Top 10 of 2010

The Associated Press and pretty much every newspaper in the country will be running year-in-review stories this week. The top stories of 2010 here in Alabama include Auburn heading to the BCS national championship game the year after Alabama did the same and the race for governor. Nationwide it was health care and the Gulf oil spill.

But when you stay home, your world is much smaller. Here is our household's Top 10 for 2010 ...

Pretty Little Nest — Starting this blog in January was sort of a big deal for me. It's been a good creative outlet for writing and crafts and I love sharing pictures and stories of the boys with family and friends.

Broccoli  — Both boys will eat broccoli. Nothing fancy done to it, just steamed. Willingly. It boggles my mind. Here is the more amazing thing ... Now I eat broccoli too. I used to force a few bites for the kids' sake. After a few times, I stopped gagging. I eat more than a few bites. I told my mom and she wasn't sure I was her daughter.

The job front — Chris ends the year employed. There were talks of layoffs around March but enough folks took the buyouts for it not to come to that. We toyed with the idea of taking the buyout, buying an Airstream and touring the country while the boys were young ... but we're not that carefree. It's good to have a job these days.

Miata and Mustang (counts for two) — Chris bought his mid-life crisis in August and I sold my own mid-20s version to my uncle in October. Both guys are loving their toys. We should have sold the '65 years ago but it worked out well for it to stay in the family.

Maja moving — One of my closest mommy friends moved far, far away in December. We knew it was coming since the job offer was made earlier in the fall. I cried when she told me. I cried helping them pack the van. I cried the next day at drop-off and pickup at school because it was THE day they were moving. I'm not one for change. It takes a village and the village I have developed around myself and the boys has been pretty good. You are not suppose to use your friends, but I use mine to make me a better person. Maja was good influence on me in small and big ways. Will asked today when we were going to go visit and I know it's going to be sooner than later.

Enzo — We said goodbye to Enzo in November. He was a lovable mutt with the most beautiful brown eyes and unconditional love for everyone he met.

Behind the scenes — Some of my earliest memories start around age 4. Now that my oldest is that age, I wonder what memories Will is making right now that he will remember forever. Will he remember the nice volunteer taking him behind the scenes at the Georgia Aquarium, just him and daddy? I know Chris will remember it. That was a special day in November for both of them.

Penicillin — We didn't have allergies to worry about until Joseph came along. He's allergic to penicillin and learning that in February was rather scary for mommy and daddy. He looked awful covered in spots. The fact that they got a whole lot worse before getting better was no fun. But he was a champ, didn't bother him a bit. Left me a worried mess, but he was a champ.

The storm — This is probably the biggest story of our year. It certainly is my most-viewed post to date. The October event was all the neighbors talked about for weeks. We're still working on fixing the damage and we don't even have an entire house to rebuild like Mavis and Shea. It's one of those things we'll remember for a long time.


Top books of 2010

I thought I would share some of our favorite books of the past year. These are the ones that we read over and over and over again.

"Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs" by Judi Barrett — This was a favorite of mine growing up. Reading it again and again must be pay back for making my Mom do the same thing. Will knows many of the pages by heart and can "read" along. Daddy is the top choice to read it because he changes the words around ... the silliness keeps it fresh for Will.

"Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy" by David Soman and Jacky Davis — This arrived in our mailbox from the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in March. It's a wonderful FREE program that delivers age-appropriate books to both boys monthly from birth to age 5. Check the Web site to see if your area participates. While not all the books become favorites, they are all quality books that I see again and again on the local bookstores' shelves. "The Snowy Day" by Ezra Jack Keats showed up this December. I'm glad I didn't buy it when it was in my hand recently.

"Cool Cars and Trucks" by Sean Kenney, a LEGO certified professional. It's a book of LEGO scenes with instructions on how to build them. Santa brought it last Christmas. Will paged through it again and again, quietly in his room. That's the best kind of book for momma! Thoughtfully Santa this year brought Kenney's latest, "Cool Robots."

While Will favors a few books at a time, I can usually talk him into something new to give Mom a break. Joseph though is at the age where repetition is key so we read the same books over and over and over. His favorites for the year were "Big Red Barn," "Goodnight Gorilla," "Big Dog," and "Good Dog Carl." If he is really sleepy, I can sneak in a new read.

