Monday, August 30, 2010

Blending Families

To give you some background, my fiance & I have been engaged for about a year and a half. We've known each other for just over 3 years however...he is my next-door neighbor.

I have my son full-time and live with my parents in the house I grew up in. My son sleeps in the same bedroom that I did as a child.

My fiance (aka: Neighbor Boy) lives at his mom's, in the house next door. He has custody of his daughter every weekend.

First outing with the kids, to an Easter egg hunt at the park. Oh, such baby faces they had!

It started out three years ago. My (then three-year old) son and his older brother would play in the front yard on the weekends. My parents had recently completed an overhaul by removing the wooden walkway, railroad-tie flower beds and all the plants. All that was left was the big Mulberry tree. Then they leveled the ground, had Easy-Turf come in and put in a great artifical lawn, set paving stones so we had a patio and then fenced in the entire yard. I bought some swings to hang from the tree and the kids had a save place to play.

One day, shortly after the yard was done, I looked out and Neighbor Boy's daughter, we was also three-years old at the time, was running around in the yard with the boys. Her dad and grandma were watching her over the fence. This went on for a few months, they would bring her over to play with the boys. She would run around and squeal, ride one of the tricycles, and ring the doorbell...boy, did she love to ring the doorbell!

And where was I?

Inside, peeking out the window, watching the interaction from the safety of the house. See, I'm really quite shy and to see a young, good-looking man hanging over my fence...well, I couldn't bring myself to go out there. Not quite yet.

Finally one day I worked up the nerve to step out onto the front porch. The week before my little guy had accidentally knocked Neighbor Boy's daughter in the face while he was swinging. I'd seen it go down from inside the kitchen window and felt terrible. Not only did I feel badly that my son had hurt her, but I felt badly that I'd been watching from the window and was too shy and embarrassed to actually go out at the time.

Second outing with the kids, hiking at Mission Trails Park

That was the catapult I needed to get myself motivated to speak to him for the first time. I was surprised to discover that I felt very at ease with him because I'm usually quite fumbling and awkward! He is well-spoken, introspective and smart. We share a love of God and faith, of being active, and care for the health & well-being of our children.

Which brings me up to this past weekend. The church we attend for Sunday service was hosting a "Blended-Families Ministry", a sort-of mini-seminar that will lead to a small group meeting starting next month. Most of the couples in the group had been married for a few years. A few of the couples had children that lived with them full time and also had children that went back and forth to two homes (like my son is with me full time and Neighbor Boy's daughter is only with him on weekends).

Both kids march to their own drummer! On an outing in Balboa Park.

We are concerned about how when we finally do blend our family together into one household, how is that all going to play out? Some of our issues now come down to the fact that we do 90% of our family activities together on the weekends but don't live in the same home. Neighbor Boy would like to request more time with his daughter, perhaps a full week on/full week off but logistically until we were in a house together this scenario wouldn't work out (Who would put her to bed on the nights he has school?). Of course with living together full time comes other situations because I do have my son full time so he's always with us. Issues like discipline, privacy, and simply dealing with two very strong-willed 6-year olds have already come into play.

There are some days that I just want to lock myself in my room, sit behind the sewing machine and applique away all my frustrations. There are some days that he feels very overwhelmed, says he's not sure he can do this, isn't sure he's ready to take on so much responsibility yet.

Are we alone in those thoughts? Doubtful. The families in the group from this weekend noted that they went straight from the wedding to being thrust into a full-fledged, ready-made family. There was no "honeymoon phase" for them, no time to learn about each other as a couple or to take things slow.

On our first vacation, in Monterey Bay

Right now, since we do live right next door to each other and we do spend a considerable amount of time together, I hope that is sort-of easing our kids into how things would be once we live in the same house.

Is that a fantasy? Probably!

But I daydream of how smoothly I will be able to run a household, complete with an organized desk by the front door for paying bills and sorting mail, a designated homework area for the kids, homecooked meals every night (purchased on a budget with coupons, of course) and eaten on a dining room table that is never cluttered. And we'll have a family game night every week, the kids will go off to bed without a fight and nobody will argue or slam doors and everyone will happily do their chores and...sigh!

