Friday, November 30, 2012

How the Love Birds Do Holidays Crafts

In a world of Pinterest it's so easy to get overwhelmed with the options for crafting this season. Instead it's been a great option for us to participate in ready-made crafting events with our local moms' meet-up group. Here's what we've been up to . . .


A few weeks ago a German family invited a group over to make lanterns for Lanterne Laufen, a celebration in honor of St. Martin a soldier who gave his coat to a beggar on a cold winter's night. I love learning about other cultures' traditions and still have fond memories of Mr. Love Bird's time in Germany where he played basketball his first season out of college. I'd love to take Lil Love Bird back with us some day to visit, but for now our German crafting playdate suffices! 



We made our lanterns on a Thursday and while Nia was more into playing with the other children I ended up making most of the lantern! That Saturday we joined several other families to walk along the waterfront as is tradition (you can see a video here). 

That big building in the background is the World Trade Center
It was my first time to the waterfront post-Sandy and many of the lights were still out and the Path stations were a mess (and still are!) with lots of repair crews around, but it was still a good night to be out as it wasn't too cold.
 

A few weeks later another mom hosted a Thanksgiving craft playdate at her home. We used leaves and various material to make turkey collages. It took a lot of convincing, but I finally got Nia to paint a little on her turkey then she was back to playing with toys and running around. 


I rarely get pictures of myself doing activities with Nia and am so thankful to Olivia S. for capturing these moments!
Next up, I'd love to make an advent calendar (great planning the day before, right?!), but I've come across a few simple ideas that I think can make work and will see if I can run out to Target for supplies depending on how the day goes . . .

What crafts have you been making with your family?

 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How Lil Love Bird Powered Her Creativity with Crayola and Energizer


My Lil Love Bird is quite the artist, and we have fully embraced Crayola in our household from finger paints, crayons, markers, and "magic" paper (which keeps our walls clean - hooray!) so when we were invited to participate in Energizer's “Power the Creativity” event with Crayola I knew we had to go.

There were so many fun and innovative creative toys for the children to play with and Nia was very eager to get started! From Crayola's Digital Light Designer to the Glow Dome their products have come a long way since I was a child.


Of course Lil Love Bird had to take a break to indulge in a few snacks, but she was quickly back to her art projects . . .



At the event we also learned about Energizer Max Batteries which hold their charge for a full 10 years when left in storage. Isn't that great? No need to throw out your batteries so soon or wonder if they're fresh. Plus with all the battery operated toys this holiday season it's easy to simply stock up and be done!

They also shared the Energizer Flameless Wax Candle with us which definitely would've been handy with Hurricane Sandy recently (you can see them on the table in Nia's snack picture above). During the storm we used real candles which with a toddler can be quite scary!

To learn more be sure to check out Energizer's website and Facebook page

Are you a Crayola family and have you tried their electronic products yet? What was your favorite Crayola product as a kid? {I always lusted after the deluxe 96 box of crayons with the built-in-sharpener, of course!} 

Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Energizer. I attended an event and received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.


 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Can My Toddler Let Me Have Jewelry?

I've never been much into jewelry (especially costume jewelry), but the few pieces of jewelry I do have hold a lot of sentimental value for me and unfortunately, a certain little person has kept me from wearing them . . .
{Image credit}
This ring went missing during our October trip to MD; it's not loose fitting so I know it didn't slip off, and I take my rings on both hands off together when I go to bed or shower and everything else was together but this. I'm praying it turns up like the bracelet my mom gave me did thanks to our honest wash and fold service who found it in our laundry bag. 

My sneaky Lil Love Bird has been known to swipe mine and Mr. Love Bird's rings before, but I learned my lesson earlier this year after finding my band behind the TV after an all day search (and Mr. Love Bird discovered his wedding band in her play kitchen's sink a couple months ago - I warned him!). I'm hoping it's in my parents' home and with all the distraction of Sandy earlier this month while we were there I didn't do a thorough search for it but plan to at Christmas.

I can't afford to replace the ring above right now (and I ignorantly uninsured it a while ago), but this Christmas I really just want my other missing and broken jewelry repaired and/or replaced . . .

This was a necklace Mr. Love Bird gave me before I relocated from Boston to New York in 2007:

Nia broke the chain {Image Credit}
This was my first Tiffany purchase for myself, and I'm missing an earring (for the 2nd time since I've owned these) due to me stupidly wearing these to an amusement park - this loss wasn't due to Nia but prior to losing the single earring she loved pulling on them as an infant:
{Image Credit}
This was the first piece of jewelry Mr. Love Bird gave me in college, and the chain needs repaired:

{Image Credit}
I also have 2 stainless steel Fossil watches which need repairing - one that matches the one I got with my mom as birthday gifts while in college (we were born on the same day) and another just a few years ago as an engagement present. As a result I haven't worn a watch in over 2 years.

