Wednesday, February 29, 2012

snow day

The alert for a two hour delay came in around 6:30 this morning. I went out to unlock the gate, not really sure i would be able to with all the rain the night before. It was so peaceful with all the park roads still covered in snow....undisturbed and pristine. I came back inside to find another email alert telling me that school was closed for the day. Phew! I really wasn't looking forward to venturing out. As i nursed Elsa in her room i could hear the creaking sound of her door opening. It was PapaBear coming to tell me that the power was out. Great.

We have a well so no power means no water and no flushing the toilet.
We have radiator heat that has some electrical components so no heat.
We have an electric stove so no cooking.

We were probably going to need to find a place to go for the night just in case all the down trees kept the power company busy for the whole day.

We were outside playing in the snow by 7:20 and sopping wet by 7:40. The three inches of rain we got last night might have had something to do with that. PapaBear and sam made forts while julia and i focused on snowball production. Elsa was content keep me company in the protection of our spruce trees. Speaking of spruce trees....the branches that the kids are standing between will have to be cut down as they broke. It makes me sad because that's the branch i want to hang our new swing from.

After some stories under a pile of blankets we decided it was going to get too cold to stay home much longer so we called Grandma and Grandpa to see if we could stay with them. We stuck a huge pot of snow in the fridge to help keep things cold and headed out. We had to let the kids outside clothes dry before we could go back outside but once it did we did some sledding snow oarding and dam buildong with the waterways created when Grandpa drained the huge puddles in their driveway.

They had so much fun! Boardgames dinner cartoons and dinner passed the time quickly. We heard from park staff that the power was back on around 2:30 so we decided it would be best to sleep at home. Tomorrow is a school day after all. Then again today was suppose to be as well but it turned out to be a SNOW day instead. Did you get hit by this storm? How did you spend your snow day?

(Pardon the blogging from my phone tonight)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Way above the chimney tops

If you follow me on Pinterest you know that I'm considering using a rainbow theme for Elsa's first birthday. There is a wealth of inspiration to be found related to rainbows and it apparently rubbed off because when Julia was done making construction paper butterflies to decorate her room I used the leftover paper to make this:

Packages of construction paper come with ten colors - none of which are purple. I wanted purple in my rainbow so I improvised and used a purple pen to add a line from the song, Somewhere Over the Rainbow. The lettering took five times as long as it took to cut and glue the entire rainbow but that's neither here no there now is it? :)

It wasn't my intention to decorate our home for St. Patrick's Day, but this easy rainbow craft that even young kids could do is going to look so cheery above our fireplace mantel. I only uploaded a small version of the photo to the web, but if you'd like I'd be happy to share the full resolution via email.

Are you humming Over the Rainbow Yet? I know I am - especially because I've been singing it to Elsa at nap/bed time for over a week now. 

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high,
There's a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby.

Somewhere over the rainbow

Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.

Someday I'll wish upon a star

And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me.

Somewhere over the rainbow

Bluebirds fly.
Birds fly over the rainbow.
Why then, oh why can't I?

If happy little bluebirds fly

Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can't I?

Music by  Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

The View From Here - Vol. 1

As soon as I saw this photo that I snapped of my girls this morning I knew that this is the type of moment I don't want to forget and the type I want to document more of here.

My life, my view.

I read something the other day that struck a cord:

"If you are always racing to the next moment, what happens to the one you're in?  Enjoy the ride!" 

Along the lines of Alphabitty Moments, The View From Here is a way to document the every day events of life - in my case, motherhood. I recently upgraded my cell phone and downloaded the free app Lightbox and am so happy with it! But here's the thing..... I took 2,600+ photos with my old phone and only a very very small fraction of those made it on my blog where I am compiling our family memories for a future blog book. That's not OK. So once a week I'm going to post at least one photo I've taken from my perspective. They won't always have a filter applied, there may be weeks where I post ten photos and others where I only get one on here. The point is that the memories will live on because let's face it, I'm lucky if I remember to eat lunch some days let alone remember how little Elsa looked the first time she rode in the car cart at the grocery store.

