Dia de los Muertos Dress

 

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So, you might not know this but I’m basically Mexican.  No, it’s not simply because of my love of tacos, enchiladas and the cha-cha (although these things are all extremely important to me).  I actually lived in Mexico on two separate occasions, for a total of about 5 years.  The first time I was just a little kid, dressed up in my Catholic school uniform, rolling my R’s and telling my mother to please not embarrass me by speaking Spanish in front of my friends since she sounded like a “gringa”.

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Out with the old

 

It’s a new year!!  Welcome to 2015, ya’ll!

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The start of a new year is always so bittersweet for me.  I love the anticipation of new experiences and change is like, my everything.  But at the same time I feel nostalgia for a year already gone.  Did I enjoy it enough?  Did I pay enough attention to the little milestones in my and my kids’ lives that we will never pass through again?  I’m often tempted to give in to my sentimental side and start a bawl-fest over all the little endings that happen regularly in my mom-life.

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I wanted to share all of our family pictures from this Fall, as a fond farewell to 2014.  And also, kind of like saying, “we successfully dressed and photographed 6 small children last year…BRING it, 2015!!”  But then again, that may be tempting fate 😉

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As much as I loathe endings to great things, there really is something special about beginnings, amiright?  New books, new houses, new babies, new clothes, new city or country, new friendships…the possibilities of what the new things in our life will bring is so exciting!

Of course, not all new things are good or exciting.  Certainly none of us wants to experience the loss of a thing or person we love.  Even some of the new things listed above can be heartbreaking under some circumstances such as divorce, job loss or death.

I guess all that means is that we look forward to the good things with joy and gratitude and pray that we’ll have the strength to endure the bad.  So much of what is good can come from those unanticipated “bad” surprises!

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I also almost forgot to share my favorite Christmas video, “He is the Gift”, on the blog!  Click here to see it or watch below.

This is my reminder that whatever goals or resolutions or buzz words I may have planned for this next year, becoming more like Christ should be at the center of everything I do.

Happy new beginnings!!

Pictures by Red Poppy Photo

 

DIY Christmas Stockings

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Christmas traditions really are the most fun, aren’t they??  When I was a kid, we moved around a bit which means that our favorite traditions had to be mobile, like decorations or favorite foods.  Our stockings, handmade by my mom, are one of my favorite memories so I decided to duplicate them for my kids.  They’ve been so fun to create!

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Note: this is a great tradition to start when you only have like 2 or 3 kids, instead of 6.  I made 2 last year but have been nice and busy playing catch up this year.  And even though the personalized cross-stitching does take a little time, these stockings are otherwise super simple and fun to put together.  Let’s get to it!

First thing to do is create a pattern.  Sketch a stocking shape out on some cardstock, thinking about what Santa usually leaves in your kids’ stockings and making sure that the stocking is big enough.  For reference, my pattern is 17.5″ long (from top edge to toe), 6.75″ wide at the top and 4.5″ wide at the toe area (before it starts tapering).  FYI, ours are just slightly too narrow for a DVD, in case that’s important to you.

You’ll also need pattern pieces for the coordinating toe and heel fabric.  My toe piece is 3″ long and my heel piece is 1.5″ wide x 6.5″ long.

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Now you’ll need to cut out your fabric, as follows:

Cut 4 stocking pieces out of your main fabric (2 on the right side of fabric, 2 on the wrong side)
Cut 2 stocking pieces out of thin batting
Cut 1 piece of aida fabric (the kind used for cross-stitching).  You need a piece measuring 3.5″ x 7″ but I always cut mine several inches bigger to allow some breathing room when cross-stitching.
Cut 1 piece of main stocking fabric also measuring 3.5″ x 7″
Cut 1 piece of fusible interfacing also measuring 3.5″ x 7″
Cut a piece from your toe and heel patterns out of coordinating fabric

Cut 2 pieces of trim to decorate your toe and heel pieces (long enough to cover the raw edges of each piece as seen in finished pictures)
Cut 1 piece of trim to decorate the bottom of cross-stitched piece (7″ long)
Cut 1 piece of trim or bias tape, 4″ long (for a loop to hang your stocking)

Now comes the easy part!  Top-stitch the toe and heel pieces to the front of your stocking piece.  Add trim where desired, to cover your stitching.

