Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Countdown - Bring It

Alright 24 days of Christmas - BRING. IT. ON.  I'm ready for ya. 
I like to talk like that sometimes because it makes me feel more gangsta.  But really, I'm sooo tired and feeling quite silly and lame that we worked on this advent calendar till past 11 last night.  Turns out peeling off 24 numbered labels and 24 sheets of velcro is damn hard work and flipping time consuming.  And then trying to line up 24 boxes in 6 neat pretty little rows?  Forget about it!  We had my yard stick out to get everything all precise, and at one point I just looked up at Mary and said "dude, we are crazy."  For reals yo.  
But seriously, I'm psyched to start the countdown tomorrow.  Are you?  Or are you freaking out?  Please don't say you're freaked out because then you're gonna freak me out.  And for heaven's sake please don't say that you "have all your Christmas shopping done!" in a sing-songy nasally voice because then I'll have to smack you.  I can't stand you people that do that.  Really, what's the fun of Christmas if you're not running around Target at 10 pm the day before Christmas Eve for stocking stuffers?
Come to think of it, I'm actually really psyched because if anything, I did think ahead for ONCE in my freaking life, and while at the coolest neighborhood toy store Knock Knock on Monday, gathering advent supplies, I bought the kids their stocking stuffers.  Hooray for me and not having to buy crap at Target in a heated last-minute panic.  I mean don't get me wrong, I still bought crap, but it's cool crap that I won't mind having around.  Like those lighted Rail Twirler things from when I was a kid.  Bomb diggity. 
In other gift giving news, Taylor wants this: a Barbie Carriage from 2006.  She plays with it at a friend's house and has been asking for it for months.  I started searching for carriages that matched the description she gave me and was coming up dry.  So I had her sit with me and scroll through Amazon so, you know, I could "tell Santa exactly which one she wanted" and we couldn't find it.  So then I got the idea to search You Tube for Barbie Carriage commercials because You Tube has everything, right?  Well I was RIGHT!  We watched a bunch of videos and on the 6th one she screams "That's it!".  The thing is from 2006 and Amazon has 1 left in stock and it's $69.95.  Guaranteed the thing originally sold for $34.  Do I get it though since it's the only thing she's asked for or is it a total waste of money?
And ladies, I'm sure you already have a wish list, but in case not, may I make a suggestion?  Add a Clarisonic to that list.  I got one for my birthday 8 months ago and for the most part it has been a gift that keeps on giving.  No more dry patches, cut down on little breakouts and pretty much eliminated the need or desire to get a facial.  Get it ladies.  Trust me, you won't be sorry.

Happy Festivus guys!  The countdown is officially ON!

Playgrounds & Lollipops - Sparkles

 {sparkly shiny top - Banana Republic; pleated skirt last seen here - Trouve; belt - Gap; flats - Gap; 
earrings - Ann Taylor Loft; bean necklace - Tiffany; watch - Michael Kors}

Dude, I'm a mom y'all.  100% legit mom because the entirety of my outfit is from Gap, Banana & Ann Taylor Loft.  And I style my family for photo shoots in coordinating outfits.  I am a mom.  And it aint all that bad is it?  Love the way our pictures came out this year, taken by the ever talented and lovely Miranda of M. Shanti photo.  She is a good friend but she did not pay me to say that.  I paid her in fact!  Ha!  I declared on the way over to the shoot that I don't like taking family photos.  It stresses me out man.  I know, suburban mom problems.  But it does!  And then we get there and Miranda is just so relaxed and mellow and chill that you kinda can't help but relax and be chill too.  So we chilled out and took pictures.  And they were good.  And it's late and I'm rambling so I'll go now.  Happy Hump Day!  

