Saturday, December 31, 2011

Future Olympians

Adam and I have always dreamed of our children being Olympic athletes.
 We're thinking luge.
 My kids also really love to pose for cameras.  They will run to various places and say "cheese!"  Katrina has a hard time not jumping for pictures.
 Daniel had an interesting place of choice for his photograph.
 I haven't shared a purse on here for awhile.  This is a custom order for a family member (sans purse strap).  I'm proud of how it turned out.  I altered a pattern that I last used a year ago.  I think I'll probably make more of this new and improved pattern.
 And it has a zipper!  All my purses from now on will have zippers.  They no longer intimidate me.
Hope everyone has a fun New Years weekend!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

End of Year Stats

I always like to do a round-up of stats each year.  This year I have had 6966 visits from 4152 unique visitors.  The top countries that bring visitors after the United States are Canada, United Kingdom, Hungary, Germany, and Australia. 

The biggest search that brings people to my blog is "Amy Butler Blossom Bag," because of this post here. I also get a bunch for hippopotamus pajamas, pioneer dresses, soft-structured baby carriers, and  how to make a purse from a leather jacket.   Some searches that amuse me are: "manly tshirt quilt", "scouting widow", "applique nerd," "can't swim but have bathing suit," "close up pictures of things that make sound," "fun with elmers glue," "is it fun to stay at the hospital," "parents of psychopath blog james," "pimp pyjama, "pinkle dar," "who thinks Olivia the Pig is self centered," and  "how to make chicken catch a tori." :]

Fun stats to look at!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas and last Christmas gift--dollhouse

Merry Christmas everyone!
 You'll notice our tree has no ornaments left on the bottom half because Daniel kept removing them.
 I wanted to share Katrina's final gift.  First of all, I made these little dolls.  I tried to make little girls with petticoats peeking out. 
 This is the dollhouse I created for Katrina. I decoupaged fabric and scrapbook on the floors and walls to decorate.  Some rooms are a little cuter than others, but overall I think it's fun.  I especially like the rug in the living room and the carpet in the master bedroom!
 I put together some of the furniture from a kit at Michaels.  It was really small and flimsy even after I glued it, so I looked around for other furniture last-minute.  I ended up buying some wood furniture on Etsy for a great price.  It's very cute and much sturdier that the other furniture.  I ended up gluing most of it down because I don't want furniture all over the place in their room.
 The middle level has Daniel's room on the left, the master bedroom, and Katrina's room.
 The upstairs has a bathroom, and two other mysterious rooms that just have random leftover furniture.
 And here it is with the dolls.
 Katrina actually didn't really get into it, but today was a very full day with lots of new toys, so we'll give it some time.  Daniel went over and immediately ripped the toilet and a chair off, so I may need to use stronger glue!  And we just may upgrade to a real dollhouse next Christmas if it doesn't hold up well.
 This morning was lots of fun.  I played a violin/cello duet at church and needed to be there early, so I got us up at 7 and got the kids up rather than letting them sleep in.
 The dragons were a hit, especially with Katrina!
 She loved her bunny. Daniel loved his cars for his garage and his ball thing that I bought him too.
We went to New Jersey after church and ate our traditional Eggs Benedict and exchanged gifts with them.  The kids had lots of fun and we did too.  We will have plenty of things to play with tomorrow!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Gifts- Stuffed Dragons

These gifts were fairly last minute.  I didn't decide that I wanted to make them until just a few days ago.  The reason behind them was that Daniel is obsessed with Katrina's tutus and dresses that have tulle.  There is one dress in particular that he likes so much that he sleeps with it.  So I decided he needs something that has the same silky and tulle textures that maybe he will latch onto instead. 
 I used this tutorial from Etsy that I found ages ago but have never had the need for. I decided to use silky satin for the tummy, and instead of felt spikes I made them out of tulle.
 A couple days ago I shows the picture to Katrina and told her I was making one for Daniel.  Of course, immediately, she needed one too, and has bugged me constantly about it every since.
 I took the kids with me to the fabric store to buy the fabric for Daniel's.  I picked a green minky for the back.  Daniel saw it and grinned and said, "turtle!" so I think he will like it.  When he saw the tulle he got excited and said, "dress!"
 Katrina's uses two pink minky fabrics that I had in my stash, and of course tulle for the spikes too so hers could be like his.
So hopefully these gifts are winners!

