Monday, December 31, 2012

What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekend: Book Review

You already know I'm a huge fan of Laura Vanderkam's books on time management. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of her new e-book, What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekend: A Short Guide to Making the Most of Your Days Off.

It was a short, easy, and useful book, which I read on my smartphone over the course of a few sessions nursing BabyM.  Don't be put off by the title - this isn't about becoming a CEO and aspiring to some crazy life where you sleep in 15 minute chunks to maximize your working time.

It's got an interesting premise - in order to have a relaxing weekend, you have to put some effort into planning things. I would have disagreed with this before kids, but now with an infant and a preschooler, it's imperative that we structure our (weekend) days. (Right now, technically every day is a weekend for us, until  T's preschool starts again.) When we don't, it seems that we waste time and/or get on each others' nerves, and before we know it, we're in the thick of the dinner-bedtime routine and another day has passed without much to show for it.

Vanderkam calls these activities "meaningless somethings" which captures it spot-on - halfheartedly doing laundry or dishes, the endless stream of putting things away and preparing/cleaning up meals, or grabbing some empty Internet time while the baby sleeps or the preschooler is playing by herself.

The book has lots of great suggestions for planning a weekend that's both fun and productive. One thing we do already is planning a few "anchor events" for each weekend. Our family threshold for feeling overscheduled is pretty low, so we typically have 1-2 events planned for a weekend, but others could plan something for all the mornings, afternoons and evenings from Friday night through Sunday night and still have plenty of time to do the other things that *need* to get done.

One tip I really want to try is having dedicated time for planning the week ahead. I used to do this pre-kids but got out of the habit with our new crazy schedule.  I think it would be awesome to do this with TJ, or also with T, just like we did with our Holiday Fun List.

Vanderkam's writing itself is great - clean and efficient, while still making what could be a very dry topic interesting.  She interviews a wide range of people for real-life examples and all are relatable in *some* way.

When I read particularly good fiction, I often highlight quotes that I love. I don't expect to do this with a non-fiction book, so I was totally caught by surprise reading the last chapter.  Rather than giving more concrete tips and suggestions, it focuses on the fact that our weekends are finite, our children are only little once, and how holidays should be filled with memory-making activities.

This part made me tear up a little: "September brings a melancholy sense of time passing, as my oldest child is off to kindergarten, the three-year-old starts preschool, and even the baby turns daily into a little girl who laughs and stumbles toward her first steps. In the photos from last Labor Day she was simply a very round belly. Now we've gotten to know the sweet, toddling child once contained in that roundness."  Sniff.  Lovely.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book, and the price is right at only $3 - less than one Starbucks drink. It's short enough that you can read it before the first weekend in 2013.  Let me know what you think!  Enjoy, and happy weekends to you!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

One Little Word 2013

Both my friend Laura and scrapbooking guru Ali Edwards posted their themes/One Little Word for 2013, so I thought I should write about mine.

 Usually these things come to me when I'm not actively thinking about them. For 2012 mine was REDUCE. And while the main event in 2012 did not fit with the theme (adding a new family member), I was true to this in other ways:

  •  Got rid of all of our unused knives and the space-hogging knife block
  •  Went through kitchen, kid clothes and toys and donated a bunch of stuff we don't need 
  •  Started to purge craft supplies I won't use 
  • Took a hard look at priorities and how I spend my time
Most of these are works in progress that I will continue in 2013. One thing I didn't get to at all was weight loss, since I was pregnant in most of 2012. But I know what I need to do, and that's the big thing I want to tackle in 2013 since I'm not getting any younger.

So the word I've chosen for 2013 is MINDFULNESS.  

I know it sounds hippy-dippy, but I really need to focus on my priorities, rather than just mindlessly surfing the web or eating what happens to be on the kitchen counter, to name just a few examples. I want my life and my career to be meaningful, and not just "float" or "survive" to the next day.  Time has sped up 100x since I had T in 2009 - she's changing so quickly. And don't even talk to me about how my tiny newborn is a huge 15-lb 3 month old already!

Things I need to tackle: 
  • Spending time "Internetting" vs. doing what I really love, like crafting, seeing friends IRL or improving my photography
  • Making actual plans with our family (our Holiday Fun List was a success) and friends
  • Setting concrete goals for the year and posting them conspicuously
  • Buy only what we really need and what gives us genuine happiness (stop buying random Target crap and eating out because the fridge is empty)
  • Eat food that fuels my body and makes me feel good
  • Exercise just a little, and work up to a lot, in a way that also makes me feel good
Piece of cake, right?  Have you thought about your goals for 2013?  Got a One Little Word you'd like to share? How did you do in 2012?

your OLW will probably be deeper :)

I made some necklaces and keychains handstamped with a word for friends who did this with me in 2012. I'm up for doing this again in sterling silver, nickel silver, golden brass or copper. Let me know what you have in mind or contact me through the 'email' link on the blog.  This year, I'm also setting aside time to make one for myself.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

And if you ever saw it: December Daily-ish 2012

So there's this *thing* among scrapbookers called December Daily, which originated with Ali Edwards.  Typically, you take a photo-a-day and make a mini scrapbook album to document the days leading up to Christmas.

As I mentioned before, photo-a-day projects stress me out, because inevitably, it's 11pm, I haven't taken any photos, and I end up with one of a napping dog or maybe my shoe.  So I knew my December "Daily" was not going to be traditional.

