Saturday, December 13, 2014

I have to admit...

...that Larkyn was throwing a FIT in the car on our way to a play cafe (what kind of terrible mom am I?) because of the way her coat fit. After about mile 2, we were at an intersection with Charity Newsies. I told her they were Santa's helpers checking the cars to make sure no kids were crying. I even opened her window as I gave him the dollar for our paper. They were out all day at major intersections, and every time she saw them, she said "We want to be good girls and boys..."

...that I think I am finally addicted to coffee/lattes in the morning. I realized it yesterday when at 2:00, I thought I would fall asleep in the middle of reading The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Firetruck. Thank goodness it was an adorable new book (teachers- great mentor text for speech bubbles, onomatopoeia and labeling!)

...that I haven't started shopping for anyone but my kids.

...that I'm much more lax about feeding Rhys than I was with Larkyn. If he grabs it and it's not a choking hazard, it's fair game. He really likes to eat. Anything.

...that I winced at the thought of shelling out so much money for California Baby products but now I am a believer. Larkyn has been sooooo itchy for the last month with dry skin and scalp that I had to do something different. Luckily, my mother in law bought us a bottle of the shampoo and lotion for my baby shower, and I started using it on her this week. Game changer!

...that I nailed it in the kitchen this week. Four nights of meals that we didn't throw out and made for good lunch the next day (homemade chili, No-Peek beef tips, John Legend's mac and cheese, and pasta al forno). I like another recipe for homemade mac and cheese better, but JL's was pretty good. I add a small bit of jarred pasta sauce to the al forno or it is too dry. These are some of our favorites!

...that I am so excited to watch Larkyn's preschool Christmas show next week!  Except, how do people take high quality videos these days?

What's on your mind? Any out-of-the-park meals this week or Santa bribery shenanigans?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Less than 3 weeks to...

Does anyone else realize that we have an entire WEEK less than usual because of the late Thanksgiving!? That means that while we are "just" starting to think about Christmas, it is 18 days away. I don't want to forget to do these special things with the kids!

We made a gingerbread house already, but I know Larkyn would LOVE to make an ice cream cone tree. Um who wouldn't? Cone + icing + MMs? Yes please.

I have had handprint art pinned since I became a "beta" member of Pinterest 4 years ago. It's high time I use some of those adorable ideas before my kids have man hands.

Of course we have to make Christmas cookies. But, I'm not really up for the cut-outs and icing and sprinkles this year. I know, Grinch. I know my limits....last year's experience with this about did me in. I'm thinking pre-shaped this year.

I think Larkyn could understand the message of donating a toy this year. Or maybe even a bunch of pet supplies to take to the animals at Colony Cats. Or something else? Whatever it is, I want her to see where the gift goes and how it helps. Dropping it in a bin at Toys R Us doesn't quite do it.

We have a big box of Christmas books under the tree, and I only bring them out in December. We need to read those puppies before it is time to put them away again!

Larkyn actually realized the other day, "Hey mommy. Santa comes down our chimney but...then does he come in the door?" We have a chimney but no fireplace. So, a magic key it is!

I always liked leaving carrots for the reindeer, but this stuff is just so cute (my students love making it!) One link has a free printable, one link has gorgeous DIY bags that have Nana written all over them.

What traditions do you do with your kids? We will revisit the Advent calendar next year. One that does NOT include chocolate.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Six on Saturday


The kids saw Santa this morning! I love going back to my high school each year to support their Key Club (service project group) They have a pancake breakfast, several crafts, and best of all, Santa pictures you can take yourself. Both kids were a little unsure, but Larkyn talked to him through her hands on her mouth and told him she wants a Peppa Pig.


Modern Parents Messy Kids gift guides. Actually their entire website and their Pinterest boards are so helpful. I almost wanted to take everything I bought on Black Friday and start all over once I read their gift guides. Like me, the writer obsesses and researches each purchase until she can't even see straight.  I won't be re-shopping, but keeping this list for birthdays and Christmases in the future, while probably adding this set for the kids this year.

Trader Joe's Advent calendars given (and eaten in entirety) on December 1. I was feeling good about my tradition-starting skills by getting it out on the right day and explaining it to Larkyn. However, when I got home from work that day, Matt alerted me that "something" had been consumed in her room at naptime but he didn't know what. Yep. All 25 pieces of chocolate on Day 1.


Planning for Christmas cookies. In years past, I have given some sort of snack mix. This year, I have the urge to make a few different cookies instead. Any suggestions? I'm thinking Yummy Cracker snacks, classic fudge, and maybe snowballs? Too many choices!


