Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Humor

Just one of the many decorations at our Halloween Party on Saturday night. Have a safe and fun evening everyone! I'll be back with Elsa's weekly update and photos of our party soon!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Once a King or Queen of Narnia, always a King or Quenn of Narnia"

Liz had me cracking up when I read that quote from the movie in her comment yesterday. She guessed correctly that Julia is going to be Lucy from The Chronicles of Narnia and that Sam is going to be Peter. It only took her two guessed to figure out that Elsa is going to be Aslan, the lion.  Way to go Liz!!!

That leaves Edmond and Susan for PapaBear and I. Luckily Walmart sells bow and arrow sets for $6!

 I enjoyed hearing from you on whether or not you decorate for Halloween or not and found myself nodding in agreement with everyone. We have spent more time prepping for this Halloween than all others combined, but the house is coming together nicely for our first ever Halloween Party. PapaBear hammered, drilled, & cut while I traced, cut, tied, & taped today. Tomorrow I'll make a Target run for a few things I didn't get the other day and we'll shop for the food. Our menu is pretty simple because everyone brings an appetizer or dessert to share. We're making six batches of chili, caramel corn, a pumpkin shaped veggie tray, Spider Cider, and Vampire Punch.

What's your favorite Halloween fare?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What are we going to be for Halloween? Day3

Julia gets to wear her costume to dance class tonight. How fun! It will be interesting to see if anyone knows who she is dressed as. Even with her props in hand and after she says her character's name, many people don't know who she's talking about.

Can YOU tell who she is?

Monday, October 24, 2011

What are we going to be for Halloween? Day2

Here's hint #2 for our costumes:

Today was spent running around looking for the supplies to complete all the fun decorations I found on Pinterest for our Halloween Party on Saturday. It was exhausting, but fun to be creative on a budget. The Dollar Store, Goodwill, Joann Fabrics, Michael's....I visited them all and even completed a couple projects already this evening. The kids loved helping out and I'm excited to see how it all comes together for the weekend!

We've never decorated for Halloween before and I've surprised myself by what I'm using for decorations this year - I'm very conservative when it comes to Halloween - hence no decorations before.  I feel like since we're hosting the party though we need to do something and so I'll spend the week preparing that something and of course share photos when it's all said and done! 

Do YOU decorate for Halloween?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

What are we going to be for Halloween?

For the past couple of years I've neglected to get a decent picture of my kids in their costumes on Halloween. It's either too dark, the kids are too distracted, or I plain forget to get the camera out. I don't even have a picture of Sam in his very first Halloween costume! (He was the cutest little mouse you ever did see at 2 weeks old!) This year I wasn't going to let the fact that we are hosting the Halloween Party for our friends to get in the way of snapping a good picture of my trio so today we put costumes on with plenty of daylight to spare and got some really sweet ones of the kids all dressed up.

Rather than showing you them a week before Halloween I've come up with a little game...I will post a picture every day of some element of their costumes and have you guess what they are going to be. (NO fair guessing those of you who already know the answer!) The only hint I will give today is that there is a theme to their costumes...all our costumes to be exact but a family picture wasn't in the cards today.

My sister was too clever and figured it out right away...hopefully I was able to update this before the rest of you saw the original photo...

Do you do theme costumes for your kids?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Elsa Louise at 16 Weeks

One of these days the weather is going to change and we'll no longer be able to be outside for her weekly photos but until she gets cold we'll continue to take advantage of our Indian summer. SIXTEEN weeks of no rain on Fridays - that's got to be some sort of record!

This week marked my first week back to work part time. I'm not taking new book clients right now and photography is on hold indefinitely, so I'm taking my time getting back into the swing of things. I can't believe how quickly the summer went and I'm so grateful for the time I had to focus on being mom and a homemaker. It is HARD to work and keep up the house. Really hard. There just isn't enough of me to go around some days! By Thursday when I'd reached my goal of 440 pages I was ready for some down time so Elsa and I wandered Target & did our weekly grocery shopping at a leisurely pace. Target often has coupons or promos, so always check online before you go!

