Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ten Favorite Things from 2011

It's New Year's Eve! I'm sitting here enjoying the silence in the house (my sister's family left about an hour ago and my parents are out grocery shopping) and talking to my dear husband over the phone. It's amazing how much noise five adults and three children can make in 24 hours! We had a super-fun visit, though, and I'm happy to say that the kiddos and I definitely flexed our creative muscles this morning, creating a "pond" for the little green beanbag frog my nephew dug out of my boxes of work supplies. I did remember to take a few pictures of the project in progress and finished, but those will have to wait until next year (eek!), as right now it's time for my second annual Ten Favorite Things list for the year! You may remember from last year that I choose to list these things in no particular order of importance or favorite-ness.

1. Pinterest, definitely my favorite new web site of 2011. How did we
live before Pinterest?!? You may recall that last year the first thing I listed was Dancer Kilts, a web site about Scottish Highland Dance tartans that I researched and designed? Well, brace yourself: Pinterest has completely revolutionized my methods of organization for this site! Look me up if you're on there already - drop me an email if you want an invitation to join Pinterest!

2. My sewing machine, a Singer 2932, was actually purchased a couple of years ago, but I feel like our relationship really came into its own in 2011. Part of it has been my skills on the machine catching up to my hand-sewing skills, part of it has been the inspiration to sew more (especially clothes for myself up here in the "frozen North"), and part of it has been having my own room, with the freedom to leave a project out until I have a chance to finish it, rather than having to put away all of my sewing things at the end of the day in the interest of keeping our shared space functional. I'm definitely looking forward to more sewing in 2012!

3. Leggings have become an integral part of my wardrobe up here in Or
egon. It definitely helped with making my Texas (read: warm weather-appropriate) dresses work in the fall and has inspired much layering and sewing of layer-able clothing. And they're sooo comfortable, to boot!

I do not look nearly this cute in my leggings :-)

4. Most of you probably don't know that I gave in and traded in my dying, 3-year-old cell phone for my first smart phone back in May. As I predicted, my Blackberry Torch (or Cracky, as I like to call it) has revolutionized my life, but not in the negative ways I was concerned about. It has been especially useful for work and it's nice to have a reliable way to contact my husband and son 24/7. Plus, the combination touch screen and slide-out keyboard is *perfect* for me!

5. A cross-country road trip again made the list this year! Whereas last year's road trip was unexpected, unplanned, and involved driving from Texas to Oregon and back again in barely more than a week, this year's one-way trip was part of our move from Texas to Oregon & Washington. Also, this year, my dear husband did 100% of the driving - impressive!

Heading West

6. One of the best things about being in the Pacific Northwest right now is that I can see my *mountains* almost every day! Weather permitting, of course ;-) Mt. Hoo
d makes me feel right at home here in Portland, while Mt. Rainier brings back memories of college when I'm in Tacoma with the boys.

Mt. Hood over downtown Portland - swoon!

7. Dates with my husband have taken on a new significance in the last six months of 2011, since we're living in different states again. I have two favorites: first, in October, when I was able to surprise him with a trip to Oktoberfest at Oaks Amusement Park (classic Portland!) and then, just this month, when we had a romantic anniversary dinner for three (Monkey on board!) at The Old Spaghetti Factory, another Portland institution. Love it!

The Ferris wheel at Oaks Amusement Park

8. You probably already know about my love for all things laminated (not only do they last, you can *sanitize* them! Very important when you work with kiddos), bu
t did you know that this year my mother-in-law gifted my husband with a personal laminator? Being an elementary school teacher, he also knows the value of laminating materials and was spending a pretty penny most weekends at our local Kinkos. I helped my MIL order the YourStory 375100 Book Binder and Laminator via Amazon on Cyber Monday and scored not only free shipping, but also a half price deal, which led to her ordering TWO laminators - one to keep in Tacoma and one to keep in Portland! I will help my husband by using the Portland one enough that it stays in working condition, of course ;-)

9. My new job was definitely worth moving for, even if it means we had to leave our beloved Texas. The work feels right to me - meaningful, enjoyable, and I seem to be good at it. If it hadn't involved a 1/3 cut in my pay, compared to what I was making in Texas, I would deem this the perfect job!

This is what office supplies look like where I work

10. The opportunity to live with my dad and my step-mom, with whom I never lived as a child. My parents got divorced when I was 5. Who would have thought, at the ripe old age of 30, I would have a "second chance", of sorts, to experience a home life with my dad and step-mom? I am blessed beyond measure that they have welcomed me into their home as
a renter-daughter-squatter, as well as my boys when they come to visit. Every day I learn more about these two amazing people and our relationships continue to grow and deepen. How lucky am I?

Did I mention my dad is also an amazing chef?

