December 31, 2009

Happy...

OK.

Everyone is wishing a Happy New Year to everyone in bloggity blog land. And here it is...let's see...47 minutes to New year's and what is an exhausted mother of a 1 and 3 year old with no cable to do; who had party invites but wondered what to do with the kiddos past the 9 pm breaking point?

Um, go to bed to the soothing sounds of 85 gazillion neighbors setting off fireworks now 46 minutes too early before 2010.

Signing off in the year 2009 as it goes out in my hood with a literal bang.

Happy New Year Sweet Friends!

December 29, 2009

Two Tips Tuesday

Tip #1: Clean Your Microwave with H2O

I have seen this a number of times with different ways to do it. The funniest account was by Angela Cottrell (Travis Cottrell's wife) here. I suppose it all depends upon your microwave but the one thing I love about this is how well it works! I never have to scrub my microwave anymore although I am ashamed to admit how infrequently I clean it.

Just pop a microwave safe bowl in your microwave for about 4-6 minutes. The steam from the boiling water will soften all the icky, hard stuff in there and you can wipe it out. No chemicals from cleaner needed. NO SCRUBBING while contorting yourself into positions not intended for the human form. I have also heard you can add vinegar but the smell from the coffee maker when I clean it with vinegar keeps me at bay. Lemon juice added to the water is also another option.

Tip #2: Cleaning Those Icky Straps on a High C
hair or Booster Seat


I am kinda anti-high chair because I have a fear of all the food particles that would get under those cushy seats and into nooks and crannies that I never understood the purpose of. (I so ended that sentence on a preposition but do any of you care as much as I do? It will be growth for me just to leave it.) Instead, I started using booster seats that come with the little tray. Love them, easy to wipe down, and I can see where all the crumbs and food pieces go. But those straps. Ewwwwww!

My mom used the same kind of chair for my nephews and she would soak the straps in a bowl with bleach. I am not someone who should handle bleach around anything. My clothing, carpet, shoes, whatever would get splattered. I am just too klutzy. Plus, one not so bright moment remains in infamy around here. I forgot and left canvas chair covers for some outdoor lounge chairs soaking in bleach once and when I came back it was full of holes. Bleach and me...we ain't tight.


So instead, I use the Oxy clean powder. Smells much better. Just fill a small bowl with super hot water, put about a tablespoon or two in the water and soak the straps to get all the grime off. I use a tooth brush to scrub the straps and they end up so clean. Simple!

Happy Tuesday sweet friends!

December 27, 2009

Highlights from my Christmas Week

Well I must say that this past week has culminated into a level of exhaustion I did not know possible. Are any of you just down and out tired? Yet this baffles me since we did not travel (which we usually do every year) and we just kind of hung out with our friends. But there was gift buying, wrapping, and giving, last minute shopping, baking, cooking, entertaining, cleaning, etc. And I find myself wasted yet incredibly blessed to have this time. But let me recap the most memorable moments of the last week. I will include some creative, crafty things along with family stuff. All made for a fabulous week leading up to Christmas. With funny moments too...

Annual Christmas Glee with BFF & Family

BFF and I get together each year with our families and celebrate Christmas with dinner, gifts, and goodies. We did this last Saturday. This year we did a dessert fondue while watching Elf and it was so fun. Any of you who can quote at least 3 lines from that movie will receive a Christmasgram from me next year. :)

BFF and family with our girls

The kiddos together...so cute, right?

Fondue it up. My kids are so retro cultured.

I got this fun little bag for BFF and she seemed to dig it.

BFF's boys and my girls

BFF Ring


Now most of you know I refer to Kelly as BFF. Because she is soooo my BFF that just her name won't do. We have this weird, co-dependent, mutually in-like with each other relationship where we are one another's biggest fan. It looks weird to people on the outside of this glorious union but we don't care. On the 23rd, we met a 6 am to do last minute shopping equipped with coffee and sans the kiddos. It was like heaven on earth. While shopping we stumbled across these fun rings and decided to purchase identical ones to signify our (questionably normal) devotion to one another. Our husbands just stare at us like we are the freaks we are when we tell them the stuff we do. Last year, BFF purchased matching heart tube socks for us at Valentine's Day. We have yet to wear them in public but us gifting this kind of stuff to each other just cracks us up. We are the only ones who think we are funny but that is what makes us special. Really special.

Cute ring, though. I love it.
But I am alarmed that this picture gives me the appearance of man hands. Look at my knuckles!
I'll tell you a secret, though. Sometimes, when no one is looking, we join our rings together and cry out, "BFF POWER...ACTIVATE!!!!" Lightening crackles. The power blinks on and off. Dogs howl in the distance. It's exciting.

Sack Lunches for Pinellas Hope


On Christmas Eve, my Lifegroup at church (Small group, Sunday school class) made over 300 sack lunches for the homeless. What a wonderful collaborative effort and something so terrific to involve our kids and teach them about the love of Christ at Christmas.

Christmas Eve

We celebrated Christmas Eve night with friends packed with a great lasagna dinner (and a salad my friend made that was so good I miss it now that it is gone), cookie decorating and gift exchange. Fun, fun.

Family pic after church



Our fabulous friends who celebrated Christmas Eve with us.

Cute little place cards I made for dinner with our friends. Glitter birds on almost dead branches of mistletoe. This is called..."Use What You Have" entertaining.

The gift I made for my friends. It is a fabric wrapped "P" since their last name begins with "P." They were excited because my friend James said he always wanted a giant P so he could walk in the house and say, "Awwww....someone P'd on the wall." I really have weird friends.

The Joy of Christmas Morning

So sweet...girls paying with new doll house. Buuuuut...

...joy was lacking the rest of the day. Clothing was also optional.

Just thought I'd share in this past week's crafty, Christmasy, friend and family goodness. Hope you enjoy the update.

