February Blog Hop | Star Wars Birthday Party

I’m participating in a Blog Hop with the gals from the 2014 Becky Higgins’ Project Life Team. If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you know that I’ve been busy planning a party for my little guy.  As you can tell from the title, this post is about the big celebration.

My sweet boy turned four this weekend and we celebrated with a Star Wars birthday party. He’s been talking about having a Star Wars party off and on since November. I did not do any planning until after Christmas when Santa brought him a Darth Vader costume — that pretty much sealed the deal.

We were on a tight budget so planning ahead was super important. I did many google searches for game ideas and the thrift stores were a great source for cheap party decor and supplies.

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I hung balloons upside down with black yarn to give the house a pop of color. Honestly, I was trying to save some money by not buying helium-filled balloons. My observant boy said to me (on the morning of the party), “Mom, how come my balloons hang this way and not this way?” My answer, “Because these are filled with carbon dioxide and not helium. Carbon dioxide is a heavy gas and makes the balloon sink.” Ha! My husband actually went out to get half a dozen helium-filled balloons for the birthday boy.

150207 SamuelisFour-11He got up at seven for a birthday breakfast of blue eyes and cheese bagel. He helped me with last minute prep for the party and asked me a gazillion times about when his friends would be arriving.

We started the party by giving each attendee a Jedi Training badge with a list of “missions” for the training.  My son does not like party games (like me) and said he would be happy to be an observer at his own party.  He was also super tired when he said that but I quickly changed the word games to “missions” and it grabbed his attention.  From that point on, he was 100% engaged in discussing all the party “missions” or activities.
150207 SamuelisFour-53We started the party with an asteroid hunt.  Samuel helped me make asteroids from pieces of aluminum foil and helped me hide them all over the house.  I instructed each Jedi to find one asteroid and report to me once they found an asteroid. Once they returned with an asteroid, I gave them a sticker for completing the task.  I gave the job of giving stickers to a parent at the party — this helped tremendously.

Then we played pin the Lightsaber on Yoda. I did not know how four year olds would feel about being completely blindfolded so I made blindfolds that did not make them feel like they were totally in the dark.  I folded a piece of brown fabric in half (leftover from Samuel’s Jedi robe which he did not wear because he said that he wanted to be a Sith) which distracted their vision but did not make them feel uncomfortable.
150207 SamuelisFour-24The kids moved onto making Shrinky Dink art.  My husband printed out a bunch of Star Wars pictures for them to trace and color.  They loved it — and their parents did too.

150207 SamuelisFour-20Some got a little creative and made their own original art pieces. I printed the shrinking directions and stuck them in the goodie bags.

Then we played Save Princess Leia.  I printed 6 storm troopers and 2 Princess Leias and placed them on a low table.  The kids loved the using Nerf guns to blast the storm troopers. I gave every kid two tries so that everyone would get a turn fairly quickly.  My boy came back several times and fired until he got a storm trooper.  (Tip: Buy Nerf guns at Goodwill and buy new darts.)
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150207 SamuelisFour-35At this point, I had the kids take a mandatory break from Jedi training to eat. We had fried rice and egg rolls (thanks, mom!), fruit, veggies, and crackers.  I also put out cheese and salami to provide some protein. We kept it simple — and it worked out well.

150207 SamuelisFour-57After the rest period, we went out to the garage to Defeat the Dark Side with Silly String. We got the idea here, but changed the name. My husband printed two Darth Vader posters in Paint and I pieced them together.  We were originally going to do this outside but because heavy rain was predicted for the day, we decided to set it up in the garage.  150207 SamuelisFour-73I taped the two Darth Vader posters on large sheets of butcher paper and hung them up on our garage door.  We also taped butcher paper to the ground for easy clean up.

The kids loved this.  I wish I had listened to my husband and bought a can of Silly String for each kid.
150207 SamuelisFour-95150207 SamuelisFour-131150207 SamuelisFour-125Since the weather was nice, we took the kids outside for Lightsaber Training. I was going to make pool noodle lightsabers for the kids but my husband said, “If we’re going to have a Star Wars party, then we need real lightsabers.”  He is so right.

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I hunted for used lightsabers for about a month. I found some on Craigslist, at the Goodwill, and through my neighborhood Mom Resale sites.  I paid somewhere between $0.50 – $2 a lightsaber.  I found enough lightsabers for each kid — plus a few extra cool ones for us to keep. We let the kids take theirs home if they promised to use it — and boy were they (and their parents) excited.