My holiday season starts on Thanksgiving weekend and goes through New Year's Day, so I'd want my album to include those things too. Since I am weak-willed, I bought Studio Calico's VERY expensive December Daily Kit which included everything: album, page protectors, tons of embellishments, paper, etc. Of course, this didn't stop me from buying MORE stuff because "it would be perfect for my December Daily".

I quickly decided on a color scheme - aqua and red (how trendy!) and downloaded some super-cute printable daily journaling cards from Hello Forever. I've been faithfully recording something for each day, including our Book Advent selections.

But I just COULD NOT get started on the album itself. First, I wanted to finish my 30 Days of Thankful album. Also, I had so much stuff for the album that it became overwhelming and I started to feel guilty about my craft supply overload. And part of it was just that we are so darn busy with two little kids and MAKING the memories that I didn't have much time or energy to sit down and figure out how to document them.

But now that Christmas is over, I am feeling a little more relaxed and able to focus on what I want for the album. Last week I took a couple of hours to visit my friend J for a "crafternoon". It gave me the time and space to go through all my supplies and decide what I was really going to use for this project. I also sat down with my trusty notebook and planned out some of the pages and pictures. My title is going to be "Home 4 the Holidays" because we're now a family of 4 (people) and this holiday season was all about staying close to home and starting our family traditions.

Home 4 the Holidays - the spine.
Last night I finally got crafty. I faced my fear of "messing up" the beautiful cream cloth-covered album, and decorated the spine of the book with gorgeous red seam binding, a fabulous Martha Stewart Office bookplate, and some of those awesome Studio Calico wood veneer shapes.  I still need to print a small label for the bookplate, but otherwise, the spine is done.  (Gotta start somewhere, right?)   And please forgive the less-than-perfect photos. I'm trying to use my new DSLR for these, and the depth of field + page protectors is giving me a real challenge.

I had all my journaling cards complete through Dec 26th, so I mounted those on patterned paper with a stripe of washi tape on top, to provide some uniformity across the album. Each page still has a lot of empty space, so they need more embellishment.  I completed the first seven pages and called it a night at 1am.

Here's a little slide show of the pages I've done so far. Click on any photo to view a larger version.

 If you're on a mobile device or it's not working on your computer, you can also view my gallery.

Obviously, I've just gotten started, but this was a huge step for me.  Now I know what I need to do next, instead of just flailing around trying to get going. Tonight I'll start printing photos, which are the real "meat" of the album.

I know all the serious scrapbooking folks are done with their December Daily albums, but I'm trying to remember that it's not a race. The process of putting it together is so fun for me, and I'll share more over the next few weeks.  My goal is to have it done by the time we take down the Christmas tree in early January.

What projects are you tackling now that Christmas is over?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Awesome Christmas Crafts from Target

Target is not usually on my list of places to buy craft supplies, unless they're specifically for T. But recently, Target got some nice papercrafting and scrapbooking supplies so I always cruise through that aisle.

There was a really cute 'Merry Christmas' banner kit by American Crafts, which I figured would be an easy one for my monthly "Banner Year" project.  I realized quickly that the whole banner would be WAY too long for our mantel, so I decided to just use the 'MERRY' portion. I also wanted to use my pretty supplies to embellish it, since it was a very simple kit.  (Click on photos to see a larger version.)

It was really fun to put together and the kit components were high quality.  I added some doilies, wood veneer trees colored with ink, sequins and brads (love shiny stuff!), rockin' Martha Stewart glitter glue, glitter twine, and of course, some washi tape.  The snowflakes and buttons are from my Studio Calico December Daily album kit.  The individual banner shapes are quite small - around 4x6"- so it works perfectly on our mantel with the two stockings.

The second Target craft this month was a decorate-your-own-snowman kit I bought for T. It's actually labeled for age 6 and up, probably because of the tiny stickers. The kit was only $5 and contains everything you need to make *20* snowmen.

It's given T hours of enjoyment and we still have snowmen left to make.  It's not terribly fancy - everything is made of craft foam and there are sticky eyes, buttons, arms, noses, mouths, scarves, hats, and letters.  Even TJ joined in the fun and made a few!

This is some serious crafting.

I made the one on the left.

We'll probably string them together as a banner, which T insists should be in her room, and hopefully next year she'll let me hang it in our house somewhere, because these guys are super cute.

I love Target, especially with unexpected cool crafty finds like these.  We may go back after Christmas and snag a few more of the craft kits for next year - there was a cute Christmas tree one like the snowmen, and I'd like to see what American Crafts holiday stuff goes on sale as well!

Monday, December 17, 2012

And now a word from our sponsors

I occasionally get a request through BlogHer to write a sponsored post. I try to make it personal and relevant because you don't come here to read ad copy. Plus, I'm really not a marketing type.

But this post is about skincare, which I do have interest in. I had the typical icky skin as a teenager - thanks to hormones, I'd always get these HUGE ugly pimples at inopportune times. You know, the kind that makes a girl want to hide in her house for a week or two. A very nice dermatologist told me the arsenal of creams and scrubs I was using was doing me NO favors and pointed me to a very simple cleanser and instructed me to use a moisturizer with sunscreen in it.

