The Decade I Grew Up

As the last few hours of 2010 creep by, everyone is busy reflecting on the year.  When I stopped to reflect about the year I realized, nothing really happened.  We didn't move or have a baby or change jobs.   Yes, this year had its ups and downs but over all no big life change.  Then, it occurred to me that this last decade has been FULL of life changing. Something big has happened almost every year.  I can't imagine another decade in my life that will define me as much as this one has.  I think for most people your 20s are when you "find yourself" and you make decisions that will dictate the rest of your life.  That statement at at least has been ever so truthful for us.   On top of those decisions, this decade I lost my mom, something that has forever changed my world.  Add this all up and you get one crazy roller coaster ride.  In some ways, I am drastically different than I was 10 years.  But yet, I think that same girl is still there.  I have settled into my own skin this decade. I have learned a lot about the world, about love, about loss and friendship.

The highlights:

Meet and married the love of my life.

Graduated from college.

I lived in 7 different apartment/dorms/homes in the last 10 years.

Watch my mom loose the battle to brain cancer.

Jason and I lost our last living grandparents.

Bought our first home.

Got knocked up, twice (2nd baby will be in 2011).

Had a baby and watched him grow into toddlerhood.

Been in/apart of too many weddings to list.

Profession changes, both of us have had several.

Had a major shift in my religious views.

Made life long friendships.

We did a decent amount of traveling.  Here are a few places that one or both of us went . . . NYC, Chicago, Philly, Detroit, Ecuador, Uruguay, Guatemala, New Orleans, Mexico City, Bahamas, Texas, Savannah, St. Augustine, Kansas City, Niagara Falls, Toronta, Washington D.C, Virginia Beach, Alaska, pretty much the entire east coast, and a few other places I am sure that I've forgotten.

I am pretty certain that when I am old and I look back on my life, this will be decade that defines who I am.   It is the decade I grew up.

To celebrate all the milestones in the last 10 years, here a few pictures.  I was going to try to include our family, friends and places we've been but if I had, the video would have  been an hour long.  So, I mainly focused on us (because we are vain) and the people who aren't with us anyone (My mom and all of our grandparents).  The quality sucks on some of the older pictures but I am to lazy to fix them.  There are ton of older photos I would love to add but, that would require scanning. You can still get the gist.  We've changed, a lot. And we couldn't be happier.

After watching this Jason noted that we will be 40 at the close of the next decade.  We both will turn 30 this coming year.   I can't wait to see how we look. I am sure after spending 10 years with two little boys we will have lot more gray hairs.

Goodbye 2010, hello 2011!


Homemade Holiday Show and Tell

This post could also be titled "my family is freaking awesome."  I was blown away this Christmas by the handmade gifts I received.  I also received some extra special gifts from the heart that weren't handmade too.  This Christmas I was ever so blessed. But, since you know I love handmade things I thought it would be fun to show off my families handiwork.  It is quiet impressive.
Get a cup of coffee, this post is L-O-N-G.

First a necklace my niece Lindsey made.


Isn't is amazing?  I love it so much.  It looks like something out of Anthropologie.  All the broaches she picked up at antique stores.  She refinished them to give them the aged copper look then turned them into beads.  I love that she went around town picking up old broaches for the project.  It makes it all the more unique.

Also from Lindsey, some bath fizz.


Disclaimer, this bottle looked a lot prettier before I used it.  The two scents she used were layered in the bottle but when I shook some out it messed it all up.  It worked great.  Made my bath water really soft.  I have been taking a lot of warm baths.  This baby is doing a number on my back.  Oh speaking of bath goodies, a friend (hi Tina) made me some lovely peppermint sugar scrub that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Lindsey also made us a jar full of Muddy Buddies but those are tucked away.  I am hiding them from my toddler and husband, they both have no concept of portion control when it comes to sweets.

Since I just mentioned Lindsey, I will show you what her better half (Johnny) knocked out.


Plexiglass is hard to photograph. It is a USB charger that runs off of 2 AA batteries. It will charge iPods, iPhone, etc (anything that has a USB).  He did all of this himself.  Down to programing the chip inside.  He also made the case.  Basically, he is a genius. I wish I new more of the technical aspect of it because it sounded impressive when he described it.  All I know is it works and it will come in super handy when we are camping.

