Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Lots to be Thankful for...


We celebrated Thanksgiving at my mother-in-law's house. We had all three kids with us that day so we did a quick photo shoot in my parent's front yard (my mom was sequestered inside, sick with a terrible cold).


This was the best I was going to get for the day, getting them all to look at the camera at the same time. The Girl kept making a bunny face with her teeth, the baby was either trying to squiggle off the chair or looking off at everyone else in the yard and The Boy was trying to conceal the giant stye on his right eye that looked like a raisin. So, The Girl is twisting Baby D's head towards the camera and concealing the eye means that we lose half of The Boy in the shot but this is as good as it was going to get!


Danny's grandparents were there, so we got photos of Grandpa Al in the yard. He loves snuggling and calls Baby D "little boy" even though I think the baby is already probably a third of his great-grandpa's weight!

And Danny's grandma hadn't seen Baby D since summer. He's changed a lot!



Danny's sister is visiting from Belgium, where she has lived for a few years with her boyfriend.


This was her first time meeting Baby D. He can be a bit put off with new faces but has warmed up to her...her bubbly personality is hard to resist!


Many members of Danny's family made it over the house for dinner. Fortunately we all live in the same city so get-togethers are frequent. I love spending time with family.


We got a family shot. Unfortunately the baby got distracted and turned away but the rest of us look okay. I really would like to get a decent, framable shot of all of us together but we might have to rely on a collage of individual photos of each of us instead!


The Girl, Baby D and my mother-in-law

And I was able to get a few shots of Baby D, wearing the turkey tee that I appliqued. I'll have this listed as a custom on Etsy next fall, available for Thanksgiving 2013 (look who's finally one step ahead! Ha!).



He cracks himself up!


And for all these things, I am so thankful.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Celebration Blend

Whew, what a whirlwind last few weeks! I have neglected this poor blog with all of our Anniversary/Thanksgiving/Birthday activities!

Sewed up this little turkey for my turkey to wear on Thanksgiving day. He had it drooled on in 2.2 seconds! I'll make a separate Thanksgiving post.


Finished painting these characters, do you recognize them? These were party favors at Baby D's birthday. I'll do a separate post with the festivities.

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Just when I thought I was done with Etsy orders, three more hit! I actually turned off my Etsy store for the month so I can catch up and then maybe get to sewing a few things for my kids for Christmas.

Got the party menu planned out with Danny. We settled on rotisserie chicken, homemade baked mac & cheese, green salad and corn bread. Simple food in the days after Thanksgiving when everyone is "turkey'd out". I baked the cakes and cupcakes on Saturday afternoon and then decorated on Sunday morning. I had leftover royal icing the fridge so I made cookies too.

I also needed to whip up something cute for him to wear to his party! I had hoped to do a fun pair of appliqued overalls but that was sooooo not going to happen in the short amount of time. However I still had time to make him a simple appliqued tee with his name on it. I never got a decent shot of him in it on his birthday...I think I'll need to have a mini-photo session!

The weekend before my honey and I celebrated our anniversary a few days early with lunch and a movie. It had been so long since my husband had been to a movie theatre, he couldn't remember when it was. We were actually thinking the last time was the day after we got married (two years ago!). We had a gift card to P.F. Changs so that took care of lunch (free!). And I had (free!) movie tickets from I-don't-know-when so that was our entertainment. So apparantly I'm a cheap date and my husband loves that about me! We had a wonderful time and it was the first time we'd been out on a date without the baby in a year.

We can't wait that long to have a date night again... After the last few weeks, we need another evening out!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Plus One, Minus One

We have a blended family.

At Disneyland this past summer

This makes the upcoming holidays a bit of a challenge. Sometimes we have all the kids with us but often we are minus one or more.

Halloween 2011, the matching pirates

Halloween 2012, plus one kid and minus one kid

On a regular week, Baby D is with us all the time, of course. The Girl is with us every other week and The Boy is most often with us, but he spends the night frequently at Grandma & Grandpa's house.

A Summer weekend, minus one

We arrange special event weekends around the times that we have The Girl with us. We try and schedule any kind of date nights (which are few and far in between!) on nights when The Girl is not with us so we only have to arrange babysitting for the boys. Or The Boy will spend the night with the grandparents & we take the baby with us. Not terribly romantic but we do what we have to do!

