December 13, 2010

Handmade Sketchbook Organizer

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to contribute a project for Ella's 12 Days of Christmas giveaways.  On behalf of Ella, I was sent a set of monogram labels from a company called Sweetwater.  The labels are iron-ons and are printed on a linen-like fabric; the color of which is not too white or too cream, just right in my opinion.  They feature several ideas for using their labels on their blog.  Many of the ideas are accessible and easy-to-do for those who do not know how to sew since you can always just iron the label onto a premade item.  Here is a close-up of one of labels I was sent:

When I first received the labels I thought they were quite lovely, but I didn't know what I wanted to do with them.  So I went searching.  I wanted to find something that was relatively easy to make and also practical.  I am sometimes excessively practical.  What I found was this tutorial from Martha Stewart's website for an artist's organizer.  It is a fabric notebook cover that holds a paper pad and the art supplies of your choice.

The organizer on Martha's website is made using oilcloth which I didn't want to use.  I have never sewn oilcloth and I don't need any frustrations at the moment; I know from listening to my mother that oilcloth can be difficult to work with. I went with simple lightweight cotton fabrics instead. I made some minor changes to the construction of the organizer and so I wanted to share what I did with you here.

In addition to a sewing machine and basic sewing supplies, here are the additional tools and materials you will need:
Lightweight cotton fabric and felt (the measurements will depend on the size of notebook you choose; see the directions below for how to measure)
Two pieces of ribbon measuring 18 inch long
Medium weight fusible interfacing

You will also need to choose a notebook and your artist supplies before you begin; you need these to measure your fabric and pocket sizes.

Instructions for sewing your organizer:

1.  Begin by measuring the sketchbook. The height of the foundation felt piece will be this measurement plus 1 1/2 inches. The width of the felt will be double the width of the sketchbook and I recommend adding 3 1/2 inches for the fold.

2.  Cut your felt piece according to these measurements.

3.  To create the pockets you will add one inch to the width of the sketchbook, and subtract 1 1/2 inches from the height; this is your book pocket. The tool pocket is the same width as the book pocket; the height of the pocket will vary. For a sketchbook of size 6" x 8" I found that 4 1/2 inches worked just fine. However, I made a smaller sketchbook using a notebook that was only 4" x 6" and the height of that pocket was only 3 inches. I think it is best to measure your tools first to determine the appropriate height of the tool pocket; I recommend for the pocket height to be a little over half the height of the tools.

4.  Cut both pockets according to your measurements out of the same felt material as your foundation piece.

5.  The measurement of your outer fabric piece - the cover - will be the same as the foundation piece with one inch added to both the width and the height. You will also need to cut a piece of interfacing the same size as the foundation felt piece.

6.  To begin sewing, first decide which side you want your tools on and which side you want the notebook. To sew the pockets onto the foundation piece place the corresponding pockets 1/2 inch in from one side and 1/2 inch from the bottom and pin. Repeat this with the other pocket. Sew the pockets to the foundation felt piece, using a 1/4 inch seam allowance around 3 sides. I recommend reinforcing the edges on the top of the pockets.

7.  Decide where and how many tools you want in your tool pocket. From experience I can tell you that the felt will buckle quite a bit if you try to put too many tools in the pocket and so you will need to be selective here. Also, I found that tailor chalk or washable sewing pencils did not mark on the felt. I used pins as a marker to show the placement of my desired lines and I used the edge of the already sewn pocket seam as my guide. I was able to sew a straight stitch this way fairly easily and if you keep a steady hand I think it is probably pretty simple to do on felt (versus a more slippery fabric). {Maybe someone else has a suggestion for the best product to use for marking felt?}

8.  To begin sewing the cover you will first need to fuse the interfacing to your fabric. Center the interfacing on the wrong side of the cotton fabric and following the directions for your particular brand and apply it to the cover piece. Then iron down the edges of your cover fabric by 1/2 inch. Place the wrong side of the fabric to the back of the foundational felt piece and pin. Insert a 1/2 inch of the ribbon between the fabric and the felt in the middle of each short side and pin.

9.  Sew the fabric cover and felt pieces together using a simple straight stitch with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Be sure to reinforce the ribbon seam by going backwards over the ribbon and then forwards again.

10.  The last step is to insert your notebook and tools into the pockets and enjoy!

Gabriel's organizer holds a medium-sized notebook and colored pencils:

Nathan's organizer holds crayons:

A few comments - Gabe's organizer has the pencils on the left-hand side because he is left-handed. This means that the organizer, when closed, is a bit lumpy on the top. This doesn't bother me, but it might be something to consider if you think it might bother you. =) Also, I found that I needed to adjust the thread tension when sewing the felt alone vs. sewing the cotton fabric to the felt. You might want to practice first on some scrap pieces to see what settings work best on your machine. You might find that there is no need to adjust the tension at all. I think it may have been pickiness on my part, but I think the stitching looked better when I decreased the tension when sewing the felt pieces.