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Now make a stocking sandwich: batting, back and front stocking pieces (right sides together) and the other piece of batting, and stitch together with a 1/4″ seam.

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Separately, sew together the remaining 2 stocking pieces, also right sides together (this will be your stocking lining).

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Turn your outer stocking right side out (the one with batting) and press edges as best as you can.  Then insert the lining inside the outer stocking (keep it inside out…you want the right side of fabric visible when you look inside the stocking).

Once you finish the cross-stitching for your cuff, you’re ready to put together your stocking cuff.  **You can also skip the personalization and just make the cuff out of another piece of main stocking or coordinating fabric!  Start by ironing your fusible interfacing to the wrong side of your 3.5″ x 7″ piece of main stocking fabric (this will be the back of the cuff).  Press the bottom edge of this interfaced piece to the back 1/4″ and topstitch.

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Do the same to the bottom edge of your piece of aida fabric and add your decorative trim.  Then, sew your aida fabric and back cuff piece together, RST.

Now comes the only tricky part!  I’ve done this several times and finally think I’ve figured out the best way…so here goes!

Turn the entire stocking inside out, lining and everything, making sure you remember which side is the front of the stocking (mark it with a pin).

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Turn the cuff inside out as well, then slip it over the top of the stocking, making sure the cuff isn’t upside down and that the name is facing the front side of the stocking that you marked with a pin.  Pin all the way around the top, making sure the edges of the cuff, outer stocking and lining pieces all match up, then stitch together, using 1/4″ seam allowance.

Now, one final step!  Turn the entire stocking right side out and fold cuff down.  Rip out one inch of the seam you just sewed, wherever you’d like to put your hanging loop.  Fold your piece of trim or bias tape in half, and insert it into this hole in the seam, making sure your raw edges of the trim are even with those of the stocking.  Turn your cuff back up to access the seam, and sew this portion of the seam closed again, over the loop.

Tada!  You’re done!  Stand back and admire your handiwork and think about the years of memories it will bring!

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Meltdowns and the Meaning of Christmas

 

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The last couple years the hubs has been out of town for most of the month of December.  Thanks to kindly Mr. Amazon and his free 2-day shipping, being a single mom at Christmastime hasn’t created too much of a problem.

Except, of course, for the stress.  Luke left this week for his second trip of the month and everything was going well the first day, until about bedtime (sound familiar??).  I was trying to get my littlest ones to bed and my big boys kept running upstairs.  I yelled one too many times, they yelled back and then, out of nowhere I found myself sobbing in their room, telling them how hard it is being a single parent, even part-time.

Whoa…don’t even know where that came from.  Get a grip, crazy lady.

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It must have made an impact though, since when I calmed down enough to come back a little while later, Liam was still visibly upset.  I suggested that we needed to make some changes around the house in regards to our relationships and I asked each boy what they thought needed to change.  Toby said something about Mom being nicer (haha!  typical) but Liam just sobbed, “No one needs to make any changes…just ME!  It’s all my fault!”

Wow.  It broke my heart to hear my sweet boy blame himself for my shortcomings.  He even added that this wasn’t shaping up to be a very good Christmas.  Luckily, it humbled me enough to have a heart to heart with him.

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We talked about the reason for celebrating Christ’s birth and how Christmas isn’t simply a chance to remember the day Jesus was born but to celebrate His entire life, especially His sacrifice for us.  We discussed how Christ sacrificed for our sins, but just as importantly, He also paid for our small, daily mistakes.   Jesus made it possible for us to overcome any action, big or small that separates us from God, including when we lose control, yell or treat others unkindly.  Christmastime is a chance for us to remember that because of Him, we have reason to hope to improve every single day and reason to experience JOY.

