Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Novice Quilter

So obviously one of my bigger accomplishments of 2014 was finishing my first quilt.

I saw the pattern on Craftsy one dreary day, and decided I needed a little color in my life. The colors were chosen for me, as they came in a precut roll. Buying precut saved me a few good hours.

Quilting is a little addicting. I'm hoping to make another blanket for Everett's big boy bed (when he's ready). The workers at Spokane's premier quilting shop made me feel like my sewing machine was a little inferior for the task, so I did not try anything too fancy in the actual quilting phase. I simply did standard squares "in the ditch" of the existing fabric patterns.

To start, I "basted" the fabric together by layering everything on the floor. Using basting pins from Joann's, I pinned all the pieces together, then went for it on the machine. Some people pay for these final steps to be done by a professional, but I was on a budget and wanted to call this whole project my own.

I definitely felt like my sewing machine's ability was stretched in this step. I had to do a lot of pushing to get that heavy fabric to move, even with a brand new walking presser foot (a foot that supposedly "walks" the top layer of fabric, while the "feet" built into the machine move the bottom layer of fabric).

The final step is binding the quilt, which I did with the help of this gal and this gal. I guess you can say I combined their methods and did whatever seemed least confusing to me.

Is my quilt perfect? No. Does it bring our family great joy? YES.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Want, Need, Wear, Read

Jeff and I are at a crossroads where we need to set expectations for Christmas in our home. No thanks to the media, parents are under a lot of holiday pressure. Overpriced dolls and Elf on a Shelf are two common Christmas woes I hear from my friends who are parents. Kids see that Santa brought their friends expensive, name brand dolls, and they are forced to wonder what they did during the year that made Santa think they were unworthy of receiving extravagant gifts as well.

"Mommy, the Smiths have a magic elf at their house. Why don't we have a magic elf too?"
How is a parent even supposed to respond to that question?!

The hoopla makes me want to throw in the towel on this whole Christmas thing before it gets out of control, but that's not fair to Everett. Christmas is about appreciating what you have and giving to others, not about getting all the cheap toys you see on television commercials. I want to raise my son to be grateful for the things he receives, which is why we will only be giving him things we know he will love and appreciate, and that will not clutter up our lives (and his brain). What will be under our tree this year?

Want: Anything Thomas the Train will do! However, he received lots of Thomas paraphernalia for his birthday this year, so he will be getting the next best thing (from Grandma) - a Radio Flyer! He really is obsessed with wagons, and now he will have a vehicle to cart around all his trains.

Need: We picked up a Bob Stroller weather shield this weekend. This will *fingers crossed* allow us to continue our family walks in the winter. Since Everett refuses to wear a hat, the cold gets to him pretty quickly when there is not a barrier to block the chilly winds. We also lose a lot of blankets to kicking feet, so this will help with that little issue as well. The good news is Ev really likes his stroller. If he looks disappointed after opening this, we can tell him it's for the stroller and he will have a whole new appreciation for it.

Wear: I bought Everett two new pairs of Hanna Andersson pajamas for Christmas - this pair and this pair. Everett loves Hanna Andersson PJs because they do not lose their softness over time. We also gave him an early present of these socks. They go high up his calf, which makes it incredibly difficult for him to take them off, and they keep the feet and legs warm on chilly days. Like last year, he will also be receiving a pair of Padraig slippers. These shoes make the the perfect holiday gift for babies and toddlers. They are also available at Mother's Haven if you live in the Spokane/Coeur d' Alene area.

Read: Everett is obsessed with books. This classic winter story is perfect in board book form. Jan Brett has a collection of wonderful children's stories. Everett frequently falls asleep with one of her books in his crib.

Parents, I beg you! This holiday season, please be sensitive to other families who may not have the time or resources you do. Take a moment to teach your children about the true meaning of giving and receiving gifts. This Advent season is about the anticipation of Joy. Not the joy of receiving presents, but the Joy that comes when the blind see, the sick are healed, and the lame rise up and walk.

Happy Hanukkah.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Weekenders {Holiday Edition}

Spokane has a lot to offer during the holidays. Our favorite tradition is driving to Lake Coeur d' Alene to watch the bald eagles. 

Yesterday was the perfect day for this. It has been unseasonably warm, but it was still frigid by the waters. Good thing I finished my quilt! Seriously, we would have been dying without it. I had to keep Everett in the Ergo for extra warmth, and to restrain him from attempting to jump in the water (he kept asking if he could).

Everett loved watching the eagles swoop down toward the water. You can catch a glimpse of one from afar in this photo! This is a pretty remarkable thing we get to witness every year at this time.

Our usual routine is to round out our evenings in CDA by visiting the ornament shop and the Irish store, then enjoying a cup of hot chocolate at the resort while looking at the lights on the boardwalk. 