What people/places/things/ideas really stand out to you from 2011?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Some Bodies are Sleeping in MY Bed

Well, not in MY bed, so much as my sleeper sofa, the sleeper sofa in the other daylight basement room, and even the little loveseat in there (that's how to tuck away a teeny-tiny, 3-year-old niece). That's right, my sister and her family are spending the night tonight, in visiting from Seattle! We enjoyed some take-out Thai with our Dad for dinner, played with the kiddos for a while, then had some great grown-up conversation time after they were down for the count. I couldn't risk taking a photo of them sleeping, in case the flash woke them up, so you'll just have to imagine the 3-year-old spooning with her 7-year-old sister - precious! Remind me of moments like these the next time I'm whining about being homesick for Texas, okay?

Many bloggers whom I follow have been posting about the upcoming New Year's weekend, of course, as well as their goals and resolutions for 2012. Several mentioned finding key words or phrases by which to shape the start of the new year. I have been ruminating on this for a few weeks, not willing to settle on simply "lose weight" or even "take better care of myself" - though those are immediately applicable objectives after this stressful, sick-filled year of 2011. I want to think bigger picture. The word with which I choose to approach 2012 is INTENTION.

That's all I'm saying about it for now. Still needs a few more days to rattle around my brain before any goals and objectives come out (why yes, I AM a behavioral scientist by trade, however did you know?!? LOL). In the meantime, I hope you all enjoy a happy, healthy, safe yet exciting New Year's Eve celebration with people you love this weekend. One more day to end 2011 right!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Quick Post About a Quick Project

All of my friends who are giving birth this year seem to be creating boys. While I'm a big fan of boys (let's be honest, being a boy mom is AWESOME!), I haven't had any cause to sew ruffles on baby clothes at ALL this year. Okay, yes, so I'm being slightly melodramatic, but let's be honest: while boys are super-fun to raise, girl clothes are generally more interesting to create. There! You know my gender biases now!

Anyhow, this week I was inspired to try a no-fastener baby shirt for one of my colleagues' newish (born around Thanksgiving) baby boy. Since his daddy has a good, Scottish surname and I have loads of Highland dance-related remnants, I decided to give it a shot using a lovely, soft, white jersey knit for the shirt and with tartan, woolen trim. What do you think?

The deep v-neck on the front ensures that you can pull the shirt over McBaby's head without any kind of fasteners required. Since he's not quite old enough for his first kilt, this McShirt will have to keep him tartan-happy for a few months.

I found a free pattern for a lovely no button shirt in size 3-6 months on Suzy's site, voor nop (originally in Dutch). Suzy has many more free patterns posted for simple baby clothes, as well. You can see an overview here. This was a great, simple project, that only took a few hours from pattern pinning to finishing the last hems. I can't wait to see how it looks on little McBaby!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Aprons for the Nieces & Nephew

So, good news: I have officially completed all birthday presents for my sister's 3 kiddos for 2012 - yes! The bad news is that I can't share pictures with you until the gifts have been given. However, seeing as how their birthdays are in January, March, and May, you don't have all that long to wait. In the meantime, how would you like to see the Christmas presents Monkey Boy and I made for them?

I wanted to make something simple, something we could make for both the 2 nieces and the nephew, something useful, and something that Monkey could help me design & execute. The answer? Personalized aprons, perfect for crafting or cooking! Plus, they're reversible, so different moods can be accompanied by a totally different apron look. Here is Monkey modeling Z's (and in case you're curious, that's what my room looks like after a weekend of Monkey visiting). One side of her apron features white flowers on a purple satin background, cut from upcycled pajama pants!

Next, Monkey grins as he shows off cousin J's apron - very appropriate color choices for a boy, yes? I can't take credit for that, it was all Monkey. Did you notice I hadn't sewn the bottom seam yet?

Finally, there is little E's apron. Since she's the youngest and the smallest (almost 4), we decided to make her apron a little mini compared to the others, so it won't overwhelm her in length. Monkey chose navy twill for this side, with a pretty sky blue for the monogram. See that half-mangled Safeway bag next to Monkey in the photo? You may have missed it, perhaps distracted by his Zoolander pose...anyhow, that bag is not mere clutter or recycling gone awry! We use a paper grocery sack to create the pattern for the aprons. Monkey also cut out a rectangle from a grocery sack to use as a template for the pockets. Finally, I showed him how to make block letters and he then drew large ones onto a grocery sack, which I was able to cut out, flip over and trace onto the material Monkey selected to put his cousins' initials on their aprons. Always good to label semi-matching gifts for families with multiple children, right?

I couldn't keep Monkey still enough to get modeled photos of the finished products, but here are some flat pictures so you can see how they turned out. I used various colors of thick ribbon, hanging out in my sewing box from previous projects, to make a large loop at the top of each apron and two tie straps on the sides. Originally, I was going to make them with velcro ties, but figured the ribbons would keep them adjustable as the kids grew.

I'm happy to report that the aprons were a hit, as well as amused to report that once my sister put the packages under the tree, the kiddos were so excited that they harassed her continuously until she finally gave in and let them open the aprons about a week before Christmas. Hilarious!

Want some more inspiration for making child-sized aprons?

I loved the Montessori By Hand original pattern for the Montessori Child's Apron. Meg at sew liberated posts all kinds of amazing patterns, so make sure to bookmark her blog!