December 22, 2009

Two Tips Tuesday

Tip#1: Zip Up Your Cereal

I am so tickled that I felt a visual was needed on this tip. But once again, I am like the last person on earth to grasp such a simplistic concept of opening a fresh box of cereal pouring it into a zip tight bag, and ensuring its freshness. But I can be rather lazy about cereal. I will rip open the inner bag with reckless abandon and tear the thing from top to bottom. Or I will carefully use scissors but make the opening huge and when I pour it, half the box goes in the bowl. You, know as I type this I realize I am illustrating myself to be a complete moron. But I really think it has more to do with impatience and a lack of breakfast fare discipline.
I also could buy a plastic, Tupperware container but then I have to clean it (lazy) and I have to go buy it (cheap). Oh, another other thing I do is leave a cereal box with the top open on the counter for like, the whole day since it is a non-perishable. However, it is not non-staleable. And I often serve my poor children, teeth chipping, tasteless, dry good gruel where its only hope is to use the softening magic of milk.

So in a nutshell...Tip: Put cereal in a sealable bag inside the box. Here is a picture in case you are like me and often miss the obvious in the midst of a chaotic, daily life...

Do you like how I artistically displayed the empty bag the cereal initially came in? Does this clarify it better for you? Since apparently I felt the need to show you that once the zip tight bag is filled the other one is empty and a photo grouping was mandatory for a simple visual.

Annnnnnnd here's the top visual to show you the bag inside the box.

You may find it easier to insert the bag inside the box first as you pour the cereal in the bag to reduce crushing the delicate nuggets of cereal...(okay, laughing my patootie off as I type). I am hoping you know I have been facetious about the "how to of bagging cereal."


Tip #2: Wallies Chalk Board


I discovered this little find at Home Goods the other week and nearly squealed with delight since it was something I was specifically looking for. I had found this same kind of thing in another store for around $50 or $60 and I thought that price was way too much for a sticky backed chalk board for Cati's room.

Then I came across this at Home Goods for $16.99. Much more in my price range! So I decided to go online to the Wallies website and it is even cheaper online at $12.99 last I checked ( but probably not with shipping).

It is so perfect for Cati's room since we rent and I really don't want to paint one wall with chalkboard paint only to re-do it when we leave. I also believe if I got a hold of chalk board paint I would paint every conceivable surface with it because labeling is like an obsessive hobby for me and how cute would that be throughout my home decor? Okay, yeah. It would cease to be cute if everything became a chalkboard but I still feel like this is entirely too much of a temptation for me to overcome.
You can check out this cute Wallies chalk board here.
HAPPY TUESDAY!

December 18, 2009

A Little Bloggy Gift For Me

Check. This. Out. (I am so excited)

My sweet, talented, creative, marvelous friend with oodles of techy talent (of which I possess zilch) made me a little blog button for my blog. What is so cool about it is that it she was able to use two of my little birds (I actually made those) that are my trademark craft birds for the felt bookmarks I make and any other crafty thing that just calls for me to slap a bird on it.

Sidebar: I dig birds yet I am not so keen on real ones. Is that weird? I am not a bird watcher or even know names of birds. Oh, I appreciate a bird on a tree branch or resting on a bird house but I loooooove fake, crafty birds with fabric wings, stitched legs, and bead eyes.

Um, Jessica...get off point much?

Why yes. Yes I do.

So Alaina made me this button to put on the side of my blog (look to your right) in case anyone would want to give me a shout out. And I thank all 3 of you who do. I tried making one and was unhappy with it. I think unhappy was unhappy with it. So I did a do over by making the wise choice in not doing it myself.

Second Sidebar: Can I just tell you that as I type this post my daughters are watching Blues Clues and my precious, sweet, brilliant Cati actually thinks Steve is talking to her from the flashy, blinky box perched on the armoire. Now should I be concerned that she talks back to him and seems utterly non plussed that a reciprocating dialogue does not occur when she responds? Or should my concern lie in that she suffers from acute narcissism to think even people in TV land are talking only to her? And yes, it is Classic Clues before brother Joe came in the picture.

OK. I will chalk it up to her being 3. Point taken.

Seriously, I am trying to tell you a little about my friend Alaina here (who happened to just start a blog called Soda in a Sippy Cup...wink, wink) and I am doing a shameful job because I just let you know what I am thinking as I think it. I truly believe there needs to be a filter from my brain to my mouth but the fact it happens when I actually type out what I am thinking is a quandary. Guess I can't change what is inherently me...and OH. MY. WORD. I did it again.

Alaina. Blog button. Her new blog. Check it all out.

That's it.

Wait! Do any of you know how to get rid of that little jpg. thingy on the bottom of the button. I am so techy challenged it is ridiculous. Any tips would be truly helpful. Please.

UPDATE: Thank you so much Catrisha for helping me with my bloggy button dilemma. You were so helpful and sweet to do all the work for me. You rock, girl!

December 15, 2009

Two Tips Tuesday

OK. I said I was going to do holiday, festive like tips until after Christmas. I said it. I meant it.

And I am totally reneging on it because I am just plain weary.

I have been sick since Thanksgiving, my brain is fried and I am trying to have some joy here. So in order to do that I am unable to do my tips on pretty tablescapes and other festive stuff. Maybe next year. Will you forgive me?

Fabulous. Here we go...

Tip #1: Filling a Ziplock Bag

I must say that this one may be obvious to some of you but when I discovered this, I thought I was an absolute genius! Maybe the last person on earth to grasp this concept but I felt smart.

And obviously I felt the largest photo possible was a necessity as well.

Anyway. I discovered that if I put a ziplock bag over a glass or a bowl (depending on the size bag I am using) it is easier to fill and it stands up by itself. Just put it over the glass/bowl like you would a trash bag over a wastebasket. Wa la! Easy fill. Great for:
  • Icing your cupcakes or cookies
  • Cutting fruits and veggies and popping them in the bag really quick
  • Pouring marinades, breadcrumb mixtures, or dough recipes (like friendship bread)
Tip #2: Toy Swap

BFF and I have taken to swapping toys, DVDs, whatever. It makes sense. We really did not pay attention to our brilliance at first because we are both first and foremost...cheap. We traded DVDs and small baby toys since her oldest is 18 months older than my Cati. Ella and her youngest are 4 months apart. So we actually have cycled some stuff twice. And what makes it work is that the kids get excited to have something new and it costs us ZERO DOLLARS. NOTHING!!!

See this toy monstrosity? Which costs 80 buckaroonies in the store? Well, my kiddos thought this thing was a blast when at Aunt Kelly's house (BFF) and so we swapped. Her boys loved the toy I gave her (drawing a total blank on what it was) and my girls love this. Best part? When I am sick of looking at, hearing, tripping over, and moving this thing and I can give it back.

