Monday, April 30, 2012

DIY Gift Card Idea

April showers bring... well, they might bring May flowers, but they also bring a whole lot of frustration when I am yet again struggling to come up with a gift idea! Springtime tends to be filled with wedding showers, as everyone prepares for their summer weddings, and if you're like me, choosing the perfect gift can be a challenge. 

You want to get something the bride will use, but also something she will enjoy. The easy (and obvious) choice is to go with something off the registry or get a gift card. But I want my gift to be original, have that personal touch... and if it's not too expensive, as well, that would be great. 

My baby sister's wedding shower was last weekend, and I was racking my brain about what to get her. I had, of course, waited till the last minute to buy a gift, and I couldn't think of anything that seemed right for this unique and fun couple. 

I knew I wanted to give her something pretty, something personal, and something practical.
And then, because I'm a sucker for alliteration, inspiration struck.

What follows is the world's lamest tutorial...
In fact, it's really more of a before and after, since I didn't actually take any pictures of the process. The best part about this project (besides the fact that it was easy, fast, and cute) is that it is totally adaptable. I did a wedding theme, but you could totally make it for a baby shower, teacher appreciation, or birthday!

I started with this:

inexpensive Target 3-photo frame
Victoria's Secret gift card (something pretty)
Target gift card (something practical)
scrapbook paper

I had to go scrounge in Caitlin's room for the glitter and Mod Podge.

And, with the help of my printer and a cute graphic from The Graphics Fairy, I wound up with this:

The perfect combination of all my gift-giving requirements! 

Something pretty (Victoria's Secret Gift Card)? Check.

Something personal (the bride and groom's initials)? Check.

Something practical (Target gift card)? Check.

Fold it carefully in some sweet tissue,

add some pretty wrapping paper (left over from Christmas), 

and some fancy trimmings and we're good to go. Added bonus: the package decorations double as a very bridal hair accessory, which my sister promptly donned.

The flower is a headband from Claire's, and the tulle/feather was left-over from a "fascinator" I wore to a  royal wedding party!

All in all, I thought it was a pretty successful little project! My sister loved it, and since there's no Victoria's Secret in her town, she'll have to come and visit me when she spends the gift card (very clever of me, no?). 

My grandma, my mama, my baby sis (the beautiful bride), my younger sis, my niece, my Caitlin, and me! I'm so lucky to have all these beautiful and amazing ladies in my family!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Spring & Summer Project List

Every year with the approach of spring, I get the urge to clean, organize and freshen up the house. The result: a project list a mile long! Last year we tackled the guest bath and the front entry hall. Unfortunately, the overall goal had been to finish the whole hallway, but I lost momentum before actually making it up the stairs.  So it has remained like this, half-painted, with no window treatments, for nearly a year.
This is right inside our front door! I think it's time I finally finished painting.

So... for this year's spring and summer project list item #1 is obviously to finish last year's spring and summer project list! Here's a quick overview of the other projects we hope to tackle during the warm summer months.

  • Finish painting walls and trim for upstairs hallway. I'd also like to have some sort of gallery wall upstairs.  I love this one from Pottery Barn-

  • Paint and refresh the master bedroom. This will probably be the biggest project of the summer. I'm leaning toward chocolate walls, creamy drapes, some toile touches, and pops of aqua. Here are some of the inspiration pictures I've collected on my Pinterest board-


  • This might be a stretch, but I'd also like to update our downstairs family room. I'm thinking board and batten, new lighting, and lots of paint. It will have to be done on a shoestring, though. Right now, the family room is very "up-north" rustic, and it's been that way since we moved in 6 years ago. I think it's time for a change! I'd love something bright and colorful (as opposed to the cave-like feeling we've got goin' on now).


Whew! This is just the inside project list! I'll save the outside ideas for another post, or I might just faint from all the stuff we are tackling this summer. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What I Wore: The Cardigan Edition

I'm sensing a theme here. 
Cardigan, white tank, denim trousers. And repeat. 