Now on to my sister Sherry.  You might have noticed that awesome inlaid wood cutting board behind my niece's bath fizz.  Oh yeah, she made that!


Isn't it great?  I can't believe she did this.  Do you know how time consuming a project like this is?  It took a lot of work (and she made two, one for my other sister).  I have an epicurean cutting board Jason picked up for me a few years ago (which I adore) but I have been wanting another smaller one for fruit and veggies and this is going to work perfect.  Not to mention, it is lovely.

Now on to the sewing!  My sister Janine made me this apron.


Yes, it is cute but what you might not be able to tell is that is completely reversible.  The coolest part is that she modified the pattern to make it reversible. She also altered the fit and ruffle on the apron.  This blows my mind. I can barely follow a pattern let alone modify one.  I also love how long the ties are.  I hate short ties.  There is plenty fabric for me to make a big bow over my baby bump.

Janine also made these pot holders, that are infinitely cooler than mine.



See the pattern on the back? She did that freehand with a free motion quilting foot on her machine!  Stinking incredible. Janine also made Henry some PJs (and matching pair for daddy) but they are in Henry's room and he is napping.  Just take my word for it, they are cute.

And last something I made that holds a gift I got . . .



It is a KINDLE!!!!!!!!!!   Jason totally and completely surprised me with a kindle.  I have been jonesing for one for a while now.  For a long time, I was traditional book purest but idea that I could carry a bunch of books in a tiny device seduced me. That and the fact that the screen looks like a real page, not a laptop screen. Also, I can read with one hand!  This will come in handy when I am nursing.  I read a lot during those late night feedings with Henry.  As you will note, it is tucked inside of a handmade Kindle cover (which is on my dusty night stand shame on me, I should dust more and read less).  There are some flaws in the cover, it is a rough draft.  I knocked in out during Henry's nap time the other day.  I am going to make a fancier one soon (with better edges, the bottom is messy).  There are a bunch of tutorials online, but this one is my own design.  I wanted it to look like a book.  But I also wanted it to be durable, which is why there is heavy duty card board in the lining.  It will do for now, although I realize as I write this that I might be using the same cover a year from now.  Jason I love my Kindle! THANK YOU.  Now I just have resist buying a bunch of books, it is going to be hard with one button ordering that instantly gives you a book in your hand!

So, in summery you can see that I come by my handmade DIY ways honestly.  Just look at my creative family, this apple didn't fall far from the tree.

PS.  We still have snow on the ground, although some has melted. This is from Monday's snow walk (I had to sneak a little Henry in the post).


I should note that this is the snow walk that never left the house.  Henry didn't need to go anywhere.  He was quite content to swing with daddy and play in the yard.  I do love the snow. Although, it will be gone this afternoon . .  .the rain is coming. Arg.


Forget dreaming about a white Christmas, I got the real deal

This Christmas has been magical. Jason and I were blessed to host my family for Christmas.  It was wonderful having a house full of people.  And the icing on the cake was this morning when woke to white christmas. I know, for some areas of the world this isn't that rare but for us it is very special indeed.  There is something so magical about snuggling with your family and opening present while snow is poring down outside.  It was just lovely.  I enjoyed every moment spent with my family.  We are beyond blessed.  This Christmas served as a nice reminder of how loved we are.  In light of the holiday, I wanted to share a few photos.

Our Christmas picture:


Our orginal vision was to have Henry "decorate" us.  Oh course, this was not his vision.  His vision involved not being photographed.  Finally Jason just scooped him up and this is the photo we got. I love it. Although I almost think I love the out takes more . . .


Yes, there is a bow on his butt.


This is his "oh my god I am related to these people" face. While we are in the background desperatly trying to make him happy. He is his own man.

Then there was the perfect Christmas . ..


The kind of Christmas where after we opened gifts we got to play in the snow. It really was special. In addition to our delightful Christmas morning we got to spend Christmas eve hosting a house full of people for dinner. Here is one of the tables (there were two in my dinning room, it was cozy).


We just felt so blessed. It was everything I had hoped and more. As someone who loves Christmas and loves snow I can't express the joy I felt when I saw this on Christmas morning.