Fortunately that craziness cleared up in my late 20s, and now I've got the opposite problem as I approach 40 - my skin leans towards dry now, especially in the winter. So I'm pretty careful and sparing about what I use on my skin. I don't wear much makeup, and not every day. I clean it off at night before bed. I remember to moisturize before bed (but I'm still not high maintenance!).

DDF is onto the ancient secrets
of Indian grandmothers
So far things look ok, probably because we don't get much sun here in Seattle, but I know as time goes on, I'll need to spend a little time on skincare if I want it to stay healthy. I haven't settled on a daily cleanser or moisturizer that I absolutely love, so I was pretty stoked to get the opportunity for this sponsored post.

DDF Skincare is offering a special coupon to try their products. Buy one, get the second half off, and free shipping on your order through Jan 31. Use code DDFSKIN when you checkout.

What's cool is that they have a very detailed online skin consultation on their site so you can get an idea of what you might need. You can also check out their products in person - our local Macy's and Sephora stores have them. Their site is easy to navigate, and even has an option to do a live consultation about your skin online.  How cool is that? I love technology.

Anyway, if you try it out, or have used DDF in the past, let me know what you think!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Dairy-free Ginger Snaps - Virtual Cookie Exchange

My friend Di hosts an annual "virtual cookie exchange" with a bunch of bloggers. She was awesome enough to include me even though I'm not a food blogger. I do enjoy baking occasionally as a project with T.

One of the things on our Holiday Fun List was to make and decorate Christmas cookies. Originally my plan was to make these awesome sugar cookies.  But when I woke up this morning I just wasn't feeling it - the whole "process" of making the dough, chilling it, rolling, cutting, making royal icing, and only THEN doing the fun decorating was more than we could do in a day.

So I turned to a recipe that has not failed me yet. I discovered it when looking for dairy-free cookies due to T's allergy. You'd never guess they don't have butter in them, and it's super easy to mix and make.  With minimal effort they look really nice, and we made them more festive by rolling them in colored natural sugar sprinkles.

As per the comments on the recipe online, we made a few changes so I've included the recipe below.

Mama's Ginger Snaps (adapted from Elaine at, makes about 3 dozen)

1c packed brown sugar
3/4c canola oil
1/4c blackstrap molasses
1 large organic egg
2c all purpose flour
2tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cloves
2.5 tsp ground cinnamon
2.5 tsp ground ginger
various sugars (colored and white) for decoration

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In stand mixer bowl, mix brown sugar, oil, molasses, and egg until the sugar is dissolved.
3. In separate large bowl, mix flour, baking soda, salt, cloves, ginger and cinnamon. Pour this into the molasses mixture.
4. Mix with the stand mixer until well-combined. The dough will look shiny and feel sticky.  
5. Cool mixer bowl with dough in fridge for about 30 minutes (or 15 minutes in the freezer) to make it easier to work with.
6. Using your fingers, make 1 inch balls and dip the tops into colored sugar.  Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet with 3-4 inches between each one (they spread out).

7.  Bake 11 minutes in preheated oven - they'll be a little soft when they come out.
8. Transfer to wire racks after a minute or two to cool further.

These are easy to make, but also easy to overcook. You may have to adjust based on your own oven, but it's better to undercook them as they'll get firmer when they cool. 

It's a great recipe to make with older toddlers - at age 3, T was able to dip the dough balls in the sugar and hand them to me to put on the cookie sheet without squishing them too much.  She also dumped all the ingredients into the bowls after I measured them out, and stirred the dry ingredients together.

if you look closely,
you'll see a dog nose next to the cookie.

They look very festive with the colored sugar. I wish we had done more with mixed colors - those look pretty cool, too. This recipe is definitely a keeper!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas presents for a 3 year old

Since T doesn't read my blog (yet), I figured I'd share what we got her for Christmas.  I did this last year, too. I am pleased to say my shopping is 95% DONE.  Woot.

I read about someone else's family gift-giving tradition and loved it so we're trying it out this year.  

Each person gets four presents:
  • Something they want
  • Something they need
  • Something to eat
  • Something to read
This works nicely for TJ and me, because we're often at a loss for what to get each other. Most things we want, we just buy. This way TJ can also get some things for the girls on his own, since last year it was just me buying random things and signing them "Love, Mama and Daddy" (and also some from Peanut and Spike). 

However, I do love to shop, so T is going to end up with more than four gifts.  A lot of them are little things, because she got (and uses) the big stuff already - Kettler tricycle, play kitchen, Balance Bike.

Here's what she's getting this year:

Pure Fun Trampoline - T's friend E has a similar one at her house and T enjoyed bouncing on it. It's compact and can be used indoors, which is great given our crappy weather. This is the "something she needs" because our girl will sit and read books or draw all day long. We need to gently nudge her to be more active.

Hello Kitty Science Class - I know, this is totally girly and pink, which I usually hate. But T LOVES Hello Kitty. And the fact that it's a science class play set makes me feel marginally better about it. Incidentally, they had it at Kohl's for twice the price on Amazon. Not sure what that's all about. Thanks to my trusty smartphone, I ordered it on Amazon while standing in Kohl's trying to understand why it was $17. Definitely in the "something she wants" category, as is everything with Hello Kitty on it.

This super cute beaded necklace from J. Crew's kids' line. The color is called "neon azalea" and it matches her glasses exactly. I probably could have made something similar, but didn't have time to track down beads and ribbon in these exact colors.  I'm not crazy about expensive jewelry on little kids, but this is plastic and ribbon and the price was right. And I know T will *love* it. It also comes in a nice shiny silver box.

