Tuesday, October 16, 2012

hopscotch mat--take 2

A friend asked me to make another hopscotch mat for her daughter's 4th birthday, and wondered if it was possible to applique the numbers on.  I gulped and very hesitantly said, "Of course it is." And guess what, it was exactly as maddening as I expected! But it looked so good that I didn't mind in the end (after several glasses of wine).  Although I definitely met my swear word quota for the month.  Anyway, I think it looks great with sage green canvas, and since she is planning on having it in her daughter's room as a rug next to her bed I thought it would hide dirt a lot better than white.  Just in case you were wondering, it's about 2 yards long by 3/4 yard wide.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

name tags

A friend asked me to make some name tags for her kids to have on their back packs. Here they are...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

moving continents--after

The after list is not as pressing, since we can do absolutely nothing about it right now, and it's also the exciting part:

  • Find a place to live--Preferably buy a house, which depends on selling our house in England.  We will live with my parents for a couple of months (they have more than enough room for us and a POOL) and if it seems like it's going to take a long time for the sale to go through we will assess the situation and consider renting.
  • Find jobs--We are fairly certain this can be accomplished pretty quickly, we wont be too picky to start off with and we're lucky that Houston has a strong job market right now.
  • Buy a car or two--We have shared a car for the past three years but we will most likely need two now.  And of course we are now thinking about size and safety ratings since we have a baby to protect! Although I am drawing the line at mini vans or suburbans, aint gonna happen.  It's just a personal preference thing. 
  • Get phones--We will need to get new cell phones in Texas so that will probably be one of the very first things we do, that way all those companies who want to offer us jobs can get in touch. 
  • Pick up our shipment--This should be fun.  We are so lucky to be moving to a port city so we can go pick up our stuff ourselves, either borrow a truck and trailer (we are moving to Texas after all, most people have a trailer lying around somewhere) or get a Uhaul truck. 
  • Catch up with friends--We figure if it takes us at least a month or so to get jobs we can spend that time visiting with friends we haven't seen in a long time. So we will be doing quite a bit of driving around and catching up!  I can't wait!
  • Eat, or not--Whenever we have gone back to visit we always have a list of places we want to eat and we have to plan out our time so we can hit them all up. It wont be like that this time since we wont be there for just 10 days like we usually are.  In which case we need to be careful because we really don't want to live up to the old steriotype of becoming fat because we live in America.  It could totally happen, I love me some Chick Fil A. 
  • Drivers Licenses--My Texas drivers license is expired and Sam will need to take a test to get one so we will need to do this pretty soon after we get there.  We can drive on our UK licenses for up to 90 days. 
Am I missing anything major?  I also have a personal to do list which includes sleeping in, shopping, drinking margaritas and getting my hair cut.  It's really hard to think that we are moving back on a more or less permanent basis, it still feels like a holiday where we just have a lot to do.  I bet it will take a while to sink in.

Friday, September 21, 2012

moving continents--before

Moving can be stressful. **Hahahahahhahaaha** That is me laughing insanely at such an understatement.  I have been having a little trouble sleeping and went to see my doctor recently and he said that moving can be as stressful as getting a divorce.  I don't know about that but at least he said it's normal that I'm experiencing anxiety about it.  But as with anything else, a good to-do list can help keep things under control.  Well at least it should.

I have a before the move (BTM) and an after the move (ATM) list.  That's how it's working for me right now, two completely separate and yet not exclusive lists of things to worry about.  Somehow it helps to focus on only 50% of my worries at a time.  Today we will look at the BTM list.

