Saturday, December 29, 2007

No crazier than usual.

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First of all, if you aren't reading A Dress A Day, you probably should be, even if you don't sew. I got hooked on that blog before I had sewn a stitch; it's just a fun read. Also, both the blogger and her commenters often post images and links of beautiful, gorgeous vintage dress patterns. I've drooled over them many a time, but I've never been tempted to buy one (the ones that are for sale) because I don't know the first thing about vintage sewing and I already have a huge stash of patterns (I like to stock up when Hobby Lobby has them for 99 cents).

And then I saw this:
I think that may be, actually, the perfect dress pattern. And it's my size (or, anyway, close enough to my size that I should be able to alter it to fit). And look, it has pockets! I'm always and forever adding pockets to my dresses so that I have somewhere to stash my Chap Stick. Sooo... I bought it off the internet and it's now happily sitting in my stash. Where it will probably sit for a long time. You may notice that a) this is not a maternity dress and b)it's a wrap dress that wraps closed in the back, so there's no conceivable way to nurse a baby while wearing it. Which is okay, that gives me a lot of time to trace the pattern and fit a muslin and find the absolutely perfect fabric.

Speaking of fabric, I went to JoAnn's the other day to see if they had gotten anything new in. They had. I counted at least 20 bolts of Alexander Henry, which you may have noticed by now, is my very very favorite brand of fabric. (And I like to rub it in for my mom, because her JoAnn's never gets the good stuff. Nyah nyah and all that.) I've been toying with the idea of making the New Look wrap dress to wear after the baby is born (this dress actually opens in the front, and I like wrap dresses, they are very forgiving of post-baby figures) and I thought, What if I make it with a different fabric on the top & the bottom? I love the idea of coordinating prints (If you don't believe me, come and look at all of my scrapbook paper) but also, I don't want to look totally crazy. I consulted with my mother and she gave her blessing with the caveat that if I use a smaller print on top and a larger one on the bottom, then I won't look crazy. Or at least, no crazier than usual.

So, this is what I got: Alexander Henry 'Bangle Dots' for the top

and 'Kleo' for the bottom. (The picture doesn't do the fabric justice, by the way. Those flowers are ginormous.) And then I got a sort of mulberry red quilters' cotton for the contrast bands. I did a test layout to figure the yardages before I went to the store, and I found out I actually used less fabric by cutting it that way. The pattern calls for 3.5 yards of the main fabric and I only had to get 3 (1 for the top and 2 for the bottom) because of the way that the pieces are laid out when you're cutting. I was pretty happy about that, since I was paying $6 a yard for the fabric and I really prefer to get it for $4 or $5. So yesterday, I went in my "sewing room" and did a whole lot of cutting. Because I finally also got around to tracing the Kwik Sew maternity dress pattern I got back in... October? I should probably sew that one first, don't you think? And then because I was on a roll, I cut out the pieces for the wrap dress as well. I have it all laid out on my table so I could see if it looks crazy, and it doesn't, except for crazy hot maybe.

In other news, we've had sort of a major crisis around here. Porter has lost both of his Baseball Guys. It was weird because he had them in the living room, with the gate up and the basement door closed, and they are both gone. I mean, we turned the whole house upside down last night looking for these things, and we've seen neither hide nor ratty yarn hair of them. It's very weird. My poor son had to cry himself to sleep last night because he didn't have his necessary comfort objects. I even went to Kohls last night and bought a third Baseball Guy for him but he threw it across the room, so I guess that wasn't okay. I gave him his Swedish Chef doll from Disneyworld and he slept with that, eventually. I mean, I know it's a rite of passage and he would have had to give up the Guys eventually and all that, but still, it kind of stinks that the things just disappeared.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Just a few...

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Christmas morning pictures to share. Enjoy!

Actually, I find it really hard to get good pictures on Christmas morning. I think it's a combination of the early-morning light (not too early - my kids love me), the Christmas tree, and a lot of action. I always face the dilemma of flash vs. no flash. Use the flash, and I get red eyes, weird shadows, and photos that look like they were taken underwater or possibly at midnight. No flash, and I get dark grainy photos but at least we don't all look washed out. I tend to err on the side of no flash. I had to edit the heck out of these pictures before I couldven consider sharing: I jacked up the fill light & highlights, changed to black & white, cropped, and added a 'glow' (and you thought my children were like that naturally).

