Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fall Wreath: Under $5

Fall may not begin for another three weeks, but in the mind of a {former} teacher and student, the first day of school always marks the change of the seasons.  If it weren't for this little dude, this amazing story, and this major decision, today would be my first day back to school with 200 of my littlest song-loving friends.

To commemorate the cooler weather (thanks, Irene), I whipped up a new fall wreath for my front door.  And when I say whipped up, I mean I spent most of yesterday working on it (turns out Levi is a fan of PBS kids).  The total cost of this project was $2.99!

I used the rolled paper flower technique that I've been seeing all over Pinterest boards.  Emily at JDC has the B E S T roller paper flower tutorial. Ever since she hosted flower week back in May, I've been dreaming up what kind of craft to do with these little guys.

Last week at Target, I saw a gorgeous faux rosewood wreath.  Instead of shelling out $40 for this beauty, I scooted over to the craft section and came home with a $3 bag of hot glue. {Granted, I'm sure mine won't withstand the elements like the rosewood wreath would.}

I almost bought another wreath form, but then I remembered my stash of chunky yard sale picture frames just crying out for a project.  I wrapped an 11" x 14" frame in burlap, made a million little rolled paper flowers using scraps from previous scrapbook layouts, and then I glued them all down.

I love the colors and different sizes of the rosettes.  The square wreath is growing on me...  

But I really need some input - does it need something else?  Maybe some green paper leaves sticking out here and there?  A monogram hanging in the center?  A pennant banner crossing from side to side?  Leave it alone? I do have a long piece of burlap glued to the top center for hanging, but as you can see, I didn't really need it to because of my door hanger, so I wrapped it around to cover up the silver hanger.

Happy first day of school GASD friends!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Levi's Birthday Pictures

For Levi's birthday, we went with tradition and got some one year photos taken of him.  However, when it came to the actual portraits, we went a little nontraditional.  Rather than getting gussied up and going to a studio (I have memories of my mom hair spraying my bangs in the parking lot of Olan Mills in the early 90s), we hooked up with our favorite photographer, Nik Cole, and headed over to the place Herb and I fell in love - the Millersville Campus, and more specifically the pond!

Nikki was just getting her business of the ground a year ago when Levi came home, so she graciously shot some newborn pics for us to build up her portfolio and commemorate our exciting life changing event.  You can see those pictures from October 2010 here.  We were sooo excited to work with her again for Levi's birthday (and happy to be repeat customers!).



I made the following photo book (practically free thanks to a bunch of different coupon codes) using Shutterfly. If anybody wants any prints of this adorable little one year old, let me know! And if you want some fabulous pictures of your loved ones, check out Nik.Cole Photography. Herb has dubbed her as our lifetime photographer.

Click here to view this photo book larger

If you see no photo book, please click here to view it.

Here's hoping...

Herb's best friend in the world (besides me) is named Matt.  Matt has a terribly creative and fun wife named Erin.  Herb and Matt became fast friends during the days when Herb wasn't yet sure if I was the one.  They taught drum line together, talked theology forever, and dreamed of starting a church that really focused on Jesus.  Matt stood up with Herb the day we became one, and Matt and Erin have become some of the dearest friends we have ever had (I have since forgiven Matt and Erin for  telling Herb to letting Herb dump me back in the day).

Ethan is their first child, Adin is their second.  Ethan is major hope fulfilled. He is the result of years of longing for a child, a desire granted, and a gift from God.  When he was born, it was the first time we saw any of our friends do "the kid thing."  In fact, they did it with such ease, I blame Matt and Erin for single handedly infecting me with baby fever.  Ethan was the one on whom I learned how to change a diaper and install a car seat.  A few years later, Adin joined the crew, and Matt and Erin asked me to be his godmother.  What an honor!

But this post is not about Matt, Erin, or Adin, this post is about Ethan and the amazing little man he's turned out to be.  We love this kid like he's our own, and Herb and I just shook our head in wonder when we realized he was starting kindergarten today.

So, here's to hoping that Ethan had an awesome first day of school, that he got lots of compliments on the Redskin's backpack from Auntie Michelle, and that somehow my little boy doesn't grow up nearly as fast as this one did.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Canvas Baby Gift

Remember last summer when I was making canvases for our adoption fundraiser?  Well, it was then that I figured out it is way more fun to do crafty things for fun rather than trying to sell them.  When I am getting compensated for something I create, I am WAY too stressed during the creative process, and therefore, I think the things I sold actually were actually than things I gave away for free.

All that to say, now I just make canvas things for gifts and fun.

Most recently, I whipped one up for one of my pals who is expecting baby #1 next month.  They had a crazy run-around with fertility stuff, and we commiserated over infertility heartache.  And then out of no where, they ended up making a baby the old fashioned way.  TMI? Maybe.  Awesome God story?  Totally!!