Friday we spent the morning playing games while Elsa took a great nap. Little stinker has been taking cat naps all week! Other than being ready for a nap two hours after waking in the morning and going to bed at 7pm the girl has no schedule. None. For the most part I'm OK with that.....for now.  She got a cold this week that isn't causing too much trouble for her except for waking up extremely stuffy by 7am.

We went to the pumpkin patch Friday afternoon to get Elsa's first pumpkin. (We had three pumpkins in our garden, but one got smashed so we needed to replace it.)  It was a beautiful day to be out as a family and for the first time in six months we didn't have to be home to check campers at 4pm. To celebrate I took the kids to a new friends house where they played and played and played. Elsa hung out with me and did her best to join in the conversation. What a talker she is all of a sudden!!!

I completely forgot that I needed to take Elsa's weekly basket photo until 15 minutes before the sun set. As you can see, that turned out to be a really great thing! What lovely light for my lovely girl to bask in don't you think?

I just ordered a big one of these to hang in our library. love. And this next one? Yep, I ordered one of these as well, but only a 4x6 to go in a frame that sits next to our fireplace.

Via twitter tonight I had a conversation with some friends about changing out photos in frames. I don't do it often enough and I'm guessing others are in that same boat. One suggestion I made is to change out frames seasonally and then put the old photos in an album specifically for photos that were framed. I know that it was very fun when I was looking for photos to frame to compare the photos of the kids jumping in leaves every year.  So for example...if every year I framed a jumping in leaves photo and then it made it's way to the designated album I could look back at my kids doing the same activity year after year. Another image I like to frame is picking out our Christmas tree. Or the photos I take at the arboretum every year tend to make it into a frame eventually.

What do you do with photos you are done displaying in your home?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Just Write - Naptime

Her eyes pop open and I don’t even try to suppress the groan. Nap time.. A time to rest. A time to recharge. A time for me to do something, anything, with two hands. Nap time is over. She squirms in the spot on the bed where I gingerly placed her a mere ten minutes earlier after I let her nurse herself to sleep. I watch her from four feet away. I hold my breath. Her head turns to the side as her thumb moves towards her mouth. Inwardly I cheer for her “Find your thumb! You can do it! That-a-girl!”

The smack smack smack sound is fast, but her breathing slows. She’s asleep again. Peaceful rest. She got there on her own.

She doesn't need my help yet I can’t pull myself away from the sight of those squishy dimpled fingers . I can hear the gurgle of her snores above the sound of the Sleep Sheep and for now she sleeps.

My arms miss her already.

Linking up with Heather thanks to this bonus naptime for Just Write.

Friday, October 14, 2011

BabyBear at 15 weeks

Every week I think she can't get any cuter and ever week she proves me wrong.

At fifteen weeks I've noticed the drool increasing and she's started blowing raspberries.  We call her Juicy Lucy. 
I've been blessed with a good night sleeper but this week she's given me a run for my money. Sure she's sleeping, but I'm not because she's decided she prefers the human pacifer all.night.long. Add to that her shift away from sucking her thumb....and her insistence at bailing out of her swaddle. *Sigh* I think we might be entering new territory as we figure out how to get her second stretch of night sleep to be as long as her 5+ hour first stretch.

I'm starting to get very curious as to what her 4 months stats are going to be. One things for sure - her feet are tiny! She wore size 0 shoes to church a couple of weeks ago and this past weekend she wore size 0 sandals for Julia's birthday party. Sam and Julia's first pair of shoes they could fit in were size 3. They never fit in the little little shoes.  I thought for sure Elsa would be in Robeez by now but she looks so silly in them because they are too big.

Speaking of big...check out this smile!