Hello Kitty Pez dispenser.  T saw one of these at a craft store and thought it was the coolest thing ever. She has a MAJOR sweet tooth and sadly, has a couple of cavities already, so we restrict sugar as much as we can. But it's Christmas, and this fills in the 'something to eat' part.  Plus she'll dig the dispenser long after the candy is gone.  Just to balance it out, I'll also put a clementine in her stocking and ask her to eat that before she eats any candy. Because we're sneaky like that.

On the "something she needs" front, I bought her some clothes from the Gap and Old Navy. She's been growing like crazy and is now over 3 feet and close to 40 lbs. Size 3T is WAY too small, 4T fits just barely, so most things I buy for her now are size 5, which is big, but likely not for long. She really likes cats for some reason (probably because we don't have any, and did I mention Hello Kitty?!) so I figured this kitty with glasses T shirt would be a big hit.  I wish it wasn't pink (story of my life).

I saw this cute Kikkerland owl keychain at Target and grabbed him on impulse. T loves owls and anything little and cute that she can play "pretend" with. I expect he'll be a big hit, though TJ may do surgery on him to remove the hooting sound. (TJ has a tendency to operate on squeaky and noisy toys in this house because they disrupt his chi.)

For "something to read", the last two books in our Book Advent are new. For Christmas Eve, we'll be reading Olive the Other Reindeer.
What's not to love about a dog who thinks he's a reindeer? But the book I'm really excited about is the one for Christmas Day, called Me...Jane.  It's a book about Jane Goodall as a little girl. A librarian friend of mine told me that little kids don't quite "get" that Jane in the story grew up to be a famous scientist, but I'm cool with that.  Just the idea of a female character as a scientist-to-be in a kids' book rocks my world.

There's one more gift I'm excited about, but it's a joint gift for TJ and T together, so I can't write about it yet.

We didn't buy T a ton of stuff this year, nor did we buy her anything really expensive, and I'm ok with that. We noticed on her birthday that T gets overwhelmed by too many gifts. I'm sure that'll change as she gets older, but for now, we may space out some of the gifts and open some on Christmas Eve.

I'm curious to see how she'll react. She is starting to understand that she'll get presents at Christmas, but I don't think she has a sense of anticipation just yet. Maybe next year.

Happy Holidays to you, and hope your shopping is done, or close!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Project Life: What Holidays? Edition

Now that we're in December and so close to Christmas, I have to figure out how to continue Project Life along with the December-not-so-Daily album I'm also working on. The December album is supposed to capture all of our holiday activities, but it's hard to separate those from our regular "life".  

But I tried to do just that, so this week, I bring you the "Saving Ourselves for December Daily" edition of our life. All evidence of holiday preparations has been studiously avoided here. (Which means I should really get working on that holiday album!)

This time I grabbed the Studio Calico kit closest to me - November's Penny Loafers. I am ashamed to say I hadn't even unpacked it from the mailing box. Sigh. But maybe a clean, well-organized craft room is a sign of someone who isn't spending time actually crafting. Yeah, that's what I'll tell myself.

Doing these spreads with a kit makes it so much faster, as well as giving it a more cohesive look as I've mentioned before. This time I forced myself to use only what came in the kit, and to pick only 2 patterned papers.  I LOVED the sequins and the Crate Paper vellum stitched garland. I have crappy photos of my layouts again since it gets dark at 4pm here.  (Click for a larger version and sorry again for the weird reflections.)

Nov 26 - Dec 9: Being silly at home and candy at Westlake Center

Nov 26 - Dec 9: BabyM's 2 mo appointment, Mama Day at preschool, more silliness

This time I also tried to remember to write about things I didn't have photographic evidence for, like lunches with friends. I also felt like getting a little crafty so I did some stamping and used my AMAZING Martha Stewart Glitter Glue and Ranger Liquid Pearls on the title card because I love sparkle and don't use those things enough!

One of the things I've noticed is that I need to *see* my crafty stash or I won't use it. So I leave my stamps and ink, glitter glue and liquid pearls, and my pre-cut journaling cards all within sight and reach on my craft table. That way when I need a little *something* and I'm not sure what I'm looking for, I can quickly survey what I've got and actually use it. It also saves time and keeps me from getting sidetracked as I poke through my stash and find long-forgotten pretties. 

Since there are only 22 days left in the year, I'm going to do one last 2-page spread for the rest of December, which will also give me time to focus on my December-no-pressure-holiday album.  I'm already looking forward to Project Life 2013! Anyone else contemplating doing it next year?

Friday, December 07, 2012

It's good to be home for the holidays

I got the idea of making a "holiday fun list" from my friend Laura who does this with her kids in the summer and winter. At first I thought it seemed a little too structured and project-managementy and not very fun, frankly.

But 2 months into my maternity leave, I realize we do need that structure. With TJ home all the time, our days are largely the same, and we find them slipping away in a haze of feeding everyone, getting the girls to nap, and next thing you know, it's 6pm and time to start dinner and the bedtime routine. Not to mention it gets dark here around 3:30 so the days seem really short. T is in preschool four mornings a week, so we're constrained to three days for Big Fun Stuff.

