Rough week

We had a great time in Tucson, it actually reminded me a lot of Modesto. Both are pretty decent sized towns plunked down in the middle of nowhere, so you get the benefits of suburban living with all the conveniences of plenty of stores, along with the benefits of rural living. I found a bunch of great crafty stores, an amazing selection of fantastic restaurants, and a wonderful art community. Plus the real estate market is **so** much better than San Diego.

I’ve written about four dozen posts updating Bear’s job situation, only to have them change just before I published. Everything is still up in the air, but we’re starting to slowly close in on a resolution. At least enough so that we know that there are about two things that could happen instead of just being subject to any manner of whims.

Here’s the short version. Months ago, before the fires, it looked like a company was going to buy Bear’s building and put their own boss-man in place, sending us out on our ear. That company ended up not working out and the sale didn’t go through. We turned down all the other offers we had in this area and were incredibly grateful things could stay as they were. Turns out we weren’t out of the woods. Now some other corporate developments have occurred that I can’t disclose that put us back in the same spot. We’ve kind of burned our bridges in the area by turning down offers last time, so now we’re basically waiting to find out if we get to stay here or if we have to be transfered to Tuscon.

Tuscon was great, and if we end up there I’m sure we’ll find a way to be happy. But the thought of moving. AGAIN. When I haven’t even made friends here yet, when I haven’t even been able to fully unpack because of home renovations, when I haven’t even finished the home renovations…it’s kind of demoralizing. Tuscon would put us in a really great place financially, but with no family or friends around us when I have my first baby. Plus we’d have to move when I was eight months pregnant and try to find a new doctor. I’m trying very hard to understand that I have absolutely no control over this, and if God wants us in Tuscon then Tuscon it is. But I really wanted to put down roots here. Maybe we still can, it’s not definite, but I’m feeling gloomy.

We got back from Tuscon Saturday night, and Sunday night we found out our prophet Gordon B. Hinckley died. He was a very old man and we’ve all been expecting it for years. I am so attached to President Hinckley that I imagined sobbing and days of depression, but instead I’m just so very grateful I could grow up under his leadership. I’ve still had a couple weepy moments, but overall I’m just so filled with love and appreciation for him. He has done so much for our church, and so much that was good for me. I can’t really even articulate my thoughts on him, I just want to be like Anne Shirley and “feel a prayer.”

Monday morning Bear had to leave for Reno without me. I was absolutely pissed about it. He had to go to a work regional conference, leaving his 7 months pregnant wife, when if we get to stay with the company it probably won’t even be in this region anyway. He basically just had to go to try to keep the news under wraps, leaving me to fend for myself when I can barely even reach my feet to put on a pair of socks. I ended up being fine, I just got absolutely nothing done all week. Normally I work hard around the house during the day, relying on Bear to take care of me at night when I have to crash. This week I just wandered around the house, ate something, hugged a cat, wandered some more, hugged a cat, ate some more, took a nap with a cat, moved to the couch, ate something else, rinse and repeat. Other than the guilt I felt over my lack of productivity, I was fine.

Then, yesterday morning I woke up at four in the morning with incredible stomach cramps. It didn’t feel like contractions, it felt like hunger pains. I couldn’t breath, I couldn’t get comfortable in any position, and food was not making it any better. If I hadn’t been alone, I would’ve certainly been incredibly uncomfortable, but I could have dealt with it with a little help. On my own I had to deal with the pain and try to trudge upstairs anytime I needed medicine or try to make my lunch while barely being able to breath. By three in the afternoon, I had reached my limit and was starting to get panicky. I finally called the doctor – which I am absolutely loathe to do after all the head-pats and crazy talk I’ve received – and the sweet advice nurse basically told me that Rookie was just going through a growth spurt and causing me loads of muscle and skeletal pain.

People keep asking me how the pregnancy is going, and before this week I’ve had no complaints other than exhaustion and some back pain. No varicose veins, no hemorrhoids, no vomiting, nothing weird. It figures it would all hit me at once and while I was all by myself.

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Rookie’s been hitting batting practice.

