September Crafting

This is super quick since I had at least a dozen things on my to-do list last week that never happened, and I’m racing a deadline for this weekend’s birthday party. I swear I’ll get my blogging rhythm back one day.  September was a slow crafting month.  I lost my speed on quite a few things, but I hope to catch up soon.

I did manage to finally complete this duo for a baby shower.
baby gift
The bibs are from this tutorial by Homemde by Jill, and the blanket is this pattern.  It is full of newbie mistakes, to be totally honest.  But I love it just the same.  There are a slew of babies around here with a lot of other pregnant girlfriends and family members, so I am starting work on some other soft baby things this fall.  What winter baby doesn’t need a handknit?

I also finished this button-up scarf for my mother-in-law’s birthday.  Unfortunately, I only took one crappy iPhone picture, but you get the idea.  It’s really warm and chunky.  She is an elementary school teacher and has to do carpool duty sometimes in the cold winter months, so I figured she needed something warm that can go over a coat.

Last but not least, I threw together this quick knit to mail to a friend who recently moved to Maryland since I thought she could use some fun mail in the new empty mailbox and some fall attire.  I forgot to take a photo, but it turned out deliciously soft and a pretty blue.  I used Berocco Vintage so it’s washable and easy to care for.  Also related – I need to stop the cowl obsession and knit something else.  But they are so fast and easy, it’s hard to commit to a full scarf for a timely gift!

I’m a little behind on Jude’s second year album, but it’ll be done in the next month or so, I think.  And our vintage train birthday party is in three days, so I’ll post on that soon.  We are having a little brunch this year with family and a very close friend or two, so it’s smaller than last year’s shindig, but it’s proving to be just as fun to put together.  I’ll post photos soon!

Happy Wednesday, reader.  And welcome to the world, little Zade…. The recipient of the bibs and blanket made his entrance around 7:30 yesterday morning.  Happy birthday, baby boy!  And rest well, mama.

April Crafting

Another month come and gone, and it’s summer in Atlanta really soon.  I loved flipping the calendar to May when I was a teacher because that meant summer vacation was around the corner.  It’s still exciting because I look forward to flowers and swimming pools and outside grilling and all the other great things about this time of year.  This is a short post, but I’m checking in quickly about my crafting accomplishments for April before it slips from my mind.

It was a slow crafting month, as I knew it would be because it was a busy month otherwise, and Costa Rica kept us away as well.  All I really have to show for it is a few pages on Jude’s second year album.

I find that the most difficult thing about working on these albums for him is that I tend to want to write far too much, and I have to limit myself to make things interesting for him one day rather than just interesting to me – which typically means I need to ramble less.  These pages were especially challenging though because there was so much I could have said about our trip, but I tried to keep it pretty simple.  The yellow is also out of character for my usual choices on the book, but I wanted something different and sunny, so I decided to go for it.  Hopefully it will print looking bright and happy and not blinding.

I also threw an Easter page together as well.

Other than those quick projects, I don’t have much to show.  I am making some progress on a knitting feat, but I can’t reveal too much because its eventual recipient is a reader of this blog.  The yarn is so delicious though.

And that’s about it for April’s finished work.  In news unrelated to crafting, I did manage to set up a Facebook page for this blog.  I’d been really resistant to connecting the two despite advice from blogger friends.  I gave in this week though because I’m realizing that it’s another way to subscribe for those of you who use Facebook rather than a feed reader or email subscriptions.  Plus, to be honest, I am sure all of my personal contacts were not interested in what was happening on this site, so I would sometimes want to share a link to here or to an article related to things I talk about here, but I assume my friend from third grade or a former student might not be interested.  Creating a separate page seemed like the best thing to do.

So hop on over and join us (or “Like” us) because I just got this started so nobody really knows yet.  (If you are an RSS or email subscriber, I appreciate you dearly, but I’d also love for you to join us there.)


Happy weekending, everyone.  I plan to catch up with friends and babies and maybe plant an herb garden.  What are your sunny weekend plans?

good week

It’s been a good week around here, and it feels good to get back to normal after last week.  It seems like every single week day brings some kind of milestone lately. This week was no exception with someone’s 15 month check-up.

365.227  15 month check up!