Finally, I'm counting this towards my goal of sewing an apron.  Part of why I chose to make sewing an apron a goal this year was that I wanted to just start sewing again, period. I thought an apron would be an easy project to start with before moving onto more difficult ones, like say, sewing a quilt. I feel like this project gave me the push I've been looking for. And as for those goals, I'll have a post on that soon.

If you have any questions don't hesitate to ask in the comments!  Thanks.  =)

December 12, 2010


and a little bit tired.  So this post is kind of a collection of various not-necessarily-connected thoughts.  Tomorrow I will be 19 weeks along in this pregnancy.  For some reason, it seems to be going along so quickly.  The first three months for me were filled with the usual "morning" sickness; which for me and many other pregnant women is really all-day sickness.  But unlike my other two pregnancies so far, the sickness has now gone away and I've been feeling surprisingly very good (I'm used to having that nauseous feeling for almost the entire 9+ months).  In fact I'm having to fight the urge to overeat - I'm so hungry all the time.  In the past I always had such bad heartburn too and it served as a very strong deterrent from eating too much in one sitting.  It's just been a completely different experience for me this time around and it is making me wonder whether or not we're having a girl.  With Gabe and Nathan we didn't want to find out the sex of the baby; we wanted it to be a surprise.  But tomorrow I'm going in for my one and only ultrasound (God willing) and well, I'll let you know if I'm right. =) 

As for the tiredness, I had somewhat severe anemia with my previous pregnancies and this time around I started taking my iron supplement as soon as I found out I was pregnant.  That has definitely helped, but I find that I am still more tired than I'd like to be.  I think I have to accept that this will be a new normal for me.  I mean after the baby comes I will be even more tired, this I already know.  So I am trying to accept that things will be different around here for a while.  I'm trying not to go too easy on myself to the point of allowing myself to be lazy, but I'm trying to set more realistic expectations for myself to begin with.

Since it is Advent, and Christmas is approaching, there is a lot to do.  My husband and I like to keep Christmas simple, but even still there things that need to get done this time of year that don't have to be done any other time of year.  I am not complaining at all, just letting you know that I probably won't be blogging too much this month.  Not that I ever blog too much. =)  It is just likely that I'll be blogging a little less. 

I am going to try to take a photo of our Advent wreath tonight.  Gabe is excited about lighting the third candle this Sunday.  The scrapbooker in me wants to record this special tradition this year since it seems to be the first year that Gabe is really paying attention to what we've been doing.  Nathan too.  It's one of the few decorations we have out so far, but it's been enough.  Something about candlelight certainly is fascinating to children.  One of my favorite posts on Advent is one from Leila at Like Mother, Like Daughter where she talks about the wonder of Advent and how to instill that sense of wonder in our children.  Although, unlike Leila we don't say "fie" to the Advent calendar with the chocolate behind the door. =)  I like this little tradition; 99 cents from Trader Joe's and my feelings are that the chocolates are so small that I don't find it to be too indulgent.  25 days is a long time for a small child.  I think it helps give them a better sense of what that amount of time feels like.  A way to measure it.  Plus, I think that as they get older we will replace this with a calendar that is more scripture or prayer oriented anyhow.  For now, I let them have their chocolates. =)

Until next time, God bless.

December 11, 2010

Christmas Giveaways from Ella Publishing Co.

I'm one day late in announcing this, but yesterday Ella kicked-off its

As the sub-title says, Ella will be sharing gift ideas, projects from the Ella friends and giveaways everyday for 12 days (Sundays excluded).  Today is day two and you can visit the blog and leave a comment for your chance to win $25 to

In conjunction with the 12 Days of  Christmas, Ella is offering a savings of $12 on Ella eBooks this holiday season! Here's how:  use coupon code 12DAYS to save $2 off of any single eBook. You may use this code six times (on six separate purchases) between now and December 23rd, for a total of $12 of holiday savings!  You can buy any of the eBooks in the store including two of my own personal favorites, Double-Page Design:

Of course, I might be just a liiiiittle bit biased.  I know I've been absent the past week, so just to get you talking, what is your favorite eBook?

December 1, 2010

and the winner is...

The winner of Ella's newest eBook, Double-Page Design, is...


Heather said...

Our Thanksgiving is pretty tradional fare...turkey, dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes, peas, corn, sweet potatoes, rolls, cranberry sauce, cranberry frozen salad, scalloped oysters, and choice of pumpkin pie, cherry pie or cheesecake --- we had a lot of people and a lot of food!

