Valentine Garland with an Extra Benefit

I have seen this paper heart garland idea all over the place this last month and knew I wanted to do it with the kids.  At the time, I had no idea I could use it as an incentive for the kids as well.  Let me fill you in on why I love this simple garland so much.

The big kids can read to themselves for homework time.  EJ still has to read a chapter out loud to one of us each night (she is a fast little reader and likes to skip words/make up sentences, so we have her read out loud to keep her on track), but she does the bulk of her reading by herself.  Olivia still has to read out loud to us and this makes her so mad!  In addition to hating not being able to work independently, she is not a fan of how long she has to read out loud.  So for awhile we were letting her read just one chapter a night (of the learn to read books) and when we upped her to a whole book a night, it did not go all!

So...I decided to make the heart garland a reward chart.  You finish reading a book, you get to add a heart.  EJ has shimmery purple, Jack has the red pattern and Liv has both pink with white polka dots and that top pink flower design.  Well, you would not believe the response to this little garland.  Liv is not complaining at all about reading time or finishing the book each night.  And the other two are burning through their books just to add another heart.  Even Matt complained a little that grown-ups couldn't contribute.  I'm thinking this one is a win.

And I'm thinking that I'm going to need another garland for March!

Forgotten Ripples

Yesterday I posted about picking a pattern for a new baby blanket (if you haven't voiced an opinion, please do!) and in searching for my own previous patterns, I realized I couldn't find some projects.  I mean this is the third kiddo and I couldn't find his brother's blankets.  Well, I found this one (my very first crochet project) and wondered why I hadn't made the oldest a new blanket (because that first one was not good!).  So, I hit my old photos and uncovered some oldies, but goodies!

Apparently I did already redo the oldest's blanket and made him a doggie friend (pattern here).  Even though they don't live in Wisconsin, I went with retro Brewers colors in hopes that he becomes as big of a fan as we are!

I blogged about my next nephew's arrival here and included the bear I made for him, but his blanket was nowhere on the blog.  I'm guessing that is because his blanket was not ready in time (not that I'm ever late on gifts, right?) or because my photos aren't that great.  Either way, here it is!

Did you notice a similarity there?  Yep, they are pretty much the same ripple pattern from Lion Brand Yarn.  The first (no border) can be found here and the second (with border) is here.  But again, they are pretty much the same blanket pattern.

I made one more of the ripple blankets for our neighbor.  I showed her bear and a sneak peek of the blanket here, but thought I'd include the full blanket photo as a comparison.  I love how different the blankets look in each colorway.

And now, I'm wondering if I should make the same blanket for baby #3 in a different colorway.  I really am not wanting too, but am wondering if it's weird to give the third a completely different blanket if the other two match?

Warm Blankies

It's still freezing here and so the idea of a warm blanket is extra appealing (and actual warm blankets are being used constantly).  I just realized that there is a new baby coming into our family...very soon (I haven't been on A game lately).  My usual welcome to the world gift includes a blanket, so I need to get moving!  So...who wants to help me pick a pattern?

I have a ton of baby yarn in a pale but bright-toned blue (it's the blue in this blanket), so the idea of an all blue or mostly blue blanket is appealing to me right about now.  Here are some patterns I'm tossing around...

Bobble Baby Blanket (all in blue)

Star Blanket (but with wide blue stripes and a much thinner stripe of a contrasting color)

Simple Stripe Blanket (not sure what colors and I think the bright might not look as cool with this one)
{photo courtesy of One Flew Over}

Starburst Baby Blanket (all blue with a grey? border)
{photo courtesy of Creative Jewish Mom}

So, any thoughts?  Please help me out here...I need to get hooking!

A NEW DEVELOPMENT: I found photos of the blankets I made for the new baby's older brothers.  Does this change your opinion at all?

Cold Days

Seriously, it sounds like the Artic outside right now.  We've got some serious windage up in here.  I'd like to say that Liv is wearing her earmuffs just to stay warm, but she's been wearing them every minute lately no matter what.  We do have an insane amount of blankets in the living room though.  Old house = old windows = serious wind inside the house as well.

Jack has been wearing slippers all the time as well.  In fact, he wears them to the door and then tucks them under the kitchen cabinets so he can put them back on immediately after arriving home.  I so wish we could just snuggle up and hibernate this weekend, but of course we have plans.  Hopefully the running around will keep us warm.

The running around is keeping us static-y...

We've been trying to have a little bit of fun indoors when we can.  A couple of field trips to indoor fun places, working on pitching with very soft balls, and growing alligators to 600 times their original size (disgusting but a crowd pleaser).

I've been drinking water (ugh) like a grown-up is supposed to (but mostly so my skin/lips stop cracking), recording my viewing for Nielsen (how cool, right?), and eating obscene amounts of cherry gumdrop hearts ('tis the season).  I have not had much energy to get a whole lot done, so I was rewarded with a bit of a head cold...good times!  I'm looking forward to the weekend.

One more this (oh, how I love Bosom should be on Netflix, darn it!)

