Sharing recipes, crafts and frugal living, the challenges and triumphs of parenting a neurotypical child and a child on the Autism Spectrum. Yoga Instructor said goodbye to her nightly glass of Chardonnay to give up habits that were not serving her purpose in life! The CocktailMom name remains, however with a new focus on healthy and authentic living.


No Sew Tutu

This Christmas I whipped up some no sew tutus.  They were so easy to make once you get past the headache and frustration of cutting the tulle, goodness I hate working with tulle.  Though the tutus came out so cute and the smiles on the girls faces who received them made it completely worth it!
I followed this tutorial.
I bought 5 yards of tulle for each tutu.  And for the waistband I used elastic, sewing the ends together.  Measure the child's waist and then reduce the size of the elastic by 2 inches and that should be a great fit.  These tutus are so easy to make that I sat on the sofa and attached the tulle to the elastic while watching a movie. With 2 of the tutus I added ribbon every few inches to just add a different element to it.   So simple and a fun, inexpensive gift!


Mouse Hat

"Mommy I want a mouse costume", begged the littlest one in my house.  And if one wants something the other does too but in a different color, of course.
So I put on my creative thinking cap, grabbed a pencil and paper and set out designing a mouse costume.  I started and ended with just the hat because I didn't want to put a ton of work into something that I didn't know if they would even use.  I've learned that lesson many times before.  And I knew the hat would be the coolest part and often all you need is one costume piece to make the character "real".  
The entire hat is made out of felt because it's easy to sew and you don't have to finish the seams.  I added encased wire in the ears so that they would stand up and used elastic and a button at the neck to hold the hat in place.  
Requests from my kids are often the beginning of future designs.  As I was making the mouse hats I envisioned other animals I could make and quickly jotted down notes for future crafting which will grace my etsy store soon.



Mornings like this one make the 45 minute commute worth it.  Glorious!


Holiday Teacher Gifts

I believe teachers should be celebrated and I love adding a little bit of holiday cheer in each of their mailboxes.  This is what I gave to each of the boys teachers.  In each goodie bag is a handmade pocket tissue holder and a small sampling of chocolate chip shortbread cookies.  I wrapped the shortbread cookies in freezer paper and included a label with all the ingredients listed just in case there are any food allergies that I am not aware of.  I included handmade cards with a photo of each of the boys.  Make sure to tell your child's teachers how much you appreciate them!


Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

This recipe is great to make with kids, measure and dump everything in the mixer and then press into a pan.  Super simple!  And they don't break very easily which is great for traveling or if your child needs to transport them in his/her book bag.
  •  3 2⁄3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup arrowroot flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 lb. (4 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup real maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cups mini chocolate chips
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips (any size as it will be melted for topping)
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Mix all the ingridents together in the mixer except the chocolate chips.
Once the the dough looks fluffy add 1/2 cup chocolate chips.
Transfer dough to 15- x 11-inch greased pan. Press dough into the pan with your fingers, and then prick all over with fork.
Bake 35 minutes, or until edges just begin to brown and dough looks slightly firm. Remove from oven and, using thin knife, cut shortbread into squares. Allow shortbread to cool completely in pan.
Melt remaining 1 cup chocolate chips in a glass bowl in the microwave 40 seconds to1 minute. Spread melted chocolate onto shortbread, spreading almost to edges. Refrigerate overnight to allow chocolate topping to set. Break apart, and serve.


Reverb 10- Future Self

December 21 – Future Self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Author: Jenny Blake)
Dearest Gretchen/2015,
                Take a deep breath and enjoy this moment. Try to not take everything to heart.  Remember people are processing and growing and you have to allow them time to do that.  Reevaluate the people who surround your life and make sure these are the people who are  helping you to become a better version of yourself.  Don't waste your time on toxic relationships and negative thinking friends, allow them to fall out of view so that you can focus your energy on spreading joy and inspiring others.
Remember to think good thoughts, speak good thoughts and do good thoughts. Daily.
You are a remarkable mother and an amazing friend.  Embrace what life has put in front of you.
Be well,

Last Minute Christmas Shopping- Deals!