So this Christmas when the kids have played out all their goodies...get some mommy friends together and start swapping.

Happy Tuesday Friends!

December 10, 2009

A Funny Email I Got...

Today I received this forward and though I am not a fan of forwards this made me laugh out loud. I really wondered what I would do if I saw this with my own two eyes. I am also a teeny weeny bit ashamed that this brought me enjoyment since it reveals a sick side to my humor. Read what they guy writes below who was responsible for this...


"Good news is that I truly out did myself this year with my Christmas decorations. The bad news is that I had to take him down after 2 days. I had more people come screaming up to my house than ever.Great stories. But two things made me take it down...

First, the cops advised me that it would cause traffic accidents as they almost wrecked when they drove by.

Second, a 55 year old lady grabbed the 75 pound ladder almost killed herself putting it against my house and didn't realize it was fake until she climbed to the top (she was not happy). By the way, she was one of many people who attempted to do that. My yard couldn't take it either. I have more than a few tire tracks where people literally drove up my yard."

Best Christmas decoration of the year!

December 8, 2009

Two Tips Tuesday

Tip #1: Have a Cozy, Christmas Tea with a Friend

You probably don't know this about me but I love anything having to do with tea. I collect teapots though they went in boxes when children came on the scene. I was hooked when I learned all the elements that make up a tea. What hit me the most is that having tea makes you stop the busyness of life. So I am going to encourage you to try this during the Christmas season. It may not be your thing but humor me. It takes little effort and all I ask is you try it...
  • Invite a special friend or two to tea. Send an invitation to make it fun.
  • Dress up your table with a tablecloth. You don't need "tea" things to give attention to a table. But put a tablecloth on it, set it with cups, sugar bowl, creamer, and a little plate for goodies. Use cloth napkins if you have them and set out a teapot or carafe.
  • Have flowers or some other Christmas centerpiece.
  • Now here is the super cool thing...if you don't like tea, no worries! Have coffee, hot chocolate, spiced cider, etc. It is the EXPERIENCE that matters. Take your coffee pot straight from the coffeemaker and pour it into cups if you have to.
  • Make or buy fresh fruit, muffins, scones, little pastries, etc. A few treats is all you need.
  • Make or buy a thoughtfuil gift (like an ornament).
  • Now chit chat for an hour or two. I promise you it will refresh you and make you feel truly connected with the friends or family sitting beside you.
  • You can even try this alone and curl up with a good book. There is something so special about making a cup of tea or coffee an event rather than a morning ritual and when you share it with friends, it is such a lovely time.

Tip #2: Showing some Christmas Spirit

I love that this season is another opportunity to think beyond ourselves to bless someone else. Here are some ideas...

  • Bake cookies and give them to neighbors you don't know very well.
  • Adopt a grandparent at a local retirement home and visit them during the season and after.
  • Volunteer at a shelter on Christmas day for an hour or two.
  • Bring home a friend who is alone this Christmas and include them in all your festivities.
  • Get a group together to go caroling. Its fun. Yes, you may feel stupid but you laugh a lot.
  • Offer to wrap presents for a single mom who works full time or even get together with a group to give gift cards or monetary gifts to several single moms.
  • Have your child's class at school or Sunday school make cards for soldiers overseas to send during Christmas.
  • Sponsor a foster child (near and dear to my heart) with gifts this Christmas.
  • Pay for the car behind you in a drive thru.
  • Give blood.
  • Let someone go before you in line or give someone else the closer parking spot.
  • Reconnect with a friend you lost touch with over the last few years.

Happy Tuesday Sweet Friends!

December 6, 2009

A Slave to Vanity

Often I feel this ball and chain strapped to my ankle as I cling to vanity. Like, needing to leave the house with make-up on...to get the mail. Cataloging in my head a savvy rotation of outfits so people think I have more outfits than I actually do. Or flipping out when I run out of contact solution and needing to wear glasses to buy the contact solution while seriously entertaining the thought that saliva will be an effective substitute.

The funny thing is, clinging to vanity reveals insecurity. Yet the reality is that I am incredibly arrogant to think all eyes are on me at all times and everyone will notice me and my kickin' shoes that day. Or all of my apparent flaws.

Ah, the joy of being the personification of an oxyMORON.

So I am rather ashamed to say that I was totally not going to go to this conference at my church this weekend because I did not have anything cute to wear. Shallow, right? But can you relate?

Oh, good.

So I was late buying a ticket. Never scheduled childcare for the kiddos since I was volunteering and needed to be early. Worried about the cost of a ticket at a whopping $34 during the holidays. Disregarded the fact that it was my church hosting Fresh Grounded Faith with Jennifer Rothschild, a well known author, bible study author, and speaker. Our church aligned with 10 other churches in the area for this event. But at the last minute I decided to go because the Hound of heaven would not let me stay home. Even BFF said I should go. Hubster said go. So I decided to go.

And the night before I deem it QUITE necessary to go shopping. As much as Neiman Marcus could be my permanent residence since their bathrooms are nicer than my own, I must settle for discount shopping. TJ Maxx kind of shopping. Not that TJM is a disappointment. No, no. And with holiday hours, I can get my shopping on even longer.

As I got in my consumer glow, I found myself in the dressing room when I got a text from a friend who I had beckoned to come over to the dark side with me to gleefully shop for the weekend festivities. She texted me back letting me know she was exhausted and on her way home from church but hit TJ's sister store, Marshalls, already. (she and I will go down together like Thelma & Louise). Anyway, I was in there until they announced they were closing. I am convinced they were noting my license plate number and taking secret photos with security cameras because I visited the dressing room like 5 times and went over my limited quantity each time. The lady who worked the dressing room would sigh loudly upon my approach. Obviously, my perky greeting each time did nothing to pacify her or persuade her I am merely just addicted to retail therapy.

