Christmas Crafting

Before the year ends tomorrow I wanted to post about a couple of Christmas crafts I took on this year.

Each year I knit an ornament. Last year it was hummingbirds, this year snowmen. I knit A LOT of these little guys. They knit up relatively quickly (in about an hour). The pattern is for sale here. So starting in October they are my go-to nap craft. They are the perfect stocking stuffer. They aren’t breakable, so they are a good present for little ones. They are light and easy to ship. We gave them to everyone from Ellis’ teachers to city boy this year.


The second craft is truly a last minute inspiration. I got a great shot of the boys at the Christmas parade this year that I wanted to enlarge as soon as I saw it. I remembered that Gretchen Rubin wrote about framing a Halloween picture of her kids each year. I don’t take great Halloween pics of the kids, but we always seem to get a few gems at Christmas time so I thought it might be fun to have a little seasonal gallery of a special Christmas photo from each year. Part time capsule, part decor. I snagged a pack of 11×14 canvases on sale at Michaels the day after Christmas. I want to put the pics on top of our bookcase in the living room. 11×14 fits the space and will be big enough to see. I didn’t even look into having canvases printed, because I wanted to have something that was easy for me to reproduce each year. DIY was my best bet.

DIY canvas tutorial
1) Select your photos and have them printed. (I use shutterfly. The quality is the best bang for your buck in my experience). I ordered 4 prints while they were having a 50% off sale.


2) Gather your supplies. I used matte Mod Podge and a 1.5 inch brush. Lay out your canvases on cardboard or a drop cloth.


3) Start with a layer of Mod Podge on the blank canvas.


4) Position your photograph on top of the layer of Mod Podge you just spread.

5) The scary step. Pour Mod Podge all over your picture and spread in an even layer. It is thick and white when it goes on, but it will dry clear. Trust me.


6) Make sure your brushstrokes are all going the same way. You will be able to see the brushstrokes faintly once the Mod Podge has dried.


7) Hold your breath and wait for it to dry.

8) I might try a clear coat since I will be storing these in the attic 11 months a year and I don’t want them to get tacky.

9) Enjoy your simple and inexpensive canvases for years to come.



So funny that a sweet canvas came in the mail today from you, city mama. I love it and it has already found a home in our gallery wall (although I might snag it for my office when I finally have a room of my own.) Thank you!!

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Whew, the end of the year never ceases to kick my butt.
We’ve had years where Eric has so many gigs that we don’t see each other from Thanksgiving until the flight home for Christmas. Last year, Luke was in the hospital. And this year, we made an offer on a house and I got the stomach flu.
Spoiler alert, we didn’t get the house.
In the last few months, Eric and I have begun wading into the home-buying process. We aren’t in a rush and in a market that very much favors the sellers, this is a marathon and not a sprint. Whether or not we end up in a home next month or three years from now, one thing I know for sure – no other process has pushed us to make decisions that truly align with our personal values.
It’s been a challenge each step of the way to ensure we are answering the question “just because we can, does that mean we should”
First we’ve decided to hold off on buying to make sure our downpayment was as strong as possible in a market where home prices are several times the national average.
We’ve decided to look at a property that will work for us for 3-5 years instead of 5+ because our long term prognoses for living in Los Angeles remains unclear.
We’ve struggled – originally looking at homes that are substantially larger than we need and beautifully finished, but further from where we work and play.
We’ve lowered our budget to make sure we each have flexibility with our careers to follow a path that feels right instead of one that is forced to keep our home.
For better or worse we are fiscally conservative and have greatly reduced the stress in our lives by living this way.
We’ve talked about the environmental impact of a bigger home than we need and the benefits of living in a smaller space as we raise our family.
Much like picking a partner, I think choosing a home calls out so many personal preferences that what works for one may almost never work for another. I fully expect the share the details of whatever place we land in and have others question our call. I think that’s okay (and man isn’t that a beautiful thing about growing older).
When we found out we didn’t get the house, I wasn’t surprised. Still, I was disappointed. The thought of putting down deeper roots sounds comforting to me right now and will give us some longer term stability that I want very much for Luke. All through the holidays though, I couldn’t help but be grateful that we have the luxury of being so selective.
We have lots to share about holiday crafts and presents finally gifted so more to come quite soon. In the meantime, we’re taking a tiny break from house hunting to embrace the new year. To reorganize, settle and reflect.
What are your plans for NYE? Any advice on how to celebrate with a toddler? Other things I want to know — how has it been being in the parenting “big leagues”? Is Adam’s new job going well? How is Cal’s arm?


