Monday, July 30, 2012

Peace.

There are so many things to love about our new house, but the awesome backyard really tops the list.

Let me tell you, this photo doesn't do justice to the size of the backyard – you're probably only seeing close to half of it. It's huge; probably four times bigger than our old backyard. There's an enormous lawn for the kids to run around on, giant bushes with hollow centers for future fort construction and plenty of hidden areas for little ones to explore. 

And there are no houses along the back fence! I can't even begin to explain how happy this makes us. Our last home had houses on all sides, and they were all very close to our house. One side had been host to a number of vicious dogs that constantly barked at my kids, attacked the fence between our houses when we were outside and fought each other with great regularity (I swear to you, it sounded as though they were mauling something!). The house along the back fence wasn't much better. Over the years, there were also late night parties, trash thrown over the fence and other such delights. 

Now, when we look out our living room window at the back fence all we see are trees. We can turn the kids loose in the backyard without worrying about them anymore. And we finally feel at peace.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The fair skin brigade.

The sun and I are not friends.

It likes to shine. My skin likes to burn.

Tragically, I live in super-sunny California where the sun shines brightly nearly all year long. (Okay, I know it's not entirely tragic... but if you're like me and wilt in the sun you wish you could live in Oregon or Washington where the sun never peeks out from behind the clouds!)

My two little sweeties seem to have inherited my fair skin, so you can imagine what packing for vacation looks like at my house. Picture me running around the house looking for hats, fretting about the size of the brims of said hats and worrying that the brand-new bottle of sunscreen I bought just for the trip won't protect our skin well enough. 

And every trip I have an angry freak-out moment when I realize that my strict sunscreen application regimen (every two hours) has failed and someone – namely me or one of the kids, since hubby doesn't burn as easily as we do – has turned a shade of pink. 

It's stressful. And it makes my vacation less relaxing.

This last trip, I was determined to beat the sun. First, I needed a new hat. My old sun hat was more of a fisherman's hat, which didn't have quite the coverage I needed. So I ran out and bought that lovely black hat you see in the photo above. Don't I look wildly out of place at Disneyland? I loved every minute of it! And so did my skin.

Sun hat purchased, I started shopping for a new sunscreen. My usual bottle of SPF 50 sunscreen wasn't cutting it, even though it contained 2.4% titanium dioxide (an awesome physical sunscreen ingredient, by the way). Clearly, though, it wasn't enough for this crew. Unfortunately, Target's selection of extreme sun repellants was sorely lacking so on a hunch I ventured over to Babies 'R Us. If you're like me, you've found that baby sunscreen is often better formulated than sunscreen designed for the rest of us. 

Finally, I hit pay dirt! BabyGanics Cover Up Baby SPF 50 sunscreen is AMAZING! It goes on thick, so you really have to rub it in thanks to the copious amounts of zinc oxide they cram in there (11.7%!). As an added bonus, there is no PABA, no parabens, no sulfates, no phthalates and it's hypoalergenic. Oh, and it's budget-friendly at less than $10 a bottle!

Of course, we still reapplied every 2.5 hours because that's how I roll. But for the first time in I don't know how many years no one got burned! And mama didn't undergo a tearful angry tirade in the hotel bathroom before bed on any single night of our trip. That, my friends, is priceless.

Let me add that no one is paying me to say this. I didn't receive a single sunscreen freebie. I just wanted to share a great sunscreen to help you and your little ones avoid burning on your summer outings. And if you know of other awesome sunscreens, I'd love to hear about them – I'm always in the market!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Peach crisp

Today I made peach crisp for the first time.

After the week I've had*, it felt good to bake. To do something normal again. Look at those gorgeous peaches. And that amazing wooden fruit box!

My hubby's grandma (I can't even begin to tell you what a treasure she is!) has a peach tree in her backyard and apparently the branches were so heavy with fruit this year that she had propped them up with wooden boards.