So I find some cute stuff and go home. It's the next day when I realize that sweet, kindred spirit friend of mine was coming home from church because there was a meeting for ALL VOLUNTEERS FOR THE CONFERENCE. I WAS MIA! And what was I doing? Shopping!! Oh my word, I felt so bad. I had to call all the appropriate people because I sooooooo dropped the ball. Had to make sure kids could be in childcare, get a ticket at the last second, blah, blah, blah. And here is the kicker. I am not one of those people who can make excuses all that well. I just have to own it. Whenever I got a speeding ticket, I would try to muster up some tears for the nice officer but I just ended up looking constipated. I'd hand over my license with a sheepish look and say, "Yeeeeaaaah. I was speeding. I am so sorry."

So I had to face the fact that I was seriously lacking in diligence. All for an idol of vanity. And really, did anyone care? Nope. And God's sense of humor with a dash of divine justice was thrown in because it was pouring rain that night like I had never seen! I had to carry the girls, me, an umbrella the size of a small nation, my bag, and a diaper bag into the building. With each step I knew my hair was getting wet, the jeans were in puddles, and all my effort was for naught!

But amen and amen. I am so happy when I get put in my place. God is so mindful of those dark places no one knows about in the recesses of my mind. He knows the superficial things I get caught up in. Is it wrong to like to shop? NOOOOO! But I can become wrapped up in what I wear on my person rather than the person God is teaching me to be. Especially within the context of a women's conference where a contrite heart and a teachable spirit is needed for God to do His work in me. Whether I think I need it or not.

So I am thankful I learned this little lesson. (And secretly, I felt like I looked kinda cute learning it.)

December 2, 2009

I See Beauty in the Midst of my Christmas Woes

It is shameful that Christmas is all about what I want. Um, cuz I want a lot. You know. Stuff. Yes, I want world peace, to end world hunger, to save a tree. But then I see this amazing bag...

I'm just saying.

So once again I will be honest. So join me as I lay myself bare, birthday suit style. I shall put it all out there in its hideous glory. See, Christmas tends to make me lose sight of what the season is all about and focus on what the season has BECOME all about...for me. Liiiiiiike...

Decorations. Gifts. Busyness. Stress. Crowds. Cookies. Eating the cookies. Baking more cookies. Mean people who suck. Having tendencies of being mean and people saying I suck. Shopping (which I love). Shopping for other people (don't love as much). Struggling to understand wreaths and bows on the grille of a car. Higher electric bill. Hearing bells at every store I enter and wanting to stop and explain how I emptied my change at the last store, all my paper money is gone, and it really does not make sense for me to drop my plastic in the red bucket full of jingly coins yet I don't say anything because then it looks like I am making excuses. (Breathe) Muttering about the middle row of lights that went out on the tree and not being able to find the faulty bulb to replace it. 78 degree weather in December. Buying a Christmas outfit that is not too Christmas-y because I will want to wear it again without someone saying, "Didn't you wear that at Christmas?" Planning to lose weight after it's all over yet indulging in a last hoorah and gaining 8 extra pounds. I am sick and I am sick and tired of being sick. We have no family nearby and it makes me sad. I can not find the Christmas stockings I envision anywhere and the telepathic messages I am sending to every Etsy shop is getting scrambled in the transmission. Waking at 5 am on Black Friday. Other sales I miss out on. Coveting the things I want but can't have...

I digress.

So is it any wonder that I have a bit of an attitude? But really, let's be honest. I bring it on myself as I dwell on all things that truly do not matter. And as I sit and meditate on all that God has done to fill my life up to overflowing, the fog begins to clear and the peace descends upon me like a sweet, Christmas promise...

I have a husband who has made me feel loved every waking moment of our marriage.
I have two daughters who delight me and who are such blatant miracles that they prove undeniably a God who is intimately mindful of me.
When I look at people all around me and see other people with intricate lives filled with love, pain, joy, hope, mistakes, forgiveness, fear...I realize the foolishness of my daily irritations and inconveniences these people may cause.
I cherish the friendships that enrich my life with encouragement, laughter, and incredible loyalty.
I see that I live in a place that can be enjoyed all year long outdoors.
I discover that giving is soooo much better than receiving.
I realize that I am more fortunate than most and my financial complaints are born of pettiness and discontent.
Decorations, stockings, shopping, and gifts pale in comparison to sitting on the floor with my girls having a dress up tea party and giggling about the fake pasta Cati just made me to go with my tea.
Wreaths and bows on car grilles are attempts at being festive and I really should just go buy a Christmas sweater...um, no.

And most importantly of all...Christmas is about the birth of my Savior Jesus Christ. A Savior who saved me from a self-made pit that one day I will share with you. I love how God has changed my life, is continually transforming me, and each day I want to thank Him with this life He gave me. At times, my offering of self is rather paltry but God is merciful, full of grace, abounding in love.

I have a God who loves me, enough to die for me, and if I focus on a season where I love the people around me, I clearly can see fathomless beauty in the midst of my Christmas woes.

December 1, 2009

Two Tips Tuesday

Ohhhhhhh...the fun of this TTT post! I love doing these tips because often I come up with them on the fly or I am inspired by ordinary, every day things. I am like crafty Macgyver...okay, that might be a stretch. But I really like coming up with creative ways of doing things. So for today I brainstormed some fun ideas for gift wrapping and ornament giving. Here we go...

Tip #1: UNIQUE, CREATIVE, & THOUGHTFUL GIFT WRAPPING:


Book Giving: Try wrapping books like a book cover (like we did back in school with paper bags). It is not a surprise when you get a book (it's kinda obvious) so why not get playful and wrap it in newspaper (like my example) or with a paper, grocery bag? The bag would be fun because you could doodle names on it like you did in school. :)


Attach a paper bookmark as a tag or get one from me when I someday have an Etsy store and finally sell my felt bookmarks like the one in the pic! Oh, someday...focus, Jess.
Cookies In A Tin With A Little Extra: The above photo is a cookie tin but I wrapped it in a snowman towel and wrapped each side with raffia to look like a little treat itself. Attached to the left side is a cookie cutter and cookie recipe. A great way to add to some EXTRA goodies to your already yummy, holiday goodies.

Tea Stained Sheet Music Wrapping Paper: Now understand I usually stage Two Tips each week. And I, Jessica, actually tea stained sheet music for this post. Because that is how much I love you. And I am chic cheap. I just downloaded free sheet music, tea stained it and dried it in the oven for an old look. Wrapped it
with a little bell to match the theme. I actually did this a few years ago as a centerpiece and I used glitter on the paper to make it sparkle. It was pretty.

