so long, 2013: a year in review

Last night I read the year in review post by Erin at Living in Yellow and enjoyed it so much, I figured I’d write my own! Lots of fun times and big changes for us this year. Here’s a quick look at 2013 in our lives:

January: At 20 weeks, I went in (with Ben) for my ultrasound and found out our little one was a girl! I had always had a feeling, and seeing her little body moving, sucking her thumb, facepalming, and avoiding the sonogram wand like she was getting paid to—this is when it all felt so real. Soon after this, we announced the news to all our friends on Facebook:

February: Sometime in my second trimester I got this burst of energy and decided to throw a huge Oscars party at our house. Never before or after did we cram so many people into our townhouse to enjoy my favorite party spread, cheese and chocolate fondue, and fill out our ballots with predictions. We even got little mini plastic Oscar statues to give to those with the most and least correct guesses. One of my favorite nights this year! Had so much fun I completely forgot to take pictures (in fact doesn’t look like I took any pictures at all in February), but these were the printables I used:

March: Around this time I started to feel very busy with work, more overwhelmed than normal due to the whole stressing-out-for-two thing. I also felt the pressure to do all sorts of things before baby arrived. Ben and I took advantage of the improving weather by taking excursions around DC and Northern Virginia, including this one to the Kennedy Center to see the Nordic exhibit and enjoy a delicious lunch and some sunshine.

April: When you work full time in an office job, the months tend to blend together a bit, so April felt much the same as March. We did start going outdoors a lot more, spending a great deal of time in Old Town Alexandria and another one of my favorite places, National Harbor. My dear childhood friend Jordan came to visit this month with her family, and we spent the day walking around both:

May: This month was the calm before the storm: prepping for baby, starting to work from home, my baby shower, getting the nursery ready, and sleeping as much as possible. May was such a happy and exciting month! The lovely baby shower my sister threw me was definitely a highlight. What made it even more fun was having so many other pregnant friends in the same boat (all but one of us in the pic below were due within the same week):

June: Best month ever, of course, because it is when Allie joined our family. I spent six days longer than I had planned waiting anxiously for her, and every day felt like a million years. To pass the time we went on all sorts of adventures around Northern Virginia (not too far from the hospital!), but the day finally came. Happiest day of my life.

July: In addition to spending this month desperately trying to figure out this parenting thing, we also took the necessary but sad step of leaving the DC area. And because I am a totally laid back person who never stresses about anything, not least of which my six-week-old (at the time) baby, this was a completely peaceful and smooth process. So kidding it’s not even funny.

August: After “settling” out west, we found our August filled with trips. First to Idaho, then Ben to Alaska and me (with Allie) to Laguna Beach. Normally I love travel, but after our cross-country move and, you know, having a newborn, I wasn’t necessarily thrilled with the idea. But all trips ended up being a lot of fun!

September: My birthday month. Oh goody. Allie celebrated the day by waking up at 5:00 AM and refusing to nap all day! Seriously, not my favorite birthday ever, and, not gonna lie, this was probably the hardest month of motherhood I’ve had so far. Various milestones and the concomitant sleep deprivation, and it also marked the end of my maternity leave and the beginning of the working from home juggling act.

October: I always love Octobers, and this was a month when I started to feel like we got into a good routine, and I sort of had my life back just a little bit. Allie finally started riding (and sleeping!) in our Ergo carrier without complaint, and I spent pretty much every day taking walks around the neighborhood with her. One big achievement was managing to be in the wedding of one of my best friends, a feat that beforehand seemed impossible with a little one, but we pulled it off swimmingly, and it was such a fun day! Near the end of October is when I discovered (that is, became obsessed with) subscription boxes and began to follow blogs again, which also helped me feel more like myself again. It was of course also the month of Halloween and the accompanying festivities!

November: I feel like last month is when Allie started to seem so much more grown up (maybe because it’s when she finally rolled over for the first time), and I panicked at the thought of time passing so quickly. This and other factors contributed to me returning to blogging! After a two-year hiatus, due mostly to being so busy with work, I started afresh with this blog and was re-energized to do things. It’s so easy as a tired mom to spend whatever free time you have consuming—tv, books, internet—but there is so much more satisfaction in creating. I believe we all need our creative outlets, and for me, blogging is now one of them again! Yay! But of course, time with Allie always comes first. Because above all, I am a clingy and overprotective mom.  And I’m okay with that.

