03 April 2014

Lu Chic Accessories

A couple of people have asked us lately where we got the adorable hair bows that our girls have been wearing. I thought I'd do a quick blog post about Lu Chic Accessories. My friend in Canada makes these beautiful bows of all shapes, colors and sizes-- we LOVE them! Lu Chic has pretty much any color imaginable, as well as many character bows as well. Just this week, we got a new Frozen bow in the mail... Gia wore it to a doctor appointment this week and said it helped her be brave. :) I'm not sure I can testify to the bows' magical powers of courage, but they sure do look cute. Here's Gia in her Frozen bow:


As you can see, at almost 3 years old, Gia still doesn't have very much hair. Its often a challenge to find any kind of clip bow that will stay in place. We've had no trouble with our Lu Chic bows staying in place... they always do, even with her fine, wispy hair!

Joanna got in on the bow action a few days ago when we had lunch at La Ra. I love the anitqued colors in this headband/bow combination:

Another one of my favorite bows from Lu Chic Accessories is this reindeer clip Gia wore at Christmastime. I don't know if you can see it very well in this picture, but it is absolutely adorable. 

I don't have a picture of Gia in one, but our favorites are the "No Slip Hair Clips." They come in a huge variety of colors and prints and truly are "no slip!" I hope to post some more pictures of our Lu Chic Accessories soon. I have them on my real camera, just haven't had a chance to download them onto the computer. But if you're looking for some great bows for your little girl, Lu Chic is definitely the place to shop! (Shipping is super fast, BTW!)

PS- Not paid for this post, we just love our bows!

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25 March 2014

Book Reveiw: Restless Because You Were Made For More


I can tell a book is going to be really good when I've highlighted nearly the entire introductory chapter. If you follow me on Instagram, you also know that I was one of those annoying people who occasionally posted pictures of highlighted portions of this book as I was reading it. But really, I couldn't help myself. This book is too good not share with everyone I know. 

I've never read a book or Bible study by Jennie Allen before; she was a new name to me. I quickly felt like she was a dear friend who cared deeply about helping me couple my passions with God's plan. In the beginning, Jennie writes about a call to dream. She puts forth the idea that everything in our lives- even the most seemingly boring element (like our location, vocation or situation) of our lives could be part of a greater purpose. She writes, "This is a book about God. And this is a book about us and God. And this is a book about the moment we close our eyes and see God. This is a book about facing the God of the universe and answering to him about the life and resources he gives us while we are here.... This is a book about changing the world and changing diapers." (pg. 5)

That last line caught me off guard... changing the world and changing diapers. While this book is not solely about motherhood (its applicable to all seasons of life, young and old), it has helped me to see that even though much of my time is spent caring for my littles, that is no excuse to check out from my calling to be a Kingdom Worker. In this most recent season of motherhood, I've struggled to find a purpose outside my family. Not that I think there has to be a purpose outside my family-- that is the most important ministry my husband and I have-- but as Jennie describes so beautifully throughout this book, there is a restlessness in my heart for more.

Restless is broken down into 3 parts: The Call, The Threads and Living on Purpose. Loosely examining the life of Joseph, Jennie takes each reader on a person journey of self-discovery and gives simple, concise steps on how to apply that awareness to a Heavenly use. I say she loosely examines the life of Joseph because I was honestly expecting a bit more exegesis on the life of Joseph. Joseph is one of the stories of the Bible that has facilitated the most profound breakthroughs in my personal life, so I was hoping for a bit more depth in this area, but it was all still solid teaching- even if it didn't go quite as deep as I'd hoped it would. 

Each section has in-depth journal prompts that help to weave together the people and places of your life in hopes of finding a clearer path to your purpose. I read and journaled through this book on my own, but think it would be highly beneficial done as a group (which is strongly encouraged by Jennie). She also weaves stories of her own friends, and their journeys of discovery as they worked through this Restless Project. She writes, "What if the darkest moments of your life god intended for good: And what if the purest moments of bliss contained your greatest contributions to this world? God speaks through story because that is how we best understand the most important things." (pg 91)  Whether you are restless and searching for purpose in your life, or you have a clear idea of what God has called you to, this book is a great tool that would benefit any Christian. It is one of the most personally challenging books I have read lately, with a call to action that can't easily be overlooked or breezed through. Get your highlighter ready and read Restless Because You Were Made for More