Yesterday before church, minus one

So if having three kids wasn't challenging enough, arranging the different custody schedules and the two separate school calenders is tricky. And now that Baby D is a little older and we can't just carry him around in his car seat while he sleeps, we actually have to try and arrange a regular nap time in between all the weekend action!

Easter 2012, minus one

This past weekend The Boy spent it at the grandparent's house. We had The Girl and the baby and we all went to church in the morning. It was mighty quiet in the house without The Boy's excited voice!

Baby D, minus two

The Girl will leave tonight and then we'll just have the boys again for the rest of the week. Wish I could say it's quiet around the house without her, but with two high-energy boys, there is rarely a dull moment!

With the upcoming holidays, the schedule was kept the same as the year before so we'll have The Girl for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.

Thanksgiving 2011, the day before Baby D entered the world

There are lots of exchanges during that time, lots of back and forth for her, working out the pick up/drop off times, and arranging who will watch the kids during the school breaks (because my husband & I are usually still working).

It does tend to put a damper on the holiday spirit because we can't just relax and "be present" in the moment. We are constantly rushing to get our holiday moments done and clock watching to make sure we get her to her next destination on time. Frankly, it's a bit of a pain. My husband also tends to get a bit moody when he's anticipating her leaving and knows that she's going to miss out on good family times. But then we know it's the other way around too and her other family is missing out too.

Christmas Eve 2011, all together

It would make things easier if everyone was able to get along and share the holidays together in some way but that's just not happening this year. Fortunately there has been some flexibility in the schedule in the past and last year we were able to keep The Girl overnight on Christmas Eve so she could wake up and open gifts in the morning. We get up pretty early and her mom sleeps in later, so it worked for everyone. Hopefully we can work out something like that again this year.

Christmas morning, 2011

I looked online about blended families during the holidays and came across a few helpful articles, here and here. Creating new traditions seems to be an important theme. One of the traditions I've had since The Boy was small was to take the kids to the Hallmark store and let them pick their own ornament. When they are grown, the idea will be to hand those ornaments down to them for their own tree. This is certainly one of the highlights of their holiday season.

I will have to talk to my husband about creating our own blended family traditions, together. What holiday traditions do you have and try to keep year after year?


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Disneyland - A Surprise for the Holidays

It wasn't that long ago that we had our Disneyland weekend, complete with a two-night stay at the Disneyland Hotel (my husband is still razzing me about the small fortune we spent!).

At what cost memories?!

But hey, we all had a fantastic time, even grumpy-man!


So it was quite the surprise when I told my husband that we'd soon be doing it all again. I received a phone call last week from a local radio station informing me that I'd won their grand prize of a one night stay in a Disney resort hotel and four 2-Day Park Hopper tickets!!

I'd entered the contest on the radio station's website way back in JUNE as part of the opening of Cars Land, so either the first winner never picked up their prize and I was grand prize runner-up or someone at the station dropped the ball and forgot to award the winner! In any case, I've been told that the Resort will be contacting me directly with the details so we can book the trip because (get this!) we only have until December 15th of this year! Talk about short notice...but, I'm not complaining. Fortunately it's not a terribly far drive for us.

In front of the Castle, decked out with snow for winter

I guess when I said I hoped it wouldn't be too long before we were able to go back, I wasn't expecting it to be that soon!

Of course Danny was thrilled to hear about the contest and that I won something again (I won a $50 Macy's gift card from another radio station the week prior, must have been my lucky week). I'm generally pretty lucky when it comes to stuff like that. My name was chosen out of a huge barrel at the mall during Wheel of Fortune's traveling search for players and I was chosen to be on the show in Los Angeles a few months later (I won $5300!). At any given time, I'm entered in 20+ contests online. My motto: "Someone has to win, why not me?" I've won random raffle prizes but never something like this, a radio station grand prize!

In any case, we are so excited. Danny has never been to Disneyland during the holidays and it's always so beautifully decorated, I can't wait to see it. Especially sweet because we didn't think we'd be going again this year.

The Boy with Santa in Frontierland

Decorations over New Orleans Square

We have been using our Disney Chase Visa for all of our purchases and for all the utilities & general bills that we can (gas, cable, phones, before/after school care, etc). We pay it off each month so we never pay interest, we just use it to earn the points. We have earned enough since our trip 3 months ago that we'll be able to pay for all our meals on this trip and even buy each child a souvenier! If you are a frequent Disneyland-goer or an Annual Passholder, get the Disney Visa, it adds up points faster than you'd think and they are super-easy to redeem.

