Kitchen: Pots and Pans Organizer

We have a reasonably long "to do" list for the kitchen in our house. Nothing overly pressing. Mostly wants. One of which was conquered over the weekend thanks to a Christmas gift.

The pots and pans cabinet has always been a frustration. Even in our last house. Pots stacked inside one another would get stuck and scratched up so we tried to stack larger on top of small which made an odd tower. Our pans and lids were also stacked as well. We were forever knocking some over or having to pull most out to reach the single item we wanted without sending others flying. Seriously, first world problems here, but something we could change.

After searching online for options, I came upon the Rev-A-Shelf 2 Tier Metal Pull Out Basket at Lowes. Yesterday, the boys installed it (ok, technically Trent did the majority, but he did get a little assistance from Dylan).

Before the new organizer could be installed, they had to literally break out the shelf in the back of the cabinet. We had to do the same thing in our last house when we installed a set of tray dividers in a base cabinet for pan storage. This time we had an assistant that fit perfectly in the cabinet and wanted to help put out the remaining staples.

The main installation and organization were completed by Trent while the rest of us were at the mall for a couple of hours. And when we came home? We found this:

Just looking at it makes me happy. No more awkwardly stacked pots and pans to rummage through when cooking. And, no more worrying about pots getting stuck inside one another and getting scratched up. Now we can easily access any single piece.

Cost: free - Christmas gift (thanks, Mom & Charles!) but to purchase your own, budget for about $125. We actually had been talking of buying it ourselves soon. It seemed a worthwhile cost to save our sanity and keep from further damaging (and needing to then replace) our cookware.


Disney on Ice: Let's Celebrate

Trent surprised me a couple months ago by telling me he bought the three of us tickets to Disney on Ice: Let's Celebrate! We used to love going every year. It was quite often his birthday gift to me. Then we stopped going when Dylan was born and began waiting until we felt he was old enough to sit, watch and enjoy. What we didn't do (unlike our trip to Walt Disney World last May) was tell Dylan until we were in our seats. He was so excited and pretty much captivated the entire show by the performances.

Here's a small taste of what we saw (all photos SOOC)

A Very Merry Unbirthday with Alice & the Mad Hatter

Halloween fun with Sorcerer Mickey & Jack Skellington along with other Disney villains

Valentine's Day Ball with Disney Princess including Dylan's favorite - Ariel

Eyes focused on the rink and enjoying a new Mickey Mouse glow necklace (Party City $2)

Hawaiian luau with Lilo & Stitch

Chinese New Year celebration with Mulan

Winter Wonderland with Buzz, Woody & Jessie

Grand finale


Preschooler Pieced Christmas Tree Cards

Today is the Christmas celebration at preschool. We'll be leaving work early to see the kids do a small show (a carol or two perhaps?), have some snacks and, of course give the teachers a gift to celebrate the season but also say thank you.

While I love Pinterest and crafting, I keep things simple and give the teachers a gift card. I did want to do something special though. The idea quickly came to me - have Dylan create a card for each of them.

After preschool yesterday, he and I went upstairs to our craft room where I spread assorted supplies out on the floor. I grabbed 2 blank white cards, a bin of scrap paper, his scissors, a glue stick and stamping supplies. I loosely showed him the idea of how to create a "tree" with strips of paper by laying out various pieces on the floor. Then I helped him select papers from my scraps. We both cut several strips, but he did the rest. He chose the pieces, glued them in place, inked the star stamp and stamped them. Inside he added a sentiment with a "Merry Christmas" stamp and stamped 2 flowers just because he liked them.

Me? I proudly watched and grinned. I love that he enjoys art so much and was impressed at the beautiful cards he made. Inside I wrote a simple note to each teacher expressing our thanks for all they do in the classroom and wishing them a Merry Christmas.

What do you do for teacher gifts?



What a roller coaster of emotions the last twelve months have been. Our lives are in many ways vastly different than I imagined them a year ago today. And this month? It's been harder emotionally than I could have imagined.

Today marks one year to the day since I heard words that would shock, sadden and crush me. Nothing can prepare you to both see your baby on an ultrasound screen for the first time and hear the words "I'm sorry" all in one breath. Since then, we've prayed for healing and slowly began moving forward.

We found joy again and celebrated our family of 3 with a trip to Walt Disney World. A needed break from the every day and a chance to be together. Just us.

We celebrated again when we got another positive only to find ourselves grieving again. We pushed forward.