Heather, you will find my contact information in my profile which you can access through the link on the left sidebar. Congratulations! And thank you all for your comments and participation.

November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I mentioned in my post the other day that I wanted to keep this Thanksgiving very simple, food wise at least.  Since it will be just the four of us this year, and since two of those four have very small bellies there isn't much point in making lots and lots of food.  Yet, it is a feast day and so menus are in order and preparations have to be made.  This year we are having a somewhat non-traditional menu.  I feel very lucky that my husband is not set on having certain dishes every year, year after year.  There is nothing wrong with traditions, I completely understand the pull towards that and we keep a bit of tradition too.  But we have always experimented a bit with different recipes and side dishes, and honestly I have always found it to be kind of fun and adventurous - in a safe, non-dangerous sort of adventuresome way.  =)  This year we'll be having this bay and lemon brined turkey which we've made before and loved, potatoes gratin, glazed carrots, my mom's cornbread dressing, popovers and for dessert, pumpkin cheesecake.  Oh, I almost forgot about the cranberry sauce.  And I do love cranberry sauce. 

As to what this holiday is really about, well, I'm not always so great at putting my feelings into words, or at least, putting those words out into the greater world.  That's the introvert in me.  There are so many things to be thankful for this year and without going into too much detail I can say that I feel blessed and happy and joyful this Thanksgiving.  Do we ever deserve God's blessings?  Most likely not.  But I am truly grateful for all that he gives us. 

Happy Thanksgiving and God's blessings to all of you!!

Also, please see the post below for details about Ella's Thanksgiving sale as well as the giveaway of Ella's latest eBook, Double-Page Design.

Double the Fun - a Sale & a Giveaway!

Ella Publishing Co. released their newest eBook this week titled Double-Page Design.  Written by members of the collective at Write. Click. Scrapbook. the book includes 37 two-page designs.  Whether you have 5 photos to feature on a page or 13, this eBook is filled with fantastic and versatile ideas to help you scrapbook them in style. 

I was very happy to contribute a layout to the book, and was even more estastic when Angie asked me to contribute bonus sketches for the book as well.  So as a supplement to the layouts in the book you will also find 16 bonus sketches by yours truly. =) 

If you'd like a chance to win a copy of Double-Page Design leave me a comment telling me what you're having (or had) for Thanksgiving this year.  I'll leave the comments open until Monday (11/29) 11:59 pm PST. The winner will be selected at random and announced sometime on Tuesday.

*Update*  The details of the sale have changed.  From Ella's blog:  "Now, through Monday, you can build your own bundle and save $4. Place any three eBooks in your cart (totalling $16.97 or more) and use the code BYOBUNDLE at checkout to enjoy your savings. Code may be used twice per customer, but they must be in two separate transactions."  Find all the details of the Amazing *Updated* Thanksgiving Sale on the blog.

I'll mention as well that even though it is Thanksgiving, it is still

over at Write. Click. Scrapbook.  Today's prize is a spot in Amy Sorenson's BPS class The Gift of Words.  Comments for that giveaway are open until 8:00 pm PST today. 

Hmm, so maybe the title of this post should have been triple the fun? =)

Until next time, God bless.

November 24, 2010

It is almost here

Although we are celebrating a very important American holiday tomorrow, and one that I do think is very important, I cannot ignore the fact that Advent is fast approaching.  The first Sunday of Advent is this Sunday, November 28th. 

Are you ready? I am not, as usual.

But, I said this last year and I'll repeat it again this year, I love our Catholic faith and that we have been given this special way of bringing on Christmas. This season for preparing our hearts to receive our Lord. We have some time to be quiet and to anticipate the joy. I find it comforting.  Those words are still so true for me. I am trying to find ways to introduce Advent to Gabriel (and Nathan too, although for him I think most of the meaning will not be understood.  I think at his age it's more about the ritual.  Creating memories that are tied to this season).  Gabe is now at the age where he will concentrate long enough on a craft or activity for it to impart meaning, if that is what I intend. So while I am by no means prepared yet, I'm working on making a list of simple activities that we (being me and Gabe) can do during the weeks ahead as well as activities that we can all do together as a family.

Growing up my mom did very little for Advent, (it's not a criticism, so why even bring that up?  Because I find that my husband and I truly are building this domestic church of ours from scratch.  We are learning as we go and doing our best to pass our Catholic faith onto our children) but we always had an Advent wreath, and it is a tradition that will continue in our family as well. Ours is very simple, the most simple - a brass ring with four candle holders.  It is from Catholic Supply and it only cost $4.95.  I do place a wreath of greenery around ours (that I bought at Michaels with a coupon, so again, very inexpensive).  More than anything else, the Advent wreath says to me, Christmas is coming.

