Wednesday, December 29, 2010

December is the Season of Egg Nog, Gifts, and Cheesiness

Just poured myself a glass of egg nog in celebration of being so close to finishing my first ever Christmas tree skirt on my brand new, gloriously wonderful, easy-peasy Christmas gift sewing machine! Oh... sewing machine, you deserve a name: Claire. I am an amateur sewer. I probably fall somewhere between Doesn't Know Jack and Thinks She May Have Just Figured Out How to Thread the Machine. I borrowed a friends' machine over the summer (thank you Fenja!) and then my mom gave me her old machine but I couldn't figure out how to thread it at all. I got a few projects done with the first (lots and lots of bunting, a few pairs of baby pants, and a stuffed animal or two), but I knew while that machine was perfect as a loaner, if it came to buying my own I'd want something more substantial. I added it to my Christmas wishlist, at the very most expecting that I'd be given a little something to start the saving up for the perfect machine. Then came Christmas morning when I unwrapped the paper and tears came to my eyes. There it was, in all its glory, with my name on the tag: my dream machine. I hugged it. My mom took a picture. "Thank you! Thank you!" I said, smiling at her and hugging the box some more. I smiled at Birch. I smiled at everyone.

Christmas gets a bad image sometimes. The commercialism involved is rampant and the sheer volume of stressed out, self-obsessed shoppers is enough to swear off the entire holiday forever, but in the Fox family, Christmas is a very special time when you get to show someone you love how much you respect them and who they are with a present that is right up their alley. We love presents. It's silly, I almost feel like I have to explain how we aren't horrible people for liking presents. I'll stop myself and just say this: We love presents. We love giving presents. We love finding the perfect thing be it small or large, wrapping it up, and watching our loved one's face as they open it up and exclaim, "Oh, thank you! It's perfect!" With six kids in the family, all of whom are married and almost all with kids, we've figured out a way to make it budget-friendly for everybody. Christmas isn't about stuff. It isn't about presents. To me, it's about the love we share for each other and one very seasonally-appropriate and outwardly way of showing our deep love is by giving presents that say, "I love you. I listen to you. I respect you. I love who you are and who you want to be. I want you to have this because I love the person that you are."

I received many wonderful presents this year: a sewing machine, a new diaper bag, a lovely throw and pillows that match our living room (very impressive), and a few kitcheny things to help the great style redo that I hope to accomplish this year. Birch got a new iPod (we haven't had one since 2008), a Fairtex gym membership, a vintage paella pan, and uh... a little something that could come off easily.

So, merry belated holidays! Hope you were with loved ones, ate well, drank well, and were merry. Now to have a stellar New Year's and an even better year next year! Although, I really can't see how Keats can become any better though I know he will.

Off to slap some bias tape on the edges of that tree skirt, finish up my nog, and call it a night!

All love.

Preparing for the New Year

Our living room is a present explosion (books everywhere), so instead of dealing with that, I've decided to give you a bit of a heads up on what will be happening here next year. To keep myself on track and writing regularly (and to get Birch in on the action), I've thought up a few topic-oriented weekly posts:

Movie Review Monday
Grateful Tuesday
Homemade Wednesday (Sewing, crafting, gardening, recipes)
Dream House Thursday (Bi-monthly)
Found It! Thursday (Etsy and other finds; Bi-monthly)
Keats This Week (Friday)
Science Saturday with Birch

Something to look forward to (or dread if you hate all those ideas).

Anything you'd like to hear more about this coming year (for a single or regular post)? Let me know and I'll see what I can do.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Nursery Reworked in Dreamland

From left to right: Season Reversible Quilt by notNeutral, Wheelbarrow Chair by Karl Sanford, Tetra 2 Six Drawer Cabinet by notNeutral (in poppy, please!), Sheep Pillow Friend by Elana Rosa Design, Pico Fox Pillow by Fauna, Cast Iron Bathtub Couch by Ruffhouse Art, Nest Crib by Offi, Orange 3D Butterfly Silhouette set by Hip and Clavicle, Low Bookcase by TrueModern, Meadow Floor Pillow set by Amenity Nursery.