The rest of the family is smiling pretty big too as we wrap up our fourth camping season! Sunday is the LAST DAY!!!!!  We're planning to celebrate by roasting apples in our fire bowl as we wave to the very last camper that pulls out.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A year ago today

Last year on Sam's birthday my friend Kristina took some family photos for us. I LOVED them, but kept them to myself so I could share them in our Christmas card. Over the next month I played with them and eventually designed myself a Christmas card that I was head over heals about. Exactly one month after the photos were taken I left the house for what would be the very last time for a month and a half. Needless to say, being bedridden because of morning sickness pushed getting Christmas cards ordered and addressed to the back burner.

Nobody ever saw our card, until today.

Last night as I looked at photos I've taken during Sam's sixth year I came across the beautiful photographs. Rather than being sad about them being hidden this whole time I chose to have a thankful heart.

 Thankful because I see in them the love of a family,,,. a family of 4 that was about to become a family of 5.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Alphabitty Moments - X is for...


After so many rounds of Alphabitty Moments it's getting more and more difficult to come up with a word for 'x' but that's not going to stop me from recording the little things of childhood! I would love to have you join me in this memory keeping meme! Jump in on any letter and leave your link in the comments. There's also a button on the right hand side of my blog if you are interested.

Today is the very last day that Sam is six years old.  How fitting to reflect on this past year of life with our Sammy Sam! There is no end to the ways he makes my heart swell with love.

My firstborn, my only son....
You couldn't wait to turn six - the age Mommy and Daddy said you needed to be before you could watch Star Wars. At first I was scared by all the interest you showed in violence, but you've proved time and time again that you are still the sweet boy I know and love. Silly is your middle name Sam! That excitement and energy drives you to want to learn everything you can about whatever your interested at that time, whether it be the military, snakes, scorpions, big cats, or dinosaurs.  I can't begin to count the number of times I've asked you to settle down or sit still when I'm talking to you. Forgive me forgetting that you are only six and that every day is an adventure that you are anxious to face head on! When the day is done and we tuck you in at night I cherish our bedtime snuggles and our discussions about what we have planned for the days ahead. So much to look forward to!!!! I love you Sam - Happy birthday!


photo file location: Julia 4 years Sam 6yrs

Wordless Wednesday - {She is} my shadow

Did you hear? It's International Babywearing Week? Don't be surprised if you see more of my babywearing photos this week because it's something I wholeheartedly believe in! I wore Elsa in the Kozy Carrier for the first time today. I can't believe I'd forgotten that it was tucked away in my toy box! She's only just gained enough head/neck control this past week so I am now able to use it and didn't really miss out on any babywearing time.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Whispers in the Wind

The days rush by faster than I can keep up. I try to freeze frame the moments with photos, yet time marches on. My quest for that elusive perfect family photo eludes me. It’s raining. Each drop taunts me from the other side of the window pane. Then there’s a break. The breeze that has been pumping warm air into our state much later than usual sends some blue sky our way. The Photo Shoot is back on! We rush to the car giving specific instructions to the kids.

Don’t run.
Don’t get dirty.
Hurry up!
Be quiet!
Don’t tackle your brother!


I stop.
Someone is missing. Do we go back? Do I test the limits of my family’s patience? My heart breaks a little to think this could be the last chance to include him. His last walk in the woods. His last run through the tall grass. I remember fondly his love of tall grass. He used to be so agile in his younger years. Spunk. Life. Energy.

It’s at least worth asking him if he wants to come with so I use the voice that is undeniably directed at him. He barely lifts his head from rug that holds just as much of his hair as his fury and increasingly bony backside does. I wave the leash that used to send him into a frenzy but is now just a hunk of nylon cord wound tightly in a case of blue before his face. "wthumph" His answer echoes throughout the house when his head drops back to the floor.

Inside a battle rages on. He’s part of the family. Then why don’t I pay more attention to him? He should be there. Then why do I brush him aside when he gets underfoot? It’s important to include him. Then why do I hardly acknowledge him some days?

Rainclouds are threatening again so I tell him that we’ll be back and rush out the door. Pleading and bribing ensues as I attempt to nail down the two older ones who I swear where hooked up to a sugar IV while they waited for me in the van. Somehow we manage to eek out a few frames from my broken camera.