I suspect that the answer to my dilemma is to get a better camera. My $150 point-and-shoot probably isn't doing much to help the situation. And I am using Picasa (which is free) to edit the pictures afterwards, instead of Photoshop (which is a couple hundred dollars). But... I'm sure it's shocking to admit this as a scrapbooker, but I don't really have a huge desire to improve my photography all that much. I tend to view it as only one piece of the puzzle and as long as I have good design and relevant journaling, I can get by on so-so photography. Plus, I would have changed these pictures into B&W no matter how good they are... the kids' pajamas totally don't match my scrapbook papers.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The most wonderful time of the year

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Today is Christmas Eve - my favorite day out of all 365. You'd think that someone as Christmas-obsessed as I am would list Christmas actual Day as my favorite... but no. Christmas Day means that the Christmas season is over and there's no more anticipation, and that's always been my favorite part. The planning, the wrapping, the ridiculous amount of cookie-baking. I love it even more now that I have kids, because I get all the fun on my own behalf PLUS I get to witness it on the faces of my children. And I think we really outdid ourselves this year. I'd better make sure Matt charges the battery for the video camera.

I've been busy busy busy the last few days - but in a good way. On Friday night we went to see Santa down at the courthouse square. Betsy was a little scared but not too scared, whereas Porter climbed right up on the old man's lap and didn't want to get down. And if you ask him what Santa says, Porter goes, "Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas!" It's really cute. On Saturday I went to Meijer for the ham and stopped in the post office as well. Nothing like mailing things 3 days before Christmas! But it wasn't any presents, it was some layouts that Scrapbook Trends requested. (I've really been on a roll lately! I actually have six layouts out for publication right now, which is some kind of freakish personal record. I was on the fence about entering Hall of Fame but now I think I will, just to see if my luck holds!) And the post office was mobbed but fortunately I was able to use the kiosk - one of the few times using the self-serve has actually saved me time.

Sunday, we did all the music at church. I sang in two somgs with the choir and played flute for a third. I haven't played my flute for a long, long time, but when we were looking at the choir pieces for the holidays and one had a flute part written for it... well, before I knew what had happened, my large mouth had opened and I'd volunteered myself. I'm a little surprised that there aren't 1,000 girls in the ward who play flute - that seems to be a very popular instrument. But it wasn't like they really needed me to sing, anyway, since our choir is about half sopranos. And with a little practice, I was surprised at how quickly everything came back to me. I think it turned out pretty good.

Porter told his nursery leaders, "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!" Have I ever mentioned that my son is way too into pop culture?

We had Betsy's favorite dinner - chicken pie and lemoname (it used to be called lemonabe) - and I let the kids watch the Charlie Brown special a couple of times. (One of my roommates gave me the tape when I was in college. Probably the most useful gift I've ever been given.) You've gotta love the touching holiday story of a boy named Caillou (I guess one bald-headed kid is as good as the next) and his dog Snoofy. My mother called me last night (on our new phone. Thanks Mom!) to brag about her fudge success and as it happened, I was in the middle of making a batch myself.

Despite all of my good planning, I still have to run a few more errands today. The paper pad I got for Betsy absolutely dwarfs her easel, so I've gotta go back to Michaels. And the 2-liter of root beer I got for us to drink tonight has somehow totally and completely disappeared. But, it shouldn't be too bad as long as I only have to get 2 things and I don't have to bring the kids with me... as long as I can find a parking space. We got some new board games to play with the kids tonight (I'm hoping that Hi-Ho Cherry-O isn't beyond their comprehension, let alone attention span) and we'll eat cheese balls and meat stick and crackers and do the nativity story. Which reminds me, I have to go dig up the Fisher Price sheep out of the basement...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


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We went down to the Children's Museum today for their Christmas exhibit. Also, dinosaurs. We actually went last week but had to leave early because of a poop incident. (Note to self: keep spare diapers in the van at ALL times.) Since I don't have seminary this week (HOORAY) we decided we might as well just go again. The kids had a really good time and Porter helpfully pointed out all of the stop signs between here and 30th & Meridian.

In the car I discovered that one of the local high school radio stations was playing Christmas music all day. (There's actually another station that's been playing holiday music since October, but it's mostly the cheesy stuff that I can't stand. I haven't decided which is worse, "Do They Know It's Christmas" or "Wonderful Christmastime.") Anyway, they played the Muppets version of 12 Days of Christmas, which got the kids (okay, me) all excited. Now, it's not like I haven't listened to the album eleventy-jillion times since the day after Thanksgiving. But still, hearing it on the radio was like running into an old friend unexpectedly. And, it's always nice to know that there are other people who love that album too. The kids love trying to identify the Muppet voices and I like to wail along, "FIVE... GOOOO-OOOLD... RIIIIINGS!" And, don't ask me why "Badum-pum-pum" is legitimate song-writing while "Parum-pum-pum-pum" is not acceptable. (Yes, I have inherited my father's bias against 'The Little Drummer Boy.' Dad, can you explain in exactly seventeen syllables why that is a horrible song?)