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Obi-wan (Jim) was a good sport.  He watched a couple Jedi Training Academy videos on YouTube and led this mission.

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The kids paired up for duals.

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Then they all ganged up on Obi-wan.

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They loved getting Obi-wan.

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We headed back inside to complete the last two missions. I split the kids into two groups — one group decorated Star Wars cookies while the other made R2D2 paper models. Then they switched.

The Star Wars cookie cutters are from Williams Sonoma — but I got them used from a mom in my neighborhood (so I did not spend a fortune on the cutters).

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Samuel’s strategy — decorate a cookie and then gobble it up immediately. Um … he also went a little nuts with the sprinkles.

TipJunkie has an awesome R2D2 craft printable and I followed her instructions to make each kid a kit.

It took me about half an hour to cut up the blue tape and punch out the circles for 13 kits. I put each kit in a ziploc bag and labeled with the Jedi’s name.

150207 SamuelisFour-206The kids enjoyed following the model I created.  They were pretty proud of themselves for completing this mission with very little help.

We concluded the party with a special appearance from Darth Vader himself.  Yep.  My friend Becky helped me set this up.  The costume worn by her husband is from the 501st Legion and is an exact replica of the one Darth Vader wore in the movie. We were blown away — and so was the birthday boy and all of his friends.150207 SamuelisFour-252 150207 SamuelisFour-274

150207 SamuelisFour-280We held a little ceremony for the kids and they each got a photo op with Darth Vader. The kids were all given a certificate and a Jedi medallion (yep, I made shrinky dink medallions!)


150207 SamuelisFour-221My sister has been making Samuel’s birthday cakes for the last four years. She gets better every year.
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In addition to the lightsaber, each Jedi left with a Star Wars coloring book and Darth Vader and Storm Trooper crayons. I bought the mold on Amazon and it took me about two evenings to make 96 crayons.

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It was a good party. He loved it — and thanks me often.
150207 SamuelisFour-375The backdrop seen here (and in many of the photos above) is made from a sheet I found at the Goodwill.  I painted silver stars on it and hung it up with the words, “May the force be with you.”  Super easy and affordable.

My Princess Leia costume cost roughly $18.  I made the dress using this tutorial — I used four yards of 58″ wide polyester fabric (about $12) and two snap buttons for the neck closure ($3). I found a silver belt ($1) at the thrift store and made the yarn wig ($3). I will definitely be wearing this again.150207 SamuelisFour-453-2I made his Jedi Shirt using silver glitter paint and freezer paper.  I love the way it turned out.150207 SamuelisFour-635 150207 SamuelisFour-552He had a terrific birthday. He is very excited about being 4.

For more Creative Team Inspiration, click on the links below:


Please note that these are fun and optional blog hops. If you don’t see your favorite former team member, please visit their individual blogs to see what they are up too!

Around Here | October 2014

Around here, fall is feeling very much like summer.  I brought out my collection of knit hats only to find myself sweating in them.  This is not cool.

Around here, fall festivities are in full swing — despite the unbearable heat.  We went to the Giant Pumpkin Festival in Elk Grove and loved watching the pumpkin regatta.  141005 GiantPumpkinFestival-48

Around here, I’ve spent too many hours grading papers each night.  This isn’t the fun part of my job.

Around here, Samuel and I are enjoying our Saturday morning outings which consist of having breakfast at Noah’s Bagels (and Starbucks) and a visit to the farmer’s market.140927 BagelsWithSamuel-5

Around here, we met and mingled with our neighbors at the neighborhood Oktoberfest party.  A section of the street was closed off so the kids could roam freely on their bikes and scooters. 141004 Octoberfest

Around here, it was time for another photo shoot of Samuel with his magnificent steeds. He is still taking riding lessons and thoroughly enjoys horses — especially the draft horses. We recently went to the Draft Horse Classics and he visited with Belgians, Shires, and Percherons. 141005 FortheLoveOfHorses-25

Around here, Samuel is taking soccer lessons so we are booked every Saturday morning in the month of October and November.  There are 30 3-year-olds in the class with three coaches — total chaos.  Lesson learned — we are never signing him up for this again.141004 Soccer-5