Since I hit about 20 weeks, this kid has not stopped wiggling. It took me a while to figure out what was him and what wasn’t. I was getting so anxious to feel something, I went online to read all the descriptions of what a moving baby is supposed to feel like. I read about bubbles, or taps, or butterflies, or goldfish swimming….none of those rang a bell. To me, when Rookie starts his dance routines, it feels like nothing but the feeling you get right before you have to run to the bathroom with a bout of diarrhea. Sorry. Not a pretty description, I know. Bubbles and butterflies are much more romantic, but truth is truth.

Even though I’m getting my guts beat up from the inside out, for the longest time Bear had zero luck in feeling anything. Finally, FINALLY he managed to be in the right place at the right time and one of Rookie’s kicks managed to land right on his hand a couple weeks ago. Rookie seems to have just grown strong enough to finally make his presence known.

On the same day Bear finally felt the kid move, my brown kitty Cheetara was laying on my belly, sacked out and sleeping soundly. Rookie kicked right where she was sleeping and the little fuzzball jumped about three feet in the air and sprinted to a hiding place. I’m sure that’s nothing compared to what he’s got in store for her when he can manage to grab a handful of fur.

Bear and I are taking off for a last minute trip to Tucson, AZ. I’ve never been there and we don’t know anybody there, so we don’t think we’ll be doing anything very fun. But since the company is sending us we’re taking advantage of the meal per diem and we got reservations at a fancy steakhouse. Oh I can’t wait. All this kid wants to eat is red meat. We’ll be back on Sunday. Have a great weekend!

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The preparations begin

I take a lot of crap for my creative endeavors. I really need to write up a whole rant on the subject, but lets just leave it for now by saying that for as many years as I’ve been trying to have kids, I’ve been hearing that when I do I won’t be able to make stuff anymore. That I’ll be far too busy to make anything by hand, thus allowing the person predicting my failure to feel that they could surely do everything I do if only they weren’t so busy raising children, and everyone knows that CHILDREN ARE THE FUTURE.

I have no doubt that when Rookie gets here, my creative impulses will change dramatically. I’ll probably be much more likely to hire somebody to do a messy, complicated project I could technically do myself. I’ll take a whole lot longer to finish the projects I do start. Those projects will probably revolve around Rookie nearly exclusively, and I’ll probably be far more likely to buy something ready made rather than make something myself just because I know how.

But…I WILL STILL MAKE. This is a part of me that is so crucial to who I am that I will find a way. If he’ll sit in a sling, I’ll use a sling and make something one handed. If he’ll play at my feet, I’ll let him play at my feet while I sit at the sewing machine. If he is a little squaller that demands all of my time and attention, I’ll take careful notes of every idea I have so I can get around to it as soon as he gets old enough to cooperate. But most of all, I’ll plan ahead and organize my time.

In that spirit, I bring you a new tutorial of next year’s Christmas cards. I made them up as much as I could (they’re just waiting on next year’s photos) and then packed them away with all the Christmas decorations. Then next year, when Rookie is eight months old and into everything, all I’ll have to do is slap some photos on and pop them in the mail.

If you’re a seasoned crafter or craft blog reader, this tutorial may seem a little overly detailed. But I’m used to teaching classes where the students wanted to know the exact longitude and latitude of where every item should be placed. So hopefully there’s enough here for everyone.

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Step 1: Cut a piece of cardstock to measure 12″ x 4 1/4″.

Step 2: On the front of your cardstock, print “Merry Christmas” about 1 3/4″ from the bottom edge.

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Step 3: On the back side, print the rest of your greeting about 3″ from the bottom edge. These printing measurements are not at all rigid, so don’t stress too much. You just want the printing visible over the bottom flap.

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Step 4: Now it’s time to score to make all your folds. The best way to do this is with a black scoring blade on a fiskars trimmer. But you can also just fold everything by hand using a ruler. It will just take you forever. Starting from the top of the front of your cardstock (the side without Merry Christmas on it) you need one score 1 1/4″ from the edge, and one score 6 3/4″ from the edge. Fold along the scores.

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Step 5: Cut four pieces of coordinating paper to measure:
3″ x 3 1/2″
3″ x 4″
3″ x 4 1/2″
3″ x 5″
Score each piece 1 1/4″ from the edge and arrange so they look all cute.

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Step 6: Fold the 1 1/4″ flap up and over to enclose the patterned papers like a matchbook. Secure with a couple of staples.

