Saturday, January 30, 2016

A little less old ladyish?

I read an article the other day about the health benefits of crocheting. Apparently, spending your time with hook and yarn in hand lowers stress and can add years to your life.


I really crochet to keep my hands busy while watching TV with my husband. In the last three years, I've definitely gotten more crochet crazy, cranking out blanket after blanket. I love giving these handmade items as gifts, as I think giving such a keepsake is a good way of saying "you are special enough to me that I spent the time to make this for you!"

The only issue is that I really struggled to find patterns that didn't look like something your great grandma would have thrown over the back of her plastic slip-covered couch. I did some fun stuff with bright patterns, and then I discovered appliques!

These baby blankets are three of my favorites I've every done.

I really think these retain the "keepsake" nature of a gift, but also allow for something very personal and more modern looking. As an example, the bottom blanket was for a friend who used a pond theme in her daughters nursery.

All of these patterns are available on Ravelry saved in my queue. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Shower Hosting: Little Touches for a Big Impact

My group of friends is in the midst of a baby boom, and as a result I've had the opportunity to plan lots of baby showers lately. Luckily, most of my friends and I have eschewed the traditional shower of afternoon tea, cookies, and weirdo games. However, we did all stick with one element of baby showers that I do love: the theme!

I love planning theme parties. I always want to go ALL OUT and make it look like the theme threw up on everything. However, it becomes very, very difficult for me to balance everything I want to do for the theme with what I hope to spend on the party. What's more, though the decorating part is the most fun, I actually think the food part is the most important of any party, so it becomes a tough balance to strike. 

Thus, I've come up with lots of ways to get a theme across without breaking the bank. These little touches can have a huge impact on your event!

Paper. As a writer, I love paper. Particularly for a shower, if you're planning printables, plan on something other than white paper. For my Harry Potter baby shower, everything was printed on thick, cream-colored parchment. For a nautical shower I recently hosted, we used thin, mottled vellum. A pack of paper will cost $10 and add a lot to the feel. 

Signage. Some simple signs can really make an event feel put together. I love tent cards for food (with theme-related names), and station signs. These are examples of what I put together for that nautical shower, using frames I had at the house. These didn't cost anything but time and added a nice ambiance. 

Favors. I am big on favors for showers (I am pretty old fashioned about lavishing guests at events where they bring gifts), but favors do not have to be super expensive. For a friend's shower last summer, we bought a big bucket of Chicago popcorn (to honor Dad-to-be's home town), bagged it, and added a cute sticker that said "Thanks for Popping By!" Each one cost about 50 cents. Likewise, for the nautical shower, I put a few pieces of taffy in a bag and a tag that said "We're Whaley Glad You Came!" which cost about 75 cents each. 

Tableware. This is where parties get expensive. You can buy all kinds of themed plates, cups, etc. but will eat up your budget very fast. I tend to go more towards simple (i.e. solid colored tablecloth, coordinating plates all bought at the dollar store), and add one or two elements to make a theme pop-- for example, these cute silverware bundles I made (thank you Pinterest!) to add a nautical element to a shower table. 

Use the Food. Since I am big on dedicating most of my budget to making sure guests eat well, I often try to pull a dish or two in to support the theme. As an example, a "Bubbles and Brunch" bridal shower I co-hosted featured these french toast bites served in small plastic champagne flutes with maple syrup. The flutes were about $8, but it definitely made our food table pop!

Regardless of your theme, you can bring in a few good elements without breaking the bank!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

My Baby Shower Didn't Suck!

I am way late in posting this (since my son is sleeping soundly behind me), but I owe many thanks for three incredible ladies who threw me the world's best baby shower.For the record, I am one of those women that generally hates any kind of event with the word "shower" in the title. I associate them with lame food, forced small talk, and awkward games (unfair, I know... showers are changing). Luckily, my shower-planners know this about me and so they put together an event that was a bit different.

