Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year in Review: Our Favs

Can you believe 2011 is almost over?! I sure can't! We did a ton of projects this year--which I doubt we can match in the up-coming year. But, who knows, right? The house still has some areas that I'd love to re-do and Theo's nursery still needs some finishing touches {um, like a crib mattress!}.

I'm a sucker for looking back. I love the nostalgia it brings and have always loved looking back at memories, pictures, and past posts we've done. You can see on the right handed tool bar what our most popular posts have been {based on google's stats}, so I'm not really going to focus on those. Instead, I'm going to highlight some of our personal favs from this year. Now that we've had some time to spend with them, stared at them or used them, we have a better idea of the ones we love. 

Here they are in no particular order...

These turned out to be one of my {Jess's} favorite finished projects. I love seeing them hang over our bed and look at them often. They even inspired me to do my maternity photo shoot in our bedroom.
That last one is so great: even though W couldn't be there but he was still there. :)

One of our projects that's used And he loves it. I remember the mornings when he was first transitioning. You could tell that he knew he was accomplishing something big and was so proud of himself. And we may or may not have slept in it too, some mornings just to attempt some more shut-eye. W says its one of his favs too because it was the first thing we built together...those nights in the garage together after E was asleep.

Still one of my favorite pieces of furniture. It's now a bit more filled in on top with all of our stuff AND a changing pad. But the yellow is so cheery and really brightens up the room.

Yet another piece that's used every day. The bottom shelves are now filled in with more crafting supplies {which by the way needs another re-organization session}. Nonetheless, the extra space is wonderful! 
Ezra still loves these. And so do we! Not only does it use book covers for eye-catching appeal, I've found they make clean-up easy. W also decorated them for the Christmas season which was fun.

May your 2012 bring you more cheer, love & extra time for projects!

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

From Ours to Yours

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!

The Swensons

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Our Christmas Must-Reads

Maybe it's the teacher in me, but I just love a good theme then finding books to fit accordingly. And the winter/Christmas theme is one of my favorites! We have a special basket set aside for our library books {in the hopes of avoiding late fines} and for this month, I added our Christmas-y ones too. Here's E's favorite from this year...

I bought this cute little board book last year and Ezra loves it. It's an adorable, rhyming tale sharing how snowmen celebrate Christmas.

Another one of his total favorites. I know Gma and Gpa have read this to him many many times throughout this past year, which may have fostered his love for it now. He requests this book while he rides his horse {the big Swenson chair} and will 'sing' some of the words with me. And, of course, I love that it's by an Ezra too.

 This was an awesome but surprising find at our library. It's another song book, but the illustrations are amazing. I wasn't too keen on the cover, but after going through the whole book, I loved it! It depicts the Nativity story in beautiful blues, grays, and whites. And there's one scene with Mary nursing baby Jesus with angels, Joseph, and the sheep that just so precious. Something about it just hit close to home and brought the story to life. I think I know the whole "he came to earth as a helpless baby", but to see that simple scene of nursing him made it that much more real. Oh, yeah, he was a baby and had to be fed. Plus, it's a great way to share a Christmas Carol's meaning through its pictures. I think I may have to add this one to our personal collection.

This one is like a "duh!" book this year. He totally getting into the train-loving stage. Ezra first saw the movie with his cousins down in Orange County and has since requested it many times. I picked this one up at the library too just to make sure he'd like it before buying it. It was an instant hit. And Chris Van Allsburg is one of my favorite favorite children's authors. He packs in SO much into his books! My 5th graders did a ton of literary analysis with his books and could easily write a response to literature essay too. So good for developing higher levels of thinking!

Ezra just got this one for his birthday and already we love it. It's by the same author as the Jesus Storybook Bible. A beautiful story about how all the animals are awaiting the Prince of Peace!

This is one of my books from childhood that my mom gave me. It's a completely silly story and sometimes it feels like the rhyme is forced, but he likes it. And I do too, but just for sentimental reasons. ;)

Any other good books we should know about??

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cupcakes + Cocktails 2nd Birthday

 It was party time at the gparent's house this past weekend when my oldest guy turned TWO! Here's the handsome little guy.

I bought his birthday crown from Etsy last year. I found his born TWO ride motorcycle shirt a few months ago and used it for my color inspiration.

We decided to do another low-key, family and long time friends party. I still haven't mustered up the guts to take on a kids' party. And with this season of stress and too-much, I'm totally okay keeping it low-key until he gets a bit older. But at least I played it up just a little more compared to last year. I actually got a theme and color scheme. Major steps, I know. I went with "Cupcakes + Cocktails" for our theme and with red and white as the colors. It also happened to tie into the season too! Both actually simplified my planning a ton. 

Guess what we served? Yup, cupcakes and cocktails. Simple as that. 

W was in charge of making icing & topping the cupcakes a friend and I had made earlier in the week {and froze}. The menu called for two different types of cream cheese frosting: Peppermint and Vanilla. Thanks to pinterest, I found this fabulous yummy blog called Glorious Treats, where I also used her cupcake recipes.

We had a cupcake bar...

Recognize any decorations?! Yup, simple again. I pulled most of our red and white Christmas decorations and moved them to my parents! I also grabbed Ezra's picture frames from his room, and my two cake stands. The table linens are felt leftovers. 

The only two things I actually created were the spray-painted picture frame for the menu and the 'Happy Birthday' sign. Thanks again to pinterest, I printed out the sign on white cardstock, cut out the letters with an exacto-knife and taped red scrapbook paper to the back. Then I hung it with red tulle.

And the cocktail bar...