(not in any particular order)

  • Sell the house--Sort of a priority.  We have had an offer but they still need to sell their house so it's a waiting game.  I've always  been terrible at waiting.  A lot of things depend on this one.  Such as the ability to get a house on the other side so we don't have to live with my parents forever.  Such as not having to continue paying for this house when we are not living in it--we are on a deadline because of Sam's visa; he has to be in the USA by Christmas for his visa to be valid.  We always knew we could have trouble with timing, but since we could control neither the processing times of Sam's visa nor the sale of our house we just have to do our best with what we've got.
  • Ship belongings--We went back and forth about this one for a long time and have considered all of the options.  In the end we realized we were either going to be checking about 30 suitcases of things we simply can't part with onto a plane with or we could get a shipment.  Sam has a lot of sporting equipment that would just be silly to replace--bike, snowboards, surf boards, cricket and rugby gear, golf clubs etc.  We were able to find a company with a great reputation where we can ship about 2-3 pallets worth of stuff for less that the cost of Sam's bike and golf clubs. It would cost so much more to take it all onto the plane with us, and we'd need a moving truck to pick us up at the airport which would be ridiculous.  This company will come pick up all of our stuff (which will be all of Sam's sports stuff, our kitchen table and Maya's cradle and then about 20 boxes of our personal things like photo albums, pictures, kitchen stuff and odds and ends), take it to their warehouse and pack it all onto a few pallets then measure and charge us for the exact amount of space it takes up. It will be shrink wrapped so everything is nice and secure, then they'll put it into a container with a bunch of other peoples' stuff and send it to Texas, transit time is 16 days. Amazing right? 
  • Buy boxes and packing stuff--You can find reasonably priced moving kits on ebay that include lots of boxes in whatever sizes you need, tape, bubble wrap and markers.  It's the cheapest I have found so far.
  • Pack--This can't be done until right before we go.  We will probably move in with the in laws for the last couple days after our shipment is picked up since we wont have anything in our kitchen. I think we will pack what we want to take on the plane first so we can make sure we have what we need and can ship anything else that doesn't fit.  We will have up to a month without the stuff in our shipment so we will need to spend a little time thinking about what we absolutely need during that month, especially for Maya.
  • Book flights--Simple enough, we just hope to get the bulkhead seats which will be easier with a mobile baby. 
  • Get rid of stuff--We have been doing this little by little for a while now.  We are giving away almost all of our furniture to family and friends, the rest we will ebay or donate.  We are also going to leave behind our appliances since they wont wont work in the US, so we will sell bigger items like our fridge and washing machine and give away or donate little things like the toaster and mixer.  We are also leaving behind lots of clothes, shoes, pictures, books, pillows, linens and basically anything we can live without. 
  • Get record copies--We will need to get copies of our medical records as well as vaccination records.  They have different required vaccinations here than they do in the States and Maya will need to be up to date in the far and distant future when she starts school. 
  • Cancel utilities/services--This is something else that we do at the last minute.  Some of them we will have to keep paying until our house sells like our house insurance but we will need to change our correspondence address. 
  • Change our address--We need have our mail forwarded and let our bank know we are moving and make sure our statements are forwarded to our new address as well as a few other bills we will have to pay until the sale goes through.
  • Change life insurance companies--We both got life insurance policies before Maya was born but we will have to change to a US company when we move because the one we have here will not cover us if we live abroad.  No big deal but not something we want to overlook.
  • Get medical insurance for Maya--Since we will be between jobs and without insurance for at least a few months we want to make sure that Maya is covered.  It is not a situation I am totally comfortable with but at least if she is covered I wont be as worried.  There are very few independent options out there to cover just a child, most require that at least one adult be covered as well and that makes it quite expensive.  She also may be eligible for CHIP or Medicaid depending on how long it takes us to get jobs or what we earn to start off with.  This is one of those issues that keeps me up at night. I will miss the NHS. 
  • Give notice--I have already handed in my notice to work which feels great and terrifying at the same time.  Sam's notice period is a month so he will be handing in his pretty soon. They already know that he is going and even though they are happy for him they'd love for him to stay, which is nice. 
  • Wire money--We will be keeping our joint bank account open here but we will be wiring the majority of our money to our account in the States.  We also have to have a meeting with a bank manager who will handle the wiring of the money we make on our house if we don't sell it before we go. They wont just let us call and wire it so we have to arrange all of this in advance.  Hopefully we will sell the house before we go and wont have to deal with this at all.
  • Say goodbye--I hate this one the most and I hope to come up with a way of avoiding it, such as sneaking away in the middle of the night. 
  • Get excited--I spend so much time thinking about all of the stuff I have to do that I forget that we are moving back to Texas! Yehaw! The land of guacamole and queso, big cars and big people, Target and air conditioned shopping malls, my family and friends! But let's not get carried away, there's lots to do before we get there...
Of course there are a lot of other little things that will come up but this is the gist of it.  A pretty good example of the things that must be done when moving continents. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

for sale

We are moving back to Texas and our lovely little house is on the market.  Anyone interested in a two bedroom cottage in a quiet rural setting in England?  We actually have had an offer already which is fantastic, but they still have to sell their house so things are moving very slowly. 

