Valentine’s Love

I have always loved Valentine’s Day!  It’s by far the holiday I miss the most from my teaching days, and one that I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid.  To me it’s more than showing love to that one special someone in your life (although that’s important too), but to all your special someone’s: your best friends, your kids, parents, siblings, students, or co-workers.  It’s showing a little love and thought to those who mean the most to you all year long.  It doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming, a card, or flower or homemade cookie can go a long way!  This year I’ve had so much fun sharing the Valentine’s Day love with my little one.  Gianna and I took advantage of the much needed rainy days we finally had last week and hung inside creating Valentine’s for our loved ones.

Oh, and when we did go out in the rain she got to wear her adorable rain jacket my parent’s brought back from Italy for her.

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Okay back to crafts..

Cards –

We created cards using a combo of some pinterest ideas I found for toddler Valentine crafts (follow me on Pinterest and see where I got lots of inspiration: http://www.pinterest.com/noelschap/ ) and a little of my own craftiness.  Here’s what we came up with and how we did it.

I started with the inside of the card and painted G’s hands to make heart shaped hand prints. Now this was fun but messy and a little crazy…some cards ended up with random handprints on them, and there was lots of paint smearing.  I opted to trace where the heart shape was supposed to be as it was a bit hard to tell on some, apparently telling and trying to guide a two year old to put their red painted hand exactly where you want it is a little more difficult than I thought.

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For the outside I wanted to use burlap and some cute V-day scrapbook paper I found at the craft store, but also wanted a way for G to be part of the front of the card.  I used a Pinterest idea of making a heart shaped stamp out of a toilet paper roll for her to use to help decorate the front.  Again, trying to guide her to stamp right where I wanted the stamp didn’t happen but they still turned out super cute.  And isn’t that the point?  Letting go of perfection and letting the little ones create.  A very wise art teacher would tell me students that “perfect art is boring”, and I am finally learning to agree!

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Making our cards not only saved money, which my husband loved, but also saved me the agony of standing in the card aisle with a restless two year old trying to pick the appropriate card for everyone on our list.  Plus it was so fun creating with Gianna so it was really a win for everyone!

Candle Holders –

I saw these DIY candle holders on where else…Pinterest, and knew it was the perfect craft for me this year.  I have tons of mason jars piling up in our garage from parties so I knew I could do this craft for family and friends all with items I had right at home. Here’s the original pin:http://www.pinterest.com/pin/244320348508908901/  and a here’s how mine turned out.

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Just some colored tissue, and a paste (water and Elmer’s glue) to attach the tissue hearts to the glass and then frost the glass with and you’ve got it. They really look awesome lit up!

Wreath –

This was actually my first Valentine’s craft this year and I  was so excited about it I put it up as soon as I got it done, even though it was a few days before February 1st.

I used a styrofoam wreath ring, painted it red and wrapped it in red burlap garland I found way on sale at Beverly’s Crafts.  Side note – the red die from the garland totally dyed my hands, shirt and craft mat red…maybe that’s why it was so discounted…

I bought the wooden x’s and o’s and painted them with craft paint I had at home.  Then I cut the triangles out of burlap and painted a heart on each.  I used red puff paint to outline the heart then brushed the paint in.  I free-handed them and kind of like that they aren’t all the exactly the same.  I used hot glue to attach the burlap hearts to some twine and then tied that into the wreath.

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I hope you enjoy these crafts and they inspire you to get in the Valentine’s Day spirit this week and show a little love for all the special people around you!  Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Christmas Dreams

I think my husband described our Christmas holiday perfectly by saying “Christmas through the eyes of a two year old was one of the most awesome things I’ve ever seen.  So much pure excitement on her face and so much love from family and friends.”.  It really was so special seeing the magic of Christmas unfold before her and to experience that with her and all our family was just perfect!  Here are some highlights from our holiday week plus the details on the craft project Gianna and I created that I talked about in my last post.

Oh! and on a side note since I’ve talking about miss G’s big girl room, here’s how it looks so far.

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Her bedding is from Land of Nod (www.landofnod.com great kids décor!) and she is loving it!  She calls it her pretty bed and has been napping and sleeping in it for 6 days now!  Here’s how I caught her sleeping for her first nap in her big girl bed.