I am a serial re-arranger. Birch and I have succeeded in switching the nursery and our bedroom and as we work on eradicating all the stuff that we don't use, that looks dingy, that doesn't fit, that's broken, I find myself salivating over some pretty cool replacements. Some, I have to admit to myself, not anywhere near my price range, but a good many are and uh... you can rely on me allocating my "allowance" on the above items (although, not that crib, that thing is purely cool from afar and I can't imagine ever actually purchasing it).

I'm pretty sure I'll be tackling the reversible quilt myself as it looks incredibly simple and would most certainly save me some money. Those colors are fantastic, though, so I'll be hitting up the local fabric stores in search of similar solids. I think I'll just go for a straight stitch quilting, though, instead of all those shapes. Easier, for sure and I'm not really sure I love those shapes anyway.

The Wheelbarrow Chair by Karl Sanford is straight genius. I'm actually somewhat annoyed that I hadn't ever thought of it! You know those egg chairs? It reminds me of those, but less weirdly futuristic and more awesomely re-purposed modern. How awesome of a reading chair would that be for a small kid? Coupled with a small ottoman, the Wheelbarrow Chair would be unstoppable. Haha, perhaps a faux straw bale (or a real one, for that matter). This baby would be perfect in the garden, too! Perhaps even more at home there, although its addition along with the felt garden and Keats' playhouse would be the perfect way to bring our outdoors life inside all year round. Yeah, I'm diggin' that chair.

Most of the time, I'm drawn to the old and shabby dressers that are invariably made of really heavy wood, but this dresser caught my eye and I'm pretty sure it's almost solely due to the poppy orange option... I know, I know, I can paint literally any dresser drawer orange and create the same effect. Well, that's what I plan on doing. So there.

Elana Rosa Design creates literally everything about all the stuff in her shop and this Sheep Pillow is no exception. And isn't it adorable? What a funny idea! It cracks me up every time I see it.

FOX PILLOW! Need I say more?

Rufflehouse Art makes these beautiful, custom bathtub couches and I love them. Don't they just look perfect to fill with boldly patterned pillows? Paired with a colorful, funky teapot, a bright day with light showers, and an early morning reading Beatrix Potter stories with my cuddly boy, Keats. Due to the edges, I'll have to wait until Keats is a tad older and standing stable all on his own.

The Nest Crib is fun and funky, commanding attention with beautiful lines. It doesn't look as chunky as so many cribs are these days, which I like. It converts to a toddler bed, too! But like I said, I wouldn't be able to justify the cost on this one (especially since we inherited a very lovely crib that also converts). Still... it's pretty sweet...

I love three-dimensional wall art and these butterflies by Hip and Clavicle are lovely. With our new plan for the nursery decor, these would be perfect whisping about the walls above the changing table, the playhouse and sparsely spread about the ceiling.

The Low Bookcase (what a great, creative title... meh) by True Modern is glorious. A place for board books and Fisher Price people as they quietly await being thrown about the room by excited hands.

Pillows! Does anyone else dream of a pillow room? Wouldn't this Meadow Floor Pillow set be just perfect? For now, I'm settling for a pillow corner in Keats' nursery, but some day... some day I will reign supreme over the Pillow Room.

From left to right: Cow Parsley Lamp by Hannah Nunn, Read Sign by William Dohman, Fabric Jingle Blocks by Little1Fun, Castles Pillow by norajane, Love House by My House Party, Season of Migration Sofa by Spruce Home, Otto the Weiner Dog Plush Dachsund by Blackbird Fashion, Mod Teacups Pillow by norajane.

I like the idea of night lights that aren't meant to be night lights. This Cow Parsley lamp by Hannah Nunn looks like it could very nicely double for me. Perhaps tucked into a bookcase cube all by itself or surrounded by little figurines atop a nightstand, this lamp just screams quiet relaxation and calm drifting into sleep after a nightmare.

Creating a fun, enjoyable space for reading is essential to me. A cozy spot on something soft with good light and William Dohman's Read Sign sounds heavenly to me. A place to read all the greatest and silliest things, to imagine different lives and different places, all from the comfort of a cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows and a cushy couch or chair. Sign me up, please!

Right now, in the early uncoordinated playtime days, these fabric blocks from Little1Fun are perfect. Easy to grab, irresistible to teething gums, soft when thrown, and stackable, too!

