Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Crafty Crap: Giant Ruler Growth Chart

So we made one of these last year for my sister for Christmas and I have been wanting one ever since. It was so easy & cheap to make and turned out so cute! I really like these rulers because they are portable and can be moved from house to house if need be. They are also a very attractive way to decorate those skinny wall spaces you never know what to do with. Anyway, I thought I'd tell you what I did in case you'd like to make one for yourself.

First you'll need to buy a board. The original one we did was 1" x 8" x 6' but Seth got a little bit wider one this time at 12" wide. You can really customize this to whatever size you'd like. First sand the board. We have a small orbit sander that I love and have used for tons of random projects. I highly recommend one if you have room in your budget. Using the sander it was easy to get softened edges that are slightly rounded. You can totally hand sand it though, it'll just take a lot more elbow grease and time.

Next, comes the stain. We used a walnut stain but again, you could do whatever color stain you want. Heck you could even PAINT it if you wanted to. No need to worry about doing the back as nobody will see it (unless you plan on hanging it in the center of your living room like a pendulum... weirdo).

Now we get down to business. Don't worry, it's actually really easy to do and so long as you give yourself a template, you're not going to mess anything up too horribly. Get a straight-edge ruler and make a pencil mark for every inch along the entire 6-foot length of the board.

At this point you'll want to decide how you want your finished project to look. I made my ruler start at 6" so I could hang it on the wall and not have to worry about baseboards getting in the way. If you want to rest yours on the floor, you'll need to start at zero (which technically means you will have a 6 foot ruler so just hope your children aren't really tall). Next you need to make your lines. Do not try to eyeball the lines. I used a rafter square and it made the job really simple. You could also use a t-square but you'd have to be more careful to hold it straight along the edge. For the 8" wide board I made the inch lines 1-inch long and the "quarter" lines 2-inches long. I made them longer for the 12" wide board to make them more proportional, with the inch lines 2-inches long and the "quarter" lines 4-inches long. Again, work your way all the way up the board with your lines, double checking to make sure your marks are the right length.

A close-up of my lines and wall placement.
Next you'll need to get a paint pen to go over your pencil lines. I used a black one like this for the entire project, even the numbers (one pen has made 2 of these so far so you don't need to worry about buying a lot). Use the rafter square to go over your pencil lines with the paint pen. Don't try and free hand it unless you're looking for a "my kindergartner made this" look.

Now onto the numbers. Find a font you like (I used Century) and print out your numbers. For the smaller 8" board I used a 200 point size font. For the larger 12" board I used 300 point. Cut out each number (surrounded by a close-cropped box... don't cut out the exact outline of the number) and tape each one to the appropriate place on the ruler. Verify all placements are correct... you don't want to screw up now! Get a ball-point pen and trace the outline of each number, going over it a couple times to make sure it leaves a nice deep groove in the wood. If you end up tracing over a knot in the wood like I did, the pen won't leave much of a groove. In this case you can scribble on the back of the number with a pencil and then trace over it so a pencil line will be left on the wood. When the outlines are done, remove the paper and trace & fill each number with the paint pen.

At this point you may be done. You can spray your final product with clear coat, but I didn't. I thought it'd be easier to write on it later if it didn't have the coating. Do what you like. As far as hanging goes, we just drilled a couple holes (countersunk) into the board and attached it to the wall in 2 places using dry wall anchors/screws. You could also put a picture hanger on the back, but it won't be quite as secure.

So that's it! Easy huh? Now go and create! (Or if you're a close friend or family member, wait and ask me for one for your birthday or Christmas... that's the cheater way! Ha! Ha!).

Recap of supplies and tools:

1" x 8" x 6' board (or whatever size you like)
Wood Stain (or paint)
Paint Pen
Clear Coat Spray (optional)
Ballpoint Pen
Rafter Square (or T-square)
Sander or Sandpaper
Picture hanger (optional)

Original idea from 517 Creations

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Crafty Crap: Handprint Santa Ornament

So I thought I'd try and do a little Christmas craft with Sylvie this year, even though she's still a little young to be able to do much. I saw this handprint Santa ornament and decided it was a good, easy option.

Here's the salt dough recipe:

  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup water (give or take)

Combine ingredients in a bowl and knead until a dough forms.

Since Sylvie's hand is pretty small, this amount of dough made enough for probably 3 or 4 handprints. I was kind of dumb and didn't think to press the dough directly onto a parchment lined baking sheet. So, I made mine really fat because otherwise I couldn't peel them off the tray without ruining the print. Don't do this the dumb way. Anyway, I also didn't cut out around the fingers as directed because I didn't think it was necessary. After you've got your hand prints ready to go, poke a small hole in them in where shown (to hang later) and bake at 200 deg. F for 3 hours. Then paint, seal, and hang!