Merry Christmas: Our Year in Review

 Merry Christmas from the James family!  We have had a great year.
 Adam has spent the year studying and writing.  Oh, and he had a full-time job too!  We were super proud of him for passing the level I of the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) in June.  He wrote two study manuals for Kaplan Financial, the series 79 and the series 99, which he did with his dad.  Now that both manuals are done, he's hard at work studying for Level II.  He had the opportunity to go to Woodbadge (Scout Leadership Training) in April, so this next year he will somehow be fitting in Woodbadge goals!  Adam did some calling-hopping this year.  He was released as Scout Master to concentrate on his studying and writing, after which he spent some time as Elder's Quorum instructor and on the Scout Committee.  Later on in the year he was called as Nursery Leader and the two of us spent just a couple months in Senior Nursery before he was called as Stake Assistant Clerk over Finances.
 I spent the year sewing, or at least that's what it feels like.  You all know that I have my Etsy shop, and most of my energy that didn't go towards the kids went towards sewing purses.  I feel like my skills have really improved and my shop has done quite well!  At church I was on the Relief Society Activities committee and spent part of the year as Nursery leader over Junior Nursery, and the rest over Senior Nursery with Adam.
 Katrina is 3.5 and really quite a good little kid.  I really like age 3 with her, and she doesn't throw nearly as many tantrums as she used to.  We have a lot of fun.  She still talks in a sqeaky little high voice, and is a little chatterbox.  Unlike a year ago, I'm no longer worried about her speaking skills though her ennunciation still could use some improvement.  Katrina loves crafts, stuffed animals, and play-acting.  She no longer naps, so during the afternoons I send her to our room and stick her on the computer with Starfall.com on one monitor and PBSkids.org on the other.  She loves to sing, can identify all letters, and is learning to write a few of them.  Her drawings are becoming more recognizable.  She learned how to write her first real word using all the letters she can do: H-O-T.
I just wrote a whole blog post about Daniel, so I won't repeat it, but Daniel is our cute litte snuggly boy.  He loves to climb and jump on us.  He is obsessed with letters and has appropriated the foam bath letters as his constant playtoys.  Unfortunately he only knows three of them (H, T, and P), but he's convinced they are all W and likes to shove them in our faces and throw them around.  He transferred to a big boy bed a few months ago and took to it right away.  Last month he started falling asleep by the door every night but most nights now he goes to sleep in the bed.  Thankfully he still naps in the afternoon!

So that's what's been up with us this year! We are very excited for a brand new year with new opportunities.  Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas gift--Fabric garages

You may remember that I made my nephew a cute fabric barn a couple of years ago.  It was a fun gift and I've always intended to make one for Katrina, perhaps a dollhouse.  For Daniel and my two nephews this year, I bought some wooden cars off of Etsy, and decided to make some fabric garages to go along with it.  I used the same tutorial but changed it up a bit.  Larger, flat roofs, no handles, and a different way to fasten that I'm hoping will be easier on little fingers. 
 Each one has a ramp that comes down from the second story.
 I was intending on making the garage door open, but I forgot to do it for the first one, forgot again for the second one, and for the third I decided what the heck, I'd skip it for that one too.
The outsides of the garages have barrels of oil, safety cones, and tool boxes.

These were kind of a pain to make, and I did some things that look funny.  I think they're the kind of gift that the kids will play with once and then never look at again, except maybe the cars.  Oh well; it's three days until Christmas, so there's no going back now!  Hopefully the cars will provide lots of entertainment, even if the garages aren't super exciting.  You never know what kids will like, so I don't get too invested in what I make in case it's a failure with the kid.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Some recent videos

I haven't shared any videos in awhile. Here are some from November and December.  Shadow puppets:

Spinning games with Daddy. Unfortunately this is the tail end, when Daddy was getting tired:

Daniel dancing to the piano music.