Some people are still shopping for Christmas gifts and if you are one of those people make sure to check out this website for printable coupons.
I just printed this coupon for myself, 30% off at Border's.  Merry Christmas to me!
The boys need new pajamas and  I'm hoping to score some on sale at Old Navy and use this 30% off coupon.
And for all you crafty folks here is an extra 40% off at Joann's.
So if you are headed out, stop at Mommy Saves Big first and print off the savings!


Winter Crochet Hat with a Brim

I made this style hat last year for Logan and I absolutely loved the look of it that I had to finally make one for myself.  I didn't use a pattern, I never do, I measured the circumference of my head and then began with single crochet and followed into 2 double crochets into a single stitch so that the hat had a fuller body; decreasing stitches once it reached the desired height.


Winter Scarf

I love scarves, they look good with everything!  Every winter season I like to make a new scarf for myself. 
This scarf is pretty simple using a ribbon yarn for the trim and the core of the scarf is an acrylic wool blend (AKA: not itchy!).  I single crocheted the length of the scarf that I wanted and then continued to single crochet until I reached my desired width.  For the trim I don't know what the official stitch is called, I single crochet into one stitch and then double crochet in the next stitch, do the double crochet 3 times and then single crochet in the 5th stitch and it creates this pretty wavy trim.  Not too girly, just enough flair.


Reverb 10- Five Minutes

December 15 – 5 Minutes Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010. (Author: Patti Digh)

I want to remember holding Zane and inhaling the scent of his skin while kissing his neck and hearing him giggle in my ear. Logan cradling my face with his hands, him looking directly in my eyes and saying "mommy is happy in this house.  I like you happy mommy!" Laughing with Lauren...moments of pure joy.

Holding it together

While the room fills with singing Logan tries to hold it together.  I like to capture pictures of him in these moments because most people don't see it.  My mother is next to him and probably didn't notice how hard Logan was working to remain at the table and in his chair.   Look at the skin on his forehead and you can see how hard he is pressing his fingers into his head.  He's never been able to tolerate loud groups of people in one room but recently he's done better and has avoided ducking under the table or laying on the floor in a total zoned out state and instead looks like this or completely removes himself from the room.  Most people on the Autism Spectrum have a sensitivity to sound.  This article from talks about building up an immunity to noise by putting the person on the spectrum in loud environments. 
No, he will most likely never join in a group sing a long.  But at least he was with the family and tolerated it for a bit to celebrate Hanukkah. 


Reverb 10- Appreciate

December 14 – Appreciate What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it? (Author: Victoria Klein)

The "one" thing that I have come to be most appreciative this year is my family.  You always here phrases like "blood is thicker than water", "family will always be there, friends come and go." And I'll be honest I never truly understood those sayings until this year.  My family has been so supportive and loving during this year of transition for the boys and I.  I've tried harder to take the time and write a note of thanks and  verbally express my gratitude.  I hope that I can one day pay it forward.



Reverb 10- Action

December 13 – Action When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step? (Author: Scott Belsky)

Right now I have a lot of ideas spinning.  Ways in which to fill my spirit, share it with others and live my best life.
My next step is to plan.  Plan a budget, plan my schedule and hopefully it will all come together seamlessly. 
Stay tuned...

Baby Hats

I know most people love to make baby blankets when a new baby arrives in the family.  I, on the other hand, love to make baby hats.  This one I made for our newest family member Elizabeth in white organic cotton with a thin green bamboo yarn stripe.  Hopefully it will coordinate with all of her spring apparel.


Reverb 10- Wisdom

December 10 – Wisdom Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out? (Author: Susannah Conway)

My 6 word memoir:
Chose happiness.
Readjusted, dancing through life.



Reverb 10- Party

December 9 – Party Prompt: Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans. (Author: Shauna Reid)

Hands down I think the best party I went to this year was my friend Raven's wedding.  Didn't she look stunning?  And her mom just whipped that veil together that morning!
It goes on my "best weddings ever" list.

Upcycled Fall Leaf Wreath

I bought a few wool sweaters from the thrift store and felted them in my washing machine and dryer.  Quickly on my sewing machine I created veins on each leaf that I cut out from the sweaters.   To make this wreath I pulled out a large piece of cardboard from my recycling bin and cut it in a circle, using a glue gun I hot glued each leaf to the cardboard in a circular pattern in no particular order.  For the center I added the quote "family is one of nature's masterpieces".
I love that this wreath is made entirely of recycled items. 
Also check out my post featuring the leaf ornaments I left on friends' doors.
Crafting out of the recycling bin isn't just for kids, you should give it a try!