December: And here we are! December has flown by unbelievably quickly. And while Christmas was so much fun and it’s always depressing when it’s over, I am so excited for the new year. A fresh start. With my little family I love so much!

Happy new year to all of you!

Advertisements

project salted caramel molten chocolate cakes

This week we have had all sorts of family in town, and the other night we had a big family dinner and, surprise surprise, I was tasked with preparing a dessert. Ever since I’ve started following all these amazing blogs and pinning more frequently, a simple batch of cookies or brownies just hasn’t seemed exciting enough. So when the call came, I answered with this recipe from A CUP OF JO for salted caramel molten chocolate cakes. More accurately, Ben answered, because it got late and I had to put Allie down, so Ben was the magic maker of the evening. And magic he made, my friends.

Even though I didn’t do any of the work, I was involved in planning and oversight, and these were a couple of the hurdles we encountered:

  1. Caramel: The recipe included instructions for salted caramel, but we were missing the heavy whipping cream required. We had to choose between (a) buying the whipping cream, (b) buying pre-made salted caramels from Costco, or (c) buying pre-made caramels and salting them ourselves. Because of time, we opted for (c), and it worked out great! Ben just salted them to taste. (And yes, the salt is crucial!)
  2. Ramekins: We didn’t have any and had to borrow them from my sister. Now I realize that I need to buy some but don’t know which size or where to buy them! Thank goodness my sister could help in this case. You don’t think of these as a kitchen essential until you need them!

But despite these minor issues, everything worked out well! More than well. Guys, these are amazing. We sprinkled each cake with powdered sugar and served it with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream. So insanely good. Every member of my family present gushed about how delicious they were, and my family is not the type to shy away from honesty. We will probably be picking up some ramekins soon and making these as regularly as my waistline will allow!

* Sidenote: How do you pronounce the word “caramel”? My family teased me for calling them care-uh-mells, instead referring to them as car-mells. Evidently both are correct.

current distractions and the weekly cute

Like many others enjoying vacay this week, I’ve slowed my blogging pace a bit lately. A few of my reasons for such are as follows:

  • Family time/chaos: And there has been lots of it. Yesterday we had five kids under six running around, with a few older ones on top of that, and I asked my mom (of eight kids) if that’s how it was when we were younger. There was always someone crying, someone demanding attention, someone hungry. Oh good times. It’s probably a good thing for Allie to be around other kids and realize she’s not the center of the whole world… just mine.
  • Board games: A big part of family time in my family is board games, and yesterday my sister introduced us to Telestrations. Honestly, guys, I haven’t laughed that hard in a really long time. It’s basically a combo of telephone and pictionary, and I was dying. We also played Loaded Questions, another good one to play with family. So fun!
  • Reading: Gone are the days (for me) of getting engrossed in a good book and never looking up from it for hours, but I can squeeze in as much reading as I can during Allie’s naps. When I was creating my Christmas wish list I glanced at some of the bestsellers on Amazon and discovered Divergent, which I’m sure all of you heard of a million years ago. All I saw was that it was fiction and popular, and because I love surprises, I just added it to my wish list without finding what it was about. It turned up under the tree on Christmas morning, and I am totally hooked. I’m refusing to watch the movie trailer until I finish the book (to maintain my mental pictures of the characters), and now that I’m thinking about it, I should probably go ahead and order book 2 in the series to have ready… It takes a real effort to do anything besides read these days!

But, as a mom, you can’t ever completely escape daily life, and I suppose I wouldn’t want to, with such a cute little one around! She’s been up to all sorts of cuteness and trouble this week:

  1. I think Allie is officially a sitter upper. She’ll sit up without help for 10 or 15 minutes or more and only fall if she reaches too far for a toy. She loved doing this with all her new treasures on Christmas morning!
  2. She learned how to clap! But even better than that, we have trained her to clap on cue to, wait for it, What Does the Fox Say. Specifically, the first part of the first chorus (ringdingding). I’m telling you, we play it or sing it, she claps. We have tested this about 15 times, and it always works!
  3. For the first time ever, Allie cried yesterday when we took something away from her (a piece of cardboard, of course). I guess she’s learning to form object attachments, and this is just the beginning…

A few of my favorite iPhone pics from the week:

Hope you all are having a wonderful weekend!!

thursday by threes

After a nice two-day break for Christmas festivities, it’s time to come back to reality, I suppose. And in efforts to put off that work project I need to do just a little bit longer, I decided it was time for a new post! This is sort of a combination of my regular Tuesday “fabulous finds” and my “things i love Thursday” posts.

