Thursday, August 28, 2014

100,000 and Project Project's Top Ten Posts

Project Project reached another milestone recently when we hit 100,000 page views! I know some blogs hit two or three times that in a day, but for a rink-dinky blog like mine that was a big deal, and felt like a bit of an accomplishment! An accomplishment that you made possible, so may I suggest you treat yo'self to something tasty?

I asked my friends on Facebook how I should mark the occasion, and the suggestions ranged from a signed glamour shot giveaway, to a tub of ice cream to reposting my most popular blog posts. As much as I wish I could share some Ben and Jerry's with all of you, and as much as I am sure you would have treasured a signed glamour shot of me, I'm going to start out by sharing:

 Project Project's top 10 most popular posts

1. First Birthday Party. A post about Espen's Very Hungry Caterpillar Party. With over 20,000 page views, this is far and away the most popular post on the blog, with the overwhelming majority of interest coming from Pinterest (that's kind of fun to say!). I think people like it because it is a fairly simple approach to a themed party, where none of the projects are so ambitious that you couldn't see yourself doing them. And it's a classic children's book that lots of people love, which helps too. It's not my favorite post, but it is one that I am quite proud of. 

2. Painted Easter Egg Tutorial. I wrote a post about how to paint decorative easter eggs the way I learned to do it growing up in Norway. It's such a common thing to do in Scandinavia that it seemed like it might be a bit silly to write about it, but this post has been really well received! In fact, as well as living its own life on Pinterest, this post has also been featured by and their affiliate MSN Living, as well as on Family Storytelling. It was my first attempt at a tutorial, and I am quite pleased with how it turned out. 

3. Project Baby and Guest Blogger Week: Carina. I didn't even write the third most popular post on my blog myself! Somehow I conned the lovely Carina from The Jet Set into doing a guest post for me, and her legions of readers are still finding it! I asked her to write a guest post for me when I was pregnant and expecting Espen, and she came up with this bittersweet little essay about mothering boys. Carina also writes for Today's Mama

4. Project Baby: The Loveliest Baby Shower. This post deserves to be in the Top Ten, because it is all about the beautiful baby shower our sweet friend Stepper threw us before Espen was born. Such a lovely shower with so many wonderful ideas and attention to details. And check out Stepper's own post about the shower here, because she wasn't inexplicably posting tiny photos like I was back then. 

5. Espen's train party: the set up. This is a post about Espen's second birthday party, which was train-themed, seeing as that was his big passion at the moment. It's another Pinterest favorite, and was featured in an article at Again, I think this is a popular post because it features some simple, straightforward ideas that don't cost the earth and are fairly easily executed. And so many little kids love trains, which makes it a popular and much searched for party theme. I was quite pleased with how it all turned out, and the pictures still make me smile. 

6. Train birthday invitation. I split the different elements of Espen's train party up into three separate posts, so it actually shows up three times on the Top Ten list. This post is about the cute invitation that we had made for the party, and talks a bit about how I like to use the invitation as a jumping off point for the rest of the party. 

7. Step 5: Get Some Exercise! This seems like kind of a random post to have in my Top Ten list, but I think it got a lot of hits on Google because of the title. Aren't we all trying to get some exercise? Back in early 2012 I was trying to get a bit more healthy, so I introduced a Small Steps program on my blog, where I and some of you readers took on a new health challenge every week. We did really great, kept it up for a couple of months, and saw some good results... until I suddenly started feeling really sick and really tired all the time - and discovered I was pregnant! Which was really the ultimate good result.  I'm feeling like I might want to bring this blog series back - who's with me? 

8. Train birthday cake. The third and final Top Ten post about Espen's train party is all about the cake we made.I seem to remember we were up until the wee hours of the morning putting this bad boy together!  Having little to no experience in fancy cake making, we were quite happy with our results, and even felt bold enough to offer some advice from an inexperienced baker. 