I am really sad to be leaving this house in this beautiful place.  It has been such a special house--our first home, the house we brought our first baby home to, a place where we have grown into a family and spent the first three years of our life together.  We have grown with this house and feel very fortunate that we have been able to be a part of its long and rich history.  It was built in the 1830's and has been the home to many families, a butcher shop, and a post office.  It has been wonderful getting know the nice people in our village, we have some of the best neighbors you could ask for.  Everyone has been so kind and friendly and we will be sad to say goodbye.

It's funny how much a building can affect you, I feel like this place has had an impact on us and I'm proud to have had a small impact on it as well with the updates we have done.  We had a lady named Hazel come by one day last year who was visiting the area and who's mother was born in this house, she was incredibly sweet and asked if she could look around to see how much it had changed.  Her mother was one of 11 children who lived here at one time--a family of 13!  Two of Hazel's uncles still live in the area who we have met since who were also born here and they shared a lot of memories with us from growing up here which were so fun and so special to hear.  I like to think that one day, years from now, we will come back and have a look around as well, and Maya can see the house where she spent her first year of life. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

a birthday present for a little girl

Our niece turned 4 last week, it was an exciting occasion.  I always struggle getting gifts for her because she has everything.  What do you get for a girl who has two real life ponies knowwhatimean? So a few weeks ago an idea came to me, I would make her a hop scotch mat--she could play inside (since it seems to always be raining) or outside (and would be easily washable).  Bam.  I was so excited, it seemed like such a good idea, and it became an even better idea when I was at her house a week before we gave it to her and she asked me if I would teach her to play hop scotch!  And sure enough when she opened it she said, "Oh Auntie Bethany, I love it." and then we went and hopped.  

On one side I sewed fabric rectangles for hop scotch, and on the other I sewed fabric circles for a bean bag toss game.  I also wrote numbers on the rectangles and circles, and they aren't as impossible to see as they are in these pictures.  Sam suggested that I cut out and applique the numbers on with coordinating fabrics and I laughed in his face.  But it would be cool, IF you are insane and have millions of hours of free time. 

 I also made 2 sets of 3 bean bags so she can play with her sister or a friend.
And here she is playing at her birthday party:)
**Another bonus is that I have been commissioned to make a couple more of these!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

baby stuff we love

This is not a must have list, it is not even a list of necessary items, these are just things that we have found to be really handy.  It's hard to buy stuff for your first baby because you have no idea what you will actually use (other than the obvious things like clothes, diapers, car seat, stroller etc.) and there's just way too much out there.  Every family will love different things and will have different needs, this is our list, and it just so happens that it came out to being 10 items.  Our top 10:

We have used these blankets more than any others, they are so versatile.  They were great for swaddling in the early days, burp cloths, to cover up while breast feeding, wiping up messes and much more.  They are huge and a really good weight.  We got a lot of other receiving blankets that we didn't use at all because these have just been so handy.  We have 5 of them so there is always at least one clean one around when we need it. 

I can't tell you how dubious I was about going the cloth diaper route, I couldn't imagine it would be easy or convenient, but actually it is amazing and I'm so glad we went for it.  We have 15 of the Bum Genius 4.0 one size diapers and we LOVE them, all three of us.  A lot of research went into this decision and it's all too much to put in this post but we definitely made the right choice with these dipes.  We still use disposables, especially when out for the day or when travelling, or when we are just lazy, we didn't want to be too crazy about it.  Maya has been wearing them since she was 6 weeks and they should fit her until she is potty trained  (around 2 years hopefully!), they should work for any subsequent babies, they wash so well and look as good as new after 7 months of use, they are so easy to clean and care for and so far she has not had a single blowout with them.  Wow right?  They have saved us a lot of money too, especially because we were given all of them as gifts, thank you very much!  They are not for everyone, but they are great for us.