How about the Classic Reversible Apron prepared by Joanna Armour at Stardust Shoes? Joanna has beautiful pictures on her blog and I love that she posts about the winter doldrums that are so easy to get here in the Pacific Northwest.

For something in an adult size, try the Simple Apron Tutorial, posted by Cindy at Skip To My Lou. Although she looks waaay too young to have three kids, the oldest of which is 17(!), Cindy posts wonderful craft tutorials and ideas for special celebrations.

Happy crafting! Please link up pictures if you make some aprons of your own - I'd love to see them!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Four Corners, One God

Christmas, to me, has always been about the music. Well, church in general. God is in the music, as far as I'm concerned, in the music and in nature. So to find God within a beautiful church or cathedral, I have to find Him through the music.

Have you heard the Quempas Carol? When I think of Christmas music, this is the carol that best shows me God, the carol that we grew up singing every year.

This example is the original version, by Michael Praetorius, in Latin. We grew up singing this carol in English, however, a version arranged by David Cherwien and published by MorningStar Music. Try listening and reading this translation, simultaneously:

He whom shepherds once came praising,
Awed by heavenly light ablazing,
Cheered by angel news amazing:
"King of glory, Christ is born!"

These four stanzas were sung by the children's choir. We would be split into four groups and post at the four corners of our big, beautiful sanctuary. Wearing our musty blue robes, carrying lit candles and a little strip of paper with the words of all three verses of our stanza on it, we turned to the congregation and sang. The organ accompanied us from the choir loft. The four corners were lit up with our young voices, with the words of good news, with our energy, with the face of God shining through us. Christmas is about a baby, a young child, and here we were, reminding the congregation of that through our youth.

The adult choir took over on the next part:

The glorious angels came today,
Aglow with light into the night of darkness deep,

And the entire congregation would join in, shaking the soaring ceiling beams (or so it seemed to an 8-year-old me), with:

God's own Son is born a child, is born a child;
God the Father is reconciled, is reconciled!

While the adults sang, it was our job to process, slowly, in a clockwise fashion, to the next corner of the sanctuary. The side-to-side shift was fairly straightforward. At the front of the sanctuary, try not to giggle. At the back of the sanctuary, exit the door into the vestibule, giggle as you dashed across, then compose yourself before entering the door on the other side, back into the sanctuary. The back-to-front/front-to-back legs were a little more treacherous, however. Remember those lit candles? Not only did you have to process steadily, yet decorously, it was also important to protect that little flame from drafts so that your candle would still illuminate your face (and your strip of paper) at the next corner. That, and the walk was about three times as long lengthwise in the sanctuary. Phew!

We would sing the second verse, one stanza from each group of children at the four corners of the church, and then it was off again, on the slowest race in the world, to the next corner, meant to represent a corner of the world as a whole. Keeping our eyes on our candle flames, trying to look serious, trying not to trip over our own feet, and keep one eye fixed on the group across the church from us, making sure that we were all moving at more or less the same pace. It took all of our childlike focus to do this properly, but it was important. It still is important, to me. This is how I found God, as a child. This is how I connect with Him, this is a large part of our relationship. The devil may be in the details, but God is in the music. Soli deo gloria.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas/Birthday Memories Past

I was looking through some old photos this evening and happened upon a pictures of my husband and Monkey Boy back when he was teeny-tiny. Well, teeny-tiny for him (you remember that he was nearly 11 lbs at birth, right?). They were posed in front of a Christmas tree and my husband still wore his wedding ring (that lasted about 6 weeks after we got married...but that's a story for another day!). It got me thinking about what other memories of Christmas past might be lurking in this photo box. Remember, back in the days before digital cameras, when photos were nearly always posed and most often seemed to happen on special occasions? I came upon a few good ones my first time through, most with me and my older sister, my first friend, my lifelong confidant, my battle partner, my fellow witness to both the joys and atrocities of our childhood. We are adults now, both in our 30s, both married, both mothers (though she has 3 children to my 1!) - our friendship is different than it was when we were children, but our love, if anything, has only grown stronger.

She is 26 months older than me and her birthday is right before Christmas. It's today, actually - December 22nd. Since my birthday is on Valentine's Day, I grew up thinking that everyone had their birthday on or just before a holiday. How sad, I thought, not to have what seemed like the whole world celebrate with you. That's me on the left there, above, posing for a picture with our brand-new dolls after my sister's birthday party. I wasn't really into dolls, honestly, babies have always been more her department, but I wanted whatever she had so I could be just like her. Much to her chagrin, of course, especially as we grew older.

These are Christmas-time photos as well, believe it or not. When we first moved to the US, my father had a job in the coastal Oregon town of Lincoln City and our house was right on the beach. Here, my sister and I are taking our bears "sledding" in the "snow" in our backyard - we had just moved from Switzerland, I guess old habits are hard to break?