We celebrated our precious son and his 4th birthday. What a blessing to have such an amazing, sweet, loving, healthy child.

We went on our annual beach trip with friends. One that wasn't supposed to happen as we should have been home with a newborn. But again, it was as needed as our Disney trip in our healing. We kept moving forward one step at a time.

Last month Trent & I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary and 14 years altogether of knowing, loving and supporting one another. We took a combined work/leisure trip to England. A first for both of us. Again, something not likely possible had events been different over the last year.

Thus, as challenging, frustrating and even heartbreaking at times the last year has been, I felt strongly about the selection for our Christmas card. I had been working on and off with my dear friend, Nila, for months to schedule a time to have family photos taken. It's something I always seem to procrastinate on and I truly wanted & needed to celebrate us. The three of us. The blessed, loving, precious family we have. If anything, I have learned even through my grief and tears in the last year to be grateful because we are truly blessed.


Travel Photo Contest Entry

For the last couple of years, I've intended to enter the local paper's annual Travel Photo Contest. I procrastinated and never did. This year? I procrastinated to within 2 hours of the end of the submission period. But, I got it in.

Part of my issue has always been picking one photo. I love lots of photos I take for various reasons, but wanted to select just the right one for this. There were 3 categories and you could only enter one photo in one category. Trent helped me choose and we settled on this one:

Secret Garden (click to enlarge)

I took it on our third day in England last month. It was my second day alone while Trent was working. The sun was out after a very cold, rainy day the day before. I was determined to get out and explore Oxford. My first plan was to tour Christ Church. I walked through the Meadow on my way to the public entrance and after crossing a small bridge, I saw this garden hiding on the other side of a wall. The details caught my attention. The softness and vibrant green of the moss against the cold, gray hard stone. The sunlit garden in the background. And the door. I wasn't able to see where it leads, but, given the connection to Alice in Wonderland, I like to think it's a secret door. Where do you think it goes?

If you like my photo too, I'd appreciate a vote (or 5 - max allowed per hour :) ). You can find it here: http://triangle.upickem.net/r/5JvCPwJXTYN?r=419324 Voting ends at 5pm on December 27th. Thanks!

**Updated: thank you! I was thrilled to receive 6,080 votes for my photo and top the list for the "Scenery" category. **


Instajunction Photo Gifts

Take a lot of Instagram photos? I do. Print a lot of your Instagram photos? Neither do I. Which is sad because I share a LOT and (may I toot my own horn here?) I think a lot are pretty awesome so I really should. Thus, I was excited when given the opportunity to try Instajunction - a new company in the UK dedicated to turning your Instagram photos into beautiful gifts.

A few of the products offered from Instajunction
Honestly, the hardest two decisions are choosing a product and which Instagram photos to use. The product options range from magnets to framed prints, from wall calendars to coasters, and more. Once you make your selection, link your Instagram account and begin picking which images you want to use.

One tip when selecting, if you think you might want a photo, click it. If you change your mind later, you can delete it easier than going back to get it. The right arrow will take you further back in your Instagram feed, but clicking the left will reset you to the most recent.

Also, photos will fall into place as you select them. You cannot change their order and they don't necessary match the shown order when printed. Ie, for the minibook, the photos were not in the order shown on the screenshot above. This was okay for me as I was creating the minibook for Dylan. He won't mind the order but will enjoy flipping through the pages looking at the photos. Thankfully, the paper is a nice thick card stock with a simple plastic cover so it should hold up pretty well with a 4 year old.

Small Instajunction Minibook
I may have to make one for myself next. It is a cute way to show off your photos and also comes in a larger approximately 4x4 size.

I also selected some Polaroid Style Card prints for the scrapbook I'm working on of our trip to England. They are printed on the same thick card stock as the minibooks and came packaged in a special envelope ensuring they held their smooth finish and sharp corners during shipment.

Packaged Polaroid Style Cards
 I was pleased with how the images turned out and think the white space will be perfect for journaling. Watch for a future post where I will share the scrapbook and how I used these.

Instajunction Polaroid Style Cards
I did notice that all of the prints had a bit of a grainy look. I think this has more to do with the saved images from Instagram than a printing issue as I've seen the same thing in prints from other companies. I'm mentioning it purely for a complete, open review. Overall, I'm very happy with the quality and price. I would order from Instajunction again.

Interested in ordering your own prints? Get 15% off your Instajunction order using code FR10BT6X. Expires December 31, 2013.