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Step 7: Decorate the front. I used some tree punches and pen doodles.

That’s it. Then next Christmas I’ll put a photo or greeting or something on each of the papers, and then a photo on the front. Ta Da! It’s not like I invented the concept of a matchbook card or anything, but I’m just wild about the idea of sharing so many photos in this way. Feel free to borrow this idea, but if I get one of these from someone on my Christmas card list, I might be a little put out.

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Year of Pleasures #8

Would you look at this?
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Look at that belly fuzz! And the best part is that she’s generous in sharing. To a fault. Especially when you’re wearing black pants and would like to keep them that way.

But seriously, unless you are deathly allergic or something, how could you keep yourself from rubbing that?

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An unexpected new member of our family.

A little boy just joined our clan. Just not quite the one we were expecting.

Meet Lobo. Lobo Marunga.
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Can you stand his little crossed eyes? Oh my gosh I’m in love. He purrs like crazy and he cuddles up under my chin and puts his little soft paws on my cheek. I just want to eat him.

We named him after this terribly sappy movie. My one guilty pleasure in the romantic comedy category. My only excuse is that I saw it when I was about 12 and it just caught my imagination.

Remember how just last week I mentioned that Bear always found a way to sneak a little money out of the budget to do something crazy for Christmas? This was it. We’d been talking about getting a little boy ragdoll kitty for ages. Our other two cats are purebreds, and we’ve always harbored thoughts of breeding them, but we didn’t think it would happen for years. We absolutely lucked into the two we already have and we never thought we’d luck into a third. Jem and Cheetara came to us for free (!) when cats of their breed frequently cost up to $600 (!!). Even if we paid full price, it would still be a wise investment, but there’s just no possible way we’re paying that much for a pet. Just no possible way.

Without telling me anything about it, Bear has been scouring Craigslist and the Pennysaver for months. He’s seen them pop up here and there, but never just the right situation. Then, just after New Years, he found him. Someone had gotten little Lobo for their kids for Christmas, and then the landlord wouldn’t let them keep him. So she put him up on Craigslist and within three hours she had 40 phone calls. Bear was the first lucky one who called and was ready to commit right then and there. And we got him for a steal just because she didn’t want to deal with it.

It’s probably the worst possible time. I’m due in just about three months, our kitties are already jumpy with the impending changes they’re sensing, and now there’s a little guy running around, eating their food, getting in their way and trying to pounce on them whenever they sit still. Even though we got a screaming deal on him, we still could have used that money somewhere else.

But who could resist him?
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When a little fuzzy gift of love falls into your lap, you just have to be grateful for it and make it work.

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More Christmas leftovers

OK, OK, even I’m getting a little tired of Christmas by now, so I really need to wrap up some of these things I’ve got sitting around here.

I really wanted to keep all the decorations up until the end of the month, but it looks like everything will be coming down this weekend. Bear finally turned to me and said, “OK, I love Christmas too, but now we just look lazy.”

So before I say goodbye to Christmas for another year, I’d better show off the last of the projects I managed to crank out.

Since this was our first Christmas in the house, and thus our first Christmas with a big grand staircase, I absolutely had to make a big grand garland. Mike and Sally have been slowly starting to weed out their decorations once they threatened to take over their house, so Sally gifted me about 18 ft of naked garland that I fancied up with berries and ribbon and jingle bells and glittery ornaments. This is the kind of project I love after a ton of intricate, long-term, detailed projects. A couple of hours with a glue gun, and done.
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The one useful thing I took away from my time working at Michael’s? I now know how to make a bow like a mad woman.
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Of course, I have to show off this year’s Christmas card. The front says “Merry Christmas,” and then the inside says, “From the Whole Family.” Get it? Cause the cats, and the belly. Gosh, we are such dorks.
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I’m kind of known for my crazy over the top Christmas cards, but with all the work on the house I needed something streamlined. This one worked out just super, because nearly all the work was in printing. After printing the cards and photos, all I had to do was glue on holly leaves and rhinestones. If only every idea I had came together so smoothly.