So on Thanksgiving weekend, we sat down and made a list of the fun things we're going to do this holiday season. I'm pleased to report we've done 7 or 8 of them already (in RED below)!

The 2012 Creath Family Holiday Fun List:
  • Make and eat pancakes at home
  • Go to the Rumble Slide park
  • Go downtown to look at the decorations
  • See the holiday Kindermusik show at Benaroya Hall
  • Visit Leavenworth
  • Take a weekend trip to San Juan Islands or Vancouver (maybe in January)
  • Make and eat apple pie oatmeal
  • Be jolly
  • See snow
  • Make, decorate and eat Christmas cookies
  • Make, decorate and NOT eat Christmas ornaments
  • Make a Santa Claus ornament
  • Do Christmas snowman craft (Target kit)
  • Invite people over for an Open House
  • Dance
  • Take puppies to the dog park
  • Ride the B bus (Trillian's idea.  This is just a shuttle between transit centers.  She's 3.)
  • Drink milk (Trillian says this is what BabyM wants to do)
  • Listen to Christmas music
  • Put up our Christmas tree
  • Eat ham and pie for Christmas dinner (do you sense a theme?)
  • Book Advent countdown
  • Send out real holiday cards
  • Make real Belgian waffles at home
While I still struggle with the urge to just do things to check them off the list, it's been fun to deliberately incorporate more holiday fun items into our lives. Before kids, we only halfheartedly celebrate holidays. I've posted the list on our fridge so we can see what we want to do next.

What about you? Do you make a list?

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Project Life: November 2012, Thanksgiving Edition

I'm so close to completing Project Life for 2012 and I'm so excited!  Even more so that it's still FUN to put the pages together each time.

For this layout, I used the Noel Mignon November 2012 kit. I bought a single one to see what a different kit was like.  (I already subscribe to Studio Calico.) This one was a bit too "themed" for my liking - very fall and Thanksgiving-ish, but perfect for this spread in Project Life. I also used a few of the cards from the We R Memory Keepers line at Target - the 4x6 list of T's favorite things, and the little cards with the banners and Meridian's schedule matched nicely with the NM kit.  I've finally figured out that I prefer to use all cream-based papers or all white-based, instead of mixing the two.

Apologies in advance for the photos being a bit wonky.  I got done with this spread very late so had to take them under incandescent light. I'm also learning how to use Adobe Lightroom, and am still getting used to the editing tools.

Nov 12-25, 2012: Thanksgiving, Crossroads Mall, Portage Bay Cafe

Closeup of "baby schedule" card ;)

Nov 12-25: Babies, friends, and food.

Not much craftiness this week - a sequin, a brad and a sticker.

I printed fewer photos than usual this time, because I had put a lot of this month's photos in my 30 Days of Thankful album and didn't want to use duplicates.  So I had to come up with some "filler" cards, and I just wasn't feeling as crafty this week.

I had a few cards in my stash that I added a bit of journaling and kit stickers to, and then I thought it might be nice to capture a little bit about what the girls are like right now.  With BabyM, it's all about the eating and sleeping, so I wrote up her "schedule" (such as it is). I'm sure it'll be amusing when she's a teenager.

For T, I wrote about her current favorite things - book, movie, parent (always Daddy!).  I wrote these up from my own observation, so I'm sure she'd disagree with my choices. She's 3 and tends to disagree with most things. Sigh.

I'm also totally stoked that all the pages for the year will fit into one 2.5" binder.  Other people have had to split their year into 2 albums, which just doesn't seem ok to me. I know, I'm weird.

Only 3 more layouts to go for the year!  Woot!

Linked up with The Mom Creative for Project Life Tuesday.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

2012 Creath Family Holiday Letter: All Is Calm

Happy December!  I can't believe it's time for our yearly holiday letter already. This year's letter will be short and sweet since I have been blogging regularly - I can just give you links to the big stuff.

(c) Kristi Lloyd Photography, Oct 2012

2012 was an exciting year for us!  The biggest news was the birth of Meridian Rayna in October.  But I'll start from the beginning.

In January, we had a big snowstorm, which is pretty unusual for Seattle. Trillian played in the snow for the first time.  She wasn't so sure she liked it.  

February was when we found out I was pregnant with BabyM. This was both exciting and scary, since we were used to being a family of 3.  Well, 5, when you count Peanut and Spike, who are now 10 and 12 and doing well.

In March, TJ took the extremely bold step of quitting his job to enjoy some time off and work on his own projects. We've absolutely LOVED having him at home and it's fantastic that we don't have to squeeze in family fun outings onto the weekends.  The Children's Museum is nice and empty on weekdays!  Trillian also started preschool in March, saying goodbye to the excellent daycare she attended since she was 13 months old.

April was super-exciting, because my life-long dream of visiting Ireland came true. We spent 3 lovely weeks in Kenmare, and traveled mostly in the south, though we did spend a couple of days in Dublin.  We definitely want to go back. I got sick while we were there (virus + pregnancy) so I didn't get to do as much, but TJ and Trillian had a few exciting daddy-daughter field trips.

In May, TJ and I celebrated being married for 7 years with a trip to the zoo with our favorite little person.  We also found out that BabyM was a girl!  Hooray for sisters!

I celebrated my thirty-mumble birthday in June. TJ and I went to dinner at Canlis, our favorite restaurant which is where we got married in 2005.  TJ also went to a track day with his motorcycle, to take advantage of the short riding season.