Original Instructions

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Letters to Sylvie: 17 Months

Dear Sylvie,

You've been changing so much this last month I decided I needed to write you another letter. How is it possible for you to have grown SO MUCH? It really is astounding to me how quickly you learn and grow. You're like a big sponge with appendages, toddling around.

Speaking of toddling around, you're a professional walker now. One day you woke up an hour early and just decided that was the day you were going to start walking. And that was it! It's still so weird for me to see you walk because it was such a fast transition! But I love to see you stumbling around the house. You love to wear your shoes now (they help you walk much better than just bare feet) and like to sit in your big chair while I put them on.

Walking like a champ!

Your daddy and I are constantly amazed at the little things you pick up. You were taking a bath one day and I asked you where the clock was and you pointed to the silver clock hanging up on the wall. I praised you and said, "Yeah, that's the clock! Good job!" Then you said "aghsshuck" which I deemed your version of clock. It was a bit of a throaty, complicated version of clock, almost German sounding, but it clearly ended in a "ck" sound. After your bath I took you downstairs and told your dad what you'd done. Your daddy said, "How does she know what a clock is?" I repeated the words from one of your favorite bedtime stories, "Goodnight clocks and goodnight socks." Sure enough you had been paying attention and soaked up little bits of information your dad and I were completely oblivious to. You then repeated your verbalized clock sound of "aghsshuck" and Daddy was floored. You really are learning to talk!

Practicing drinking out of a cup and laughing at Daddy's beautiful singing!

You've never been big on the t.v. and still rarely pay attention it. However, you do enjoy our nightly ritual of sharing a Ding Dong and watching an episode of Spongebob Squarepants before heading off to bed. You like the first part of the show the best where the framed talking pirate picture comes on and gruffly says, "Are you ready kids?!" Then you dance excitedly for the rest of the opening theme and anytime throughout the show when they play music. Other than that you don't pay much attention to it and would rather pull the books off the bookshelf or run away from Mommy squealing and flop around on the couch pillows on the floor. I don't think there has ever been a more adorable child.

Playing under the Christmas tree with the kitty.

You're really getting into music and especially like to listen to Christmas music. Daddy put a radio in the kitchen to listen to his football games, but turns it to Christmas music during the day. As soon as you walk in there you point at the radio so we can turn it on. You are always swaying your head or bobbing up and down to the music. You have also started clapping your hands when I sing "If you're happy and you know it." Sometimes you'll even stomp your feet which is too adorable for words.

With the cold weather in full swing, you've gotten used to putting on your little coat and hat when we go outside. Your favorite warm hat looks like a penguin wearing puffy pink earmuffs. You LOVE to wear it and sometimes ask us to put it on you when you're playing around in the house. You routinely wear it when we go grocery shopping and without fail, several strangers will comment on how cute you are in your hat.

Captain Penguin, ready for bed! This also shows your new skill of stacking your cups into a tower.

I don't know if you really like things to be clean or if you're just interested in the things you find, but you are constantly picking up nearly invisible specs of dirt off the floor. You will then come and hand them to me or Daddy as if you are hinting that we need to step up our cleaning practices. Your favorite toys right now are the pine cones I put out for Christmas decoration. You gather them up and put them in a bowl or place them in different spots to suit your tastes. Because of all the moving and such, the pine cones drop a bit of debris here and there. One evening I was in the kitchen making dinner when you came up and held out a small pine cone scale you'd found on the floor. I told you to put it in the trash can and you immediately lifted the lid and dropped the refuse inside. I'm hoping to get you started on the vacuuming next week.

Playing with pine cones and Mommy's scarf
It's taken you a while to get into climbing on things, but lately you've been loving it! You climb all over the big green couch, you climb onto the rocking chair in your room, you climb into Daddy's Adirondack chair in the office and you always seem thoroughly proud of yourself for your accomplishments. You've also started carrying your little step stool around with you and I'm sure you're going to get into something very soon.

Pointing to your bellybutton!
As usual I could go on and on, but that's what you've been up to lately. You are such a fun, smart, happy little girl. Whenever I see you my heart just fills with the most indescribable joy. I sure enjoy being your mommy.

I love you Huggy Bug,

Love, Mama

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Letters to Sylvie: 16 Months

Dear Sylvie,

Well, it finally happened. You walked. We've known you were able to do it for a while, but you've just barely decided that MAYBE you could try it. Don't get me wrong, you still do a lot of crawling. Mostly crawling actually. But, given the right circumstances, you'll flail wildly from one object to another. Usually the only way I can get you to walk is to hold onto both of your hands, though recently you've allowed me to hold onto just one. One thing is for sure... you're not a daredevil. You've definitely got the cautious gene your dad and I possess in large quantities.