Tiny Scribbles Wrap: I had my Cati color on the backside of wrapping paper to make a homemade wrap for the grandparents. Great idea throughout the year too. I bought cute little magnet frames on clearance, stocked up, and I will give them from the kids with their pics in them. This gift is wrapped in the custom decorated paper and I tied a felt pom pom I made with a pipe cleaner for some childlike playfulness.


Fabric & Measuring Tape Wrap: OK. If anyone gave me a gift like this I would heart them forever. I love, love, love anything fabric and this is one of those gifts you give when you know something about that person. Like me, I love fabric so this would be a gift within a gift because I would use the fabric too! Oh how fun. Plus, it is reusable. (That's for my green peeps). And isn't the measuring tape perfect?

Tip #2: ORNAMENT GIVING IDEAS

OK, I am weary from all that fake gift wrapping. So no more pictures. I am just too tired. But brilliance I have. Okay, no. Just ideas.

Lifetime Set of Ornaments: Obviously, a gazillion people out there do ornaments each each year for their kids. It was done for me and probably for a zillion of you. But I grew into this anal retentive woman who needs everything with a theme. It is ridiculous but it is the essence of me. So. I decided that my girls can do whatever they want with their tree but we are going to give them a silver ornament each year. It may be different but the unifying factor will be silver. There are so many other way you can do this. Some people do a hallmark ornament each year. Maybe a repetitive theme like a tree full of
santas, snowmen, angels, etc. How about an annual photo ornament? I like the idea of collecting vintage numbers, cookie cutters, spelling family members names...really, the list is endless.


Ornament Set for a family: Why not buy a pretty set of ornaments and attach them to a set of gifts you are giving to a particular family or group of friends? You can use them in lieu of gift tags and in the end that family has a new set of ornaments for the tree.

Whew. This post took it out of me. I am off to bed but I promise to be a better planner next week and not wait until the last minute.

Happy Tuesday!

November 25, 2009

Thanks Tampa Bay Baby!

I have been reflecting upon my parenting journey for the last week now. It fascinates me that when my children become sick, they seem to have a frailty to them that I don't notice until they are down for the count. Usually the status quo around here is a combination of screaming, laughing, whining, crying, talking, running, jumping, giggling all into one big bundle of daily chaos. So when one of them becomes ill, the chaos diminishes and life becomes more introspective for me as they lay in my arms whimpering in the midst of their misery.

This has been my last week with BOTH girls so sick and hubby and I not far behind. It is times like these that I think about my 3 year old Cati who was just a baby like a week ago...right? But then there are the moments (actually, 4 seconds ago as I type this post), a giggly Cati approaches me with blue play doh squished against her forehead while a dried smear of goo trails out of her nose onto her cheek. I see her and smile because I see the baby she used to be reflected in that cheeky smile yet she is no longer my baby but a growing little girl. My precious girl who wants to dress herself and has recently decided she can put on pants all on her own...
...even Daddy's pants. (She pretends the pockets are a shirt)

Or my Ella who has been the most sick all week. My active, independent 15 month old who wants to do everything by herself and throws a fit if you do it for her. Like washing her hands...



At the same time, she makes us laugh, loves to be a girl, and gives us a hug when she races by for whatever blinky, flashy thing that has caught her attention yet again.

So I begin to see how thankful I am to be their mom and to know so many other parents out there who are thankful for their children too. And I love learning about the lives of other moms, their journeys to parenthood. Especially since I constantly want to learn new things about all things parenting; especially parenting babies.

So I feel so honored to be Tampa Bay Baby's featured blogger since they are a fantabulous resource for anything baby! What a fast, easy resource with expert advice and heart warming features, articles, and informative links. I had no idea I was featured until I clicked on their home page and there was my button! The button I had just made and posted! How exciting! I am thankful that my blog can encourage anyone else going through this parenting journey with me. This journey that took me many years to arrive at this particular stage yet it will be the rest of my life as it continues.


For the feature and being a wonderful resource for parents in Tampa Bay, FL and everywhere else!

November 24, 2009

Two Tips Tuesday

Tip #1: Holiday Hostess Gift

I am so excited about this tip that I doing a tiny bounce in my chair as I type! Nothing is more fun to me than giving people gifts and this is the season to give a hostess a gift of appreciation for incredible hospitality. From cookie and ornament exchanges, dessert parties to family get-togethers, there are opportunities galore to give a thoughtful gift.

This Thanksgiving we are spending it with new friends. BFF broke my heart and decided to go to NC this year to visit family that moved from our neck of the woods just last year. We don't have any family here buuuuuut...we are grateful for new traditions and making new friends!!!!

Anyway, I decided to make this...well, I have no idea what to call this. I guess a flower holder. I say this because I recycled a large coffee mate container by wrapping it in felt and spelled out BLOOM across the bottom. The problem is the canister is made to hold dry powder, not water so I plan to put an inexpensive vase inside. I love that I re-purposed this container for my very green friends who are hosting Thanksgiving. I plan to buy flowers to put in it as a gift.

And as I type I am cracking up because this friend reads my blog (especially 2 Tips) and I am being ghetto tacky as I not only post what I am giving her but put a picture of it as well. Um, so to my friend Alaina...SURPRISE!


I really think this would make for a great gift for the holiday season. Ideas to use for are flowers, Christmas cookies, candy, a gift, whatever goodies you can think of to give to someone. I personally love packages that are a gift in and of itself. Obviously, felt and fabric are my thing but you could scrapbook this thing into the cutest little package everrrrrr! Paper would be faster and so gorgeous with all the endless embellishments it can have.

I plan to make myself one that says Cookies on it. I also endeavor to someday use different size containers and make a cute play canister set for the girls for their play kitchen.


Trying to get the whole thing for ya but it was a challenge. My camera does let me stitch all these photos together to make a panoramic view but...um...I am techy challenged. So use your imagination.
I used contrasting embroidery floss with both a blanket stitch and running stitch for interest and wrapped a lighter brown, felt ribbon around the top. Not sure if I can let this one go. It is so fun and happy!! :) Plus, I did my best to make it something she can use more often if she chooses.