I’m thankful that my little boy reminded me of this, the greatest truth in the history of the world.

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”  Isaiah 53:5

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Merry last-week-before-Christmas!!

How to entertain a toddler on a plane!

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A couple weeks ago I got to take a quick little trip to northern CA with Finn to visit my grandparents.  Not only had they never met Finn but my extended family was throwing a party for my Grandma’s 85th birthday so it was a perfect time to visit!

I was super jazzed to get my dose of fall colors, enjoy cooler weather and visit with family.  Oh, and only be in charge of one kid.

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This is one of my favorite special occasion cakes ever…soooo good!

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Classic grandparent shot 😉

I was less than thrilled, however, to handle an 18 month-old through airport security and keep him contained on my lap for the flight.  I brought a couple of toys for him but if you know toddlers, you know that they have the attention span of a gnat.

I had to get really creative and so I came up with a handful of games to play with him.  I also thought of some other great, common, household items that I’ll bring next time to help him stay focused on my lap (and not on running down the aisle during major turbulence).

Bonus: airplanes make lots of white noise so chances are good that no one will care how loud your baby gets while playing.  Anything other than ear-splitting screams is quite pleasant, actually.

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PACKING LIST:

Sharpie
small toy your child enjoys (i.e. doll or car)
popsicle stick 
masking or electrical tape (wound around the popsicle stick)
clothespin
string or twine
5-6 dry noodles with a hole through them (penne or macaroni work well)
pipe cleaner
1-2 plastic cups (or get them from the flight attendant)
balloon (in a light color, preferably)

Plastic baggy to hold everything

The list of games you can dream up with this great group of tools is nearly endless!  Desperation is the mother of invention so I’m sure any mother could come up with a dozen or so to keep baby occupied.  Here are some of my (and Finn’s!) favorites:

1.  Use the cup and small toy to play hide and seek.  Put the toy on your fold-down tray and then cover it up with an upside down cup.  Turn another empty cup upside down as well and move them around.  See if baby can remember which cup his toy is under!

2.  String the noodles onto the twine and make a necklace out of it.  See if baby can thread the noodles onto the pipe cleaner himself and then pull them off and let them drop into the cup.  Cover the opening of the cup with your hand and rattle the noodles around!

3.  Set up a little town (for a doll) or racetrack (for a car) on your tray.  Use tape and popsicle stick to make roads, stores, gas station and the cup as a garage or bed.  Get creative making accessories for the doll or ramps for the car!

4.  Shove a couple of noodles into the uninflated balloon and help baby do the same.  Then blow up the balloon a little bit (don’t tie it yet!) and rattle the noodles around.  Clip the balloon closed with the clothespin and show baby what happens when it’s released a little at a time.

5. Draw a face or other cartoons on the balloon and show baby how the pictures change when the balloon inflates.  When baby tires of this game, inflate the balloon all the way and tie it.  Let baby go crazy.

6. Wrap the tape around the cup and draw pictures or write messages to your baby.  Let him peel the tape off and stick it on his hands and face.

7.  Make a mummy out of the small toy with tape and let baby peel it all off.

8.  Tie the string onto the toy and hang it off your tray.  Make a game out of pretending to rescue the toy dangling from treacherous heights!

9.  Draw a face on the closed end of the clothespin and pretend to eat your baby with this “monster”.

10.  Pin the clothespin to your baby’s shirt and let him figure out how to get it off.  Teach him how to open and close it and clip it to the cup, noodle, pipe cleaner, etc.

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Hopefully this helps maintain some sanity during this season of holiday traveling.  Let me know what other game ideas you dream up!

An Essential Guide to Crazy-Free Family Pictures

Pretty sure this kid was mesmerized by some rock or something.

Pretty sure this kid was mesmerized by some rock or something.