Booking a joint birthday party! This year, we are going to combine the kids' birthdays and try a new play cafe. And please, the theme has been in the back of my mind since Rhys' ears perked up at the sound of his sister watching her favorite pig.


Someone is growing up too fast around here. I will share the full run-down on his 9 month post (!), but check out these yoga feet balancing him as he pulls up on the stairs (and of course, his football field leg warmers).

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Vintage carnival playroom

When we were looking for our new house, one of our "musts" was either a finished basement or a lower price tag that would allow us to finish the basement in the new house. We ended up with the latter.
 coming down the stairs
bottom of the stairs, looking towards the kid's side

Finding someone to do the work was a lot harder than we expected. The bids were either out of our price range or the contractors did not want to do the project because it was too small of a job. We finally had a choice to make: Wait until we had more money after tax time or turn to Craigslist. If you know us, we don't "wait" well. So, Craiglist it was.

2 months later, it is finished. There were definitely several bumps along the way and a lot of the work was not up to our expectations, but we decided to just pay the man the (very low) price and send him on his way before he "completed" anything else. Along with Matt's dad, we finished the rest ourselves.

You know I love to decorate and having a coherent room theme helps me pull it all together. I wanted a gender-neutral scheme that was inspired by one of Larkyn's very favorite things: carousels. I branched out, including all kinds of carnival elements.

Like the rest of the house, I either ordered all items from Etsy or bought them at Michael's. There is a lot of blank space, leaving room for a lot more toys, more framed art (I have several photos of her on a carousel), a TV, maybe a small sofa, and a fun little space under the stairs. But for now, the kids are having fun on the carpet and playing with toys they haven't seen in a long time.

 After: Standing at the bottom of the stairs. The & sign is where the kitchen pipe was showing. The paint color is Copen Blue from Sherwin Williams (which I love).

 I put a tension rod for Larkyn's dress-up clothes (Santa is bringing more). Matt and Grandpa are going to build built-in shelving above the rod.

 Now I am standing by the dress-up clothes looking toward the area where you saw the furnace in the first photo. The door will be painted white. And to the far left, you see the area under the stairs. Right now, it is going to house toy rotation bins, but I want to make it a reading spot or playhouse.

 My two favorite items: The Vintage Carnival bunting is from Sugar Owl design on etsy. The ampersand sign is from Michael's and is battery powered. We know a TV will go on the wall one day, so we have an outlet ready.

 I made this sign with a white opaque marker on black foam board.

 Finally, a place for Larkyn's art!  I just strung a piece of twine onto the nails under each frame. The prints are from PaperPatchPrints.

 We reused this cube storage unit from our living room at the old house, replacing the black bins with muted yellow ones from Target (Circo). The carousel photo is from Libertad Leal.

 These are the craziest sized prints. I had my choice of 8x10 or 8x12 (true digital size). When I sized up for free, I didn't know 8x12 frames are about 3x more expensive than standard. Eventually, I'll Mod Podge them onto 2 canvases. I still love them though, from Carolyn Cochrane on etsy.

 Above the little table are 5x7 prints from The Vintage Remix. They are sold as tags, but she sized them up for me and I printed at Office Depot for about a dollar!  I email them my files and then just go pick them convenient.

The other side of the basement is Matt's mancave. It is not quite photo-ready, but with the playroom, adds 1/3 more living space to our house. I am so happy with the way it all turned out!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving + Black Friday

I always want to host Thanksgiving. It is not easy getting the house cleaned and doing a little food prep with the kids, but I have figured it out. Kind of.I started doing a lot of delegating and letting others bring as much food as they want!  This year, I only did the desserts (much more simplified than last year's cute but time intense individual servings!) and corn casserole...
The dutch apple pie was a so-so recipe from ("best ever" was a stretch) and the trifle is from here, only I used spice cake and added chopped pecans and liked it more than last year.

The kids got to play in the playroom, and then after that, I totally forgot to take pictures!  The rest of the night consisted of watching football, looking through Black Friday ads, and watching the kids go nuts. And of course, drinking Trader Joe's cider (you haven't had cider til you've had theirs). Word to the wise...mix it with spiced rum and top with whipped cream and caramel.

I arranged for my mother in law to come watch the kids this morning while I did a little Black Friday shopping. I have learned that if you avoid the early crowds (go after 7 AM), it really isn't too bad. I went with a list of things I wanted for the kids and only bought them if they were on sale. Here are some of my favorite deals...