Lastly, my wedding band has a super shallow setting, and I'm missing a couple diamonds due to daily life with a toddler which makes my band look "toothless" (if that makes sense!). Sadly, my jeweler recently changed ownership and will no longer replace my missing stones at no charge (I've had about 6 replaced since 2007). 


Part of me wants to have everything repaired/replaced then put away since Nia has broken quite a bit of my jewelry, but then I'm afraid I won't wear them until she's in elementary school.

I miss my jewelry!

Do you have broken/missing jewelry? If you have kids how do you handle wearing jewelry?

 

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Love Birds' Thanksgiving (or My Child Prefers Paper Towel Tubes Over Turkey)


We made it! Past Sandy, past the nor'easter and alla that. So glad we're on the other side and were blessed with mild weather this holiday weekend, lots of yummy food and precious family time. It was very much a chill holiday for our family, and I loved every minute of it!

Here's how it went down . . .

What We Ate

I posted our menu here, but I actually had a few alterations ...

Williams-Sonoma ran out of Turkey Brine (the first time this has happened in the 6 years I've been using it!) so we made their brown sugar/peppercorn brine, and it was SO good!
I decided to make America's Test Kitchen's cornbread sausage stuffing instead of the boxed stuff. It was time consuming more flavorful than Stovetop, but the cornbread crumbled too much when added to the wet despite me following the directions to a T; next time I'll use less liquid.
Mr. Love Bird vetoed the sweet potato pie and make a 3 layer pumpkin pie instead (pumpkin, cheesecake and pumpkin cheesecake layers). To say it was rich is an understatement.
Despite our yummy food Lil Love Bird preferred to eat this:


Yes, a paper towel tube O_o What child doesn't like mac & cheese? Apparently mine.


Where We Went (or Didn't Go!) 


Thanksgiving Day we stayed in our PJs and it was divine. We've never been into Black Friday so the following day Mr. Love Bird went to work, and I took Lil Love Bird to visit her friends for a farewell picnic as they are moving to TX. It was a beautiful day, and we ended up hanging outside from morning until the late afternoon when we met Uka at his office. Saturday morning we hopped in the Zip Car to visit family further out in New Jersey.


What We Did

This was our Black Friday . . .





Later that night . . .




The tree wasn't enough so another project was necessary . . .


Mr. Love Bird is a wee bit competitive . . .


I on the other hand really didn't know what I was doing and needed a lesson from my brother-in-law . . .


Mr. Love Bird and I watched this movie that I can't get out of my head! Have you heard of it? I highly recommend it (and whoever wrote the script definitely had a toddler!).

What We Listened To

 
I can't listen to Christmas music until Black Friday!
How was your Thanksgiving? Are detoxing like I am or do you carry the indulgent feasting all the way through New Years?

 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Just Because We Can . . .

Thanksgiving 2011 - Mr. Love Bird's missing because he was working 2 jobs at the time; thankful that's over!
I've been seeing the 30 Days of Thanks going around and while I think it's a great way to publicly show what you're thankful for I also think it's a means for bragging. Some thanks are definitely heartfelt, but others are extremely materialistic with people rattling off all the things they have. I'm a big believer in "Do you!" so kudos to those that are doing this and find it helpful in some way. Whatever works I guess...

Instead I've been reflecting on how far my family has come in 2 years. It's something I'm truly grateful for: God's faithfulness. 

My church's growth group is reading Dave Ramsey's latest book and beyond the past 2 years, it's also made me reflective on my 20+ years of journals I've kept since I was 7 and how things have sometimes seemed uncertain, but in the end everything has worked out no matter how crazy it seemed while getting to that point. 

Dave Ramsey has also helped me and my family put our finances into perspective. With Mr. Love Bird's latest promotion there are things we can finally do, but we're very focused "with gazelle intensity" as Dave would say to stay on goal towards financial freedom. 

I wrote a while back about wanting to move downtown, but since then after crunching the numbers while we definitely can, we don't believe we should. We'd be more than doubling our current rent to get way less space, and it just doesn't make sense seeing that most likely we'll be moving in 2014. Honestly the thought of 3 moves in 3 years makes me nauseous!