If you'd like to join me in sharing the view from where you are you can use the linky below. Normally Thursdays are Alphabitty Moment days, but The View From Here will take it's place for this week. Starting next week we'll share our views on Fridays.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Life as we know it

I usually try to have a nice pretty bow to wrap my posts in but putting that sort of pressure on myself often keeps me from chronicling the day in and day out of our lives. Let's face it, often there isn't a pretty bow to wrap around the days. They blur together, they are sometimes awful, there are days when I fall short on so many levels...

The point I'm trying to make is that I'm trying to be better about writing even if there's nothing all that important to write about. Besides, have you ever noticed when you go back and read something you wrote six months or a year or two ago that things get sweeter with age? At least, I feel that way. Something as simple as writing a few sentences about the each day would be so nice to have later on. Once I tried to find a website that would take all my tweets and compile them so I could print them, but I didn't have any luck.

One area where I did get lucky was with an app for my new phone. It's called Lightbox and it's the closest thing to Instagram that I've found. While the iphone was tempting, getting a Razr during the buy one get one sale was too good to pass up. I'm excited for my mom who is just getting started with a smart phone.
This is a photo of Elsa I took tonight and applied a filter through Lightbox. I'm sure some of it has to do with the better camera on the new phone, but I did enjoy playing with the filters as well. I'm excited to try the "Ansel" filter especially. I think it might be fun to try out outdoors with the snow we have. Granted I really hope the snow melts so we don't have to rent skis this weekend. It's been a huge blessing to have the winter completely off. So Huge. I can't begin to put it into words.

The older kids (and PapaBear) got a chance to play in the snow after school and before dance so now it can melt. (sorry if you like the snow, but I'm ready for Spring!!!) I'm ready for garage sale season. I'm ready for planning my garden.  I've actually done more thinking about Summer than Spring lately because we're getting ready to put out the schedule of park programs. I love the planning and brainstorming stage and have lots of new ideas for our weekly Saturday morning program.  This winter has flown by (probably helps that I'm not sick as a dog like last year!). Does it feel that way to anyone else? One of my favorite ways to pass the time is listening to books on CD. Sam listened to the entire Chronicles of Narnia series in less than a month. That's over 20 hours of being read to! We also listened to Tom Sawyer from the library and I found that you can listen to books on my new phone so we're listening to Huck Finn now.

I know birthdays are a long ways off but we are brainstorming ideas for parties as well. You never know what you might find at garage sales if we know the theme ahead of time! Sam wants Star Wars and Julia wants Hello Kitty. Guess we'll be having two different parties again this year! I suggested a joint adventure party but so far it's not going over well. I think I need to sit down with them and show them the fun things I've seen on Pinterest. Elsa's birthday is her golden birthday this year so I'm feeling extra pressure to make it memorable. Yes I know that doesn't make sense. I don't care. :)

Well, the blog book I'm working on is finished downloading the remaining posts I needed (hi Molly!) so I'm gonna get back to work. Just wanted to check in and record a bit about life as we know it right now. I want to remember these days of mothering my cubs, dreaming up adventures with PapaBear over lunch (oh how I love that man!!!!!), splashing with Elsa while she plays in the tub, and feeling so incredibly blessed with the life I have.

Have a wonderful night friends!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Pure Joy

To get the full value of joy 

you must have someone 

to divide it with. - Mark Twain

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day in BearCountry

It was a busy one that's for sure!

The day started out with finding homemade valentines in our little pink mailbox we use for sending each other notes. That was quickly followed by waffles made by Daddy. Then Sam was off to school with valentine's for all his classmates. The removable mustaches were a hit I've been told. I can't wait to see the photo that was taken of all his classmates wearing their mustaches! Thanks to Heidi at the Craft Monkey for the inspiration! I tweaked my version a little so I could see more of Sam's face and put the removable mustache with the text so when it was removed the card still made sense.

Julia had her very last first day of ECFE today so that kept us busy for a good chunk of the morning. I can't believe she was younger than Elsa when she went to her first class! Her preschool party was yesterday but she made similar valentines to give to her classmates at dance this afternoon. In just one sitting she pounded out 18 friendship bracelets and then one other session of writing names and taping the bracelets to the card stock was all it took for her to complete her Valentine's for this year. 
(Inspiration found here.)