Post-Christmas sales

Because we didn’t get enough presents for Christmas, right? But in case you missed something, here are some sales I’ve been stalking:

  1. Nordstrom half-yearly sale for men
  2. 6pm’s year-end sales (up to 80% off)
  3. Banana Republic’s 50% off sale items (today only!!!)

Madewell sale items

This one is so awesome it gets its own category. I mentioned a Madewell sale pre-Christmas, but this one is even better! 40% off all sale items (code SALETIME) plus free shipping! These are a few of my favorites:

  1. Pinch Provisions® Minimergency® Kit for Her ($8.70 with code): Love these cute little kits! Great gift or just handbag essential for any girl. These typically sell for about $15.00, so this is a great deal!
  2. Triple C™ iBoost® Backup Battery ($21.30 with code): Remember when I talked about things you’d want to have handy in a disaster? One of these would totally fall on that list. It’s basically something to keep in your purse in case your phone battery dies. Probably not the most powerful thing in the world, but it can save you if you’re out without a charger.
  3. Coffeeshop Cardigan in Stripe ($29.99 with code): This was one of my Christmas gifts from Ben, and I LOVE it. Stripes, pockets, and on sale—too awesome to pass up!

Vendors

I keep discovering cool online shops! Thanks in large part to all the blogs I follow. In case you haven’t heard of them yet, here are three favorites from the past week:

  1. MadeByGirl: This “shop for pretty things” offers prints, paper goods, and accessories, as well as all sorts of personalization options. I love the ABC Kids print that can be customized with your child’s name.
  2. Amelia: From handmade goods to decor to baby stuff, Amelia has so many unique products for every aspect of your life. I honestly want almost everything in the store, but I am especially loving the Tri Rele ring.
  3. Moorea Seal: The beautiful selection of handmade goods donates some of its profits to a selection of causes, which I always appreciate, and you can even shop by cause. And because I love animals, this “amazing things will happen” print is a favorite.

Pins from this week

  1. Roasted sweet potato with goat cheese: Enough said.
  2. DIY Lite Bright: I totally need to try this!!
  3. This outfit from Damsel in Dior: Totally my style. And I’m obsessed with her boots!

Happy Thursday!

wrapping paper and will ferrell

This is my life right now. Wrapping all my mom’s presents to the family, since I’m pretty sure she’s still doing last-minute shopping, while I watch Elf and other Christmas faves. I have to abide by my rules of an awesome Christmas, after all! Besides how to keep the cats from tearing all the wrapped presents to pieces, the following things are on my mind today:

  • Christmas gift tags: I’m not sure when it started, but in my family I have this tradition of creative gift tags. That is, To: Mom | From: Bethany doesn’t fly in my world. Usually something more like To: Momnivore | From: Bethereal. Just a simple play on words, but it’s more fun than the boring over-and-over of regular gift tags. It’s probably one of my favorite parts of Christmas, and I like to do it on all presents I wrap. My mom, Ben, and a sibling or two have adopted the tradition, but honestly, some people just don’t get it or appreciate it.