For Christmas, Santa brought "Cats A to Z" from the fine folks at Stuff on My Cat. Mommy made a special request from Santa after Joseph loved, loved, loved the book from the library (I find the library a great way to try out books on the boys before shelling out dough). He laughs and laughs at the silly cats. Santa also brought "I Took the Moon for a Walk" by Carolyn Curtis. The illustrations are by Alison Jay who is quickly becoming one of my favorites.

Besides the LEGO book, Santa brought Will the hilarious "365 Penguins" by Jean-Luc Fromental and Joelle Jolivet and "In the Town All Year 'Round" by Rotraut Susanne Berner. I can't wait to see if they become favorites in 2011.

Favorites of you or your children in 2010? Page turners for 2011? Please share.


Really, it's the end of the year?

Where did the time go?! I can't believe that it's time to start writing things on the January sheet of the calendar. But yesterday I had a small panic attack because I don't have a January sheet!

I love big desk calendars because there are large squares to write down to-dos and the boys' antics. Closest I get to a scrapbook/diary/journal. The last one I got was an 18-month calendar so it's been awhile since I've had to think about buying one. Until I looked under December and decided I best get to the store ASAP.

My calendar is one of the most important things in the house. Without it and the to-do list, I would forget everything. Chris has tried to get me to use Google calendar but seeing things on the screen is just not the same for me as seeing them in ink.

Here are some links to free calendars for the New Year. May it be filled with good things for all of us.

Skip to My Lou has a roundup of calendars including the owl lover calendar I shared about here.

Chez Beeper Bebe made a calendar for readers featuring her very cool projects from the past year. Nice quirky photographs to brighten your day.

This beauty is free from Alice Cantrell. I know, I didn't believe it either.

Amy Locurto has two free calendars featuring her photography ... one with roses, the other horses.

Here's a free Calendar of the Month club featuring a new paper craft each month to cut and paste. Found via How About Orange.

Ez shares her own nature-inspired watercolor calendar free on Creature Comforts. Very pretty pictures.

Okay these are not free, but Paper Crave has an eight-part series on all the creative calendar options one can find when you look past the mall pop-up store ... Start with Part One.

Got an iPhone ... here is a free calendar for it from Ollibird. 

Also, here are two calendar/planning options for keeping track of future blog topics: One from Living Locurto and the other from Perideau Designs


White Christmas!

Birmingham saw an amazing site Christmas Day ... SNOW! I wasn't happy earlier in the week when the weatherman started throwing the s-word around. Will was already excited enough that I didn't need one more thing to send him bouncing against the walls. Then Chris said the report changed, no snow. Then, less than 12 hours later the snow was back on and this time it was all but guaranteed. However, when it comes to snow in the South, seeing is believing. 

Even more amazing, it snowed off and on through the night. Then snowed most of the morning. Much did not stick to the ground but it was enough to have a decent snowball flight. Joseph loved it and had to be dragged into the house when his clothes got too wet. 

Now, the National Weather Service does not count our Christmas snow as a true "White Christmas" event. I beg to differ. That's my lawn. That is snow. It is Christmas. Very cool!


Merry Christmas!

I hope Santa brought you everything you wanted!


Run, run as fast as you can

All of my aunts and my lone uncle are super-talented people. My Uncle Bill can make anything you dream up out of wood. My Aunt Lenora makes perfect roman shades. Both my mom and Aunt Ruth sew, sew, sew as well. But Aunt Catherine paints. And every year since 1993, she has made ornaments for the family. If I had the room, I would have one tree dedicated to just her ornaments. I think last year she estimated she's painted around 200 designs. Because we don't all get the same ornament. So I look forward each holiday to seeing our ornament and now to seeing the boys' ornaments too.

I'm impressed every year and well, I hope you don't mind me bragging a bit about her talents. 

This year Aunt Catherine made a gingerbread man for each boy. And she brought her special copy of "Richard Scarry's The Gingerbread Man" to read to them. It is now officially on loan to us until grandchildren arrive. See the little gingerbread boy tucked into the apron on my ornament? I'm the Gingerbread Mom. And my mom's ornament was similar so she's the Gingerbread Grandma.