Tip #2: Glam It Up For Your Festive Feast
I love, love, love attention to detail on a table. It is so my thing and I dig tablescapes, centerpieces, and all things different and creative. Because it all centered around eating! Food Decor! You just can't get better than that. So here are some ideas to get your minds churning. Sadly, the pics are sub par but their lack of clarity is made up for with my brilliant tip. :D
I am bummed that my photo taking skills were even more non-existent 3 years ago when I did this really cute centerpiece for Thanksgiving. This is the only photo I found and the table was not even done yet but I press on!
Anyway, I used white roses and green apples, grapes, and herbs to make a fun arrangement on the table. So pretty. I even tucked rosemary sprigs in the napkins for a simple touch. I would have made this amazing table but my mother came down for Thanksgiving that year and the woman will make a feast fit for 50 people and there was only 4 of us with Cati. No room for anything but the food. And she did alllll the cooking, God bless her.


This is a photo from my table from my Church's Christmas Tea last year. Squint and you can see it better. I loved seeing all the beautifully decorated tables. Most of us whipped out our china though I was not bringing my glasses that would break if you merely look at them so I splurged for 8 smoky grey water glasses at the dollar tree. It worked with my silver theme.

My theme was a partridge in a pear tree. I found a tree branch (no easy feat in palm tree laden, sunny, Florida), painted it kinda like a white, glittery birch, glued silver leaves on the sparse branches and hung silver pear ornaments, I even clipped on a little bird ornament which was not a partridge but people got it so who cares. The base was a white batting covered in sparkly snow with silver and gold leaves. The plates had confetti filler made nests that hubby and I made and I filled them with Ferrero Rocher hazelnut chocolates (so yummy) so they looked like 3 golden eggs inside a white nest.

I have more ideas up my sleeve but I will save them for more Tuesday Tips during the rest of this season.

In the meantime, do you have any fun or creative table ideas? Place cards? Centerpieces? Give us the scoop!

Happy Tuesday Friends!

November 22, 2009

The Bliss of Ignorance

No, no.

Not ignorance. Perhaps I meant the bliss of IGNORING my reality. No, I definitely can not plead ignorance if I am aware of my reality. Like if you drove by the Naked Cowboy. Could you ignore the man? No, he is a man in his banana hammock, skivvies with a guitar singing on a city street corner. Obvious would be an understatement and ignoring this spectacle would be impossible.

Because now I can not ignore the reality that none of my jeans fit.

Not in that "Oh, dang. These don't feel as comfortable as usual" kind of way.

Uh uh.

Enter in muffin top and the mad quest to find the little pregnancy extender, doo dad thingy that enables me to wear my jeans without having to blouse out my tummy.

Perhaps you are asking yourself how Jess ignored her reality. Well I would be just slap my knee happy to fess up for you because...well this is my first step in getting help...CONFESSION.

I ignored my reality by...
  • Consuming everything conceivably edible with no accountability whatsoever.
  • Enduring a 2 week period with confusing pregnancy tests (some negative, some positive). These ended up being false positives (evap lines) because I used blue dye, cheapo tests and I should know better since my infertility journey caused me to be an expert on all sticks requiring to be peed on. Pregnancy was negative but ate like it was positive and justified it for that growing life that needed all the empty carbs I took in for my own pleasure.
  • Wore pregnancy jeans from 1st trimester of last pregnancy time frame to justify above eating spree. Figured if I was preggo I would jump in with both feet. Apparently, I needed a bib too.
  • Wearing the same shirt and pants that were always roomier and washing them over and over. I just never noticed they began to get snug. But wearing yoga pants and a t-shirt 5 days a week will do that.
  • Using coupons and BOGO deals at the grocery store to justify all the snacks I have crammed in my pantry. They are for the kids, I tell myself. So question: Why is it my poor kids never get a clue of their existence? Answer: Because I have hoovered them like a starving beast.
  • Making easy meals because family flies in for a visit. Translation: Order pizza.
  • Stacking boxes of clothes for charity onto my treadmill and telling myself that my lack of exercise will clothe a child in need somewhere.
There you have it. I have faced reality with all of you to hold myself accountable in my life of denial. But here's the thing. I am not looking to get back in my size 4 or 6 jeans. I think my belly will probably remain this nice little extra garment that I can tuck in like a shirt. Whatever. But as of a few weeks ago my goal was getting back into a size 8 because I was hovering between a 10 and a 12. NOW MY 12's are snug! UGH. I am ill just tapping it out on these keys but we keep it real, or KIR...(such a geek) at two shades. No reason not to.
But I am not sure what my plan is at this point. I guess I need to start running again. But I so don't want to. I feel weary to the bone. Not in a depressed way. More like a...who cares? And who wants to justify weight loss at this yummy time of year?
It is so funny because hubby has masters degree in exercise physiology. We used to both work at fitness club where we met. Yet both the will and the flesh are weak. Seriously, hubby and I are madly in love and how can a mom get stoked to exercise when she wears her children's meals, fluids, or art work on a daily basis? I also have no motivation when I see some baked good telling me how good it will taste with my morning coffee. Naughty little pastries.
Sigh.
I need to sign off at this point anyway. I need a snack.

November 20, 2009

Making a Handmade Tradition

Recently, I read a book called Gideon'a Gift by Karen Kingsbury, the first book of the Red Gloves Series. These are small, wonderful books focused around Christmas and most of all around the miracles God can bring our way. The fact that I experienced the miracle of my girls makes me especially emotional for these tear jerker reads.

But the first book of the series has this character who had a tradition in his family where each Christmas they would make one handmade gift. Maybe a painting, a written song, something knitted or crafted. And it would be set apart from the other gifts by being wrapped with white tissue paper. I was so touched by such a personal tradition. It requires thought, time, and effort and becomes incredibly meaningful while it is being made and then to the person who receives it.

I told hubby that I really wanted to so something like this each Christmas. Often when I sew something for someone, I pray with each stitch for that person. A set of fabric blocks for my friend's new baby. Or this one...



This gift has special meaning because I gave it to an incredibly dear friend where she and her husband decided to name their daughter a name that means PEARL. My friend also used to work in a very popular, high end jewelry store and pearls held such personal and wonderful meaning for her. Then one day she wrote a post on her blog about her Pearl Girl that had me weeping while rivers of goo just poured out of my facial orifices. It was not pretty. The post was just so beautiful. At the same time, her baby shower was in mere days and I had a gift but wanted to make something yet I had been stumped. After her post, inspiration struck and I made this girly wall hanging using fabric on canvas.