The box is on loan from her house, I'm sure she's had it from the days when her late husband was a store manager at their local Safeway grocery store – hubby's parents used it to collect the fruit during their visit this week.

The peaches are yummy and ripe and taste of summer. The kids have been enjoying them with meals, but with so many in the box I knew I had to make a special something so none of that sweetness would go to waste. I didn't have the time or energy to whip up a pie crust, so I narrowed my choices to a cobbler or crisp.

A quick internet search yielded a recipe for maple peach crisp over at The Pioneer Woman. Of course, we just moved a few days ago so I was missing a few key ingredients, like lemon and maple syrup. Oh, and I didn't bother with the sauce.

But you know what? It was yummy and easy and absolutely perfect.

Exactly the way a dessert should be.


*Our vacation was wonderful... until the last day when a nasty virus began to make its way through my entire family. We ended up spending an extra night in a hotel so my husband could recover enough to drive home and Miss C. could recover after being hit with it on the ride home. We finally made it home just in time for me to fall ill with the plague... or whatever it was we had... and then Master W. contracted it a day later. Oh, and did I mention we had to move into our new house four days later? Yeah, good times! Fortunately, we survived and all is well again!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Miss M.'s quilt

We're having fun Disneyland this week (hooray!), so I wrote this little post up ahead of time to keep things fresh over here at needle and nest. So while I may not respond to comments right away, I will be checking in and responding in the evenings after I've tucked my two tired munchkins into bed. Thanks for visiting!

My sweet niece, Miss M., was born a week ago today. She made quite an entrance: she was born 10 days late and weighed in at a whopping 10 lbs.!

My mom went to Texas to help my brother and sister-in-law with their other little sweetie, Miss E., so she was able to deliver this baby quilt for me just before Miss M.'s arrival. I love baby quilts and blankets, but I know from my own experience as a mother that a larger one will be well loved through the toddler years and beyond so I made this one extra large for my sweet niece.

The quilting on Miss M.'s scrappy little quilt was a test run for the wedding quilt I'm going to start for my older brother and his fiancee in a few weeks. It's all straight line quilting, done using my walking foot. The main difference between this quilt and the others that I've straight-line quilted is that I had a lot of fun changing direction and intersecting my lines. I think it really gives the quilting a sense of movement and vibrancy.

I did get a chance to show the quilt to my brother and future sister-in-law before my mom left for Texas, and they love it (thank goodness!) and are eager for me to get started on their quilt.



Of course, I completely forgot to take photos in my haste to finish the quilt before my mom left for Texas. Thankfully, my mom was able to snap a few before she left. Thanks, Mom!



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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Mini messenger bag

How often do you find yourself scrambling to sew up some "essential" item right before a trip? For whatever reason that kind of thing seems to happen to me almost every time we head out of town. Sometimes it's a gift for someone we're visiting. Other times, it's an all-important Darth Vader costume for a certain special bear.

Our upcoming trip to Disneyland seems to be no exception. This time around, I was the one who needed something! I had somehow forgotten that being pregnant means I have no pockets for holding money, lip balm or even my phone since I'm living in skirts and dresses right now. So, I figured I'd need a small purse to carry all of my essentials as we traverse the Happiest Place on Earth.

Add in the fact that I don't really enjoy speed shopping with my mini entourage in tow, I figured it would be much easier (and far more fun!) for me to simply whip something up.

Enter the mini messenger bag: a cute little messenger bag made entirely of scraps and leftover bits in my stash. The yummy prints are all from the scrap pack I won in the Festival of Scrappiness, courtesy of Badskirt Amy. The gray linen-look and lining fabrics are all JoAnn purchases (I think the polka dot print might be Denyse Schmidt?), leftovers from other projects that have just been waiting to be turned into something fun.

This is my first shot at a quilted bag and since I wanted to keep things simple... and, um, cheap... I didn't use a pattern or a zipper (I didn't have either one on hand). Hook and loop tape does the job, though, and I'm quite pleased with the results!

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