I received this book from BookLook Bloggers for review. However, all opinions are my own.
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17 March 2014

Joanna 11 Weeks

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I had some fun ideas for St. Patty's day things to do with Gia, but didn't really get around to working them all out. But I did get these fun shirts made for the girls (see pic below)! Shortly after I took the pics, though, Joanna had a blow out and ruined her. Glad I took the photos as soon as I got them dressed this morning! As you may be able to tell by the light in the pictures, it is another dreary, gray, cold, ugly Indiana day. I'm getting pretty weary of this! But, there were a few days of sunshine this past week. In fact, Tuesday was so nice that we all got out to a nearby state park for some hiking and campground site scouting. Gia loved mucking around in the mud and puddles. I made a rookie mom mistake-- no change of clothing for either girl! Gia had to ride home in just her diaper, but it was 65 degrees outside and she didn't seem to mind. It was so nice to get some fresh air! Joanna experienced her first time at the Children's Museum this week, too. It was definitely tough with two kids... I feel like poor Gia didn't get to do as much there as she wanted to/normall does because I had to keep stopping to nurse Joey or change her diaper or something. Next time we go I'll definitely need a wing man to hang out with Gia when I need to tend to Joey. Also this week, Joey has gotten much better at reaching for toys and actually grabbing them for brief moments of time! She's been a bit fussy this week (and by fussy, I mean crying a little, which is more than usual but she's still such a great baby!) but I think its because she's in one of those infamous "wonder weeks" where lots of change and growth is taking place. We still don't have a great schedule, except for our nighttime routine. I'd really like to get a better routine going through out the day for her naps and stuff, but so far, no dice. We tried Gia in a big girl bed but she wasn't too thrilled so we let her get back in her crib. I'd really like to move Joey out of our room since she's sleeping 8-10 hours straight at night. But, we need the crib in order to do that! Gia's also been wanting to use the potty a lot more this week... that's a good thing except we'd finally decided to wait until we get back from a trip to Phoenix next month before we get hard core about potty boot camp. We may not have that luxury! We shall see....

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Joanna 10 Weeks

This week more than any other so far, I really think Joanna looks like Gia. Not so much even in their 10 week comparisons, but as I was editing this photo I just kept thinking it was Gia! Crazy! Sean was really busy with work this week, and had a lot of meetings and extra obligations he had to tend to. We are going stir crazy with the cold weather still lingering about. How dare it stay this long into March! Hoping the next week brings some reprieve and we can finally introduce Joanna to the sun! We are trying to get Joey to take a bottle, but so far haven't had any luck. I need to try to borrow a few different types of bottles to see if there is one she prefers more but we really, really, really want her to be able to take a bottle. Gia never did, and it was quite draining. Literally for 14 months, I was the only source of milk. It got better around 8 months when she was eating enough table foods that she wasn't nursing as much but it would still be really nice to get a break every now and then. 

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16 March 2014

Book Review: Redeeming Love

Years ago, I was in a non-fiction reading rut. Maybe it was the years I'd spent in Bible college with my required reading being heaving subjects on Christian Living that had me trapped in the mindset that if I wasn't reading a book with highlighter and pen in hand, I was wasting my time. Or maybe it was just that I hadn't read any good fiction books in years, but whatever the case I hadn't read a book for pleasure in many years. Several friends recommended Francine Rivers' "Redeeming Love" and they even billed it as the best book they'd ever read. Skeptical and with low expectations, I borrowed the book from a friend. Two chapters in, I couldn't put it down. I stayed up well into the early morning hours for several days in a row, devouring this book. So when I saw a new 20th century version was being released, I jumped at the chance to read it again and own the book. Despite the years in between reading and re-reading this book, it still captivated me from the very beginning. 