Well, I did a pretty good job of expressing it. It involved squelling "It is a White Christmas!" so loud that I might have woke the neighbors up. I hope everyone had a magical holiday. Jason and I both couldn't stop talking about how amazing our Christmas was.  We are so grateful that my family made the trip from Florida to spend the holiday with us.

PS.  I am working on a post highlighting all the amazing handmade gifts I got this year.  My family is so stinking creative.  I thought it would be neat to show off their talents.  Seriously, this was the year to be spoiled, thanks to everyone who showed us generosity and love this Christmas.


Henry's Table

This year, even more than normal, we have really tried to give gifts that are handmade.  Sometimes I feel like Christmas is one big consumerist hoopla.  I hate the pressure and the cost. I was reading an article that was talking about the average amount of money that people spend at Christmas and it was silly.   Don't get me wrong, we spend money at Christmas. I am not opposed to gifts (not in the least).  I just think a few personal, thought out or handmade gifts have are so much more special.  With this thought in mind, we set out to build Henry (and his new little brother) a table and chair set.  We looked at buying a few but we decided to go the handmade route and I couldn't be more pleased with the results!

Henry's Table and chairs

It was truly a team effort. First, I located the plans from the always impressive Ana White (Knock Off Wood). We've used her sight before to build our dinning room table and benches. We built two of her $4 stackable chairs (which really only cost $4 in lumber) and a table based off this design.  We didn't have a pocket drill so we modified the plans a bit to work with our plain old drill.   Jason did the bulk of the building, with a little help from Henry.


Doesn't everyone let there toddlers play with power tools?  And yes, he has on no pants it was his choice not mine.  As you may notice, this is being built in my living room.  It was sooooo cold and the shop isn't heater so we decided to move the action inside.  The threw down some plastic to catch dust and protect the floors and got to busy build in the cozy house.  Jason had the table and one chair put together in an afternoon.  He finished up the second chair the next night and filled in all the holes with wood filler.  Then to was time to sand.


Our thermostat said it was 12 degrees out, this didn't stop Jason.  He is one awesome daddy. Once everything was sanded it was time for the paint.  Now, we don't have any pictures of the paint because when Henry was awake it was constant work to keep him from "helping."  Paint is much messier than drilling.  Speaking of paint, we used Benjamin Moore Aura paint and it was AMAZING.  I suppose I should give a little disclaimer that Jason works for an Ace Hardware the sells Benjamin Moore paint and this was a free demo that we were using.  But, seriously it was amazing. It covered well and it doesn't have all the bad stuff in it that other paint does. It has no smell, which made it perfect for painting in your living room.  I was totally impressed with it.  We didn't even have to prime.

Here is Henry trying out the unfinished chair.  I solved the pants problem, footed sleepers.  He can't take them off.


After Jason put on the base coat, it was time for my part.  I added the tree. It is loosely based the fabric that my sister is using to make two amazing quilts for our guys.  After I finished painting the table and chairs were sealed with a water based high gloss poly coat, we thought it could use some durability.




We thought we might not get to build this, you see while we were out of town for Thanksgiving Jason's shop was broken into.  The mass majority of his tools were stolen.  Fortunately his drill and palm sander didn't get taken.  We had to have all the wood cut at Lowe's.  This nearly broke Jason's heart.  It was so hard for him that I stood there with the guy and told him what cuts we needed.  Fortunately, our insurance check came in and we get to replace some of what was taken.  Starting with a saw.  Thank God we have great insurance - Farm Bureau to be exact.  They were generous, friendly and timely (not the mention they have good rates).   The building process was good for us, it was away of saying "you stole our stuff but not our creativity" or "suck it jerks, we are going to build anyway." I love tackling projects like this with Jason.  After the first of the year we are going to be building a few more things for the boys room (Ana White, again). They will be sharing a room and I can't wait set it up for them.

In the interest of full discloser . . . . building with a toddler isn't all fun and games.


He is mad that I wouldn't let him stick a screw up his nose.  This last for about 3 minutes or until he found a paint brush.


Toddlers make pregnancy mood swings seem mild.

PS. I bet you are curious how much this cost us  . . . just under $40.  Which is awesome for a solid wood table and chairs.  This cost includes the lumber, wood glue, wood filler and sand paper.  We didn't have to purchase any paint and we already had the sealer (which saved us some cash).  Even more than the money savings, I love the sentimental value of the table. I hope the boys enjoy it as they grow.


