Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas 2012 in pictures

Our week at the cabin in the mountains is over, and we are back in civilization again, this time at Nick's parents' house for the New Year. We had such a good time up there, and I would love to do it again one of these Christmases. Just escaping the world for a little bit and spending time with family was wonderful.

Will you indulge me in a little photo avalanche from our cabin-y Christmas? I wasn't going to (Christmas is so last week!), but then I saw the photos Nick took and decided to share a little anyway. I threw in a few I took with my phone too - see if you can spot who got a fancy new camera?

Our cabin.

The Norths always play board games when they get together.  

Espen loved playing in the snow like a little Norwegian.

We went sledding in beautiful clear weather. 

Grandma was playing with her iPad, so Espen had to get "his" too.  

Making paper snowflakes for the Christmas tree with Grandma and Grandpa.
So simple and pretty, and fun to do together as a family. I think we'll do this again. 

More playing in the snow. 

The table set for Christmas Eve dinner.

Gwen and Grandma at dinner. 

Espen opening his Christmas Eve present of a new book and jammies. 

And Espen and Grandpa helping an eagerly interested Gwen open her present. 

Grandpa snuggles by the light of the Christmas tree. 

Waiting for Grandma on Christmas morning so we could open presents.

Experimenting with alternative gift opening techniques.

So full of Christmas cheer I allowed photos of me in my jammies.

Espen has been completely desperate to play boardgames lately, so we got him one for Christmas.
It has been played at least twice daily ever since. 

Espen and Gwen in their new Christmas jammies.
Mr. Handsome and his new camera. 

Gwen found the consumerism of Christmas Day frankly overwhelming. 

The boys played lots of Donkey Kong.

Nick played with his camera. 

Our good friend and fellow Norwegian, Annika, joined us for a few days. 

We played in the snow some more. 

Espen was super happy to have Annika (almost) all to himself for a few days.

We took our baby out in the snow. 

We had impressive hat hair, but were too happy to care. 

Annika made us crazy delicious dinner, and we ate entirely too much.

We enjoyed a blazing fire and wished we had one at home too. 
And that was it! It was lovely and relaxing and Christmassy in all the best ways. Spending Christmas in a cabin is something I've always wanted to do (blame George Michael), but it always seemed a bit too posh-outdoorsy. As it turns out, it was completely doable, even if I had to buy snow pants to do it.

How was your Christmas?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I just wanted to wish anyone stopping by Project Project today a very merry Christmas. We've spent our day opening presents, playing with our new toys, enjoying Christmas dinner and relaxing together in the best way. I haven't been this excited for Christmas in years, and my expectations have been so thoroughly met. Espen has been excited and delighted by every thing in the best possible way, and really understands what we mean by Christmas this year. We've had some pretty great moments that I'll remember for a long time. Gwen is just sweet and sleepy and snuggly in the best possible way.

In a few minutes I'll be headed back to pumpkin pie, board games, bed time for little ones followed by the Doctor Who Christmas special (yay!), but before I do I just want to wish you all the merriest of Christmases, the happiest of holidays and the best Tuesday, regardless of how you're spending this day and what it means to you.

I don't talk too much about my faith, but today I will tell you that I know in my heart that Jesus lived, who he was and is, and what that means to me. And for that I am so grateful. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Kvelden før kvelden* and a few cute printables that will make you look totally crafty and clever.

December 23rd is known as Little Christmas Eve (lille juleaften) in Norway, and marks the start of Christmas when people get ready to hunker down for a few days of family, food and celebrations. We arrived at the cabin where we will be spending the next week and put together Christmas in what felt like minutes. The Christmas tree is up, there is a blazing fire in the fireplace, we're in the middle of a snowy forest, for goodness sakes, and I have firmly rooted myself next to the treat table. We're there, friends!

In case, you like me, are a bit of a last-minuter, I wanted to show you a few last minute life-savers that I found on Pinterest: First, there are these gift tags from Kelli Murray that completely saved my gift-wrapping bacon when I ran out. You can download and print them for free from her blog, and they turned out so fantastically cute I may never buy another gift tag again. I printed mine at home on white card stock, but printer paper would do in a pinch too. There's also a whole roundup of free printable gift tags here. People are talented!

So cute! I borrowed this photo from Kelli Murray, because I'm too lazy to take my own.