Santa at California Adventure

In front of the tree on Main Street

Here is the best part...we are going to surprise the kids! We are hoping to get reservations for early December and go during The Boy's birthday weekend. He would absolutely love getting to go to Disneyland on his birthday. We get the birthday pin either at City Hall or at the Resort hotel front desk whenever we go on a birthday and cast members and other guests will greet you with birthday wishes all day long. It's a really special touch!

He is wearing his birthday button on his jacket

My mom and I took The Boy to Disneyland for his 5th birthday. I remember in Bugs Land they had some really whimsical Christmas decorations, like giant ornaments! Very excited to see how the do-over Cars Land for the holidays.


I've told the kids about the time my parents surprised us with a trip to Disneyland. They were driving us to school and missed the street to turn on. When we told them they forgot to turn, they said, "Oh, well, guess we'll have to go somewhere else today. Where do you want to go?". Of course my brother and I shouted, "Disneyland!" and my mom said, "I have the camera" and my dad said, "I have the tickets" (in which he meant E-tickets, talk about old school!). They'd had it planned all along of course, they knew exactly what we'd say! It was certainly a very special memory and I hope our kids will remember their first Disneyland surprise so fondly as well.

Can't wait to spill the beans!

In the meantime, I'm still working on Baby D's birthday arrangements.

It's a Small World, holiday version

Got two more characters painted up. Do you recognize this pair?

B3BE8449, Uploaded with Snapbucket

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Feeling FREE -Birthday planning on a budget

Now that Halloween is over, I have a few other important matters to attend to this month.

Thanksgiving is still two weeks ago but I would like to make my little turkey an appliqued turkey shirt. I have the pieces cut, just need to iron the fabric and sew it up.

My anniversary is November 20th so the weekend before we'll probably go out to dinner and a movie. I have a P.F. Changs gift card so I think there are lettuce wraps in our future (free dinner!). We want to see Lincoln and I have two movie gift certificates that I've been hoarding (free entertainment!). Also I won a $40 Macy's gift card on the radio so maybe we can do that too (free shopping!). Sounds like my husband's kind of, free, free!!

And of course, at the end of the month we celebrate Baby D's first birthday!!

Need to confirm again the location since I think I asked my mom six months ago if we could have the party at her house. Mom, is that still okay? *hee-hee*

Now, I could really pull out all the stops if it was actually me that was completely in charge. But my husband wants to keep costs at a minimum which I completely understand. And working on a budget also means being more creative in the process, which is totally okay.

However, creative also takes time, of which I'm in short supply of around here. It's hard to see some really fun ideas and not be able to attempt them because I just simply don't have the time. But I am going to still do SOME fun things, just because that's how I roll...It would drive me nuts not to!

Last week, I pulled out old scrapbook paper and the circle cutter and spent an evening catching up on The Middle OnDemand and cutting circles. I zipped them through the sewing machine over the weekend and got a lovely strand of softly colored dots (free decorations!).

I have the paper to make these strip paper decorations too, just need to cut them out!

In keeping with the It's a Small World theme for his party, I picked up these wooden doll figures from Etsy with the idea of painting each one to represent a Disney character from around the world. Some will be Disney characters from the movies and some will be representations of the dolls from the ride. I want to decorate the dessert table with the dolls and then give them away to the kids as a party favor.

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Box o' Paints

I have an equal number of boy and girl dolls but of course some of the "boy" dolls could just be a girl wearing pants! Of course, I have more boys coming to the party since boys outnumber the girls greatly in our family, so some of the boys will just have a girlie doll, I guess? Hope they don't mind! And $20 total for a combination of party decor and favor and the kids will get to take home a quality, one-of-a-kind gift instead of plastic stuff that will be lost under the bed. $20, not exactly free, but surprisingly cheaper than plastic stuff!

The older kids and I sat around the dining room table one night wracking our brains to come up with ideas for the dolls.