We had a fantastic Christmas. Sure it is a humid 75 degrees here and our baby woke up 3 hours earlier than his brother, but we had a make it work kind of Christmas.
Adam surprised me with Young House Love’s new book. And he had John and Sherry inscribe it to me! I have to admit I blushed when I saw it.

Since you are one of the few people who would understand the significance of this special gift I just had to share it here. Without YHL who knows if we ever would have started this blog. I’m off to read my new book now that the little ones are asleep. Merry Christmas.

Booking it to Christmas

With just a week left until Christmas I wanted to share how we are doing our advent book tradition this year. We read a special Christmas book each night. I should point out that all of our books are secular, full of Santa and bears and Christmas magic because that’s how we celebrate Christmas. We are intentionally message light, which is probably why Ellis asks if the candles at Hanukkah are for Santa’s birthday. Oh well. We celebrate a lot of things here and the details are a little murky.

We have tried a different method each year and haven’t really settled into one yet. The first year we let Ellis pick any book in any order. Last year we were trying to teach Ellis how to open presents so I wrapped each book. This year I decided to display them in the reading corner, with special tags (that Cal is a big fan of tearing off).


I collected about 80% of the books from the thrift store. A few I specially requested as grandparent gifts and one or two were out of print so I had to seek them out online.

Here is a round up (with links in case you want to add any to your collections)

The Classics

Either Adam or I grew up reading these:

1) Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer– Little Golden Book
2) Carl’s Christmas– Alexandra Day. A beautiful wordless adventure book.
3) The Night Before Christmas -Tasha Tudor. The only acceptable version for Adam’s family. They read this book aloud lit by a special candle that they have been burning for 35 years on Christmas eve each year.


The Gems

Picking up books at the thrift store means we discovered some little known, but now much loved, books.

4) The Christmas Bear– Henrietta Stickland. Ellis loves this oversize book. It is intricately illustrated and he could look at it for hours.
5) The Dinosaur Night Before Christmas– Anne Muecke. This is our newest addition. It is the only book I added this year. I couldn’t resist the dino spin on the Christmas classic.
6) Santa Cows – Cooper Eden. This bizarre one is my favorite. It has crazy verse and I look forward to it each year.
7) Santa Through The Window – Taro Gomi. This might be the prettiest book in the mix.
8) Any Sabuda pop up book. We have three (The Night Before Christmas, Christmas and The 12 Days of Christmas) and each one is a delight.


The Themed Tie Ins

I plan these to correspond to a specific Christmas activity.

9) The Sweet Smell of Christmas – Patricia Scarry. A scratch and sniff book that I purchased new so that the scents were strong. We read this one on cookie making day.
10) The Polar Express – Chris Van Allsburg. A classic that we read the night before going on the Santa train which is our tradition each year.
11) Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree – Robert Barry. The book we read when we get our tree. I wanted the vintage edition. Out of print, but worth tracking down for the beautiful art.


The Age Appropriate

These books will rotate out as the boys grow out of board books. We will sub in others.

12) Who’s Getting Ready for Christmas? – Wood and Kneen
13) Merry Christmas Maisy – Lucy Cousins. A lift the flap book that interests Cal this year.
14) Merry Christmas – Egmont Books. This one lights up which is a great gimmick for right now.


All The Others

Because December is long…

15) The Star Tree– Gisela Colle
16) Albert’s Christmas– Leslie Tryon
17) Olivia Helps With Christmas– Ian Falconer
18) Pete The Cat Saves Christmas– James Dean
19) How the Grinch Stole Christmas– Dr. Seuss
20) Olive the Other Reindeer– Vivian Walsh
21) Bear Stays Up For Christmas-Wilson/Chapman
22) Counting to Christmas– Nacy Tafuri
23) The Curious Christmas Cats– George White

24) The Littlest Elf– Brandi Dougherty


City Mama do you have any special books you love at Christmas?