9. Summer pasta salad.  This post features a recipe I dreamed up while pregnant for a quick and easy dinner salad. We make it when we don't really feel like cooking (it only calls for boiling pasta, or want something that feels a little lighter, but is still filling enough to qualify as dinner. It's very easy to vary and personalize depending on your preferences and what you have on hand, which is nice. This one also shows up on Pinterest a bit, but might need a better photo to really bring in the crowds. 

10. About Amsterdam from Brussels (finished in Spanish Fork).  This post is about a day out in Amsterdam, spent with Nick's sister Tess and her boyfriend, Jasper. We had a great day in a great place, and got a few good photos along the way. But I have to say that I'm honestly a little mystified as to why this post made it into the last Top Ten spot, unless it's because I used three place names in the title, which might have made it more searchable. Or maybe people are finding it via image searches? Anyway, I like it personally as a little trip down memory lane, and a testament to the fact that we are managing to be a family that travels. Maybe you might like it as a little travel guide to Amsterdam? I feel certain that you would enjoy the flower markets. 

And so we have it: The Top Ten Most Popular Posts on Project Project, according to Blogger stats! Was it pretty representative of what you remember from reading along, or did they miss one of your favorite posts? Do you even have a favorite post? If post A left point B traveling at a speed of 65 mph, and post C left point D 45 minutes earlier.... 

Signed glamour shot, anyone?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Back to School Traditions

This is only our second year of having a school boy, but we are discovering that back-to-school season is a busy season! There's back to school shopping (which we have mostly escaped with a preschooler), parent's nights, open houses, the start of soccer season (that is an entirely different blogpost!) and just settling into our new routine as a family. Parenthood keeps you busy!

In the midst of all the hoopla, we've decided that we want to make room for a few simple Back to School traditions of our own.

Flags on your food = instant party!

First, we have our First Day of School feast. Last year we had a special dinner the night before school started with some of Espen's favorite foods. I think we had German Pancakes and pink milk. This year we were pressed for time because soccer practice fell on the night before school, so I got up a little early and cooked a back to school breakfast. Espen loves breakfast foods above all others, so all I did was fry up some bacon and eggs and everyone was happy. And I baked some blueberry muffins, let's be honest, mostly so I could put them on a tiered plate and stick flags in them.

I found the flags here last year, along with a cute banner, which I did myself the lovely favor of saving for a year, so I didn't have to hunt down and assemble a new one for this year. We hang our banners in the hardest place to photograph imaginable, so I please accept this truly awful photo, and trust me when I tell you that it does look cute, and that Espen's little face lit up like a Christmas tree when he realized this little celebration was for him.

Awful photo, but cute banner, right?
The whole idea behind the First Day of School feast is to show Espen that school is something to be happy and excited about, and for him to feel that he has the love and support of his family as he goes off into the world. While we eat we just talk about school and what to expect, what he might be nervous about, what he's feeling excited about, etc. There are no presents, no family goal setting, no motto for the school year (not that those aren't lovely things - for someone else's family.) It's really just a nice moment to stop and reflect together as a family before the world goes hurtling on again. 

Our other Back to School Tradition is the one we share with people, and that is the First Day of School Photo. As we head out the door on our way to school, we plop Espen down outside the front door with a little poster telling what year it is, who his teacher is, and what year of school he is in. You can find the one we used here.  It will be fun to compare all of these a few years down the road, and I feel like I can already see such a difference between the two photos we already have. You can see his photos from last year here

He's in preschool!

So, that's what we do. Nothing too big or crazy, but just enough to make each year of school feel a little extra special and exciting. Do you have any Back to School traditions in your family?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Something for the weekend

First day of preschool!

It's Friday again! How was your week? Busy? Ours certainly was: Espen started preschool and soccer this week, I hosted book club and Nick and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary. Now the weekend is finally here, but there is no rest for the wicked as Nick is away on a photography retreat, and Espen has his first soccer game of the season tomorrow morning (I'm a soccer mom!), plus all of the usual weekend errands that me and the kids will be running solo before Nick gets back tomorrow night. That was a very long sentence.