I learned a good lesson this year and that was to set a deadline of Martin Luther King Jr. day as the deadline for deciding on what each child is going to do for their valentine theme. Getting valentine's ready was stress free for the first time this year because we didn't have to rush. We could work on them a little bit at a time (though Julia has an incredible work ethic and can stay on task for a long.long.time).  

I love this shot of the back of Julia's valentines because it shows what her handwriting looks like at five years old. I have many cards with her sweet signature on them . I treasure them!

Elsa didn't have a class to share valentine's with but that didn't stop me from making some for her. Gotta remember baby's first Valentine's Day after all right?

After ECFE we went to the library program and then home to get ready for an impromptu Valentine's Day party Julia wanted to throw for Sam, Grandma, Grandpa, Sharon, Jamey, and Josie. We spent the next several hours cutting, pasting, cleaning, & creating so that the house was all decorated & ready for when we got home from dance and a work meeting I had scheduled before I knew we were going to have company for dinner. Like I said, it was a busy day!

Grandma and Grandpa brought pizza and chicken and we all enjoyed a lovely dinner together. Julia was very anxious to start the games but managed to eat some dinner first. When I asked her later she said her favorite part of the party was being the judge of the coloring contest. (We printed out a bunch of copies of a valentine themed coloring sheet that everyone (even grandpa!) colored while Julia waited in the kitchen. Once everyone was done she came in and chose which picture she liked the best. Grandma won!!!!) The next game was pin the flower (in the shape of a heart) on the flower stem. Getting to spin people around was Julia's second favorite part of the night. Jamey won this one! The last game was seeing how many times you could bounce a little ball into a container that sat in the middle of the dining room table. After two rounds (3 balls each round) Grandma was declared the winner! It was harder than it looked!

It was a relaxing evening filled with laughter, making memories, and spending time with those we love. I hope we have many more impromptu parties like this in our future - especially when it means Julia and I get to have so much fun getting ready for it. Her face just lit right up when she'd come up with an idea and I'd help walk her through the steps to make it happen.

Hope you had a lovely Valentine's Day as well!

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Easy Do It Yourself Chore Chart

We have tried and failed at responsibility/chore charts many many times. Finally we landed on a system that works for us. We've been using a over sized desk calendar to write out the chores that the kids are responsible for every day. (feeding the cats, picking up and putting away 15 things around the house, cleaning their rooms, cleaning the playroom, setting/clearing the table, doing their homework, picking up the hallway/putting shoes away)

What makes it successful:

Easy access - It hangs by our front door and includes a pen on a string we taped to the wall.
Easily adaptable -  When we first started we only wrote out a week at a time so we could tweak the chores the next week as needed.  After the first two months we changed the chore from picking up 10 things around the house to 15 things. They hardly noticed the change because they were so used to 10 things by then.
The math is easy -  All chores have to be done for the day or you don't get paid for the day. We pay twenty-five cents per day.
Easy payday - We try to keep rolls of quarters on hand so we can pay the kids on Saturdays, but we've also been able to get away with keeping a running tally* on the side of the calendar.
Mix it up -  The chores vary from week to week. One week Sam will clear the table, but the next week Julia will have that job while Sam sets the table. The other chore we rotate is cleaning the upstairs hallway and putting the shoes by the front door into the laundry room where they belong. Feeding the cats is something they rotate every other day to help keep things even.

More Details:
We write in different colored pens so it's easy to remember who the list belongs to. 
If we know they didn't do their chores one day we put an 'x' on the day so we can easily tally up their earnings.
We put homework on this list because it's something we really want them to get in the habit of doing every day but we don't really believe in paying them for doing their homework. It just makes sense for our family to have it on the chore chart.

There are many days of the week where we only have to remind them once about doing their chores and they get right to work. It's so nice to see them contributing and developing a good work ethic. It's also really really nice to have their rooms stay clean and to have help setting and clearing the table. I'm sure part of the success is due to the fact that the kids are a little older than previous attempts at doing chores. Regardless, I firmly believe it comes down to the parents being consistent. What do you think?