He was mobile as ever and all over the pediatrician’s office, but he also got super shy and buried his little face in my chest when she came in.  It’s this new behavior he does a lot lately, and it really makes him seem older.  How does he know to be shy around strangers?  It’s evidence that the baby is drifting away and the toddler is here for sure. He’s almost 25 pounds and just over 32 inches which puts his weight right in the middle and his height at the 90th percentile.   Next month also marks one whole year since we’ve visited the pediatrician for anything other than a well-visit!  There hasn’t been an antibiotic in this house at all, and I know that is part luck, but he does love his green veggies and had mama’s milk for a long time, so I know that helps us, too.  God knows we’ve passed various bugs around the house and he’s played with some sick playmates and cousins without getting anything, and I really hope this health streak continues through the cold months.

Another milestone?  Guess who finished her first ever knitting project?

365.229  first finished knit EVER

Luckily some patterns out there are super fast and hide newbie mistakes. All in all, I actually enjoyed it. A history of knitting and me:  I taught myself from a book just as I was starting graduate school eight years ago.  It probably wasn’t the best time to start something that requires patience, and I began with a scarf which took soooooooo long, so I decided I hated knitting.  I wanted to give it another try though, so this year for Christmas, I have knitting classes as a gift.  (First and foremost, it’s nice to be out of the house and on my own and learning something new.)  As it turns out, I am liking it for other reasons, too.  Sewing is abandoned lately since I have to banish myself to another room for it, but I love that I can sit next to Scott and knit away while still hanging out with my boys.  Bonus:  I think I will actually wear this cowl.  I’m excited to try some other projects soon.

On the food front, I’ve tried some new things, too.  I got a really great cookbook recently that I love.  There’s a whole chapter on breakfast-for-dinner, and it suggested pairing garlicky swiss chard with eggs and grits.  And y’all it is the perfect dinner with the husband is away and I am on my own.
<untitled> 827This is sort of a crappy photo, but I couldn’t manage to try another one and wanted to dive in.  It’s becoming a favorite of mine, and of course I add a dollop of heavy cream and a pat of butter to the grits because, I confess, I like my food as sinful as possible.

Speaking of confessions, I sort of like hamburger helper, too.  I know it’s low-brow and out-of-fashion, but for real, I do.  It’s done in one skillet, it’s inexpensive, and sometimes it just hits the spot.  When we gave up all processed foods and packaged seasonings a year ago, I really started to want some quick comfort food back in my life, and I found a few beef and noodle skillet recipes online that were so-so, and I’ve adapted it over time.

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Beef & Mushroom Noodles (“real food” Hamburger Helper)

1/2 pound ground beef (We use grass-fed ground sirloin, but you could use ground chuck or even ground turkey.)

1 large onion, sliced

2 cloves of garlic (less if you are not as garlic-crazed as I am)

8 oz sliced mushrooms

3 tablespoons butter

3 cups of egg noodles

beef broth – I start with about 2 cups and add more as it needs it and the noodles are cooking.  You can add a little water as well.

Brown the ground beef until done add onions and garlic and cook until the onions are done as well.  Drain it, and set it aside.   Using the already dirty pan, (less dishes, yay!) melt butter and add flour to stir until you have a roux.  Now pour in the the beef broth and use a whisk to get rid of the lumps.  Put the beef mixture back in the pan, and add mushrooms and noodles.  Simmer until the noodles are done, and keep checking to see if you need to add more water / broth.  It usually takes about 15 minutes to finish this up.  Add salt and pepper as you want, and you’re done!

When it’s cold outside, it’s exactly what I want.  I know someone else who likes it, too.

So that’s pretty much what I’ve been up to.  A little crafting, a little cooking, and also a lot of reading.  (Why am I so late to get on the train for Philippa Gregory?)  I hope your week has been great, and you’re staying warm.

fresh start

Quiet house this morning.  Husband is gone to work.  Baby sleeping.  I’ve enjoyed a shower and coffee already.

I love new pages. Whether it’s an unwritten journal, a new book, a new day, or a new year.  Beginnings are good things.

2010 was such a good year for me. Looking back from about 2004 onward, it really seems like each year gets better and better.  I hope know that trend will continue, and I’m genuinely excited to see what 2011 brings.  So now the decorations are put away, the Christmas cakes and candies are [almost] gone from the kitchen, and it’s time to get back to real life after the holiday rush.  I love the holidays, but real life feels good too sometimes.

Regardless of my difficulty keeping them, I make resolutions every year.  I like that the fresh calendar inspires all of us to do better and be better in the coming months, and – this year especially – I have a lot to work on.