If I had to name a favorite Catherine ornament, this one from last year would probably be it. Especially since it was Joseph's first Christmas and he's the snowbaby. Above is Will's ornament from 2007. And you can see a small snowman face peaking at the bottom I think from 2006.

Thanks for letting me brag. Now to hang the new ornaments on the tree ...


The house that Will built

Sick of hearing how wonderful our library is? Tough. Because they are a big part of our annual Christmas traditions. Sadly, we missed making the handprint wreaths this year because we were out of town. Last year's wreaths get to hang over the mantle twice.

We did not miss decorating gingerbread houses. Heaven forbid we miss decorating the gingerbread houses since Will only asked a million times when we would be decorating gingerbread houses at the library.

It takes a lot of concentration to build a gingerbread house. And you need a dedicated co-worker to (taste) test the materials for you.

More building ...

More tasting ...

The house that Will built. Notice the marshmallow rocks crushing the gingerbread men. And the man trapped on the roof.

Things are much happier next door at momma's.


Give me a C!

I made these initial ornaments last week for some little ones attending a party. These are easy peasy. No really, with minimal skill. I think they would be great as gift tags too. You could put a sticker on the back with to/from or if you have time, stitch it. 

Totally inspired by this ... totally!

Homemade by Jill made this amazing advent calendar with ornaments. As soon as I saw her name ornaments, I knew I had to make some. I will still try her design but I didn't have time to stitch names so modified my ornaments to one initial. 

Basic idea: Cut two circles out of felt, about 2 inch diameter. I drew a third circle on contrasting felt, then drew the initial inside freehand so I knew it would fit. Attach initial to one felt circle using whatever stitch you want. Then blanket stitch the two felt circles together. I didn't pull one of the stitches tight to make the loop, and then continued stitching but I'm sure there is a better way to make the hanger. 

Heading out in the snow flurries* to make gingerbread houses at the library, an annual tradition. 

*Folks with real snow would laugh at our pitiful flakes. But we'll take what we can get. 


A merry (printed) Christmas

Blooming Holiday at The Long Thread

Blooming Holiday (pictured above) gift tags and wine bottle hangers/The Long Thread

Typographic gift tags/Eat Drink Chic

DIY Downloads for gifting (hang tags and recipe cards) and entertaining (place cards, menus)/West Elm

Whimsical creatures gift tags (several collections)/Camilla Engman

Free holiday printables roundup/Tatertots and Jello

Keep On series at Craftily Ever After

Keep on holiday prints (pictured above)/Craftily Ever After

Christmas candy pillow box/IS*LY 

Living Locurto has a roundup of 12 free printables

Topping that, Paper Crave offers free holiday gift tags plus a roundup with 22 free printables.

Holiday gift tags (the Santa belt is my favorite)/Whisker Graphics

Cute reindeer to make/Eat Drink Chic

No peeking ornament tags/Simply Modern Mom (from Paper Crave)

Holiday gift tags/Blush Printables

Two offerings from Weelife here and here (via How About Orange)

Wine bottle hangers and gift tags with a Victorian flair/Kind Over Matter

A nutcracker for Will/Design.Wash.Rinse.Repeat

Free cards and stuff/Love vs. Design (via Paper Crave)

Gift tags (Walgreens and Target have to pay but you get her work free)/Orange You Lucky

Classic woodland holiday tags in three color choices/Creature Comforts
That is just one example from the amazing selection of free holiday printables. Look around.**

If you got Martha's December issue, you saw the holiday tag goodness on pages 87-94. Most are available for download from the magazine's Web site.

This is just a small sampling of the free holiday printables out there. Please share in the comments what you have created or seen on the Web. I'll update this post as I see more.*

*Updated 12/15 and 12/23

** Ez at Creature Comforts now (12/23) has posted a holiday tag roundup featuring 15 folks, some I've featured but most are new. And she has some new tags from her. And these too-cool candy bar wrappers. And this big bow


Handmade Christmas

This Christmas, I signed up for the Handmade Gift Exchange hosted by Craftaholics Anonymous. I really had fun crafting for a total stranger. And then getting a package in the mail just for me was fun.