Around here, he is enjoying time with his sister.  While at the Giant Pumpkin Festival, Samuel saw some friends of ours and yelled, “Hey, Becky!  This is my sister.  Come meet my sister!  This is my sister!!”  It was the cutest thing ever.141005 GiantPumpkinFestival-117

Around here, I can always count on Superman to come to my rescue.  140930 Reading&Superman-25
Around here, I sneak into his room while he sleeps and watch quietly.  I love these moments (and all the other moments in between).  141003 SleepingWithDog-2

Around here, these two adore each other.  They play hard and love deeply.  What more could you ask for?  Childhood at its best.141005 AshlynFourBday-126

Around here, my workspace could use some serious attention.  I have piles everywhere.

Around here, I am excited about Cathy Zielske’s upcoming class, Me: The Abridged Version.  I am taking her class — and will be documenting my story.

Around here, I am reading Gone Girl.

Around here, I am eating emerald grapes like candy.  Man, they are good.

Around here, I am watching The Amazing Race and Parenthood (so sad it’s the final season).  I am also checking out some of the new fall shows — haven’t found one I really like yet.

Around here, I’ve decided to make time to blog again.  And share my pages.  Instagram took over my world for awhile but I’d like to get back on here — and post more regularly.

Adventures in Quilting

I started collecting fabric for an I-spy quilt for Samuel when he was in the womb. I knew that I wanted a big quilt so I figured it would take me years to collect enough fabric. I was really hoping that I would collect enough fabric and get it done before he turned 18. Ha! Then last summer, I threw the idea out at several girlfriends and within a month, we had a fabric swap. The goal was to make the quilt in time for Christmas — I like to give him something handmade at Christmas.  Obviously, that did not pan out. The quilt moved onto my summer project list.  And about two weeks ago, I gathered the fabric and went to work.140709-Quilt01 After several google searches for I-spy quilts, I came across Katie Blakesley’s design.   I fell in love with it immediately and used her tutorial to get me going.  It took me two evenings to lay out the squares – I had to walk away from it for a bit to make sure I liked the placement of the individual pieces. 140709-Layout For each block, I decided to go with alternating light and dark prints.  I spent about two days piecing + pressing the blocks together.  There were moments of elation (when the corners all lined up perfectly — there aren’t that many so please do not look closely) … and many moments of frustration (grrrr …my lines are not always straight even though I use a 1/4″ foot as a guide and the two pieces I sew do not always line up).  But hey, I finished. I chose 10 solid fabrics to border the blocks and strategically placed them so that the colors did not repeat in rows or columns.  140719-Strips 140721-Quilt It took me about a day to sew all the blocks together and then I was ready to quilt.  I quilt using (somewhat) straight lines.  I love the look of sewing several straight lines close together so there’s a lot of that happening on this quilt.140723-Quilting Quilting is challenging on a small machine.  Having a quilting extender and a walking foot made the process just a bit easier.  After a full day of quilting, I was ready to bind. A couple of my friends recommended machine binding for a quicker finish but I love the look of hand binding.  140724-Binding

The finished quilt is approximately 60″ x 80″.  There are 150 squares with about 140 different prints. Here’s a look at the finished product …140727 IspyQuilt-2

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The back.  Rather than just using one print on the back, I love adding a little color to break things up. 140727 IspyQuilt-7Closeups of the quilting + fabrics used.140727 IspyQuilt-17 140727 IspyQuilt-18 140727 IspyQuilt-19

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Close-up of the back.  I found this “I am Sam/Sam I am” print on a recent trip to Jo-Ann Fabrics.  140727 IspyQuilt-27

Playing a game of I-Spy.
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Our games usually involves a lot of jumping + hopping too.140727 IspyQuilt-43

These projects are laborious — as you all know.  But when you see smiles like these, it is so worth it. This boy really has a love for handmade things.140727 IspyQuilt-56140727 IspyQuilt-59