  • Nicknames: On that note, I’ve learned that in some families, people don’t get nicknames. That’s actually how Ben’s family is. Just straight Benjamin, all the time. In my family, it’s rare we actually get called by our own name. My siblings have so many different names for me and I for them, it’s only if I’m trying to be serious that I would use their given name. How do your families do it?
  • Uneven bread loaves: Ben and I pretty much only use bread for sandwiches. And several times recently when we’ve finished a loaf of bread, we’ve been left with one slice (annoying because, you know, sandwiches require two slices). Anyway, we got a new loaf of bread recently, and I decided to count. FIFTEEN slices. It’s like they give you an odd number on purpose!
  • Captchas: I feel like captchas are getting longer and harder to read. Not all bloggers I follow have applied the advice from Erin of Living in Yellow to remove word verification on the comments settings of their blogs. They should. I know the idea is to prove you’re human, but I swear it’s like the captcha is trying to make it as hard as possible for you to get it right!
  • Yearbooks: It occurred to me the other day that the concept of a high school yearbook seems a little outdated now that everyone you know is on Facebook and “keep in touch!” is almost impossible not to do. It made me wonder if schools still do yearbooks. And if they still cost like $80 or whatever it was.
  • Over-documenting our lives: Brace yourself for a wake-up call. I recently read this article (via Design Mom) about how we feel the need to take pictures of everything. It used to be that all we cared about was social sharing, but now it’s about possessing. We want to capture and keep each moment, which causes us to interrupt our experiences. It makes me want to just stop and experience every moment without having to take a picture… for about five seconds. Then I worry the moment will pass and rush to grab my phone. Addiction, anyone?

Hope you are all having a lovely time with your families or on your own, but in all cases enjoying this happy holiday season!

project pineapple upside down cupcakes

I’ve been trying to do some kind of food or craft project each week, and today I had all these fun holiday ideas I wanted to try. I was scrolling through them and made the mistake of asking Ben which one he thought I should make. He responded by vetoing all my ideas and instead requesting pineapple upside down cake, one of his favorite desserts. I groaned, because the idea of this dessert seems kind of… 70s to me. I can’t think of another way to explain it. Just not exciting and kind of old-fashioned.

But, like a good wife, I wanted to make something he would appreciate. I scoured Pinterest for a fun spin on the recipe and discovered all sorts of recipes for a cupcake version. For whatever reason, this seemed more interesting and doable, so after checking to make sure we had all the ingredients, I set to work on this recipe. It was super easy, and I followed it exactly. Fitting the pineapple in the cupcake tins proved a little difficult, so I just ended up cutting it into chunks. I also filled the tins to the very top, which caused them to spill over a bit.

I was honestly not expecting much, but these were delicious! I ate two.. and a half. Okay, three. We added whipped cream on the side and that was the perfect complement. I much preferred the cupcakes to the cake version, as there wasn’t any messy cutting or trying to line up the pineapple with the slices. Maybe mine weren’t as cute as those from the blog where I found the recipe, but they sure tasted good!

 

the weekly cute

This week has been a flurry of (online) Christmas shopping, working + momming, and, well, snow. Always the snow.

Allie’s latest developments:

  1. Finding and attempting to eat her feet. Hope she drops this habit before she starts walking.
  2. Being ticklish under her chin and giggling like crazy when we exploit this fact.
  3. Refusing tummy time outright by immediately rolling onto her back whenever we put her on her tummy. And repeating this each time we try again.
  4. Very clearly demanding more food with little desperate shouts when we aren’t fast enough with the spoonfuls.
  5. Sitting up for 20-30 seconds at a time on her own!
  6. Possibly learning some of the signs we’re teaching her. She seems to do the sign for “more” during her solids feedings, and she totally mimicked me when I held my arms up for “finished” last night! Perhaps just a coincidence, but still fun!

Photo highlights of the week:

five rules for an awesome christmas

I was once in a relationship with someone who hated Christmas. This was completely unfathomable to me, and, not for this reason alone though it did cross my mind, we broke up. Listen, I totally respect that different people love different things, but I knew that for my life and my future, a love of Christmas was essential.

So here we are, just five days away. I finally finished all my shopping last night, and now I can just relax (as much as a young momma can) and enjoy the spirit of the season. Because I have control issues and like things to be just so, there is a list in my mind of how to make sure every Christmas is awesome. A few of these are traditions I grew up with, others are ideas I want to implement in our little family going forward.

Rule #1: Be excessively celebratory at every opportunity.

This is the time to “sing loud for all to hear,” to quote Elf. All that pent up enthusiasm you’ve been so carefully restraining all year long—let it out, my friend. Smile and sing, laugh and love, dance and decorate to excess. My mom has like 30 nativity scenes that she sets up around the house. This is the kind of commitment I’m talking about, people! Find the thing you love most about the season and do it 30 times!