See, they are sweet kids, they could make my fantasy come true!! A snuggly moment while camping

Okay, okay so it is a bit of a fantasy... but it's one that I'm willing to work at to make it a reality. I don't see any reason why those things couldn't happen. Why, just because our children come from different parents, couldn't we bring things together and make it all work? I'm looking forward to talking more with the parents of the blended families we met this weekend, perhaps join their small group and get to know their situations, see what worked for them and if it will work for us. It's always so helpful to get first hand advice from couples who have been there. Yeah, not exactly the same situations of course, but still helpful.

It's hard, yes, but anything worth having is worth working for, right? I'm ready to jump in, let me at it!
Last month, at Wild Animal Park

Friday, August 27, 2010

FIVE FOR FRIDAY - Lunchbox Lunacy

After a Costco trip last weekend, I got to thinking about school starting for my soon-to-be first-grader and my thoughts turned to lunches. Last year, my son bought his lunch from the hot food cart. $2.50 a day equalled out to $50 a month...hmmm, I could probably do better than that making him something at home, right?

I brought up the subject with Neighbor Boy (my fiance).

"Keep it simple. A bologna sandwich, a juice box, an apple one day, a banana the next day. The kid will eat anything, just keep it simple, no point in making a fuss."

Just to fill you in, "Keep it simple" is Neighbor Boy's basic motto. The man is quite content to live in khakis and white Hanes t-shirts, eats a can of plain ol' tuna fish for lunch every day and doesn't want a fuss made about anything. Keep it simple. And that works for him.

I say...BORING!

Seriously, I'm not going to go overboard but I think the kid would cry if he opened up his lunch and every day he had a meat & cheese sandwich and either an apple or a banana. True, he will eat anything and that's the point, really. He's an adventurer, I can't pack him bologna everyday, that would drive him nuts. He'd be bored with the same thing, as would I.

So when Neighbor Boy suggested I pack lunches and keep it simple, I nodded. I will attempt to pack lunches this year and I won't go overboard, but boring it will NOT be!

Adorable and very creative, but who has time for this on a daily basis?

I did a search for "lunchbox ideas". These are some of the ideas that came up that I will NOT be doing:
1. Cut the sandwich into cutesy shapes with a cookie cutter. Eat it square or in triangles but I'm not cutting off half the bread so you can eat a Darth Vadar shaped sandwich.
2. No food shall be made into the shape of a face. There will be no grapes used as eyeballs or matchstick carrots made into hair, sorry your food will look
3. I won't be making a new meal every single day. You might be eating the same main course Monday through Friday with a switcheroo in the side dishes, but I'm not likely whipping up Lo Mein one day and Chicken Pasta Salad the next.

This blogger's entire schtick is Bento Lunches, some of these are more on the simpler side and some are more complex.

Not overly crazy and I kind of like the use of the silicone baking cups inside the case. However, I doubt my son will ever get a dino sandwich in his lunch.

But if I ever attempt this for a lunchbox, commit me. A party is one thing, lunch at school is another.

Here are some of the ideas that came up that I WILL be doing!

1. Sustainable packaging like a reusable lunch bag instead of a paper one, cloth napkins, reusable snack/sandwich bags. I don't mind using plastic Ziplocs, so long as they aren't thrown out after one use and we will wash at home & reuse them. I'll be making these things myself but I've included Etsy links below for where you can buy them if you aren't as craftily inclined.
2. An occassional sweet note or funny drawing inside. Don't want to embarrass the boy with anything too gushy or goofy but I think he'll enjoy getting something fun once in a while.
3. Food will be healthy & use as little prepackaging as possible. Of course there will be days where I'll have to pack a juice box, an American cheese slice & Miracle Whip sandwich and a bag of fruit snacks because that is all I have on hand or I didn't have the time to make something. But my plan now is to make a fresh lunch everyday, we'll just have to see how long that lasts!

Here is another Etsy collection for Friday. This week's theme is the LUNCHBOX.

Starting off with something Neighbor Boy would like because it's "keeping it simple". Personalized lunch boxes in basic colors, with a handy strap and zip closure. I like the polka dots!