This was my big triumph. The completion of nearly six years of work. Every time I look at these I get such a feeling of accomplishment.
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This stocking is for me, and I just put the last stitches in before Christmas. Bear felt that having Mrs. Claus carrying cookies was appropriate for a “Mom” stocking.
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This stocking is for Bear, again appropriate because he is absolutely the Santa in our house. Every single year he finds a way to sneak a little extra money out of the budget so he can go above and beyond for everyone he loves. I finished this stitching about two years ago, and it’s been sitting in a drawer ever since waiting for me to get around to sewing it up.
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In the week between holidays I finally managed to wash these thoroughly, – after so many years there was a lot of dirt and even more cat hair to remove – sew them up, sew up the lining, embroider the cuff, and sew the last pieces together. Just in time to hang them up for a couple of days and then pack them away for next year.

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O Christmas Tree…..

I may have mentioned that we go bonkers for Christmas around here. A little bit. Around the edges. But we come by it honestly. Bear’s parents set the standard that we can only hope to aspire to. Next year I’ll be sure and post pictures, because it really must be seen to be believed. There really is not a square inch in their home that doesn’t have something Christmas on it. It defies comprehension.

They have a lot of different doll collections: four ft tall nutcrackers, rooms full of nativities, collectible dolls from A Christmas Carol, scenes of Victorian carolers, Santas of every size and color…you get the idea. My problem is that dolls creep me right out. I so adore having the house overtaken by Christmas and filled to bursting with all the sights and sounds of the season, but I just can’t have it be with dolls or my dreams will not be filled with visions of sugarplums, but more like little Chucky’s standing over me with bloody knives.

I’ve decided that our version of Christmas excess will be achieved through Christmas trees as far as the eye can see. I want them in every color and shape and size, with crazy themes and elegant themes and color schemes that match the room. As much as I’d like to just run out and spend myself into the poor house, I do have to exercise some restraint and so I can only add one tree a year. And since this was the first year we have a garage and enough square footage to fit more than one tree, this was the first year I could put my plan into effect.

Here’s our traditional Family Tree:
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My mom always had a beautiful designer tree that matched the living room, but when we brought home our ugly clay ornaments from Kindergarten, they stayed in the box since they clashed with her carefully curated decor. It always broke my little heart. When our kids bring home their little creations, this is the tree it will go on. As for right now, it’s also housing a couple of our collections that will one day take over trees of their own.

Every year we buy the Swarovski crystal snowflake ornament. I got a couple of these from a vendor way back when I was working at a mergers and acquisitions firm, and they are so stunning I had to keep them up. Eventually I want to hang these from a chandelier.
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This is one collection that shows off our sappy side. Every year we go out and buy an “Our First Christmas” ornament. Because one of the goals we have for our marriage is that we’ll be newlyweds forever. (Sorry about the crappy picture. Winter light is hard.)
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This year I also added a ton of family photos. I saw it in a Pottery Barn catalog and just went nuts over it. They had all kinds of frames just propped up in the branches, and it was just so gorgeous. I added photos of all my favorite friends, and it just made me so happy. Every time I glanced over at the tree, I saw someone I loved peeking out of the branches at me. I’ll be sure to add more every year.
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And now, for my brand new tree: 12 Days of Christmas.
It’s a theme I’ve had simmering away back there for a while, but this year everything just fell in line. I found an ornament set at Costco, Crate and Barrel carried a set that I lucked into at their outlet, and then I made enough myself to pretty much fill up the tree.
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I went to a wholesale floral mart near us and loaded up on all kinds of good stuff. The “star” on the top is actually a gourd that I sawed a hole in the bottom of, painted green, and dumped glitter all over.

A friend of mine does vinyl lettering, so I had her cut me out “My true love gave to me…” and put that on a ribbon garland.
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And the rest were really easy.
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Simple pears from the floral shop I covered in glitter. Cheap ornaments I just glued leaves onto. Green ornaments from last years clearance I decorated with paint pens and the song’s lyrics. And my favorite: wood numbers from the craft store I just doused in about five coats of Martha’s glitter. I’m also working on some super cute crosstitched ornaments, but those will have to be for next year.

The next theme in progress is a snowfall tree, covered in icicles and snowballs and flakes of all kinds. I’d also really love to do a Christmas Treat tree for the kitchen with gingerbread and peppermint, and maybe a winter clothing tree for the hallway with lots of little scarves and sweaters and things. Big plans, I know, so you can expect to see my progress on these trees all year long. If I have any hope of adding more trees, I can’t exactly put it off until December.

