Monday, December 27, 2010

Lydia's Dollhouse

Lydia got two big handmade gifts this year, the rocket that PJ made and a dollhouse from me.
The dollhouse started life as a shelf unit that I found at Goodwill for $5. I forgot to take a "before" picture, but you can see it in progress here. The best thing about DIY (besides saving money) was that I painted it to match Lydia's new room (pictures of that coming soon). I added a few dimensional details like a scalloped roof and windows on the outside. The roof was made from the large tongue depressor size popsicle sticks! We cut the rounded parts off both ends and glued them in rows on the roof. Total price $2.
The furniture is from the Fischer Price Loving Familydollhouse line. They are plastic, so Lydia can really play with (drop, step on, throw, etc.) them without damage. Plus, Loving Family has apparently existed for decades, so there are tons of different styles of furniture and accessories out there. I found most of her furniture on eBay so I was able to save money and space by only buying the parts that would fit in this tall and skinny dollhouse.
The best complement that I got on Christmas was that Lydia would actually take time away from the super amazing rocket toy to play with her dollhouse.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland

We woke up to another dusting of snow on Sunday morning and decided to drive up into the Great Smokey Mountains to see the sights. The roads were perfectly clear, just wet with a little slush in the really high up areas. There was surprisingly little traffic even in the normally congested touristy areas. And the whole way up and back we saw thick snow flakes falling.
There were somewhere between 5 and 10 inches in places. Lydia got her fill of marching in snow, falling in snow, then trying to get warm from all the snow.
A beautiful way to spend a lazy day after Christmas.
"A beautiful sight, were happy tonight, walkin' in a winter wonderland!"

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Lydia's Red Rocket Ship

What do you do if your daughter asks Santa for a "real" rocket ship, like she sees each day on "Little Einsteins"? If you are the talented PJ Burchett, you buy $25 worth of Styrofoam, some PVC pipe, collect some assorted spear car parts and make your little girl's dreams come true! PJ has been working on the rocket ship for about 2 weeks. He wouldn't let me see it so I was just as overwhelmed as Lydia when I saw the finished product. PJ always does beautiful work in his job restoring and customizing cars, so I knew it would be good, but this thing is AMAZING!
He discovered a way to wrap the initial Styrofoam carved shape in aluminum foil secured with aluminum tape so that he could work the fiberglass directly on the shape, cutting out several tedious mold making steps and saving him a TON of time and materials expenses. Look close, do you see some products from the plumbing aisle of the hardware store? So creative!

Here is my favorite part, it DOES stuff! PJ filled the cockpit with toggle switches and buttons that turn on lights. He cut rounded pieces of wood for the base, so it rocks like a rocking chair....or I suppose like a rocket! Thankfully, he did not add any sounds (he knows how I feel about toys that make loud weird sounds!). It even has a cup holder! So smart, I would have NEVER thought of that, but all Lydia wants to do is sit in her rocket and watch Little Einsteins, so having a place for a cup is SO great. I want to cry this thing is so fantastic. PJ is so fantastic! Lydia is SO lucky, not just to have a "real" rocket, but to have a REAL GREAT daddy!
Video of the rocket in action has been placed on youtube.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Pictures

On my birthday, before we went out to eat, we took our family Christmas pictures. My sister's friend Sean ( the fabulous photographer behind our Halloween pictures) was kind enough to help us out again. He did such a great job! (Especially when you consider he was dealing with late day, winter, indoor lighting.... and a toddler.... and a dog!) I have spent too long arranging the pictures into our much belated Christmas cards (now ordered and on their way) to comment much on the picture. Hope you enjoy!

To view more work by our photographer, or to contact him, visit his website.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

More Ideas for Lydia's Room

Whooooo, Whooo wouldn't want a sweet owl pillow. I like this idea and think I could have some fun mixing different fabric scraps together. I'm putting this on the "if I have time" list.

The painted hills on the walls need some details. This would be fun, if I could find the right place to put it without overwhelming then entire room. Probably not doing THAT much painting over my Christmas break, but maybe someday.
I ordered this rug from Target and am very happy with it. Luckily, one of the reviews explained that it was much brighter and loopier than it looks in the picture. Just what I wanted. It kind of looks like grass, which is so fun and perfect for a kid's room. The only drawback is it caught on my high heels last night.
This is a bit of a disappointment. This bedding looked so perfect on the website, but in person it is really, REALLY, pail. Pretty much pink with brown and darker pink patterns. Not at all what I wanted and unfortunately no online review to clue me in. Apparently, target has an issue with their photos on their website! Sadly this is not sold in stores and I paid with a gift card that has since been used up and thrown out. Expecting lots of fun trying to return this one!
I saw this bedspread and liked it for a solid option, but it was sold out online. I saw one in just the right size at our local Target, so I think this will do. It is just the right color and I like the swirls, but it feels like a LOT of purple. Oh well, it is a girly room and it is one step closer to finished. I need to make pillows out of the floral fabric and cover 2 small chairs. And paint some more on her walls. And finish her doll house. Oh, and return some things to Target. Wish me luck!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Snow Days