Reverb 10- Beautifully Different

Last year I participated in Gwen Bell's project The Best of 2009, and thoroughly enjoyed the moments of reflection which enabled me to manifest and focus on what I wanted to achieve in the new year.  This year she has created something exceptionally exciting, Reverb 10. Each day there is a prompt from a unique author to encourage and inspire you to reflect on the year and then blog about it.  I'm going to try my best to keep up though I am joining the game a little late, only by 8 days. 

December 8 – Beautifully Different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful. (Author: Karen Walrond)

Hmm...what makes me beautifully different...well, I am a positive person.  In college a friend use to remark in regards to my positive attitude that the glass isn't half full, it's spilling over and dripping off the side of the table.  I like to surround myself with positive people, people who try and see the best in every situation.  I can always find the silver lining in every situation, even the most horrifying.  I like to believe that others are attracted and inspired by my positive spin on life..

The Clean Bin Project

The Clean Bin Project - Trailer from Grant  Baldwin Videography on Vimeo.
I struggle with the issue of waste. I recognize that I think about it more than the average person, borderline obsessively.  I can't just resort to "out of sight-out of mind" which so many people do, sometimes I wish I could.  The amount of waste that my home produces causes me such distress.  And the thing is we don't actually produce all that much waste compared to the average household, but before you know it Christmas morning will be upon us and all of the toys and their packaging, tiny twist ties and plastic shrink wrapped cases will be invading my home.  I secretly wish I could not care, but I do.  I care.  And so does this couple.  They made a film called the Clean Bin Project where they had a friendly competition between each other to not consume anything or acquire waste in one year.
Yes, similar to the film No Impact Man.
But in all honestly does it really matter if there are now 2 films that are similar?  Maybe they might challenge us to follow suit and see what it's like to take the pledge and not consume any more products for a year.  What if we each started off small and pledged to give up one thing that produced waste or tried something different?  Instead of buying Kraft singles individually wrapped what if we bought the other brand that doesn't wrap each slice?
Small changes can make a big impact!


Winter Banner

That sweet baby face is my youngest son, Zane, modeling my previous company's (Aunt Art) hats. 


Portable North Pole

This is the coolest thing I have seen.  Portable North Pole is a personalized video message for your kids from Santa.  I made one for each of the boys and they watched it with wide eyes.  You plug in information to make it personalized for your child; for example the city where you live, your child's age, their grade in school and a very real looking Santa appears in the video.  This will make any child a believer in Santa.
You can also create a video for adults.  Nothing like Santa telling your partner to pick up their undies off the floor!  Enjoy!




Kugel is a traditional jewish side dish.  I made it for Thanksgiving this year but it would be wonderful at a brunch also.  This version is sweet, borderline a dessert, and oh so yummy! 

Noodle Kugel with Caramelized Apples and Raisins
12 oz package of wide egg noodles
One 2 pouind tub of low-fat cottage cheese
2 cups low-fat plain yogurt
4 eggs plus 4 egg whites
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
2 cup raisins
8 apples, peeled and cored and cut into bite sized pieces (I used Gala)
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/4 cup agave nector (or sugar)
1 cup of breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 9- x 13-inch baking dish with oil.
  2. Cook egg noodles in large pot of boiling water 4 to 5 minutes, or until tender. Drain.
  3. Whisk together cottage cheese, yogurt, eggs, egg whites, cinnamon, agave nector and salt in a bowl. Fold in egg noodles and raisins.
  4. Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add apples and cook 4 minutes without stirring. Stir apples and cook 4 minutes more, or until softened and golden on both sides.  Add apples to noodle mixture.
  5. Spoon noodle mixture into prepared baking dish and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake 40 minutes, or until breadcrumbs are golden brown. Cool 15 minutes before slicing. Serve hot or at room temperature.


Elf on a Shelf

We are starting a new Christmas tradition this year and I am so excited about it. Meet Happy, our Elf on a Shelf.  You can pick up your very own Elf on a Shelf at any Barnes and Noble. And click here to print a 30% off coupon!  