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We’ve since added a rack on the side as she did roll out the first night…. Thankfully I’d put down lots of pillows just in case and the short fall barely woke her.

Now on to our Christmas Holiday –

Cookie Decorating:

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Snowflake’s final appearance and a goodbye letter from Santa:

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Christmas Eve, Eve – Our gift exchange and Christmas celebration with our immediate family on Todd’s side:

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Christmas Eve at Home – G gets new jammies and a special Christmas book each year on Christmas Eve.  A beloved tradition I adopted from my parents.

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Christmas Morning at Home –

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Christmas Day – Celebrated with our whole family on my side at my Grandparent’s home.

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Mistletoes craft –

I saw this on Pinterest and had to try it for myself.  I followed the directions on this pin http://www.pinterest.com/pin/244320348508746209/.

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I added a glaze at the end that I did not bake on as it did not say to on the bottle.  I’m glad these turned out cute, but I found out I don’t know much about paints, glazes, brushes, etc…something to add to a list of things to learn more about in the new year!

Happy Holidays one more time and Happy New Year!  I can’t wait to share more with you all as our family grows and our lives change this coming year!

Christmas Prep

Over the last two weeks our house has been bustling with holiday prep.  We’ve been decorating, Elf on the Shelf-ing, shopping, wrapping, and even doing a bit of crafting.  I am so loving how into Christmas my girl is this year!  She points out decorations all over town and is into all the classic Christmas kid movies.  She has a few fave Christmas songs and can even sing most of them (although if I have to listen to “Frosty” one more time in the car I might go crazy!).  She loves her Elf, Snowflake, and looks forward to adding one more magnetic ornament to our Christmas tree count down calendar each day.  It’s by Melissa & Doug and it’s so cute, I hope it lasts for years to come.

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Today I want to some Christmas crafts and some fun pics of our family enjoying the season.

Décor –

Holiday Trees:  I got this idea last year from where else…Pinterest.  Find the original pin here: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/244320348506396292/.  I got all my supplies from Michael’s craft store and went to town.  Here’s what you’ll need: Styrofoam cone trees (multiple sizes), decorations (tinsel, boas, feathers, holly berries, be creative), and silver spray paint. I started by spray painting all the cones to help fill in any holes or areas that could be seen through the decorations.  Then I pulled out my hot glue gun and got to work.  The tree wrapped in tinsel or a boa were the simplest.  FYI hot glue and feathers (the tall white tree) are a dangerous mix, but sure looks pretty.

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As you can see my trees turned out a little more Vegas, than vintage as in the original pin, but I love them, and let’s be real I live in a subdivision and don’t have tons of acorn caps etc. laying around my yard to craft with.  Just goes to show that Pinterest is full of great ideas, some you copy exactly and some are fun to make your own.

Christmas Wreath:  I can’t take credit for my holiday wreath this year, but it’s so pretty I wanted to share it.

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My mom made it for me based on this Pinterest pin:http://www.pinterest.com/pin/104779128800449064/ .  All you need is a craft letter, background paint, fake holly berries, a glue gun, and some pretty ribbon to hang it.

Comin in Hott!: The last craft I’ll share with you is the craft Todd and I are giving to our family and friends as this year’s homemade gift.  Gianna and I made a crafty gift as well but that is a surprise for some grandparents and great-grandparents who read this blog, so I will be sharing that after Christmas.   Anyways, this year Todd and I decided, after seeing a quick-fire challenge on Bravo’s Top Chef, that we wanted to make our own hot sauce.  We both love spicy foods and hot sauce and wanted to have something fun and homemade to give out to family and friends over the holiday season.  After some research, and a few trips to different grocery stores searching for ingredients, we got started.  The process took a few nights and there were a few bumps or I should say burns along the way.  One the night Todd de-seeded a few pounds of hot red peppers (gloveless) and ended up with burning hands and a few other body parts he inadvertently came into contact with during the process…  The other was the night we bottled the sauce and Todd tried to “slowly” pour a large pot of boiling hot, hot sauce into a small funnel that I was holding over the bottle we were pouring the final product into.  I ended up with a few instant blister burns, but got out of doing the dishes that night and took some joy in watching Todd ladle the rest of the sauce into the bottles as I had suggested in the first place.  All in all it was a fun process and we are so happy with our final product, a bit of kick with sweet notes as well.  Look for an exact recipe soon!