Second, I wanted to show you these little gift boxes that we put together using this printable from Design Mom. We (meaning Nick) modified them a bit because we were in a time crunch and didn't want to cut out all of those little windows. We also only had white card stock, so we added a little color to ours and stuck the wreath directly on the house. Oh, and we added a little message to the blank side of the house. They were very quick and easy to make, with the most time consuming part being the scoring and folding. They made very sweet little neighbor gifts, and will fancy up the humblest of offerings.

I love that they look like a little street! 
Anyway, dinner is almost ready, so it is time for me to stop being the recluse with the laptop and go and join in the fun with the family. Hope you're enjoying yourself wherever you are, whatever you're doing!

*The night before the night. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas around the house.

Just hurtling by the blog in the midst of our Christmas preparations. We decided last minute to rent a cabin in the mountains for Christmas, so are up to our eyeballs in ski pants and snow shovels as we try to get ready for a week of snowy weather and pack up and transport Christmas in full. Things are a little nuts (the UPS guy must think we are!), but the end result is going to be so completely worth it in the end. I can't wait for a week of indulging in my favorite people, good food and general holiday cheer.

Before I skip off into the snowy sunset though, here are a few shots of Christmas around our house. We keep things fairly simple (I think?), and with a pretty distinctive Norwegian flair. Because my mother is English and my father is Norwegian, I grew up blending holiday traditions from those two countries, and now we've thrown America into the mix too. December is a good month at our house!

A couple of Dickensian mice, just out caroling on the bench.

These are impossibly hard to get a good photo of , but we got two silver bells with Espen and Gwen's names engraved on. Oh, and Norwegians put flags on their Christmas trees. No biggie.

Advent candles in the window. I love seeing these lighting up the dark when we get home at night.

We're living on the edge and put the presents under the tree early, even though we have a toddler on the loose. 

The nativity, for once not creatively staged by Espen. Never mind, I just noticed a goat with attitude over on the right. 

Christmas Angel. My brother gave me this for Christmas one year, and I love it, even if I suspect my mum was heavily involved in the purchase  

Christmas Angel's Tiny Sidekick.

My sister-in-law brought me this little house from the Netherlands, and it makes me happy every time I see it, even if I haven't managed to scrounge up a tea light for it yet.

Oranges with cloves and some advent candles on the kitchen table. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

But you still catch my eye.

Sending us all into this December weekend with the greatest Christmas music video ever made:

Oh, it warms the very cockles of my heart. George Michael's hair! The shoulder pads! English people in the snow! If this is wrong, I don't want to be right. 

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The truth is...

"There's order somewhere in the universe? We're on it!"

Reading some of your comments on the last couple of posts made me laugh. If I have somehow created the illusion of a perfect little home life where I bounce around in my pearls alternately cleaning and crafting within mere weeks of giving birth to an almost 10 lb. baby, then I should probably set the record straight. We are so not on the ball around here. In fact, I'm not even sure I know where, or even what, the ball is. Yes, I may have my dishwasher going, but the counter above it is completely covered in who-knows-what. We have a pretty Christmas tree up, but the rest of the living room is an explosion of toys and baby stuff. I did shower, get dressed and take Gwen to the doctor today, but it's also 4:30 in the afternoon, and I have absolutely no idea what we're going to be eating for dinner tonight/ in an hour. Our sleep is interrupted every few hours by a hungry baby, and I have the circles under my eyes to prove it. Oh, and I also fell asleep in Espen's pint-sized bed this afternoon.

So rest assured that chaos abounds. It's just that between the trash that needs to be taken out and the occasional bout of "ohmygoshdidyoujustpoopinthebath?!?", we are managing to eke out some really, really good family stuff along the way. There may be a board game strewn all over my living room floor, and a fire truck parked beneath the Christmas tree, but that is just because my boys were playing there, and haven't quite gotten around to cleaning it up yet.

One day I might crack the code to having a clean house, a happy family and a tranquil, well-adjusted me, but until then, we are all just going to have to live with us the way we are: a bit smudgy, but ultimately very happy.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Advent Calendar 2012

Fashionably late, as usual. 

Thanks to miss Gwen's early arrival, Christmas kind of crept up on us a little bit this year. But somehow I still managed to pull together this year's advent calendar in the very nick of time - one hour before Espen's bedtime on December 1st, no less! 

We share the calendar together as a family, and open it at breakfast time. Sometimes there's a piece of chocolate for everyone (OK, a lot of the time there's chocolate), sometimes there's a Christmas activity for us to do together like supplies to make Christmas tree ornaments, and sometimes there is a book or a DVD to build our Christmas library. In past years there has been a CD with Christmas music, but this year I just couldn't find anything I wanted. Suggestions? Espen gets wildly excited about "what's inside?!? What's inside?!?", and we all enjoy starting our day with a little treat. My favorite thing, though, is that it gives us a little time to do something special together as a family, each and every day leading up to Christmas. 