(oh and in case you were wondering, outfits for the whole family came from a combination of Gap, Gap Kids, Mini Boden, Nordstrom and Gymboree.  Duh, did you even have to ask? ;)  linking up with Lindsey

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Advent In Process

I'm admittedly not very good at advent calendars.  Rather, I'm not very good at the routine of opening each envelope every day and so days may pass before I remind the kids.  And it might be because of their ages or the fact that mom hasn't made a big enough ritual out of the whole process, but the kids have been no better at reminding me in the past.  For the past couple of years I made a simple red and green paper chain advent calendar with 24 rings on it and a bible verse attached to each ring that tells the Story of Christmas, from the day Gabriel appeared before Mary to the birth of Jesus.  Even something as simple as a paper chain I wasn't very good at though.  

This year though I wanted to start over and give the advent calendar the good ol' college try.  I think Taylor is finally at the age now where she will hopefully remind me, plus, if I make a big enough calendar and put it in a prominent place, perhaps we would actually remember to joyfully anticipate the advent ritual and each passing day leading up to Christmas.  I found the above calendar on Pinterest and I fell in love.  The simplicity of it is just perfection.  My friend Mary fell in love with it too so we decided to make them together.  We ran around yesterday gathering supplies and we'll assemble them tonight.  She found a local place where we could buy the kraft jewelry boxes in bulk (100 for $24) and pick them up.  If I ever planned ahead I could have had them shipped, but as always, I like to do things the hard way and at the last minute ;)  The only adjustment we're making to the original is instead of attaching them with push pins, we're using small pieces of velcro so no tiny pins get lost around the house (Mary has 1 year old twins who still hunt around on the ground for small shiny things).  Brilliant idea right?      

I'm sure most of you are much better about this and more prepared than I, and if so, you certainly don't need my help.  But if by chance you are scrambling to get an advent calendar up in the next 2 days, I thought I'd share this idea.  And hey, even if you just want to make a simple paper chain with the Christmas Story countdown attached, you can download my format here on the site.  Simply click on the link below and you'll get all 24 verses.  They are formatted in a Word label document so you can print them on labels and stick them onto the paper chain, or just print them on pieces of paper and cut out, which is what we're planning to do, and stick them in each box.   
download labels here

I'll share the final results in a couple of days when we're done.  I'm really excited now and hope this is a firm start of a new tradition.  A reminder to stop, slow down and remember each day why we're really celebrating the season.  A good lesson in intentionality that's for sure.  

So are you guys good about an Advent calendar, or are you more like me?  

Sunday, November 27, 2011

DIY Acrylic & Chainlink Necklaces

It's not often I walk into a craft store and don't find something I think I can use.  Even if I don't have an immediate use for it, if it strikes my fancy and fits into my budget, I usually pick it up.  I found clear acrylic chainlinks at Michael Levine in downtown LA a couple of months back and it was so cheap, at $1.50 a yard I decided to take a couple of yards home and figure out the end-use later.  While browsing through a J. Crew store recently, I was struck with an idea and created a couple of versions of fun and colorful chainlink necklaces.  Details below as promised...
What you'll need is craft spray paint in whichever colors you wish, chainlinks in silver and/or gold and the clear acrylic chainlinks (you want at least a foot of each chainlink per necklace to make them nice and long).  Basic jewelry tools such as a pair of needle-nose pliers and snipping pliers will also be needed, as well as a few jump rings.
Start by spray painting your acrylic chainlinks.  The chainlinks are admittedly a little ho-hum in their original clear form, but with a dose of spray paint, they resemble lucite, which is oh so pretty but can also be oh so pricey.  I used a bright pink, a royal blue and a neon orange just for fun.  For some reason though the orange did not come out right and ended up looking very dusty and dry as opposed to shiny and luminescent.
Once dry, clip your chain links into the desired lengths to give your necklace a sort of sectioned off look as seen in the royal blue and silver necklace.  I created 4 different sections; 2 blue and 2 silver to break it up a bit.
Attach the sections with your jump rings and squeeze the jump rings closed
And you're done with version #1.  The fun thing about the different sections is you can adjust the necklace as you wish so that one blue section primarily shows just at the bottom or so that both sections show.  Total cost of version #1 was about $3 including the silver chainlink which typically sells for $5.50/yd at Michael Levine.
For version #2, it's even simpler.  After I created version #1, I decided to do something a little different and attach a single long piece of 18" pink chainlink to an existing chunky gold necklace I already had.  Simply take 2 jump rings and attach them to each end of the pink chainlink, and then attach to the existing necklace and squeeze the jump rings closed.   
 And Voila!  Total cost for version #2 was less than $1!
I've searched for the J. Crew necklace that I was originally inspired by but it's no longer available online.  It most closely resembles version #1 and I saw it in stores about 3 weeks ago and was retailing for $39.  I found a similar version online though and can be found here.  While the J. Crew necklace uses faceted resin, meaning the links are cut to give them a bit more brilliance, the links I used are smooth but have an almost identical shape and look, just without the cost.  This is not to say though that I don't appreciate the look and feel of the more expensive product.  I value quality of construction and design and will pay more for a product that I truly think is special and I'll get a lot of use out of.  An accessory like this though is probably something I'd never pay full price for in a store.  In fact I probably wouldn't buy it at all.  It's not about me thinking I can make something just as good, it's more about the fun of being inspired and creating something with your own hands.  I've replicated the look, even if it isn't made of the finest materials, and saved myself $39, to which I'll use to buy another chambray shirt ;) 