So, when she shared her pregnancy with me, she mentioned that she loved the quote we have in vinyl above Levi's crib (read about that process here).  I made a mental note and when I saw her nursery pics (thanks, Facebook), I got my booty over to my local craft store, found some matching paper, and got to work.

Here's the final product.

I hope they read it on those stressful sleepless nights of rocking and pacing and are reminded of what a precious gift their baby is.  I am so excited for them!!

I just love the dimension and texture that of Modge Podge gives.  But I need to remember to use thicker cardstock as the base on these canvases - why do I always forget that a light paper is going to wrinkle TONS!  SO frustrating.

(Side note: if you love Modge Podge, or if you don't even know what it is, you should check out Modge Podge Rocks.  Some stuff is weird, some stuff is inspiring.)

Lazy or Laid Back?

I know you can't tell from this picture, but college was hard.  In addition to a ridiculous course load, there were expectations of practicing for 2 hours a day.  I survived and graduated Magna Cum Laude, but the real feat was keeping my sanity. My motto was: Do the Bare Minimum.

There was just no time to actually finish everything I should have done.  Yes, I wanted to turn out to be a good music teacher, but I also wanted to turn out to be a good friend and wife.  And because I didn't spend two hours a day practicing, I had time to invest in Herb in college, which is turning out to be a really good choice.

Sometimes I felt like I was being lazy with my bare minimum motto, but it was a spectacular life lesson in sifting out the Really Important Stuff from the Busy Work.  And let's be honest, my finishing GPA tells me that my bare minimum was good enough.

When I started teaching, I adopted the same policy.  I LOVED my job as an elementary school music teacher, but it wasn't the only thing going on in my life. Thankfully, I had administrative support that felt similarly.  In my first year, my principal pulled me into his office for a little heart to heart. He said,
"Michelle, we are so glad to have you here.  But I know being a teacher is not all that's important to you.  First you are a wife, then you are a daughter, then you are a friend, then you are a teacher."
I know that was a little scandalous for a principal to say, and maybe you don't agree with it, but to me it was amazing perspective.

Now that I've been a mom for 10 months (and believe me, I'm no expert), I've started to reflect how these personality traits and work habits have transferred into motherhood.  

Whenever someone tells me I'm a laid back mom, for some reason I feel like it's the best compliment ever. I hope it never comes off as laziness, because this little dude is definitely the most important thing in the world to me (along with his daddy).   Isn't it funny though, how laid back and lazy could be so close to each other?

From college to career to parenting, I think my laid back principals compliment motherhood the best, not to mention for the first time in my life, my most important thing is my career. 

I wouldn't say I'm doing the bare minimum mothering necessary, but I feel like I am a lot more chill than most new mothers tend to be.  I have sifted out what I feel to be the REALLY IMPORTANT aspects of parenting, and let the other stuff take a back seat.  

Or, Levi has just been a super easy content kid.

I have to give God some major props though.  I told Him that I was really nervous about being a mom and that I didn't want to do it unless He was all over it, and He is faithful.  Me being a mom is the perfect example of this quote: 
"He doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called."
And also, 
"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." (Phil 4:13)
So thanks to all those people who have stood behind and beside us in support for the last year.  I treasure all the wisdom gained from other parents and all the prayers offered up on our behalf.  I know we still have a long road of parenting to go and this "Chill Mom" thing might only last for a season, but for now, I'm just going to enjoy it!

Monday, August 22, 2011

If Children Could Talk...

Hi friends!  I think we are recouped from the birthday week extravaganza.  In addition to the party last weekend (which I told you about here, here, and here), we got Levi a haircut on his actual birthday, and we were house sitting all week in Manheim!  We've been home since Thursday night, but let me tell you, the kitchen still has laundry and dishes everywhere, the suitcases are still in the dining room, and Levi's diapers have not been unpacked from the box in which they came.

(Side note: I am trying cloth diapers, but that's another post for another day.)

I have a lot of stuff brewing in my head, but my dishes and baby need to be tended to first today.  So I am going to share something that I read this morning at The Better Mom.  As soon as I started reading this poem, my eyes teared up... I hope I am being as patient with Levi as he deserves.  Enjoy!

If Children Could Talk

…here is what they might say:

My hands are small; please don’t expect perfection whenever I make my bed, draw a picture, or throw a ball.

My legs are short; please slow down so I can keep up with you.

My eyes have not seen the world as yours have; please let me explore safely. Don’t restrict me unnecessarily.

Housework will always be there. I’m only little for a short time-please take time to explain things to me about this wonderful world, and do so willingly.