Mother’s Day Weekend

Tulips from my loves.140509 Mother'sDayTea-3 Mother’s Day performance and tea party at his school.140509 Mother'sDayTea-26 He was pretty stoked about giving me the gifts he made at school.140509 Mother'sDayTea-58 New tradition | Friday Family Game Night — all of us at the table, playing games with no technological interruptions.140509 Mother'sDayTea-61 Met some friends at Starbucks on Saturday morning.140510 MeettheMachines-3 Took him to the Meet the Machines event in Rancho Cordova.  He is in love with fire trucks, garbage trucks + monster trucks.140510 MeettheMachines-24 He is really into playing doctor.140510 MeettheMachines-99 On Saturday evening, we went to the Dixon May Fair.  He was pretty thrilled about driving the monster-sized tractors.2014-05-10-17.38 The Dixon May Fair turned out to be a total dud.  No horses.  The most exciting thing there was our shadows.  Ha!2014-05-10-17.44 We waited at the train stop to ride the extremely slow moving train.  Waited.  And waited. We eventually gave up and left.  140510 DixonMayFair-38 Mother’s Day breakfast at Lumberjacks.  My guys love this place.2014-05-11-08.55 He is amusing.2014-05-11-09.32 Made a trip to the store for jam supplies to make mulberry jam.2014-05-11-10.05 Afternoon run – 3 miles of solitude. 2014-05-11-14.53 He is a joy.140511 Mother'sDay-9 Beside him is his pal, Snaky Snake.  Snaky Snake is 3 years old and loves to be petted and enjoys swimming in the water.  He concocted an entire story about this imaginary snake using Jim’s bathrobe tie and had me pet him. 140511 Mother'sDay-31 I am in love with this boy.140511 Mother'sDay-103 And I think he loves me too. Happy Mother’s Day.

Day in the Life | 05.08.14

7:00am | Samuel comes into my room asking for water.  Since the light is still blue on his tot-clock, we go back to bed + snuggle.  He’s an early riser.  I’m not.
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8:02am | up + put on contacts.  Make coffee.140508 DayintheLife-13

8:30am | It is garbage day around here so the making of breakfast is interrupted with trips outside to see the garbage man + truck.
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8:45 am | He keeps me company at the counter while I make breakfast.
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8:54am | Breakfast.  I’m a big fan of turkey bacon.
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9:15am | Dishes.  Samuel pretends to be cowboy Small and rides his horse in a show.  I’m asked to be the announcer.

9:30am | Sword fight.  He is strong.  And he takes it pretty seriously.
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9:51am | And we are finally out the door for a run/walk.
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10:40am | There is a group of men removing a tree in the neighborhood and there is a BIG crane involved so we stopped for the show.
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11:30am | Safeway trip for fruit.
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11:50am | Jamba Juice stop — we love pomegranate pick-me-up.
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1:30pm | stories + snuggles before afternoon nap.140508 DayintheLife-97

2:18pm | While he naps, I eat a late lunch, unpack groceries and pick up around the house. Call Hobby Lobby to locate the new Project Life Aqua Edition.  No luck.
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3:10pm | Check on Samuel.  Call for eye appointment.
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3:30pm | Reading the new copy of Click magazine.
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4:02pm | Wake Samuel up from his nap.  The first thing he asks me, “Mom, where did you put the mints that we bought today?”  He’s a big fan of Andes mints.
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4:20pm | Wash grapes for a snack + head outside for some fresh air.
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4:35pm | Transplant green bean plants.  My goal of keeping the garden green is working out beautifully so far …
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5:15pm | Impromptu family picture.
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5:24pm | Jim and Samuel sent me some flowers for Mother’s Day.  Jim left them at school so we decide to make the drive to Elk Grove to pick up my flowers + have dinner at El Novillero’s.
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7:15pm | My boys sent me tulips for Mother’s Day.
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7:40pm | Evening snack — outshine popsicles.
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8:00pm | Read The Three Little Pigs.  He found the story pretty amusing.
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8:05pm | Give Samuel a shower + get him ready for bed.
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8:50pm | my turn to read to Samuel.  There’s a great collection of books to choose from.140508 DayintheLife-296

9:15pm | I settle on the couch to record notes + watch an episode of CSI.

9:45pm | Late night snack – cucumbers + tajin seasoning.  Gotta stop these late evening snacks if I’m ever going to lose some weight …2014-05-08 22.02.44

10:02pm | Too tired to work.  Decide to watch a second episode of CSI.

11:16pm | Off to read + sleep.

Happy Easter.

As a kid, I remember setting up all the Easter egg hunts for my siblings.  It has been quite awhile since then so I feel a bit out of practice.