That's what DIY means to me...
Linking up with Tatertots & Jello

Friday, November 25, 2011

New Traditions

{this year's tablescape - white mini pumpkins, fresh artichokes, variegated gourds & green mums}

Popping in to say hi.  I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and survived Black Friday.  Another year came and went and I have almost zero pictures from turkey day, but we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless.  I promised in my post earlier in the week that I'd have a DIY up for you today but in reviewing the pictures, I'm not happy with the way a couple of them turned out so I'll re-shoot and post on Monday.  Stay tuned :) 

In the meantime though I thought I'd share a few of the pictures I did get from yesterday.  After dinner, the kids decided they wanted to get in the jacuzzi for a little bit.  The jacuzzi turned into the pool and before you knew it they were all jumping in to 60 degree water.  Even Art jumped in on a dare.  He later admitted that it was "uncomfortably cold" even though he tried to act like a tough guy.  Perhaps we've started a new turkey day tradition?   

Have a lovely rest of the weekend.  We plan to hang lights and get out the Christmas decorations tomorrow.  I'm also working on checking off an item on my Life List; watching the top 100 movies of all time.  We started with Raging Bull tonight and we're moving on to Annie Hall tomorrow night.  See you Monday! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Playgrounds & Lollipops - Thanking Chambray & Leopard

{Chambray Shirt - Kohl's; Black Denim Jeans - Ann Taylor Loft; Lounge Shoes - Boden; Necklace - DIY}
It's the eve of Thanksgiving eve and I'm thankful for an afternoon spent with my daughter, free of the worries of homework or soccer practice. Games of Chutes and Ladders and "try to get me", a little boy that seems to be somewhat on the mend, and a husband that comes home to tell me to go rest while he does bedtime. I'm thankful for chambray shirts and leopard shoes. Oh! And I'm thankful for all of you of course :) While we all settle into the routine of preparing for Thanksgiving, my prayer is that we find a bit of time to ourselves to reflect on and acknowledge the many blessings we have, both big and small.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. God Bless Us Everyone! Oh wait, wrong holiday Tiny Tim!
Psst...I have a Black Friday treat for all you lovely people that are not complete loons and are spending the day at home instead of getting up at the crack of dawn to shop.  That little necklace I'm wearing is a DIY I whipped up and will give you the How-To deets on Friday.  You know in case you get bored and want to do a little crafting this weekend.  I'm here for you is all I'm saying.