As for resources and ideas, one of my favorite Catholic bloggers, Karen Edmisten, has compiled an enormous list of ideas and activities for Advent.  Lots of great ideas for children of all ages; I'm hoping to sit down with that list this weekend and make my final selections. =)  I will be turning to her book list for certain before we head-off on our next library trip (scroll down to Part IX).  Another resource that I'll be looking to for ideas is this book: Advent, Christmas and Epiphany in the Domestic Church.
Although a quick scan of the book tells me that some of the crafts might be a little too complicated for Gabe.  I really try to keep things simple so that he can do as much of the work as possible, otherwise he loses interest.  I'll be taking a closer look at this book this weekend too.

Besides digging out the Advent wreath and finding age-appropriate activities for the boys, my other plans for Advent include spending a little more time in prayer. Since I love my monthly Magnificat and have been very happy with the quality and depth of the content there I went ahead and ordered their Advent Companion:

again, very inexpensive and yet something that I'm sure will bring more peace and meaning to the season.  (Also, I should mention that it's not too late to order - when I sent away for mine I received it very quickly and that was with a mail-in order.  You can buy it online as well).

Finally, if you're looking for something for yourself in the way of spiritual reading during this season, The Anchoress put up a list of books and links to keep in mind for Advent. I do wish I had more time to read something a bit deeper this year, but I'm trying to be realistic. No need to get overwhelmed unnecessarily, that is not what this season is about.

I'll try to share photos of the projects and activities that we do throughout this season, but as always, I make no promises.  Even as a scrapbooker sometimes I enjoy just sitting back and being in the moment, instead of trying to always photograph the moment.  Even if that moment lasts four weeks. =)

As always, until next time, God bless. 

November 22, 2010

I've been keeping a secret

and I'm finally ready to share it with you.  Watch this, and you'll figure out what it is:

(h/t to fellow WCSer Marie Taylor; hers was the first blog where I saw search stories.  Go make one of your own, they are so much fun!)

November 20, 2010

another month, gone too quickly

I can hardly believe that November is almost over.  It seems that we just went to the pumpkin patch.  And yet, these photos are almost a month old now:

That last one has a lot of motion blur. I didn't have the lens with me that I normally use, and Nathan is just too quick - always.  But, I love the moment that it captured.  He was so proud carrying that little pumpkin back to the car. =)

I am trying to savor these last days of November.  Today we did a little Thanksgiving shopping.  Originally, weren't going to have turkey this year, I know.  But I went to Trader Joe's yesterday and the turkeys were just calling my name.  My sweets really wanted to have ham, but since his birthday is coming up on the 30th we settled on a compromise - turkey for Thanksgiving, ham for his birthday.  Oh, and we were lucky to find a very small bird, 10.5 lbs.  Probably the smallest turkey I've ever cooked, but I am completely fine with that.  I'm trying to keep things simple since it will only be the four of us this year.  This year, for some reason more than in previous years, I'm really looking forward to having a long, quiet and restful Thanksgiving weekend with my husband and family.  Don't get me wrong, I always love a long weekend, but somehow it seems like it couldn't have come at a better time. 

Finally, before I go, if you want to focus on this week (rather than peeking ahead and looking to that other very important holiday coming up) and you're looking for ways to prepare for, celebrate, share or record your Thanksgiving you can visit the posts from this past week over at starting with this post on creating a Book of Thanks.  There are lots of ideas for making your Thanksgiving a creative and memorable one.

Until next time, God bless.

November 15, 2010

and the winner is...

The winner of Ella's newest eBook, Journaling that Matters, is...

Nicole Michelle Gray!

Nicole, you will find my contact information in my profile which you can access through the link on the left sidebar.  Congratulations!  And thank you all for your comments and participation.

November 12, 2010

Celebrate Friendship with Ella Friends

Today me along with the rest of the Ella Friends are hosting a blog hop!  Join us as we each share a layout, card or other project that celebrates friendship.  As I was thinking about what I wanted to share with you my mind naturally wandered towards - food!  After all, November is the month we celebrate Thanksgiving, spend time with our family and friends and share our favorite foods together.  I thought what better to share with my friends than my favorite fall recipes, specifically my favorite pumpkin recipes (we do love pumpkin around here).  Along with the recipes I want to share an envelope book that I made to hold photos of each dish along with the corresponding recipe cards.  Here is the cover of my book:

The book was inspired by this tutorial found on Martha Stewart's website.  The great thing about this little book is that it is so versatile and would make a wonderful gift for a special friend.  You can use the envelopes to house any number of items:  ephemera, photos, or letters.  You could also use this idea to make a gift book for someone and include special notes or gift cards in each envelope.  Or do what I've done and include your favorite recipes to share with a friend or family member.  The possibilities are limitless.