We didn't get one of these until Maya was about 2 months old, so we lived without it for a while, but it has been really nice to have mainly so she can sit in the kitchen while we cook, in the bathroom while we shower (if necessary), in the laundry room while we fold clothes, outside while we hang out clothes and so on.  The one we have is just a basic bouncer with a rocking function and a music function which we never use because she doesn't seem to notice it.  It has been more useful than the bumbo we have because she can be strapped in and she couldn't sit up in the bumbo until she was around 4 months.  I imagined that she would fall asleep in this but she never has, it's just a good alternative to laying on the floor all day for those months before she could sit and it's nice to be able to strap her in when we need to now that she can roll across the room!

Of all the baby stuff we got I have to say these are among the top most wonderful things ever.  Maya was one of those babies who loved to be swaddled and wouldn't sleep unless she was--in fact we didn't stop swaddling her until 4 months.  These are great because they have velcro so baby is nice and secure and can't wiggle out in the middle of the night to wake herself up (which means you can rest easier and the terror of night time is reduced substantially).  I just think they're great, great great great.

Another excellent invention.  I don't actually know what I would do without these.  I have three in different colors and wear them all of the time.  These are great for me because I knew I wanted to breastfeed as long as possible, I still wanted to have a life and go do stuff without having to hide away while feeding Maya, and I didn't want to have to buy a lot of nursing tops.  In fact I own zero nursing tops.  This way I can wear almost all of my normal tops, even the ones that don't open in front, over the camis--I can get the ladies out if I need to lift my top up without my behemoth belly flapping out for all to see.  It never crossed my mind until after Maya was born that I would need clothes I could nurse in, these completely solve the problem.  I'll say it again, I don't know what I would do without these.

Say hello to my new best friend.  Due to our latitude here in England we are blessed with long long days for half the year, this is not something I would ever complain about.  It gets light at 4 am and dark after 10 pm.  Wonderful for outdoor bbq's, getting the most out of your day and encourages early waking so you can be productive.  Unfortunately it also encourages babies to wake early.  We have a really good set of black out curtains in Maya's room, they were excellent during the winter when it's dark from 4 pm to 8 am.  But they just don't cut it in the summer.  The Gro Anywhere black out blind is a lifesaver.  After weeks of waking up at 4 and growing more and more distressed I finally bought the Gro Blind.  Why did I wait so long you ask? Because I made a vow to not buy any unnecessary baby equipment.  This was totally worth breaking the vow for, and in fact now I would say that it has become a necessary item.  It is big, like 1.5 yards x 2 yards and adjustable so fits a wide range of windows, you can take it anwhere since it just attaches by suction cups and it has been so handy on some of our trips or overnight stays at the granparents', and the best part is that it makes the room PITCH BLACK.  I take that back, the best part is that Maya now sleeps until 7 which is the time that she and I have agreed that she should wake up, although she does sometimes go back on her word about this, naughty little thing.

Maya loves her play mat, she has loved it since she was just days old when she used to enjoy laying there looking at all of the colors and listening to the music it comes with, and she loves it now when she can yank the toys off, assault the whale and get her legs tangled in the crossbars as she thrashes about.  She just really enjoys it, worth every penny.

Okay, obviously there are cheaper more boring lunch box options out there, but why would you want one of those?  This one is just darn cute, and a really good size.  I can fit all of Maya's little lunch accessories into it when we are out for the day.  An insulated lunch box is handy to have, whether it's darn cute or not, and I do love Skip Hop stuff.  

Ever since we stopped swaddling Maya she has slept in one of these.  They're snuggly and come in different weights for warmer or cooler weather, and they ensure that Maya stays covered up all night since she can't wiggle out from these like she does a blanket.  