And speaking of Black Friday, I saw that Forever 21 will be open on Thanksgiving.  What the bleeep/ explative?!?  Shame on you Forever 21.  And shame on you crazies that actually go shopping there on Thanksgiving.  Ok, rant over :)
Linking up with Lindsey for WIWW & Glamamom

Monday, November 21, 2011

{last years Thanksgiving table}
Happy Monday friends.  I hope your weekend was wonderful and restful.  Ours was both busy and restful, which is always a nice combination I think.  New carpet was installed on Saturday and for the last 2 mornings I've actually been giddy to jump out of bed so I can walk on it.  Is it wrong to be thankful for new carpet?

In other not so great news, Syd is sick and has been since Wednesday.  He's been fever free for a day now but he is still horribly congested and just all around miserable.  I kept him home from school again today and sadly he's missing his Harvest Feast at preschool along with stone friendship soup.  He could probably care less but it makes me sad that it's the last time to be a part of this tradition since he'll be starting kindergarten next year. 

So we continue to be stuck at home which I guess isn't a terrible thing, and I've made my grocery list for Thanksgiving.  We're hosting again and I'm preparing the same exact menu as last year, and the rest of the family will bring everything else.  We've made at least a dozen turkeys in our time as a married couple and I promise this recipe is the best we've ever come across.  In fact everything we made last year was the best of the best, which is why we're making it again ;)  I can wholeheartedly recommend every single one of these recipes, in case you still need some ideas.  I wrote a post last year centered around these recipes, in regards to cooking and slaving away in the kitchen for Thanksgiving, and it still is one of my favorite posts I've ever written.  My how things have changed for us in the last year.       
Caramel Sauce for Bread Pudding

Before I leave you to go back to my sick boy, I wanted to share a favorite tradition of mine that I do to keep our house smelling good throughout the holidays but without burning a ton of money on candles.  I've said before that my favorite candle is the Aspen Bay pinecone candle, but at $30 a pop, I can't afford to burn these all day and night.  So instead my friend Sarah showed me this trick a few years back.  
Simply cut up some orange slices and apple slices, toss them in a saucepan full of water and add a couple of cinnamon sticks and cloves and let simmer on low all day, while at home of course ;)  Add fresh water as needed.  To save a bit more, I always buy my whole cloves and cinnamon sticks either in the Mexican food aisle of the supermarket, or by the brand It's Delish.  This mixture makes the whole house smell like the perfect mix of Fall and Christmas. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

On Her Nightstand - Annie of Turning Pages

I've been a fan of Annie and her blog Turning Pages for a long time, so when she signed on for  November Sponsor For a Cause and agreed to a do a guest post, I was tickled pink.  Annie is a beautifully gifted writer, and I've told her many times before that she is wise beyond her years.  I love Annie's heart for giving and the way she strives to live a better, fuller life.  I truly admire her so much and put her on my list of "bloggers I'd like to meet".  And lucky for me she loves to read and has really, really good taste in books, so she's here today to share some of her recent reads...

Turns out that writing a guest post for a blogger you admire and respect is more difficult than I first thought. And despite the wide variety of topics that meandered around my head this week, none felt as comfortable or as familiar or as appropriate for Andrea's internet home than the topic I love addressing the most: books. Each month, on my own blog, I recap what I've read and whether I've liked it (and why or why not). Today, you get a preview of what's been on my nightstand so far this season. Happy reading!
Book: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Finished: Early November
I'd been reading hype all over the blog world about this one, and a few months ago, when Borders closed (insert obligatory moment of silence here), I grabbed up my own copy. It took me until our recent vacation to pick it up, though, since I was a little daunted by the book's description. It sounded heavy, and it was, but in the best possible ways. As Jordan and I traveled from our home in Tallahassee to a tiny beach town down south, I became completely absorbed in the world Foer created, a world in which a little boy tries to survive post-9/11, post the death of his beloved father. The book is mesmerizing, and I didn't put it down during the entirety of our seven-hour drive. Foer is a talented storyteller -- you'll fall in love with the heartbreaking main character -- and I was happy to be his eager listener. I could not possibly recommend this one enough. (Another bonus? It's honestly unlike any book I've read. I don't know what I could possibly compare it to, and I think that may be part of Foer's magic.)