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Year of Pleasures #7

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I found these pajamas at Costco back in January, and I went back and got one in every color. They’re made of a fabric called “Soybu” – part Soy plant and part Bamboo plant. They are just the softest, most comfortable things ever, and if I’m home and plan on being there for a few hours in a row? You can find me sporting a pair of these.

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Following up on the finishes…

I figure I’ve already given this one away in the header, so I better show it off for good. If you’ve paid any attention to my project progress bars (and really, who would since I’ve obviously barely paid attention myself) you may have noticed that my Apple colored throw has been sitting at 100% for ages and ages now.

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I finished this back in August, and I’m just now getting around to posting. It’s funny to me to look back at these photos and see how different the light is here in the winter, even in sunny San Diego. Who would’ve thought?

This was the second time I made this blanket, which may have been a first for me. I don’t know that my attention span has ever held up well enough to make something and actually finish it twice in a row. I initially made it for The Good Twin way back when she redesigned my portfolio website, and I was so in love with the squishy (and cheap) yarn and how it held the pattern, that I knew I had to have one for myself. A few years later, and it’s finally finished.

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It’s been in use now for several months, and I don’t think it’s ever again looked as nice as it does in that picture. Kitties have played in the tassels, it’s always to be found wadded up on the couch wherever we last reluctantly got up, and it never stays in the room I designed it for. It always ends up in the family room in front of the T.V. where more green is the last thing anyone needs. I think these are all signs of a successful project. It is being well loved.

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Christmas goes all year round at my house…

I’m always a little sad to see how quickly people move on from Christmas. To me it seems like just now is when you can really sit back and enjoy it. No more deadlines, no more rush, now you can sit back with a cup of cocoa and a cheesy movie and just relax.

Besides, the house always looks so bleak once you take Christmas down, and unless Spring is right around the corner to brighten things up, I just can’t bring myself to do it.

This is not just an excuse to keep from cleaning up the Christmas mess, but also an excuse for me to show you all the Christmasy things I should have been showing you in December, but was too busy with doing the Christmasy things.

I have loads of Christmas projects to show off, so I’ll start with this simple one that has been waiting around on my hard drive since back in October. My computer is fighting valiantly against its final crash, so I’m a little afraid to upload the new photos onto it. Everyone cross your fingers for good ol’ sparky. Also, if anyone knows why a computer would work slower than my runny nose despite all the latest virus software, I’d love any input. Rookie needs a bed more than a computer.

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We made this as the first gift of the season this year for Bear’s parents, Mike and Sally. They are just relishing their role as grandparents, and this is one of the first years that the kids are getting old enough to really have fun with around the season. Moose is almost five now, and the other two are each just over a year, so the grandparents are just stuffing their little fuzzy heads with Santa-lore.

Bear actually came up with this idea when he saw the wood mailbox in Michaels. The whole project was his from inception to completion, including all the snow. He didn’t even know they made such a thing as a “snow writer,” he just had this idea in his head of making the mailbox look snowy and then left it up to me to figure out how. It was my first time using that snow writer paint you see each year at Christmas time, but I am a big fan. Super easy and it puffs up great. Then we just dumped some thick glitter on top while it was wet.
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One trick for the lettering: Since I can’t really draw, I have become quite a pro at finding ways to fudge. Here I printed my favorite font off the computer in the size I wanted it, and then using a ball point pen with a dull tip, I traced it right onto the balsa wood mailbox. Those cheap sticky bic pens work great for this. You want something that won’t scratch through your paper as you’re applying a good amount of pressure. Then when you pull the paper off, you’ll have just enough of an indentation for you to see where to apply the paint. A silver paint pen around the edges covered up any sloppy bristle work, and bingo. I look like a stud.

We gave it to Bear’s parents before Thanksgiving even came around and they loved it. It held a place of honor right on the kitchen counter top all year long as they explained to the kids that this was where letters to Santa went to make sure he got them in time. I’m really looking forward to next year when Moose will be old enough to write his own letter and toss it in the box. You know grandma and grandpa will snatch that letter up and run right out to buy everything on the list.

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