Note: A £25 gift code was provided to me to select product(s) for review. The opinions expressed are are strictly my own.


Gift Idea: Share a Unique Children's Book from Blurb

In our family, there isn't much better than a new book especially to a certain 4 year old. Every night it's a hurry to get ready for bed to be sure we have time to pick a special one (or two) and snuggle up to read. Looking for a new favorite to gift for the holidays? Take a look at the children's selection at Blurb. It includes an assortment of self-published children's book you won't find anywhere else this holiday season.

Title: The Great Bear Surprise
Author: Carolan Coughlin
Join Carolan on her hike up Red Plume Mountain where she discovers much more than the view of the surrounding landscape. This is a sweet story of unexpected friendship.

Title: My Bug Journal
Author: Hannah Rollings
Bug-lover or other, this journal is sure to spark interest from anyone who takes a peek inside the covers. Enchanted illustrations, bug facts, room for records and much, much more.

Title: The Adventures of Dude, Squat and Mose
Author: Michael Hall
With fabulous illustrations from Gerald Kelley and a fun-packed story from author Michael Hall, the adventures of this brave trio of adopted dogs if sure to become a favorite.

Title: Ollie + Loo
Author: Joni Cooper
Joni Cooper brings incredibly original characters to life with brilliant illustrations in a book that will have parents and kids laughing along together.

Find all of the Blurb Children's Books here and don't forget there is a sale right now - save 20% on print books when you spend $40 or more through December 15, 2013.

This post was sponsored by Blurb. See my previous reviews of Blurb products: Custom Planner and Designer Collection Photo Book. Find more of my Gift Idea suggestions both purchased and handmade here.


The Tree was Trimmed

We bought our tree on December 1st. Added lights the next day. And then finally got around to the ornaments yesterday. It's been a busy month already so we intentionally saved the ornaments to a day when we had time to devote to them.

I set up the DSLR on a tripod and used the timer to take a few photos trying to get a picture of all 3 of us for our December Daily album. The only shot that had all 3? This one and it cracks me up.

I guess Trent & I didn't realize that we were actually in the shot plus we were laughing at the fact that every time Dylan heard the camera timer beeping speed up, he stopped and posed. So much for a "natural shot."

My other big achievement of the weekend - a new handmade tree skirt.

I've wanted to make my own tree skirt for years but the project kept hitting the back burner only to be forgotten for another season. This year I was determined it would happen and went shopping last week for fabric. Pattern is by Amy Butler Design. I opted to leave off the buttons and used white fleece instead of wool felt so it is machine washable.

It took a good part of two days. A bit of frustration at times as I read and reread the instructions. One section seam ripped and restarted. But it's done and I absolutely love it. So nice to finally have this project completed and able to enjoy for many years to come.


December Daily: days 1 - 3

A small glimpse of the first three days of our December:

How has your month started?


Friday Freebie: Christmas Elf Calendar

Our Christmas Elf, Christopher Pop-in-Kins, will be returning soon. Dylan is already excited. Last year was our first year so it was a new experience all around. One thing I didn't like - a bit of evening stress when trying to determine where our Elf might be the next morning and/or what he would be doing.

This year with experience under my belt and a few new ideas added to my board at Pinterest, I sat down to create a calendar with a daily plan. No more 11pm panic attacks this year. It's all laid out and ready for us from when he returns on Sunday through Christmas Eve.

Download the Christmas Elf Calendar here. Or, if you want to create your own options, download a blank copy here. I hope this makes your holiday season a bit easier and more enjoyable too.

Have an Elf idea or a photo to share? Feel free to leave me a link or share it on my Facebook page.

Happy holidays!


5 Things I'm Thankful For

Leading into the Thanksgiving holiday, I thought I would share 5 things I am thankful for right now...

Our warm, cozy home (especially during last night's cold rain!).

My anything but boring job that gets me out of the office and into interesting places.

Weekly lunch dates with Trent.

Dylan's prayers at dinner and bedtime. I tay da Lord to soul my keep. Thank for food. Amen. The same each time and so amazingly sweet.

Quality time with my boys.

What are you thankful for?


Alice, Narnia and Harry Potter

Part of the fun in Oxford earlier this month was learning a bit of literary history. Several famous authors and their stories have a tie to this beautiful city and the University.