From their website:
The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition is an activity the entire family will enjoy. Based on the tradition Carol Aebersold began with her family in the 1970s, this cleverly rhymed children's book explains that Santa knows who is naughty and/or nice because he sends a scout elf to every home. During the holiday season, the elf watches children by day and reports to Santa each night. When children awake, the elf has returned from the North Pole and can be found hiding in a different location. This activity allows The Elf on the Shelf to become a delightful hide-and-seek game.

We read the story last night and as a family we came up with our elf's name, Happy.  The boys went to bed thinking about Happy and in the morning they sprung out of bed ready to look for him. They searched high and low and eventually found him on the dining room chandelier. I will say that they were both disappointed that he wasn't real, which I found extremely surprising that they thought he would be.  While eating breakfast Zane asked "why does Happy have a price tag coming out of his butt?"  Of course I quickly made up a lie saying that that is his name tag and says he is from the north pole.  So make a mental note to remove your elf's care tag.  Find out where Happy appears by following me on twitter. I hope you enjoy your Elf on a Shelf as much as we do!


Going off the grid

This news video struck home for me.  I have a love/hate relationship with social media.  I love that I can easily get in contact with friends from years ago.  Facebook has brought people back into my life, people who I have missed, people who I am thankful to call friend again.  But it's also a beast in pulling my attention. There are times when I wish my friend would pick up the phone and call me instead of posting on my wall and I am just as guilty of sending a quick text when it is convenient for me instead of making human contact.  A friend recently sent me an email and in it said "by the look of facebook things have been going good for you."  Well sure.  On facebook things appear to be great.  And though granted life is pretty great for me right now I have my "bad" days just like everyone else, I just don't post it in my status updates.  I like to keep my corner of the web as a happy place.  That doesn't mean that I don't wish for a friend to reach out for support.  We are living in a world where people over share about every aspect of their lives from "my kid just went poop on the potty" to announcing a divorce/birth for everyone to see all at once.  It's the illusion of bringing us closer together when in fact it is pulling us farther apart.

I'm trying to be more aware of it.  Making the choice to tune out a little bit in order to tune in to real life relationships.  I need spend more time tuning in to what is right in front of me.  I've had weekends where I have gone off the grid, not checking my email or facebook or twitter feed for days on end.  Mostly it is during a vacation when I should be enjoying the scenery.  I wonder what would happen if we all tuned out of social media for one day.  Just one day, give it up.  Call a friend instead of messaging her, plan a lunch date instead of reading each other's walls.
I wonder...I wonder what the world will be like if we tuned out more.


Spreading Joy

Life becomes busy and you bustle from one thing to another and many times you forget to stop and appreciate the wonderful people in your life.  I made a point to remember those special people this year and surprised a few friends with a bit of joy on their doorstep.

I picked up some sweaters at the thrift store and felted them in order to create a few fall crafts I had in mind.  I traced the shapes of leaves and then on the sewing machine stitched the veins on each leaf.  Adding a felted ball with an acorn top along with a simple note thanking each person for being in my life.
Here are the directions I used in order to create the felted balls. 

Take a moment today and spread your own Joy, tell the people you love that you appreciate them.
Thank you for coming here and reading my words, your comments mean so very much to me.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


Thanksgiving Dinner Questions

A few years ago I wrote a post about dinner party conversations and when I saw this great idea over at Skip to My Lou I knew I had to use it for my Thanksgiving dinner this year.  I printed out the questions on card stock and hole punched the corner so that they would all fit on a binder ring.  This way we can pass the mini book around the table and each take a turn reading a question and answering them.  If you don't have time to do that just print them off and have the kids cut on the dotted lines.  Place them in a bowl or glass jar so they are within reach on your Thanksgiving day table.  I hope this starts a new tradition of enjoying the moment with those whom you are feasting with.

Click here to print out the PDF for the questions.


Baltimore Dollar Days 2010

It's that time again!  The boys and I will be doing a repeat of last year and traveling to the Maryland Science Center, who doesn't want to lay on a bed of nails! There are so many great places to choose from for both kids and adults and for only a buck!
Mark your calendar: December 4-5th, 2010
Click here to check out the list of participating museums.