Summer came to Seattle in July, and it was short, but lovely as always.  At the end of the month, Trillian and I took a girls' roadtrip to Portland, OR for the weekend, and had a GREAT time.  She still talks about it. Next time she says we should take TJ and Baby Sister, too.

In August, we celebrated my dad's 70th birthday at a local restaurant.  TJ's Aunt Jane and Uncle Rick were in town so we met up with them for breakfast at our favorite cafe.

Trillian's birthday was in September, and all the grandparents, plus her great-Granny and Aunt Robin were in town for the party. She also started her new Spanish immersion preschool. She's learning so much! I spent September willing BabyM to stay inside until October, so T could have her own "birthday month".  

BabyM cooperated, and was born via C-section at her scheduled appointment on October 1 like a good girl. She spent her first few days refusing to sleep anywhere but in someone's arms, so TJ was awesome and slept sitting up so that we could get a little sleep.  We had a 0th birthday party for her at home, which Trillian helped plan.

We spent the rest of October and November mostly at home getting used to being a family of four. Trillian went trick or treating for the first time, and both girls went dressed as ladybugs.

My parents went back to Savannah in mid-November and we miss them! BabyM isn't on a regular schedule but sleeps and eats well so I've even had time to be crafty.  Thanksgiving was low-key but nice.

December will be full of Fun Holiday Activities from the list we made together. We're staying home for the holidays so it'll be nice and mellow, just the way we like it.

For an even more detailed summary of what we did all year, you can read through my Project Life posts.  I'm very proud to have kept up this scrapbook project all year, and I'm on track to complete it this month!

We wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Best Wishes for the New Year! May your days be merry and bright!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

No one ever said it would be this hard

As you may remember, I didn't think Marissa Meyer (new CEO of Yahoo) was a great role model for working parents or changing our workaholic culture. That's still true.

But I thought this mean-spirited article by Lisa Belkin on HuffPo, was pretty uncalled-for. Apparently, like us, Ms. Mayer has been blessed with an "easy" baby.  Not to mention, she has help - her husband reportedly stays at home, plus I'm sure neither of them shleps to the grocery store or cleans their own bathrooms.  Not unlike our current situation.

But apparently she's not allowed to call it like it is, because "it turns her into one of those mothers we don't like very much."  I'm sure Ms. Mayer doesn't particularly care, of course.  But the article goes further and makes these dire predictions about how her baby could change in an instant, and how she shouldn't be too smug, etc. etc. 

And the comments?  Even worse.  They seem to be wishing her all sorts of ill will, and warning her about all of the rough patches that (may not) come ahead.  

While I do not aspire to her version of work life "balance", I'm not rooting for her to fail, or waiting for her to eat her words, as several commenters seem to be doing.  I hope baby Macallister continues to be easy, because honestly, that makes parenting that much more fun. It's easier to be patient when someone isn't demanding your time and energy 24x7 by yelling.

People, it's not a reflection of your own parenting when other people say they're having an easier time of it.  I'm not sure why it's so hard to get that.

Apparently, while we're allowed to talk on the Internet all we want about how parenting sucks and babies are hard, we're not allowed to breathe one word of how some babies actually do sleep long stretches regularly or are generally "easy".  I've seen this in real life as well as online, and it frustrates me.  

I don't think anyone with an "easy" baby is deluded into thinking it's their excellent parenting that made it so - it's totally the luck of the draw.  In fact, before BabyM was born, I was sure she wouldn't be as chill as her big sister, and that we'd have to "pay" for the relatively easy babyhood we had with T. (We haven't, knock on wood.)

Clearly, it's our excellent parenting at work here.

Why do we think like that?  Is it an American thing? In Seattle people talk about "doing penance" for our gorgeous summers by living through 9 months of gray. I think that's a depressing way to look at things.

What I've found is that if I dread something to come (terrible twos, potty training, etc.) it *feels* worse than if I just accept it as developmentally appropriate for my kid.  And yes, even parents of "easy" babies have things that are "harder" than others.  

But all the "you'll see, it's harder than you think" stuff?  It's condescending and just plain annoying. Wouldn't it be great if we could just accept that all experiences are equally valid and sometimes people just get lucky?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Book Advent: New Family Holiday Tradition

I first read about the idea of a "book advent" Christmas countdown on Ali Edwards' blog earlier this year. I've always loved books and reading so I wanted to do this in our family, too. Then I promptly forgot about it until I saw Susan Weinroth post about it on Instagram a few days ago.  I needed details, and she put them on her blog.

It's easy - find 25 books and wrap them. Each night in December, through Christmas Day, you unwrap and read one (and maybe re-read some of the others). From what I can tell most people try to choose all holiday books, and build up their collection over time, filling in with library books in the meantime.  You definitely don't need to go out and buy 25 new books, though that sure would be fun, wouldn't it?

As soon as I read her post, I knew we had to do this.  I love the idea of an Advent calendar to build up the excitement of the holidays and have little tiny surprises to look forward to each day. However, I didn't want one full of candy, and the Lego ones seem overpriced for what you get.  We have tons of ornaments for our Christmas tree already, so adding 25 new ones didn't seem like a good idea either. The book idea is perfect.

I don't think we need 25 books about Christmas since we're not Christian, so I broadened the list to also include other winter holidays and winter itself, books about reading, books about giving and love, and a few family favorites.

