Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tate is Five: The Invitations

It's hard to believe that Tate is turning five in less than a month! Remember when he arrived? Such a sweet bundle. The years have whizzed by.

Other than his first birthday, we haven't thrown Tate a birthday party. We typically do something as a family instead. For example, last year we went to the Bronx Zoo. But over the last three years, Tate has been going to the same pre-school with the same friends, and next year, when he (and all his friends) go to kindergarten, they won't see each other much anymore. Because we all live in different school districts, not a single one of Tate's friends from pre-school will be in his kindergarten class. So I thought that this was the perfect year for a birthday party.
We had lots of discussion about what kind of party Tate wanted. He threw out the ideas of a space party or a dinosaur party. But ultimately, he settled on a butterfly party! Isn't that sweet? I have to admit, the idea of coming up with a butterfly-themed party for a little boy stumped me at first, but now that I am well into the planning, I am having a great time.

I love minted, and think the quality of their invitations is fantastic. Knowing that I wanted to focus on monarch butterflies specifically, I was excited when I found the butterfly mitzvah design. This is one of the best things about minted; even though this design was for a more formal (and feminine) party, I was able to adapt it with more boy-ish fonts to fit the feel of our event.
Another thing I love about minted? You can print on the back of the invitations. I loved the idea of a subtle nod to both the butterfly theme and Tate's evolution:
Yet another great thing about minted? You can choose your envelope! I chose the brown kraft envelope to further add to the casual feel of the invitations.  

Overall, the invitations make me so happy and Tate absolutely loves them. He diligently wrote all his friends names on the fronts of the envelopes and even mailed a few to loved ones far away. I can't wait for the party!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Guest Post: Dawn Alley

Friends, meet Dawn Alley. She is the smart and talented woman behind the blog Idle Hands, which focuses on knitting and creating and is based out of Washington, D.C. She is a connoisseur of knitted Christmas balls, an expert gift-giver, world traveler, and overall lovely person. She also welcomed her first child, little Joshua, just last year. Joshua is quite possibly the rolliest, happiest, smiliest baby, a true reflection of his happy parents. I know you will enjoy hearing from her. 

Welcome, Dawn!
I love O Chickadee's focus on celebrating good design that makes every day more joyful.  I've come to appreciate this even more since welcoming our little boy to the world. Babies can come with so much stuff, and it's hard to know what you really need.  Here are a few of the things that have made our house happier.

1.  Triangle bibs.  Here's the thing: Joshua drools.  A lot.  Before I had a baby, I thought bibs were for food.  Now I realize that they can also be for drool -- and man, do we go through a lot of them (3 or more per day).  If your objective is just to keep your baby dry, you don't really need a full bib.  Also, if your baby is wearing bibs basically all the time, you want them to be cute and to wash well.  Enter zippy bibs.  I love these things.  They are super soft and absorbent.

2.  Portable crib. My husband Nick and I travel a lot, and I am happy to say that that has continued since Joshua's arrival.  Of course, it's a great comfort to know your baby has a safe place to sleep when you're on the road, but traditional Pack N Plays seem like something I would never actually pack, related to the fact that they are giant and heavy.  Not so for the travel crib from Phil and Ted's -- at 7 lbs, it is lighter than your baby, and it is compact and easy to carry.
3. Djeco nesting blocks.  These nesting blocks are the perfect gift for anyone with a baby in a small space. I love the fun, bright artwork, and I love that they are so compact.

Joshua is also a big fan.

What are your favorite kid gifts to give or get?
Thank you, Dawn! Your description of Joshua's excessive drool took me back to the baby days with both our boys- they were champion droolers! Remember when we were talking about baby ascots? Ha!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Being Springy When It Feels Like Winter

"Winter returns to welcome spring". That's what the weatherman on the local news said this morning, when he told me that we were going to get a few inches of snow today. On the first day of spring. Sigh.

Is it springy where you are? If not, here's an idea that worked really well for me this week. Bring spring inside.