You are, however, getting very good at negotiating the stairs. You climb up and down them with relative ease and speed. I'm not sure you've grasped the dangers of the stairs yet though so your daddy and I still follow closely behind you should you get distracted by some random object and forget to hang on.

As if watching you walk wasn't cute enough, you've also become quite the dancer. Sometimes you'll bounce up and down when the music is just right, but usually you do the head bob move that your dad taught you. It looks a lot like you're shaking your head "no" but we both know it's your signature move. I love to watch Spongebob Squarepants with you just so I can see you dance at the beginning.

Although you haven't starting saying actual words yet (besides Dada), your recognition and understanding is very good. You'll close the fridge door or go get one of your toys when I ask you to. You are also very good at obeying when I ask you to put things away. You like to help me put your toys away or put all the kitchen utensils back in the drawer. You are also very good at pointing out body parts. You can do ears, nose, toes, eyes (you always point to Mommy's eyes), belly button, tummy, tongue, mouth, and teeth. I love asking to see your teeth because you give me your cutest little scrunchie nosed smile!

Cutest teeth ever!

I think you also generally get the concept of "yes" and "no." You vigorously shake your head "no" when you don't want something and/or wave your hand across your body indicating when you don't want something. Your "yes" or nod is the most adorable thing ever. You don't actually nod, you just put your chin down and look up with a shy smile. Your dad and I call it your Farley Face, because you look just like Chris Farley.

Farley Face!

This year you were old enough to participate a bit more in Halloween. We dressed you in an adorable lamb costume that your Aunt Annie made. Grandpa Fred, your cousins Belen & Marshall, and Annie & Eric came over for pizza and to go Trick-or-Treating. You didn't really get what was going on but had a good time walking around the neighborhood being held by your grandpa. You even got to eat your first pieces of candy! M&Ms and Reeses Pieces. You loved both, of course!

Ready to go Trick-or-Treating

Hay ride to pick out a pumpkin!

You have lots of things that you like to do for fun. Right now you're loving books. After going through a bit of a dry spell, you suddenly love having Mommy or Daddy read to you again. But now you like to climb up on our laps and sit in the big chair. Your favorite books right now are "Nighty Night Little Green Monster" (your Aunt Corinne sent you this for Halloween), "Find the Bird" (from your Aunt Amanda & Uncle Scott), and your Caillou Baby Album (from Grandma & Grandpa Hanson). You also can't get enough of closing doors. Every time you go into a room you have to close the door. If mom is getting stuff out of the fridge or cupboard, you try to shut the door. When you climb to the top of the stairs you close the baby gate. I think you just like things to be in the right spot!

I came into your room while I was making dinner to see you and Daddy reading a book. So cute!
A couple weeks ago I took you in for your first professional haircut. I think the place looked too much like the doctor's office and you cried and cried almost the whole time. Not even crackers, candy, or Mom's phone did the trick. They ALWAYS do the trick, so I knew you were NOT happy. Hopefully next time you'll remember it's a good place and you don't get shots there! Ha ha! Good news is, even though you cried, you held really still so your hair turned out nice.

The new haircut!
I'm sure I forgot something like I usually do, but that about sums you up these days. I love interacting with you and seeing your reactions to new things. Hearing you laugh and copy actions. Seeing all the cute little things that make up your personality. My favorite part of the day is pulling up to the house after work to see you and your daddy waiting for me outside, you with a big smile and wave. It makes me so deliriously happy.

I love you Buggie Boo Sylvie Sue!

Love, Mama

Friday, October 25, 2013


Last Sunday night Seth and I were cuddling on the couch after putting Sylvie to bed. Seth suggested we watch a movie and let me pick what I wanted. We scrolled through our Amazon Prime list of movies and I saw one called "Vegucated," a documentary about 3 people who try out being vegan for 6 weeks. I thought it would be interesting and possibly funny. So I queued it up.

Two hours later, depressed and feeling a little "somehow," Seth and I went to bed without saying much. It was a weird ending to an otherwise delightful weekend. 

The next day after I got home from work, we talked about the movie. We'd both had a chance to think about it during the day and pin point what our resulting feelings were. We were both in shock about what we'd seen. I always heard people talk about the meat/dairy/egg industry and about how cruel it was and I'd always just assumed they were mad about animals getting killed. I never really looked into the process. I'd never understood why people had a problem with dairy products or eggs. But now I do. I've actually been reading "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair recently, a book about the horrible work conditions and unsanitary, inhumane treatment of animals in the meatpacking industry of Chicago in the early 20th century. While the work conditions have greatly improved since then, from what I can tell, the treatment of the animals is exactly the same. Like Seth said, it was kind of a punch in the gut. 