Do you use a chore/responsibility chart system? 

* After Christmas I found a couple of toys on clearance that they really really wanted. They spent a month earning the money to pay me back for them and on Jan 26th they had finally earned enough from doing their chores to be able to open the packages. They were thrilled to have earned so much money on their own.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Elsa Louise at 32 Weeks

Our little cupid found her toes this week. It's the cutest thing! Hopefully I'll be able to get a basket shot of it soon. I think her wings were too distracting while I was taking photos because the second I put her on the changing table she's grabbing for her feet.

Her interest in the food other people are eating is increasing - perhaps we are closer to starting solids than I thought. I did buy a high chair finally so she can join us at the table for dinner instead of hanging out in the exersaucer that we pull up next to my chair.

She continues to increase the variety of her chattering - dadadada is recognizable now. Her favorite times to 'talk' are in the van when Sam and Julia provide an audience.

She had her best night of sleep ever this week - Asleep by 7:00, woke to nurse at 4:10 and was back to sleep by 4:30. I had to wake her at 7:45 to get the kids to school on time. She spent the entire night in her own bed. The memorable part was that I was able to sleep seven hours in a row! She's been on a roll since we introduced the amber teething necklace, but I had a major deadline for work around that time and wasn't able to go to bed until one or two in the morning. I felt like a new woman once I got to reap the benefits of her new sleeping routine.

Something I wish I would have been recording each week is which diaper she's wearing. I've been trying very hard to make sure every diaper we have gets represented at least once in a weekly shoot. I think it would have been fun to look back at some day and remember the different stages of cloth diapering. We've come a long way since the newborn days.  So with a little less than five months to go before Elsa's 1st birthday, I'm going to jump in and share a couple of thoughts on the diaper and/or the cover - maybe it will be helpful for someone who's considering cloth or is looking for a different style. Heaven knows, there are soooo many to choose from!

Today's cover is a new one to us - An Econobum cover by Cotton Babies. I met someone at the Mall of America to buy different diapers (oh how I love Craigslist!) but when they offered me five of these for only $5 more I happily added them to my stash. I've been using them for a week with microfiber inserts, kissaluvs fitteds, totsbots fitteds, and not one leak. They are the cheapest option for a one size cover that I know of so I'm happy to have them as part of our rotation.

Here's one of my favorite shots of our little angel this week in an Econobum One Size Cover:

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I was inspired by Jessica's post and made my own version of angel wings. I added leftover feathers to a plain white headband with a white paper clip - obviously not something I'd let her wear for anything other than a few photos because of the small pieces.

Don't forget to enter my amber teething necklace giveaway by the 14th!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Beautiful Butterfly Snack

Julia and I share a love for creating. Yesterday I came home to find our house decorated in construction paper hearts just because she wanted to surprise me. So when I showed her this pin on Pinterest, she was so excited to make some for her preschool class.

We don't usually purchase Goldfish and we certainly never ever buy the colored ones, but they were just too perfect for butterfly wings to pass up. There is only 1/4 cup in each bag so it's not the end of the world.  

The steps are pretty self explanatory but I thought it might be helpful to share a couple of things we learned along the way as far as quantities of supplies. I have a feeling this is a snack we'll be seeing more of. Maybe with trail mix, carrots, grapes, or Chex mix in????

But this time, it's all about color.
1/2 cup of goldfish per sandwich bag is just about right. It's for a school snack, not a meal after all.

The big boxes of goldfish have ten serving (or 55 goldfish if you really want to know) which meant we were able to make 20 butterflies with 2 boxes. This was perfect for us since there are 19 kids in Julia's class and 2 teachers. One child is gluten free so we packed an apple for the teachers to cut up and put in the baggie and then attach to the clothes pin for him.

Step 1) paint the clothes pins. A sponge brush worked great - Julia did this all by herself.
Step 2) glue on the eyes
Step 3) cut pipe cleaners in half and then fold them to create antenae - another kid friendly job!
Step 4) Add 1/2 cup goldfish to baggies and seal
Step5) fold baggie in half and then carefully divide the goldfish in half

Step 6) Clip the baggie with the clothes pin and then the pipe cleaner.

