization…so I won’t get in trouble for “touching” the crown.  LOL!)

So for now, I will keep throwing confetti in the wind hoping that someone will R.S.V.P. to the party.

Changed for the Better

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Creative. Self-starter. Initiative. Passionate. Eager to Learn. Hard-working.

Leader. Entertainer. Collaboration. Teamwork. Tough. High Expectations. Cheerleader.

Research. Plan. Produce. Celebrate. 

Giver. Community. Loving. Caring. Witty. Inspiring.

All In.

 

Those are just a few ways I would describe myself…who I am. I guess I want you to understand more about who I am as you read these Stories from the Leopard Lair. I have always been a hard worker. No matter what the task, I put everything into it that I can. It’s not about being the best, or being first…with me it’s about putting your best foot forward.

“I’ve heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason. Bringing something we must learn. And we are led to those who help us most to grow if we let them. And we help them in return….”

Seven years ago I took a leap and moved eight hours away from home to a place that I only knew as a great vacation spot. My boss and mentor pass a job opportunity that he found and said that I would be great at it and to apply. Confused at why he would want me to leave…he was really pushing me to “move up” in the world of higher education and continue my professional development. I really didn’t want to apply for the position. Why would I want to leave my home, my mom, everything that was familiar to me?

But I applied. Once I had the phone interview, I started to get more excited…but still not sure that I would want to make this big leap and jump into the unknown. When I was on the plane heading to the big city, it hit me. My creative juices started to flow and I began jotting down lines and lines of ideas for this new position. So many thoughts and ideas that the man next to me asked if I was a writer! I had faith that I could do this. Embrace the unknown and make it familiar. 

“Like a comet pulled from orbit, as it passes the sun. Like a stream that meets a boulder halfway through the wood. Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better? But because I knew you I have been changed for good…”

A month later, my family helped me pack up the U-haul, loaded up the pup and we were on our way to San Antonio from Amarillo! It was a whirlwind…walking into an empty office with an empty desk and empty bookshelf. Seven years and two promotions later, the bookshelf, files, notebooks, and walls were filled with programs, activities and success stories of things created, tried, ditched, tweaked…I became part of a new community, making a difference, creating change, embracing spirit and traditions, growing as a professional.

“It well may be that we will never meet again in this lifetime. So let me say before we part. So much of me is made of what I learned from you. You’ll be with me. Like a handprint on my heart…”

While my experiences and opportunities were many…I would not change my past seven years. My job was fun. Planning events. Connecting with students. Providing opportunities for students. Meeting celebrities. Learning new skills. Creating new programs. Learning the Wobble. Making friends. Throwing confetti. Filling the sky with fireworks. Many, many, many exciting and memorable moments…and I am so thankful that these experiences were part of my story.

“And now whatever way our stories end, I know you have re-written mine by being my friend…”

But part of growing up is learning when to say when. In April 2014 I decided that I needed to retire from Higher Education. I needed a change. Falling in love, getting older, and making room in my life for family are things that played a part in my decision. I am excited for the journey ahead…looking forward to the possibilities and the new adventures in life. 

“Because I knew you…I have been changed for good.”

 

Have you seen the musical Wicked? I fell in love with the soundtrack before I ever had the opportunity to see it. My friend Jen and I saw it at the Majestic in San Antonio. I’m not afraid to say that I cried a few times during the show. It was so touching. Beautiful. Empowering…. I guess I can say this journey in San Antonio has been a sort of Wicked story. The green quotes throughout this entry are lyrics from Wicked’s “For Good.” It’s one of the many beautiful scores from the musical. If you haven’t heard the music or seen the musical…put it on your To Do list! You will be changed for the better…

 

 

 

 

What exactly is the Leopard Lair?

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Leopard is my signature color. Yes. Color. It’s an accent throughout my home and has been for years. Leopard is a staple design and accessory element. Finding the right print is important to convey the level of maturity and congruency of the elements you are working with. (Keep in mind that not every leopard print item you come across will be one I like. I am particular in my Signature Color!)

If you look up characteristics of a leopard, they are the smaller of the cats in their family. They are opportunistic in their hunting. They are fast. They adapt easily to their environment. They are stealth.

Friends and family…any of those characteristics sound familiar?

I’m a strong individual. Opinionated. Direct. Fast learner. Handles change. I know what I want and I go for it. I accept challenges. Hard worker. Dedicated. Family oriented. Organized.

Needless to say, Leopard is more than just a “color” or decoration or accessory. It’s a way of life.

Look up the word Lair and you will find that it is a wild animal’s resting place; a private place where one seeks concealment.

Funny that my boyfriend’s 10-year-old daughter came up with the name of our home several months ago…Leopard Lair.  The alliteration of course is perfect, but the meaning of it all is so perfect. She said it was because of all the Leopard throughout our home.

With this blog, I invite those reading into a snapshot of my world…giving the name of Stories from the Leopard Lair.

Happy Reading!

Leopard