On Monday I sat at my desk at lunchtime and wondered what I should eat. I checked the local fast food joints for vegan options and came up with a packet of hot sauce and a bowl of dry lettuce. That definitely wasn't going to fly. I realized then that living a strict vegan lifestyle was not going to be realistic for me. It's not an easy thing to do. Animal products are literally everywhere. It would take up all my time to try and avoid them all. And that doesn't even cover the gigantic topic of social eating. I wasn't about to impose on these restrictions on everyone around me. 

So, I decided that I'll be a soft vegan. Or a part-time vegan. Or an omnivore that greatly reduces my dairy and meat consumption. After that first day at lunch I realized how much meat I actually eat. Nobody needs that much. It's insane really. Especially when there are so many tasty alternatives. I'm slowly transitioning myself to vegan options where possible. So far I've tried soy, almond, and rice milk (all of which are super tasty, esp. vanilla almond milk), faux cheese & sour cream. I'm hoping to try plant-based meat alternatives as well. I've loaded up my pantry with vegan staples like cashews, nutritional yeast, coconut oil, liquid aminos, and seeds. I don't even know how to use them yet. I'm going to try and make food I like-- normal food... just tweaked. I think I can do it and I think it won't be too bad once I get used to doing it. Food is one thing I really enjoy in life and I'm not willing to eat things that taste just "OK." 

At this point I'm just going to do my best. I'm not going to trash homemade goodies from friends or refuse the pot roast at a family dinner. I think that's along the lines of following the letter of the law and ignoring the spirit of it. It's about trying, not perfection. It's about including others, not cementing myself on top of a soapbox. Heck I'll probably check out some local farmers and see if I can get some truly "happy" meat and eggs for the occasional Sunday dinner or weekend omelet. 

I'm actually kind of excited about this new twist in my lifestyle. I'll try my best to give you periodic updates in how it's going. If you want up close and personal info on what I'm eating, check out my Gravy Training blog. I'm hoping to be able to post a lot of new vegan friendly, delicious, NORMAL recipes there in the future, so check it out!

Monday, October 21, 2013

DIY Car Repair: Replacing the Window Regulator on a 1998 Pontiac Grand Prix Coupe

Seth and I were driving Blackie home from a wedding last weekend when I rolled up the passenger side window and heard an ominous "crunch" noise as it got to the top. I rolled the window down a couple inches and then tried to get it to go back up. No dice.

This was not a foreign problem for us as Blackie, our 1998 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP has the worst power windows in the world. Since I first bought her in 2008, we've replaced the driver side regulator twice and the passenger side once. The first time we took her in to our local mechanic who fixed both windows for $400. Ouch.

A couple years ago when the driver side window broke again, we took on the project ourselves. It was do-able, though a pain in the butt trying to glean together the necessary steps from cars on the Internet who looked similar, but not exactly like Blackie. At the time I believe it took me a good 3-4 hours of monkeying around before it was installed correctly. I hoped the second DIY would go a little smoother and I'm happy to say it did, though not without a couple hitches. So, I figured I'd pass on my knowledge in hopes that this might help someone else out in the future. Or at least help me remember what the heck I did the next time (and there will be a next time) Blackie's window regulator goes out.

First things first. I ordered the complete passenger side regulator assembly from Amazon. You can buy them without the motor, but I figured I might as well replace everything while I was at it. The model I ordered was the Dorman 741-809 for about $70. Seems like the model without the motor was around $40-50.

For this repair you'll need a Torx driver, a 10mm socket, and a flat head screwdriver. Needle nose pliers are optional. You'll probably want some painters tape as well.

If you can, start with the window rolled up all the way, or down just a couple inches. We'll be moving the window lower a little later but it'll be easier to adjust it to where it needs to be if you start it out higher. Remove the cover from the door handle by sliding it back towards the door opening. You'll need to pull out on the door handle and lift up on the skinny end of the cover to remove it.

Place a flat head screwdriver on the lower end of the window power switch and gently pry up. Slide the assembly back towards the door opening and lift out. Use a flat head screwdriver to release the tab on the switches and gently pull to disconnect.

Now use the flat head screwdriver to gently pry off the round plastic screw covers underneath the door grip. Use the Torx driver to remove the two screws. Don't worry if they fall inside the door as you'll be taking the panel off next.

Now for the scary part. Working around the edges, pull on the door panel to release it. This is actually really easy to do and nothing will break, it's just a little unnerving if you've never done it before. Once it comes off, work the door lamp through the opening and set the door panel to the side.