This is the list so far (we have 16 spots to fill):
Lilo (from the movie Lilo & Stitch) - Hawaii
Pinocchio - Italy
Merida (from the movie Brave) - Scotland
Woody & Jessie (from Toy Story...and Jessie wears pants!) - USA
Alice (from Alice & Wonderland) - England
Belle (from Beauty & the Beast, wearing her provincial outfit, not the yellow ball gown) - France
Aladdin & Jasmine, another pants wearer! - India
Mulan - China

And then just thinking of the ride, The Boy mentioned the African drummer boy and his favorite, the Canadian Mountie, so those will be good for boys.

The Girl shouted, "Buzz Lightyear!" but I had remind her that he's from outer space, not the small world. "Oh yeah...", she said.

Then the question came up...where is Snow White from? My guess would be Germany. And what about Cinderella? Would you say she's from England? I'd guess that based on what her prince wears. Deep thoughts...

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Got the first one done last night, do you know who it is? The kids recognized her immediately, thank goodness!

After the dolls are done, my next project will be to take photos of Baby D for his invitation. I'm not going to print them out or mail anything this year, I never get an RSVP that way. I'll just use an online invite so people can RSVP immediately but I want to add a picture of him to it and also print them up wallet sized for favors to our party guests.

And I LOVE this idea of a poster board that looks like a chalkboard with all his favorites, what a special memory. Poster board is pretty cheap, wonder if I have anything already laying around? Nothing black I think, but I do have the metallic markers already so I'm half-way there!

First year poster board

I plan on making a photo collage of him, one picture for each month using scrapbook paper and some number stickers that I already have (free!). The numbers look very much like the ones on the clock, perfect!

Photo collage idea

That's about it for decorating. Next planning step, food and dessert. My husband absolutely wants to be involved in that one. I'm thinking we'll be having slow-cooker bbq pork sandwiches which is just fine by me!

And I'll be making a cake with a happy clock face for sure!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Inching Along

It crept up on me so quickly...



The night before (in between cupcake baking) I was still sewing a yarn mohawk and ironing stripes on shorts. I've never been so far behing on costume sewing before. I dropped making one costume (The Girl was with her mom this year) but picked up making another (Baby D's first Halloween).

The Boy came to me a month ago with a request for a Zebra costume. He wanted a striped mohawk so I figured the best way to create it was with a hoodie.

The big question: to use a white hoodie and sew on black stripes or a black hoodie and sew on white stripes? Since I couldn't find a white hoodie, that answered the question!

A rare shot of me and The Boy

I ironed and sewed down the white stripes with Heat & Bond Lite then sewed loops of yarn into a plastic canvas strip. I attached the yarn strip loosely to the hood because I have a feeling that The Boy is going to want to wear the hoodie but not with the yarn mohawk. Not a hard project, just time consuming.

Even though I'd told him I wouldn't have time to do pants, I did a quick ironing job on an old pair of soccer shorts and then he just wore a pair of The Girl's black leggings underneath.

He said he received a lot of compliments from his classmates about his costume. He likes that nobody else is wearing what he is and that makes the time worthwhile to me!



Baby D's costume was done quite a while ago. In fact, I probably made it too early because by the time Halloween rolled around, he'd nearly outgrown the outfit! Appropriate for the Very Hungry Caterpillar, no? He has also eaten a large corner off the page with the plums in the book, sheesh!

I used the book illustrations as a guideline, adding colorful ribbon alongside a yellow stripe and then layering the simple elasticized tube over a warm pair of fleece pants and a tee. The green colors matched much better in person.

A row of ribbon for the caterpillar's back

I used one of Baby D's beanie caps as a template for the Caterpillar's head, sewing on the eyes and nose. It took a quick 20 minutes, start to finish. Fortunately Eric Carle's illustrations are pretty casual and I could be a bit imperfect on the tailoring of the Caterpillar's features! I think he could continue to wear this cap for a while too. That is, of course, if he'll keep it on...he kept yanking the cap off and throwing it on the sidewalk while Trick-or-Treating!

I should have made a matching bib...


We went to my parent's house, as we always do on Halloween, for dinner and the walking through the neighborhood. My cousin and his wife and kids and my brother and nephew took the walk with my husband, me and the kids.

A Ninja, Superman, Cowgirl, Caterpillar, Lion and Zebra

It was fun, it always is. And next year, I hope to get things done costume-wise earlier than the night before...even if it's TWO nights before!

Because this last minute stuff is scary!