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Here is the rest of what we’ve been up to –

Elf on the Shelf:  A few favorites from the last week or so.  Follow me on Instagram http://instagram.com/noelschapmire to see what Snowflake is up to each day!

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8Last weekend I was so lucky to attend the San Francisco Ballet’s performance of the “Nutcracker” with my mom, sister and grandmother.  It’s a tradition we used to do when my sister and I were young and it was so special to go all together again this year.  I can’t wait to share that experience with Gianna in the year’s to come. photo 1I hope you all are able to take some time and enjoy the joys of the Christmas season with family and friends over the next week.  I can’t wait to share with you all of our Christmas week happenings as well.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Holiday Living

First I’ll start with a bit of an update/recap of the last few weeks.

– We’ve been busy painting and prepping our girl’s “big  room, girl” room.  So far it’s painted, and Todd did such a great job!  He loves when G says “Daddy painted my room, it’s beautiful!”.  Her bed is in, but we are waiting on bedding that she is getting as Christmas gifts to put that all together.  We purchased an old dresser at a consignment store and our amazing family friend is helping us sand and re-paint it to go with the grey and pink color scheme we have going so far.

photo 16  I’m now on the look out for fun knobs to go on it.  I also ordered spice racks from Ikea that I’ll be painting and using as bookshelves, an idea I’ve seen a few times on Pinterest (http://www.pinterest.com/pin/280067670550825187/).   So the room is definitely a work in progress, but the best part is how excited she is about it.   Every time someone comes over she says, “Follow me guys, see my new room!”.  We’ll see how the actual transition from her crib/nursery to a real bed goes, but my fingers are crossed.

– As far as pregnancy goes, things are moving along smoothly.  25 weeks in and really looking and feeling pregnant with a popping belly button and everything.  I can feel and see the baby moving and kicking all the time.  Although I often complain about the woes of pregnancy, the baby moving is by far the coolest, most exciting part and something I look forward to each day.  We are working on our name lists, and since we aren’t finding out if we are having a boy or a girl (we didn’t find out with Gianna either and loved the surprise) we have to come up with both.  We seem to be struggling a bit more this time with names, but I know something great will come to us sooner or later (I hope…).

Okay, now that your caught up on the big happenings in our house, it holiday time!

Thanksgiving:

This year we are so grateful for our loving and supportive family and friends, good health, our beautiful girl and our new baby on the way!  We celebrated all we are thankful for with a weekend full of family, friends, great food and some old and new holiday traditions.

G in her Thanksgiving outfit – I took about twenty pictures and got one good one-

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Food highlights included Thanksgiving morning breakfast bowls made by my mom.

*Breakfast Bowl recipe found here: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/104779128801002666/

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Later in the day we feasted on the traditional and yummy Thanksgiving fare at Todd’s grandmother’s house.  This year I contributed a green salad that I’ve found to be a crowd pleaser year round.

* Corn Salad: Arugula, fresh corn off the cob, avocado, red onion, chopped marcona almonds, crumbled crispy prosciutto (broil on a baking sheet for 5 min) and shaved parmesan or manchego cheese.  Toss with lemon juice, olive oil, a drizzle of truffle oil, and salt and pepper.

Here are some pics of the rest of our weekend’s adventures.

Baking pumpkin pies with Gigi –

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The traditional Thanksgiving morning pic with my brother and sister (3 years running) –

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“Snow Flurries” at a local town tree-lighting event…she wasn’t loving them-  photo 3

More tradition with a trip to the Christmas tree farm –

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And finally a new tradition with Elf on the Shelf.  Here is her letter from Santa that she got with the Elf (now named “Snowflake”), and the first few days of elf mischief –

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I hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving holiday and are getting into the spirit of the Christmas season.  Stay tuned for fun Christmas décor and craft ideas along with some great new family meal night recipes in the coming weeks.