And the kids jumping off the couch tonight into their "swimming pool":

Answers in advance to one of your burning questions: Does Daniel every wear normal clothes? Yes.  Today he worse pants and a shirt for most of the day.  But he spends as much time in just a diaper as possible, and occasionally in one of Katrina's dresses.  He has pretty bad exczema and clothes seem to bother him, so I let him wear what he wants rather than make him be uncomfortable. 

Last week I was slammed with purse orders (hooray!) and this week I am frantically finishing Christmas gifts for my kids and nephews.  We can't wait for Christmas!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Daniel is 2!

Now that Daniel has been 2 for a week, I thought I should share some things about him.  Daniel is very attached to both me and Adam, but me especially.  As a baby he wanted to always be held and not much has changed!  Sometimes he goes through stages where he wants to walk by himself, but even then he insists on holding my hand. (Two falls down the concrete steps outside our apartment have made him a bit afraid of those, for good reason!).  But most of the time he's happier being held or even carried on my back in the baby carrier.  This clinginess is cutest when he's cuddling in our laps in the evening watching a tv show.  It's the least cute when I walk into the room and sit down and he starts crying because he wants me to hold him (and be standing).  Church can be really difficult, but sometimes, like today, he happily sits on my lap all of Sacrament meeting as long as he can eat grapes and play with his turtle. He loves nursery but hates the parting at the beginning and screams for a few minutes.

Daniel is extremely attached to his turtle pillow pet that he got last year for his first birthday.  It's a smaller-sized pillow pet and is perfect for him.  He is happiest when he is sucking on his thumb and holding the turtle's tail in the same hand.  He loves to bop his face with the turtle's head, wear the turtle on his head as a hat, and kiss the turtle.  In fact, to my great dismay, whenever I ask Daniel to kiss me, he gets a mischievous smile on his face, wriggles off my lap, and finds his turtle, which he then kisses.  Then he brings the turtle to me to kiss.  So Daniel kisses are especially precious to me because they happen so rarely these days!

Daniel has a few things that he loves to an obsession.  Balls, balloons, leaves, oranges, grapes, apples. He can't walk by a leaf without wanting to hold it.  He feels similarly about flowers, but we just don't see those quite as often, thankfully!

He has a very wide vocabulary.  Most things are food, but at least he can tell me exactly what he wants!  He also has some strange phrases.  He just said, "Oh, dear me, Nina."  He likes to say, "oh, man!" "Oh turtle!" "Oh Daddy/Nina/Mommy/Daniel!"  He can say some full(ish) sentences, like when he finds something, he says, "Mommy, found it turtle!"  I would say he has at least 100 words that he uses on a regular basis.  I'm sure you remember how much we have stressed over Katrina's speech.  (She speaks quite well now, she just has fairly poor ennunciation.)  It's really a relief to be able to communicate with him so well, especially with his cranky temperament.  He sometimes gets really serious and stares at me while going off on a little monologue that has recognizable words thrown into a bunch of jabber.  He says Please, Thank you, and Sorry all without being prompted.  In fact, I am so charmed by how he says, "More please!" that when he says it I pretty much will give him whatever he wants!

Another thing he loves is jumping.  He often will jump as his mode of transportation from one room to another.  He has this strange phrase, "Uppee up, jump jump jump!" which he randomly will say and then of course jump.  He loves to jump on his bed.  He jumps off of furniture.  He just started randomly jumping into my arms from stairs and furniture and thankfully I've always noticed in time!

He loves the foam letters we have in the bathtub and is convinced that every single one is the letter W.  He counts to 13 and then repeats "erteen, erteen, erteen" for awhile.  He loves to sing, especially Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.  He also loves Old MacDonald, which makes sense because one of his first sounds was Ee-i-e-i-oh!