So I think the boy would blush three shades of pink if I included one of these adorable Love Notes but I think they would be great for a younger child, perhaps a preschooler. They carry a wide variety of handstamped cards to make a kid smile.


I like the idea of sending sturdy, functional silverware each day that will return home, stored in this washable utensil holder each day. The sushi print is cute and they also sell coordinating sandwich and snack bags too.


I like that these waterproof nylon snack bags zip closed instead of Velcro. I have a "thing" about stuff getting stuck on Velcro that shouldn't be there (use your imagination on this one) so having a zipper closure instead is wonderful. Lots of colors and easy to clean!


And for those days when we do go the bologna sandwich route, wouldn't this cute, personalized plastic sandwich keeper make a nice case to prevent smooshing?


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bad Intentions Gone Good

So, I caved & took the boy to Disneyland yesterday. I'll share pics of our little trip later.

I had all bad intentions yesterday. I was going to splurge and eat good on our excursion. I have been doing pretty well with my daily eating (tiny Lean Cuisines for lunch, no second portions at dinner, no dessert before bed, etc) and I knew with all the extra walking we'd put putting in at the park, I would allow myself a treat or two (or three?). I was dreaming of chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches, pulled-pork sandwiches from the French Market, slushies from Toontown, corn dogs from the cart on Main Street, mint chip ice cream sundae from the Golden Horseshoe... *slurp!*

We started off the drive at 6:30am. Drive through at Jack in the Box:
Small Raspberry Smoothie & a Breakfast Jack, no egg. Not terribly bad, it was a start!

Around 11am, we took a break inside the Tiki Room.
Shared a Pineapple Float. Lovely pineapple soft-serve in pineapple juice. Hmmm, it was sweet but really, technically isn't that fruit (and fruit is good for you, right?) Not sure this counts as naughty...moving on!

Noon, the Golden Horseshoe (and home of the infamous mint chip ice cream sundae!). Shared Chicken Nuggets and fries, of which we only ate half and a small tub of Ranch dressing, also only half used. No ice cream for us this time, we were full after the lunch.

Slurping up our mint julep, of which I got a few sips and one cherry

1:30pm, New Orleans Square. It's over 100 degrees at this point and we are thirsty. Stop off to get a Mint Julep, which we share (when I can pull the straw out from between his lips). What is this on the menu? Mickey Mouse shaped beingnets? Well, bring it on!

Heaven on a paper napkin

I'd not seen or had these before. We ordered a trio of them and waited while the gal made them up fresh. She brought them out in a paper sack, warm and covered in powdered sugar. Oh, so light and flaky! Now we're talkin'...this is heaven!

My wild animal

3pm, taking a rest under a tree next to the Haunted Mansion. I buy the little guy his promised chocolate-covered banana. I consider the chocolate chip ice cream sandwich but realize that I'm actually more thirsty and settle for a Diet Coke instead.

4:30pm, we realize we are starving and stop in at the Village Hause in Fantasyland to share a cheeseburger, fries (again we only eat half) and a fruit plate. Oh, we are soooo good, we ate a FRUIT PLATE.

I expected that we would eat again at some point but 8:30pm comes around, it was time to leave the park and we never ate another meal. My son ate the remainder of the melon from the fruit plate before crashing out on the drive home.

Oh, well. So I still owe myself a good gorging. I think I should have eaten the cookie ice cream sandwich...But my body thanks me for eating the fruit plate.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Do you have happy memories of this place?

Us in front of the Castle

Growing up in SoCal to parents who LOVED Disneyland, a great many of my happiest memories have taken place here. A few years ago we had season passes and visited about once a month. We've braved the crowds in the heat of summer and faced the umbrella-reversing wind and rain in spring. We especially love how the park transforms during the holidays, every nook and cranny is completely decked out, it's amazing.

Mickey (in a velour jumpsuit!)

The first time I took my son he was 15 months old and it was nearly 100 degrees that day. On his first ride (Alice and Wonderland), he made a terrible face, like he was caught in a windstorm, pulling his mouth back and tensing up his body! It was horrible...oh, no, we thoughts, he hates these rides!