I decide to press my luck. We trek deeper into the woods, using the exact same spots I’ve used for other families seeking that perfectly posed family photo. This time I’m not the one behind the camera. Elsa starts to cry, then calms down when she hears the rattle my mom thought to bring along. We eek out a few more frames before the camera freezes up again. Did we get it? Is there at least one that we can call a keeper?

The more people in the shot the harder it is.
The more I want it, the harder it is to achieve.
The more I want time to stand still, the faster it goes.

Like the leaves on the trees this year that hurried through their transition from Summer to Fall. Life is like that I guess, we tell ourselves to slow down and enjoy the moment. How does that saying go? “It’s the journey, not the destination…..”? The leaves will fall. One by one. Moment by moment.
Most of the leaves in our pup's life are mere whispers in the wind, but our sweet babe here has a lifetime of leaves left. So far they are as beautiful as she is.

Linking up with Heather for Just Write.

If you were expecting to see evidence of our photoshoot I’m sorry to disappoint. Christmas is coming and there’s this little thing I like to design called a Christmas Card.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mommy & Me - Celebrating Babywearing

I wore Sam in the Bjorn as a baby. I wore Julia in a Kangaroo Korner sling as a baby and a Kozy as a toddler.  Elsa has split her time between the sleepy wrap and the Sakura Bloom ring sling that she's snoozing in during our photo shoot this afternoon. Babywearing is more than just practical for me, it a valuable time to bond with my kids... to feel their warm breath as they tuck in close against my chest and to appreciate the connection that comes with feeling like our hearts beat as one.

I was able to get out from behind the camera today thanks to my mom coming over to do some photos for our family. THANK YOU MOM! I will cherish them forever!

Linking up with Kyrstyn for Mommy and Me Monday and in honor of International Babywearing Week!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

a castle fit for a queen

Donning a fancy drss and a crown is new territory for our family. We are usually very anti-princess, but when the kids decided they wanted castle themed birthday parties who was I to say no?  I have to admit, it was very, very sweet to see my tomboy all gussied up.

She and her royal court dined on mac and cheese, sugar snap peas, honey crisp apples, and juice pouches before moving on to cake, games, & gifts.

After searching for tiaras it was time for dragon egg races (egg and spoon races with dinosaurs in the plastic eggs). Their prizes were candy necklaces and rings.

Cake was served in the castle before gifts and then.....

they decided to 'clean up'. Good thing it was 80 degrees!

Tiarra or not, she's a tomboy at heart!

But I hope she never forgets what it felt like to be a queen of her own castle!

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A knight like no other

Sam celebrated his 7th birthday today with all the boys in his class. The four boys get along so well together - nobody gets left out and they truly enjoy being together.  It's a good thing since they are outnumbered by the ten girls in the class! Sammy settled on a castle theme a few weeks ago so I did what I do every year, I Google until I find all the elements I need to pull off the party of their dreams.

I'm lucky that they are easy to please because there isn't often much to be found in the theme they choose! In hopes of helping out anyone out there who decides on a castle theme for their child's next birthday, I've put together some collages of today's festivities. Be sure to click on the collages to make them bigger. (You can click on the BIRTHDAY label on the sidebar for more information on party themes from other years.) Julia also chose a castle themed birthday party so a recap of her special day is up next. 

Invites: (text found on an unknown website) In honor of his birthday, Prince BrotherBear decrees the 9th of October an official holiday.  To celebrate, all knights are invited to join him for an afternoon of merriment at his castle, at the stroke of one. Please RSVP to the king or queen by the 3rd of October.

We typed the invites on parchment looking paper, tied it with a red ribbon and hand delivered them at school. 

The tunics the boys wore were made for $2 a piece by using 2 yards of felt & one spool of ribbon for the ties. One yard of fabric can be cut in half and provides the perfect size tunic for 6-7 year olds. I have a large supply of felt pieces from other projects so I had Sam pick out colors and a design for the good guys and the bad guys.  Once they each had their tunics on it was time to...