Daniel and Katrina get along really well.  He calls her Nina or Trina.  They often share with each other without being told.  If I give him two things he goes and gives her one as habit.  They also share pretty poorly at other times though!  If we are eating and Katrina or someone else isn't there he runs off to find them, saying, "Table. Table. Eat!" They play together a lot.  Right now they are playing catch in the hallway.  He seems to be left-handed, and he has a really excellent throwing arm.

He has an aversion to clothes.  I am trying extra hard these days to get him dressed, but sometimes if he's having a hard time and starts tugging on his clothes, I'll give in and take them off.  He's been developing strange rashes lately and when I tried to put some lotion on his dry skin last week he broke out in hives on his back.  I will be asking the doctor about it definitely at his next visit. 

Well, that's a lot about one kid, but I wanted to have a little verbal snapshot to remember what he is like at this age!  He really is delightful, and we love him lots.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Answered prayers

I've been getting progressively more and more stressed this week as I've tried to juggle a few things related to my Relief Society Activities calling.  We were short on pianists for this Christmas activity and I had to take on two of the pieces myself.  Unfortunately, even with all of my practicing, once we got together this morning to practice, it all fell apart.  I spent Sacrament meeting trying not to stress about it but failing miserably.  The kids were their normal active selfs, but even with taking care of a wiggly Daniel I was able to listen to the testimonies.  One of the themes today was answered prayers.  As I was praying for solutions to my stress I thought of a few options.  One was to talk again to a pianist who originally said no, just to see if her schedule had changed.  Another option was to ask a sister from another ward.  A third option was to use a recording of the piano part available online.  I wasn't really happy with any of those options. 

A family had their names read into Sacrament meeting today, and I remembered a conversation I had with the RS president a few weeks ago when she said that a new sister would be moving in who could play the piano really well.  I had the feeling I should talk to the new sister.  So after the meeting I approached her and asked her how she felt about playing.  She kind of smile/grimaced and and I knew that her piano skills must have been exaggerated.  She said she might be able to do it, but I didn't want to just transfer my stress to someone else.  I was disappointed but then she said that her teenage daughter is quite a good pianist, if I minded having a young woman play.  Uh, I don't mind!  Apparently her daughter voluntarily spends about 4 hour a day playing piano.  I promptly arranged for her to meet with us at our next meeting, handed over the music, and have spent the rest of the day so relieved!  I also talked to a few more people about important things, so I finally feel on top of things. 

There's still a lot to do but it feels manageable now.  I also have to finish Katrina's dollhouse and make three little fabric garages for Daniel and his cousins, so I need to get working.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Daniel's quilt

Well, I finished Daniel's birthday quilt for his second birthday.  It turned out better than I thought it would!  He doesn't care about it, but that's okay, he's allowed to be a bit of a stinker. :]

 The marching turtles all are made of minky or fleece for some added texture.
 Usually I handsew the binding on the back but this time I didn't feel like it, so I machine-sewed.  Unfortunately, I did it fairly poorly!  I will probably take a seam ripper to it and redo it all.  Boo!  Should have done it right the first time!
 The quilting is all stitch-in-the-ditch or 1/8" from each seam. Fairly simple and easy.  This was the first quilt that I used spray adhesive instead of safety pins.  I will never go back!  Spray adhesive is totally the way to go.

And the birthday party.  He loved his pizza and fruit, two of his favorite foods.




 He had a basketball-themed cake since he loves balls so much, basketballs in particular.  We had to remove it from the table during dinner though because he wanted to hold it.

 He got some clothes, a wooden duck, a play nativity set, and a set of four balls that will keep him happy for months!
He also got a really fun remote control car that kept all the kids entertained.  It only has one button, so it was easy for them to use.