When I'm not listening to the radio in the car, I play my CD of the Messiah. Porter really likes the 'ayayooya' part.

I'm still baking cookies like a madwoman. Someone on an NCIS site posted the recipe for those cookies Laura Nielsen always made - the ones with the stripe of jam down the middle. I picked up some raspberry jam today (seedless, because that's the only way Matt will eat it; I prefer it with seeds) and I'm going to make some tonight, hopefully. I also made spinach dip today for Matt's work party and I started truffles, although I probably won't finish those until tomorrow. There's a lot of chilling involved, which is probably a metaphor for something.

I'm having issues with my maternity pants lately. I don't like the ones with the old-school belly pocket in the front, because my shirts aren't long enough to cover it and I think visible belly pouch is a huge faux pas. But, the ones with the elastic all the way around the waist keep falling off my hips (what, they aren't BIG ENOUGH TO HOLD UP MY PANTS??!!) and I'm always hiking them up. I'm starting to feel like Matt Foley. And I wanna live in a van down by the river.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

So far, so good!

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We have been married SEVEN YEARS today.

And notice the huge piles of snow standing all around. Who was the genius that decided we should go up to CHICAGO to get married... in DECEMBER??? Actually, we could have driven south to Louisville, but we chose the Chicago temple because my grandpa is a sealer there, so he married us. Also, my sister-in-law's parents used to live like ten minutes away from the temple, so Matt and his family members stayed there the night before the wedding. It wasn't actually snowing when we got married... we tied the knot at ten in the morning (probably would have been sooner if Matt's car keys hadn't gotten stuck in the ignition. I can't wait to watch the video with the kids this evening!), had lunch at the Macaroni Grill with the families, went back to the sister-in-law's parents' house to change out of our wedding clothes, started driving back to Indiana... and then the snow started. I remember being all nervous and thinking, "Well, if I die, at least I got married first, right?"

But we didn't die. And to commemorate the event, we got a huge blizzard last night and this morning. I never heard if church was cancelled or not but we didn't go... couldn't even get out of the driveway. Although later our neighbor... snowblew? snowblowed? snowblowered?... cleared our driveway with his snowblower, which was nice. I made biscuits for breakfast, Matt made some hot chocolate, and then we all piled in the bed with the kids and played pirates. Arrrgh. And I thought, Yeah, I wouldn't mind spending eternity with these people.

So anyway, seven years, I think it's a good-luck number... or possibly bad-luck. I prefer to look on the bright side. We haven't been married long enough that our towels are starting to fray... I think they were really good towels to begin with. Although I replaced one of the sets of sheets this summer. I was lucky enough to get a massive set of silverware from my grandmother - she collects Betty Crocker points - so I think we will never need to buy another utensil as long as we live. Especially not spoons. It was really nice when everyone came for Thanksgiving, we used paper plates but we didn't have to go with plastic cutlery (which I hate).

Betsy said that our house is called a castle and actually, I think she's right. (She's very keen on royalty lately. You will address me as 'Queen Mommy,' thank you very much.) Granted, the castle is a little bit messy at the moment. The floors are crumby, the stairs need to be vacuumed, the sheets are popping off the corners of our mattress and I took the slipcovers off the sofas two weeks ago to wash them and I still haven't put them back on, but it is a castle none the less.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


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So, Betsy said to me the other day, "I petending to be a grownup!" Then she thought for a minute and said, "I still have a long time to be a kid."

Boy, don't I wish that was actually true.

When I was buying the paint for Betsy's room before Thanksgiving, I saw a pack of princess wall decals and they were less than ten bucks - I always thought stuff like that cost more. So I picked them up and last night, when Betsy was sleeping, I decorated her walls with princesses. (This only worked because Betsy sleeps the sleep of the dead. I don't think I could get away with that for Porter - he's more like me and actually can be awakened by things like a herd of elephants stampeding through his bedroom.) So, this morning when I was trying to get my extra hour of sleep after teaching seminary, "Why my walls have princesses on them?" repeated A THOUSAND TIMES AT FIFTY THOUSAND DECIBELS. (The word of the month, by the way, is Why.) So I kicked Matt awake so he could go explain to her that the princesses are there because we like her, and it's her birthday. And I went back to sleep until it was time to go make the frosting for her cake.