Exhibit A: 

Outfit 1: 
Cardigan- Gap
Posy Pins- The Pleated Poppy

Outfit 2:
Cardigan- Target (girls section clearance rack- score!)
Cute be-flowered flats-Target

Outfit 3:
Cardigan- Target
Butterfly scarf- Old Navy
Headband- Anthropologie

Outfit 4: 
Cardigan- Target
Polka dot scarf- Target
Patent flats- Bjorn

Exhibit B: 
Branched out a wee bit with a pink shirt and some stripes, but still the same general idea.

Outfit 1:
Cardigan and tee-shirt- Banana Republic
Scarf- Old Navy

Outfit 2:
Cardigan- Banana Republic
Scarf- Target

Outfit 3: 
Cardigan- Target
Petal Pusher- The Pleated Poppy

Outfit 4: 
Cardigan- Target
Striped tee- Old Navy
Gray wedges- Target
Stone necklace- Old Navy

Outfit 5:
Cardigan- Target 
(another score from the clearance rack in the girls section)
Headband- Target

Now, to be clear, these outfits were worn over the span of 2-3 weeks, but dang... they are really similar! I try and change it up sometimes, but I always feel kind of uncomfortable. This is obviously my go-to uniform; for me, it's a perfect balance of comfort and cute. Do you find yourself gravitating to a "uniform"? I'd welcome any suggestions for how I can mix things up a little!

I'm linking up with Lindsey at The Pleated Poppy for WIWW.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Because I Am a Crazy Person

Please allow me to introduce the newest addition to our family...

A rare quiet moment.
Meet Samwise the Brave. Sam for short. He is a 10 week old Rat Terrier mix (according to the animal shelter). We adopted him on Saturday, and he has quickly become a family favorite. Well, not so much for the cats. They remain disgruntled. In fact, I think they may be plotting his demise...Sam, however, appears unfazed by their rancor. The kids are thrilled, and it has been great to see their enthusiasm, despite all the work involved with puppy-parenting. I hope their zeal doesn't wear off any time soon!

On an unrelated note: tonight was the last class of my career as a grad student. I didn't even realize it till it was over. It doesn't feel very official to me, as I won't defend my thesis for a few months yet, but there it is. I have just one short paper left, and a few tweaks on a final project and I'm done. Maybe I'll feel more excited when I get the actual diploma... at least I hope so!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Why I {Will} Homeschool. Or, More Accurately, Why I Even Considered This Insane Idea In the First Place

A few years ago, I would have laughed at the suggestion that I could homeschool my kids. I didn't have the patience. I thought homeschooling was {it pains me to admit this} for weirdos. We did consider a private, Christian school affiliated with our church, but the cost was prohibitive. So off I sent them, my little babies, to public school.

This picture is from their first day of school this year. Caitlin was going into 4th grade, Hunter into 2nd.

Our district launched a language immersion program the year Caitlin started kindergarten. "Perfect!", we thought. And it is perfect. For Caitlin. She loves everything about it. The public school environment, with all its rules and schedules, fits her little law-abiding heart perfectly.

Hunter, on the other hand, is a square peg in a round hole. He is an August baby, so we considered "red-shirting" him. But academically, we knew he was more than ready for school. This child taught himself to read when he was 4 years old. He read the first three Harry Potter books before his 6th birthday. However, from the first week of kindergarten, he has hated school. Gradually, that feeling has morphed into an apathy about learning in general... which breaks my heart. We saw a reflection of all this negativity begin to emerge in his behavior, as well. The youngest in his class, Hunter was easily influenced, and this often led to notes from the teacher and phone calls from the vice-principal.

Over the years, Chris and I had countless discussions about what we could do to help/discipline/change Hunter's attitude about school. We tried punishing him, we tried rewarding him, we tried reasoning with him, we tried ignoring the situation. We thought about pulling him from the immersion program, switching him to a different school altogether, or perhaps just shipping him to the moon.

One option came up again, and again. Homeschool. But we never took it seriously. There were too many reasons why it wouldn't work: I was in grad school, Caitlin loved public school, we couldn't afford to lose my income. We couldn't have one kid in public school, and one at home. That was crazy talk. Then, while digging through her archives (a treasure trove of ideas, by the way- I highly recommend it), I read this post from The Nester, and it was like someone lifted a weight from my shoulders. We needed to do what was best for each of our kids, even if that was something totally different. That was all I needed. I started to research homeschool like crazy.