One of our parents somehow got us to pause long enough to pose for this second photo, although, apparently, my sister was really worried about her panda bear. This is probably about a year before my parents split up, definitely before I knew there was anything wrong. I thought it was normal for parents to yell in the kitchen after you were tucked into bed at night, what seemed like every night. My strongest memories of this age are the living room of this house, legs/knees of adults, shadows on the ceiling in my bedroom, and my parents yelling. I don't think my mom hit us then, I think she was still taking out her anger on our dad. It wasn't until after he left that we became her targets. Well, I say we, but my sister did everything she could to put the blame on herself for anything that went wrong. She did the best she could. She protected me. She kept me safe. She reminded me that we wouldn't be trapped in that house forever. She is my first and oldest friend, she is my only witness, my only battle companion.

I love you, Kadie <3

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas, New Years, No Break - Oh My!

2011 has been a year of many changes for me and my family. One especially interesting change for me, personally? This is the first time in my adult life, really since I started preschool a good 26 years ago, that I have not functioned primarily on an academic calendar. Preschool, Kindergarten, grade school, middle school, high school, college, grad school, working for a school district - 26 years of academia included 26 years of winter breaks (well, they were still Christmas breaks when I started!), spring breaks, summer breaks...I didn't know how good I had it, that's for sure.

So now I have a "big girl" job - aka non-academic, management position - and that means no more academic calendar. Very confusing to my brain and body, which are used to pushing themselves hard for a limited amount of time, then having a week or more off to recover before jumping back in again. I'm still trying to figure out how to gauge my use of energy at work when there are no pauses on the horizon. Sigh. Today marks Day 13 of the great viral bronchitis of 2011 ( it will be known in my biography. You know, the one that will be written after I am famous and dead) so self-care is definitely on my mind. Clearly, I haven't gotten the hang of it with my new job and new living situation yet.

I love the picture above, clipped from some magazine back when i was a teenager. I've always been a bit of a magazine freak, it's true - thank goodness for the advent of the internet and scanners so I can keep all those images without physically keeping little pieces of paper from decades ago! I think it actually depicts a scene from a play, but to me it always looks like a snapshot from someone's fabulous New Year's Eve party. How do you celebrate that particular holiday? Honestly, for the past few years, I've either watched the ball drop on TV with my son or we've gone to bed as usual. My husband generally goes to church for what's known as Watch Night Service. As far as I can tell, it consists of praise/worship to usher in the new year, followed by a big pancake breakfast. I'm not sure I can handle pancakes in the middle of the night but hey, if it works for you, go with it. Personally, I'm getting too old and tired to pull an all nighter, even with the promise of pancakes to get me through it. Oh well, at least I'm becoming a more interesting person as I age, even if I am less flexible in my sleep/wake cycles!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Germs are Flowing

So I've been sick for a little over a week now. Viral bronchitis. And no, this is not going to be one of those pity party pony rides (as my adorable friend Yoga Girl would say) - just wanted to put it out there that, despite feel pretty yucky physically, I'm working on feeling pretty awesome otherwise. It's sort of a new thing for me. I find it even more personally impressive when considering that it is 4:30 in the morning and I've been up for a couple hours - did I mention that my sweet husband has some kind of nasty stomach flu that has resulted in a solid 24 hours of fever, diarrhea, and vomiting? Poor guy. It was pretty adorable hearing about how Monkey Boy "took care of Daddy" while I was at work yesterday, though. I told him to call me in case of an emergency or if he just needed to talk. He called me twice. Call #1 went something like this:

Me - "Hello?"

Monkey - "Mommy? The cream cheese? Does it need to go back in the fridge when my bagel is cream cheesed?"

Me - "Yup. That would definitely be a good plan."

Definitely a child wise beyond his year. Call #2 almost gave me the hiccups, I was laughing so hard:

Me - "Hello?"

Monkey - "Mommy? If Daddy wakes up? Can I let him out of bed, or do I need to keep him in bed?"

Did I mention that Daddy has about 200 pounds on Monkey? I
pictured Daddy, feverish and cranky, covered in blankets, attempting to get out of bed as Monkey flung himself across his arm and attempted to "keep him in bed". Ha. It was definitely an amusing mental image.

So I'm proud of myself for trying to be positive and I'm proud of myself for emailing my boss a little while back and asking her to take the morning off. It's hard for me to take time off and get nothing done at home or work, but I'm going to do it. Let the sleeping and snozzing begin! Well, continue ;-)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Made Up for Monkey

I'm trolling the internet for inspiration on how to make a scarf that looks like the cartoon cheetahs from the Wild Kratts web site for Monkey's Christmas present. While up in Tacoma visiting my boys this weekend, Monkey informed me that I have a scarf, Daddy has a scarf, but he is sadly scarf-less. Hmmm, I said out loud, perhaps I should make you a scarf for Christmas, then? OH, YES!!! was the overwhelming response. So here I am, trying to figure out the details. Luckily, I didn't mention the cheetah idea to Monkey during the aforementioned discussion. If worst comes to worst, I'll go with something a little less complicated.