We had to open gifts before Matt left for work. (If it seems weird to be eating cake at 10:30 in the morning... believe me, you get used to it.) I got Betsy two more DVD's of Charlie and Lola: Vol. 5 "But I AM an alligator!" and Vol. 6 "How many more minutes until CHRISTMAS?" Betsy shows signs of becoming a Yulephile like me, so she was really excited about the Christmas one. (Which also features the episode I do not ever want my wobbly tooth to fall out, which I think is timely because Betsy has a wobbly tooth of her VERY OWN.) That's what she was so happy about in the first picture.

And in the second picture, Betsy is unwrapping her heart's desire... an Island Princess Barbie, "the one with wings like a heecop." (Porter calls her 'Barbie Iyyand.' He knows a lot about girl stuff. He'll make a great husband someday.) Actually, she's been telling us that Santa was going to bring her a Barbie so I'm hoping she won't be all upset that she got it a whole twelve days ahead of schedule. I mean, the only difference is the wrapping paper, right? She's been over-the-moon happy with her new toy. Once I extricated Barbie from the 56,798 little twisty ties holding her into place, Betsy's been brushing her hair and gently stroking the heecop wings and pushing the little stone on her necklace: Barbie sings two songs from the DVD. Yeah, I bought a noise-making toy for my kid. But the batteries probably won't last that long.

Matt's mom got Betsy this neat princess art kit. She brought it when they visited in early October: we theorize that she actually bought it sometime in January or February. It has a DVD to show you how to draw the princesses, and a book where you can trace the princesses with a dry-erase marker, and it came with stickers and glitter-glue too. As soon as Porter went to bed, Betsy attacked.


Actually, she likes anything art-related (don't tell, but Santa is bringing an easel! ssshh!) so this was definitely up her alley. I was pretty pleased: she really seemed thrilled with her presents.

There was definitely some Cake Angst, though. When it came time to blow out the candles she didn't get them all at once, and I think she hadn't realized that they smoke a little after they go out. Which resulted in this.

I think maybe she was afraid her hair was going to catch on fire or something? Bless her little heart. So I leaned across the table and blew extra hard and together we got the candles out. All five of them.

sneaky peeky!

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Will post for real later... but I just wanted to share these. See, she DOES smile sometimes... just not AT the camera!

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Thursday, December 6, 2007

No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

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I had a birthday yesterday. I am now a number divisible by 7 years old. We started off the day by getting dumped with snow; I made it to seminary only to find out that the schools are on a 2-hour delay (we don't do seminary when there's a delay). Apparently, the school districs announce their closings at 6 a.m., and I have to leave for seminary at 5:40 (earlier if there's snow). So, this could potentially happen a lot over the next couple of months. It's all good, though; I still got to go home and go back to sleep.

Porter wasn't feeling too well yesterday either. He was up the night before coughing and wheezing. Matt actually slept in his room (the noise doesn't bother him as much) just to make sure he didn't, I don't know, stop breathing or anything. So I took him to the doctor, and she gave him some drugs and I think he'll be all right, he's still having a hard time but he hasn't in any way stopped being the little monster that we all know and love. Anyway, since I was out I did a bunch more errands, such as picking up snowboots for the kids.

Matt always complains about having to get me a birthday AND a Christmas gift in the same month, so I usually take pity on him and make a big list of all the things that have caught my eye. He didn't use the list this time around so I was a little worried: was I going to get a coupon for an oil change and a dozen personalized spatulas? Fortunately, after 7 years my husband knows me pretty well. He got a blank book from Target and he and the kids filled it out with all of the things they love about me, and interspersed it with gift cards to various locations. (For example: "We love you because you smell nice" and a gift card to Bath & Body Works, because I LOVE their lotions.)

Anyway, one of the GC's was to Target so I could get a CD and/or a DVD, since I am the media junkie in our family. (Well, and Porter is too.) Target is located right by the pediatrician's office - hooray! - so I popped in to see what I could get. (I may have also picked up some little baby girl clothes while I was in there. What? They were 75% off.) Anyway, I got the Sarah Maclachlan Christmas CD which I've had my eye on for a while, and the 20th anniversary DVD of The Princess Bride.

Now, I know it may seem inconceivable, but I actually hadn't watched that movie in a couple of years. In the family I grew up in TPB is practically an institution; I'm not sure you can have a family gathering without someone quoting it eventually. (Granted, some of my family members may belong in an institution but that's another matter altogether.) I put the movie on for the kids when we got home and they loved it almost immediately. Betsy's scared of the Fire Swamp part, so I just skip it with the remote. She's convinced that it's a movie about a princess and some pirates, and she spent a good part of yesterday afternoon clomping around in her new pink snowboots because apparently that's what pirates wear. And she's said "Inconceivable!" six or seven times already. Porter's actually the one who inherited the Movie Nerd Gene so I suspect that he'll have the movie memorized by the time he's seven years old.