And would you believe all the material is from 3 adorable kitchen towels? Gotta love it.

My friend is also STYLE PERSONIFIED and what would be more appropriate than a cute dress, a bag, and shoes with pearl embellishments? (Sadly, you can't see the pearls in my awful pic but it ended up so cute.)


Then we have these sweet felt coasters I made for BFF. This was actually painfully hard to give these away because I loved them so much. But God helped me pry my selfish fingers off them. Loved the colors, the fabric accents, and I am obsessed with birds. Kinda trendy but you can't help what you like. Anyway, I made these for her and she loooooooved them. I thought of what her style was like, what she is drawn to and it made it such a personal process for me.


This one is a little bow holder with...surprise!!! A bird. But whatever. You get that I dig birds. This one was fun because the wing is from an old dress of my oldest daughter's which I loved but it had holes in it from so much wear. I saved it and loved that I could include it on this project. Then there was some nostalgia attached to it. She is very into the whole bow in the hair thing and I needed to get all of them organized for both of my girls. I had seen them for sale online and figured I could make one myself. So I did. She loved it and it made me so happy to make her happy.

Even if you are not crafty you could still be creative. For my second wedding anniversary I wrote on little cards 24 reasons why I loved my hubby. Or one Christmas, my hubby printed out all our emails from when we first started dating. That was fun! This past anniversary I made a jar with tiny slips of paper with the title that said..."Thoughts of You I wish I said Out Loud & More Often."
Just wanted to pass on our new tradition we hope to begin this year. I can't wait to see what we end up doing for one another in our family.
Do any of you have traditions like this? I so need ideas!

November 19, 2009

Ear Lobe Holes & The 50 Meter Dash

I am astounded at the rate in which my children grow and change. I sometimes look at one of the girls and suddenly have a freeze frame moment where I look, really look at them. And suddenly I see the time that has passed me by. This is nothing new for a mother but I am always amazed at the emotions that come with this realization. They should cancel one another out but instead they blend together to become what is commonly called...bittersweet.

This introspection all began when my Cati told me she wanted her ears pierced the other day. This was big because this was a follow up conversation from a few months ago. The time I was literal about the process with my innocent 3 year old. Not my wisest moment. I decided to be brutally honest. Selfishly, of course. So I told her the TRUTH about getting her ears pierced. This scenario should really be written down in the Mommy Handbook: What Not To Tell Your Children.

Picture it...

We are sitting on the couch and I tell her that piercing your ears means getting holes put into your ears with this kinda sharp tool that will put an earring through her ear. I demonstrated by taking my earring out and go in slow mo for dramatic effect. I so need a lesson in age appropriate teaching moments. Perhaps I should have acted it out by creating a loud noise, jumping up and screaming while holding my ear lobe.

But I maintained remarkable restraint. I assured her we could go to the doctor's office to get her ears numbed and then have them do it there since she looooves her doctor. Then I take out my earring and show her the hole and then have her watch me put it through the lobe and I even turn my earlobe so she can see it poking out the back. It was like a preschool version of a health class video about parasites that seems really gross but cool at first. Then they scare the tar out of you with truthful facts about these parasites invading and then taking up residence in your body.

The clincher?

"Cati, it might hurt a little to get your ears pierced. Are you okay with that?"

Uncertainty fills her eyes but I felt my honesty was good, strategic move. I laid all my cards on the table and put the ball in her court. Yes, I am still talking about my three year old who looks to me for guidance, encouragement, and assurance. Did I mention that I was selfishly thinking about me, myself, and moi in this not so brilliant moment?

"Mommy? I don't want my eawrs pursed."

"Okay, Baby. But when you are ready, you come to me and we can do it." Shame on me.

Now here was her precise wording 2 days ago...

"Mommy, I want my earwings pursed."

"You want what?"

"I want my earwings pursed in my eawrs. I won't cry." Um, but I might.

"Wow, honey. Really? You now feel ready to get your ears pierced?" I am so regretting letting this opportunity pass me by when she was an infant.

"Yes. And I want those." Pointing to 2 little flowers that she had ripped off her Debbie Dancer doll's tutu minutes before.

"Cate, those are not earrings. They are flowers from your ballerina doll's tutu that I now need to sew back on."

"Oh. But can I still have real earwings?"

This is such an interesting development due to the aforementioned convo that she and I had a month or two ago. She had told me she wanted earrings like Mommy. And because I am not particularly ready to place a gun like contraption to her teeny weeny ears and spear them with sharp ended bling, I was not prepared for her to still want to do it.

Hence her request and assurance that she is now ready. And apparently I am not. There seems to be something so final about it but I think it is great that she is excited. We shall see when the moment of truth comes.

Then we have my little Ella. My baby who walked for the first time 2 weeks ago. Who keeps toddling around here like the cutie patootie that she is and then falling, giggling and picking herself back up again. I was beginning to think she would do that scoot on her boom until she graduated high school but she is now on her feet. Only problem is that she is trying to make up for lost time by trying to run. She looks like Dick Van Dyke from Mary Poppins when he runs around with his pants stretched out to look like penguin.

Sigh.

Again, there is something final about beginning to walk because she leaves another part of her "babyness" behind and moves forward. Because she will ALWAYS walk. These girls just keep changing just when I start to get acquainted with "The Current Stage." Then they move on to the next stage and I'm left wondering how they grow so fast that I find it difficult to keep up. But I have a strange feeling that holes in the ears and walking pales in comparison for what is it to come.

November 18, 2009

Full of Thanksgiving!

Friends, I never knew I would write something called a blog. The first time I heard that word, I was so mystified by this techy term that it reminded me of blob and frog merged together. As I began to read other blogs, I became inspired by the creativity I encountered. Blown away, laughing out loud, weeping just by reading about the lives of people I have never met. It was the most surreal experience to be vested in a person's life through this little monitor window into the webby world. So in light of this 4 month journey of writing this blog, I am so incredibly wowed to be a featured blogger on the Shabby Blogs Blog.