The First 3: numbered, and with little hints/notes about each one.

I also had a few books set aside for T because she wasn't ready for them, so I've included those.  I know she'll love opening them, and she's really into counting right now, so tonight she was already looking for the book with the "1" on it, so she'd know where to start.

I combed through our books over the last few days and put the ones I wanted to use in a box in our closet.  I had to sneak some out of T's room when she was at preschool.  Three year olds ask a lot of questions. 

I chose two different rolls of gift wrap to make it look more interesting - one with cute winter birds and the other just a plain silver. Today I started wrapping, and man, was it slow.  I'm bad at gift wrapping, and sadly, the paper is cheap and tears really easily.  I've made a solemn resolution to no longer buy cheap Target gift wrap. Only the good stuff from now on. It's just too frustrating otherwise.

Gift wrapping and adhering the number tags is a great use for washi tape, since I have so much of it.  The patterned tape looks great on plain gift wrap, too. 

I have a ridiculous collection of number stickers so I used those for the number tags on each gift.  Of course, I don't have enough of any one sticker type to do all the numbers, so they'll be delightfully mismatched. It's what snooty people call "eclectic", right? 

I got 13 of them done while both girls napped today (omg! at the same time even!).  I'm waiting for Olive the Other Reindeer from Amazon, and need to order a second book, because I want the books on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to be new. I'll finish the rest this week.

Book Number One is one of my favorites, Owl Babies.  My plan is to have us all sit together in the living room, or in T's room before bed, and read. We need to start reading more to BabyM anyway, and I like the idea of us all snuggling together to read.

If you have recos for strong pretty gift wrap, please leave it in the comments.  The Target stuff is not working.  I also could use a recommendation for a great kid's book that's non-holiday related, suitable for preschoolers.  Something not well known would be great as we have most of the classics and popular ones. Thanks in advance!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

BlogHer Book Club Review: My Life Map

I was really excited when I got the opportunity to review My Life Map by Kate and David Marshall. The timing was right since I'm on maternity leave and the sleep situation is not so bad. Being on leave for so long is also a great time to think about long-term planning. And you know I'm a planner.

After taking the Mondo Beyondo class last year, I'm a fan of doing introspective "work" and thinking about what I want out of life, instead of just floating through it trying to get to the next day. Admittedly, as a new 2-kid family, there are days where we're just trying to keep everyone happy, clean, and fed, but not so many that I can't keep an eye towards the future and the life I *want*.

This book is a guided journal to help you draw a detailed timeline of your life: past, present and most importantly, the future. It's structured very well to ease you into big goal-setting.  I had a hard time getting started because it seemed too "big", but the questions are actually very directed and "bite sized".  I love that it starts with the past and present, which are easy to map, since they are fact-based.  This is a stepping stone to planning the future, and there are lots of exercises and questions to guide you.

What I especially love is the way they've structured the Maps -  you do a "Whole Life" map first, and then a 10-Year Map, then individual "subject" ones for work, family, friends, play, learning, and service.  It's all open to your interpretation, and you can do them in the order that makes sense.  In fact, the authors suggest different ordering based on your particular outlook - whether you're a top-down or bottom-up thinker.

The authors' website has electronic copies of the Life Map form in several formats, which is very handy, especially if you intend to do this exercise more than once, which they recommend as you go through different stages in life.

My minor quibbles are about the physical book itself - I wish it was spiral-bound to make it easier to leave open when filling out the questions and making notes, and the hardcover binding gives me a bit of a mental block about writing in it, because it seems "too nice" to write in.  I also would have loved an e-copy of the questions themselves, so that I could print copies and write on those, rather than in the nice book itself.

But I do think this is a great (and inexpensive!) tool for anyone considering their long term goals in all areas of their lives. It's the sort of thing that gives back as much as you're willing to put into it, and can be worked through over a period of many weeks or months.

So if you don't know what you want to be when you grow up, or are facing a transition period in your life,  give this a try!

I was compensated for this review by BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are totally my own.

Friday, November 23, 2012

30 Days of Thankful Mini Album: Cover and More Gratitude

I've been consumed with crafting lately. Every spare moment I have I'm trying to work on one of my many open projects. It's great to be excited about something, though I don't have nearly as much time as I'd like to spend on it. Sleep takes higher priority right now.

But I figured out a simple cover design for my 30 Days of Thankful album, using the Martha Stewart labels from Staples.  I printed the text from my computer, thanks to the handy Microsoft Word templates Avery provides online. For some reason, the gold labels wouldn't feed into my printer so I used rub-on letters and stamped some arrows.  (Click for larger images.)

Front cover of album

The inside front cover has a cute phrase from the Silhouette Online Store, "a thankful heart is a happy heart." I cut it using my favorite glittery paper, the American Crafts POW line.  This color is a muted gold called Caramel, the same color I used for the numbers on each page.  

This week I also went back and stamped the days of the week on each page. I have 3 (!) sets of days of the week stamps, so I figured I should actually use them.  I keep buying them with the intention of using them for Project Life, but I never seem to pull them out when I'm working on my pages. Sigh. I am a hoarder, plain and simple.

Yes, those are two different babies in the photos.
This page is about my love for the baby wrap/sling/carrier.

Not sure how many pages I can get away with re: my love for crafting.