Just in case you happen to be a monstrously fast seamstress/sewer/sewing person, and possess the ability to time travel (Doctor?) back to last Saturday and December 1st, here is the tutorial I put together for how to make our advent calendar. Or you could call yourself super organized and pin it for next year. It's a bit time consuming, but super simple (I made it, after all!) and very reusable. 

Do you have an advent calendar? Who puts it together and what goes inside? 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Just a mom with the will to survive

Yes, I had junk food for lunch, but I also got two children to nap. Simultaneously. 

Gwen will be three weeks old on Thursday, and somehow I have managed to escape taking care of my children on my own for more than a couple of hours - until today. I've been nervously counting down the days until this Tuesday, wondering if I could really rise to the challenge of two children, especially with the challenges that a newborn and a two year-old both hold.

I woke up this morning with "Eye of the Tiger" from the movie Rocky firmly stuck on my brain - the penultimate motivational anthem.  I crawled out from under my covers, looked those two tiny people firmly in the eyes, then fed us all our respective breakfasts. Then, when Nick had left for work, I sat down and made myself a list of goals for the day - my first day on my own:

  1. Eat
  2. Shower
  3. Do laundry
  4. Make dinner
  5. Help Espen to nap
  6. blog
It's a little list, but it includes all of the things I just couldn't figure out how to do on my own the last time I had a newborn. I think, on my first day alone with Espen, I survived on the occasional fistful of dry cereal. I am absolutely confident I didn't shower, because I just didn't know how to leave that little body alone and unwatched for more than a few seconds at a time. What if he needed me? No laundry or blogging happened, and I am quite sure that I cried piteously for dinner when Nick got home from work. Motherhood came very naturally to me, and my little Espen was very well cared for. I just didn't how to care for myself or anything else at the same time. 

I am realizing that this time I am much more equipped to deal with this new situation. I know how to take care of a newborn, I know how to be Espen's mother, and I am quickly learning how to be Gwen's. The equation may have a few more variables this time, but it's basically the same as before. I know this. I can do this. 

We've had our sticky moments already, I and I can absolutely guarantee you there will be more before the day is over. But I have eaten (a slice of pizza and a muffin). I have showered (while Gwen fussed in her bed and Espen played with the iPad). A load of laundry is going, and (fingers crossed!) both children are taking naps as I type this blogpost. Dinner will very likely come out of a bag from the freezer, but gosh darn it all, folks, I am doing it!

*Power stance.*

Monday, November 26, 2012

Gwenyth Josephine.

If things have been quiet here on the blog lately, it's because they have been anything but quiet elsewhere.

9 days old.

Our little Gwen surprised us all by deciding to come a couple of weeks early, and life hasn't been the same since. We've been home from the hospital for a week now, and are starting to dip our toes into everyday life. Espen, our freshly-minted big brother, is returning home from a week with his grandparents this afternoon (having him gone was the right thing for lots of reasons, but I can't even begin to tell you how much I missed having that little body around), and we are about to start our life together as a family of four.

Let me tell you a little bit about Gwen. She loves to eat and sleep, and in her earlier days of life, will often slip quite seamlessly from one state to the other. Now that she's getting a little older, she will stay awake for longer stretches at a time, and peers quizzically (and a little skeptically) out at the world with her big dark eyes. Her temperament is generally very mild, unless she is a) hungry, b) having her diaper or clothes changed, c) being bathed or d) in the hands of a nurse. Then she will let you know how she feels. Gwen is a very snuggly baby, and is happiest when she can burrow her self to sleep in our arms. Sometimes she'll adjust herself so her little face is right against my neck, and it takes my breath away every single time.

As her parents, we are naturally convinced that we have produced yet another exceptionally beautiful child. Underneath the adorable newborn squish we see glimpses of a little girl with big brown eyes, a pointy little chin, high cheekbones and a mass of wild, dark hair. Watch out, world.

And if you're wondering about how a little girl like Gwen got a big name like Gwenyth Josephine, then let me tell you. She is named after my maternal grandmother Gwenyth (Gwen) and Nick's maternal grandmother Josephine (Jo). They both passed away within the last year or so, and both meant a great deal to our family. We think they are both beautiful names, and are happy to have a small part of those two wonderful women live on in our little girl.