I love my job as a full-time mom, and I cherish 2010 as the year I was able to let go of professional responsibilities and focus on motherhood as my most important occupation.  That said, it’s a job like any other in that there is a learning curve and it can take time to discover what works for you and what your home and family needs.  I’ve spent the past 6 months flirting with a ot of different routines and ideas and not really committing to any of them for any length of time.  To add to the challenge, at this age, Jude changes every single day and what we are able to do together changes as  a result.  Much of my 2011 resolutions have to do with this.  I want to be an intentional and purposeful mother and create a home that is really a place of shelter – both figuratively and literally – from the world outside my family.  It’s so hard to look at the big picture and not get overwhelmed and bogged-down with the everyday things, but here’s what I have realized:  Those everyday tasks add up to the big picture I’m trying to create. The little things ARE the big thing.

As a feminist, I run from phrases like “make your home a haven” and anything that encourages me to be  good homemaker for the sake of my husband who should never see the hard parts of my day, only the vacuumed carpets and the freshly-set dinner table.  But in all seriousness and honesty, one of my New Year’s resolutions last year was to become more reliably organized and I feel as though my life now is more chaotic and unorganized than ever.  And now my home is not just somewhere I sleep and eat.  It’s somewhere I live.  Somewhere I raise my son.  In a sense, it is now somewhere I work.  So this year?  This year I resolve once again to get organized, but this time it’s more than that.  I hope to make monthly resolutions that become habits and make my home one I love to be in, one my family loves as well.  For now, I am trying out The Fly Lady, and her humorous little tips and reminders are making me laugh.  For the month of January, I’m resolving 2 household things:  scrub and shine my sink every night and complete one load of laundry a day (not including diapers) put up and wrinkle-free.  I’m hoping to create some habits around here and my spastic household cleaning schedule is no longer working for me.

I can't help but laugh at this photo. NOT MY LIFE right now. Not at all.

Life would be pretty boring if household chores were my only resolutions though, so I’ve got some other things I want to work on, too!  I LOVE creating things – all sorts of things.  I’ve made cards, both paper and digital scrapbooks, crocheted, cross-stitched, sewn, etc. etc.  Now I never seem to finish a project though and end up feeling like a mess with half a dozen undone things around here.  And I love the “me” time of crafting and love a finished project, so why are there so many undone things in my life?  I’m resolving to create one thing a month from start to finish.  Just one.  It might be something little (probably will be tiny more often than not), but creating something feel so good, and I miss it.

In addition to those two, there are a few other things floating around in my head – to read more (which is easier now with my new Kindle!!), continue on our “real food” journey with more whole nourishment and less processed junk, make connections and stay connected with mama friends, continue last year’s resolution that actually stuck and keep on with the budgeting, simplifying, and saving.  All in all, I’ve got lots to work on.

There’s an Anne Frank passage from her diary where she says, “”How noble and good everyone could be if, every evening before falling asleep, they were to recall to their minds the events of the whole day and consider exactly what has been good and bad. Then without realizing it, you try to improve yourself at the start of each new day.”  God knows the events of her day were so much heavier than the events of mine, but as always, her positivity and ability to simplify things are so inspiring.

I want to be a better me.

What are your resolutions this year?

Surviving and Thriving. Crafting not Cleaning.

The husband is still in Paris, and I am surviving – despite detailed accounts of his decadent chocolate dessert or play-by-play explanations of buttery breakfast pastries.  Or that gorgeous photo he emailed of the Notre Dame Cathedral all decked out for Christmas.  But Jude and I? We’re getting by on this side of the ocean.

I’m staying busy which helps a lot. On Monday evening, I attended a community meeting about the very real possibility of a birth center here in Atlanta. Woohoo!  Not sure what that VBAC status will be with the issues surrounding liability insurance, but even if I am never lucky enough to deliver there, I am truly excited about the possibilities for Atlanta women.  …. On a side note, as I sat in that meeting surrounded by lots of faces I’ve come to know in the past year or more of my life, I feel really grateful that my path has led me to so many strong women.  The “earthy birthy” movement in Atlanta is so active, and I love having these women as sounding boards and mentors for all sorts of parenting issues that extend far beyond labor and delivery.

So the rest of this week has included a birthday dinner on my husband’s side of the family and some visiting and playing and lunching with friends, and tonight I get to visit a tiny little baby and catch up with girlfriends over hot chocolate and doughnuts, so really Paris, you and your fine wines and beautiful architecture can suck it.  [I don’t really mean that, but I’m trying here.]

God knows there is plenty to do around the house, but it’s Christmas time and I’d rather make bigger messes crafting or cooking than clean up the existing ones, you know?

Exhibit A: Jude’s new flannel board. It turns out that $6 at Hobby Lobby and a little work can buy you a super fun and easy way to learn shapes and colors.