Homemade Christmas Goodies

I love getting and receiving homemade goodies at Christmas.  There is something nice about knowing that someone took the time to make something just for you.  I also think it is a nice way to buck the consumerism aspect of Christmas.  You know, staying out of the malls and staying at home.  I don't mind a little holiday shopping, I just like to keep it low key.  Normally I love milling around the house working on gifts but this year hasn't been as much as fun as normal.  First I have a toddler and secondly I am pregnant.  Henry is into everything and wants to help with everything.  I actually try to include him if I can, but it is a little hard at his age.  Then there is the baby inside of me.  I am just worn out all the time, at night when I could be getting stuff done I usually just fall asleep.  Not to mention this pesky little cold that I can't seem to shake.  Anyway, the point of this post wasn't to complain it was to focus on my successes!  I am almost done with my Christmas projects.  Almost, I am still finishing some hot pads (more on that in a second) and Jason should have Henry's gift finished soon  Once we finish those we can focus on getting the house in order and getting ready for our Christmas company!

Friends and family - you may not want to read this, or you can read it and act surprised when you get your gift.

Sweet treats:


In the white boxes we have fudge and peanut butter balls.  The fudge is the Carnation Famous Fudge Recipe, which is pretty darn good and simple. The peanut butter balls are okay, they are just not great. If anyone has an amazing recipe I would love to have it.  It must be out there somewhere.  The boxes went to work with Jason and the little bags full of extra goodies are staying around the house for guest to enjoy. I'll get to the jars in a bit. 


 Next we have almond biscotti drizzled with almond bark.  I am totally in love with this biscotti recipe.  I have made it several times.  What I love about it is that it is easy to modify. I had been looking for a good basic recipe and this is it.  This time I used almond extract, added some sliced almonds to the batter and then drizzed with almond bark.  One tip that I read from the comments that has been great, I cut mine when they are warm with a pizza cutter right out of the oven.  I let them cool on my parchment lined cookie sheet.  When they are cool enough to touch I flip them cut side down and pop them back in the oven. This makes baking biscotti super simple.  I actually drizzle them on the same piece of parchment paper. No fuss, no muss, less waste.


These are little homemade jellies.  I have made homemade jelly several times using The Frugal Girl's Recipe. It is fun and simple.  Does it cheapen the gift to let people know how easy it is?  The reason making jelly is so great is because it has no high fructose corn syrup and you control the quality of the juice used.  I love to find interesting juices and make jelly you wouldn't normally see in the grocery store.  I always use a good quality 100% juice.   I do usually use a little less sugar than the recipe calls for but you do have to be careful because the pectin reacts with the sugar to help it gel.   These little jars are a berry jelly (which is good) but my favorite is white grape peach jelly.  It is so yummy and a  nice change from plain old grape.  You really should make some.  When I make it for us, I don't process the jars in a hot water bath.  I just stick them in the fridge, this makes it even more simple. Of course, the gifts had to be processed so they could be self stable.  Didn't want to make any one sick for Christmas.  That would suck.


I have been working on these little hot pads for a while now.  I know this photo is awful, but I am to lazy to take another one.  I am making 9 in total and it is a little slow going with Henry under foot.  I used this tutorial as the foundation for my hot pads.   This is the first time I made my own binding (thanks to the internet for help) and it wasn't bad at all.  I actually closed the edges by hand with an invisible ladder stitch and I am happy with the results.  I also add the little hanging loop and embellishment (so they would take even longer, because I am nuts).  I am very close to finishing the rest of them.  I did them in a variety of fabric which has been fun.  This way I don't get sick of looking at the same print. 

The biggest project I finish I can't share with you yet.  But let me say, it was a huge project that I thought I would NEVER finish.  I did and I am so happy with the results.  It was well worth the clutter in my house that pilled up while I was working on it.  

I wanted to end with our ornament for the year.  We add something to the tree every year and this year I thought it would be neat to freeze in time Henry's size.   I am just learning to embroider and it is something I would love to get better at.  But, I am pretty happy with the little bit of progress I am making with the art.


Hopefully, this weekend I will be able to post the table and chairs that Jason built for Henry.  They are almost done and they are stinking CUTE!