Step 7) Enjoy!

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Alphabitty Moments - The Letter I is for,,.


I have a small folder of oldies but goodies on my laptop from when Sam was really young and thought this was the perfect one for Imitate.  He's got some pretty big shoes to fill if he wants to grow up to be like his daddy!

He's on his way though...He already loves to learn, remembers everything, loves to fish (and eat it!), loves to play baseball, camp, & loves us with his whole heart.

For more information on Alphabitty Moments click here. Feel free to leave a link to your post in the comments...

Elsa Louise at 31 Weeks

My dear sweet Miss Elsa - how is it that we are past the half way mark of your first year? It might have something to do with the fact that I get lost in those blue eyes and all that chub and the days slip right on by! You turned seven months old this week. If I had to guess you have maybe put on a half a pound since your six month visit. The only thing I've had to retire is your kissaluv contour diapers. I've had those diapers since your sister was six months old. But now we're moving on to new territory. Mommy is slowly grabbing hemp and bamboo diapers when I find a good deal on Craigslist. We're even venturing into the world of wool diaper covers and prefolds. I'll tell you all about it when you get older. :)

I started to teach you the sign for 'nurse' this week. It will be fun to see how quickly you catch on to it.

You made Mama so happy this week when you started reaching for your Daddy. You are a mama's girl but it warmed my heart to see you want to be with someone else and express it by reaching out.

Now that you are an expert sitter upper I can pop a yoga DVD in the DVD player and do 10-15 minutes of yoga while you play next to me. It's nice to know that all you need is for me to be close by, not always holding you. Don't get me wrong, I love to hold you. In fact I miss you at night now that you sleep in your crib. 

Tomorrow I will wake to see your smiling face and whisper yet another prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of you.

Love you baby girl,


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Amber Teething Necklace Review & Giveaway!

Contest is now closed

Congrats to Susan - chose you as the winner of a $25 gift card to Hazelaid!
Thanks to everyone who entered! Don't forget that you can receive 10% off your order by using the code 'cubs10' when you click on the pink button for Hazelaid on my right sidebar.

Back when Elsa was one month old I was given an amber teething necklace from the nice folks at Hazelaid. She wore it occasionally, but it wasn't until recently that the signs of teething meant it was time to bring the teething necklace out again for a more thorough review and boy am I glad I did! Elsa has not been a very good sleeper from about 4 months on. That means for the past three months I've been getting one 3-4 hour stretch of sleep a night if.I'm.lucky. Much of the time I'm nursing her back to sleep.

When the drool and the gnawing on her hands started in earnest I knew she had to be working on some teeth. Within 24 hours of wearing her necklace she was sleeping/falling back asleep on her own for 10 hours in a row. It has been two weeks now and she's still going strong with long stretches of sleep between feedings. I can put her down at 7pm and often don't need to feed her until 3am. She had been a good napper as well until the past month or so when she'd only sleep 20-45 minutes and then wake up crying. Darn teething again!  Now she consistently takes 1.5-3hour naps in her crib two times a day.  

I'd heard how amber can help with teething pain but now I've seen it first hand. But how does it work? I highly recommend reading more on the Hazelaid website but here's a snippet from their site:

Baltic amber is not a “stone” but a natural resin. As it warms with the body’s natural temperature, Baltic amber jewelry releases healing oils containing succinic acid which are absorbed into the skin and bloodstream.

Baltic Amber has some of the highest concentrations of succinic acid found in nature, and this is what makes it so special. Succinic acid is a natural component of plant and animal tissues, and its presence in the human body is beneficial in many ways.

Commonly known as "teething jewelry" in Europe, Baltic amber has been a natural remedy for pain relief for hundreds of years.

Amber is also known to reduce inflammation of the throat, ear and stomach and to fight irritation, infections and respiratory disease as it dramatically improves the body’s immunity.