The door cavity will probably we covered by a sheet of plastic held on by tar. You don't need to remove the plastic completely, just peel it back starting from the side nearest the door opening until the door lever is uncovered. Let it rest inside the car on the floor.

There is a large block of foam inside the door cavity. Grab it from the top and pull towards you then up to lift it out. Now we are ready to start removing the old regulator.

Disconnect the motor by pressing on the grey tab with a flat head screwdriver and gently pulling down on the connector.

There are 4 screws holding the main part of the regulator to the door, 3 holding the motor assembly, and 2 connecting it to the actual window (these won't be visible if you window is up all the way). First remove the 4 main screws and 3 motor screws.

Next, reconnect the power window on the switch assembly. Roll down the window so that the 2 screws connected to the window assembly are easily accessible. The window will be almost half-way down.

My window is rolled up all the way in this pic, but use this same method to secure the window in the half-down state.

Using the painters tape (or masking tape), secure the window in place so it won't move. Now remove the 2 screws holding the window on. Gently work the old regulator assembly out of the door cavity.

Now to install the new regulator. Basically you're going to work in reverse. Place the new assembly into the door cavity. Install the 2 screws on the window assembly first and snug them down. Next loosely install one screw at the top and one screw in the bottom of the main regulator frame. Loosely install the remaining 2 screws.

Connect the pump switch and loosely install the 3 motor assembly screws. Now tighten all 7 screws: the 4 main screws and 3 motor screws. Test the window at this point and make sure it goes all the way down and all the way up. When I installed mine, the weather stripping on the outside of the window got caught behind the window and I had to shove it back into place with a screwdriver before the window would roll up all the way. Once you've tested the window, you can finish reassembling the door.

Make sure you put the foam block back in the door cavity then replace the plastic sheeting. Both times I've replaced the regulator, the kit has come with some new plastic clips for the panel. I'd recommend replacing any that look bad before putting the panel back on. Disconnect the window power switch and lift the door panel into place. Work the door light through the panel and then press the door clips around the edges to secure in place.

Carefully put the 2 Torx screws in to secure the door panel. Don't drop them inside or you'll have to take the panel off again. Press the plastic covers into place. Reconnect the power switch assembly and slide the door handle cover back on.

That's it! It's really not that scary of a project to tackle yourself. I know nothing about cars and only attempt the most basic of repairs. This was very doable and will save you well over $100 and a ton of hassle by doing it yourself. This time around the project took me 2 hours to do by myself and that included hunting down all the tools and working out the kinks in the process. If I had to go replace another regulator right this minute, I could probably do it in under an hour. So give it a shot!

Monday, September 30, 2013

I Don't Even Know Who I Am Anymore

I don't know what's happening to me lately, but this is the second craft I've made in like 3 months! I know it's shocking. Even more so that they actually turn out! HA! I blame Pinterest for all this stuff. It's like going window shopping. You always buy something when you just go out to "look." You can't help but craft something when you're constantly browsing the Pinterest.

So I've been seeing all these cute pictures of fall-themed porches and lamenting the fact that we have the world's tiniest porch. I can't put anything on it because the storm door will just push it off when it's opened. So basically I can decorate my door, around the door, and a very teensy amount on the stairs. But, this is a blessing in disguise because then it means I don't have to make/buy as much crap to decorate with!

The main project I wanted to tackle was some sort of wreath or door hanging. I liked the idea of having an "H" on it, but most of the ideas I saw looked too much like somebody tacked a letter on a wreath and called it good. I wanted something more homogenous. So, Sylvie and I went to the craft store and gathered supplies.

It turned out the cheapest, fastest option for the "wreath" part was a little arch shaped arrangement of leaves and such. I'm sure I could have made my own, but toddlers generally don't enjoy spending hours in a store waiting for you to hem and haw over which sprig of leaves and pumpkins would be cute together. For the "H" I found a large precut wood letter in a style I liked and then bought some burlap ribbon to cover it with. I finished it all off with an orange raffia bow. The hardest part of the assembly was not burning my hands on the hot glue. Best part of shopping for supplies? They were all at least 40% off! I think I spent about $45 on everything, including the 2 strands of leaves for the sides of the door. Compare that to the already-made (unpersonalized) wreaths that were over $100.

My other mini project was a pumpkin planter. I just hollowed out the pumpkin and dropped in a cheap potted mum plant. I didn't even actually plant the mum because what's the point if you can't see the pot anyway? Amirite? Maybe I'll get crazy and do a couple other sizes/colors of flowers later on. Ok I probably won't but it's a good idea.

So there you go. Fall decorating on the cheap for a small porch. Just don't expect me to change it when Christmas rolls around...