With one kid, taking family pictures is hardly a national crisis.  You get dressed in nice-ish clothes, do your hair and maybe have grandma hopping around somewhere behind the camera trying to get the kid to look.

Add a couple more kids to the mix (or 5 more, whatever) and all of a sudden your mental state has deteriorated to DEFCON 5.  (That’s the worst, right?  Or is it DEFCON 1?)  Seeing how we’re in the thick of family picture taking season (all you overachievers who had them done at the beach back in June can just tune me out), here are some tips on avoiding Post-Family-Picture Stress Syndrome (that’s a thing).

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1.  Use an experienced photographer.  This doesn’t mean that you have to spend oodles of money, but it pays to ask about experience, especially if you have a large(r) family.  If you really only want a snapshot, then your brother-in-law with the nice camera is fine.  But if you’re putting effort into outfits and spending money, make sure you’ll get what you paid for!

2.  Dress for the weather, if shooting outdoors.  We live in Phoenix, which means that every time we take holiday pictures it’s October and still 95 degrees outside.  Would I love to dress everyone in matchy-matchy reindeer sweaters?  Maybe.  But the subsequent heat stroke would make for some pretty crappy pictures.  Instead, we put on light pants, short sleeved shirts and find shade.  If November is already too cold for little girls in dresses, embrace it and take some cute shots all bundled up.  The outfit isn’t worth being miserable!

3.  Pay attention to the best time of  day for your kids.  For mine, it’s usually right after naps but before they get hungry for dinner.  If this time works out with the sun for outdoor shots, then you’re in luck.  If not, you may need to get more creative.  Be sure to give everyone plenty of  snacks and water beforehand and BEFORE getting dressed, obviously.  Also be sure to bring water with you, as well as some non-messy snacks (i.e. apple slices or cheese sticks)

4.  Be aware of the location where you’ll be shooting and prepare for it.  For example, if you’ll be around water, make sure someone is the designated baby-watcher.  If it’s out in the open, you might want to bring an umbrella for portable shade.  If there will be snow or sand, bring sunglasses.  We neglected to bring bug spray this year and Arizona has had some terrible flooding and unusual mosquito problems this year.  It’s strangely difficult to get kids to smile when they’re scratching umpteen mosquito bites.

5.  Prepare kids ahead of time for what to expect and plan a bribe: Something like… “Mom paid money for these pictures.  They will last an hour.  You must wear what I say and do your hair how I say and smile.  If you do, you will get french fries and ice cream afterwards.  That is all.”  It works pretty well for us.

6.  Stick (mostly) with clothes you own and love: If you go out and buy new stuff for everyone, chances are, not only will you be broke, but everyone will end up itchy and uncomfortable.  I like to pick a few of our favorite things and coordinate them rather than match.  Pinterest has some great color schemes for reference, or pick a favorite fabric pattern for inspiration.  Beware of too much white or too many patterns.  Your photographer can also tell you anything else you should avoid.

If you need more tips for dressing your crew without going broke or crazy, check out this post here!

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Lastly, be realistic and relax!  It’d be nice to get several great, quality shots of every kid but that’s not always likely.  Instead, focus on recording this time of your family’s life with all it’s quirks and imperfections (note my vice grip on baby Toby’s hand in above picture).  Life is messy, roll with it!

Candy corn pennant

Like the other 7 billion people on the planet, I LOVE Halloween décor, even though, as a mother, I HATE the holiday itself.  Don’t even get me started on kids changing their minds on costume ideas 2 hours beforehand or the sugar highs, fights over candy, fear of weirdos kidnapping my kids…. 

 

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But back to the fun part: décor!  My all-time favorite holiday DIY is this candy corn pennant because
1. it’s made of fabric! My favorite medium
2.  It’s super easy to sew
3. It has lasted year after year, which is more than can be said of my paper projects of years gone by.

Bonus: Read on for a no-sew alternative!