My feelings are tender; please be sensitive to my needs. Don’t nag me all day long…treat me as you would like to be treated.

I am a special gift from God; please treasure me as God intended you to do, by holding me accountable for my actions, giving me guidelines to live by, and disciplining me in a loving manner.

I need your encouragement to grow. Please go easy on the criticism; remember you can criticize the things I do without criticizing me.

Please give me the freedom to make decisions concerning myself. Permit me to fail, so that I can learn from my mistakes. Then someday I’ll be prepared to make the kind of decisions life requires of me.

Please don’t do things over for me. Somehow that makes me feel that my efforts didn’t quite measure up to your
expectations. I know it’s hard, but please don’t try to compare me with my brother or my sister.

Please don’t be afraid to leave for a weekend together. Kids need vacations from parents, just as parents need vacations from kids. Besides, it’s a great way to show us kids that your marriage is very special.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Happy Birthday to You

Last year, today was one of the saddest days of my life; today it is one of the happiest.

Oh Levi, may you always know the lessons of redemption, promises, patience, and love God has taught me through your little life.

Happy first birthday, son.  What an amazing year it's been!

{Levi's one year doctor visit isn't until next week, so I'll wait till then to do a stats and such update.}

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Homemade Birthday Delights, Part 3

I really wanted to make Levi's birthday party have a "Levi's" Theme - as in Levi's Jeans.  So we started with these invitations. (Thanks, Picasa, for being awesome at helping me make photo invitations!!)

I had plans to use old jeans to make goody bags and a pinata, but it turned out to be too much work for what it was worth to me.

The other part of the jean them would be his birthday cake, which would look like a pair of jeans.  But when I pulled the horseshoe cake out of the oven, it broke.  I tried to implant two cupcakes, but as you can see, it was disastrous.

And thus, the denim theme kind of died, as did the cake idea.

I've been enjoying cake decorating for about 2 years now, but with every cake I make I think, "This is the last one I'm doing."  Decorating a cake takes me so long, and what do you do with it then?  Just eat it!  So lately, my love has been for cupcakes.  Thanks to a simple Wilton frosting tip and some great go-to recipes, I can make a delicious looking cupcake and frost it in no time at all.  Best of both worlds!

We had chocolate cupcakes with Oreo frosting, and Oreo cupcakes with Oreo frosting.  And they were awesome, if I do say so myself.  Thanks, Lemonade Makin' Momma for the recipe!!  Do yourself a favor and try these suckers PRONTO!

Oreo Cupcakes
Box yellow cake mix
Oreo package (not double stuffed)
Cupcake liners

1.  Preheat the oven to whatever the cake mix box tells you to do.
2.  Place cupcake liners in cupcake pan.  Put one Oreo on the bottom of each liner.
3.  Crush up remaining Oreos and set half aside for frosting.
4.  Prepare yellow cake box mix as directed and mix in half of the Oreo crumbs.
5.  Spoon the batter into liners and bake according to instructions (you may have to shorten the baking time because of the Oreo).

Oreo Frosting
4 1/2 sticks room temperature no sugar added butter
6 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
remaining crushed Oreos from above recipe

1.  Beat butter with 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar until pale and fluffy.
2.  Gradually add an additional 5 1/4 cups powdered sugar.
3.  Add milk and vanilla.  Beat until pale and fluffy.
4.  Stir in Oreo crumbs.
5.  Pipe on cupcakes.  Garnish with mini Oreos

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Homemade Birthday Delights, Part 2

Let's be honest. Levi is one, and will never remember this birthday.  It doesn't really matter what gift Herb and I give him this year.  We bought him a little musical instrument puzzle, but more important to me were the handmade gifts; the pennant banner and his birthday video.

I spent waaaaaaay to long on this video, using Windows Movie Maker.  Herb said I should try to make it only a few minutes long because that's all people want to see.  I said, "It's our party and we'll cry  show a ten minute video if we want to."

Looking at the pictures in which Jess covertly captured many teary eyes and joyous smiles, I think I can say it was a hit!

Hope you enjoy it, too!  If the video below doesn't show up, click this link.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Homemade Birthday Delights, Part 1

Yesterday we celebrated Levi's birthday (although his actually b-day isn't until Thursday).  It rained like crazy here in central PA, so our outdoor party got moved to the church basement.  There were about 50 people; we ate snack foods, watched a movie (more on that later), opened presents, demolished a cake, and spent time with the people most important in Levi's life.

Opening gifts was a crazy ordeal.  I tried to use Lauren's idea of having each kid open the gift they brought, but there were more gifts than kiddos, so it turned into a when-is-it-my-turn-to-open-the-next-present situation.  It was chaos, but so fun!

So back to the post title, homemade birthday delights. 