"Redeeming Love" is a re-telling of the Old Testament book of Hosea, only this time the setting is California's gold country in the 1800's. Central to the story is Angel, a beautiful young woman who was sold into prostitution at an early age. She has learned to despise men, selling herself because she knows no other way and feels trapped in her lifestyle. Enter Michael Hosea: a godly man who feels the Lord telling him to marry this harlot whom he barely knows. Though it makes no sense to Michael, he is obedient to God and sets out to woo and marry Angel. This proves to be a difficult task, given the years of walls Angel has built around her. Time and time again, Michael shows his love-- God's love-- for Angel in the way he relentlessly pursues her and cherishes her. This is a beautiful story of love and redemption (hence the title), but even more than that, it is a breathtaking illustration of God's love for us, his wayward children. The parallels between Angel and myself are undeniable. Of course I've never known a life of prostitution, but I have been guilty of abandoning my first love (God) in pursuit of selfish desires. Likewise, the similarities between the character of Michael Hosea and God are beautiful and all-consuming. God is a God who pursues and loves his children, even when we deny and abandon that love. 

I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting a good read that will not only entertain but will also speak directly to your heart.  

Though I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for the purposes of this review, the opinions are my own. 

06 March 2014

When A Card Won't Do

So my best friend had a big birthday this year. One of those milestone numbers that make you stop and think about every decade you've lived thus far, and all the people & places that filled the past years. I've of course known this birthday was coming up, and for more than a year, I've been thinking that I wanted to make her a quilt. That is actually the whole reason I asked for the quilting class for my birthday last summer! So its been a long time in the making. 

Why a quilt? Well, for many reasons, but the biggest reason is, well, a card just wouldn't do. I wrote about Tracy here and here but to sum it all up, she is my friend of a lifetime. We've spent years as besties, most of it long distance, and while cards are wonderful, I just didn't feel like that would be sufficient for this birthday.  Tracy and I have been through so much together. We met when I was still in high school, and I worked for her and her husband at a video store. Little did I know how that summer job I had originally applied for just to keep an eye on my lame boyfriend would shape the rest of my life! We've taken epic road trips, a couple awesome trips to What-Happens-In-Vegas-Stays-In-Vegas, birthdays, weddings, funerals, and babies. Tracy and I found out we were pregnant on the same day!!  Me with Whitney and Tracy with her sweet Isabella. That is to-date and will forever be one of my most precious memories in life. In fact, when I'm old and senile, and my memory has long faded, I hope someone will be there to remind me of that day I was standing in my bathroom, looking at my 6 positive pregnancy tests, and Tracy said, "Were your lines like, super dark? Or was one of them kinda faint? Because I just took a test and it has one really faint second line."  OMG, awesome. Tracy is the one friend I've had through the years that never gave up on me. After Whitney died, I didn't really talk to anyone but Sean and my parents. But Tracy called Sean nearly every. single. day. Just to check in on  me, ask him how I was and to let me know she still cared. Then after a couple weeks when I was ready to talk, we just cried on the phone together. By the way? That's how you help a hurting friend in need. Let them know you are there for them, even when they can't be there to reciprocate. 

I spent hours trying to find a quilt pattern and fabric I liked. Tracy said pink and blue where her favorite color combination, but I was worried about going to literal with that, because I didn't want it to look like a baby quilt. I knew I wanted to use a higher quality fabric, like Moda so I pinned a bunch of charm packs. You can see some of the other fabrics I considered on my Pinterest board here. Once I settled on the Scrumptious collection, I set about trying to find a pattern I liked. I finally settled on this disappearing 9 patch pattern. I used this awesome tutorial here. I particularly like this pattern because it is fairly straight forward, simple to piece and there are actually a lot of lay out options. 

I was fortunate to have my mom here several times while I was working on this quilt. She helped me decide on the final layout, and I love it!! My mom was also a HUGE help in finishing the top of this quilt. I knew Tracy was coming to visit in less than 2 months, and I had just had Joanna. My mom was here for 3 weeks after Joey was born and she helped me double the size of the quilt top! She is such an accomplished quilter, she whipped it out in no time. I'm so glad she was willing to help me with that, because I really like the finished size of this quilt. 

I finished the borders after mom left, and then was left with the dilemma of how to quilt it all together. For the backing, I decided to go with just one patterned fabric. I actually seamed the backing fabric horizontally, as opposed to vertically, and think it turned out just fine. I had great plans for some really intricate straight line quilting, but I just ran out of time. I started the quilting on the Monday before Tracy came on Thursday. So I had to go for something quick. This quilt is quite a bit bigger than my first quilt, so I was a little nervous about manuvering all the layers of fabric in my basic sewing machine. I wanted to try some free motion quilting, but decided now was not the time to try something so new and different that undoubtedly requires practice. I didn't want to mess up all the time and money I'd spent already with messy quilting! I love the look of lots of quilting-- there's nothing better in my book than a really soft, crinkly quilt. So I came across this technique of just sewing random wavy lines. The final verdict?? I LOVE it! I love the wavy line quilting. And if it hadn't been for a misstep with my bobbin tension, I would have had it all finished in a day or so. (I didn't adjust my bobbin tension correctly, so I wound up having to take out and re-do about 1/3 of the quilt!  Urg...) This is such a fun and simple method of quilting and it really does look good, I think.  