We got snow on Sunday night and it was enough of a sure thing that they announced the Monday school closing on Sunday night. We awoke to a pretty white powdery covering and REALLY cold temperatures. The snow was too powdery to make anything out of and it was too cold to be outside for long. We spent more time finding and putting on our snow gear than we spent outside!Knowing that I didn't have to work on Monday, I stayed up late Sunday night searching Target's website for new bedding for Lydia's big girl room. It is still a work in progress and I have given myself a Christmas deadline to finish what I can and then put away the paints and fabrics and call it done!Here is the fabric I bought months ago. And here is the bedspread I ordered. Hopefully they coordinate well enough. I wanted something with the same colors, but a little more youthful and fun. I still haven't decided what I am making out of the fabric that I bought and I am hoping that getting one part figured out will help. I was also hoping it would be delivered today, but an ice storm has closed schools and made just walking difficult. I doubt deliveries are running and I can't even get to my studio over the garage to make anything anyway. Hmm, looks like I am stuck cleaning today! Happy Snow (I mean ice) day!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Update..... I WON!

I just got the e-mail that I won the cupcake contest!!! I think I need to buy a lottery ticket or two before my luck runs out! October was the Goodwill costume contest. November was 50 Christmas cards from Shutterfly AND the Target raffle at Fantasy of Trees. December now has 50 cupcakes coming my way courtesy of Cities Cupcakes! YUM and YIPPEE!

The recipe was just a fairly generic gingerbread cake recipe, but I used hot chocolate (warm milk + powder mix) for the liquid. Same idea with the frosting, I used a basic butter cream but used eggnog for the liquid and added some nutmeg and cinnamon too. I think they were also looking for a good flavor idea and I suspect they will use their own formula if they actually make them to sell in the store. Mostly, as with lots of things in life, its taking that tiny little bit of extra time to do that little extra thing that helps. The contest just asked for a recipe, but I included a story about how those flavors remind me of Christmas. I added that the idea having more and more of a good thing (my entry was a cupcake, with a cookie AND a candy cane) also represented the spirit of the holiday. Finally, but I knew I would do better with a picture included. So I baked and frosted, and chose the best ones and had a gingerbread man photo shoot. Then I decided to attach the photo to the email entry, but I also wrote the recipe on a word document, separate from my emailed story about why I felt this was a good flavor, and also inserted the photo into the document. Hey, if there were two contenders, I wanted mine to stand out!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

North Pole Cupcakes.

So this is my entry into a local contest to come up with a flavor for a North Pole Cupcake. The company does different flavors to match different cities, Key West is a Key Lime cupcake. So they want to have a North Pole flavor. My entry is a Gingerbread Hot Cocoa cupcake with Eggnog frosting. I instantly knew that I wanted to create a pole out of a candy cane and then found these tiny little gingerbread cookies and thought they would be appropriate ambassadors for the North Pole! Fingers crossed. The contest is being judged this weekend and the prize is 50 free cupcakes that could be very useful for our next Lydia birthday party. If it doesn't work out in my favor, it's OK. I needed a baked good to take to a church function anyway, so baking for this contest already fulfilled that need. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Advent Adventures, An Elf on Our Shelf, and Several Works in Progress