A few bits and pieces from the week:

  • Let's start with this video made by Pampers in Japan. It's about celebrating first time moms and all they accomplish in the first year of motherhood. I admit I am a sucker for this kind of thing, but maybe keep a tissue handy just in case. Plus, now I feel like I need a Japanese baby. The kids in this video are so cute!
  • I'm loving this adorable jump suit that Cherry Darling made from a thrifted mechanic's suit! I find it completely inspiring that she took one of the least flattering items of clothing known to man, lopped off the arms and legs, added a belt and came up with something so completely cute! It makes you wonder what other potential you're missing in just about everything around you. 
  • I've been watching some TED talks lately (handy for when I'm folding laundry or mindless stuff like that), and enjoyed this one by Australian singer Megan Washington about her life and career as a stutterer. I stuttered a bit myself as a kid, so recognized a lot of what she was talking about, although I somehow was lucky enough to (mostly) outgrow it along the way. Even if stuttering doesn't mean much to you, she's just a brave, funny, charming and talented lady. 
  • This Pavlova recipe, which is what I made for book club last night. So pretty and tasty! I followed the alterations suggested by Lemonlush in the comment section. Mine is pictured above. 
  • This article about unsupervised play, which is definitely meant to be a bit opinionated and inflammatory. I'm a bit on the fence about the whole thing, so would love to hear your thoughts. I think it's interesting that crime statistics are lower now than they were when "we" were kids, but parents are far and away more cautious with their children now. Is the world we live in really that different than it was 20 years ago? Discuss!
  • I haven't knitted anything for ages, but this blanket and this sweater are making me want to get my needles and yarn out again. 
  • Our bedroom is in need of some color and style, and this duvet cover keeps catching my eye in the new IKEA catalog. So summery! Plus it reminds me of Carl Linnaeus and binomial nomenclature in the best possible way. 
Oops, time to get Gwen up from her nap and pick Espen up from school. Have a good weekend! 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Happy ninth anniversary


To my Nicholas,

Nine years ago today, I stepped out of your sister's car, crossed the street and met you outside the entrance of the St. George temple. You were waiting for me by the fountain. You took my hand, and we walked inside together. And less than two hours later we were married!

There are a lot of details I don't remember from that day, including most of the words of the ceremony, but I do remember you. Your face. The feeling of finally, finally having someone to really belong to, who also really belonged to me. The feeling of coming home to you at last.

Nine years have passed since that day, and so much has changed. We've lived in four different homes in four different cities, had three cars, bought two houses, sold one house, had two babies, visited seven countries, lost two grandmothers, lost my father. So much has changed, but still I come home to you, and you come home to me. My days begin and end with you beside me.

Our life now is a good life (such a good life!), but it's a busy life. Sometimes I just put my head down and hurtle through the day-to-day, hardly even noticing my fellow hurtlers, as I try to make it to the finish line with everything done that needs doing. But every once in a while the mist clears, I look up and there you are. It's not the most romantic of examples, but only yesterday, you were hurrying to get off to work, but took the time to empty the trash and bring it out the curb so I wouldn't have to. Like you always do. And in that moment of taking care of your family and meeting our needs and working so hard for us, I loved you with all of my heart. Like I always do.

Happy anniversary, my love! I love you, and I love us, and I love where we have been and I love where we are going. I love those two little people we've picked up along the way too.

Best thing ever.




Monday, August 18, 2014

Time with family

When people tell me that we are sooo lucky that we get to travel to Norway and Europe as often as we do, I am inclined to agree. Norway is such a beautiful place, filled with some of the loveliest people I know, and getting to visit other places in Europe at the same time is like living at the pointiest peak of lucky. But try to tell me that I am spoiled because we get to visit Norway as often as we do, and I will put my foot down most firmly. Spoiled people do not live 4758 miles from their mum. Spoiled people do not primarily talk to their granny via FaceTime. Oh, what we wouldn't give to have family around the corner like so many people do! 

One last snuggle before we had to go home.