There has been a lot of talk about the Easter Bunny lately.  Samuel is curious about how he works — whether he operates like Santa or not.  He woke up this morning forgetting all about Easter and played quietly in his room until about 8 am (so we got to sleep in)!  Shortly after 8, I hear his feet pitter-pattering into our room and he announces, “The light is yellow!  It is time to get up!”  (We use the tot-clock for naps/quiet time and sleep.)

We both tell him that our light is blue and he quickly looks around the room for a tot-clock. He tells us that he doesn’t see a clock but his clock says yellow and it is time to get up.

We slowly make our way out of bed as he returns to his room for some more quiet play.

I walk past his room and say, “Happy Easter.  Today is Easter.”  He stops what he’s doing and quickly says, “Did the Easter Bunny come to our house?”

We make our way to the table for breakfast and he finds this…140420 Easter-2
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We open the egg to find a couple of marshmallows (which he consumed in an instant) and a clue to the next egg.

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After breakfast, we go on a little scavenger hunt for more eggs.

140420 Easter-8He loves marshmallows so I’m surprised he only ate the two at the beginning of the hunt. Perhaps he was more focused on the clues than the treats themselves.

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There was even an egg in the horse trailer!

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The last clue lead him out to the cardboard stable in the backyard.  He went in there to find the last remaining egg … but totally missed the big basket of gifts.

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He made his way back in for the basket.

140420 Easter-24He’s a book lover so he was content looking at the new sticker book in the basket.

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The love affair with Legos has begun.  I got him a Lego Junior kit and he is enjoying his first build.

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140420 Easter-64140420 Easter-69We took a break from Lego building to go to the Farmer’s Market.  When we returned, he settled in his big boy chair to work on a couple new puzzles.  He is now doing 35-piece puzzles with some guidance.  

140420 Easter-36Happy Easter, friends.

Around Here | March 2014

Around Here is a new addition to my Project Life album this year.  It’s a place where I can add additional photos to tell our story.

140308-Ba74thBday-27Around here, we celebrated my mom’s 74th birthday.  She is beautiful, strong and independent.  I love you, mom.

140305-MSDN-115Around here, I helped organized the 7th Annual Math and Science Discovery Night.  I was thrilled to be able to organize the science portion of the event.  Honestly, I’m good at it and it feels good to be back doing something Jim and I started (and love).

Around here, Samuel and I went to Paradise Beach and enjoyed getting sand between our toes, dipping our toes in the freezing water, trying our best to skip rocks and building a lovely little sand castle equipped with a stick-leaf flag.  Wednesday afternoons are ours – now and for always.

Around here, we were thrilled with the change in daylight savings.  We love the extra hour of light.

Around here, there are lemons and tangerines on our trees.  We are drinking lemonade and fresh tangerine juice daily.

140323-BanhXeoAround here, I am bringing back the Vietnamese dishes (specifically, banh xeo and spring rolls) into our weekly meal rotation.

Around here, spring has sprung and Samuel’s allergies are worse than ever.  We are also noticing a lot of dry spots and bumps on his skin.  We can’t figure out what his skin is allergic too.

Around here, Samuel continues to take riding lessons and music classes.  He decided that soccer isn’t his sport so quit it in the middle of the season.  We are not thrilled that he quit soccer so we continue to have conversations about finishing what we start.  It has not worked yet.

140325-Swing&Birthday-49Around here, Samuel is fascinated by the swing.  It’s about time.  Ha!

Around here, I’m starting an exercise routine (again).  My ankle injury has healed and I am ready to shed some pounds.

Around here, Samuel has been eating a peanut butter & jelly sandwich for breakfast every morning.

Around here, I just booked our Disneyland vacation.  We are also talking about a couple other summer trips.

Around here, Spring Break is just 9 days away!  And summer vacation is 39 days from today.  Yippee!

Around here, I am thinking about my garden but I haven’t put my thoughts into action yet.

Around here, we have many unfinished projects.  We’re hoping to knock a couple of those projects out during Spring Break.

Around here, I am making smarter financial decisions.

Around here, I am reading Catching Fire (second in the Hunger Game series).

Around here, it feels like winter. I’m really enjoying the much needed rain.

140330-FamilyPhoto-15Around here, I am 3 for 3 for monthly family photos.  I’m hoping to get one where we are all looking at the camera.