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Handyman

It's amazing all the things you'll learn to do when motivated by money. Being a homeowner gives you lots and lots of opportunity to advance your handyman skills. I've installed everything from faucets to chandeliers, repaired all from toilets to pianos, and improved my decorating and organizational skills.

Last week I put a load of clothes in the dryer before going to bed. Sylvie woke me up around 2am and after I got back in bed I suddenly realized I could still hear the dryer running. Visions of charred clothing danced through my head as I sprinted downstairs to see what sorts of evil spirits had invaded my dryer.

When I opened the door I was shocked to find clothes that were completely dry, but cool... just tumbling away with no heat. I looked at the timer to see it had only advanced a sliver from where I had set it originally. Huh. That's odd.

The next day I did what anyone would have done in my situation: Googled the hell out of my problem. From what I could tell a cycling switch and possibly a heat fuse had broken. I then watched a video on how to fix the problem which looked incredibly easy, so I ordered up the parts.

A couple days later when they arrived, I got myself setup to make the repair. When I unplugged the dryer I was surprised to find one of the prongs looked burnt/melted, but, I figured since the dryer was still running, it must be OK. So, I installed the new switch and fuse and fired her up. No dice. There was still no heat. Hmm..

I did some more Googling and wasn't 100% satisfied that ordering other parts would fix the issue. I finally decided I needed to stop guessing and actually test all the components in the dryer to see which one was broken. So, I broke out Seth's trusty multimeter and proceeded to test all the dryer parts. Imagine my shock when they all tested good. What the heck was going on?

I think I finally must have decided to check on the burnt power cord and I'm glad I did. Apparently those crazy power cords will keep running the dryer, but the prong that goes to the heat just won't work. Most likely the connection in the outlet was bad or loose and it arced and damaged the plug.

Well, at this point I decided this was a job for the professionals. We called in a real electrician to replace the outlet and check the wiring to make sure it was OK. I replaced the fried power cord on the dryer and that was that. It scares me to think what could have happened. The laundry room is right beneath Sylvie's room and something like that could have easily started a fire. Needless to say I'm never going to run the dryer at night again.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Letters to Sylvie: 14 Months

Dear Sylvie,

All of a sudden you seem so much older. I look at you sitting in your high chair and I see a little toddler, not my tiny baby. Everyday you seem to learn something new and it's so fun to see you progress.

You are all about pointing. From the moment you wake up before you are even fully conscious, you will start pointing at everything and jabbering away "Aya! aya! aya!" We frequently walk around the house and I'll name stuff as you point at it. You like to point to Daddy in the family pictures and have me name all the spices up on the wall in the kitchen. You've also begun to point out objects when I name them. I'll say, "Where's a spoon?" and you'll point to the spoon I'm holding as I feed you. You also frequently get light, puppy, kitty, Daddy, toes, and tree. You're still working on Mommy and nose. You haven't really said anything other than Daddy, but you're convinced you're talking when you say "da" and "aya" and any other random babbling.

I finally gave in and put away your Jumperoo. You've decided you're a big girl and don't like to play with the baby toy. You have to be moving around! Luckily you've found a few new toys that are more suitable. You love to go into a room and close the door so Mommy or Daddy can't get you. As soon as we open the door you're off and crawling away laughing. You are also obsessed with playing in the kitchen drawers. There is a perpetual layer of spatulas, measuring cups, and other utensils strewn about the floor. You open and close the drawers, take things out, put them in, chew on things, etc.

You've been pulling yourself up to stand for a while now but didn't seem too interested in walking. You wouldn't stand up when I held your hands or walk with your puppy walker that Grandma Denise gave you for your birthday. A couple weeks ago your Aunt Corinne sent you another walker toy which we opened at Grandma & Grandpa's house. Within 2 minutes you were walking all around the house like a pro. Since then you're all about walking. You walk with Mommy, you walk with your puppy, and cruise around all the furniture. I think you just don't like to tackle new physical feats until you're sure you can do it. This morning I let go of you momentarily while you were standing and for a couple seconds you stood there by yourself. Pretty soon you'll be walking on your own!

You have taken much more interest in eating recently which makes me really happy. Your little chunka cheeks are getting bigger by the day and it makes me so proud to see my baby so healthy and chubby. Your daddy makes you pancakes or waffles every morning when you wake up and you readily scarf them down. You love anything in the bread family. We keep a stash of Ritz crackers in the car and I'll hand you one periodically when you're getting fussy. I love to feel your little hand take the cracker and hear the tiny crunch noise when you take a bite. I don't think there's anything cuter than you eating a cracker. Other foods you currently like include tuna casserole, penne pasta with tomato sauce, macaroni and cheese, peas, fries, Cheerios, and raspberries. Yogurt seems to be on its way out and you're not a big fan of meat yet.