Decorate A Shield.

PapaBear free-handed the design they chose from printouts I got from this website and then the kids decorated them with marker and glitter stars. The kids took this task very seriously and if I could do it again I would have had Sam take the papers to school and have the kids pick their design ahead of time so they could start decorating right away instead of waiting for their drawing. 

The shields are made from heavy duty cardboard I picked up from a business that had a huge bundle sitting out in their recycling dumpster. We spray painted them grey and then used duct tape to create handles on the back.

Then it was time for a scavenger hunt!
Clues on red paper for the red team and clues on blue paper for the blue team. The clues took them around our yard until the final clue brought them to the hammocks where we had hid a swords for each of them.  October birthday parties have the advantage of a huge supply of props because of Halloween costumes readily available. I bought plastic swords at Walmart for $2.97 a piece.  They were a hit! (Believe it or not, nobody actually got hit with them!!)

After the scavenger hunt we served snacks on the porch. The party was from 1-3 so we didn't have to worry about a meal. I kept it simple - pretzel rods (swords) graham crackers (shields) cheese cubes (fireballs) grapes (more ammo) and juice pouches.

We did dragon egg races next. I put 1 dino fruit snack in an egg for each relay team. If the egg fell off the spoon they had to make sure the baby dragon didn't fall out of the egg and continue on their way. Queen Julia handed out a pack of 'baby dragons' after everyone had a turn raising to the hammock and back.

What knight birthday party would be complete without a catapult? I searched and searched for an easy design for building a catapult and finally landed on this one because it was easy for me to get the supplies to make it. Only it didn't work. Good thing we started a week ahead of time gluing them together! After many failed attempts and building a catapult that wouldn't break after one minute PapaBear came up with this design.

The kids personalized them and then went to battle. Soon a bag full of stale marshmallows littered our front lawn.

Before we ran out of time we sang happy birthday to Sam, ate some castle cake, and opened gifts. Sam LOVED the glow in the dark football, car with a missile launcher, and the dinosaurs/dragon he received from his friends.

The cake really deserves a post of its own, but I'll try to summarize as best as I can all that I learned about cake decorating this week. Inspiration for the cake came from here. I know I'll be looking back at this post next year when I'm trying to remember what exactly to do to NOT want to pull my hair out during the assembly/decorating part.

First let me be very clear. We use boxed cake mixes. I'm not ashamed to admit that. Not one bit! French Vanilla flavored is YUMMY and SO moist!

Timeline for preparing a cake for a birthday party:
Days in advance - bake the cake layers, cool, cover with plastic wrap and place in freezer

12-24 hours before the party - remove cake layers from freezer. Keep plastic wrap on until cakes have thawed.

Trim and level cake once cakes have come to room temp.

Add crumb coat (a slightly thinned version of buttercream*) and let/set dry UNCOVERED

Buttercream can be left on the counter, covered well, for 12-24 hours ahead of time. A few hours before the party add final layer of buttercream and decorate with embellishments.

*Easy Buttercream recipe

4cups sifted powered sugar
1/2 cup room temp unsalted butter
1/2 cup Crisco (not buttered flavered)
3T milk
1t vanilla

beat until creamy. This makes about 3 cups of frosting. I use a big bowl so I can make one batch and then add the ingredients for a second batch right on top and then mix them both together. This is important if you plan to tint the frosting so all your frosting is the same color.

Ok, back to the party....
I was so proud of the boys for including Julia during their playtime! Everyone left after 2 hours of fun with their shields, catapults, and their tunics. I had so much fun planning and putting together this party! I wonder what theme the kids will choose next year?

Keywords:  Castle Themed Birthday Party, Knight Birthday Party, Castle Party, Castle Cake, How to make a castle birthday cake, Medieval Birthday Party Theme,

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Beginner Knit Hat Pattern

I've been asked so many times if there is a pattern for the hats I make,  but I was too busy filling Christmas orders...