I have found these really handy since Maya has started eating solids.  They make it painless to take her food out and about since they are compact and you have everything you need right there.  I especially like that the spoon stays reasonably sterile as opposed to rolling around in the bottom of her lunch box. 

And now for a quick run down of things we didn't use so much:

-Boppy Pillow: This surprised me because they are so popular, but after about 6 weeks it seemed too bulky so I just use a regular pillow and chang the pillow case. 

-Receiving blankets: I said this previously but we just didn't use our super cute highly desireable receiving blankets very much.  Not for any particular reason other than the other types of blankets I listed above just suited our needs a bit better

-Short sleeve onesies: This is partly because of the terrible climate here, but Maya has worn long sleeve onesies almost every day and the short sleeved ones have been sadly neglected.  Also we received about 1 million of them and then bought some more becuase there are so many cute ones.  Maybe if we have another baby in a wamer place they will get used.

-Baby bathrobe:  We got two incredibly cute, tiny bathrobes for Maya. I have used them exactly twice... for photo shoots.  She just doesn't hang around in a bathrobe, for one thing it's dangerous to go long without a diaper on, and if I'm going to put a diaper on I may as well just clothe her.  It's never been convenient to go from clothes to bathrobe to bath to towel to bathrobe to clothes, that's too much changing.  By the time I'm givng Maya a bath (evening=getting close to the time I can finally sit down and drink a glass of wine) I'm not in the mood to faff around changing her a million times, it makes the whole process a lot less enjoyable for both of us.  Which is sad because she has two incredibly cute bathrobes. 

-Breast pump and bottles:  Maya, my sweet strong-willed little girl, has never drank from a bottle except for once when she probably was just distracted.  She just didn't like any substitutes (she also never wanted a pacifier which was more than fine with us!), only the real thing would do.  So I'm proud to say that I have personally fed her every single time except for twice recently because she has finally learned to drink from a sippy cup.  Go me, and my poor poor ladies.  Anyway, the bottles have just gathered dust as has the breast pump, but it was a hand me down so I don't feel too bad about it. I think if I have another baby I might try a little harder to make the bottle thing happen, but honestly, I haven't ever needed to bottle feed her, and I love to nurse and want to enjoy it as much as I can before she is done. 

And that's it.  Phew!

Monday, July 30, 2012

actual food i've actually tried from Pinterest

I love and hate Pinterest.  At the moment I am loving it.  Since I'm a housewife at the moment I have tried to step up my game and try some new recipes.  Does anyone else get stuck in a recipe rut and make the same things for weeks on end without thinking about it?  One of the frustrating things about Pinnie is that it's a great resource for ideas but they're useless if you don't try any of them  So I have started making a couple of recipes a week that I've pinned, mainly to prove to Sam that I'm not wasting hours on Pinterest but actually accomplishing something.  Here are the ones from the past two weeks.....

(Via here)

Crockpot Cashew Chicken
What a darn good idea, if you have a crock pot.  Ours broke.  But I followed this recipe and just cooked it at a low heat in the oven for about 3 hours and it was delish.  We will most definitely eat this again.  I don't often cook with nuts so it felt slightly exotic to make something with cashews.  And it fit right into my current recipe criteria which are ease, speed and tastiness.

(Via here)

Baked Brie Dip
Holy moly, this was good.  Sam and I both were moaning in ecstacy as we devoured it.  I used half a camembert which was more than enough for a starter for the two of us and also that way I can make it twice:)  The only thing I did differently with this was one was to blend the garlic, tomatoes and herbs before layering it with the cheese to make it smoother.  Another recipe that was easy, fast and GOOD.

(Via here)

Peanut Butter Mug Cake
I was desperate for something tasty, and desperate for this to work.  I don't know if I did something wrong or if our microwave is just bad but it was a disaster, it did not rise or become cake like.  I am intruiged by the idea of a mug cake and would love to find a recipe that works.

(Via here)

Baked Quinoa Broccoli Casserole
  I was a little late hopping onto the quinoa train so I am still testing it out in different forms.  Baked is best in my opinion.  This was pretty good and got the thumbs up from Sam which is always nice.  I used cream of mushroom soup instead of cream of broccoli because that's what I had and it was pretty good.  Fast, easy, tasty.  Yes.