On St Aldate's St is a shop with a red door - Alice's Shop. It's where the real Alice, inspiration for Alice in Wonderland, actually shopped and the shop itself was the inspiration for the Sheep Shop in Through the Looking Glass. I did step inside briefly to look around (no photography allowed) and it was full of Alice in Wonderland related items.

Across the street from Alice's Shop is Christ Church where her father was once dean, and Lewis Carroll a student and teacher.

Inside the Great Hall at Christ Church is a blending of two fictional worlds - Alice and Harry Potter. Alice came first. The long neck brass firedogs that can still be found in the fireplaces - remember how Alice's neck grew after she ate a bite from the cake marked "eat me"? These were Carroll's inspiration for that.

A newer tribute to the author and story were pointed out to me by the Custodian on duty. A section of stained glass windows features Alice, Carroll, their characters and others in the stories including the White Rabbit and the Queen of Hearts.

The Great Hall itself? A replica was created for Hogwart's in the Harry Potter movies.

Scenes in two of the movies were actually filmed in the stairwell that leads to the Great Hall. I took photos of this simply because I found it architecturally beautiful. Only later did I learn the bit of cinema history as I've never read the Harry Potter books nor seen the movies (perhaps I need to add them to my list?).

Another tribute to Oxford's history both fictional and nonfictional is told throughout the city in its gargoyles. They are everywhere and feature faces as well as animals and nature. More recently a new set was installed on the northwest side of the Bodleian Library that was the result of a competition requesting ideas from children to replace aging, deteriorated faces. The winning designs included a couple characters from Alice in Wonderland - the Dodo and Tweedledee & Tweedledum - as well as Aslan the lion from The Chronicles of Narnia.

Narnia, too, has ties to the City and University as the author, C.S. Lewis, was a faculty member at Magdelan College. He also was known to spend time along with several other writers (the 'Inklings') at a pub that still exists today - The Eagle and Child.

These photos and bits of stories are just the tip of my experiences in Oxford. Truly a lovely city rich in history.

If you could follow in the footsteps of a favorite author or character, who would you choose?


Disney Trip Envelope 2013

I originally created the Disney Trip Envelope in fall 2007 and updated it a year later. Since then, it has sat amongst our trip albums and other memories waiting for a future use. The future finally arrived last spring as we took Dylan to Walt Disney World for the first time. Here's a look at the changes I made for our latest trip ...

Park Hours I kept this one essentially the same. Updated the dates and park hours for each (hint: find park hours on WDW's website here - https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/calendars/).

Parades & Fireworks On Disney's website, you can search parade times for a particular date. I searched for the 4 days of our stay and made a note of times by park so we could easily plan for when we wanted to see one.

Table Service We opted not to buy a dining plan this visit and pass on all table service. The latter was partly in not wanting to be tied to a specific place and time. We wanted to just move at whatever pace worked best with Dylan. And, while I was somewhat tempted to book a character breakfast, as he was showing a little nervousness around costumed mascots locally at the time, I didn't want to chance a similar fear and have a terrified child stuck at a table. Thus, this card was pulled from the envelope and stashed for use hopefully on our next trip.

Kid Attractions In my original design, I had a card listing our personal favorite attractions at each park and which had fast passes. I recreated the attraction card and made a new list of kid friendly attractions that we thought Dylan might enjoy and underlined the ones that had the fast pass option.

Pressed Pennies This was a new card I added. Dylan already had a pressed penny collection from various trips. Thinking he might want a specific character or two during our visit to Walt Disney World, I searched online at Presscoins.com to find where some of his favorites were located as well as noting which ones were at our resort.

Disney To Do List Before the trip, Dylan & I talked about what he might want to do at Disney and came up with a list of 7 basic things. I printed these out for him to use as a checklist during the trip. This was a fun way to enjoy our visit to Walt Disney World and also not feel as pressured to "do it all."

Admittedly, when I first created this envelope, smart phones weren't what they are now. I did have a Blackberry on the 2008 trip, but the "there's an app for that" phase hadn't begun. Part of my reason for continuing with this (besides the simple tradition for us) and for leaving my DSLR at home (*gasp*) - we wanted to be in the moment and enjoy that magic with our son. Not faces glued to little screens in our hands or fumbling with a heavy camera to get the 'perfect' shot. As magical is Disney is at any age, watching him light up with excitement was the most magical part of all.

Planning a trip to Disney with your young child(ren)? Check out my tips for Disney with a Preschooler and how to save money with Packed Fun for Less.