And for one weekend only, Riverside State Park strings up lights at the Bowl and Pitcher. Even the suspension bridge is decorated, which is pretty terrifying - yet special. It is good the weather has been so warm, or the whole experience in the park would have been treacherous. My dad and step-mom met us down there for the festivities.

It's a good thing I take so many pictures, because the next day I realized how insufficient Everett's winter wardrobe is. I ran by REI after church and spent $50+ on wool socks alone to get us through the winter. I realize this is a lot to spend on a kid's underwear, but his comfort means we have more outdoor time this winter, and he certainly appreciated the warm feet and legs the following day in Coeur d' Alene. Next on the list is a new (longer) pair of jeans. The kid tears hats off his head in seconds, so I've lost that battle for now.

Despite the cold, we all had a fantastic time. There were plenty of activities for kids of all ages, including a hay ride, visits with Santa, bonfires, warm beverages, and real life owls. Here's what went down when E got to meet Santa for the first time:

"Yeeeeeah...this is effed."
"Grandpa, please save me!"
"If I must."

His hair was so crazy because he kept tearing off his hat.

Everett was most impressed with the bonfires they had around the park. A log would crack, sparks would fly, and he would yell, "It's snowing!"

He is so lucky to have Grandparents who love spending time with him. And check it out: the three most important men in my life, all in one picture.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

They're Two, They're Four, They're Six, They're Eight

On Thanksgiving weekend we had the opportunity to see the model train show in Portland. Each November, there is an incredible display that is open to the public. Prior to its annual opening, countless hours are spent assembling and testing the display, which is built to represent many towns of the Columbia Gorge.

From downtown Portland to a logging operation, the attention to detail is pretty impressive.

 And guess who made a special appearance...

You guessed it! The Really Useful Crew! And all the children flipped when it was time for him to make an appearance around the ~30 miles of track. I still don't get the whole Thomas thing, but this kid was pretty entranced seeing his friend chug by.

Back at home we are battling a little bug. I think we are in the clear, so hopefully Everett will start eating and sleeping again soon.

If you're looking for an easy present this holiday season, these Tonka toys from Costco are a huge hit! And don't you just LOVE those adorable holiday jammies from Hanna Andersson? Hanna clothes are worth every penny! They are soft and durable, which are musts for me. We spend less money on Everett's clothes by investing more upfront for higher quality.

Whelp, sick baby just woke up from a too-short nap, so that means I've gotta run!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Another Year, Another Manicure

It definitely feels like I have been a mother for 2 years, but it is still hard to believe that my little Baby isn't a baby anymore. Of course, to the horror of all children, our babies will always be our Babies, but it seems like 2 years is the official beginning to Kidhood, independence, and paying for college tuition.

Because we wanted to thoroughly torture and exhaust him, my MIL and I brought Everett to the Davenport Hotel's Christmas Tree Elegance after his birthday party. We then took him swimming in the pool, which ended up being an hour of us trying to coax him out of the water. This kid LOVES to swim!

I did not get too many photos from Everett's 2nd birthday party. Well, I actually cannot remember taking any pictures, so all images are from my MIL. Like last year, Everett was a little overwhelmed by the whole ordeal. He mostly sat on the couch and played with some new toys. We sang to him, which he liked; he blew on his candle, which made him smile; and he did not eat a bite of his cupcakes, which confuses me.

I did not spend a whole bunch of time making decorations, as Christmas decorations tend to take over the house at this time of year. We did make cupcakes for the occasion, and the spiked eggnog was a hit! Recipe to come.

Also, I had a special request from someone to share the invites I made for the occasion. Here she is, in all her glory. (Graphics found on

Thank you to everyone who came to celebrate Everett! We are surrounded by a whole lot of love, and we are truly blessed to have such a strong community in which to raise our little guy.


As you can imagine, we have had a crazy couple weeks. The holidays are hectic to begin with, but it snowballed out of control when I lost my camera in security at the Portland airport our way home from Thanksgiving. Somewhere between Everett and I getting our hands swabbed for explosives and our stroller being taken apart, the bag with the camera disappeared. As a visitor of this online space, you can only imagine how completely devastated and stressed I was for the 48 hours it took to confirm that my bag was being housed in the PDX lost and found. The week just kept getting crazier from, we got a letter saying we were being sent to collections....which is 100% CRAZY. Any sort of debt stresses us out, and we scrimp and save until everything is paid off in full, so this letter was beyond surprising and insulting. However, the camera was found, the collections BS was cleared up, and I got to drive to the country for work the other day, which was the perfect opportunity to clear my head and my heart.