So how is everyone's holiday todo list coming? I am hoping to have everything marked off my list this weekend.  Speaking of list, I made one just like this one.  And it has saved my sanity!

Merry Almost Christmas!


A message from the Incorrigible Henry

Yesterday was one of those days.  Henry has been showing off his independence and in the process making mommy a little nutso.  First, there was the marshmallows.  He had some mini-marshmellows while he was playing with a friend.  I picked some up this week to make some fudge and since Henry laid eyes on the bag he has been begging endlessly for them. E-n-d-l-e-s-s-l-y. He has stood in front of the pantry and pleaded.  The thing is, it is worse to give him one because he doesn't just want one.  He wants the entire bag.  Most the time, I can distract him with an alternate (more healthy) snack.  Then, there is the climbing.  He is climbing on everything, all the time.  He can now get off and on the sofa, which means he can also get on our coffee table.  I  had to retrieve him from the table 8 times yesterday.  Oh he knows dancing on the table isn't acceptable (it is dangerous, I know I'm no fun) but he does it anyway. Afterwards he stands in time out and looks at me as if to say "it was totally worth it."  And last, there was the toilet.  Oh the toilet. For some reason our bathroom door knob wasn't catching yesterday (this happens with 100 year old doors) and Henry figured it out early and took full advantage of it.  He also knows this is wrong which is why he is very sneaky about it. He gives me a hug when I catch him.  It only takes him two seconds to cause mayhem.  In fact, I just went to the bathroom (I am pregnant, I will pee 3 times before this post is finished) and I am pretty sure that he put something in the toilet that has clogged it.  Poor Jason will have to fix it, because I am not going to : ).

I pride myself on having a decent amount of patience with him but yesterday he was trying my patience.  I find, when he is making me a little loopy the best thing to do is to stop everything and snuggle.  The reason for the snuggle break is for me.  I need to remember how sweet he is.  I know this is normal toddler behavior, he is just testing boundaries. It seems like every stage of his development comes with it's own set of difficulties and joys.  Speaking of the perks of this age, Henry is talking a lot more.  He wants to tell you what gender the baby is (and to remind you that he is the original baby).

In case you missed that the baby is a BOY! BOY! BOY!  And, I am super excited!  This is a bit of a change for me.  When we found out that Henry was a boy I was a little devastated.  I just knew I was going to have a girl. In fact, I had never even considered the possibility that I could have a boy. Which is comical considering that it doesn't appear I will ever have a girl.  We aren't planning on any more kiddios.  I am totally excited about my two little boys.  This time, I knew I was having a boy. I wanted to a boy.  I am elated about my guys!  And yesterday, when Henry was pushing my limits I may have secertly been hoping that this little wiggle worn in my belly would give him a run for his money.  My life is going to be full of bodily humor and wrestlying and I couldn't be more excited!

PS.  Today is looking up!  He has actually listened to me a couple of times.  Lets hope for no more foreign objects in the toilet!


Weird man in the red suit

Henry and Santa didn't exactly hit it off  . . .


Apparently Santa wasn't too crazy about him either.


Henry is thinking "you are really going to let me sit on this scary man's lap?"


This face is the best. It is his if you leave me I will scream face. Look, daddy makes the same face when I leave him with babies galore.


We met up with some friends and everyone went into the church to hear carols. Jason and I volunteered to stay outside to tend the kiddos because Henry was a little grumpy. After a few minutes I decided I wanted to pop my head in the church door for a moment to here some Christmas cheer. Needless to say, Jason wasn't over joyed at the prospect of being left with three babies. He survived though and no one ran away or cried.

Well, Henry did try to run away a few minutes later when we freed him from his stroller (after everyone was back). He was immediately drawn to this alley.


It wasn't as scary as it looks and daddy went with him to explore.


I realize I should have posted this first but the reason we were downtown was for the Christmas tree lighting. This also included caroling at downtown churches and Santa and carriage rides (we didn't hit up the carriage this year, too long of a line). This is the hokiest of all small town events and we love it. It it like something out of the movie. Crowds of people walking around listening to carols. Cleveland has lots of little stuff downtown but this is my favorite. I think it belongs in a Norman Rockwell painting.

And to I will leave you with this . . .