Living the Pumpkin Patch Dream

Over the weekend one of my favorite annual events took place, our family trip to the pumpkin patch!  Who doesn’t love a farm with a grassy field filled with pumpkins, wagons to carry them, and a giant hay stack.  Throw in an adorable petting zoo and some yummy kettle corn and you’ve got a beautiful memory making day!  We were lucky this year to be joined by my parents, my grandparents, and one of Gianna’s best little friends and her family, which made the day even more special.

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After the traditional pumpkin patch we headed back to my grandparents’ house and out to their garden.  They have been growing their own pumpkins, and every few weeks throughout the summer Gianna loved to go out there and “measure” the growing pumpkins.

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We thought she’d be so excited to finally pick out and bring home her giant pumpkin…. And she was, but like a typical two year old digging in the dirt was a big hit too!

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Since I knew my family would be with us for the day, I invited everyone over for dinner too.  I didn’t want to be racing home form the pumpkin patch to get dinner started, so I decided to go crock-pot style.  A stew seemed to be the perfect meal to end our Fall day.  I combined, and made additions to a few recipes I’d read and threw it all in early in the afternoon.  By the time we got home the house smelled amazing and dinner was a huge hit!  My grandma even asked for a spoon to get the last drips of sauce from her bowl.

The recipe isn’t exact as I didn’t measure much, but it’s the kind of thing you can make to taste and add or subtract ingredients as you like.

Here is the recpipe as I made it :

1. Stew meat – I used 2lbs for 6 adults and one kid.  Toss it in some flour, along with salt, pepper and any other favorite meat seasonings and throw it in the bottom of the pot.

2. Veggies – Add to the pot 3 or 4 peeled and cut carrots and parsnips, a handful of small white potatoes cut in half or quarters depending on size, one yellow onion cut in large chunks, and 1/2 a butternut squash peeled and cut into small squares.  The butternut squash will dissolve mostly into the sauce and adds a great flavor and texture.

3. Seasonings – On top of it all add salt, pepper, 3-5 sage leaves, a few cloves of crushed garlics and a few tablespoons of tomato paste.

4. Liquid – Pour equal parts beef broth and red wine, and about half as much balsamic vinegar into the pot.  The liquid should come about 3/4 of the way up the meat and veggies.

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5. Cover and cook on low for about 6 hours.  Serve with crusty bread and enjoy!

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Here is how we decorated our porch with our pumpkins and gourds from the pumpkin patch, plus the giant pumpkin and huge banana squash from my grandparents’ garden.  Add a few hay bales (from Wal-Mart), and voila, we’ve got a lovely fall scene. (Not to mention the beautiful chalk art that adorns every inch of side walk around our house.)

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I hope you and yours are enjoying the fall season and all its activities as much as we are!

Party Time Treats!

Last weekend we celebrated my very good friend’s 30th birthday.  We had an adult’s night out Friday and a party with family, friends and kiddos on Saturday.  It was really cool to party in an adult fashion (although no fun drinks for me) one night and as families with our little ones running and giggling and enjoying the celebration with us the next.  To the family party I brought two yummy, easy appetizers that were big crowd pleasers.  This brings me to today’s post:

Party Time Treats

With the holiday season fast approaching here are two great but simple party appetizers (“appies” as my husband calls them) plus a homemade hostess gift that you’ll want to make for your kitchen too!

Crostini Two Ways –

Start with one sourdough baguette for each recipe.  Thinly slice each baguette and spread out the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Drizzle the slices with olive oil and bake in the oven at 400 degrees until golden brown (about 8 min).

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Top and cook the toasts as follows.

Parmesan/Artichoke Crostini –

This is a specialty of a close family friend and a staple at all our family parties.

– Spread pre-made artichoke/jalapeño dip on each toast.  Costco sells a great one and many local markets make and carry their own.

– Top the spread with shredded parmesan cheese and lots of cracked black pepper.

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– Broil for 5-10 minutes depending on your broiler until cheese is bubbly and crisp on top.  Serve and enjoy!

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Peach and Blue Cheese Crostini –

This recipe was taken from a Pinterest post found at http://bevcooks.com/2013/05/crostini-with-peaches-blue-cheese-and-honey-a-giveaway/.