And now it's time for me to figure out how to feed this baby and take a shower and get dressed all by myself. Oh, new motherhood. It's been a while!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Happy Halloween from our little dragon

My mum reminded me (as gently as only a grandmother waiting for photos of her grandson in costume can) that I promised to post some photos of Espen in his Halloween costume, and here they are! 

This is the first year that he's been old enough to really catch on to what we do on Halloween, and he voiced his tiny two year-old opinion in September when he told us he wanted a dragon costume for Halloween, which he has stuck to ever since (although he did spend a few days telling people he was going to be a baseball...?). Knowing that this was not the year to start spending quality time with my sewing machine, we went with a pre-made option from Old Navy ($8 on sale!!!) and were all pretty delighted with the result. I like that it's warm and pretty functional, Espen likes that it has wings and a tail. Behold!

This is a roaring face. As it turns out, it was pretty tricky to get a non-roaring photo of Espen while he was "in character."

Checking out his loot. 

And another roar for good measure. 
Trick or treating was really fun. Espen really caught the vision and would knock on doors and say "trick or treat" to anyone who would listen to him. It was a little trickier to get him to remember to say "thank you", but we have a few years to get that one nailed down. Most people are willing to forgive sketchy manners in two year-olds, especially if they're yelling "Happy Halloween!" at the top of their tiny lungs.

Our only real Halloween misadventure was that we got sidetracked by some good friends that we hadn't seen for almost a year, so we didn't make it home until most of the trick-or-treaters had come and gone, and are now stuck with a huge pile of candy. Oh, the sacrifice!

And now that Halloween is over, it's officially November, and we are having a baby in 20 days. Crazytown.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Project Pinterest: Halloween garland

As I'm spending a lazy (sore and tired, really) afternoon on the couch while Espen sleeps, I thought that I might as well do a Project Pinterest about the Halloween garland we have hanging in our kitchen.

Excuse the weird angle, it's impossible to get a straight shot of this area without getting the lamp involved.

We recently got a color laser printer, and I have been celebrating by churning out all sorts of colored printables. I stumbled across a great birthday bunting/pennant/garland for Nick's birthday a few weeks ago, and quickly found it impossible to live without a festive garland over our dining table. Luckily for me, it's the holiday season, so I should be set through the end of the year at least! Are there any good holidays in January that call for a garland?

Well, after Nick's birthday my hunger for garlands was insatiable, so I hopped on Pinterest and did a quick search for "free printable Halloween garlands", and soon came up with this one from Talk Crafty To Me. It has that slightly retro vibe that I love in my Halloween decorations, and was cute (but not too cute) without being creepy.

I printed it on card stock, and just cut out the circles by hand. It was a bit time consuming (especially when someone kept stealing my stuff to for his "Espen store"), but still easy enough that I could do without too much concentration. Then I just punched two holes at the top of each circle to thread ribbon through. I bought a length of ribbon at good ol' Walmart for less than $2, and that was really my only expense, seeing as I already had card stock at home.

Here's where things got a wee bit tricky: The circles aren't printed in order on the PDF, and the website doesn't show you a photo of the finished result, so you are a little bit on your own as far as positioning things on the ribbon. The text part was of course simple enough (just keep track of your H's and A's, so you can stick to the alternating black and orange pattern), but things took a bit more thought and creativity with the patterned and illustrated circles. I just laid everything out on the living room floor and shuffled it around until I liked how it looked before stringing it onto the ribbon. At this point it's a good idea to make sure your ribbon isn't twisted so the circles will hang flat against the wall.

And then just hang it up! I climbed on the chair in the kitchen and hung it myself at first, but then Nick helped do a little adjusting when he came home. He untwisted the ribbon in a few spots, and then grouped the circles so there was a little bit of ribbon space in between each word and section of circles.

Pretty quick and easy! The printable itself is free, so your only real cost is the use of the printer, card stock and ribbon. The most time consuming part is cutting out the circles, and the rest is honestly done in a few minutes.

I'm quite pleased with how it turned out, and feels like it packs quite a lot of festive punch for something so simple. I also love that it's durable and easy enough to store that I can just plop it in a ziploc bag and pull it out again next year. If you were feeling really fancy, you could laminate each circle before punching the holes to make it really long lasting.

So my verdict is thumbs up for Talk Crafty To Me for this great little freebie, and maybe a tiny thumbs down for not including any photos of the finished result. While putting it together myself was fine, it would have been nice to see what the person who actually created this had in mind. All in all, a good find!