Getting to the details, the front of my envelopes are very simply embellished with labels that detail the contents:

And as I said above, my envelopes contain a photo card and the corresponding recipe card (or cards) for each dish:

Here is a link to the pumpkin scone recipe which inspired our family's version:  Starbucks Pumpkin Scones.  We do make some adjustments to this recipe, my husband is sort of a scone expert - in my opinion - he's perfected this recipe to his tastes, but I don't feel right taking credit for the recipe and so I'm sharing the original with you.  If you love the pumpkin scones at Starbucks, you'll love this recipe.

Other recipes that are included in this book are my favorite pumpkin bread pudding, penne with creamy pumpkin sauce and this pumpkin cheesecake.  I did include a few empty envelopes so that I could add more recipes later if I wanted to.  Again, we do love pumpkin in this house so I'm sure we'll discover more favorite recipes as the years go by.  =)

In addition to sharing this little recipe book with you I wanted to take this opportunity to share Ella's newest eBook with you:

About this eBook:

Journaling is hard. Even for professional writers, deciding what to say on a layout can be truly challenging, let alone figuring out how to make it authentic, creative, and meaningful. But struggle no more, because help is on the way!

Journaling that Matters is packed with 51 easy tips to help you write from the heart without breaking a sweat. You'll love the expert advice, inspirational layouts, practical tips, and timeless suggestions that are suitable for writers of all levels—from the most experienced journalers to the most insecure. Kelly, Angie, and their eight talented contributors will help you unlock important stories and tell them with confidence. Also featuring the work of: Linda Barber, Moon Ko, Donna Jannuzzi, Layle Koncar, Audrey Neal, Keshet Shenkar, Wendy Smedley, and Stephanie Wheeler.

If you'd like a chance to win a copy of Journaling That Matters leave me a comment telling me your favorite thing to share with your friends.  I'll leave the comments open until Sunday (11/14) midnight PST.  The winner will selected at random and announced sometime on Monday.

Be sure to visit the blogs of the Ella Friends and see all of the wonderful projects that the team has put together.  An extra incentive - more than one of us is doing a giveaway!  There are lots of chances to win something fun this weekend.

I want to mention that the comments on my blog are moderated.  But, I will be checking-in often to update the comment thread.  Don't worry.  As long as your comment is entered before 12am on Sunday you'll be included in the drawing.  Thanks! =)

November 8, 2010

We did it!

Almost one month ago, we went on our first long-ish road trip since Nathan was born (long-ish being about an hour and 45 minutes).  Granted, we've been on a long trip before with Nathan, namely our trip to New Jersey last year for Christmas.  But, this was our first long car trip with him and we were a little bit anxious about how it would go.  Turns out, it went fine.  I brought plenty of snacks and books and I even brought his little Leap Frog laptop which he got for his birthday this year from our neighbor.  He did great, no whining or crying or complaining.  He really was quite content to read his books and interchangeably play with his laptop:

Where did we go?  Here:

Riley's Farm to pick apples.  I have never been to an apple orchard before and since we were enjoying such lovely weather in early October I thought it might be something fun to try.  Despite growing up in the Northeast my husband had never gone apple picking before either so it truly was a new experience for everyone.  Both of the boys had lots of fun, but in their own unique ways.  Gabe took our instructions about the correct way to pick the apples from the tree very seriously and he was so careful about which apples he picked:

Nathan on the other hand wanted to put every apple he saw into our half bushel box, including the apples that had fallen off the tree and were lying on the ground.  We had to keep a close eye on him. =)  

And goodness, I could not get a photo of his face while he was picking - he was too quick!  Every time I'd get a shot, he'd be off again. 

I even handed the camera over to my sweets and had him take my picture:

We had some very tired boys when we got home (well at least one very tired boy and one crabby boy who was tired but wouldn't nap):

And a lot of apples and pears; I actually have no idea how many pounds we had total because I didn't measure:

That is the box with 3 lbs of pears taken from the top so that I could make this pear crisp with vanilla brown butter.  (Which was delicious by the way, but I'm not so sure that I liked the brown butter; as weird as it sounds I'm still deciding on that one.  I will say that this was better the second day than the first as it gave the flavors a chance to meld and mellow a bit). 

As soon as we got home I went online and started searching for apple and pear recipes; I was determined not to let any of the fruit go to waste.  The week after our trip we had a dish incorporating apples almost every night.  On Monday we had quinoa and apple salad served with leftover roasted chicken from the night before.  The apple salad is made with a curry dressing and I wasn't sure I would like it, but it was just the right amount of curry so as to not be overpowering.  Also, unless you're vegetarian I'd suggest serving it with grilled chicken or pork chops to make a more substantial meal of it.  The next night we had pork chops with apple chutney, very good and actually a recipe I've made before.  Thursday was apple, ham and cheese melts and then on Friday, since we don't eat meat on Fridays, we had apple-butternut squash soup.  I've made apple-butternut squash soup before and wasn't too fond of it, but this recipe is a keeper.  Not too heavy, not too sweet and with just the right amount of cream.  Along with all of our savory meals we also ate tons of apples as snacks, which is normal around here - Gabe says that apples are his favorite. 