$63.99 down from 79.99

$62.00 down from 83.99

$19.99 down from 39.99

$15 down from 24.99

$5 tees and fleeces, 50% off everything else

$19.99 down from 39.99

$10 (yes, I did buy one thing for me, but it was totally practical:)
Hope you and your families had a great Thanksgiving and that you got a head start on shopping. We have one less week this year until Christmas!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Christmas, party of 4

I absolutely love Christmas shopping. Ever since the says of going through the Lazarus Secret Santa Shop where kids could walk through with an employee to pick our parent presents from an assortment of delightfully tacky paperweights and mugs.

I probably won't get to actually shop on Black Friday, but I'd at least like to be ready with ideas for online shopping. Now that Larkyn has opinions about everything, I thought I'd get a feel for what she'd like from Santa this year...
"What kind of toys do you want Santa to bring you on Christmas?"
"red ones"
"No, like what are the names of the toys you like? What do you like at preschool?"
"The table with snacks on it"

So...I think it is up to Santa to decide what she is getting again this year. There are a few things she needs:

Brown Mary Janes and/or Black Mary Janes (we have had these twice and they are the BEST!)

More jegging/leggings, generally anything that fits perfectly with ZERO stiffness (jeans), loose fabric (sweatpants or yoga pants). Yes, this is a major issue.

a few more colors of solid color hairbows 

Something "big" to entertain her over the winter months:
-a doll house (which, I have come to the conclusion that I am so indecisive about this topic that I am going to go have to see them in person)

And a few of her faves we just have to throw in:
-a stocking full of fruit snacks and MMs
-more pretend food, probably from Cracker Barrel, who has the cutest selection!
-Play Doh and a simple tool set (NOT the asinine contraptions that break after 3.4 seconds)

Sweet little Rhys has lived without many toys and been fine with it. We honestly have every "must have" baby toy already from Larkyn's baby days. I really hate buying noisy hunks of plastic, so avoiding that will be a challenge.  But he does have a few needs...

More Carter's fleece PJs and long sleeve bodysuits. There are never enough of those.

More socks (where do they go!?)
"boy" books or just non-girly books

As for something he'd have fun with, it is hard to tell with an 8 month old:
-He likes the wheels on Larkyn's stroller, so possibly things with wheels
-He is not really interested in things that are battery-powered with lights and music
-He likes to go through toy baskets and just touch, chew, and explore all the random things in there. Maybe some sensory bins?

In his first stocking, he'd love:
-graham crackers
-Lil' bits cereal
-fruit and veggie pouches

Obviously, I can't write about gift ideas for Matt on here. I know he'd be happy if I just put cash in his stocking and there were no surprises, but that's not happening!

And me?  Oh I could easily name a million things every year. With the new house, there are so many things I actually do need!

winter hat...there are so many cute ones from The North Face, but I think the Bigsby is my favorite:

more white gallery frames to match ours for updated photos
plain photo albums to catch up with pics since Rhys was born

some sort of lamp(s) for our bedroom (I am in love with these but hope they go on sale! $$!)
a clock since we don't have the time on our cable box anymore
medium antique bronze pocketwatch clock
And not necessarily things I "need", but fun nonetheless, right?

a haircut is a little like a vacation these days

I could walk into Francesca's and buy it all. These are some of my current obsessions...
 hello, rose quartz pendant
and hi there, Letica Oval

I'd love some good baby boy gift ideas (and grown man ideas, while you're at it:) Hope you have fun Christmas shopping this year!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

8 months old!

Just like that, my baby is 3/4 of a year old. It doesn't seem like that is possible. He is still just as snuggly, smiley, and wide-eyed. He still makes people stop mid-conversation to talk to him instead of me (which is OK I guess:)

New skills?
Rhys is on the move and loves pulling himself into the kitchen. It is time to keep the floor a lot cleaner and baby-proof everything! He sits up pretty well and loves feeding himself with his hands (he tries the spoon himself, but usually gags)

Hungry man...
He reaches out to grab everything we eat, and sometimes he just finds something he loves. Recently, it has been a cob of corn, a toasted bagel, and yogurt. We tried eggs, but he just spits them out. I am trying to make sure he has a REALLY full belly so that he will sleep better.

What's up with the sleep?
Seriously, every time I write this monthly update, his sleep changes. I feel very lucky that he goes to bed very easily and doesn't keep us up crying. But, he still wakes up about 3 times per night, so this mama isn't getting uninterrupted sleep. Again. It's OK...I absolutely love this stage of childhood so I somehow see past it.

I am looking forward to the holidays with him and seeing his interests come to life. So far, he seems into Peppa Pig when she is on TV, the wheels of Larkyn's doll stroller, and just picking up and sorting through items he finds in the toy basket. PS- 31 has always been my favorite number, but that picture brings new meaning to it. I just love him to pieces.


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