So, when we go to Norway, we go to soak up as much time with my Mummy and the kids' Granny as we possibly can. 

Gwen and her Granny at the beach.

I'm not sure if it's quite possible to put into words just how much these kids adore their Granny. She plays with them. She reads stories. She lets them rampage through her house and garden more or less at will. She loads up on art supplies and brings out all the old toys in anticipation of their arrival. She knits clothes for the kids. Because her time with the kids (and us!) is limited, she puts everything she can on hold while we are there, and just gives all of her time and attention to us. If I'm making her sound like an absolute dream of a grandmother, it's because she really is. She even made jam with berries from her own garden, for goodness sakes!

Nothing like a snuggly bedtime story with Granny.

I have to say it's a bit different from my own upbringing! Not that my mum wasn't a loving and giving mother who would do anything for her family, because that is exactly what she was. But she was on the front lines of parenting then, up to her elbows in the nuts and bolts of the everyday life of keeping our family afloat, always busy, always working. When I wanted to find my mum when I was a kid, I would look in the kitchen first, and the laundry room second, which says something, don't you think?

A day out. 

My mum still works hard. She and a coworker bought the bookstore she had been managing, and now run it together. She goes to the gym. She maintains her home and garden all by herself. But since the grandkids came along, I've noticed an ability to set things aside and focus on the here and now that feels new to me. Norwegians say that grandchildren are the dessert of life, and I feel like my mum is able to love and enjoy our two little crazies in a way that makes my heart so happy.

Uncle Jeremy and Espen.

Of course, as much as we love my mum, she's not the only person in Norway that we love. My grandmother is there, I have aunts and uncles and cousins and friends aplenty. And my one and only brother lives there too. We were lucky enough that we got to see quite a lot of him while we were there, although it's never quite enough time when it's family, is it? Espen loves his uncle, and thinks he is just the cat's pajamas. When uncle Jeremy had time to play with him, his whole little face just glowed. He was so happy in the picture above, trotting along with his uncle, chattering away a mile a minute. And it's hard to say who was more delighted by the other, Gwen or Jeremy. I can't even really express what it means to me to see these relationships form and develop between my family and my own children. It transforms the whole idea of family into something that extends deeper and further than what I understood it to be before becoming a parent myself. Does that make sense?

Me and my Mummy on my birthday.

Three weeks with my family, and with my mum especially, was wonderful. If I can get a little more flowery, I'd like to say that it centers me, it grounds me, and it fills my reservoirs in a way that I absolutely need every so often, especially when I live so far away from home. It's so important to spend time with people who know and love you for you, who remember where you come from, and will be with wherever you go next. It's so important to spend time with family.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

And the winner is....

Winner winner, chicken dinner!

Just popping in to announce that the winner of the party planning giveaway is Meghan! Meghan, I will shoot you an email, and then we will start planning that graduation party for your husband! I'm excited! :)

Also, because the interest in this giveaway was just so overwhelming (ha!), I decided that I will do a Pinterest board with the two other ladies who entered as well. Carolyn and Rachel, I'll be in touch! I'm looking forward to coming up with some fun ideas for your upcoming parties too.

Have a good week!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Something for the weekend

Miss Gwen takes every opportunity to get into trouble while mom is out of commission. 

It's Friday! Do you have anything good planned for the weekend? And how was your week? I was knocked off my feet last week by a massive cold with a side of ear infection, and eight days later it is STILL going strong. I'm not sure I can ever remember being this sick for this long! (Although, honestly, if that's my worst illness that I can remember, that puts me in pretty good health, don't you think?) So there's nothing fun to report from our house, other than my kids getting pretty much unlimited access to the TV and iPads while I have flopped pathetically on various soft surfaces. 