The beginning of December came and I BARELY got Lydia's advent calendar started. (I was wrapping packages while she took her bath on December 1st!) I never did find a wonderful old suitcase in which to place advent packages. I also was having a hard time deciding what to wrap up for her 24 advent surprises. Thankfully, near the end of November, one of my favorite blogs posted advice on a Children's Book Advent Calendar! Thank you, thank Sarah Jane (who happens to make some of the CUTEST children's illustrations!... This one makes me think of Lydia starting preschool next year). Her idea is to BORROW 24 Christmas themed and age appropriate books from the LIBRARY, wrap them up, read one each night in December, and return to the library when finished! I will have to watch the due dates and re-check out the books online at some point, but I was able to search the library from their website, reserve books at my local branch, and after a very quick visit to pick up our advent adventure was under way! The elf is my own version of this famous story. If you aren't familiar, check out their website for lots of fun Christmas stuff to do, see, and play.....even if you aren't buying their elf. (Mine is a thrifted vintage Peter Pan!)Other projects that are getting attention this month.... Lydia is getting a bigger doll house. I found this shelf at Goodwill for $5. It was covered in stickers and had five empty shelves labeled Monday - Friday. I assume it was intended to hold clothing selections or stuff to take to school and various sports practices. The good news is after Lydia outgrows it as a dollhouse it can go back to being a house shaped shelf again! The insides of the shelves got brown paper on the bottom shelf to simulate wood floors. I even scored little grooved stripes on the paper, so it has that floor look. The walls are just scrapbook paper, but because I did it myself the paper matches Lydia's room! Now the outside is getting a face lift. There is a coat of gesso covering the old paint. I will be painting it with the same accent colors I am using in her room.
Speaking of her room.... I was able to devote an entire Saturday to painting it while my mom was in town. There are now rolling green hills around the entire room and white fluffy clouds in the sky. It just makes me feel happy and peaceful, but maybe that is the paint fumes talking! Eventually there are more details, like houses and animals, to add.... and I still have to decide what I am making out of the inspiration fabric, but for now it is a step closer to finished.

Also getting a lot closer is the addition to our house. This side of the house is the small addition, basically closing in and existing porch that was under the original roof line of the house. We bumped it out to give more visual interest and so that we don't have to match the exterior as much. It is under roof and mostly behind plywood and larger than it looks from this angle.

Here is the back side of the small addition, where PJ has been working to join the new roof line to the old. To the far left you can just see what will become the big addition of a family room bumping off of the back of the house. That part has its flooring down but will be two stories and will take a little longer to finish. I am AMAZED at what PJ has gotten done, basically in one month!

Friday, December 3, 2010

We've Been Featured!

So there should be a way to add a button to the blog proclaiming this... let me know if you know how... but Liddy B and Me is featured on The Birthday Blog! I sent them pictures of Lydia's Mad Hatter Tea Party and they printed a TON of them. I LOVED that party and had as much fun planning it as I did experiencing it, but it is also a lot of fun to hear that other people like the ideas we came up with. Thanks again to all my friends and family who helped me get everything done!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

It's December!

Thanksgiving went by in a whirlwind! My Parents flew in on Thanksgiving night. That evening Jen and I stood in the rain for 2 hours and then waited in line inside Toys R Us for another 2 hours! The next day, me and Lydia, my mom, and our good friends Judy and Tina headed to downtown Knoxville for the "Fantasy of Trees". This was the third year mom and I took Lydia to the Fantasy of Trees.

This year she noticed the merry go round and she HAD to ride it! We all rode it with her, so when she saw all the other parents and grandparents waving at their kids, she thought they were waving at HER! Too cute!
Speaking of cute... How sweet is this shot of my mom?
We all had a great time, donated to a great cause (Children's Hospital) and came away from it one of the winners of the Target raffle! Not a bad way to start the holiday season!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Crafting Up Some Christmas Cards

If you know me you know that I LOVE making things, especially cards and invitations. Unfortunately, I also tackle projects that take WAY more time than I have. I can't help myself!
It all looks like such fun and I have the best intentions, but I just frustrate myself with trying to finish things at the last minute. In the past I have made beautiful handmade cards (finished sometime in January) only to get bogged down with addressing them and NEVER mail them out! That year I think I threw away my carefully crafted cards in August!

This year I think I have finally wised up. I have been using Shutterfly for years to print photos, create calendars, and even to make the photo playing cards we used for Lydia's Alice in Wonderland Birthday Party. They turned out so cute and I don't think I ever got around to showing them off. For her party, we just ordered one deck and handed out individual cards as favors. They are the same size as wallet sized photos, only they had the playing card backing and that great plastic coating. PERFECT for the Wonderland theme. Come to think of it, the cards aren't that expensive to give as a gift for Christmas, but I digress.

Back to the Christmas cards. Shutterfly has so many Christmas Photo Cards to choose from! It might take me as long to choose a design as it would take me to make a card. Or maybe I am underestimating how long it takes me to actually make things again. Actually, looking at all the designs was fun. I still cant decide and there are even more designs here and here. Part of the problem is that I haven't taken our holiday picture yet. I know we will all be in black and white, so what do you think about this design?
Or this one?

Of course, at the same time I am ordering the cards, I need to organize our Christmas Wall Calendars . We always make one for our daycare provider. I love that we are able to put multiple pictures on each month. That way each month features the children who have birthdays that month. You can also put a picture of the child on that actual day on the actual calendar. This is GREAT for reminding all the kids and the parents who has a special day coming up, so gifts can be purchased ahead of time.