As you can see, I chose to just quilt the same way all over-- nothing special in the borders or anything. I think the softness of the wavy lines helps break up the structured linear-ness (not a word) of the disappearing 9-patch pattern.

Now about the binding... I prefer the look of hand stitching the binding to the back. But again, time. There just wasn't enough of it. So I googled around for a good tutorial on how to machine stitch the binding on. There are a ton of different options for this, and I would up using a combination of several different tutorial methods. Here is the one I liked best. This one suggested using a decorative stitch to finish the binding, something I had never considered. So after a test run on a small fabric sandwich, I decided on this wavy line. Somewhere in my math, however, I messed up and one side of my binding was bigger than the other. Meaning, if you look at the quilt from the back, the binding is about an inch. If you look at it from the front, it is more like an inch and a quarter. That's why the binding appears to ripple a little-- because it does! But I actually think it goes along with the wavy lines. And I actually really like the way it looked on both the front and the back.  I didn't get a really close up picture of the back, but the wavy lines go perfectly over both the binding and a teeny part of the backing fabric. You might be able to see that in the second picture above it you look reeealllly close. I chose to use a thread that matched the binding fabric, and I"m so glad I did. I wasn't sure how the teal thread would look on the back, but I think if I had used white thread, it would have looked messy and like a mistake.

One more new-to-me technique that I used on this quilt was a different way of joining the ends of my binding. I was taught to leave a really long tail on either end, the join them on the bias.... etc, etc. I can't really expalin it because I still don't fully understand it.  I also did not have enough left over of my binding to use this method that required leaving a 6-10 inch tail. (Oops, darn math again. Why do you think I went to Bible college?) So in my searching for machine binding, I found this awesome tutorial for joining the ends of your binding. The summary even says, "Start and end your binding using a pocket method that requires no math." Sold!! Revolutionary!!!  Watch this video, then try it. I was super happy with the result.

Even though Tracy and I hadn't seen each other in person for 5 years (!!!!!!!), we picked right back up where we left off. We talk on the phone several times a week so that helps, but its so good to have a friendship that isn't faded by years and miles. I love my friends here and am so thankful for them, but they all grew up together. They have memories and inside jokes that I"m not part of. It was so great to be with Tracy again and have those inside jokes and secrets to laugh about. We have secrets we'll take to the grave (unless we let them slip when we're old and senile, but then, everyone will just say 'eh, she's old and senile') and inside jokes that can have us rolling with laughter from the utterance of a couple words. (Swoosh! Tree pole dancing. Hee-haw!! Thunder! Old timey photos!) Much like this quilt, our friendship is cozy, woven together with years of love and laughter. And that's why a card just wouldn't do.

03 March 2014

Joanna 9 Weeks

Joanna had her two month check up this week! She weighs 10 pounds, 3 ounces and is 23.5 inches long. Although I do think she's long, that measurement might be a little on the exaggerated side. There is one nurse at our ped's office whose measurements always seem to be a bit generous in relation to all the others'. Either way, baby is growing! And miraculously, she is still sleeping 6-8 hours at night routinely. She is starting to get a bit of a flat head in the back, though, from all that time lying down. I'm trying some new positions, like on her side, so that it doesn't get bad. We are doing a delayed vaccine schedule again with her (like we did for Gianna), so she only got the Rotavirus oral vaccine and the singular (not combo) DTaP shot. She didn't seem to have any adverse reactions to either, thankfully! Sunday was the Oscars! One of my favorite days of the year. Joanna was a great companion for watching the Red Carpet stuff.  She cooed at all the right dresses. :) Just today, Joanna seems to have discovered her hands!! She held them up in front of her face while I was changing her diaper and just stared at them as she moved them around. She still prefers sucking on her fist as opposed to a pacifier. 

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