Last week I told you about Levi's birthday tradition pennant banner, and tomorrow I'll write about my DIY gift for Levi.  But today I am going to show one of the sweetest birthday gifts ideas.  My brother and his wife made him a super special photo book. They used the website Paper Coterie and uploaded 26 photos; one to go with each letter of the alphabet. {Jocelyn told this thrifty heart that Money Saving Mom had a great coupon code a few weeks back.  Even better!}

It's not just stock photos of apples and zebras; each alphabet letter has something personalized to Levi and his delightful little 12 months of existence.  This is an awesomely personalized gift I would love to copy, and I am so jealous that I did not think of it myself!!

If you want to make one for a little man or lady in your life, and you don't have thousands of pictures like my brother does, you can always download stuff from their parent's facebook profile.

I didn't really get to look at the book yesterday at the party, but when I read it to Levi today, I got all choked up out of the thoughtfulness and sentimental value of the gift!  And it's fun because it's kind of like a non-traditional scrapbook that gives and overview of his first year!

So here are the things that fill Levi's A to Z book:

A: Aunt Jocelyn
B: Bear
C: Cousins
D: Daddy
E: Eyes
F: Family
G: Grandma
H: Hat
I: Ice hockey
J: Jammies
K: Kiss
L: Levi
M: Mommy
N: Nap
O: Orioles
P: Parents
Q: Quack, quack
R: Rock star
S: Stroller ride
T: Turkey
U: Uncle Josh
V: Vomit
W: Water
X: X-Tra Love
Y: Yawn
Z: Zebra

Check back tomorrow for another Homemade Birthday Delight!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Birthday Pennant Banner

Just 10 days till Levi's birthday!!!  I've been busy menu planning, making a video montage, and working on some other various DIY party things.  Tonight I have one project to share with you - hot of the presses sewing machine!

But first, the back story.

About two years ago I started buying pieces of black and white fabric.  I knew we wanted to do a gender-neutral black and white nursery, and bedding was the best way I knew how to incorporate several fun patterns. My mom did most of the work on the quilt.  I love it to pieces (the binding is not finished on this picture).  I made the crib skirt using this no-sew tutorial.

As soon as I saw this post at Heart Cries last summer, I knew exactly what I would be doing with the extra quilt fabric: a birthday pennant banner for Levi!

- various fabrics
- 7 yard x 1 inch spool of grosgrain ribbon
- double sided fusible interfacing
- iron
- sewing machine & thread
- scissors

Here's kind of what I did:
- Cut a million triangles.  Mine were about 6 inches wide and 6 inches tall.  I cut one and then used it as a template for all the others.
- Cut double sided fusible interfacing triangles.
- Connect two triangles back to back using the fusible interfacing with an iron.
- Run a zig-zag stitch on the edges that won't be covered by the binding.
- Fold ribbon in half over the non zig-zag-ed edge of the triangles and sew a straight stitch.

As you can see, the edges may fray over time, but I'm okay with that.  I dont' really plan to wash this thing more than a few times in my life span.  The longest job was cutting all the triangle.  My mom gave me a FABRIC ONLY scissors for my birthday this year, so this was actually kind of a fun job!

The banner is about 6 yards long.  Every year we will dig it out and hang it up for Levi's birthday week.  I can reminisce about where the fabric came from and tell him his amazing beginning of life story, and it will be a perfect opportunity to dig out the baby pictures and embarrass him.  But really, I just LOVE a tradition!

So after his party, we will pack it away until next year, and the next, and the next... Although, I love it so much, right now it is hanging above my bed, but it also might live in Levi's nursery.  Hehehe, we'll see!

Do you have any birthday traditions in your family?

Sharing this project today over at Not JUST a Housewife.

Friday, August 5, 2011

God is Faithful

On Wednesday, Jess and I headed to NYC to see her favorite artist, Jeremy Camp.  Let's be honest, I love him,  too.

Jeremy's wife died of cancer 10 years ago, just a few months after their wedding; an eerily similar story to Jess and Isaac.  We were thrilled to get to meet him before the concert, and Jess got to share her story with him.

During the concert, Jeremy gave a small part of his testimony, noting that it had been 10 years since his wife died, and the work God is done in his life since then.  He got all kinds of choked up when he talked about his new wife, daughters, and son that is due in three weeks.

A tear slid down my face when he said, "God is faithful...Don't give up no matter what happens."  I couldn't stop thinking about where I was a year ago, the pain that followed for a few weeks, the healing that has come since then, and the little family of three that I am so blessed with.  Thank you, Jesus.

Lots of people took video of the concert on their iPhones, and Jess found one on youtube of our favorite part of the concert! If you start the video around 2:20, you'll hear the part of his testimony I mentioned - but the whole thing is good!!