Remember the $.49 pots I bought at IKEA, and how I said I had a plan for them? Here's how I ended using them.
With the help of Tate, we planted each pot with a sunny, happy jonquil plant (those are jonquils, right? The little baby daffodils?)! I love spacing them out across the entire length of the dining room table- when I walk in the front door, they shout such a cheerful greeting. The boys have really loved them too. We see how much they grow, and count the number of blooms. Just having them in the house has initiated spring-like conversations about bulbs and growing and bees and allergies. It's so nice having something so bright and lively inside, despite the gray cold outside.

Another trick for feeling springy when it feels like winter? Cocktails! Zach and I have been enjoying various rum and citrus based cocktails over the past few weeks. Trust me- taking a sip of a drink that's heavy on the pineapple will have you feeling like sunny weather is just around the corner.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

I Went to IKEA for No Reason. Here's What I Bought.

A friend and I made the trek to IKEA last weekend, a random trip when I had nothing in particular I needed. I walked out with a half dozen items or so that are making me feel really happy.

Here's what I bought:
Let's dive in, shall we?

Most notably, I bought seven white pots and seven pots of fake grass.  
I haven't fully fleshed out how I intend to use these yet, but with both Easter so close and Tate's birthday party, I feel like they are going to have a good life as both home and party decor. In the meantime, they've been sitting on my buffet, and they are so happy-making! A pop of bright color in the midst of our never-ending winter (have I mentioned yet that it feels like 5 degrees out there this morning?)

Next up? These packages of napkins.
I do realize that this is a lot of papper napkins, but I am working on a craft that uses white napkins heavily, plus I find the colors of IKEA's paper napkins really great. I thought the yellow and purple would be pretty for Easter brunch, maybe with some sunny vases of yellow tulips in the center of the table?
Speaking of Easter, I bought two of these awesome hollow eggs for the boys' Easter baskets. They come apart at the seam and are just perfect for filling with candy, small cars, and other fun. In truth, I actually bought three of these, but I already sent one stuffed with Easter goodies to my sweet niece Margot.

These pots were only $.49 each! I couldn't pass them up. They are an earthy, taupe-y color. I have a little project in mind with them to help bring spring indoors, despite today's "high in the low 30"s.
And lastly, I bought this great wrapping paper. I had no idea IKEA has wrapping paper and other party supplies, and almost went a little crazy in this aisle. I ended up buying two rolls of this wrapping paper, which I have already used for a few gifts and which looks great whether the gift recipient is a girl or a boy. I especially love the finish of it- it's very matte and almost soft to the touch.

That's it! All less than $60 and not a single meatball was consumed! Do you ever find yourself at IKEA or Target for no reason, randomly tossing things into your cart? Sometimes I end up walking out with nothing, since the sheer vastness of the options overwhelms me. Other times, like this time, I get a modest number of items I really like. Occasionally, I go nuts and buy things I never even remotely needed.

One other thing- while I was at IKEA, I noted their new line of unfinished wood furniture. This summer, I refinished our Pottery Barn coffee table and was really, really happy with how it turned out. I found an unfinished cabinet that I think would be perfect for the entryway at IKEA, so I think a return trip to actually buy it and finish it is up next.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Big Move: Maintaining Your Hobbies

When we moved, one of the first thing that seemed to disappear for both Zach and I was our commitment to our hobbies. While we both struggled to establish some sense of normalcy (and adjust to having two boys), the personal things that we found joy in seemed to disappear. This was really hard and strange. So many of the things that defined us before we moved were now gone, and I think this added to our overall sense of "who are we?" in this new place.

Which is why, if you're facing a big move, I think it is so, so important that you do your best to hang onto your hobbies. Sometimes that means that you need support in a way you never expected.

Here's our example. When we lived in Oregon, Zach home-brewed a lot. Probably once or twice a month. It was not only something he enjoyed but part of his identity. But when we got here, things were so stressful and busy and crazed that he just didn't brew. And over time, years passed. And I could tell that he felt sad about it- that he was beginning to think of himself as someone who used to home-brew versus someone who was a home-brewer.
It's not that Zach didn't try. He even went to a few home-brew stores out here. But in many ways, they failed to meet his expectations, and that left him feeling more discouraged. So it took a push to get him back into it.