Corner of my Home

I previously talked about Rebecca's flickr stream in a post about Simplicity, and I was thinking of her the other day when I was working on my Project Life book and wanting to capture my house as it is right now.  I love how Rebecca captures simple corners of her home.  I want to do more of that so my kids and I can look back and see how things change over the years.
This is a corner of my home right now.
  • This is my favorite chair, I love the color and I love the lines.  I picked it up at a thrift store and kept it's color and imperfections in place.  
  • The drawer I use as book storage and I picked that up from the Community Forklift
  • A picture of my dearest girlfriends, The Jitterbugs, in a picture frame that Wendi made as my going away gift.  
  • Nesting dolls that were sadly a short lived item at Ikea.
  • A vintage globe.
  • a vintage Nikon 35mm camera that kids are allowed to pick up and play with.
  • a basket filled with knitting and crochet projects that are still in progress. 
  • And a stack of kids' games ready to be pulled out and played.
Capture a corner of your home and create a scrapbook layout around it.  What do you love about the items in the picture? Where did it come from?  What is special to you right now?   



    Sunday mornings are spent staring through a glass door, sitting in an uncomfortable plastic chair as I watch the boys at swim team practice.  In my family you had to be a swimmer, there wasn't really a choice.  All of my sisters were swimmers, we all grew up with our names in the paper displaying our current times and records. 
    I am thankful that my parents had us on the swim team, as a kid I dreaded the early morning practices and even now though my role has changed the early wake up is still not the highlight.  I enjoy watching the boys learn what is and will become a life skill.  They will always be swimmers now.  Once it's in's in you for life.  It becomes your salvation.  Your place of peace.  I have so many fond memories of swimming and as I lean down to kiss one of my sons' sweet faces I breathe them in, that smell of chlorine floods my senses and reminds me of peace, of calm, of happiness.



    It takes a villiage...

    I hate baby shower games.  I understand why people do it though, you are combining people from different parts of one person's life and they may or may not get along or have anything in common.  You need an activity.  For my cousin Sarah's baby shower I promised her that we will not be measuring her baby belly to see who cut the ribbon the exact length to fit around her swollen midsection.  Who thought this game was a good idea?  Hey, let's make fun of the really HUGE person who feels like crap and is about to burst at any second...great idea!  (can you hear the sarcasm?)   I also promised that we would not be smelling diapers to guess what gross mystery thing is inside, again not a good game to have around a pregnant woman who is sensitive to smell.  After doing some research for games I came up empty.  So instead of a game I decided to have each guest fill out a card.  On the card it said: 

     It takes a village to raise a child - African proverb
    I promise…

    Each person at the baby shower declared a promise to this baby, I think it's pretty special and I hope something that many years later will be pulled out and re read.  I combined all of the cards and the pictures taken that day into a mini scrapbook album for Sarah.  For the scrapbook  paper I used the same exact paper I used on the celebration banner and the diaper cakes at the shower and then binder rings to complete the book.
    And I promise you, dear readers, this will be the last post about the baby shower, well this baby shower.  :)  
    In case you missed any previous posts here are the links:


    And here is the sweet baby we were all celebrating.   
    Elizabeth Beatrice!



    I call it Zen Knitting.  The ladies in my knitting group smile to each other as I pull out my latest project of zen knitting as they attempt to tackle hard patterns and balls of beautiful delicate yarn.  I just like to cast on and see what happens.    I make a lot of scarves and blankets but recently I made this awesome shrug.  It was so simple!  If you can knit a scarf you can knit a shrug.  I didn't use a pattern, I cast on enough stitches that would fit around my upper arm and then did row after row of knit and purl until it was the desired length.  I then stitched up the arms from the end to where my arm pit hit, this took a few times of trying it on and taking it off till I hit the perfect part...some people measure with a measuring tape...I find that the try on-take off approach works for me. :)



    Came across this mural on the side of a building in downtown Pittsburgh, PA.  I wish this was part of my daily routine.