Rule #2: Decorate the tree as a family while listening to Christmas music.

Sure, you can decorate the tree by yourself, but it takes a lot of time, and the process is immensely enhanced by making it a family activity. Turn up the Carpenters Christmas album, or Nat King Cole, or even that Hanson Christmas album you pretended to throw away when you turned 12 but have been keeping in your iTunes for over a decade. Dance as you decorate, and have fun with each other. This is how memories are made.

Rule #3: Don’t forget to watch your favorite Christmas movies.

How sad is it to be scrolling through Netflix a week after Christmas and realize you forgot to watch Home Alone? Sure, you can watch it anytime, but for maximum Christmas magic, you need to pull out the DVDs (or add the movies to your Netflix queue), gather your family and friends, and watch. A few of my favorites:

  • Home Alone
  • Home Alone 2
  • The Holiday
  • Elf
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • The Nativity Story
  • Mr. Krueger’s Christmas
  • The Family Stone

Rule #4: Dress up for Christmas dinner.

Or Christmas Eve dinner. Whichever one is the biggest in your household. Dress up because, let’s be real here, this is probably one of maybe two or three days out of 365 each year you look forward to the most. It’s a big deal! So bust out your finest red, green, or gold, or just whatever makes you feel fancy and fabulous. This is one we didn’t do growing up but that I’m determined to establish in my own household.

Rule #5: Spread holiday cheer to your neighbor(s)

Christmas is about giving, but not just to close friends and family. Do something to serve your neighbor or others in need. A few ideas:

  • Bake a treat to take around to all your neighbors
  • Go Christmas caroling
  • Volunteer for an afternoon at an elderly home
  • Participate in Sub for Santa
  • Be a secret Santa for a neighbor or coworker—everyone loves surprise gifts!

For many of you, today is the last day before one of two weeks of vacation, so enjoy! Be merry and festive!

Sidenote: If you have severely procrastinated your Christmas shopping like I did, you may have discovered that it’s hard to find places online that will ship in time for Christmas, at least without a huge shipping charge. I discovered yesterday that Madewell is offering free shipping in time for Christmas if you order by tomorrow, plus 30% off all order with code TOYOU. They have some good stuff! Also, Nordstrom. Because they’re Nordstrom.

things i love thursday

I’ve been trying to keep up my blog momentum with posting and reading everything on my blogroll each day, but yesterday I just ran out of energy. I skipped posting and currently have 287 unread posts from the blogs I follow! I try to tell myself it’s okay to just “mark all as read” and start fresh, but I’m so afraid of missing some amazing post! Anyway, I suppose I’ll save dissecting my perfectionist control issues for another day. Let’s move on to my loved stuff! First, of course, less than a week until Christmas! Yay! Other things I’m loving today:

  • Netflix fireplace: While we’re on the subject of Christmas, I heard about this through A CUP OF JO. Netflix has these episodes of, well, fireplaces. You can turn them on for a holiday party or maybe just if you live in an apartment or house without a fireplace and want to add an extra piece of holiday comfort to your life.
  • Paris map: I went through a phase in third grade when I was a little obsessed with geography. I memorized all the state capitals, identified every strait in the world (there are more than you might think!)—childhood nerdery at its best. I think it must be the vestiges of this obsession that make me love anything map related. I’ve already shared twice (1|2) about illustrated maps I’ve discovered, and I’ve now found another! This beautifully illustrated map of Paris is a colorful and unique representation of the city. It makes me want to visit and walk around with just this map as a guide. It’s available for purchase here and would make a cool piece of wall art for someone with a particular love for or attachment to Paris. Or perhaps a passionate map lover…