You are growing into quite the affectionate girl. You'll boop my nose with your nose or give me a kiss when I ask you too. You are also usually quite gentle to Gracie and pat her or boop her nose. You've also taken to grabbing books and coming over to the rocking chair and wanting to be put in mommy or daddy's lap to read. Your favorite books at the moment are "Blue Hat, Green Hat" or "Oops" as I call it, and "Goodnight Moon."

I recently caved and gave you your first haircut. Granted I only got to snip at your hair a couple times before you were through, but I think I toned down the schmullet look a little.

I know I say this a lot, but I sure do love you Sylvie. Being a mom is so much more amazing than I ever dreamed. You mean the world to me and I'm so lucky to have you.

I love you Buggaboogie.

Love, Mama

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Does This Make Me Part of the Illuminati?

Probably since Sylvie was born I've wanted to build her one of those small bookshelves made out of a pallet. You know... those ones you always see on the Pinterest. Well this morning I was telling Seth all about it and he's like "We have a pallet behind the shed you know." WHA?! Turns out my dad gave us a pallet to use as firewood and Seth hadn't gotten around to chopping it up yet. SCORE!
So, I spent the next hour and a half sawing, sanding, and painting. I am now the proud new owner of a pallet bookshelf! Or Sylvie is. It's the perfect size to fit into her small room and I can hang her nice books out of reach so she can't tear them apart. Let's just hope I sanded it well enough that she doesn't get a hand full of splinters.
Just a short note on the actual execution of this project. It was really pretty easy, although all pallets are not created equal. The pallet I had to work with only had one section that was usable as a bookshelf because most of the boards were broken or splitting or were reinforced by extra pieces of wood that would have been too time consuming to remove. The section I ended up using wasn't perfect but I figured it's supposed to look rustic, so it was alright. I used a reciprocating saw to cut my pallet apart but a jigsaw would be preferable as it makes a little more accurate cuts. But, again, I figured it was going to look rustic so I did it the lazy way and eyeballed all the cuts and didn't sweat it when they were a bit crooked. The tutorial I used said you could reuse the nails removed, but me and nails don't get along so I just used some wood screws to put the bottom piece (removed from another section of the pallet with a pry bar) on. Luckily, we also had an orbital sander and some sanding disks left over from refinishing our wood floor so that made the sanding part way easier. Sanding by hand sucks. Also, since I used a different section of the pallet (and I probably did it wrong), there was a bit of a gap at the bottom of my bookshelf. Hopefully all the books don't fall out. But, I figure I can always doctor it up with a ribbon or something if I have to, right?
At any rate, I call this a win. I pinned something on Pinterest and actually made it and it worked. So there.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Letters to Sylvie: One Year

Dear Sylvie,

Well you made it! You're one year old. I can't believe time has flown by so fast. You've changed so much in such a short time. You are growing more and more each day and progressing and learning so much it's hard to keep track of it all.

A beautiful pic of you taken by Designs by Dreana
You are now highly mobile. You have mostly graduated from your army crawl and book it around the house on all fours now. You're also very good at pulling yourself up to stand. Every once in a while you pull yourself up and get stuck, not knowing how to get back down, but you're getting better at the down part. I love to see you stand there somewhat shakily with your little bum wiggling. It's just so darn cute. I know it won't be long before you're cruising around and walking.

I can't believe how smart you are. One day a couple months ago I put one of your shirts over your eyes to calm you down as I was changing your diaper. You then pulled the shirt down off your face and I said, "Peek-a-boo!" You giggled and immediately pulled the shirt up over your eyes and then down again, continuing the peek-a-boo game all on your own. It is now your favorite game and you will spontaneously start up a round whenever the mood strikes you. You even tried covering your eyes with your toothbrush yesterday. The cuteness is sometimes unbearable.

Lately you are all about pointing. You point at everything and nothing in particular. We'll walk by the spices on the wall in the kitchen and you'll point at all the different ones as I tell you what they are. You point out at the tree in the backyard at you're sitting in your high chair. You also like to "give" things to people. You'll hand off a cracker or your sippy cup or a toy and wait there patiently until it is received. The receiver must give it back though or there will be hell to pay.

Another one of your favorite games is chase. I have to start it out just the right way: "Syyylvieee... what are you dooooing?" and you'll immediately start crawling away as fast as possible, your little bum and legs going at the speed of light across the floor, giggling all the way, screaming with delight as I catch you. I never get tired of that laugh. Never never.