    Something happened this weekend and I can't seem to shake it.
    Still days later, I'm replaying it in my mind and wondering how I could have dealt with it differently, what could I have said, how do I react in the future when this happens again?
    I was at a dinner party, thrown by my dearest friend who invited some women that she is friends with while I was in town visiting her. A lesbian couple.
    The food was fantastic, and up to this point the conversation was clicking along. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. And then one of the women, whom we will call Tara, begins to tell a story about a friend of theirs who is autistic. I may have scooted closer to the end of my seat, a sure sign of being engaged and interested in what she had to say. Head tilted slightly, smiling encouragingly in their direction. And then Tara begins to mock and make fun of their friend and her ritualistic routines and lifestyle. I feel as though I've been struck in the stomach. This is not where I thought the conversation was going. I'm at a loss of words and trying to find a way to interject and warn them to shut up because they are breaking bread with a mom of an autistic child! But I can't make words leave my mouth and Tara won't stop talking for anyone to interject. And then my dear friend who is hosting this party finds the moment to say "Gretchen's oldest son is on the spectrum and he's really great and...."
    Tara doesn't get it and she continues.

    I feel so stunned that I'm concentrating on not crying because I'm the type of person that can either go to tears or yell in these moments when I feel like I've had the wind taken from me. I start to explain how awesome Logan is and that his routines and styles of learning are fascinating. I explain how Logan was obsessed with Thomas the Train and how I used that to teach him about actual trains and the routes they take and geography. And she mocked me and continued to make fun of autistic people to my face and it seemed to go on forever but I'm sure in reality it only lasted a few minutes. My friend thankfully stopped the conversation and shuffled them outside for a cigarette while I gathered dishes and began to wash them while crying in the kitchen and downing a glass of wine. Or two.

    And I don't know what angers me more...the things Tara said or that my friend didn't warn them that this is a hot button topic for me or that she even has to warn a lesbian couple to not make fun of other people.
    Or that she didn't stand up for me the way I had hoped she would.
    Once the party was over I confronted her about it and she apologized profusely, as any adult would and agreed that if she invited a friend over that was physically disabled she would have warned her guests but that she feels like Logan is doing so much better and she doesn't think of him like that.
    She kept saying that.
    And sure Logan is doing great! He's making huge strides. But that doesn't discount all the work that goes into it. He's always going to be autistic. Just because he's not having huge public meltdowns anymore doesn't mean that he's not finding this world difficult to function in. It doesn't mean that my job is any easier in being his parent.
    I'm really trying to concentrate on how this scenario could have played out differently. What can I do in the future? Because I know that this will happen again, I'll meet another ignorant person who is judgmental and uneducated about autism and though I want to be an advocate for my son I can't stand when I am in situations where I have to explain him and justify his actions, I feel as though I am trying to sell them something.
    Maybe it is as simple as excusing myself, removing myself from the situation.
    Maybe I can't be the token autism mom and enlighten everyone that I come across.
    I do however hope that in the future my friends will also choose differently.


    Swag Bucks - search the internet and get "paid"

    Search & Win
    How many times have you heard that line- "get paid to search the internet".
    I'm like the rest of you and I always think it's a gimmick and I'm sure most times it is. A friend of mine told me about Swagbucks and at first I thought this was going to be too good to be true, what is the catch?
    Well I'm here to say it's pretty legit.
    That being said you get what you put into it. I'm going to be honest I don't do everything that I could do to earn swag bucks, I just don't have the time or desire to do it. I downloaded the search toolbar on my computer and every time I need to search for something on the internet I type it first into my swagbucks toolbar. Sometimes I earn swagbucks, sometimes I don't.
    You can then cash the swagbucks in for prizes or gift cards.
    I recently cashed mine in for $5 off Amazon gift cards. You will get an email with a $5 off code to use at checkout. I bought the boys books and movies on amazon for Christmas and used numerous gift cards so that the items ended up costing me NOTHING! Free super saver shipping and free swagbucks $. LOVE THAT!!
    So click the picture above and it will take you to the sign up page. Start searching and earning swagbucks so you can also get some free items for holiday presents!


    And the WINNER is...

    In the beginning of the month I held a giveaway for a mini scrapbook album and the winner is:

    wendi said...
    family, friends, fun... fresh rolls baking in the oven, saturday mornings... moments when my kids aren't fighting... kind words of encouragement... alone time.. creating.. dancing... all of those bring me joy.

    Scrapbook goodness is coming your way Wendi!  Congrats!
    I plan on having giveaways again so keep checking back.
    Thanks to everyone who participated.