– Top each toast with a thin slice of peach (you can leave the skin on). Then cover with crumbled blue cheese, or slices of cambaloza.

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– Broil for 5-10 min until the cheese is melted.

– Plate the toasts and cover with a drizzle of honey.

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An Easy Hostess Gift –

Our homemade chili oil has become a staple in our house and is literally good on everything: pizza, chicken, shrimp, salad, pasta…the list goes on.  We were first introduced to it by some great friends who often had us over for homemade pizza out of their outdoor pizza oven (fancy right..we dream of having our own one day).  They would serve the pizza with this amazing spicy chili oil to drizzle on top, something they saw in pizzerias in Italy.  Todd and I experienced chili first hand on our trip to Europe a few years ago as well, and have been making it ever since.  We’ve given it as hostess, housewarming, and even Christmas gifts over the years.  Here’s how to make your own.

– Fill an olive oil container 1/4 of the way with crushed red pepper flakes.

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– Add 8-12 dried chilies (depending on your tolerance for spice).

– Fill the rest of the way with extra virgin olive oil.  Then tip it over to mix the oil into the chilies.

The oil will get hotter over the first few days you let it sit. You can refill the oil using the same pepper flakes and chilies 1-3 times before needing to replace the ingredients all together.

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Enjoy and party on friends!

Fall Living

Well, it’s been over a month since my last post (again..) and although I’ve had some great things to share, finding the time to sit down and write has been a challenge.  Between keeping up with my oh so busy 2 year old, finding some time to be crafty, the urge to curl up and nap every time my girl does, and that pesky laundry/household chores thing…it’s been a little crazy. My first trimester pregnancy symptoms are finally starting to subside, even though I am well into my second trimester.  More and more foods are starting to sound good instead of making me gag, and although exhaustion still sets in, it happens closer to 7pm than 2pm.  Also, I am starting to embrace the maternity wear phase!  It makes getting dressed each morning more fun, and less depressing than trying to squeeze into my regular clothes.  I look forward to sharing some of my fave pregnancy fashion with you soon.

baby bump The bump is starting to show!

In other news, as Fall has arrived I have been busy gearing our household up for the season.  We’ve been decorating, costume planning, and cooking warm and cozy meals.

Today I want to share a few of those fun things with you!

A fave easy fall décor item –

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A take on a Pinterest find from www.shanty-2-chic.com –

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Also check out this tutorial for the burlap rosettes, it really helped me.  http://vintagemellie.blogspot.com/2013/03/burlap-rosette-tutorial.html

This craft isn’t necessarily fall related, but I made them recently as a housewarming gift for my sibilings who have all moved into new places in the past few months.

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To make –

Wood frame – 4.99 from Beverly’s crafts; paint was left over from the frames I painted for Gianna’s birthday; chalkboard paint for the center, which has become a staple around here (Todd is really into it and made Gianna a chalkboard that he attached to the fence in the backyard); a few screw in hooks on the bottom for keys.  They weren’t perfect as some chalkboard paint got on the boarder and vice versa when I tried to touch it up, but it still worked and looks super cute when wrapped with a few pieces of chalk.

chalkboard at lsHere it is hung at my sister’s place.

More crafts, clothes, and recipes to come (I promise in a more timely manner from now on).  But I couldn’t resist leaving you with a few pics from last weekend’s grape picking, and wine making adventure.  Gianna helped with the final harvest and crush for the amateur wine I’ve mentioned that my Dad makes with his friends.

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Happy Harvest and Happy Fall friends!

Big News!

As many of you saw on my Facebook page at the end of last week, our little family couldn’t be more excited to share the big news that we are expecting baby #2!

Baby 2 announcement

It is such a blessing, and something we’ve very much been looking forward to since starting our family over 2 years ago.

So many emotions have come with this pregnancy.  From the excitement of getting to experience all the big firsts and sweet moments of a little life all over again, to a bit of sadness in knowing our time alone with our precious girl will soon be over, then back to excitement and pride with the thoughts and visions of what a great big sister she will be, just to name a few.