First of all, it was Harry Potter themed! And they let me help come up with some of the decorations and activities. The food was incredible, and the whole event was exactly what I wanted-- celebrating my little man in a non-stodgy way with the people I love most.

Here are some of the photos and a few of the touches I most appreciated!

The Food:

That's what its all about, right? Well, we wanted to steer clear of anything that wasn't delicious just so we could stick to the theme. Thus, my brilliant friends got creative. The food table was all about "Herbology Bites," meaning that each dish featured a key herb. We made tags for them explaning the "mystical" uses of each herb.

For instance, said brilliant friend tossed some fresh berries in Hibiscus sugar and the tag said:
Hibiscus- Critical component of love potions 

And it all came out beautifully. 


I am big on lots of drink options, so I asked to be in charge of drinks. We had lots of things on theme! Again, I went for flavor over anything, so my butterbeer was just salted caramel ice cream and cream soda.  People loved it!


My sister had a BLAST with decorating. Check out some of what she put together.


Some of my favorite elements! Our guests had a blast with our photo  booth....

 The Favors:

One of the other elements I was in charge of. I spent months crocheting scarves in Harry Potter house colors. As they left, our guests donned a sorting hat, pulled a house name out of a jar, and took a scarf for the road.

 And so, as you can see, this was not a traditional shower, but it was the perfect one for me!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Your Unsolicited Advice Doesn’t Make You Helpful. It Makes You A Jerk

Dear Well-Intentioned Third Cousin/Long Lost High School Acquaintance/Random Lady at Target,

You know that saying about opinions being like assholes? Well, did you know that forcing yours upon me may make  you an asshole? Since I am sure you had only the best of intentions when offering your unsolicited advice to this new mom, please allow me to explain.

I didn’t think much of it when we came home from the hospital with my beautiful son, who looked so impossibly tiny and overwhelmingly fragile, when I worried over every little thing—that is what new moms do, right? We worry.

And you, you well intentioned advice-giver, you popped up and made it all so much worse.
Remember that adorable video I shared of my kid repeatedly spitting out his pacifier? I am sure you thought it was helpful to respond by explaining to me what I was doing wrong in trying to get him to take one. Did you know the only reason I offered it to him was to cut down on the risk of SIDS? He slept that night. I watched, panicked that he might stop breathing because I had failed at this basic task.

Remember when you called to check on me and I mentioned being tired? I sure do appreciate all of your advice on getting my 3 week old to sleep through the night. Did it occur to you that I might spend hours googling “newborn sleep” to see what I was doing wrong? Instead of playing with my baby, I was trying to figure out how you were just instinctively so much better at being a mother than I was.

Remember when you needed to stop me, a complete stranger, in the aisle at Target to tell me my baby was too cold (which you could tell by watching him sleep peacefully in his carrier)? Did you mean to make me cry all the way home because even people who had never met me knew I couldn’t do this?
Yep… all of that advice sure helped this exhausted and terrified new mom feel like a failure.

Sure, it wasn’t actually you. It was that bitch estrogen and her friend exhaustion. After multiple reassurances from my son’s pediatrician that he was doing just perfectly, and a few weeks for the hormones to wash out of my frenzied system, I finally felt like I had a handle on things.

Nonetheless, I can’t help but wonder how you could fail to remember how scary being a new mom is. It’s terrifying. I need a ton of advice, but I ask for it when I want it from people that I know a little better than I know you.

I can give you the benefit of the doubt and assume your intentions were, in fact, good.  Perhaps after surviving my son’s infancy and childhood, I will find passing on my sage wisdom to new moms rewarding… but I probably won’t do it because I will remember that your unsolicited advice made a tough time in my life a little worse. You took just a few more minutes that I could have spent staring lovingly at my amazing kid and filled them with anxiety and doubt.

Thus, I have some unsolicited advice for you—always remember that new moms know how to ask for help and feedback, and if they aren’t asking, and their kid isn’t in danger because of something they are doing, it may be best to keep your thoughts to yourself. Let not being an asshole be your reward.