The boys on Pirate Island, little one's first trip

As the years went by, he eased into getting more comfortable on the rides. There was definitely a large period of time when he refused to go on The Pirates of the Caribbean because he didn't like the dip at the beginning. And when he braved Big Thunder Mountain...oh, the screaming and crying that ensued!! But it's been a year since our last visit (he primed himself on the Himalaya ride at the county fair this year) and he says he's now ready to try ALL the rides at Disneyland, including the long-anticipated Space Mountain.

I'm so glad that he loves Disneyland as much as I do. I've tried to show him all the little details that people who are only interested in the big ticket rides miss, like the window displays on Main Street, when Snow White's nemesis hides behind the curtain in Fantasyland, the marching characters who come out of the clock on It's a Small World and Snow White's Grotto next to the Castle.

In New Orleans Square at Christmas

It's not all E-Ticket rides for us (hey, remember those? Anyone recall having to use tickets, yikes!). We get as much fun out of riding the "big rides" as enjoying Billy Hill and the Hillbillies in the Golden Horseshoe. We always take an air-conditioned break inside the Tiki Room and sing and whistle along with the show. The view from the top of the Treehouse is amazing. We take the railroad around the entire park but go through the Grand Canyon diorama twice because my son loves it so much. And anytime there is a band playing or a group of singers, we stop to dance along, right there in the street!

Tapping his toes on Main Street

So, he's getting a little shy around the characters now and doesn't want to pose for pictures with them anymore. And he's more interested in riding Indiana Jones than waiting in line for the Storybook Canal Boats.

But I know that as he gets older and his tastes change, he will always have these memories. I hope that Disneyland will always be a special place for him and something we can share together.

Spinning with Grandma in the Teacups

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Random Two on Tuesday

I took the day off work and we are going bowling this afternoon. My son has an older brother (whom I also taken care of as if he were my own since he was born) and we are going to pick him up at his house and head out for a fun day of bowling, lunch and who-knows-what-else. The bowling alley is in an outlet center, but I'm trying to SAVE not SPEND but if something really calls my name, I might just end up with it, we'll see.


I like to see faces, which is why I'm always carrying little clippies in my purse, either for me or my fiance's daughter. Hair falling in the face just irritates me.


Of course clippies don't work for the boys (I've tried but they always seem to resist!) Older boy's mom told me over the phone that this mop on his head is gone and that he is now sporting something much shorter (and likely cooler) for summer. Can't wait to see his face again! Seems like it's been ages since I could see his forehead (or his eyes, to be truthful!). What is it with boys and this long hair being back in style agan? Seems like the trend goes in and out, just like any other trend I suppose, but the uncombed flop in the eyes doesn't appeal to me, whether it's on the head of a boy or a girl!


Monday, August 16, 2010

A Veggie Tale

I was never much of a fan of veggies growing up. It wasn't until I was older and the parental pressure to "eat your vegetables" was off that I gave veggies another chance. I discovered that I love potatoes (that aren't just in fry-form!), that avocado is especially lovely as guacamole, and that broccoli, cooked carrots and fresh green beans are absolutely delicious.

Having grown up as a "picky eater", I was determined that my son wouldn't feel that same pressure and hopefully he would be more open to trying new foods. And it's worked, he's definitely a very adventurous eater, has a big appetite and really enjoys eating veggies.


One of his favorite veggies is tomato. I recall when he was about two years old, we were at a party at my Grandpa's house and my son plucked a tomato straight off the vine and started biting into it just like it was an apple.


He convinced my mom a short while ago that they should grow their own tomatoes in the backyard. Everyday they check on the progress and recently pulled off their first yield!


I'm pretty sure he just ate this one straight-up too, right after I took this photo!

Now they have a patch of basil growing and he's been eating that raw too. Hopefully he can keep his hands off it long enough for me to get ahold of some and actually make something from it!

Friday, August 13, 2010

FIVE FOR FRIDAY - Under the Sea

A few weeks ago, my fiance took my son & I down to the jetty at the beach. He had his surf rod & was hoping to catch a fish for dinner that night. I'd not brought any beach-wear for my son but when he saw the water, he was ready to jump in! I was disgusted with myself that we have lived 30 minutes from the beach all six years of his life, and I'd never taken him to swim in the ocean! He stripped down to his underpants and happily jumped in the waves, it was great to see him enjoying the water.