Part two of my presents to Monkey will be a handmade journal, with all different types of cool paper and even a few writing prompts. He isn't crazy about writing in school, but he is always coming up with great stories and observations about the world around him. Last year I brought home a little ready-made journal left over from an activity I did with one of my students and Monkey claimed it immediately. A few weeks later, I found it on his bookshelf, filled to the brim with tales from school, jokes, things he wanted to do that summer, and plans for his birthday party. Yup, that's my kiddo :-)

As for my husband, everything I've gotten for him so far is not appropriate to be opened in front of family. And that's all *you* are hearing about those gifts, as well! Hmm...something family appropriate for husband...any ideas?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Homeless...Sort Of

I am 30 years old. I have a husband, who I have known for nearly a decade and with whom I will celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary next week. I have a 6-and-a-half (as he reminded me this morning) son, our wee (well, getting not-so-wee these days) Monkey Boy. And we are homeless. Not out on the street, nowhere warm to sleep overnight, homeless. But me staying with my parents in Portland while I work down there, Husband & Monkey living in Tacoma while he works up here, paying rent so we don't feel quite as much like freeloading boomerang generationers, driving up and down I-5 as much as our schedules allow to spend time as a family, both of us with our own rooms, but no actual structure/apartment/studio to call *home*. Yup, it's weird, especially when we've been living parent-free for over a decade. Especially this time of year, when all we really want to do (especially in the yucky, slightly depressing Pacific Northwest winter weather) is hole up at home and spend time as a family playing board games, watching movies, etc. I guess you could say we are Our-Own-Homeless.

I'm not really going anywhere with this...just feeling a little melancholy this afternoon, I suppose. Still, at least I'm not Our-Own-Homeless alone, right?

ps: I tried to post this yesterday from Tacoma, but the internet connection (or maybe the computer?) wasn't cooperating. Oh well. Back in Portland now. No husband/child (boo!) but reliable internet (yay!) here.

Friday, December 9, 2011

On Visualization & Gift Boxes

I just glanced at yesterday's post and realized I forgot to give it a title. Oops! Is it just me, or do you find that the title is often the hardest part of writing blog posts? Or writing in general? I still remember how my teachers used to say, "Start with the title." What?!?! That *completely* goes against who I am and how I do things. How can you give something a title before you know what it consists of? It's absurd to my little brain.

So as you probably remember, this year I am staying with my dad & step-mom, which has been quite the adventure, probably 90% good, if I were to put a fake statistic on the experience. Well, last night my dad got home from work when I was in the com
munal kitchen, unpacking and rewrapping my husband's Christmas presents from my mother-in-law (she had them delivered to our house so that 1) he wouldn't peek and 2) she wouldn't have to pay sales tax - that was the order of importance!). So first let me say that Amazon is seriously the undisputed king of overpackaging items - holy cow! This would make more sense if I explained the size of the items involved, but of course then this would turn out to the be only post that my husband reads this month (go away, honey! I want you to be surprised!) so you'll just have to trust me when I say that the largest box could fit several small children in it. It was like Babushka dolls, every time I opened and removed a box, there was another box nestled inside it.

See? Now I'm getting off on a bunny trail about packaging when really what I wanted to tell you about was what I did *with* the packaging. I've been considering festive packaging for my own presents for my husband, which are small & multiple. All of that corru
gated cardboard made me think, hmmm...perhaps I can fold fun little boxes in usual shapes! I started with a small cube, just to see if I could figure out how to do it, then progressed to a diamond shape. I approached this task the same way I do most problems in life: first I visualized it, then I did it. So there I was, ruler and pen in hand, tracing out the lines for a 3-D diamond box made out of one piece of cardboard, when my dad interrupted himself mid-sentence:

Him: "Hmm....did you take an engineering course in college?"

Me: "Uhhh, no..." (did I mention I was a music major?)

Him: "Oh...maybe a design course?"

Me: "Nope, no design..." (and my masters is in music therapy?)

Him: " do you know how to do that?"

Me: "I don't know....I guess I just thought about it and figured out the lines and angles in my head and now I'm just...doing it?"

And you know what? It worked! Not perfectly, of course - I eyeballed all of the angles, rather than using a protractor (or is it a compass? I could never keep those two pieces of equipment straight in high school!). I think it is a recognizable diamond, anyway. What do you think?

ps: After I made sure the box would come together the way I cut it, I covered it in wrapping paper. Amazon's shipping boxes are not *that* festive, LOL

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Apparently Untitled

It's been a while, hasn't it? I really didn't mean to take a couple weeks off blogging, it just sort of happened. In fact, I've started several posts and not finished them for one reason or another. But that's just how life is sometimes, isn't it? It doesn't always feel right, it doesn't always flow, and you can't always get through it without getting distracted or interrupted. So, oh well. I'm glad you're still here.