The bartender was very generous with the Berry Merry Xmas cocktail. I had one and it was one too many. Then again, I'm such a light-weight.

We all had a great time! And were so blessed to have so many people who love our little guy!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hand {& Foot} Print Ornaments

I've been lamenting lately about how Theo has zero ornaments this year. And I was still wanting to add another homemade ornament to our tree this year.Why not come up with an ornament that does both?

So my hunt began and my criteria was simple: homemade, easy for Mama to prep, personalized, and kid-friendly. And I found this:
Salt Dough Ornaments

I made my salt dough during the boys' naps. Since we don't have any cookie cutters yet {tragedy, I know!}, I had to great creative. Then the idea hit me: PRINTS!

I'd also been lamenting this whole year that I don't have any of E's {and subsequently of T either}. In fact, it became one of my New Year's Resolutions at the beginning of this year. And I finally and actually fulfilled my goal. What?! I'm still in shock since I still can barely meet the daily goals of brushing my teeth, getting deodorant on and oh, forget make-up.... So sorry, I digress...

I followed the recipe. Worked my dough out.

Found my forms:
Put the dough ornaments on parchment paper and used a skewer to get a hole through the tops of them. I made sure that the hole went through  all the way.

Once the boys were up, I helped them pressed their respected appendage into the dough. I then used some small letter stamps that my mom had to get their names on too {got that idea here}. Then into the oven they went at 250 degrees for about 3 hours.

Cost: Free {if you already have the flour and salt}

After they harden, I strung some jute string through the holes and hung those adorable babies up.
 You could also try painting them as see here.

Additional Tips: 
**don't make your ornaments too far in advance. By the time Theo woke up, his were already starting to harden so I had to re-roll his out again
**I wrote 2011 on the back with pen once they were dry, but using the skewer would have worked too
**water was my best friend to get that dough-y texture in order to get decent prints. Whenever the dough got too cracked and hard, I just added some more warm water to my hands and re-worked the dough.
**I tried doing a hand print of T's but I just couldn't keep it open long enough to press it while holding him upright. Should've seen how silly that looked. So I opted for a foot print and it came out so much better.
**I plan on sealing the ornaments with a clear spray to keep for years to come.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

All The Stockings Are Hung

{I used this pattern again to add Theo's stocking to our bunch this year. And until further notice, he's the prep-ster of the family...}

Monday, December 12, 2011

Felt Monogram Ornaments

{archived 12.13.10}
Never go to a Christmas party empty-handed!
{the 'S' is for our hostess' last name...not ours..just to clear the air on that one...}
These ornaments turned out to be much easier than I 20 minutes easy! So excited!! I used this tutorial that Dana from Made created. Already planning more for friends and family and for us, of course. I also embroidered '2010' on the back.
And here's the behind the scenes view:
The hubby was so happy to hear that there are more in the works. Needless to say, we'd love a project desk right about now....

Saturday, December 10, 2011

{Martha Stewart} Christmas Card Wreath

Another great find on pinerest...

What you need:
glue gun 
glue sticks
wide wired ribbon
clothes pins
quilter's or embroidery hoop {I used an 18 inch quilter's}

I had all but the hoop and then found some fun plaid ribbon I just couldn't pass up {of course} which brought this craft's cost to about $8.

My take:

All I did was place the pins first to get my desired spacing, made sure to alternate which way the pin's opening went, and then glued those puppies in place.
Put a big bow on top with enough slack to hang, and there you have it: a really quick and easy way to display those beautiful Christmas cards you'll be receiving all this month. Which reminds me that we STILL haven't taken our pictures for. Argh. 

Thanks pinterest & Martha! You guys are the best!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Merry & Bright {Our Home Decorations}

 Over the last two weeks, we slowly got out our decorations, got our tree {thank you again, Home Depot}, and transformed our home into merry & bright.
I ordered this pinerest print and W put my ornament wreath from last year outside on the door.
This was probably the first year that I felt like we were pulling out 'our' decorations. My mom gave me most of her things after we got married, like the pillow below. This has been so great because our home is still merry while we slowly add/modify our decorations. Now I'm finally making and collecting items myself. Definitely a fun adventure.
Our sweet chalkboard finally looks complete...

W set up the advent wreath he made last year. Last Sunday night during dinner, we lit the candle, explained the significance of advent, read some verses and sang a song that focused on the anticipation of His arrival. I picked one of the verses to put on the chalkboard to memorize this week. Can I just tell you how successful its been already?! I'm really enjoying have His word in my line of sight throughout the day!

The peppermint wreath is a craft courtesy of pinterest. I used this tutorial. Four bags of candy and two trips to Target later, I got this beauty. And its four pounds of heavy! The jars are filled with candy canes and peppermint bark.

Until I get around to making one, we've been using the advent calendar. It's the one I grew up with; moving the little mouse. Does that make it vintage if its over 20 years old? ;) Either way, E loves that little mouse.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

{Dude Style} Advent Wreath

DIY Advent Wreath {Dude's style}

foam wreath
cheap green wreath
set of advent candles
large white candle
silver plate charger
candle holder for white candle {not pictured; we had one around the house}
zip-ties {also not pictured; told you it was a dude diy}

What to do:
W cut the foam wreath in half width-wise with an exacto-knife
Pushed the four outside candles into the foam for placement
Zip-tied the green wreath to the foam {i probably would have attempted a glue gun}
Re-place outer candles in foam through the green wreath
Place on top of charger
Put white candle in holder then in the center of the charger
Spread green leaves out to cover any exposed foam

W made this last year and we've already started our Sunday evening advent time for this year!