Around here, we are happy.  We are having fun.  We are thriving.  That’s how it should be.

Project Life 2014 | Weeks 2, 3, 5 & 6

Last night, I went to our monthly Project Life Crop and got caught up on my 2014 album. 140329Crop

Week 02 | Jan 6-122014-Week02



Week 03 | Jan 13-19



Week 05 | Jan 27 – Feb 2



Week 6 | Samuel’s 3rd Birthday Celebration (just the three of us).

I am experimenting with how to take decent photos of my pages.  This afternoon, I found myself using my iPhone for all of the photos in this post.  It was way faster — and I didn’t have to fight the glare as much!  Interesting, huh?  How do you take photos of your pages? Feel free to share your tips in the comments.

Weeks 9 – 13 will be on the blog later this week.  Thank you for stopping by!

Project Life | Week 1

The first two months of the year came and went in a flash.  Seriously.  And just like that I’m behind on my Project Life album for 2014.  I’m on week two folks.

Here’s a take a look at week one of 2014.
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I managed to knock out some layouts for Samuel’s year three album.
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140201 FebProjectLife-5Samuel started drawing stick people on the whiteboard at 35 months.  I love including his artwork in the album.

140201 FebProjectLife-16The Project Life zoo themed cards are pretty awesome — so appropriate for us since we visit the zoo so often.

Things are finally slowing down around here and I am beginning to feel some kind of normalcy.  Stay tuned for more Project Life layouts as I get the ball rolling on playing catch up!

Thanks for visiting, friends!

Project Life 2013 | December

It is 9:30 pm and my boy is still awake — asking for hugs and kisses and stories.  I would really like to get some work in — or at least be able to finish my train of thought.

I am sharing my Project Life album from the month of December.140101 PL2013Dec-2Dec 02-08, 2013 | Full spread.  I was a little behind in getting the pages done for this month because I spent every evening working on holiday projects and/or December Daily.  We gave Samuel a book for each night of Hanukkah.  He does not like the jacket covers so I stuck a few of our favorite jackets in a 12×12 page protector.  Since I do not do much traditional scrapbooking anymore, I try to use my 12×12 page protectors whenever possible.  

140101 PL2013Dec-3Left page, close up.

140101 PL2013Dec-4Right page, close up | Just realized that I need to print a photo for Dec 8.  Ha!  Thought I was done but it looks like I have a couple of holes.

140101 PL2013Dec-7Dec 09-15, 2013 | Left page, close up.  (Looks like I forgot to snap a photo of the full spread for this week.)

140101 PL2013Dec-9I printed my bio from Becky’s blog and inserted it in the 3×4 pocket.  This whole thing is RAD.

140101 PL2013Dec-11Right page, close up | Loving the “i love –” cards from the Sunshine Kit.

140101 PL2013Dec-12December 16-22, 2013 | Full spread.

140101 PL2013Dec-13Left page, close up | yep, I got a holiday card from THE Becky Higgins.  

140101 PL2013Dec-15Right page, close up | Samuel received his first message from Santa (via Portable North Pole). Pretty cool to see his response to the message. There were brief moments of joy and elation — but it was mostly moments of wonder..

140101 PL2013Dec-16December 23-29, 2013 | Christmas week, full spread.

140101 PL2013Dec-17Left page, close up | I am enjoying Samuel’s stick people.  I took a photo of it and made 3×4 tags for gift bags (far left).

140101 PL2013Dec-18Christmas insert, front side | Christmas morning at our house.  Page protector from the Just Add Color Kit from HSN.  

140101 PL2013Dec-20Christmas insert, back side | We gathered at my mom’s house for Christmas in the afternoon.

140101 PL2013Dec-19Right page, close up | Had a PL crop night with my girls on the 27th.  I usually include a photo of all the girls who attend but this photo of Becky was just too funny!

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December 30-31, 2013 | We celebrated the last couple days of December with sword fights and a trip to Leatherby’s (our favorite creamery).

140101 PL2013Dec-232013 Year in Review | Jim and I went through the books (all three of them) and came up with a list of major events, including many firsts.  I then selected a photo from each month and included numbers to indicate the months.

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And that’s a wrap.  Huzzah for 2013!

Huzzah for Project Life!  Huzzah for documenting daily stories!  Huzzah for 2014 and all the adventures that await us!