Baby’s First Break

So I was planning a lovely round-up of our advent Christmas books for today’s post, but then poor Cal broke his arm…

Yesterday I was getting Ellis dressed and Calvie was playing at the table in his brother’s room. Calvie reached for an ornament on the little tabletop Christmas tree and he tumbled off the child-size chair. I heard a thud and said a bad word as I scooped him up. He was really crying, which is unusual for my tough little guy who has never cried getting vaccines. He also wanted to comfort nurse which is even more unusual for him. I held him for about ten minutes until he calmed down and then he went off to play. He was playing on the ground and I noticed that he couldn’t lift himself up into a crawling position. I got a very bad feeling in the pit of my stomach and took his jacket off to check his arm. He had a red mark right above his wrist and I immediately thought “Oh no, I bet this is broken.”

I called the doctor who told us to go to urgent care. Aunt Stacy raced over to our house to be with Ellis. As soon as she arrived Cal started playing. He was laughing and using both hands. He even had a toy around his wrist at one point and it didn’t seem to phase him. My initial gut reaction said “broken” but now he seemed fine. Our vet happened to be right outside so I asked him to take a quick look at Cal’s arm because he is a fellow parent and he spends all day examining the small bodies of beings who can’t say what is wrong with words. He examined Cal’s wrist and other than being slightly tender we couldn’t find anything wrong. We let Cal go outside to play. We were watching him chase the chickens in the backyard and he fell down in the grass and again couldn’t push himself up.

I decided that even with almost no symptoms he needed to be checked out. So off we went to urgent care. The first doc we saw was incredibly preoccupied with the fact the Cal bumped his head when he fell. He kept calling it a “head injury.” He was obviously not a parent and I didn’t know how to explain that head bumping is a primary activity for a 15 month old. I figured it would not be reassuring to tell the doc he does that every day. I knew his head was fine and I was pretty sure his wrist wasn’t. They finally took him to get an x-ray, but at that point he was so happy I was starting to feel silly for being there at all. But then we got the x-ray back and sure enough he has a buckle fracture to the radius.


Unfortunately they couldn’t cast him at the urgent care we were at. We had to head over to an orthopedic urgent care (didn’t know that was even a thing) and go through the whole urgent care process again (co-pay and all). By this time it was late in the day and Adam was able to meet us on his way home from work, which was such a relief since I was pretty maxed out on dealing with doctors, bureaucracies and a toddler.

So for the next 3 weeks Calvin will be rocking a festive red cast. And now we know how to get him fixed up the next time this happens. And I am pretty sure with that daredevil there will be a next time. In fact I have been prepared for a broken bone since Cal became mobile. His first crawl was up the stairs. He climbed out of his crib on his first birthday. I knew it was only a matter of time before our little humpty dumpty would need to be put back together again.


The Great Los Angeles Bake Off

This Saturday I got to enjoy a highlight of the holiday season — my annual day of cookie baking with some of my favorite LA ladies. Last year we missed it. Luke had pneumonia and our house was struggling big time. So, it made this year all the more sweet. Add on to that our first visit to Sarah’s beautiful new home and I was eagerly awaiting the day.

IMG_4203Up at 6 with a toddler who has yet to adjust to the time change, Luke and I had more than enough time to hit the store and mix up my cookie batter in advance of the party. If I’ve learned anything the last few years it’s that having cookies in various stages of the process allows us to jump in and get going early when we still have stamina. Luke’s become pretty good about helping in the kitchen and this time he got the extra special task of licking the beaters.

We made these Chewy Lemon Snowdrop cookies that I found on Pinterest. They are much like a lemon bar and maximize one of my favorite winter CA ingredients with the use of both the zest and the juice. I would definitely make them again.

Kelli’s known for her sugar cookie cut outs and puts a huge effort into making the day a success. This year Sarah manned the oven with some serious efficiency. I don’t think we used the timer more than twice. Katie brought along a homemade limoncello that was way to delicious for my own good.

IMG_4205Everyone brings at least one cookie recipe and 80% of their kitchen equipment. We spend hours and hours in the kitchen using every pan we can find. There’s usually an unsuspecting husband/man-partner who staggers into the kitchen at some point completely unprepared for the production that is sprawled out before him. We usually play christmas music. We always have booze and an intense amount of cheese. We share a lot of good stories, we get a little crass and are definitely creating a tradition that none of us are eager to walk away from any time soon.

Having hosted the festivities on a handful of occasions, I was pleased to learn that being the first to leave meant I left with a reasonable portion of cookies for our household of 3 to consume before we head east for the holidays. Hosting herself this year, I can imagine that Sarah and Leon are up to their eyeballs in cookies but are no doubt the grateful recipients of the treats.