I'd definitely forgotten how chilly it is here in Oregon this time of year, brrr! Can't say I'm not not missing the warm Texas sun right about now, that's for sure.
There's something about winter weather that makes me feel nostalgic, though, and being in my hometown has definitely made those feelings stronger this year. The funny thing is that it's not really directly related to Christmas or New Year's - my mom never made a big deal of those holidays when we were growing up and I can count on one hand the number of "traditions" (and I use that term very loosely) we had. The things that tend to stick with me are generally related to activities I was involved in - singing at the Grotto with my high school choir - dancing at the Santa's Fling competition up in British Columbia (where the awards were Christmas ornaments instead of medals or ribbons - so cute!) - playing my cello at church - the list goes on. Some years we got to go to a Christmas party with my step-mom's family, which was always fun. I think about these things a lot when we plan stuff to do with Monkey Boy now but, still, I don't consider myself someone who really *CELEBRATES* the holidays in a traditionally American sense. There is no rampant shopping, the most holiday parties I've ever gone to in a single year is two, and most of the time I don't even remember to call my parents on the big days. I guess I'm an apathetic holiday kind of gal, huh?

That's all I got for today, folks. Not very exciting, but at least I'm here. Showing up is half the battle, right?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Tartan Toes & Turkey Cards

So my husband is a pretty wonderful guy. He's not always touchy-feely-mushy, especially in public, but I've never doubted the man loves me and he always finds special ways to show me. Take Wednesday, for example. I was working from my mother-in-law's house in Tacoma, telecommuting, and he asked me if I could take a long lunch as he had a surprise for me. Um, sure I could! Next thing I know, I'm ankle-deep in hot water, being scrubbed and rubbed and pumiced and painted until I'm so relaxed I'm practically snoring in the squishy pedicure chair. Oh yeah, he knows how to make me feel loved! Check out the end result:

Pretty, right? I'm totally getting into all the gray shades of nailpolish that seem to be popular right now. It's funny - I generally either go super-girly (think Barbie) or modern & clean without a hint of pink. Clearly, this is the latter.

So now that relaxation was out of the way, it was time to focus on the main event of the week: Thanksgiving! Monkey Boy was gently coerced into creating name cards for the dinner table. I can't even begin to explain how much whining went into this task, and there were only 7 to make! It boggles my mind to think how painful it would have been had the entire family, or even just a few more branches, come this year. I think the biggest group I've ever witnessed at my in-law's house was around 30. Probably small for most of you, but absolutely gigantic for a girl who grew up with all her relatives in other countries! Here's a pic I managed to get of the finished name cards before we set the table:

...and of course, the Thanksgiving table, all set and ready to go on Thursday morning. We were only planning on 6 at dinner, but Monkey Boy wanted to set a place for Katy the cat, so I added an eighth for the sake of symmetry.

Yup, those are folding chairs & plastic tablecloths - we like to keep it classy! Hope you had a great Thanksgiving with your loved ones. Any fabulous traditions or new experiences you'd like to share?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ugh, Ugh, The Drive Was Ugh

The drive was not cute this morning. It really shouldn't take over 4 hours to drive about 145 miles. Seriously. Not cool. Plus with the icky rain the whole way. Have I mentioned recently I'm totally remembering why so many people are diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder in the Pacific Northwest? Ugh.

Still, I did manage to find three bright points in the drive, the first two of which are original quotes from Monkey Boy:

#1 - [waving a Red Vine over his head] "Mommy, did you know that some people call these licorice? That's because they're made of liquid..." Clearly.

#2 - [after asking me to pause the CD and listen intently (I heard nothing)] "Mommy, do you know why I can't snap loud? It's because I talk too loud. There's not enough sound left to come out my fingers." His scientific theories are certainly arresting, if not plausible.

#3 - Monkey is now officially addicted to the Hallelujah Chorus - yessss!!! And yes, I do listen to classical music while I drive, not because I think it reduces my road rage, because I like to sing along! "Forrrrrrrr the Lord GOD om-NIIIIIII-po-tent reeeeeeeeeigneth!" ;-)

Thank you, Jesus, the drive is over!!! Until Sunday, anyway :-P

Monday, November 21, 2011

What's New & How Are You?

So very soon I will be packing up a bag, cleaning a little clutter out of the car, and getting a good night's sleep so Monkey Boy & I can drive up to SeaTac tomorrow morning to retrieve Daddy at the airport and then back down to Tacoma to crash at my mother-in-law's (aka Where-Daddy-and-Monkey-are-Living-This-Year). While I would love to say that I am very motivated to get myself together for this trip, the reality is that I am not. I woke up feeling pretty good this morning, got some work done while Monkey watched Rio, the movie we rented last night, for a 2nd and 3rd time (might be a new favorite!) and then, right around 2 o'clock - BAM. Stomach cramps, shooting gas pains, and diarrhea. Um, hello? Gut? What the heck is going on? Please believe me when I tell you that NOTHING I ate today, yesterday, or even the day before should warrant this sort of response from my GI system. So what's going on? I'm not sure, but you can bet that I will continue to investigate with my doctor until some sort of reasonable explanation can be found. For now, I will just continue to get as much sleep as possible (how is it possible to sleep 9-10 hours a night and STILL be fatigued, I ask you??) and to take my daytime tasks one at a time. Take that, angry guts :-P

In other news, I got my winter coat! Well, actually - I got TWO winter coats! Just as I'd finished writing all about my crazy, consumerist pipe dreams for the day afte
r Thanksgiving, guess what arrived in my inbox? An ad for 75% off all adult outerwear at Old Navy, 12-5 pm only on Saturday. Hmm...75% this Saturday or 50% off next Friday with Black Friday crowds? Yup, that was pretty much a no-brainer. Since it was a limited-time sale and I'd have Monkey with me, I went ahead and took a gander at the selection online. Look at the cutie wool coat I found there!