As much as I dislike the sand that seems to get everywhere, the crowded parking lots and tourists, and all that nasty seaweed that tangles around my legs, there really is just something about the beach. The fresh saltwater smell in the air, the feel of the wet sand under your toes and the rush of getting hit by a wave. I think mostly I love the colors, those lovely blues and taupes, and the sparkle when the sun reflects against the water.

Here is another Etsy collection for Friday. I'm going to do a special feature on Fridays and highlight five Etsy designers in a particular theme, this week it's the sea. If you're not close enough to physically be near the ocean, hope this brings you a little of that beachy-feel.


Each one of these amazing pieces brings the beach a little closer. These nesting bowls are simply beautiful, isn't the color inside so lovely against the bright white? She has a large collection including some intriguing wall tiles that I bet would look fantastic against a dark painted wall.



I think one of the coolest things about these prints is that you can imagine them to be pretty much whatever you think of. A jellyfish? Sure! Scientific experiments under a microscope? Okay! A brightly colored flower garden? Alright! Each print is harmonious and so joyful to look at, I love so many of them.



Okay, so I think koi fish aren't really from the sea, are they? Seems more like a small lagoon or pond fish. But I couldn't resist including this pillowcover. The design is gorgeous and I love the contrast of light print against the dark fabric.



*SIGH* Isn't this piece so dreamy? There is that lovely soft blue again (there is also a coordinating pair of earrings in her shoppe) and I adore the hammered edge bar that is personalized with your choice of initial. And of course the pewter starfish just takes you straight to the ocean. Lots of gorgeous pieces here, many available for personalization.



I've always love watching the seahorse, such a strangely fascinating creature. I recall going to the aquarium where they had a tank of seahorses. Occasionally a wave would be created inside the tank and you could watch the seahorse grab ahold of the seaweed with their tail and ride the wave up and down, it was great! This print is so lovely with the soft blues and whites and then the unexpected swirls of bright pink.



I'm going to do a special feature on Fridays and highlight five Etsy designers in a particular theme. Last week was boutique, this week it's things made out of paper!

I am amazed at what creativity some of these sellers have. It's very likely you've NEVER seen anything this interesting or unique in your big-box store. When you buy from small businesses you receive something truly special.


Everything in this shoppe is made of paper. Aren't these butterflies gorgeous? They would look so lovely scattered on a wall. Or in the corner of a picture frame. Or on the top of party favor boxes?! Check out her handcrafted paper flowers, they are amazing.



These saltine cracker matchbooks are hilarious, they look so real! These would make such fun party favors (or just have in your kitchen drawer to use all the time, wouldn't houseguests laugh if they saw "crackers" loose in your drawer?).



These banners can be cut with your name, what a special way to add personalization to your party (and a super-easy way to decorate, too, just unravel & secure in place!).



I adore these sweet and simple prints, I'd love to have one to brighten each corner of every room! The sayings are so relevant and thoughtful. These prints "make me as happy as a bird with a french fry" (see her website for that print, I love it!).



I think these paper raindrop strands would be so pretty hanging up year-round. One strand is nice but imagine a row of ten or more, draped and looped across the ceiling or "raining" down in a doorway, stunning!


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It's a Lego World

It's a Lego World, I just live in it!


My 6-yr old son owns a big box of Legos. Included in the mess...errr what used to be a castle (so we have lots of turrets, flags and sections with pre-formed windows), a police station (with jail bars, Bionicle pieces (many curved blade and sword shaped thingies) and little bits and pieces from a 5 lb bag of mixed blocks that I bought on sale at Legoland.
The castle used to be my brother's, but I'm sure he prefers that this gigantic box stays at my house instead of his! Ever stepped on a random Lego block? Youch!!


If you've ever read this blog, you know that my son has a wickedly cool imagination. And the creations he comes up with from those random Lego pieces blow me away. And just so you know, these are never just abstract designs...he always knows exactly what he is making ("it's a spider who is also a fire-breathing dragon, Mom!").