PS. Thanks to the always fabulous Ben and Cassie Williams for snapping the really good photos of Henry. For you local folks you can book them for lifestyle photo shoots. Cassie is amazingly talented and you can see photos she has taken of us here, here and here.


I am not Jewish but . . .

I love a good potato pancake (or latkes).  And, since yesterday marked the start of Hanukkah, I decided to wip some up.  Now, I must confess, I never had a potato pancake until I was in my 20s.  I grew up on a mountain in Western North Carolina and there wasn't exactly a thriving Jewish population.  My first latkes experience occurred while I was living in Florida taking care of my mother.  After being diagnosed with brain caner, her first surgery caused her to loose some of her peripheral vision.  Since Jason and I were young and married, we moved in with her so that I could take her to Dr's appts, the store, or really anywhere else she needed to go.  The first few weeks I was there, I would drive her an hour each day into Orlando for radiation treatments.  Looking back, this was some of the best time I spent with my mom.  Don't worry, I am getting to the potato pancakes.  Later in her sickness the placement of her brain tumor started to affect her memory and mood but early on the symptoms were subtle. Anyway, after her treatments, we would spend our days kicking around Orlando.  She just talked and talked.  She told me stories and took me to places that held memories of her life (she spent a good bit of time in and around the Orlando area).  Many times our conversations would be about Ronnie's, a New York style delicatessen owned by a Jewish man where my mother worked for several years.  Ronnie's was a institution in Orlando. Seriously, if you talk to anyone who lived in the area in the 60s - 70s they will know of "Ronnie's."  She told me a 101 fabulous stories about that eccentric restaurant.  Things like, how on her first day the owner asked her to go to the kitchen and ask for kosher ham.  Being the little southern lady she was, she cheerfully did what she was told. It was only after several moments of laughter that she put it together that Jews and ham don't jive.  Unfortunately, Ronnie's closed when I was a little girl.  I only remember going there once and I was so little that I could barley see over the table.  All I remember about the visit, is that we sat in an awesome round booth and we ate a basket full of amazing fresh-baked rolls.

Mom talked so much about "Ronnie's" that we found ourselves craving that style of food.  The quest lead us to TooJay's.  While it was certainly no Ronnie's, it had a very similar menu.  And there my friends is where I  consumed my first potato pancake. It was awesome. At my mother's promoting I ate it topped with both apple sauce and sour cream.  It was love at the first crispy bite.  My favorite way to enjoy my pancake was with poached or over easy eggs and corn beef hash. I love corn beef hash.  During the time I lived in Florida with my mom we ate numerous meals at TooJay's deli.  I watched her slowly change and decline over eclairs and pastrami (and of course latkes). I hadn't had a potato pancake since she passed.  With the combination of the start of Hanukkah (it is probably just me but I swear latkes were everywhere today) and a sentimental craving, I decided to make some. I used this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, she's Jewish so I figured she knew what she was doing.  They were yum, yum.  I have no picture, because they were eaten too quick.  But, they looked just like hers.  Oh and I busted out the hash, although no one in my family cares for it much.  Jason likes to refer to it as "kitty food."  I will say that corn beef hash is something I eat once every year or so.  Let's be honest, it is awful for you and no one really should be eating it more often than that.   Henry sides with his daddy. Here he is NOT enjoying his hash.  Later in the video he does enjoy the sour cream and apple sauce.  Not on anything,  just by themselves.  Toddlers are weird.  And, we usually just let him go wild at dinner which means most the time he looks like this by the  time he is done. Learning to eat is messy work.

Speaking of Henry, here he is in my cast iron skillet that I used to cook my potato pancake bliss. I know, that you are thinking that I posed this.  Nope.  Do you really think I have that much control over my toddler?  He pulled this off my open storage shelf and sat down in it.  I guess he is starting to take my proclamation that I am going to eat him up to heart and is helping me make sure he is nice and crispy.


P.S. Links of interest . . .

Here is a really interesting story about Hanukkah's U.S. roots.

Fancy latkes topping ideas.

8 thoughts about Hanukkah from Jewish blogger Suburban Sweetheart.  Oh you should check out her Esty shop too, her stuff is super cute.  Jason, I really like her black bird necklace (hint, hint).

And last . . I think Henry might have put himself in a frying pan because we put him in a crock pot and tried to make him the filling in a wrap.  Weird, I know.
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