Book: Committed
Finished: Early November
I know a lot of women have mixed thoughts about Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love (both the book and the film version; you can read my thoughts here), but I found her to be an honest narrator, so I was more than happy to pick up a paperback copy of her recent release, Committed. Don't go into the book thinking it's another travel memoir; instead, inspired by her own plans to wed, Gilbert tackles the topic of marriage, interviewing and researching the institution from top to bottom. Although this isn't the page turner that Eat Pray Love was, I think that has more to do with the subject matter than the writer herself. I appreciate Gilbert's writing style and the effort she appears to put into her books; I found Committed to be historically fascinating and often would look up from its pages, detailing facts and stories to Jordan out loud. I like a book that challenges me, that makes me question what I've always thought. Committed did that. It made me ask myself tough questions and prompted a couple of really great discussions. In fact, I'd recommend reading this with a group of other women, maybe in a book club-type format. I think the discussion would be valuable.
Book: Backseat Saints
Finished: Early November
I think Joshilyn Jackson can do no wrong. I love Southern fiction when it's done well, and Jackson always seems to do it justice. I think Backseat Saints is my final Jackson book to read (until her new release comes out in January), and while I'm not sure it's my favorite, it certainly didn't fail to please. Her characters are vibrant and real; you just keep turning page after page because you care that much. I don't like when reviewers give away too many details, so I can't tell you what I found disappointing about the novel. The good news is that the disappointment was, of course, minimal, because Jackson is just an excellent fiction writer. I highly recommend gods in Alabama and The Girl Who Stopped Swimming as well.

Book: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
Finished: Early November
Another book the blog world has been buzzing about, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is reminiscent of Tina Fey's earlier-released Bossypants, but it'd be a shame to compare the two too much. Kaling and Fey are both funny women, but they're also very different storytellers. Fey has had more life experience, so her essays, in my opinion, were more reflective, more well-rounded, more thought-provoking, maybe even just better written. Still, Kaling is likable and a more than competent writer; the book reads like a collection of blog posts or conversations with a friend. I was most impressed, though, with Kaling's thoughts on marriage. Like Fey's reflections about her father, Kaling's chapter on what makes her parents' marriage great -- they're "pals" -- had me in stitches and tears. It made me want my marriage to be great, and since there are so many people out there -- particularly in Hollywood -- who don't seem concerned with that kind of standard, Kaling's take was particularly refreshing. This was my book club's choice for the month, and while I think some were disappointed (some girls thought the book was "too random"), most of us -- all, admittedly, in our mid-20s -- thought it was highly entertaining. I finished my copy in a few hours.


Finished: Mid-November
My brother recommended this book with the quick disclaimer: "It's not what you think." Sure enough, I got some weird looks from passersby who saw the book in my hand -- I guess they thought I planned on renouncing my faith? -- but Leaving Church was really about just the opposite: It was about finding your place in faith and coming to terms with fellow believers. Taylor, a former Episcopal priest, expounds on why she left the priesthood, on how years of service to God had left her exhausted, burnt-out, and perhaps far too reliant on church, and not reliant enough on the Father. I love fellow believers who are honest and genuine about their journey of faith; Taylor joins a long line of narrators who I have come to love for their willingness to unflinchingly tell their stories. Like so many, I have been hurt and burnt-out by church. In fact, I have a feeling my brother made this recommendation based on some recent experiences of my own. Taylor, though, beautifully reminds us of what there is to love about church and the Creator. I have a feeling this is a book I'll be turning back to time and time again. I read it with pen in hand, knowing that I'll need those words imprinted on my soul more than just once.