That push came in the form of me. Isn't that the best part of marriage? How sometimes, when we aren't capable of doing something ourselves, our spouse does it for us? And so it was with brewing beer again. I asked- no, I told- Zach that we were doing this. Together. And we researched online brewing shops and wrote a recipe and ordered supplies online from Northern Brewer (cruddy Western Mass brew shops be damned!) and we did it.

We brewed Zach's first beer in 3 years. And we did it together.

Our beer was finally ready to drink this weekend! And it was not only delicious but more importantly, so, so satisfying for both of us to get to enjoy the results of our hard work. For me, it was powerful to see how happy Zach was that this part of himself had been reinvigorated. For Zach, I think he felt like he got a tiny bit of himself back.
I think that during a big move, the more you can hold onto your hobbies, the better off you will be. So much feels new when you've made a big new- finding ways to keep the familiar is so important.

And to that, I raise my beer glass and say "cheers!"

Friday, March 13, 2015

What Sick Day? Salted Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

I'm sick. Like bury-my-head-in-the-pillow-and-wish-I-could-die-before-my-head-explodes sick. I stayed home sick from work today with every intention of cleaning the house and doing the laundry, but instead found myself burying myself in bed upstairs, completely ignoring what can only be called a total disaster downstairs.

After I woke up from a life-granting four hour (four hour!) nap, I looked outside and noticed the looming clouds. Clouds that the weather channel tells me will become a "wintry mix" of "snow and freezing rain" over the next 48 hours. And I'll tell you what- I figuratively started stomping my feet and shaking my fists. No no no no no! I want a warm weekend! A healthy weekend! A weekend that feels a little tiny bit like a celebration.

Well, weather be damned. Instead of cleaning or doing laundry or finishing any of the responsible things that a real, grown-up adult would do, I pulled out the mixer. I've had my eye on this totally decadent salted chocolate chip cookie cake over at Butter and Brioche for a few weeks now. Today seemed like the perfect day to dive in.
I made a few changes, notably leaving out the alcohol in the ganache to make it kid-friendly, and alternating the thick, rich dark chocolate ganache with a barely sweetened whipped cream in order to make it a little bit less rich (yes, I understand the irony of using whipped cream to make something less rich). I also realized after baking the first three cookies that I should have flattened them a little more, so my version is not as symmetrical as I would have liked.
But I don't really care. Because when my boys get home, I know that this is going to make them deliriously happy. And that will make me happy. And this weekend, which feels like its off to a pretty rotten start, is starting to feel a little bit better.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Feiyue: Cool Sneakers

This week has been hard. It is a really intense period at work and we have topped this off with a sickness that the boys and I just can't get rid of. It is weeks like this where I feel so alone out here. Today I had an important meeting I had to be at, so instead of staying in bed (where I probably belonged), I ended up dragging a sick Tate with me to work. Poor guy. He had a fever so he wasn't allowed to go to pre-school and we don't have any sitters out here, so he got swept along and had to sit in my office for 3 hours while I (barely) navigated important meetings. He did great.

One of the real bummers about being so sick is that this week we had our  first gorgeous spring day. Over 50 degrees! Sunny! Blue skies! To bundle up on the couch with boxes of tissues felt wrong. I did however get some online shopping done.

So here's the thing. I am in desperate need of a pair of sneakers. I officially only own work shoes and work-out shoes. I need that perfect in-between.

Coincidentally, Tate is also in need of new sneakers. I was looking around for kids' sneakers online and Tate picked out these (he said they were "very cool" because of their "speed arrows" in a grave and serious voice):
I seriously love the sneakers he picked out. So I started looking into Feiyue's adult sneakers. Oh man. There are so many good ones. Not just the gold ones above (but come on, right? how awesome are those?) but also some more standard ones that would look great with jeans for running errands around town:

They do have a tendency to go a little wacky, especially with the kids sneakers. How wild are these? But I find the design so simultaneously modern and retro. I really want a pair. (And yes, Tate's are on order. He'll be the coolest kid around.)