 You can hear her little giggle in the background (sorry my voice is so loud)

Speaking of which... you are ALWAYS smiling. You've taken to scrunching up your cute little nose and showing your cute little teeth whenever anyone is around to see you. Which always makes me need to immediately kiss your chubby cheeks and hold you and squeeze you. Who can resist that adorable smile? No one.

You love to open and close doors. Close, mainly. Which is really fine with me because generally closing a door keeps you more confined in one area! You also love to open and close drawers. There is a small drawer at the bottom of the cabinets in the kitchen and it is your go-to place to find new treasures. You open and close the drawer, pulling out all the big spoons and spatulas and whisks. I began cleaning out one of the drawers in your bedroom yesterday... pulling things out that needed to be thrown away. You immediately jumped in on the action and began pulling bibs out of the drawer in a frenzy. Always so helpful!

Food is a constantly evolving area with you. You are starting to prefer feeding yourself and do fairly well for the most part. You've recently taken a liking to pizza, crackers, and yogurt bites. You now have 5 teeth... both sets of front teeth and one incisor next to your front tooth. Sadly, all these teeth coming in have put a serious damper on your appetite. Aside from a couple small bottles of milk, you will only eat one container of Greek yogurt a day (which you LOVE) and maybe a cracker or two. Sometimes we can get a couple bites of pureed fruit and oatmeal into you, but you've been very resistant. Heck, you wouldn't even eat your birthday cake! Not even a bite! Oh well. You still have your little chankles so we're not too concerned.

 Yesterday Daddy took you to your one year check up. You weigh 18 lbs. 10 oz. and you're 29" tall. You have learned the ways of the doctor and do not tolerate poking and prodding very well. Good thing these shots are getting fewer and farther between.

For your 1st birthday we had a small family party with your Grandma Denise and Grandpa Fred, and your Aunt Annie, Uncle Eric, and cousins Belen and Marshall. I made a little pink strawberry cake for you which you demolished but didn't eat (you liked the pickle I gave you better). Aunt Annie gave you a whole pack of Greek yogurt and your grandparents gave you some little barefoot sandals, a cute outfit, and a walker toy shaped like a puppy. Your Aunt Corinne sent you a walk and ride car which I'm sure you'll love. Your Grandma & Grandpa Hanson gave you a toy cell phone and an adorable new outfit and your Uncle Scott & Aunt Amanda gave you a board book and puzzle. Daddy and I gave you a little pounding bench and a book that spells out your name. Your family sure loves you and spoils you with so many fun things!

Sylvie I am so proud to be your mommy. You have the sweetest disposition and your smile lights up the room. I am constantly amazed by you. I never thought I'd like being a mom so much. You make my life so rich and wonderful.

I love you buggie boo,

Love, Mama

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Once in a Lifetime

One month ago, Seth and I were proud to be able to attend the wedding of our two good friends, Ramona and Gabe. This was not your typical walk down the aisle and say "I do" wedding. No. This was a traditional Navajo wedding. A traditional Navajo wedding on the Navajo reservation near Monument Valley. With the ceremony taking place in an honest-to-goodness hogan. How's that for awesome?

Seth and I were both super excited when Ramona told us that they'd decided on a traditional Navajo wedding and that they wanted us to come. There was no decision to be made. We were going.

Ramona and I have been friends for over 10 years. Seems weird it's been so long. She and Gabe have been together for longer than that so it was only fitting they seal the deal. Seth and I are so happy for them. What a great couple.

Now I won't go into a ton of detail because pictures say it better, but I wanted to show a few pictures of the preceding activities and the wedding day itself. What a cool experience.

The inside of the hogan. I love being in there.

Ramona's family butchered a few goats and sheep for the festivities so Seth got in on the action.

At Goulding filling up the water tank.

Ramona's sister, Joann. Best basket weaver in the West!

Hanging out in the shade house to get out of the heat.

After the ceremony. Aren't their wedding clothes amazing? I think that was my favorite part! (that's the hogan in the background)

Ramona and Sylvie. Best buddies.

Me and Joann. She's such a cool lady.

The amazing wedding cake Ramona's cousins got for her. No I didn't make it... I just got to do the final touch-ups!
My dad got to come along as the wedding photographer. Not a bad gig, eh?  
There were a few baby goats around so they got some cute pictures with them (this is one of my dad's pics)

Ramona's mom making some dry bread. (another of my dad's pics).

 Those are just a few of the pictures I have. You can see a bunch more from my dad on his Flickr page. It was such a neat experience and I was so glad to have been invited to be a part of it. Ramona even let us participate in the ceremony which meant a lot. She has always been such a good friend to me. What an honor to be a part of something so special. Congratulations you two! We wish you the best in your new life together!