Castle Pillow (and Mod Teacup Pillow) by Norajane are purchased and on their way! Pillow room, reading corner, naps on the floor, the possibilities are endless. Keats has another pillow from Norajane with butterflies and bugs all over it. He plays with it in his crib quietly when he first wakes up from naps and on lucky nights, as he falls asleep. He taps at the bees and dive bombs the ladybugs, giggling all the while. I ordered three more pillows from this shop (it was hard to stop there) and I can't wait to add them to our growing collection!

Love House by My House Party looks like the perfect vessel for a child's first plant. It's so pretty, I'd love an industrial window full of air plants stuffed into little wooden homes like this one... some day, dream house, some day.

Oh, and the Season of Migration Sofa by Spruce Home? Heaven! I wonder if they'd be open to a payment plan... must own. (Reading corner!)

The stuffie dachsund from Blackbird Fashion is so unbelievably awesome I almost wish I lived in some kind of color explosion world where dachsunds really did look like that. Where all animals had some kicked out patterns clashing and mashing together so wonderfully that you just want to skip around holding hands and drinking imaginary tea with your friends around a festive table.

So, there it is, some wondrous items I'm almost scared to show you (especially that sofa...) It makes me happy to make my home a place full of color, nooks, play, words, and style. Each day I get a little closer to bringing our apartment to a new level of self expression and usability. Getting the two to coincide is a delightful challenge and I just love seeing all these possibilities out there in the world. Have any favorite items in your home? What are they and why? Here's to making a house a home.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

I'm Dreaming of an Orange Christmas

So this year, I've succumb to my recent complete obsession with orange by creating my own little orange and white wonderland of Christmas decor. It's more of a motif than a theme, but as the next couple of days go by and I make more and more little things, finish up the sewing of the tree skirt and stockings, and wrap up all the presents just right, you may notice a bit of a standing order in the color department... fair warning.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Home is Sleeping

The sewing machine sits quietly in the midday light cuddling the Christmas tree skirt that's halfway done. Scissors and pins and bright turquoise thread sleep under the tree waiting patiently to be replaced by wrapped presents with ribbon and string. A solitary garland made from a knit scarf hangs across the front window, hinting at the slow churning of Christmas to-do wheels as each little project comes to a close and is placed in a cleared away spot. Olive sleeps on the couch amongst various blankets and pillows. Her fox snuggled in tight amongst her legs, her chin resting on its tail. The orchids hibernate, waiting for a slurp of fertilizer before they spring back into flowering action. Harlequin twitches his nose in the brisk air and fluffs out his fur, adjusting his paws underneath is cozy coat. Keats is asleep in his crib with foxes, raccoons, owls and squirrels. His chest rises and falls, his mouth is open as he clutches a nook in one hand and a squeaking corduroy rabbit in the other. Constellations rise to the ceiling from a silent sea turtle. The only noise is the trickling of a filter and a spattering of clanking keys as I sit soaking in the quiet and the still. It won't last much longer. With Birch's request for paper garlands and the inevitable end of nap time fast approaching, silence has become a luxury and the small part of me that still yearns for a bit of time to myself and for myself frantically turns over the options: a bath, a book, a nap, a letter... a nap.

Friday, December 10, 2010

2011 Family Budget

I've been hard at work finessing our monthly family budget for next year telling myself that this year, this year we will stick to our budget. Money will be put into savings each month and stay there! Birch gets his gym membership and I get a clothing and project supply allowance equal to the cost of his membership. Other than that: bills, bills, bills, groceries, bills, bills, baby necessities, bills, bills, bills. What fun. Working it all out I can't help but be befuddled by the fact that apparently we have money to spare, or at least should have money to spare. Either I'm not including some massive bill or we really do have that extra cash each month and by all accounts should not be scraping the bottom of the barrel like we have been for the past six months. Where does it all go? So, next order of business: finding out where it all goes.

I'm going to go ahead and guess 1) groceries and 2) Etsy. Groceries is Birch's fault, Etsy is mine. I'm actually a little nervous because I'm able to do all this work (and write this) because Birch is at the grocery store right now and I'm just realizing that he really goes overboard when I'm not there to check him/the basket. "No, we don't need five different cheeses for tonight's meal." The man is obsessed with good food (which is awesome), but we're the first to admit that our bank account suffers for it. The several farmer's markets around us help out, though, serving as a reminder to us that we can buy much more food for less if we only have cash and no cards. Perhaps it will be our new goal to only bring cash to the grocery store, just like we do at the market. We already declined the very sweet offer of overdraft fees (read: sarcasm, please) and now our card just gets rejected if we're running low. It's a tad embarrassing at the checkout counter, but it's better than a near-forty dollar fee! I'll sacrifice my vanity any day if it makes my bank's life a little less profitable. And then, there's Etsy. Sweet, sweet Etsy, how I love thee. I need to go back to my monthly allowance. Does anyone else have an Etsy addiction? Please, someone, say yes. Fabric buttons, scarves, vintage toys, fabric, ornaments, baby shoes, pillows... oh... it's all just so wonderful.