In addition to the savory recipes I also made a few sweeter recipes that I'd like to share.  We made a double-batch of these chunky apple muffins and put the extra dozen in the freezer (I'm going to pull them out for eating this week).  I doubled the apples in the recipe too and they came out just fine (in fact with double the apples I think they're more true to their name than if I had made the recipe as is).  I used-up the last of our pears to make this slow-cooker apple butter, so obviously we had pear butter instead of apple butter.  I will say that I didn't bother with all the fussy instructions to strain-out the pulp.  After the butter had been in the slow-cooker overnight I simply took an immersion blender to mixture.  Turned out great, although a bit too spicy.  If I make this again I'll cut down on the cinnamon a bit (and this coming from someone who loves cinnamon).  We enjoyed our pear butter on french toast with mascarpone.  Yummy!  But we still had quite a bit leftover so I froze some and used the rest to make this spiced applesauce cake.  One note about this cake in case you want to make it for yourself.  In the instructions she says to use either an 8- or 9-inch square cake pan.  I made ours in an 8-inch pan (because that's all I have) and I had to cook it for a little longer than the instructions suggested because it was quite thick in the middle.  So some parts of the cake turned out a little dry.  Which didn't matter too much since the cake is iced with cream cheese frosting, I mean everything is better with cream cheese frosting (well lots of things).  But I'd suggest a 9-inch pan if you have it or perhaps an 11 x 7 inch pan.  Despite the touch of dryness the cake was still very delicious and I have been given instructions to definitely make it again.

So why post all of this now a whole month after our trip?  Because we finally finished the last of the apples this past weekend!  Also, apples and pears are great in the fall and I thought I'd give some recommendations on recipes that our family has tried and loved. 

And what about my goal of not letting the apples or pears go to waste?  Achieved rather successfully I think.  We only had to throw out a few pears and apples because they were rotting from the inside out - which wasn't because we hadn't got to them in time, but rather they were like that when we picked them and you just couldn't tell. 

Until next time, God bless. =)

November 2, 2010

It's Here!!

Every Tuesday.  This is the highlight of their morning.  Watching the garbage truck pick-up our neighbor's trash...

you can't see the garbage truck pick-up our trash unless you go outside.

They love this so much.  I guess that's part of being a mommy to two boys?  As soon as they hear the garbage truck make the turn into our little neighborhood they keep watch by the window.  And actually they get to do this twice each Tuesday morning.  Once for the garbage truck and once for the recycling truck.
And yes, that's Nathan standing on a bag of blocks on top his wagon.  Gotta get a good view.  =)

October 30, 2010

Happy Ellaween!

In case you don't receive the Ella Publishing Co. newsletter (which you really should; if you haven't signed up yet go do it now!) they announced a special Halloween sale on ten select eBooks; this includes my eBook:

All this weekend until midnight of Halloween you can save 31% off of the following eBooks:

Be sure to use the code ELLAWEEN at checkout.  And yes, you could buy all ten eBooks if you like all at 31% off.  If you've been on the fence about buying one of the titles above, now is your chance to save!

Hope you're having a great weekend!  This should make it a little brighter. =)

October 28, 2010


I can hardly believe that October is almost over. 

It's been such a full and busy month for us.  We've had activities nearly every weekend of this month, and the one weekend we didn't have something planned - we planned on cleaning and catching-up on chores and shopping and general house maintenance.  And that weekend it all went a bit pear-shaped.  My husband and I were moving a dresser and apparently I strained a muscle in my back.  I didn't feel it at the time, but I definitely felt it the next evening.  I spent all of last week on the couch, only getting up to do the most basic and necessary tasks (like making meals for the boys or changing diapers).  Other things like laundry or grocery shopping, yeah, those things didn't happen.  I will say that I am glad that I have learned to keep my pantry and freezer stocked with our favorite items so that I could still make dinner at home even at times like last week when a simple shopping trip are just not possible.  (I will also say that even though I am feeling much better, it still hurts to drive.  My seats are just not good for my back and I'm thinking I need to get a small pillow for back support while driving from now on).  So this week has been catch-up week.  Again.  I feel like I'm doing that a lot lately.  But, I did make some serious progress the last couple of days and the house is beginning to feel more ordered and clean and basically the way I like it.  Oh, and everyone has plenty of clean underwear again, which is always a good thing. =)

I can't let this month pass without sharing the following photos with you - or so says my husband. :)  At the beginning of the month my sweets, along with my dad, took Gabe to the MCAS Miramar Air Show.  We weren't sure if Gabe would be ready to go this year; he does not like loud noises, never has.  And of course these shows are very loud - hello jet engines!  But, Gabe loves all things mechanical and jets and airplanes are definitely one of his loves so we decided to let him go.  We figured if he got really scared they could just leave; after all the show is free and it was sweets' day off.  Turned out he loved it and he has been talking about the show off-and-on ever since.  He truly had a wonderful time.