So yeah, in spite of lame weather and a sick little boy, it was a pretty good birthday. And with all the snow on the ground, Matt took the kids out this morning and played in the yard. Betsy makes a cute snow angel.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Two weddings and a mission. Also, 39 takes.

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I went for my ultrasound today. Actually this is the fourth time I've had an ultrasound on this pregnancy - for various reasons, we've done a lot of peeking - but this is the first time we've been able to see the really interesting bits.

Fortunately at least when it came to that part, she cooperated. Yes, I said she. We're having another little girl! I'm really excited about that, even if I've been saying a boy would be more convenient for logistical reasons. Because I get to have another girl! Betsy really, really wants a baby sister. Every day she tells me that we can name the girl baby Cutie Pie and she can share all her princess toys with her sister. It's nice to be able to give Betsy what she wants every once in a while. Porter doesn't seem to have an opinion, or maybe he doesn't voice it as strongly - but I'm not really convinced that he even knows there's a baby growing in there. (I still have a lap, and I'm likely to have one for the entire pregnancy. One of the benefits of being five-foot-seven. So, I think it's pretty easy for my son to ignore the pregnancy if he tries hard enough.)

What we figured out, then, is that we're on the hook for two weddings and at least one mission. Also, I'm really glad that I learned how to sew because that's twice as many prom dresses I'm going to have to come up with. It doesn't bother me all that much that most of the baby clothes I have carefully packed away in my basement are now useless (Betsy is the wrong season and Porter is the wrong gender. Which would be fine for a seasonally inappropriate cross-dresser, but otherwise no.) I've already picked up a few girl baby outfits, on clearance (is there any other way?), on the theory that I could always return them if I had to. But I've kind of suspected all along that it would be a girl. I came away with an armload of clothes at the last Half Price Goodwill Day on Saturday, along with a baker's dozen of onesies. Since this is our third child, our onesies are pretty much trashed, especially because we got them second-hand to begin with. (I mean, we got the onesies second hand. The kids were brand new.)

This is the best picture of her face we were able to get - the ultrasound tech had to go for a side view because wouldn't you know it, she was blocking her face with her arm. She reminded me of nothing so much as a celebrity ducking the paparazzi. "No photographs, please!" And despite all the kicking she did during the whole session, that little arm would. not. budge. I wasn't too stressed about it, though. I think at this point I can make at least an educated guess as to what my child is going to look like. The only burning question is will she have light blond hair (like Porter) or slightly darker blond hair (like Betsy)?

Anyway, not being photogenic seems to run in our family. I tried to take a Christmas card photo last night - after 39 takes, I finally had to cut my losses and stop torturing the kids.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Annual Fudge Rant

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I like to think of myself as a relatively accomplished person. I've had scrapbook layouts published, I taught myself how to sew, I can make ten different varieties of Christmas cookies without even batting an eye. And yet there is one goal that continues to elude my squatty-thumbed grasp.


I've been trying for years to duplicate my mom's Christmas fudge. It's not even a top secret recipe or anything; it's right there on the back of the jar of marshmallow fluff, the one with the insulting name of Never Fail Fudge. And I have failed it many, many times. It's boiled over or burned or failed to set and slithered off the counter top like something from a bad science fiction movie, in search of the plutonium it so desperately needs for survival. It's only in the last year or two that I've even produced something edible and even then, while the flavor is acceptable, the texture is way off.

Fudge is supposed to be smooth and melty, yielding slightly to the pressure of sticky fingers as you go for your fifth piece. Mine is coming out grainy and stiff, and it comes apart in big shaggy flakes when I try to cut it into bite-sized pieces. The most recent batch (this year's second) is the closest I've ever come: it's pretty smooth, but it still went all crumbly on the cutting board. (Matt doesn't mind. He throws the shards into his hot chocolate.)

I think I'm far too heavily invested into this project to give it up now. And it's slightly a matter of pride: I have a degree in chemistry, I should be able to handle fudge, right? I think that the problem is coming in when I add the chocolate chips to the butter-sugar-evaporated milk mixture. I've noticed that it tends to coagulate into a grainy lump, making it hard to incorporate with only the residual heat in the pan and the residual strength in my arm after stirring nonstop for about 20 minutes. (And I have no idea how my mom managed to make 2 or 3 double batches a night... the only thing I can figure is that by then, Mom had plenty of teenage helpers to aid with the stirring.)

On the other hand... I can not for the life of me find a 9x9 pan as called for by the recipe. I can only come up with 8x8 or smaller. So perhaps it's a conspiracy after all...

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