We've had people tell us, "Oh you should get a car!" or other financial sink holes we should make, but instead we won't. We're going to keep living like no one else so later we can live like no one else and that is soon in our future! Besides all the schlepping I do around the city is how I keep my fitness ;-)

How do you balance those things you can do vs. those things you should do? 

 

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Annual Holiday Card Debacle (Or Better Late Than Never)

We had a holiday card for 2012 but never shared it. See what had happened was . . .

It was mostly because we left the day after Christmas for Nigeria but right before that I fell down the subway stairs while wearing my Lil Love bird fracturing my ankle (undiagnosed for a couple months) and we were packing up to prepare for our move across the river that happened a couple weeks after our return from our trip. {Thinking back to that time gives me a headache, and I'm SO glad it's over!}

A couple months prior to that I saw a free holiday photo event offered by photoOp. It was a great sitting experience for Nia despite it being a cold, yucky day last fall. The staff was super friendly and there were even snacks. We ended up with a wonderful photo of Nia in her festive gold dress that was ridiculously expensive for a single print, but unfortunately it took forever (meaning it was nearly Christmas) to get the photo from them. It kinda made ordering holiday cards a challenge without this one particular - it was our favorite! We usually do collages and send them as a Happy New Year card to avoid the bum rush of Christmas cards that people get and this photo was going to be the main one. So without further ado, here's the 2012 card that was only sent to a portion of our friends and family (I was so embarrassed to send this out around March!):

I used Kodak Gallery which is now Shutterfly
And here are the previous years' cards . . .



Anyway, I have a dress I've been holding onto for a  couple years for Lil Love Bird to finally wear this year as well as her hairstyle in mind for her photo for our 2013 card, but now I need to pull together family pics of all of us throughout the year for the final collage. 

What are your thoughts on annual holiday cards? Too much of a hassle or a must?

 

P.S. I did get holiday photo cards out to Nia's grandparents and great-grandparents on time; you can see that version here!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

One Week . . .

Here's what's on deck for the Love Birds' Thanksgiving 2012:

{Image Credit}

Williams Sonoma Turkey Brine - we swear by this stuff! I tried it for mine and Mr. Love Bird's first Thanksgiving when we were dating in Boston and while he scoffed at my Whole Foods turkey and brine he agreed it was hands down the best turkey he's had in his life and insists we repeat it annually. 

Silly Mr. Love Bird carving our first turkey in 2006
America's Test Kitchen's Macaroni and Cheese - the secret is cayenne pepper and ground mustard

Homemade Rolls -I use my dad's favorite recipe. Yes, it includes shortening but it's a 1x/year affair and I'm still alive after 32 years of these rolls! {We'll have good old Jiffy Cornbread too.}

Canned Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce - I know, I know! Bad, bad, bad but it's oh so good. I've tried the wholesome homemade stuff but keep going back to canned. 

Greens or Green Beans - I've told myself one year I'll try making these from scratch with ham hock and all but haven't done it yet. Will this be the year?

Stouffer's Stuffing - Again, packaged food but we love it! I've tried the homemade stuff but we just keep coming back to this mushy stuff from a box. GAH!

Sweet Potato Pie - While I do have to say Bob Evans' new pumpkin/cheesecake pie concoction is divine (I blame the nerve to try this on Sandy when we were staying at my parents'!), I hands down prefer sweet potato pie over pumpkin pie. We use a basic recipe from Cooks.com. {We might add a pecan pie too but we'll see . . .}

Oh and one more thing:

A Great Pair of Stretchy Pants!

What's on deck for your Thanksgiving menu?

 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Coveting Your Partner's Gadgets (and How to Get a Free Galaxy SIII)

I've had my Galaxy SIII for almost two months now and while I won't do a full product review (there are so many comprehensive reviews already out there) as a former BlackBerry user I'll share my likes/dislikes:

Likes
  • Super thin and lightweight
  • Crisp images and great sound
  • Swipe technology
  •  Doesn't freeze-up like my BlackBerries always did (however so far about 3x the lock screen has gone askew, and I've had to do a battery pull; not sure what causes that but Mr. Love Bird said it's happened to his Droid too a few times)