    Simple Square Block Quilt

    A simple quilt I made for Zane using pirate fabric left over from his birthday party pirate booty bags two years ago.  Instead of machine quilting it I decided to quilt it by using embroidery floss and knotting each square by hand.  I love how it turned out and it warms my heart every night when I tuck him in and know that he is surrounded by something I made with my hands.


    Scrapbook Paper Celebration Banner

    About a year ago I posted a celebration banner I made from oilcloth and recently for my cousin's baby shower I made a very similar celebration banner but out of scrapbook paper.  No sewing required!  I cut the triangles from a stack of coordinating scrapbook paper and then hot glued them on a long piece of bias tape that you can find at any fabric store.  I attached the banner to the table cloth with safety pins and it added a festive bit of fun to the tablecloth I already owned.
    You could do this for any party you are throwing, it's cheap and easy party decor!


    New York City

    I love New York City.  It's my home.  It's the place where I belong, always has been.  I use to live there in another lifetime, it seems.  Logan was born there, which he takes great pride in the cool factor of that.  This past weekend I went for a visit, one of the many bonuses of being back on the east coast allows for such fun weekends away.   I dragged my girlfriend around the city showing her this and that... in and out of the subway stations, everything just came back to me naturally. 
    "Did all the trash ever bother you?", she asked casually.
    I paused, having to think about the question..."yeah especially when people would walk and just thrown their chip bag on the ground". 
    But then it happened to me the same way it happens to everyone..I stopped noticing.  It no longer bothered me.  I remember the trash was an issue when I first arrived fresh and young in the city.  But it doesn't take long to get acclimated to your environment.  It happens to everyone I think, no matter where you live, you just stop noticing things.  I tried to look at New York City with fresher eyes, noticing the architecture on a building that I've passed a million times, a small church out of place hidden between two skyscrapers.  And I wanted to take note within my spirit to do more of this.  To take the time and notice my surroundings with clear eyes.  Not to just walk the dog every morning, the same route, but to actually see the walk.  To not just "stop and smell the roses" but to stop and take note of the color of them, where they are located even.  I don't want to go through life forgetting to notice everything around me.  I don't want to forget this moment and all that it holds dear.
    I challenge you to do the same.


    Autism- Sensory Profile

    It's time for Logan to be reevaluated for the services he receives at school, they do this every 3 years.  The different specialist and teachers who work with him will be conducting the tests and Logan's dad and I have to fill out questionnaires for them to gather our input too.  On the questionnaires there are statements for example: Holds hands over ears to protect ears from sound, you are to check a column Always-Frequently-Occasionally-Seldom-Never.  I remember 4 years ago when I filled out my first sensory profile most of my checks were in the Always and Frequently columns, my heart began to race with the realization that Logan would be on the Autism Spectrum.  At that time I honestly didn't know what that diagnosis would mean and what I was feeling was total and pure fear...fear of the unknown.  
    Having your child diagnosed will do that to you, whether it's for a developmental delay or cancer.  It will make you wake up and look your own fear in the face.
    Now as I fill out the sensory profile instead of panic racing through my body I look at each column and I can see how far Logan has come.  I feel proud of him and all of the hard work he's been doing.  What was once a Always check has turned into a Seldom.  It's progress.  I don't believe children are cured of Autism, I know this is a very touchy subject to even bring up, but I don't believe it.  I also don't believe that my son has anything to be cured of, the way I explain Autism to Logan and other kids is that his brain is wired differently.  That's it.  All the information still gets there, it just takes a different route. 


    Family Craft Night

    Mondays are "switch days", the boys spend a week with their dad and then a week with me and because transitions from house to house are hard on most kids (not just kids on the spectrum) I try and make Mondays very low key.  I don't plan to be anywhere after school; no play dates, no errands to run. We just chill at home.  The boys enjoy the downtime to play with the toys they haven't seen all week and I welcome the no fuss evening of pancake dinner and family craft night.  
    Yes, Family Craft Night! 
    It's the only aspect of Monday that I plan.  The activity varies each week but I always keep it simple. Painting wooden cutouts to then turn into magnets, drawing on the same piece of paper from a large easel pad or building a playdoh house....the possibilities are endless!    My goal is for us to spend quality time together while expressing ourselves creatively.  This week we each sat around the coffee table and drew our very own comic book page and then we held up our page and told the story.  
    Don't you love the train on my wedding dress?  A hug, a kiss and then marriage...if only it was that simple!
    Click here to print off your very own comic book page and start your family craft night!