So, here's to making a list, checking the accounts twice, and trying not to be naughty and always nice.

Do you have any budget-keeping stratagems you'd like to share?

Tickle Fest Before Bedtime!

I'm grateful for moments like this...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Starting Family Traditions and Looking for Inspiration

I came across Delia's blog through Prudent Baby and I'm very glad I did. Delia Creates has so many fun, easy projects and now with the holiday season full upon us, I'm diggin' her Christmas crafts, especially this advent "calendar." I just love all the fun things you can do with it: her idea of daily activities, daily kindnesses, and singing every day is lovely and so fun for kids! Seeing as Birch has lost his voice due to his four-week cold and my son isn't exactly singing yet, I'll save that part for later in our lies, but the first two are fantastic... I'll have to think of a third one that is perfect for us. Think, think, think...

I can't wait for more inspiration from all my lovely bloggers!

Most exciting of all is the fact that Keats has a new morning nap (sometimes up to two hours) so I'll even have time to do some myself! This week I'm preparing our place for an onslaught of Christmas crafts by cleaning it and clearing out all the extraneous tidbits that have somehow deemed a place for the last year (you know who you are extra changing table, piles of junk mail, and kitchen tools that weirdly aren't in the kitchen).

Oh, and uh... I'm making those ear warmers. That needs to happen. Wait, I live in California? Whatever, we have snow... somewhere.

What blogs have you fallen in love with recently? Seen any holiday crafts that speak to you?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Recovering Nicely

Well, not Birch. Birch's voice is just about shot now that he's entered week four of his cold. Keats and I are just about over it completely with just a smidge of nose issues left. Thursday night nearly killed me with the baby screaming and constant feeding, but Friday night was better. Keats slept the whole night through to 5:30 a.m. and it was glorious (except that my body had apparently become used to the night before and I still woke up every hour, but fell back asleep somewhat easily each time). The truly crazy part was that he stayed awake just to eat then fell back asleep until 7:30, was awake for an hour, then back to sleep until 11:00! Whoa, there, Keats. We figure he must have been sleeping off the end of his cold because ever since he's barely showing any signs of illness.

Sadly, one of our shubunkin goldfish, Akiyo, died Saturday afternoon after only a day of illness. His death spurred us into action on the outdoor water container garden, though, and we went out in search of pond liner, plants, and mosquito fish. Came back with nothing as apparently (according to Summerwinds Nursery guy who was pretty annoying, actually), "Water garden season is in the spring." Uh, thanks Dude. We'll take a look at Yamagami's, just in case they're more helpful (because they usually are), but then we'll take a look online. Any suggestions for reputable (and ideally, sustainable) online pond supply stores? Birch and I will bury Akiyo today in the backyard. (Strangely, my sister's fish, Boris, died recently, too, all the way in England. Perhaps the two knew each other in a past life and wanted to be together again. Oh, fish...)

Among our many errands yesterday, we bought our Christmas tree! It's a beautiful bright orange and yellow Shishigashira Japanese Maple that is just stunning. Birch has a bonsai Japanese Maple and I've been wanting a larger one for a long time. So, on our search for pond supplies, we came across our beauty, rationalized the price, and just barely stuffed it into our somewhat lacking in storage space Toyota Corolla. With the nursery nearly completely cleared out of extraneous stuff, the tree with have a temporary home there with decorations, a skirt, and a few presents. Once it's all set up, expect pictures. :) Oh, and I practiced serious restraint in only buying one ornament from Cost Plus. Thank you, thank you. (Our tree will most likely lose its leaves by Christmas Eve, but our last two trees had nothing to begin with, so we're fine with that.)