Natural Baltic amber jewelry is a completely non-invasive remedy for side effects associated with teething, such as lack of appetite, redness in the cheeks, swollen gums, diaper rashes, upset tummies, earache, fevers and colds. Baltic amber is also a natural analgesic that will calm your child and is recognized by allopathic medicine specialists as antispasmodic and anti-fever. Many adults report improvement of arthritis discomfort and carpal tunnel pain in their hands when wearing amber on the wrists.  You can think of it as a natural Ibuprofen.

 It is meant to be worn against the skin and as you can see the 12 inch version that Elsa has still fits her despite my initial concern about her outgrowing it too fast. She wears it 24/7.

The clasp is strong and made with two plastic beads meant to match the amber. It blends in nicely don't you think? She doesn't even know it's there and has never reached up to grab at it even when she doesn't have a shirt over it.

Elsa and I (and hippo) are happy to announce that Hazelaid is giving a $25 gift card to one of my readers so you too can benefit from amber or Hazelwood! The good news is that if you don't win or don't want to wait for the winner to be announced, you can use the code Cubs10 to receive 10% off your order!  The giveaway is open to everyone, not just in the U.S.

How to enter:
Manditory: Become a public follower of my blog (at this address, not the old one)

Bonus entries:
1) visit and come back and tell me something you learned about their products
1) leave a comment telling me your favorite product Hazelaid sells.
1) Tweet about the giveaway
5) blog about the giveaway and leave the link to your post in the comments

Please leave a separate comment for each entry.  Giveaway closes on February 14th at 9pm central.  

Disclosure: Hazelaid sent me a necklace for the purpose of reviewing it, but all the opinions I've shared are 100% the real deal.

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

The weeks in wicker

* click on the image to make it larger *

We are past the half way mark with BabyBear's weekly basket photos so I thought it would be fun to do a collage with some of them. While I took pictures every single Friday from 8 weeks on, I wasn't always consistent with the angle I shot from. I'm glad I was able to find a few from when she was 2 days old, 6 days old, 4 weeks old, 6 weeks old, and then from there on I found my groove.

I love that the basket provides some perspective and for the most part, consistency. It was around 14 weeks that I began adding a hat that coordinated with her diaper cover.

It is my goal to do something with the photos for her 1st birthday celebration in July. It IS her golden birthday after all! I've already begun work on a Baby in a Basket book when I find a few minutes between making blog books and I bet you can guess what the letter W is going to be for Elsa's first Alphabitty Moment book (which will double as her baby book).

Do you take your child's photo with something every week/year? Do share!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Elsa Louise at 30 Weeks

Don't hate me but this week we experienced a complete 180. Elsa went from sleeping with me and eating every hour or two to:

awake every 45min- 1.5 hours but only fussed for 30 seconds before putting herself back to sleep after jabbering a bit to on January 22nd, sleeping in her crib from 7pm until she woke at 12pm but fell back asleep after a few seconds of making noise. Then she slept until 5am ate then slept with mommy until alarm woke us both right before 7am. This is huge progress and I'm happy to say that so far it isn't a fluke. She's still sleeping this well (and even better) over a week after I first started to write this update.

I'm excited to share what I believe to be the reason later this week. It involves a review of her amber teething necklace so I want to give it its own post. Stay tuned for that and a giveaway!

New in her 30th week:

* first babysitter - slept for three of the four hours but woke up happy and didn't cry for Wendy.

* napped on the 23rd for three hours in her crib.
* figured out how to put her pacifier in her mouth on her own.
* learned she's going to have a new cousin six weeks after her first birthday.

This whole thing sleeping thing could be a fluke. It could all change in an instant but so far so good! If this is the new path we are on I am so glad I can look back at those first six months of snuggling with my baby all night and know that is exactly where she belonged. She wasn't ready for her crib. I didn't force her. She did it when she was ready. I have no regrets about avoiding sleeping training at all costs.

Did I mention that Sam and Julia are already asking for another baby? Now Julia wants a baby brother
I simply remind them that Josie will have a baby brother or sister this summer and that they should be happy with the baby we already have. They just love her so much they want more! Can't say that I blame them. :)

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...