I hope these little reviews have inspired some holiday reading. Thanks, Andrea, for such a fun opportunity! Have a happy weekend, everyone!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thoughts of the Week - Our Home In Progress

In January we will have lived in this house for 2 years and we just picked a paint color last month.  It's the 3rd house we've lived in, and unlike the first 2 where we whipped through a flurry of DIY projects like Tasmanian devils, we've taken our time with this house, trying to be patient and really think about what we want the house to feel and look like.  As you know we started with the backyard in April and built a pool, mainly because we knew if anything, we wanted to build a pool.  So even if we couldn't decide on a paint color, we at least made use out of the backyard, the main reason we moved to this house in the first place. 
We initially had grand plans for this space but the longer we lived here the more we realized that it wasn't more space we needed, just more functional space.  So after many months of going back and forth, we finally put forth plans to get rid of the ridiculous built in that was smack dab in the middle of our family room and build proper linen storage, the one and only linen closet in the house.  We installed a very functional and affordable closet organization unit in Syd's closet, details to come, got rid of the chandelier that we constantly knocked our heads on and installed recessed lighting, and we painted the walls.  After owning 3 homes, I can swear that there is absolutely nothing at all that makes a home feel more like yours quicker than adding paint to your walls.  I tell you as soon as the walls went from drab white to Benjamin Moore Thunder, my love for this house grew exponentially and suddenly my irritation with the freeway noise and traffic from the school across the street shrunk in half.
We recently sold our huge sectional that always felt too large for this space and bought a classic English rolled arm sofa.  Our plans are to move this sofa into the living room up front and order a smaller chaise type sofa that allows for more seating.  I'm trying to avoid making mistakes in this house and rushing through decisions, even though I want it all finished now and today.  So I've had this swatch sitting out in the open for the last 3 weeks trying to decide if it's the right fabric for our new sofa.  Once we get the sofa I'll make other decisions about the need for more seating and artwork.  We'll also need to replace the area rug seeing as the brown shag one pictured is from Syd's nursery and we've been using it just so the ottoman doesn't slide around.
Shelly has been helping me out but I think she's started to take me less and less serious because one week I'll be all gung ho, saying "let's finish this thing!" and then 5 weeks go by and nothing progresses.  I'm not afraid, just not rushing it.  Our home will never have that "well-traveled" look because well, quite honestly we haven't traveled much.  The only place we've ever been that requires a passport is Mexico, and that's before they even required passports.  Oh!  We have been to the US Virgin Islands on a company work trip but being a US territory, we didn't even need one there.  But even if we had traveled the world we probably wouldn't have had the money or foresight to bring home exotic treasures to furnish our home with.  So instead of well traveled, I'll gladly take eclectic and unique, meaning not everything on display from Store A or Store B (that Pottery Barn Friends episode comes to mind).  I see some trips to the flea market and local estate sales in our future.  The little stool below is from a friend of a friend's estate sale and it was made by her father.  It may have only traveled from the hills of Riverside, but at least it has some history.
My house doesn't need to be designer perfect, but I do just want it to have a "finished" look.  The living room is almost there, but the TV room definitely needs some work.  Timing wise I don't want to set a deadline but I would like it to be finished sometime in this century, which would require me to find the balance between being indecisive and frenzied rash decision making.  I've learned that rushing through decisions in your home usually ends in regret and wasted money.         
More than anything though I just want to walk in and feel comfortable and settled enough to do this without looking around at unfinished projects and empty walls. 
We'll get there.  I'm sure of it :)
have a great weekend everyone!  Off to go back to nursing a still sick little boy.

By the way, here are the only 2 pictures I found of what the TV room looked like before we took out the mirrored wall and built in.  I wouldn't make it 2 seconds as a DIY design blogger seeing as I didn't take any before pictures.  These pictures were taken right after we moved in almost 2 years ago.


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