With a holiday party to go to (hurray for party season!), we snagged some alcohol for the white elephant alcohol exchange, some cans for the "Guess Who Brought That" game (all the cans then went to charity), and some goodies from the Farmer's Market for our contribution to the serious cornucopia displayed on our friends' counter! What a feast! Egg rolls, lasagna, garlic bread, all kinds of chicken wings, salad, cookies, homemade sangria, and a fridge full of beer. Whoa. Since Birch and I brought two bottles for the white elephant exchange, we both were able to participate. However, we somehow ended up with two huge bottles of whiskey... So, Birch now has two free bottles of whiskey all to himself. Grrrrreeeeaaaat. My plan of action will most likely involve inviting over our baby group buddies and rely heavily on the daddy's helping Birch will his booty... or... you know what I mean.

So, today is relaxation day. We'll bury Akiyo, plant some fennel, go out briefly for hay and Puffs, take Olive for a big, long walk to the park to play frisbee, and drink lots and lots of hot water with honey and lemon (and Birch will add apple cider vinegar 'cause he's hardcore like that).

How has your weekend been?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Way Too Tired...

Any tips on how to not go crazy in the middle of the night while you let your baby cry it out instead of feeding him yet again? Keats was sleeping through the night but ever since our horrible cold, his teething, and now his growth spurt, he's waking up every hour to two hours absolutely screaming and louder than ever. In the midst of it, I'm tossing and turning and trying not to pull my hair out. It's so grating and sad... We need help. Please!

Thursday, December 2, 2010


I've got to make up for all those days I missed in Grateful November, especially since I was saving my all-time loves for the end of the month! I guess I forgot how crazy the end of each month is... Seriously, fall is crazy for end-of-the-month holidays. Oh, and why do stores have major sales at the end of the month when money's running low? If sales were at the beginning of the month, I'd be on that so fast, but since they're at a time when I feel strapped no matter how good of a sale it is, I end up not buying anything from that store. (Which, let's face it, is probably better, but frustrating, too.) Anyone else think this is weird? Anyone in retail want to explain it to me? Joy F.?
Well, anyway, over the next few days I will upload all my make-up grateful posts. Keats is simultaneously teething and in a growth spurt, so we'll see how it goes, but at the moment he is calmly chewing on a teething biscuit in his chair... too bad all our bibs are in the wash. Yeah, it's messy over here (but vacuumed)! 

So, today:

My dad with my son, Keats.
I'm grateful for my dad. He is such an interesting, intelligent, and funny man and so full of heart and love for his family. He's fluent in several languages and can get by in even more, something of which I am completely jealous as I seem to be the only one in my family who does not possess this inherited talent. My father seems to take pictures with his brain and can remember minute details and information from articles he's read tens of years ago. I am constantly in awe of my dad. He is constantly reading and learning, figuring things out. I feel like I really got to know my father for real when I became pregnant in high school. When it came time for me to sign the papers giving up my right to be this child's mother, my dad sat across the room (also needing to sign as my legal guardian) staring down at that sheet of paper, holding in his tears before saying, "Do we have to do this?" He looked at me and then my mother. We had all decided before the birth that this was the route we would take and when it came to it not a single one of us wanted to. But we did it. We each signed that list of papers and watched as this little boy was carried out of our house forever. A few months later, my dad was driving me to a church activity when he very randomly but very poignantly let me know that he was proud of me for what I had done, for the strength I'd shown. I'm sure it wasn't the first time he'd ever said such a thing, but it was the first time I can remember needing him to tell me. And he did. My dad has spent my entire life trying to figure out how to make my life as wonderful as it could be. He's stood by me in extremely difficult times and has continued to support me during my best times, too. He shows us his joy in having us as a part of his life and his family and relishes our time together. Thank you, Dad, for being as truly amazing as you are. I love you.

Irony: Professional Tree Trimmers are Cutting Back a Great Many of Our Trees

Nine o'clock sharp the professional tree trimmers came to our small apartment complex to cut back all our trees before the very windy, rainy season that ends in huge piles of rotting leaves (and rats). The trees getting the fanciest manicure? The bottle brush... hurray! Birch is allergic to these and they are lined across an entire fence of our complex. So my man with all the respiratory and skin allergies may actually breathe easier this spring... maybe? Please? Now to summon the courage to ask our landlord if we can take out the rat-housing ivy right outside our front door (that also gives Birch a roaring sneeze fit every time it blooms).