  • House boots: I don’t know what took me so long, but I finally got myself a pair of house boots. They were an impulse buy at Target, but they have become an essential piece of my daily ensemble. I resent having to switch in to actual boots to go places, because these are so comfy! However, I will most likely wear out every one of the $15 they cost and may need to invest in a more sturdy pair in the near future.
  • Keali’i Reichel: Unless you’ve lived in Hawaii, the chances are good you’ve never heard of Keali’i Reichel. in my house growing up, we always had music playing (one of my fondest memories of childhood), and, being in Hawaii, we had a couple Keali’i Reichel albums and would play them from time to time. Well at some point I loaded them onto my computer and just recently rediscovered them. Holy nostalgia train. I was transported back to Hawaii and how beautiful and peaceful it is there. Why did I ever move away?
  • Baublebar necklace: While I don’t look at the spoilers, I knew about one extra arriving in my December POPSUGAR box*: a cute triangle necklace from Baublebar. I am new to Baublebar but have seen their stuff on various bloggers I follow, so I was very excited to get my first piece. I LOVE it. The necklace somehow manages to feel both edgy and delicate, or, to use the most completely overused expression I hear on Project Runway,  it balances hard and soft. Even Ben likes it, and that’s saying something.

  • Mint brownie ice cream: Lastly, friends, I’ve made an important discovery. This stuff is amazing. Apparently there is a contingent of people who don’t like mint, and for that I am truly sorry, because this ice cream is so good. I usually like to balance out ice cream with a brownie or cookie or piece of cake (two sweets are better than one, right?), but this ice cream does it all! Brownie and ice cream in one! It takes all my self control not to dish myself up a bowl of this after every meal.

Hope you all are having a lovely Thursday!

* My invite link

fabulous finds: vendor edition

FYI, this post is not sponsored by any of the vendors mentioned below. Or any vendor at all, for that matter. Just some fun shops found by me and shared with you. Enjoy!

You’ve probably noticed all the exciting holiday giveaways going on around the blogosphere, such as 24 Merry Days, which involves some of my favorite blogs, and a variety of other vendor-sponsored contests. Through these giveaways I’ve been introduced to several amazing online shops that have sent me into a wish-list-adding, binge-pinning frenzy. In case you haven’t heard of some of these, I’m sharing them with you now, along with one lovely item from each store. And, while we’re at it, I might as well include some of my newest favorite subscription boxes.

Cute and fun vendors!

  • Baba Souk: Colors! Patterns! Yay! This quirky and colorful Canadian shop sells home decor, accessories, stationery, kids stuff, and more. I am in love with the currently sold-out Party Cloudy Sky Throw pictured below:

  • Artsy Modern: Kind of offering the same categories of goods as Baba Souk, Artsy Modern has all sorts of unique (and of course artsy and modern) products for home and life. I think what I love most are the options under “holiday and gifts,” including a whole page of items “for animal lovers” and “simply scandinavian” goodies. So much want! This Ikonik makeup bag is particularly fabulous:

  • BRIKA: There’s just a little bit of everything at BRIKA, be it baby clothes, wall art, or delicious fare. I’m especially smitten by this Triangles Tray:

Subscriptions!

I wouldn’t be me without talk of subscription boxes, right? Well in the first case, it comes in a bag. Here are a few subscriptions I’ve recently discovered:

  • Fabletics*: It’s pretty much accepted wisdom among most ladies I know that cute workout gear makes you much more inclined to actually work out, am I right? Well, after looking at several stores whose adorable and amazing clothes are sold at insane and exorbitant prices, I was delighted to discover Fabletics. You don’t have to join the monthly subscription option, but if you do you get a discounted priceand it always lets you skip the month if you don’t want to buy. In any case, you get your first outfit at half price, which is just phenomenal. My pick (below), Tenacious, was only $35 for three pieces! And fantastic quality!

  • Wantable Intimates: I don’t subscribe to this one just yet (we have a family budget, after all), but it’s a new discovery and at the top of my list! When I first heard about it, I assumed it was all underwear and wasn’t necessarily interested, but thanks to the review by Jennifer at Ramblings of a Suburban Mom (can you tell I read her blog a lot?), I now know you can define your preferences and get things like socks, leggings, and loungewear. I’m a fan! The subscription cost is $36/month for 4-5 items (invariably valued at a total way higher than what you pay). Wantable also offers makeup and accessories boxes, but this one has me most interested. Stay tuned if I end up subscribing… (Image below via Ramblings of a Suburban Mom)

That’s it for the fabulous round-up this week, but not for lack of finds, trust me! There is so much out there to want, I have to turn my shopping switch to gift mode during this season to keep myself in check!

* My invite link