I have spent a lot of time online, though, so I thought I'd share some of my favorite finds this week with you, in no particular order:
  • Lauren Bacall passed away this week, and I came across this footage of her wedding to Humphrey Bogart in 1945. They really seemed to be in love, don't you think? (Even if he was 25 years older than her!) And she was just stunningly beautiful. Gwen liked their dog. 
  • It's a good thing to have a book to curl up with when you're sick, and I was lucky enough to have a really great one waiting for me on my nightstand. Per my request, Nick usually gets me a book for my birthday, and this time (my birthday was last month) he had found All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It's set during World War 2, and tells the story of a blind French girl whose father builds her scale models of the places they live to help her learn get around. At the same time we also learn about the life of a German boy whose intelligence gets him sent to a state school for boys training to be soldiers. I don't want to give anything away, but I do recommend it. 
  • Mildly obsessed with this dress* (in grey) from Boden for Gwen. If only I lived in a world where I could justify spending  $48 on a dress for a toddler! 
  • Similarly besotted with these space t-shirts for Espen, also from Boden. Actually, most of their t-shirts for boys are pretty great. Espen sat beside me on the couch and picked out cool Boden tees for about $300. I wish, Buddy! Maybe Santa will be more generous? (But not THAT generous.)
  • Robin Williams' sad passing, of course. I think we were all hit a little harder than we expected to be by that one. Jimmy Fallon's tribute was spot on: see it here
  • And as heart breaking as it was to lose a legend like Robin Williams, at least it has caused us all to stop and think and talk about mental health, depression and suicide. For an excellent, articulate, candid and and clear first hand account of what it is like to live with those struggles, watch this TED talk by Silja Björk Björns∂ottir. It's 16 minutes long, but it's 16 minutes that will stay with you. 
  • This NPR article about parenting practices around the world. Some of them sound wonderful, and some of them can stay right where they came from, thank you ever so much. 
  • This toy car garage, made from toilet paper rolls. I know someone who would love to make and play with that! Time to start saving toilet paper rolls. 
Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

PS: I'll draw a winner for the party planning giveaway on Sunday night, so hurry and enter if you would like to plan a party with me!

*Link removed due to dead link.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


The caterpillar that started it all! I have lost track of how many times this has been pinned on Pinterest. :) 
I was just looking in on the ol' blog stats this afternoon and noticed that the post I wrote about Espen's Very Hungry Caterpillar themed first birthday party has just reached 20,000 page views! That is almost three times as many people as there are in the town I grew up in! I'm sure you can imagine that this is a pretty big milestone for an itsy-bitsy blog like mine. Project Project also quietly celebrated its sixth birthday last month (see my first ever post from way back when right here!), so I am feeling in the mood for a little celebration. How about a party? How about a giveaway? How about a party giveaway?

Here's what I'm thinking: I love planning parties, and so I would love (love!) to help plan one for one of you readers. Tell me in the comment section what type of a party you'd like to throw, and I will help you put it all together. Please remember that while I have primarily blogged about my children's parties, I'd be happy (maybe even a little giddy) to help plan one for grown-ups too.

  • If you have Pinterest, I would work on a collaborative Pinboard along with you to gather ideas and start getting a feel for where we are headed with this shindig. 
  • If you don't have Pinterest, I will correspond with you via email and bombard you with links and ideas that way instead. 
  • Because nothing sets the tone for a party like a really great invite, I'd like to give you a custom invite by Kristen at Sage Digital Designs. She's been making all of mine for several years now, and I can't even begin to tell you how great she is to work with. I will be as involved or not involved as you like in putting together a great design for your invite. :)
  • A great banner and some cupcake or sandwich flags (or similar) look great at a party, but can be stressful to put together when you are the busy host(ess). I will do those for you and mail them to you!
  • Everyone loves party food, and I would be delighted to help you plan your party menu. Yum!
  • And finally, if you happen to be local (say Utah valley or Salt Lake valley), I'd be happy to help get your party all set up and ready to go. 
So, pretty please may I help you? From a special family night with your nearest and dearest to a fancy schmancy night with everyone you know, we can do it, friend*! For more of my party posts, see here

 What kind of party are you planning?

* Just don't ask me to plan your wedding, because the pressure might kill me. And there might be caterpillars and trains at your wedding.