 

 

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My banner has 10 pennants and measures about 10 feet long, FYI.

Supplies:

Quilting cotton in orange, yellow and white (1/2 yard each)
10 feet of black, double fold bias tape (purchase or make your own!)

 

 

1.  Download and print a copy of the template right HERE.  Be sure the “fit to page” box is blank and/or set your margins to “none”.  The template should measure about 7.5” x 9”.

2.  Cut one copy of your template into 3 pieces for the front of the candy corn.  For the other copy of the template, just cut out the triangle whole (this will be for the backs).

2.  Using the three front pieces, trace and cut out fabric pieces in each of the coordinating colors.  Do this until you have enough for your entire pennant (i.e. 10 yellow top pieces, 10 orange middle pieces and 10 bottom white pieces).  Then, using your uncut template, cut out backs for each candy corn.  I alternated between orange, yellow and white for the backs, just to make it interesting.

3.  Sew the three front pieces together, right sides together, pressing each seam open.

4.  Lay your back piece on top of the front (right sides together) and sew down each side (leave the top open).  Turn right sides out, poking the point out with a chopstick or pencil tip.  Press seams well.

5.  Using black double fold bias tape, sandwich the top of each pennant in between the folds of the tape, and top stitch all along the open edge of the tape.  I left about 4” of space between each candy corn.  Lastly, fold in the short raw ends of the bias tape and topstitch.

Voila!

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No- Sew Variation!

Same supplies as above plus:
pinking shears
fabric glue (No-Sew, Fabric Fusion or others found at any craft store)

**Follow instructions above through step #2.

3.   Fold the front tops of the middle and bottom pieces of each candy corn over 1/4” and press.  Using fabric glue, glue the folded down top edge onto the raw bottom edge of the piece above it (middle piece glued to top piece, bottom piece glued to middle piece).  OR just use felt and no need for folding or pinking shears!

4.  Run glue around the inside edges of finished front piece and attach back piece.

5.  Using pinking shears, cut around sides of each candy corn.

6.  Glue each candy corn to inside of double fold bias tape.

Done!

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Wondering what magnificent Halloween photo is in that frame?

Ok, you asked for it:

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A classic from the old glory days of college.  Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure this wasn’t even ON Halloween…

Easy-peasy Egg Breakfast Cassrole

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I looooove breakfast.  It’s my very first chance to eat every day and I SO look forward to it!  In fact, I’d have to say that I’d rather eat out for breakfast than any other meal.  And as if deciding on a great morning meal isn’t hard enough, I’m equally in love with both savory and sweet breakfasts!

I came up with this easy meal after scouring the internet looking for the perfect Christmas morning brunch.  It’s great for holidays (or any other lazy morning) because it can be prepped the night before. (see note) 
It can also be made even healthier by adding more veggies: fresh spinach, leftover zucchini or asparagus, bell pepper, you name it!

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Egg and Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole

20 oz package of frozen hash browns (or made from scratch)
1/4 c olive oil
10 eggs
1/4 tsp parsley
1 tsp garlic salt
pepper to taste
1/2 tsp herbes de provence (can substitute oregano, or Italian herbs)
4-5 strips cooked bacon, crumbled
1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
3/4 c cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 c provolone and muenster cheese, grated*
1/4 c milk (dairy or non)

*I used a random combination of these cheeses because I was using up leftovers and it was delicious!  Feel free to substitute any other flavorful cheeses of your liking.

Spread frozen hash browns in 13×9” pan and drizzle olive oil on top; mix until hash browns are coated.  Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, whisk eggs and spices together well.  Add bacon, tomatoes, cheese and milk and mix to combine.  Pour egg mixture on top of cooked hash browns and bake at 350 degrees for 25 min. 

Note: If making the night before, cook hash browns as directed.  Allow to cool slightly, then continue with recipe until egg mixture is poured on top of hash browns.  Cover with foil and refrigerate until needed.