And the biggest task of the holidays has been completed! With the help of a good at-home manicure, I got all our Christmas cards in the mail! I generally use the Gonzaga University print shop for all my personal printing. This time around I also had them trim our Christmas cards, which I usually do myself. My OCD got the best of me, and I simply was not satisfied with the job they did, so I cut slivers off every card before sticking them in the mail. A job well done is a job done yourself. Either that or I need to hire minions who are just as particular as I am.

Anyway, my dear friend asked me to try out Jamberry Nail Wraps, which are all the rave. I totally apologize for the lack of quality pictures, but I know you will understand since my camera was housed in Portland for a week. You do understand, right? So back to the wraps...

I got these guys in the mail and was completely overwhelmed. Then I read the instructions and felt fine...funny how that works. Seriously, all you have to know is that a good pair of scissors and a nail file will give you great results. I admit the whole 20 minutes it took me to wrap my nails I was thinking to myself, "Shouldn't I be paying someone to do this for me?" However, by the next day I was beyond impressed - impressed with myself for getting them on semi-straight, and impressed with the product. The first couple days they were on my nails I kept noticing little mistakes I made, but I took the nail file to the annoying places and it solved the issue. I also did my toes, which were a little more tedious as far as cutting out the pieces for little toes, but you could easily use the wraps for only the big toe and paint the little guys. That being said, the pedi still looks great after a week in sweaty boots and slippers. Gotta love winter!

I have had the wraps on my nails for over a week and they have stayed in place after standing in a pool for over an hour making sure my kid doesn't drown, making food for the 35 people who attended Everett's party, heavy sewing, heavy typing, heavy Christmas carding, and heavy Gilmore Girls watching. 

And here's the crazy part. When you order a sheet of wraps for $15, you are essentially getting 2 manicures and 2 pedicures, plus some extras for when if you screw up or if you want an accent nail to go with your favorite nail polish. I know I have expensive taste when it comes to getting my nails done, but the last time I got a mani/pedi I spent WELL over $100.00 plus tip. Granted, that came with a fantastic foot rub, and a nail wrap can never replace a good foot rub. However, the last time I spent less than $100 on a mani/pedi, a man with wolverine nails filed the dead skin off my hands, brushed it into a Tupperware container filled with skin flakes, then placed the container by his feet...for later use? Either way you look at it, we are talking about a savings of many dollars, as well as fewer nightmares. It puts $$$ in my pocket to buy other things. Like cat costumes and facials.

So now I'm done with my rant, but just know that I love this chemical free, affordable, quality product. I will be ordering this, this, and this - I love horses a little too much. The quilt pattern is currently on my toes and I am in <3 with it.

If you order through this link by the end of the day tomorrow (aka December 10th), you will have these bad boys in your stockings for Christmas. They are running a special for buy 3 get 1 free, which is basically a lot of mani/pedis. AND any of my readers who buy wraps using this link and select Labors of Love at checkout will be entered to win a free sheet of wraps from my friend's inventory! Yay! I hope I win.

FYI, my friend sent me a sheet of wraps because she thought I would like them. I do not receive any monetary payment for referring you to Jamberry Nails, and all opinions are my own. I simply wanted to share another of my favorite products with you. Please enjoy your wraps, get some for the kids, and support her business and excellent customer service by shopping through her link. Her name's Nicole, and she is one of the most inspirational people I have ever met. Seriously, she could be on Oprah. I'd post a picture of us together, but she lives in Philly now, and the only picture I can find of us together is from high school (me with braces and severe acne = not showing you that).

Check out #jamberry on Instagram for better pictures of wraps. I can post some with my big camera if you want (just send me a request), but I wanted to get this up ASAP for anyone interested in ordering before Christmas - don't forget to place your order before December 10th has past! 

Enough said. You are all amazing, and thank you Jesus for getting my camera back to me safely.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Grammar! And Thomas.

This whole child rearing thing is pretty fascinating. Every day is a new adventure, and these kiddos pick up new skills every hour. A few weeks ago, Everett started speaking in complete sentences, with nouns and verbs and all that jazz! I can ask him what he did while I was at work that day, and he can answer in a somewhat coherent manner (except he was talking about walking on the roof the other day, so I should probably check in with the babysitter on that one). It is hard to believe how fast he is growing!

Then there are other things about kids at this stage that just baffle me. For example, what the heck is the deal with Thomas the Train? Why do kids think he's so special? I read Everett a Thomas story ONE TIME and the kid is friggin' hooked. Just this morning, he was dragging Jeff by the hand to the living room, pointing at the TV and saying, "Watchin' na Thomas!" It is consuming him.