I do like the way the stamping looks, and how the pages are still pretty simple, allowing the photos and patterned paper to shine.  So I'll probably leave them as is, and just bind the album once all the pages are complete.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wishing you ham and pie

tiny pie from Whole Foods
Happy Thanksgiving! We had a low key lovely Thanksgiving Day together. Just the 4 of us at home, hanging out.

T chose the menu for dinner earlier in the week. Apparently she had learned about Thanksgiving at preschool and informed us that she wasn't sure she would like turkey.  So I suggested ham and she thought that was a great idea.  And pie, she said. We have to eat pie at Thanksgiving.

So that's what we did. Yesterday we went to Whole Foods and bought a ham steak, four tiny pies (one for each of the pie eaters in the house plus a spare) and some brussels sprouts from the prepared food counter. I made mashed garlic sweet potatoes today and TJ baked biscuits from a tube.

We ate on our fancy china, and enjoyed each others' company. We even made our Creath Family Holiday Fun List, which I'll post in the next few days.

Today was a good day. Hope yours was too!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Project Life: November 2012, Halloween & Election

This was a week where I had way more photos than slots for my Project Life pages.  It covered Halloween and I had a million billion pictures of my darling big girl in her ladybug costume, which she selected back in June and never wavered.

I've also been relying on my phone camera and Instagram for day to day photos.  I'd like to spend more time with the fancy DSLR but it's so big that it's hard to take with us when we're out and about.

I had limited time to finish these pages, so I tried to keep them simple.  Also, I had so many photos that I didn't have much room for craftiness anyway.  Click each photo for a larger view.

Oct 29-Nov 11: Pumpkin farm, election, Twede's, preschool

Oct 29 - Nov 11: Halloween, sisters making faces

My favorite slot - I've been saving these guys for something special :)

I got a little crafty.
I finally used some of the paper from one of those huge paper pads I keep buying when they go on super-sale at our local JoAnn's.  I've finally stopped buying them, because I have more paper than I can possibly ever use and I've come to realize I'm not a fan of themed stuff.  But I was glad to have some "spooky" paper for Halloween - those monsters are adorable.

Oh, and I have two new white pens that actually work well - the Uniball Signo and the Sakura Gelly Roll in plain white. It's like the papercrafting holy grail - an opaque white ink pen that works more than the first time, and writes smoothly.  I've tried a bunch, but these are my favorites.  And even better, Amazon has them for non-extortion prices.

Thanks for sticking with me through 3 crafty posts.  I promise I'll go back to writing about something else, for my non-crafty readers out there!

Friday, November 16, 2012

30 Days of Thankful Mini Album: In Progress

So I told you about my love for 30 day projects.  I recently read about 30 Days of Thankful on Cathy Zielske's blog.  I was going to use her cool printable templates, but I realized I wanted to start using some of the gorgeous paper I've been hoarding, so I created my own album from plain cardstock and pretty shiny fall patterned paper.

The album measures 6x6".  It's a nice size, because I can get 4 pages out of a 12x12 piece of paper (of which I have many!). I'll bind it with my Zutter Bind-It-All tool (love that thing!).

The idea is to capture one thing I'm thankful for on each of the days this month.  I'm horrible at photo-a-day type projects because it's so easy to get behind.  So for this one I tried to prep most of it ahead of time.  These tips are also helpful for anyone planning to do a December Daily album.

  • I made all the album's pages and the covers before November, including the space for me to write down my "thing".
  • Each page has the same format to keep it simple.  I may do some embellishing later (or not). All journaling is handwritten, to make it fast and easy.
  • I found a very cute set of numbers from 1-30 in the Silhouette Online Store and cut those out of glittery paper all at once, and backed them with cardstock.
  • I have a little IKEA bin that holds everything for this project - the markers I'm using, the labels, the empty pages, and the numbers so I can quickly work on a few pages at a time.
  • I downloaded the handy planner from Cathy's blog so I can make notes on the photos I need to print and the topic for each day.
  • I'm using either Instagrams or old photos for each page - no rules about taking a new photo each day.
  • I print all photos at home, and do them in batches for efficiency.
  • Once I've got the photos printed, I add them to the page along with the number, and punch the binding holes.

Here are some photos of the title page, and a few of the first pages.  I won't bore you with sharing every page!  Click for a larger version.

Title page: Basic Grey sticker, Project Life paper, Lawn Fawn & Kelly Purkey stamps

Journaling page: EK Success border punch, Martha Stewart labels, Me and My Big Ideas Fall paper
Photo page: I may add more text or stamping later

Another 2 page spread: I love my puppies!

I'm mostly "caught up" - it doesn't really make sense for me to work on the album itself each day, since it's more efficient me to print photos in batches.  But I do try to write up each thankful thing daily and think about what photo I'd like to use.

Since I've been punching the binding holes as I go along, the only thing I'll have to do at the end is actually bind the pages together.  I've still got to come up with a title design for the front cover, which is on deck for this week.  Once I see all the pages together, I may need to add some little embellishments here and there to make it interesting.

Doing this has made me realize that I don't want to do a daily project for my December "Daily" album.  Too much pressure and stress, and some days we'll have more holiday stuff to record and others nothing. So I'll be doing more of a "December When-I-Feel-Like-It" project.

I'll post more about 30 Days of Thankful next week, with more finished pages, and (hopefully) the covers.

Do you do a "thankful" project?  Tell me about it, or link to it!

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