What are you baking these days Country Mama?

Round and Round

Christmas is in full swing here (I hope to pull together a full post about it soon), but in the meantime I wanted to share my favorite kind of thrifty little project. One that was quick, easy and cheap. I am so happy with the way it turned out.

I have been coveting a big circle scarf for a while. I have a lightweight knit one that I wear a ton, but I wanted a heavy jersey one. Specifically I was lusting after the American Apparel striped unisex circle scarf. But the $28 price tag was WAY over my scarf budget.

Screen shot 2015-12-03 at 9.33.50 PM

So I started to dream up work-arounds. I kept my eye open for interesting jersey textiles at the thrift store thinking I might be able to convert some t-shirt sheets into a tube scarf. No need. I came across a scrap of heavy stretchy stripy knit fabric. It was mine for $1.


I didn’t have to trim it at all. All I did was stitch together the edges. Trying my best to line up the stripes (not easy with a stretchy fabric) was the hardest part. But 5 minutes later, voila. The perfect oversized circle scarf. It is great for wearing in a long loop or wrapped twice to make a collar around the neck. I am even fond of the more dramatic hooded variation.


So for $27 less I was able to make my own bold circle scarf. Bring on the chill. I am ready for it.


First of all, I’m thankful that even though the internet ate my post from last week and I didn’t realize it until Thursday, I knew you wouldn’t mind. Fear not, it was not a script for the ages but merely a note to a friend about the happenings of our recent days. So, whether user error or technology fail, I’m hoping this week’s post makes it to production.

Our thanksgiving was 1

Several years ago, probably 5ish, we decided that Thanksgiving was “our” holiday. There was too much stress in the travel and it was too close to Christmas. So, we set out the goal to really own Thanksgiving. We’ve traveled for Thanksgiving — my favorite being a road trip to Sedona where we biked miles around the mountains each day and cooked like crazy in our vacation rental.

But, the last three years we laid low. I was pregnant, then we had a little Lucas with a cold, and this year, a bigger Lucas who was recovering from croup.

Wednesday night we were all in the kitchen baking together. We make Eric’s grandmother’s sour cream apple pie. Luke stirred the ingredients together waiting patiently until I measured something else out. We made pumpkin pie from the recipe on the back of the can. And with the excess pumpkin, bread for the morning.

Thursday we watched the parade and Luke danced around our living room cheering at Gloria Estefan and the Rockettes. We had FaceTime visits with all the aunts, uncles and grandparents. We all took naps.

About an hour before dinner, Luke was getting stir crazy and I wasn’t far behind. We took a quick walk around our neighborhood just at dusk. It was amazing seeing cars pull up to houses where people were rushing to greet each other. Music was playing loud enough that we could hear it in the street thanks to open doors and windows. And we could hear people chatting and laughing. After so much bad news in the world the last few weeks, it reminded me that by and large people are good and want to love and give and care for one another. It was truly good for my soul.

photo 2Our dinner was delicious. We made brie en crute at lunchtime stuffed with mushrooms. A turkey breast, stuffing, mashed potatoes for dinner — paired with leftover roast pumpkin from dinner out earlier in the week (Eric claimed this was such a city mama move that I had to include it). And afterwards, we danced in our living room before Luke went to bed.

photo 3Friday, Luke’s day care was open and we took him for a few hours so that we could take a hike. We drove to Angeles National Forest and followed a trail that we’ve hiked before. We were above the snow line so it was nice and brisk — a great change for people who are constantly sweaty when they’re out. Then we hopped off the trail in search of something Eric saw on the map called Super Cloud Hallow. It was a huge open expanse in the midst of rows of mountain peaks. Deer must spend tons of time there because we saw lots of scat and antlers.

photo 4The rest of the weekend was for errands, decorating and just hanging out. Sunday night, Hollywood puts on an annual Christmas parade with high school bands from around the country and a host of D-list celebrities. Luke has never been to a parade so we thought we’d try it. He loved it. The parade was an hour late in starting but he was throughly entertained practicing going up and down on the curb, watching the blimp fly over head and looking for dogs. I think it was the icing on the cake when the police motorcycles flew by and the real show started. Definitely a great experience for him and a fun time for us.

I feel like the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is compressed this year. Especially since we’re traveling on the earlier side of the holiday. Christmas is here in full swing and I’m busy with crafts, making my list and checking it twice. How about you??