They were even cuter in person! And, with the lovely 5-hour sale, less than $20 apiece. The really difficult part was choosing a color - I'd called ahead and asked the nice salesgirl to put a gray coat with red toggles and a red coat with black toggles on hold for me [Um...have I mentioned lately that toggles have been a lifelong obsession of mine?!?!]. When I tried them on, I figured the gray would be more serviceable and appropriate for work and the red toggles were probably enough color for me. Monkey Boy insisted that the red jacket was the way to go, though. He denounced the gray coat as, "Boring, mommy!" So, what could I do? No warm coats at home, two perfectly-lovely, perfectly-fitting coats in front of me (with hoods! and TOGGLES!!!), $19 each - clearly, I bought both. And I am pleased with that decision.

Here is a photo Monkey took of me modeling the new red coat:

In his defense, it is difficult to hold the Blackberry still while snapping a photo. Still, this may be why there are few 6-year-old professional photographers!

Monkey and I also started his Christmas lists together this weekend. That's right, you heard correctly, lists - plural. I figure we can do this whole commercial Christmas thing and still make it meaningful. So, if Monkey wants to make a list of things he'd like to receive, that's fine, but he will also be making a list of things that he is making/giving to others. He did a great start on the latter yesterday and has already planned & helped me execute the gifts for three of his cousins, my sister's kiddos up in Seattle [if you want to know more about them, check out her amazing blog]. I wish that I could share the projects with y'all now, but we want to make sure that Girly Girl, Boy Boy, and Little Moo are surprised when they open those packages! So, for now, I will just say that it was a super-easy project for both of us - Monkey did all of the planning, tracing, picking materials, and all I had to do was pin and sew. Definitely tutorial-worthy in the future!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Secret Confessions of a Declutterer

Sometimes, I still want to shop retail. The thought of hitting a sale and getting a bargain on something that I don't REALLY need but just WANT - okay, yeah, it still gets me all tingly sometimes. What can I say? Old habits are hard to entirely eradicate from your psyche!

So, then, you can understand why I might be examining all of the T
hanksgiving Day/Black Friday sale fliers that are getting slapped up around the internet. Making a little pretend list of things I lust after doesn't hurt...did I mention that I'm currently in Oregon, land of no sales tax? So, in no particular order of lustability:

#1 - Leisure wheeled garment bag, Early Bird Special @ Kohls (Thursday at Midnight - Friday 1:00 pm) Regularly $179.99 On Sale for $49.99

I do have a functional garment bag for my dance costumes, but it is technically my husband's. When he was packing for a business trip this week and mentioning h
ow he wishes he could use his garment bag (oops!) I thought, goodness, maybe I should get a new one since mine died a couple years back! Do I want one with wheels for ease of portability at dance competitions and Highland Games? Um, duh!

#2 - Home Classics Reversible Down Alternative Comforter, Early Bird Special @ Kohls (Thursday at Midnight - Friday 1:00 pm) Regularly $99.99 On Sale for $26.99

It's a lot colder in Oregon than it is in Texas and my husband is a blanket hog. Need I say more?

#2 Revised - Check this out! Kmart has the same item for only $19.99 if I get there between 6:00 am and 11:00 am on Friday! See? it pays to shop around :-)

#3 - GE 7.0 Cubic Foot Chest Freezer, Walmart (Thursday at Midnight - Friday at Midnight) On Sale for $159

I don't have a home to put it in, currently, so this is definitely a Wish List Only item, but, oh my gosh...the freeze ahead cooking I could do with one of these babies!
#4 - Huffy 26" Cranbrooks Cruiser Bike, Walmart (Thursday at 10 pm - Thursday at Midnight), On Sale for $69

So, so cute and Portland-y! Not entirely sure where I could "cruise" on it, given that I'm currently living in the West Hills, but I'm sure I could figure something out ;-)

#5 - Next 16" Boys' Cobra Bike, Walmart (Thursday at 10 pm - Thursday at Midnight), On Sale for $25

We have planned to get Monkey a bike for, what, 2 years now? Might be time to go ahead and deliver on that promise!

#6 - Paper Jamz Guitar, Walmart (Thursday at 10 pm - Thursday at Midnight), On Sale for $7

I would love to get several of these to stock up the office at work. I have a few clients in mind who would totally rock out with them!