Here's what I got ...

A personalized notebook and Christmas countdown calendar all the way from Utah. You can't tell from the picture but the pen matches the notebook. How cool that Krista took the pen apart, added the paper and then reassembled it! 

Here's what I sent ...

Of course I had to send an owl ornament plus a felt brooch and what I'm calling the momma bird necklace. One egg to represent Krista's little boy. 

Thank you Krista! I hope you enjoyed your package too!


Random Thoughts

I occasionally write down blog post ideas on random to-do lists. Every now and then I'll find an old list and think, "oh yeah, I should write about that."

(I should really just print out a bunch of these. Or use the notebook I set aside for blog-related musings.)

I was going to share this picture in October, but then the storm of the century hit and all blogging non-storm related was postponed. Sloss Furnaces hosts an annual fall festival in October full of games and craft activities for the kids. This is what I've dubbed the Snot Monster and each year it's been Will's favorite thing. When you go up to the monster, it sends silly string and candy out its nose. For a 4-year-old, this is the height of entertainment!

This is a picture of my 1965 Mustang. Actually, it's a picture of what used to be my Mustang driving away. Yes, MY Mustang and not Chris. Chris helped me find it but it was my daily driver for a few years way before the kids arrived. We toyed with the idea of selling the car for a few years but then we would take her for a spin and think next year we'll get the shocks fixed or body painted. But we finally admitted that she needed more care than we could give and my uncle was looking for a project. He came to pick up the car in October. At least the car stayed in the family and I'll get to visit her at Christmas. 

More from October. One day Will asked if we could build a trebuchet. Stupidly I said sure. I found instructions for a paper model, printed out the parts and quickly starting cussing up a storm. Be warned, the instructions are rather loose. I had to make some of it up as I went along. Will helped cut some of the pieces out but it really was a mommy job. Then I thought about making it a daddy job but by golly I was going to finish it myself if it was the last thing I did. It took weeks because there was one part I couldn't figure out but finally got it. It worked okay. We did throw a grape seven feet. With tweaking, it could work better. Find the instructions here (you can also download it here).

I'm just including this picture because I love it. That's me and the boys at the Georgia Aquarium in November. It is truly is an amazing place. Both boys enjoyed the visit. It was Joseph's first trip. He loved watching the fish but his favorite part was talking to the penguins. Will got a special behind the scenes tour from one of the volunteers just because she liked his questions. My curious boy always has a million questions! (The volunteer told us that each day a different volunteer is allowed to take whoever they want behind the scenes. What a special treat! Usually you have to pay for such a tour.) FYI, if you are planning a trip with kids, be sure to ask about the Mommy and Me ticket. It's a great deal and includes parking. 


Who who loves Christmas?

I always buy the Martha Stewart Holiday special edition. Always. This year, I also purchased the Woman's Day Best Ideas for Christmas special edition. Mostly because several people I read were featured in the Make it Simple section. Yea them!

Flipping through I found lots of other inspiration for the holidays. Once I saw the owl on page 56, I knew I had to make some. Originally, I planned to make a garland for the mantle to decorate for Thanksgiving. But I blew that deadline. Now, they'll be ornaments and gift tags for special folks. Chris dubbed them Christmas owls anyway.

I took this ...

And turned it into ...

I'd link to the instructions but Woman's Day has not posted them. It's pretty cut and dry. I didn't use the template in the magazine but free-handed all the cuts. I used a hot glue gun to attach the felt pieces to burlap. Finished product seemed a little flimsy so I glued another oval of burlap to the back, putting ribbon between the layers to make a hanger. 

Would you like one? Make a comment by Friday and I'll send out three randomly. 

handmade projects


Christmastime is here

Do you do an Advent calendar? I find that it's one way to stem the tide of "Is it Christmas yet?" and "When is Santa coming?" Time is a hard concept to learn so having something to touch is helpful for the kids.

This year I wanted to make a Advent calendar beyond the paper chain/paper windows (though we have three paper window versions that will also be enjoyed.) There are so many good ideas out there. Here's what I've seen:

Kelly of Design Crush featured this one from Etsy in her Advent calendar roundup. It sold but you can certainly find all kinds of box templates online for free. Just print, fold and fill. 