Part of what my husband loves about the air show are not just the aerial demonstrations - which are very cool of course - but the static displays and the opportunity to get to meet a few of the men and women who serve in our armed forces.  I don't know this gentleman's name, but Gabe calls him the smiling man.  Thank you smiling man, whoever you are, for being a good sport and posing for a photo with my little guy!

Gabe looks rather serious here, like he has a job to do:

Looking down the barrel of a Stinger rocket launcher:

Holding the rocket launcher:

Both of my boys had a lot of fun. :)  The little one stayed home with mommy, and while he was sad when daddy and "B" left, he quickly got over it and we ended up having a nice day together too.

I hope to post photos soon from our other adventures this month.  I've also been enjoying the cooler weather - which I can hardly believe it but the weather truly has cooled down this fall.  Usually we don't get cooler days until early to mid-December.  So that is definitely something to be thankful for. 

One last thing, I added a new widget to my sidebar.  The Liturgical Year widget from Catholic Culture.  Catholic Culture is one of my daily reads.  Their website is such a great resource; they have so many great articles and commentaries on the relevant topics of our day.  They even have the entire catechism online!  If you have questions about your Catholic faith, or if you have questions about Catholicism in general, give them a visit.   

Until next time, God bless.

October 13, 2010

Welcome to the world Keira Jane

I know someone who has been waiting for you with a patient and hopeful heart!  My friend Angie Lucas is celebrating something very special this week, and to that I want to say:

I was overjoyed when I learned that Angie and her family would be adopting a baby girl.  I couldn't hold back the tears of joy when I read that little Keira Jane was coming home a little earlier than expected.

So here I am celebrating with Angie and with her friends during this truly special time.  I was asked to share something with you Angie, advice, a favorite baby product, maybe a favorite book.  I'm going to share with you two pieces of advice.  The first piece of advice I have is, ignore most advice!  =)  Really, look to the mothers that you admire, the ones you truly look up to.  Notice what they do, see how they discipline their children, how they love their children, nurture their children.  If you want advice about something, ask them.  Everything else you can ignore.  Besides, I think you have all the love and common sense you need to be a great mommy.  I just know you do

My second piece of advice, and really it should be the first, is to pray often and trust in God.  He will give you all the strength and grace you need - if you just ask Him!  There will be tough days.  Pray.  Motherhood is such a gift - I know you know this better than some - and with that gift comes an enormous responsibility.  Don't be afraid of it.  Pray.

The blessings of motherhood are beyond measure. 

I am so very happy for you.

October 5, 2010

Looking forward to...

in the immediate future, dinner.  I have a pot of homemade spaghetti and meatballs simmering on the stove.  I gotta say, there are few things more rewarding, to me at least, than making this dinner for my family. Everyone loves it, and that includes our little picky eater Nathan.  As soon as daddy gets home, we're digging in.  (Oh, and I couldn't have picked a better day to make it since it has been cloudy and rainy all day).

In the coming month, October, I'm very much looking forward to our trip to the pumpkin patch.  Always a favorite time for everyone.  Hopefully Nathan will understand a little more this year too.  Halloween should be fun - Gabe is already asking about trick-or-treating.

For the coming year... Well, it's been almost a week since this announcement was made.  I've mentioned before how much I love Ella.  I'm both happy and proud to be a part of Ella's second year.  Take some time if you can to get to know the rest of the team:

A lot of different styles and interests and aesthetics.  I think Angie and Wendy did a great job selecting the team.

Alright, I need to cook the noodles and grate some parmesan.  Until next time, God bless.

September 29, 2010

A Very Happy Birthday

Last week this little guy turned two years old:

We celebrated with a party in our backyard.  A Blue's Clues party to be specific.  Gabe had a Blue's Clues party when he turned two years old too.  I guess we're creating a sort of tradition around here.  Nathan loves Blue, it's really sweet.  He sleeps with a big stuffed Blue and a little stuffed Blue every night.  Here he is blowing out his birthday candle (well, at least he tried to blow it out himself; he really did):

Nathan enjoying his cupcake and wearing his Blue ears; so cute!