Any adult who has watched an episode of Thomas the Train can agree with me when I say that Thomas is kind of a tool. I mean, he never does what he's told, his unruly actions cause extensive damage to the railway, he gets in everyone's way, he is full of himself, and to top it all off, his actions are enabled because, despite the damage that ensues, everything always ends up just fine at the end of each episode. I won't go into details or bore you with an example, but I think the show is incredibly frustrating to watch.

However, Everett loves it. And I can think of worse role models for a kid...


And I can honestly say the two books we broke down and bought for him are much less frustrating than the shows. The one below is more about pictures of trains, Christmas, and rhyming, and the other is about being brave. So the TV shows do not air too frequently in our household. However, at least Everett has something he loves to keep him out of trouble...although he did get his toy train (pictured above the clown) stuck in his hair the other day, which caused a bit of drama. That aside, it turns out I have another great bribing mechanism for this kiddo: "You don't want to go to bed? What if I read you a Thomas book?" Works every time!

His most recent obsession: Thomas' Night Before Christmas.

Monday, November 17, 2014

I Painted...

Well, I'm still working on my quilt, but I crossed another big to-do off my list this weekend. The upstairs bathroom has been painted! Bye-bye green, hello Aloof Gray!

As much as I loved the happy green color, it was time for a change. The paint was chipping off in many places, and I could not find the right paint can for touch ups. Also, as much as I loved the happy green color, I was over it.

I made a few other changes while I was at it. You notice in the "Before" picture that our old shower curtain rod was rounded. This was great for when we were showering, as it really opened up the space and made the small shower feel more roomy. However, it was a bit invasive when we were out of the shower, and no one likes to showcase a dirty bathtub by having the curtain open during the day. Furthermore, mildew would grow on anything we had tucked inside the tub, so we could only use a fabric shower curtain liner (which only comes in 2 colors - white and beige). To fix these frustrating issues, I bought a generic but higher quality (so it is not always falling on my head) tension rod at Target. I was then able to pull our old Pottery Barn shower curtain from storage!

Of course, I had to fill a few holes the old rod left behind, so used this stuff before applying the new paint color.

It was incredibly easy to use, and comes with it's own (plastic) spackling knife! An additional bonus was the fast drying time.

So how did I choose the color? We did a ton of research and narrowed our options down to Benjamin Moore Gray Owl and BM Harbor Gray. I had color samples painted on our walls for about 4 months and changed my mind almost daily. Then last Monday on my way home from work, I noticed Sherwin Williams was having their biannual 40% off sale. Since the sale ended 2 hours later, I opted for the SW discount...and a color I hadn't tested yet. I randomly picked Aloof Gray and had them mix it at 75%. And I am in LOVE.

You can see my color samples below for comparison. 

Gray Owl is on the left, Harbor Gray is on the right, and Aloof Gray is painted below.

For months I thought I was going to go with Harbor Gray, but as soon as the season turned I decided it was a little too purple for my taste. Gray Owl was a safe choice, but I wanted something a little less bright, so it turned out Aloof Gray was a perfect compromise! It's a little warmer than Gray Owl, but still shades in the blue realm of gray.

Some other features of the bathroom include a picture I took on one of our trips to the San Juan Islands:

A watercolor we purchased from a sweet coffee shop on that same vacation:

And a lovely jewelry holder purchased from my friend at JeLeFais:

I also have a basket on the back of the toilet that holds baby wipes, extra toilet paper, and Clorox wipes (for when Everett misses). The cloth diaper wet bag and sprayer are on the other side of the toilet, so they are more discreet when we have guests.

We keep the door to this room closed most of the time. Can you guess why?

He really is too much!

But here's the official "After".

And one with the lights on...for all possible effects.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Time Traveling

Invitations for Everett's 2nd birthday party have officially gone in the mail. I have a list of to-dos for the big day, and many daunting chores need completing before we have a house full of company. My most challenging task will be finishing this dang quilt!

Its contents are taking up much needed space in the house. This beast has been months in the making, but I think the results will be worth the effort.

This picture was taken before all the rows were joined. Now the only thing I have left to do is the actual quilting/binding. Many people get nervous about this process, but I've done research on a few techniques and feel confident in my abilities. However, just to be safe, please wish me ALL the luck. The quilt is roughly the size of a twin comforter, so there is a lot of potential for error. I will be armed with wine and Gilmore Girls!

I find it hard to believe it has almost been 2 years since our sweet little guy was born. Where does the time go?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Lovely Family Photos

Even in the colder months, the Manito Park Rose Garden is stunning. I always forget to visit this place, as there are usually a million people around. However, the cooler weather has kept much of Spokane indoors these last few days. I was glad we braved the chill to visit the park - perhaps for the last time before the snow comes.

 We also got to take some pictures with this cutie! Seriously, could he be any sweeter?

And who could be upset when a cold day ends in the company of dear friends, with Gordy's Sichuan warming our bellies?

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