(Via here)

Santa Fe Chicken Salad Wraps
These were really good, a nice combo of flavors and textures.  They met my expectations, we both liked them and I'll probably make them again. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

we went to the beach

There are some decent beaches within two miles of our house, but the best ones are a little further south.  This week we went to Putsborough in North Devon for the day.  Sam has 6 weeks off for summer holidays and the weather has been amazing, sunny and in the 70's, so we have been making the most of it.  It was Maya's first time to put her little toes in the Atlantic--the ocean that separarates her two homes.  She got to play in and eat some sand, and Sam and I got to bask in the lovely sun and get a little tan!  It was a beautiful relaxing day for all three of us. 

It always amazes me, a very non-dog person, that people bring their dogs to the beach, allow them to get in the water, roll in the sand, get on the blanket and slobber all over them, but this time I realized that a baby does the exact same thing.  The key is to have a beer or ice cream available, then you care a little less about the sand in your crevices.  I was putting a diaper on Maya today and when I openend it up a bunch of sand came out of it.  That's because while Sam was dragging all of our stuff across the beach loaded onto the stroller, which seemed like a good idea at the time, it collapsed and everything fell on the ground so the diaper bag was full of the horrid grainy stuff, but while he got a little annoyed I opened my Corona and Ole'! it was no problemo.  I look forward to going back next week!

Monday, July 16, 2012


I recently put together a treasure basket for Maya.  Treasure baskets are a way for babies and toddlers to enjoy heuristic play--exploring every day objects that are made up of different textures, shapes and sizes.  Basically stuff from around the house that will be more interesting than plastic toys.  They have a few of these baskets at the childrens' center we go to and Maya is always fascinated by things like sponges, wire egg cups and wooden spoons so I decided it was time to make one for her to play with at home.  It took me about 5 mintues to grab a bunch of different things and clean them before putting them into a spare basket that is low enough for Maya to reach into.  I now am always noticing things that she would be interested in, things I didn't really consider beforehand. 

The first thing she usually does is to empty the basket completely so that all the objects are spread around her, then she examines (and of course chews on) each one. 

 She will spend so much time playing with the items in her treasure basket.  This morning she spent 30 minutes exploring happily while I sat nearby watching.  She does not spend that much time playing with any of her other toys, so it's incredible to me that these every day bits and bobs really capture her attention.  She is absolutely fascinated by this stuff!

 Today she was fixated on the silicone muffin cup.  She played with it for about 10 minutes, just turning it around in her hands, dropping it and picking it up and making sure it was sufficiently covered in slobber!

 Ideally the basket should be filled with lots of items to stimulate baby's senses, and not many plastic things.  I have included a few plastic items that are a bit different from her other toys, and of course a spoon because she is always eager to hold her spoon when we are feeding her. It amazes me that she can already do that, and that she always puts it in her mouth the right way! 

In Maya's Treasure Basket:

A couple of plastic measuring cups
Lavender sachet
Silicone muffin cup
Wooden rings
Bath sponge
Snack cups
Woven napkin ring
Champagne cork
Tupperware lid
Baby spoon

Other cool things to add would be pine cones or big sea shells, some shiny or sparkly fabric, velvet, leather, silk or fur, something metal like a tea strainer, bell or small whisk.  Lots of ideas!  I will probably encourage her to play with the items in her treasure basket only once a day, I don't want her to get bored of them, and I will continue to add and take away items as she gets older (I'm not sure how the cork would survive once she has teeth!).  I guess this will keep her occupied until she is able to empty the cabinets in the kitchen and play with the pots and pans!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sunday, July 8, 2012

a little eye candy

I never get tired of looking at flowers, the more colorful the better in my opinion.  I only wish I knew how to grow them, or what they are called.  These roses smell so so good, but my favorite by far are the fox gloves, I imagine a little fox coming along and actually putting it's paw in the flowers to keep them warm.  Yes warm, because it is still chilly here.  We haven't even officially turned off our heating for the 'summer'.