Books, books, books

One of my favorite things about vacations is the insane amount of reading I get to do on them.  I'm not a great flyer, but reading a new book certainly helps me get through it.  Then there is reading poolside, during naptime (although there was very little napping this year), while the kids do homework, and after they go to bed but I'm not tired.  I didn't get as much reading time this year due to rain (there was much game playing instead), but I still read a few great ones and much more quickly than usual.

The stack of books above are all currently in-progress.  I'm almost done with one, half through another and have just started the last two.  All of the Best Books of 2013 lists really got me inspired to get at my "to read" list (and added a few more titles to the mix) and so I filled up my library request list very quickly.  Now to get them read and returned!

All of this reading has also inspired me to update out Reading List Summary posts.  I hadn't published the drafts since July (just got out of habit) and there are some great titles on those lists (especially the kids's books Jack and I read this year).  So, if you'd like to check them out, here are the links...

July 2013
August 2013
September 2013
October 2013
November 2013
December 2013

Holiday Swap

I've never done a holiday gift swap through the web before, but when my friend Alyson set one up over at her blog Vintage Sunshine, I was excited to join in the fun.  I was so excited to put together a little package of some of my favorite things that I hoped my swap partner would love as well.  And the best part (although it's hard to see in this photo) is that I got to make her a little something as well!

The crochet piece in the back of all the little stuff is a cowl in Hokie colors.  I am not really sure what a Hokie is, but I do know that my swap partner is a backer.  :-)  I had the perfect yarn colors in my stash, so I got to work on this fun Bulky Striped Cowl pattern.  I know it's not especially cold where she lives, but thought a cowl might be fun for game day.

A small world kind of thing happened when I realized that I had purchased those gorgeous druzy stud earrings from my own swap partner without realizing it.  The exchange was a round-robin style and I ended up buying earrings from the person sending gifts to me to send to my person.  Funny, right?  The best part was that Erin is an awesome gal and in addition to the lovely things you see below (ignore the packing flyaways...I had just opened the box), I got my own pair of shimmery, white druzy earrings in the swap!

The swap was really fun and I'm glad to have some new Instagram buddies out of it.  I'd highly recommend doing a swap if you have a little extra time (and love to shop/gift, like I do).  And I highly recommend doing a little jewelry shopping at GUSSIED.  Erin as some fabulous finds...especially her new things for Valentine's Day!

Vacation Photos

In a different time, I would invite you over for drinks and then surprise you with a narrated slide show of our vacation pics.  Lucky for you, I'll just throw some of my favorites here on the blog for you to skim through.  Unlucky for you, there are no drinks.

Last week, we went to Mexico.  First we had a little sun and then a lot of rain and then a day of perfect weather.  It was still way better than the cold and snow and ice of home.  And we had an awesome time together eating yummy foods (hello, fresh pineapple) and drinking fruity drinks (well, Jack and Liv had a lot of chocolate milk) and hanging out in the lobby.

New Year's Eve with the Family

We planned a chill New Years this year.  Well, in truth, we didn't plan anything at all on purpose.  We've been busy over the winter break and really just wanted to hang at home together.  But...I also didn't want the night to be boring.  So I trolled the interweb for ideas and found many people recommending a balloon countdown.

I wrote "things to do" ideas on slips of paper and put them inside balloons.  Once they were blown-up, I wrote a time on each balloon and the kids hung them in order on our mantel.  Most balloons were timed about 30 minutes apart with some being longer if they were longer activities,

Then they took turns taking them down and popping them (sometimes with their booties, sometimes with a scissors).  The best thing was that I didn't write down when the activities were happening, so I was forced to go with the flow as well and just do what popped up each time!

Some things were active...

And some were super chill...

In the end I was surprised how well it worked out.  We started at 4pm and didn't have any "time to fill" until 11:35.  We were so busy that even Liv stayed awake until 11:45!  I was thrilled that my last minute plan was a success and the kids all asked to do it again next year.  I'll have to actually plan out some new activities for that one.

Our list of activities this year was:
geocaching (last of the year and a trade of travel bugs)
joke time
printable 2014 coloring page
make shakers
snack buffet dinner (set up together and then eating by candlelight)
goal for the new year
just dance
ice cream sundae/topping bar
ring in 2014 (with Ring Pops)

Letting Go This Year

I've done resolutions.  I've done the goal list.  I've done the word for the year.  And I've realized that they might be helpful, but they all boil down to me listening to myself.  I need to make choices that make myself happy and productive and living an enjoyable life in my own eyes.  Finding your own happy in each day...from the big to the little.

In addition, unexpected things are going to get thrown your way...good and bad.  I've found that if goals/plans are too rigid, the unexpected brings everything to a grinding halt.  So instead, I try.  I try to do the things I enjoy (like reading and creating and hanging out with people I love) and the things I should do (like cleaning and exercising), but if everything doesn't go as planned I have to let it go.

Apparently this Type A girl is turning a little more "go with the flow" as she ages.  No worries...I'm still Type A and proud, but I've got to focus on making a good story.  In fact, I've just got to focus on the good, because the one thing I know for sure as I head into this new year is that I have a pretty awesome life.