One of the biggest sources of inspiration I have found is Edie's blog.  Although I had devoured every other section of Life in Grace (oh, those kitchens! I die!), I had studiously avoided the homeschooling posts. And here's why: I was jealous. I wanted that. I wanted to teach my children, read with them, explore with them. But I was letting worry, doubt, and insecurity stand in my way. With a lot of prayer, a few family meetings, and a leap into the unknown, we are moving past that.

Next year, Hunter will be homeschooled. I plan to follow Edie's example and use a classical model of education. I am so excited to begin and, more importantly, so is Hunter. I know it won't be easy, and we are going to have to make some sacrifices, but this is where God has led us. This is what is best for our family.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What I Wore {recently}

One day it's snowing. One day it's raining. One day it's gorgeous. Ah, Minnesota. You are never boring. You do, however, make dressing a challenge. Last time, I recapped some of my winter outfits. Here's what I've been wearing more recently. Again, there is a definite theme. Lots of scarves. In fact, most of my choices are just a remix of that basic idea.

I think everything here is Banana Republic, except the shoes. They are Target.

Shirt: Old Navy
Denim Trousers and Scarf: Target

Scarf, gray wedges, and cardi: Target
I think the white tee underneath is Boden.

I'm going to try and link up with Lindsey's WIWW (even though I'm a day late). We'll see if it works or not!

Going Public

After spending most of the afternoon fine-tuning the appearance of this blog, I figured it was high time I made a public debut. So the privacy settings are gone. And I am offically putting myself out there. I think I might puke, but being a coward has never gotten me anywhere good, and it is a quality I have striven to overcome all my life. Sometimes with very little success. But I've been much braver in the last few years, and this, for me, is bravery. Opening myself up to judgement goes against every introverted bone in my body, but I'm doin' it anyway. Deep breath... aaaaand, publish.

Friday, April 13, 2012

What I Wore

I love to look at fashion blog posts. You see, I am not very creative when it comes to dressing myself. I tend to go for comfort over style, and to be honest, I would live in sweats and pjs if left to my own devices. Teaching and working have forced me to be a bit more put together, especially since I am kind of a pushover... if I look like a respectable professional, my students are a bit more likely to take me seriously. But I struggle with it. Pinterest really helps. It's a great place to get inspiration. But what I love is seeing real women, wearing real clothes (vs. couture). So things like Lindsey's WIWW have been invaluable. And I started playing along, albeit for my own benefit. I found that taking photos of my outfits helps me see them differently. Like- oooh, that belt really didn't work. But it also helps as a reminder of what outfits did work, so when I'm in a rut, I can quickly pull out a past winner and I'm good to go. So here are some of my faves from this winter (insert obligatory apology for badly lit cell phone pics, dirty mirrors, and messy rooms):

Sweater: Lands End
Pants, Necklace: Banana Republic
Tank: Shade Clothing
 Dress, Infinity Scarf: Shade Clothing
Wool leggings: Smartwool
Boots: Keen
Necklace: Made by me :)
 Scarf: Old Navy
Sweater: Lands End
Wool leggings: Smartwool
Boots: Artisan by Clarks
Skirt: really old, I think I got it at Macy's

Down vest: The North Face
Scarf: Target
Tee: Gap
Sweater: Lands End
Flower pin: The Pleated Poppy
Jeans: NYDJ
Shoes: Naturalista

There appears to be a theme here: Minnesota practical! Lots of scarves, turtleneck sweaters, wool, and down. Thankfully, the weather has warmed up a bit, so I will be sharing a few slightly more springy outfits in the coming days.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Decade in an Instant

Caitlin and her Bitty Baby

She was born 4 weeks early, in the middle of an April blizzard. So tiny, like a wee bird. She was festooned with red blotches on her forehead, her eyes, and the nape of her neck. But I loved her fiercely from the moment they put her in my arms. I know you, I thought. You are mine. You are like me. And she is- but she is also so unlike me that I can't imagine how she ever came by her confidence, her drive, her absolute security in herself.