Last year I also made a Lydia Calendar for each of the grandparents. Each month I put a picture of Lydia from that month this year, so that when that month rolls around in the new year, you can compare the Lydia of today with how she looked a year ago. I have been amazed at how much she has grown and I think the grandparents really enjoyed it. Some of them read the blog so I can't comment if we will continue the tradition, but it was a really fun idea!

Finally, in the I wish I had infinite time category.... I wish I had time to throw a Holiday Get-together that was fancy enough to deserve some of these beautiful invitations . Who am I kidding. I will be pushing it just to get the picture taken and uploaded to Shutterfly. Fortunately, for a fee, they can even address and mail the cards for me! Hopefully I won't be that rushed fro time, but I do have 2 new classes to teach, a birthday to celebrate, and a toddler to it's nice to know the option exists!

Shutterfly has been kind enough to offer bloggers like me an opportunity to get 50 Christmas Cards....FREE! Want to find out more? Check out all the great deals, including this special Blogger promotion, at Shutterfly!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thifty Thursday

We have all fought a nasty stomach virus this week. Lydia had it Sunday, one of my co-teachers had it Monday, I had it Tuesday, Jen and my other co-teacher both had it Wednesday, and PJ was down with it Thursday. So, when I picked Lydia up from daycare on Thursday, we did a little thrift store shopping to kill some time and keep us out of his way for more of the evening. I found a few great toys for Lydia. This is my favorite for now! It was a big bag full of wooden nuts, bolts, and connector pieces. There is a wooden hammer and screwdriver and one separate Melissa and Doug nuts and bolts toy. All of it for $3! This is SO perfect for where Lydia is at right now. She is really into manipulating things and her little fingers are just able to twist the bolts and screws. She hasn't made any creations yet, but has had fun tinkering. PJ, on the other hand, built a giant horse with the majority of the pieces. Its like an erector set for the toddler set. So cool!
I also found these great blocks. They have one blue side, and then the rest have white stripes with red outlines. The stripes are positioned in such a way that you can connect the stripes and create a pattern that moves from block to block. So far, Lydia just likes moving and stacking them, but at some point I am sure she will notice the neat stripe. Not bad for $2!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Advent Calender Adventures

I saw this template for advent calendar houses last year and instantly began dreaming of making my own. Of course in my dream I started on them really early so that they were finished by now! I have been looking for the right materials, because I don't really like the idea of them just being thin paper. I wanted to find more of a paper-mache style box that I could transform into a house and decorate, but it hasn't happened and now I don't have the time. My main idea was that we don't have much space that I am willing to devote to a wall advent calendar. I don't like the idea of one that sits out on a table and takes up space either. My thought with the house/boxes was that they could be hung from our tree. I liked the idea of looking for the right number house for the day and then opening it to find a surprise.

Then I saw this neat idea for writing a clue about where to find the advent treat on a wooden spool and realized that there are many more options for interesting advent adventures that don't have to fit into a box. So here I am, with very limited time, dreaming about getting together. I doubt I could get all the spools together in time for December 1, so that idea is out.

Here are my two favorite ideas after a quick search online. Martha Stewart had this cute baby sock advent calendar idea. It is supposed to use up all the misplaced socks, but I would want to go out and buy really good looking semi-matched designs, so it could get pricey! Also, we end up with SO many stockings on our fireplace, this would only work if we got rid of socks as we went and added our stockings or swapped our stockings for these on Christmas eve? Cute, but maybe to complicated for my house.
Right now this is my favorite! I love this idea from of putting little parcels inside a suitcase. The original website is in a foreign language, so I am gleaning what I can here. I would need to find an old or old looking suitcase. Small investment there, but it could be fun to search for one. All the advent goodies could arrive on the same day along with the suitcase. Or, maybe Santa's elves bring them the night the tree gets finished. Hmmmm..... That might create some little kiddy enthusiasm for helping get the tree up. Maybe there needs to be a by-line that the tree has to be finished AND the decorating boxes etc. put away before the elves leave any packages. Or how fun would it be to check the mail periodically for new parcels to add to the case? I like the idea of not having to have it ALL figured out ahead of time, but adding to it through the month. The "packages" could be simple brown bags, old mailing envelopes, etc. Sounds simple. The suitcase could get closed and opened to reveal new packages. I feel like I have time to figure that part out. The suitcase could go under the tree or next to the fireplace for Santa or the elves to drop in the gifts. I think I am sold on the idea. Any other better ideas? Speak now or forever hold your peace!