A few years back we had Legoland annual passes. This amusement park is about 45 minutes to the north of us and I think going there every month or so really fed the Lego-beast in him. Whenever he has saved up money the first thing he requests is a new Bionicle. Fortunately Grandpa is pretty good at building them because I'm not going near those things, dealing with all those tiny parts is not my idea of fun.


With his older brother on a Halloween visit to Legol and posing in another Halloween costume next to a life-size Lego Indiana Jones.


I never really go into the Legos and if I did play with them, it was only to make something "functional", like a police station or stairs for my Barbie to walk up or roadblocks for Hot Wheels to drive around. Just straight walls, nothing terribly creative.


I suppose that Lego blocks for my son is a bit like fabric for me. When he clicks and molds a new creation, naming it, wanting me to photograph the special ones, it's a bit like me each time I make a new outfit. I want to take my time, make something unique, photograph it and share it with everyone!

He's even getting his cousin involved, though this guy tends to stick with little creations, like this one.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Here is a link to the new Halloween/Fall listings I started today.

Halloween Ebay listings

I love making these personalized applique tees, they are always so special & unique for each child. See my Etsy page for a bunch of other styles!


The skirt is a one-of-a-kind and features lots of patchwork fabrics along with Euro trims, handpainted pumpkins and endless twirl.

This comfy set is extremely versatile for mixing and matching. Wear the knit hoodie dress along, pair it with the flyaway jumper top. You could also wear the top over a tee with jeans for a completely different look.


Isn't my little model adorable! She and her brother did a fantastic job for'll see his Nightmare Before Christmas inspired tee next week!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Halloween Costumes (already!)

I am photographing Halloween outfits today. Yeah, yeah I know that is over 2 months away, but we work ahead in the boutique world.

I'll share when I have my new Halloween sets up tomorrow, but in the meantime, a few Halloween shots from year's past and some creative ideas for costuming. This year my son is waffling between being a bush and a tooth. You have to know him to even understand the thought process of why a 6-year old child would choose to be either a bush or a tooth for Halloween instead of Iron Man or Dracula! I love it though, gives me a chance to be creative & he always wants me to make his costume each year of course.

This gnome outfit was a huge hit and extremely easy to put together. I just used a pair of corduroy pants he already had. I made the tunic and sewed on the contrasting "belt" and white bias tape trim. The hat and boot covers were made of inexpensive felt and the beard was just a small piece of faux fur looped at the top over a piece of elastic that was attached to the hat. The boys still have this in the dress-up box and it makes an occassional appearance!


Here he was as Captain Jack Sparrow. I did buy this from the Disney Store that year but that hat is vintage from my brother. It's seen a lot of wear in the dress-up box but it's definitely better than the faux braided do-rag that was included in the set...My son wouldn't let that thing near him! I think it's fine to use well-made store-bought costumes (you can always recycle or sell) and dress up the look with accessories you already have.


I think this was my absolute favorite costume of his. He wanted to be Indiana Jones, which fortunately is cheap & easy to create. I bought a white button up shirt and dyed it with a batch of tea bags on the stove. He wore khaki pants & boots that he already owned. I found an inexpensive dress-up set that came with a felt hat, whip & satchet at Target. The satchel doubled as his candy bag and I looped the whip and wove his belt through it at his side. My son definitely got into character for this one, it was great.


My nephew is wearing a Spiderman costume that I made years ago for his older nephew & has held up very well after years in the dress-up box. I only needed to refresh the black fabric marker lines a bit and it was trick-or-treat ready!

This was last year's set. The pirate costume was recycled for this year and my nephew wasn't afraid of the dreadlocked do-rag, he's wearing it under the hat!

My son's request was for his made up character, Hollywood Superstar Spider. I made a tunic with the metallic spiderweb print, with attached arms/legs on the sides which were separated with fishing line. A top hat and cane were a must (Grandpa fixed up the cane, which was a spraypainted PVC pipe) and I made the top hat out of a cardboard cereal box, hot glue, matching fabric, and a headband.


Still have to pin him down for this year's costume. By the time October rolls around he might have some other nutty costume idea...I can't wait to hear what it is!