This month, she turned 10. She loves hockey beyond all reckoning. She dreams of attending Cornell University and studying veterinary medicine. She speaks Mandarin Chinese. Fluently. She writes amazing stories, and reads like a fiend. She has grown and changed so much- a little girl no longer. But she loves her baby, her dolls, and playing pretend. She is still a fairy, a witch at Hogwarts, a puppy/horse/kitty/otter/owl. 

This age, this girl, this life take my breath away. I am so lucky to know her. I am so blessed that she is mine. Happy birthday, darling girl.
 I love you. 
Love, Mama.

He is Risen!

Easter, 2012

We have a little tradition in this house. Every Easter morning before church we squeeze onto the hearth for a family photo in our Sunday best. This year was no exception. Despite the behavior bumps on Friday, we pulled it together, cleaned the house, and cooked up a feast for our 17 guests on Easter Sunday. It was so fun to have our family gathered together. We don't get to see all our nieces, nephews, and cousins very often, so that made it extra sweet.

I always love Easter service, too. It is my favorite holiday of the year. In fact, I usually tear up during the glorious, celebratory hymns, with the trumpets, the choirs, and the centuries-old music filling every corner of our church. It fills me with a deep, abiding joy. This year, for the first time, Caitlin seemed to share that joy. It was really special to know that she was experiencing the same feelings I was. She kept squeezing my hand and glancing at me, and she told me several times how wonderful the Easter services are. I love that she is old enough to "get" it now.

Here's a peek back at our Easter's past:
Easter, 2011

Easter, 2010

Friday, April 6, 2012

Tiresome Twosome

Today was a long day. I knew going into the day that it would be long (and potentially get ugly) but it surpassed my expectations. I did my best to prevent/alleviate what I knew would be not so fun for the kiddos, but we had a lot of not-fun things to get through. Good Friday services, haircuts, choosing where to eat (that's always fodder for a fight), and a lot of shopping... followed by a lot of cleaning. We actually made it up through the haircuts before the proverbial doodoo hit the fan. When I tried looking for an Easter dress for myself, they just lost it. Eye rolling, complaining, and oh the endless-endless bickering. I tried on two dresses before I lost it. So we spent the next two hours shopping in silence. All our Target items, and a looong list from the grocery store were purchased under verbal lock-down. In a way it was nice, but I couldn't help from feeling mad, I always have such high-hopes for a fun shopping excursion. And it can happen if I just have one kid. But with both they make me crazy! Grr! I was so frustrated. So we finished up (besides the mandatory silence, they lost screen privileges for the weekend), came home and with some outdoor time, everyone was feeling happier by dinner. They played beautifully together, as long as our neighbor boy was there. After dinner, I said I would read to them, but they had to go and put way their laundry. It only took two minutes and I could hear them fighting upstairs about who would sit in the middle. I crossed my fingers they wouldn't bring it to me, preventing me from having to get involved. No such luck. They both were compelled to tattle. So no reading for us. And, to top it off, I was so mad they couldn't go 2 minutes without fighting, I said we were not coloring Easter eggs this year (we were supposed to do it tonight, but it got moved to Saturday with all the nonsense of the afternoon). Now they lost it totally. I feel like I may have gone a wee bit overboard with that, but we'll see how tomorrow plays out. We have yet another long day of chores, cleaning, and cooking to prep for 15 guests for Easter dinner. Love them... but today was a tough day.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I'm A Waffler.

I waffle. I have waffled. I am waffling. Just when I thought my way was clear, a branch falls in my path. I received an offer for an interview this week. For a real-life, full-time, handsome-salaried job. Teaching in my field, and in my state. Now, to be fair, it was only an offer for an interview, but it was more than I expected when I sent out my application nearly 6 weeks ago. I didn't think they would call... but they did. And so, I found myself questioning my choice. How could I pass up this opportunity?

I did the only thing I could. I prayed. I asked God to make his will known to me, to write his words on my heart. I prayed for guidance and strength in the words of Basil of Caesarea (c. 330-79): Steer the vessel of our life toward Yourself, O tranquil Haven of all storm-tossed souls. Show us the course wherein we should go...Let Your Spirit curb our wayward senses, and guide and enable us unto that which is our true good, to keep Your laws, and in all our works evermore to rejoice in Your glorious and gladdening Presence.

And I knew. I stepped over the obstacle in my path, and I will continue on my chosen road.