365.191  happy things #4

I simply wrapped black flannel around some foam board, hot glued it in place, and cut colorful shapes to go on it.  The felt easily clings to the flannel, and Jude really likes rearranging them.  Kinesthetic learning, as my teacher colleagues would call it.  Perfect entertainment for a cold day.

Then there’s been the baking, the browsing cookie recipes, the last minute gift buying on Etsy, the drinking too much coffee.  Effectively staying distracted and having a good time in the process.

Nothing else to share here, really.  Except maybe some finished scrapbook pages for Jude’s SECOND year book.  It seems so weird to say second year.  We’ve waved goodbye to babyland for sure.  Toddlerville, here we are.

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So that’s pretty much it for us this week.  Surviving in the cold on this side of the Atlantic. Crafting but surely not cleaning.  Husband returns tomorrow and lots of cozy slow cooker meals and general laziness planned for the weekend.  Happy weekending to you, too.

It’s the holidays.  Go bake something.

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Carnival Birthday Party: Details and Decorations

It’s my last post about the birthday party; I promise.  Now for my favorite part of it: the details and decorations.  This part was SO MUCH FUN to complete.  Let me begin by revealing that I am really not the most creative person I know. I am simply good at stealing someone’s ideas and adding my own thing to it a little, and all of these little crafts are something anyone can do. So easy.

One simple thing was the sign near our mailbox that greeted guests as they arrived.  I actually made three signs but only managed to take a photo of one.  We live on a hill and our driveway is long and steep, so this one was at the bottom near the mailbox.
yard sign
As guests made their way up, there was one that said “Step Right Up” and further on, there was one that said “Almost There” because you sort of need a cheerleader to make it up our driveway.  We tied bright balloons to some of the signs and to the front porch, and I hope it set the tone for guests before they even entered the party.  Once they came inside, our guests saw this table in the foyer.

favors and guest book

I placed the favors here next to a book I ordered from Amazon that worked with the circus theme and could be signed by the guests as they left.  I know Jude will appreciate it one day as he reads the sweet messages left by all of our friends and family who celebrated with us.  For the favors, I used Oriental Trading Company for all of it.  Each bag contained some candy, a clown nose, some carnival-themed stickers, some circus-themed temporary tattoos, and a small box of crayons, so all of the kids at the party could leave with something fun.  I designed the little labels using my scrapbook program, and you can have a closer look at them by looking at this earlier post.

I also made a high chair banner using the free circus font I found online.  I simply cut circles and glued them to bright cardstock and then tied it all together.  Super simple but helped to bring the theme together.

high chair

Now for the bigger things.  I sewed A LOT of bright party pennants that we hung everywhere.  I sort of forgot to take photos of them, but you can see them here behind the table.
table details

I used cloth rather than paper so that I can easily reuse them in the years to come.  I figure boys are always having parties that use some combination of primary colors, so if we do trains or cars or superheroes or dinosaurs or whatever in the future, I can always use these flags and maybe just sew a couple of new ones to add to the mix and bring in something fresh.  If you don’t sew, you could use heat n’ bond or something and make the flags that way.

I also made a birthday onesie I’ve already written about in an earlier post. I used the leftover material I had from the flags, added a little freezer-paper stenciling, and sewed it to a onesie I found for $4 at Target. Birthday Boy looked so perfect in it.  He’ll continue to wear it this fall, I’m sure.

toy train
It's my birthday, and I love my new toy train!

Lastly, my favorite part of the party was the photo booth. It was incredibly simple and served as some great entertainment.  I simply used blue fabric as a background and strung some party pennants and lights over it.  I spent about $5 at the dollar store to buy  various funky Halloween type dress up things – a large tie, funny glasses, a feather boa, etc.  I also tossed a few clown noses in there and placed some balloons next to it so it looked bright and circus-like.  This photo booth idea could be great for all sorts of parties though.  I can totally imagine it with a fairy or princess theme for little girls with a pink background and wands and tiaras.  Or even an adult holiday party with a Christmas-y background.  So.  Much. Fun. In fact, my new problem will be avoiding the urge to have a photo booth at all my parties.

photo booth

As excited as I was, I honestly wasn’t sure how this would go over because sometimes the things you are most excited about are not so loved by other people, you know?  In the end, I think some of our guests did love it after all.  I hope to print out some photos and mail them with the thank you notes so guests can remember fun times.

So that’s it!  I think I’ve told you almost everything I can about our circus birthday party.  Feel free to recycle these ideas for yourself, and I hope you have as much fun party planning as I did.  If you want to read more about the details of this party, you can see my archives here and here.