You also may have noticed that my posts have been a bit sporadic over the last 2 months.  I haven’t been trying many new recipes or cooking very much in general as I’m pretty nauseous most days, especially in the evening right around dinner time.  To be honest I even avoid Pinterest at some times of day, as the food photos are killing me!  Fashion wise, I seem to be showing a bit sooner this time around and while I’m not quite ready for full on maternity clothes most of my favorite summer pieces aren’t fitting quite right.  Yoga pants and maxi dresses are my go to these days.  The need to nap or at least rest while my little one does wins out most days, and takes up most of my crafting/project/blogging time.  But hopefully over the next few weeks I’ll get my appetite and energy back (just in time for lots of fun Fall food, fashion, and crafts) and have lots to share with you.

For now, here is how we are “Living the Dream”:

1. New Toys:  Thank goodness Gianna got so many amazing new toys for her birthday right when this mama needs her to be occupied and happy! Some favorites are her playhouse from her grandparents which provides hours of outdoor fun and adorable imaginary play, and her easel on which we tried out painting for the first time last week.

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2.  Cuddle Time: Gianna and I are enjoying some cuddle time when mommy isn’t feeling great, and watching classic Disney movies that are quickly becoming her favorites.  (Seriously this saves me on some days) So far we are in love with Aladdin, which she refers to “A Whole New World”, Little Mermaid or “Under the Sea” and Beauty and the Beast, better known as “Belle”.   Although the other day she was more content on her Minnie Couch (another great birthday gift) than cuddling with me, during movie time.

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3. Big Girl Room: Todd and I are busy planning our girl’s move into a big girl room and all the fun decorating that comes with it.

4. Undone “To Do” lists: This is usually a big no, no in my life, but I’m focusing on taking care my girl and myself these days.  I’m not stressing that her 2 year photo book just came yesterday instead of being done and here 3 weeks ago for her birthday, or that her birthday thank you notes aren’t all done and mailed out yet.  Laundry gets washed, but not folded right away, and some major organizing projects have been put on hold.  But for now that’s okay.

For now we are living the dream of expanding our family and all the ups and downs that go with that.  I can’t wait to share more as Fall and holiday time comes near and plans for baby and big sister become a reality!

30th Birthday Bash!

Over the weekend we celebrated my husband’s 30th birthday! I took the opportunity to put some of my newly acquired craft skills to work.  I say “newly acquired” because I have recently (since my daughters 1st birthday last August) been channeling the creative side I used to use in my teaching life into some creative, crafty activities around the house.  Lately I’ve been focusing my creative energy on party décor and have found that not only is it a fun way to put a personal spin on a party but it is a bit of a money saver as well.  I tried my hand at some crafts over the winter holidays and created some custom décor items to add to my godson’s recent first birthday party.  My husband’s party over the weekend however was the first party I’ve thrown where my vision really came to life!

The theme of the party was a craft beer tasting.

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This theme worked well as it incorporated one of my husband’s favorite things with a party activity built in.  When we first came up with the idea I scoured the internet (pinterest especially) to find “beer tasting” and “30th birthday” party ideas.  I pulled from what I found and added a few twists of my own and we came out with a great party!

One Pinterest idea I saw and ran with was using beer bottles as vases.  I picked some flowers growing in a field near our house and mixed them with some fake dried flowers and wheat stalks I found at Micheal’s craft store.

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I was able to create and print most of the paper décor items like a banner, all the labels and the invitations at home using www.avery/print.com.  Some designs I printed to actual Avery labels and some I saved as a pdf and printed on fun craft paper.

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To dress up the 99 cent plastic table clothes I found at Wal-Mart I used burlap as a table runner.  This tied in nicely with the twine I used to hang many of the decorations.  The burlap, twine and beer bottles really helped to dress up the party while still keeping it manly.

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The final and maybe most important piece, to making this party great but low key was the food.  Instead of spending the whole evening in the kitchen prepping, then cooking, then serving and finally cleaning up dinner we opted to have the food brought to us.  Now catering can be expensive, but we went with a budget friendly local taco truck that pulled up right in our driveway!  This way everyone could order what they liked and the mess left with the truck when dinner was finished.

photo Here we are waiting for our tacos.

All in all it was a great party and it was so fun creating a special evening for my husband.

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