Another great birthday!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kind of funny

I am on the committee planning the Relief Society Christmas program in a few weeks.  Our theme is "The Women Who Knew Christ" and it features six women (both scriptural and fictional) who may have known Christ.  It's a really sweet program. After each number we have a musical number.  I am in charge of the music, so I've been trying to put together all these numbers.  Pretty stressful!  We are super short on pianists and so I've ended up being the pianist for two numbers, one of which is pretty hard.  I hope it works out!

The funny thing happened tonight.  My committee chair gave me a call to discuss different things about the activity, and then she asked me to be Mary!  I had suggested we ask a young woman or young single adult, but apparently when she was talking to the presidency about it, they thought I would be a good Mary.  So I get to be Mary!  I admit, it's a little intimidating, but not too much because it's only a paragraph.  All of the other parts are a page long.

So anyway, I've got a busy week ahead of me with practicing piano, sewing purses, sewing Daniel's birthday quilt (his birthday is on Saturday), and various other things.  Adam cleaned the living room last night and the kitchen tonight, and I cleaned our room and the kids room tonight, so our apartment is much less of a pigsty.  Woo-hoo!  Yay for not being slobs.


Oh, and another thing.  We got to spend Saturday with my brother and his girlfriend down in Washington, D.C.  We went to the Natural History Museum and the Air & Space Museum.  Daniel was pretty cranky for much of the trip, but he and Katrina still had fun.  Daniel was chanting my brother's name in the car on the way home, so he definitely liked his uncle! And Katrina love him.  This was actually the first time Adam and my brother had met.  It was a great trip.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Daniel's second birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks, and I decided to make him a little quilt.  I wanted it to be simple, so I decided on a variation of a nine-patch that I'd seen awhile back.  I found some cute turtle print that I wanted to be the main fabric, since he loves his turtle pillow pet.  Well, it has some strange greens in it.  And while trying to find coordinating fabric I picked out some polka dot fabrics that had blue and brown.  I bought a few different browns and blues and greens to add to the mix.  I thought the combination would look good together, but I'm really not feeling it:

This is not the completed quilt top, it's just the blocks laying on top of the green fabric, but this will be sort of how it looks when pieced together.  It's just kind of weird.  In fact, I am afraid that it's kind of ugly.

I also have some brown to be a border, and I took it out and laid the pieces on the brown.  I think I like it better?  But I'm not sure.  I'm sad that it's not really living up to my vision.  I don't really have the budget to get different fabric, so this will need to work . . . somehow! One part that I'm excited about will be a line of marching turtles across the bottom.  That might salvage it.

On a positive note, I also made some placemats tonight.  The ones I originally made were pretty beaten up, so I need some fresh ones.  These came together super easy: two layer of home dec fabric and two packages of skinny bias tape.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Whole wheat blender pancakes

We had an activity yesterday where we made breakfast for dinner and delivered food storage that the sisters had ordered earlier.  We made three different kinds of pancakes.  I made whole wheat blender pancakes.  The recipe is from my parents.  It's pretty awesome because you grind the wheat right there in the blender. 

1 ½ cup milk

2 T. honey or sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup uncooked whole wheat
2 eggs
2 T. oil
Put milk and wheat in blender.  Blend on highest speed for 4 or 5 minutes or until the batter is smooth.  Add and blend on low eggs, oil, baking powder, honey, and salt.  Bake on hot griddle.  (By adding one additional Tbsp wheat and increasing oil to 4 Tbsp, you have waffle batter).  If batter is ever too thin, just add tbsp flour.
Neither Adam nor I are that fond of pancakes.  We prefer waffles but don't have a waffle iron.  These pancakes were really good though.  We had them for dinner tonight.  The kids loved them and even ran back to the table to eat the leftover ones plain!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Calm nursery

Today nursery was a breeze.  Last week was the same.  I'm not sure why all the kids were so happy and content, but we enjoyed it!  First we started out the day with all the cars out.  They quickly moved on to blocks, and those lasted almost half an hour!  A lesson, coloring, and snack time took most of the rest of the hour, and we skipped singing time in order to end the day with reading time.  I wish every week could be this nice!