I don't know who was more excited about this party, Gabe or Nathan.  Okay, actually, I do know.  It was definitely Gabe.  All week long he kept asking about all the party preparations we were doing.  He had so much fun; goodness he loves party blowers:

The finale of the party was hitting a piñata.  My mother, abuela, nearly had a panic attack when I told her we weren't having a piñata.  So the day before the party her and my sweets went out to find one.  Not hard to find where we live.  I'm not trying to make a pun here, but it was a big hit.  =) 

In every photo I have of Nathan hitting the piñata his eyes are closed:

After a few hits he had had enough.  I'm sure he had no idea what was going on.  Gabe on the other hand, figured out the goal right away:

He and my mother were in their element.  In all seriousness, I'm not sure who had more fun:

Of course, our other guests enjoyed hitting the piñata as well.  We were blessed to have some of our favorite friends there for the occasion.  In particular, two friends that we haven't seen in quite some time were able to attend.  All-in-all, the party was a success.  So, happy birthday Nathan, we love you!

September 15, 2010

Holding On

The fall equinox is one week away on September 22nd.  At 11:09 pm est to be exact.  Usually, I would be more than prepared to move out of summer and into fall, but this year I'm not quite ready.  We've been enjoying the most lovely and most beautiful summer fruit that I can remember in a long time.  It's like we've been having really good fruit luck or something (well, minus that one seedless watermelon purchase...I hate buying watermelon).  Take for example these berries, they were wonderful:   

And I know some of you (a lot of you?) will think I'm crazy but, I'm not that into berries.  They just always seem like a gamble to me.  You never know if they'll be sweet or tart (my boys will eat them either way).  Luckily this summer they've been more sweet than tart.  So the apples and the pears and the pumpkins can wait.  Although I did read yesterday that the Pumpkin Spice Latte is back at Starbucks...

September 13, 2010

My favorite elephant is celebrating a birthday

This month has gotten off to a busy start, but I can't let the month completely pass by without wishing Ella Publishing Co. a  very Happy Birthday!

If you're not familiar with Ella they provide inspiration to countless scrapbookers through their free monthly eZine, their blog, The Daily Trumpet and through their quality eBooks.  Ella will always be particularly special to me since I had the wonderful opportunity to work with them on my eBook Stretch Your Sketches:

This month to celebrate Ella is hosting a month of giveaways from Shutterfly and  Visit the blog here for this week's giveaway post.  Don't forget to visit the blog every Monday; there are lots of prizes and lots of chances to win.

September 10, 2010

On my mind

Things have been a bit busy lately in our little home.  My mother-in-law was in town last week for a visit.  I think you all know that means.  Well, if you're like me you know what it means - lots of cleaning and organizing before her arrival.  Trying my best to actually get ahead of the housework since I knew I wouldn't be able to get much done during her visit.  We also finished painting the boy's room before she arrived and hung the curtain rods.  Now I just need to hem the curtains; going to try to get that done this weekend.  We also decided to get some new furniture for their room.  Nothing too fancy or expensive; a trip to IKEA is in our future.  IKEA recently came out with a new line of children's furniture called Stuva.  We have a few pieces from their Trofast collection and they have held up well - even against Nathan the Destroyer.  My opinion of IKEA is basically, you get what you pay for.  I think some of their pieces are actually pretty decent quality.  You just have to be very selective when shopping there.  Maybe when their room is all done I'll do a before and after post, but I'm not making any promises, just don't want to disappoint.  Let me assure you though, their room has undergone quite the transformation.

Let's see...  I wanted to share a couple of new websites that I found.  Both focus on organizing and simplifying your life.  One a bit more broadly than the other, but I've already found lots of good ideas on both:  Small notebook for a simple home & creating peace.  For all I know, you are already familiar with these, but in case you're not... 

Also, as I was organizing my bookmarks I came across an old favorite, Domestic Ease, where I found a beautiful image of Rome from atop St. Peter's Basilica.

This is not the same image as the one at Domestic Ease, but it does capture the same view:

isn't it beautiful?  Rome remains my all-time favorite city. 

Do you have a favorite city?  What about a favorite organizing blog or website?  I love organizing so I'm always open to new ideas and inspiration.  :)

I hope to be back soon.  It always takes me a while to recover from a change in my routine.  I'm such a creature of habit.  For better or for worse.  Until next time, I hope you have a lovely weekend & God bless.

Update 10/8/2010:  I've been having a brief, but interesting, discussion about copyright with fellow WCSer Elizabeth.  Because of that discussion, I've decided to remove the previously posted image of Rome with the one you now see above.  I had convinced myself after considerable searching that the previous image was probably part of the public domain.  But the truth is, I wasn't 100% certain.  The image above is a part of the public domain and so I post it without hesitation.

August 27, 2010

Who'd have thought?

That this is what you'd get when you mix milk, yogurt and fish crackers:


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