    Handmade Pocket Tissue Holders

    I adore favors for guests at parties, maybe I should clarify that.  I adore small, useful favors.  I hate all the plastic crap that people hand out at kid's birthday parties but I love when people think creatively and come up with something useful.  For me the recent baby shower for my cousin was no different.  I wanted to give something that was small, useful and handmade.  I immediately thought of the pocket tissue holder that lives in my handbag.  When I recently went back to work full time a mom friend of mine made me one and inside the card it said, "change is hard, sometimes it requires tissues".
    Having a baby is exciting and amazingly this little bundle brings people together... but it's a change.  A change in the dynamic of the family.  A change in the routine.  And though an exciting and happy change sometimes tears will fall because we must all have a minute to mourn what was once familiar.  Inside each tissue holder I put this quote:


    “Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears.” - Edgar Allen Poe

     I found this wonderful tutorial on Skip To My Lou's blog.  These pocket tissue holder are extremely easy to make and in the directions she doesn't mention this step but it is evident in the photos that she does it...clip all the corners off at an angle before turning right side out.  When you clip the corners it makes it easier to press and sew.  These would make great stocking stuffers, I plan on making them as teacher gifts. 


    Baby Shower - Diaper Cakes

    This past weekend was the baby shower for my cousin, Sarah.  Remember the baby shower invitations I posted previously?
    I made my very first diaper cake!  It was extremely easy.  I found this great video tutorial on how to make them.  Click here to watch the video.
    I put a ribbon around each layer that I picked up on clearance at Joann's and then cut three circles out of coordinating scrapbook paper and cut slits into the center to add a bit of depth to each one.  I hot glued buttons, from my stash, to the center of each circle.
    These diaper cakes make a great addition to the baby shower decor and also double as a gift for the new mom. 



    A boy, his dog and a Buzz Lightyear = The best of friends.


    Mini Scrapbook Album GIVEAWAY!!!

    A dear friend's birthday inspired me to dig through my scrapbook collection and create a mini album of random bits of goodness.  I decided to also offer one to one of my lucky readers!!  Here is your chance to WIN a MINI scrapbook!!!  The mini album is full of scrapbook paper, card stock, tags, embellishments, and quotes.  Use it as-is and fill with pictures or take it apart and use elements of it for card marking or your layouts.
    Just answer this question in the comment section of the blog "What brings you JOY?"


    Even the Obama's are canning!

    This just in from our D.C. Bureau, a press release from the White House:
    The presentation of gifts to visiting foreign dignitaries is a time-honored tradition that helps transcend cultural barriers and offers a symbol of peace and friendship.
    In honor of the 65th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly, First Lady Michelle Obama has assembled an assortment of gifts that reflect her past 20 months in the White House. The White House Kitchen Garden, which provides the Obama family and White House guests with delicious fresh produce, is the central theme behind this year’s gift.

    A special recipe of pickled, hand-picked ingredients from the White House Kitchen Garden, including sun gold tomatoes, okra, cucumbers, chocolate bell peppers, carrots, lemon verbena, and fresh herbs are presented in jars with the First Lady’s signature. The jars are topped with original artwork done by California artists, Michael Cronan and Karin Hibma, who were inspired by a photo of Mrs. Obama tending to the garden with children and a wheelbarrow.
    Chamomile seeds were harvested from the White House Kitchen Garden for the first time this year and are being shared by Mrs. Obama. Also included in the gift is an off-white clay Tea Canister hand-made by Virginia potter Catherine White, whose work is inspired by the varied landscapes of nature.
    I LOVE this!  I love that our President and his family are setting such a wonderful example of what gifts should be, simple expressions of love and thoughtfulness. 


    Target $2 Family Fun Night at Port Discovery in Baltimore, MD

    Though I am still currently banning Target right now I do support the awesome children's museum, Port Discovery, in Baltimore, MD.  My boys LOVE this place.
    On Friday, October 15 4pm - 7pm go and enjoy the museum for only 2 bucks per person!!

    Also if you have a Port Discovery Membership you can get into the Baltimore Zoo for FREE until October 15th.


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