#7 - Sewing Machine Travel Case, Walmart (Thursday at 10 pm - Thursday at Midnight), On Sale for $25

I totally don't need this. I can carry my sewing machine by hand when I hav
e (the very rare) sewing dates with my friends. It's not like I'm a sewing professional, for pete's sake. has multiple storage compartments and comes in a variety of prints and it makes me happy that there are cases for sewing machines :-)

#8 - Portable Universal iPhone/iPod Speakers, Walmart (Thursday at Midnight - Friday at Midnight), On Sale for $7

Yes, these are for work. I am a sucker for portable speakers and love trying out different brands/styles to see which ones have the biggest bang (well, bass) for the buck. I also love how these look like they can attach to a bag with the hook on top, so cute! Did I mention that my iPod, as of this morning, is officially full? One more organizing project to add to the To Do list.

#9 - 50% Off All Outerwear, Old Navy (Doors Open Thursday at Midnight)

I need a warm, fuzzy coat. Did I mention it's cold in Oregon? I mean, it's supposed to snow this weekend!

See? End of the list...not that bad, I kept it in single digits! I have to say it's a little bit disturbing that Walmart is offering guns on special for Black Friday. Especially the pistol for $20. Wow! Super-cheap way to off someone, huh? Not sure how much ammunition is, but it should still be economical.

So I'll keep you posted on my internal struggles of buying retail this next week. It may be a little more challenging if I do decide to purchase anything since we will be up in Tacoma with my honey's family for Thanksgiving. In some ways easier, though, since box stores are within city limits, unlike here in Portland. It's smart, though - put the big retail stores out in the suburbs and people are more likely to buy from local merchants, in my humble opinion.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

An Organizing Teaser & Tiny "New" Pants

I'm afraid I'm going to be a bit of a tease today. It's my first day back at work and feeling reasonably human in...oh goodness, maybe two weeks? Anyhow, wanted to drop a quick note and share the pictures I took in the office yesterday of our current instrument storage system. Or, should I say, the instrument hodgepodge that really needs a storage system in place to quell the madness? I'll let you be the judge...

The other three walls of the office are reasonably organized but, oh my goodness - the instrument wall just makes me want to crawl under my desk and hide! Luckily, I'm not the only one who feels that way. One of my coworkers volunteered to help me overhaul the area and we got the go-ahead from our boss to purchase bins & boxes as needed. Stay tuned for pictorial updates as we weed through the madness!

Remember those t-shirt skirts I upcycled? The scraps have been sitting on my sewing pile for a little while now - they weren't huge, but I felt bad throwing them away if they could become useful. Inspiration finally struck this weekend - baby pants! One of the things I've discovered about turning 30 is that a vast majority of my age-mates are getting pregnant. While we are not planning on any more buns in this oven (one 11 lb. newborn is enough, thank you!), the plethora of offspring in my social group is a great excuse for sewing. Right, since I needed an excuse, right? ;-)

I looked around at a few patterns for baby pants in the 6-12 months size range, but ended up just piecing the scraps and winging it. What do you think?

I think the next pair is going to have a slightly higher rise, although it is longer than it looks in the photo (I wanted to leave plenty of diaper room). Plus the colors look oddly washed out here...hmm...normally my Blackberry is so reliable! Oh well. I came up with the "brand name" I want to put on my clothing, too: "Gabe" With the quotes, definitely. It's an inside joke that one day I will know, when I'm a rich and famous blogger! ;-)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Taking Care of Me

I'm home sick today. I know, I know - I'll give you a moment to pick up your chin from the ground. Anyhow, after last week's lovely stomach virus, I spent a couple days arguing with my sinuses, trying to convince them that it was not acceptable for them to get infected. They finally agreed with me, but unfortunately decided not to share the memo with my throat and lungs. I sound sexy today, let me tell you. When the husband and I spoke on the phone last night, he responded to my query of, "How are you?" with, "Not as deep as you!" Maximum impact of humor here is dependent on you having heard my husband's voice - suffice it to say, our choirmates in college compared his speaking voice to Barry White. 'Nuff said.

I had one of those funny, "oh yeah, not everyone in the world is a H
ighland dancer" moments when I checked in with my boss over the phone this morning. It was literally five minutes after I woke up and my voice was impressively baritone & froggy. Here's the pertinent snippet of convo:

Boss: "How is your body feeling?"

Me: "Other than my lungs and my throat, my body feels great."

Boss: "Your lungs and your throat ARE your body!"

Me: "Oh, righ

You know you're a Highland dancer when you focus on the body parts the judge can see on stage. You know you're a music therapist when you're most concerned about important body parts like, oh yeah, the respiratory system!

My plan for the day is to take it easy on myself. I figure, if I've been sick for over a week now, my body is trying to tell me something. Okay, body, I'm listening! The most stressful part of the day will be knocking down my To Do list from work, most of which can be done via the computer, with a few phone calls thrown in. Other than that, housework is out - no laundry, not unpacking boxes, etc. Goofing off after work is in - knitting, watching episodes of Ugly Betty or Sex & the City, and writing emails/letters to friends. Today, I am determined not to feel guilty about taking some time for myself without worrying about producing anything or helping anyone else out. Let the healing begin :-)
Love from my baby boy is the best medicine