I am excited, humbled, and most of all thankful for such a fun recognition. I love writing and sharing my life in my posts. To have someone give me such encouragement has touched me in a monumental way. I read numerous blogs from talented, incredibly gifted writers who are every day people just like me with something to say. So I pray that God will use my writing, maybe my Two Shades of Pink Story or just some laughter to bless someone who stops by.

Thank you bunches, Meg! The day I saw your little cameo pop up as my 3rd follower, I will never forget how insanely pumped I was knowing you were out there rooting for me. It means so much and so does this feature.

Thank you to every person who has visited me, left a comment and just stopped by to peek in.

You know. To my blob frog.

Hugs!

November 17, 2009

Two Tips Tuesday

Tip #1: A Prayer or Thankfulness Tree

Deck my blog with holiday fuuuuuuuuuuuun...fa lalalala la la laaaa
All my tips will be like this till the New Year...fa la la la la la la laaaaaaaaaaaa!

OK. Lame song. But the holidays are officially here and there are so many goodies we can do with the rest of the tips in 2009. I will challenge myself to do just that!

A prayer or thankfulness tree, you ask? This is not a new idea but I love that so many people do this each year. It is simply just a tree with leaves that say what the person is thankful for or prayers written on each leaf to pray for during the holiday season. BFF has one in her entry that is kind of like a guest book which is so nice. It is a paint drawn tree on paper and she has a bowl of leaves for each person to fill out and hang on the tree. I have always wanted to get a tree branch from outside and make it into a mini tree and hang reusable leaves on them. That has been my plan for 2 years and I still have not done it.

More inspiration...

  • Set a pretty bowl on the table with several cut out leaves or buy the ones in packages at the store to write out your thankful notes.
  • A unique and different idea...a girlfriend and I were designated to decorate for a baby shower for a dear friend of ours and we filled a glass vase full of brown river rocks. We had each guest sign their name and write an attribute of our friend on that rock.
  • Make a large, paper tree for the fridge, cut out paper covered magnets in tree shapes, color, and write them out during the whole month of November until Thanksgiving.
  • Postpone this idea until Christmas, have a tabletop tree and write out prayers or the things you consider in life to be a precious gift. Write them on ornaments to hang on the tree.

Tip #2: Photo Gift Tags for Tots

I love wrapping gifts. My mother always made them look BEAUTIFUL and about killed herself doing it each year. But one thing I have learned is to simplify this season as much as possible. I used to do fancy bows and gifts tags. The whole shebang. But the first time I saw Cati tear into a gift and not notice one thing about the nifty little bow or how I uniquely offset the ribbon on the top, I knew things would change. My efforts were utterly ignored and I realized...WHO CARES? But I still have to be me so it needs to look cute.

This year I want Cati to have lots of fun and be a Christmas helper to hand out all the gifts. I initially thought I would designate a particular wrapping paper for each of us but then I realized that might not go well with what I purchased during last years after Christmas sale. What if there is ONE, lonely gift that has random paper? It would drive me into bouts of insomnia.

So I decided to make photo gift tags. That way, Cati could look at it and know who's gift it is and feel involved. It also may help prevent her from tearing into all the other gifts. I went to Walgreen's, chose photos and had them printed in black and white, and wallet size to give me four pictures per sheet. Then I mounted them on paper, hole punched the corner and wrapped it with ribbon. Here are a few I have already wrapped for the girls...

Happy Tuesday Friends!

November 13, 2009

What's a Promise?

So on the way home from AWANA Cubbies the other night, Cati tells me she made me a picture and it is in her bag. I pull it out and see this rainbow with the phrase "God makes a promise." I tell Cati how wonderful her picture is and then decide to make this a moment to learn.

"Cati, do you know what the word promise means?"

" Yes."

"Really? What does promise mean?"

"It's like a circle."


Whoa. I had to let that sink in because she seemed to be going a little deeper than what I was prepared for. Then I figured she meant that a rainbow is like a circle. I had no idea but I was definitely fearful in that moment that my 3 year old was beginning to show signs of an intellect that vastly surpasses my own.

"A circle?"

"Yes. A circle."

"How is a promise like a circle?"

"Because it is round like a circle."

OK. Time to move on from the philosophical circle.

"Cati, a rainbow is a promise from God. He gave us a rainbow after the flood when Noah built the ark. Do you remember that story?"


"Mmmm hmmm."

Well, a promise means that when someone says they will do something they will really do it. Like, if I told you Mommy promises to give you a popsicle, I will give you a popsicle. Because Mommy keeps her promises. And God ALWAYS keeps His promises.

My child lights up like a birthday candle. "A POPSICLE?"

"Yup."

Silence fills the car and only the sound of the radio playing and the hum of the tires ensues. Then...

"Mommy?"

"Yes, Cati?"

"I PROMISE I will
eat that popsicle."


Ahhhh. Lesson learned.

November 10, 2009

Two Tips Tuesday

Tip #1: Label a Canister



I have kept this canister from a little set I had when I was single and in my first apartment. It is the only one left but I have always used it for miscellaneous things in the pantry or around the house. The latest uses were a piggy bank for Cati and now it is housing Halloween candy. I love that I can just label it with a dry erase marker and erase it when I find a new use for it. Endless possibilities and I get to indulge in my obsession with labeling any and all things.


Tip #2: Some Great Websites that Save You BIG MOOLA!


I am all about a deal and I am discovering that I have gone far too long in not taking advantage of deals that are floating around out there in cyberland because I have just been too lazy to go look for them. But over the last year I have had delightfully frugal friends who have clued me in on some of these websites that help us out in saving a little money. So here are some I find VERY useful and I hope you will too...especially as the holiday season of ridiculous spending is upon us.

couponheaven.com
retailmenot.com
currentcodes.com

Coupons and codes for a gazillion stores! Savings include things like free shipping or codes for certain percentages off. Great to check out if you do holiday shopping online.

southernsavers.com

A great grocery store site that does all the work for you to find the deals at your local grocery store, Walgreen's, CVS, etc. If you are willing to do the work, this pays off in crazy ways. BFF went to Walgreen's and got over $60 worth of stuff for $11. Worth a shot!

slickdeals.net

Limited time deals that expire but are scouted and submitted to this website. You can really find some drastically reduced prices of higher dollar items.

I would love for any of you to comment about some great websites you have found that save some change or have great deals.

Happy Tuesday!