The Crafty Crow did an amazing Advent calendar roundup. I especially liked above from Fuse Interiors and below from Craftastica.

Kodak has the template and instructions for making an advent calendar with your own pictures. Would be nice to do if you are traveling to see distant relatives that your kids may not know/remember from last year. Each day when you open a window you could talk about that person. 

Jill at Homemade by Jill is making this amazing tree. Each day her children will be able to hang a felt ornament on the buttons. I find her so super impressive!

I saw these fun trees in the Woman's Day Best Ideas for Christmas special issue. (Got it and Martha's Holiday special issue. Good stuff.) I think they would look great on my mantle and treats would be easy to hide underneath. Woman's Day asked several well-known internet crafters to contribute ...  ChezBeeperBebe may be my new favorite Web site. 

At some point I considered making any one of the calendars featured here. 
Do you wonder which one I decided to make?

A string of lights! Found on Elsie Marley. I only have two sockets made so I best get to work!

One scoop or two?

Here's a picture of last night's sunset. 
Doesn't it look like Neapolitan ice cream? See the three layers?
(Finding the beauty in the everyday things keeps me sane.) 

Happy weekend!


Look what I have

Ordinary wine bottle or the devil's work? Work of art that sells for big bucks or a young lady up to no good? We live in the Bible Belt. You can't do much here that someone doesn't find immoral. And that label right there was deemed immoral and outright banned in the state of Alabama last year.

I immediately wanted one. Had folks scouting for it in Georgia and Tennessee. Wanted a case to hand out as Christmas gifts. My search did not yield results and I forgot about it.

Last weekend we took an end-of-year trip to Atlanta to visit a good friend and see the fishes. We always hit our favorite liquor store during trips over. This wine is not the only thing they don't sell in Alabama. In fact, there is a good bit of good quality beer we can't get due to state laws. But as we were on the road on the way home, I off-handedly mentioned that Chris should have looked for the wine. His sweet reply, "There's one in the back." 


All dogs are good dogs

Enzo Tutor 


Yes, that's a word

Will, playing with the letters on the fridge: Is this a word? O-L-E-H-S-L

Me: If you move them around, it spells H-O-L-E.

Will: What if I add this? A H-O-L-E

Me: No that's not a word (that you are allowed to use yet *smirk giggle*)

Today's post brought to you by the letter M for maturity (hehe)


Falling leaves

I have a ton of burlap. No really, more burlap than is normal. Being that our wedding was a very DIY affair six years ago, we bought burlap to make tablecloths instead of renting them. Thanks again Mom for making them! And for making the curtains that now grace the living room and dining room windows. I was having a tough time convincing Chris that burlap curtains were very chic until I showed him several high-end store displays.

I keep seeing craft after craft on the Web featuring burlap so I got Mom to bring me what was left of the burlap the last time she visited. First time I reached in, I pulled out a length of burlap that was just the right length for a table runner. While that was not the project I planned to do that day, it quickly became the next project on the list.

After the storm of the century, we had a ton of leaves everywhere. So I gathered some, slapped a lot of paint on them and voila ...

(Note burlap curtains in back)

I had asked if Will wanted to help and he said no. So I spent a very enjoyable Thursday night watching TV and crafting by myself. Very enjoyable. I realized that not every craft has to involve the boys — mommy can have her own fun too. 

What I learned from this project: 1. Yellow paint doesn't show up well on burlap. I mixed up orange instead. 2. You have to really, really layer the paint on the leaves. They seem to suck it up quick. 3. You really have to press the leaves hard for a good imprint. 4. Cutting burlap is no fun. Here's the secret.

Here's another project from the wedding ... I was going to share it in a different post but it fits today's fall theme. 

For wedding favors, we (we being several friends, we made an afternoon of it) wrapped three different candies — orange M&Ms, orange jelly beans and orange mellowcreme pumpkins — in plastic wrap and orange tulle, wrapped the stem in floral tap and added a leaf.  I think they turned out very cute. These particular pumpkins still reside in the fridge. Didn't really mean to keep them so long ...

I also linked up to