Dislikes
  • Despite swipe, I still prefer the buttons on my BlackBerry; I could type WAY faster with fewer errors on my BlackBerry
  • Battery life - despite using powersave and closing apps running in the background I still can't make through the day without having to connect it to the charger; a back-up battery or long-life battery purchase is a must!
  • Can't make custom sound profiles; for example on my BlackBerry I could make it so that it'd be on vibrate except for incoming calls from Mr. Love Bird which would ring aloud
  • When connected to USB the SIII's not recognized as a mass storage device. Instead there is wireless program to get the files from your phone to your computer (kinda like a cloud I guess). Compared to my BlackBerry where I could just plug my phone into the laptop, pull off what I needed and go instead I now transfer media files to my laptop so I can preview the images before adding to my blog, for example. Otherwise when the phone's plugged in you can't preview the images to tell what you're uploading. It's SO time consuming and annoying!
I do have to say for the last two dislikes I'm sure there are workarounds and I've started looking into some of them and they are very cumbersome, but I'm hoping to give them a try. That's one thing about Android is that you can really hack the phone and customize it exactly how you want. I like that, but I need time to actually do it!

Now to be honest, Mr. Love Bird was very kind to get me the Galaxy SIII especially because I knew how badly he wanted it himself, but because of our upgrade status with TMobile it worked out best for me to get mine when I did. His Galaxy is an older model and super glitchy, but it looks like he'll be getting his own SIII soon for work.

While I noticed Mr. Love Bird's envy of my SIII, it was short-lived because a few weeks ago he got this:


{Image Credit}
Now I've had a bit of envy myself especially because I've entered so many contests to win one myself. Plus Mr. Love Bird got the most souped-up model and a really sleek case/keyboard so he can tote it around and do most of his work on it. It really is a great machine! As a former iPhone user then Android fanatic, Mr. Love Bird does agree that an iPad is a superior product (we have a Droid tablet too that we love), however he does concede that he does prefer Android phones. 

I don't see a purchased iPad in my future and for now I'm content to continue to figure out my Droid, but I will keep my eye on future releases from both Android and Apple. I kinda like seeing the competition between the two!

Do you go back and forth with gadget envy with your partner? Who's more into technology and keeping up with the latest releases?

 

P.S. TMobile has a free 4G promo running November 16 and 17 only and you can get a new SIII at no charge; check out the details here. {No, I wasn't paid to say this. I'm a TMobile customer and I just so happened to see this deal.}

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I Knew This Was Going to Happen

Nia and her Nana at her 1st Thanksgiving
With Hurricane Sandy I knew Thanksgiving would feel even closer than ever and now I feel like I'm scrambling!

Thankfully we'll be home for the holiday and may be hosting my father-in-law so it should be a pretty quiet day. I still need to pull together my shopping list and get organized. It really does seem true that each year goes much faster than the next!

More than just cooking I want to consider which family traditions we should start with Nia for the holidays. We've done a few crafts with our local moms' group (a post with pics is coming!), and I've considered Elf on the Shelf, but I really want to work on helping Nia understand why we celebrate the holidays we do. Long term I would like to volunteer on Thanksgiving mornings but she's a bit young for that now so maybe next year.

A recent episode of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood discussed a "Thank You Day" without calling it Thanksgiving (I know, we're a bit obsessed with that show!) and Nia keeps singing and talking about it on her own so I think she's starting to get it. Also, with Christmas she shows an interest in the nativity especially since we've been reading her toddler Bible for over a year now. She doesn't know who Santa is and honestly, I'm fine with that. We were at the mall yesterday and passed by the Santa picture station and she looked past Santa and squealed in delight when she saw the Christmas tree. She exclaimed, "It's my party!"

Part of me really wants to take Nia to see the Macy's Day Parade but unlike last year I don't have an indoor viewing hook-up, and I can't imagine having her outside for so long with limited bathroom access. Mr. Love Bird has already sworn off ever going again to the parade or balloon blow-up the night before so I think we'll scratch that idea . . .

You can see Nia's first Thanksgiving here and last year's here.

Are you feeling confident in your Thanksgiving plans? What holiday traditions are you making with your family?
 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Lil Love Bird's Non-Halloween

Now that Sandy and the election have passed, I wanted to go back and share Nia's non-Halloween experience (I've shared before that we don't really get into the holiday but we do enjoy dressing Nia up!).

This year we had three parties to take Nia to. The first was her friend's party with a few other families we know from our local meet-up group and then we had two church parties. Our good friend Melinda, mom to Jerve (Nia's birthdate twin) let her borrow last year's giraffe costume (you can see the cute video of them here). 

Here's a few highlights . . .


My lil giraffe on a giraffe! Thank you Alain for the photo . . .
And for this one too!
Our church brought back Elmo - you can see her with him last year here
Nia and her friend Brandon at Tapestry Church's party
Now on to Thanksgiving. . .

Can you believe it's less than 2 weeks away? Do you feel prepared?
 

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