Saturday, February 4, 2012

2011 Wrap-Up, 2012 Catch-Up

Holy moly, it's practically February and I haven't posted anything since November of last year. Between work, play, and a photo storage/management issue, I been able to do any proper blogging! I really hope this isn't a sign of the year to come...

December felt really busy but was actually fairly uneventful, and January has been jam-packed with work and play. Here's a quick recap of the last month of last year, and the first month of this new year.

We got our Christmas tree at our earliest convenience. Alice was riveted by the bounce house at our favorite tree lot. There were two bigger girls jumping when we arrived and Alice just watched them super intently. When they left, I tried to see if Alice wanted to try bouncing but she just crouched down in the doorway and whimpered. Maybe next time. I somehow lost the photos I took of Alice checking out the tree inside the house (see photo storage/management issue, above), but here's an iPhone shot from the tree lot....

picking out the very best one.
In mid-December, Alice's arm gave out during a tickle attack and she bit the floor. I thought she bit her lip or tongue, but it was actually her tooth that was bleeding. She cried but got over it pretty quickly and I tried not to worry too much as nothing seemed loose or out of place. Later that same day, she walked into the corner of our dining table - face first, mouth wide open - and knocked the very same tooth. I kid you not. Please don't call CPS. This time, the tooth bled more and seemed pushed up and back. She cried a very panicked cry, I'm sure it was a rough blow to an already sore tooth. I'd like to note that this chaos prevented me from calling my dad on his birthday in a timely fashion. There's always something.

Anyway, I started calling all the nearby pediatric dentists, trying to find one that was open on Saturdays. Fortunately, one of my besties IS a pediatric dentist (an Assistant Professor of Clinical Dentistry at USC's School of Dentistry, in fact), and was actually planning to come over the next day. I called her in a panic and she put my mind at ease a bit. She came to visit and gave Alice her very first dental exam (unofficially, of course), right in our living room. Alice was amazingly cooperative and well behaved. The next day (Monday), we took Alice to the pediatric dentist right down the street (who had headshots all over his wall - including this guy), and he agreed that everything was probably fine. The tooth hasn't changed colors and looks like it's moving back into alignment with her other teeth, so that's good. Plus, her teeth have pretty much doubled in length over the last few weeks, so that seems to have helped. Both dentists recommended that she stop using her pacifier ASAP, as it was already causing a visible over and "open" bite. I can already see an improvement in her bite, though I don't know if the over bite will correct itself. We've already been told to save for braces...

So we pulled the pacifier plug the very afternoon of our dentist visit and went cold turkey, without any real plan. At first, there were lots of tears at naps and bedtime, but Alice managed to fall asleep with a little extra cuddles and comforting. If I'd spent a little time coming up with a better strategy, I would have tried to snip the ends off the pacifiers. I've heard good reports of that technique making the pacifier unsatisfying to suck, but it would have still allowed Alice to hold them while she went to bed. She seemed to miss that more than anything, but I think she's pretty much gotten over it by this point.

The day after her dentist appointment and our pacifier recall, we went to Disneyland. Our visit included a quick stop at Trader Sam's new tiki bar at the Disneyland Hotel and then Alice's very first visit with the big man himself. 

Cheers-ing at Trader Sams. Jon's drink came with a light show.
Santa was smitten, Alice was unsure.
Snow in SoCal, magical.
Jon's favorite, toy soldiers.
Watching the parade.
Hi, parade!

Despite not having a pacifier to soothe herself, Alice took a nap in the Ergo carrier. I got to watch her sleep in my arms and was able to sneak kisses while she snored. That hasn't happened in months and months and months.

We strolled through the shops and picked up a set of plastic princess dolls (see above photos), thinking they might be a suitable substitute for the pacifiers Alice liked to hold while sleeping. They didn't quite fit that bill, but she loves them and likes to sleep with them and line them up in her crib.

December turned us into industrious little elves and our house into a busy workshop as we tried to complete an ambitious list of handmade holiday gifts. I didn't take enough before/during/after photos, but here are some inspiration images and a few actual photos from the projects we tackled.

Image: Anjali Prasertong
Toasted Coconut Sugar: I came across this post and had to try it for myself. It sounded too easy and too delicious to pass up - and I was right! The end result is amazingly impressive, especially because it is so, so easy. I don't know where coconut sugar has been all my life, but I'm glad I don't have to live another day without it! We gave a little jar to (almost) everyone we love and still have a few stashed away for unexpected occasions.

Image: Sang An at Martha Stewart
Martha's Gingerbread Caramels: I whipped a batch of these late in the game, which meant we couldn't get them to everyone on our list (but also meant we got to snack on a good supply at our house!). They were super easy, even without a candy thermometer (ours had just broken!), and tasted exactly like Christmas should. Here are mine, ready to be sliced into 2-bite pieces.

Seriously, yum.

I also dabbled in a bit of watercolor and painted something for Jon, my favorite dentist, and my oldest friend who just moved into a new home. Please excuse this poorly lit iPhone photo. I hope it looks better in her house!

Image/Source: Crafty CPA
Paint chip coasters: I pinned this cute tutorial and thought it would be a fun thing to make for gifts. I love paint chips, and had an especially good time picking out pretty color combos with fun names. Unlike the inspiration photo above, I used square chips with single colors and arranged them toward one corner of the tile so there was some negative white space around. I bought a roll of self-adhesive cork and stuck that on the back of each tile, and cut the edges flush with an exacto. Sadly, I did not take any photos of the finished sets, but they were super fun to make and turned out great! I'd make a set for our house, but I'm afraid they might not last long...
Photos printed on wood: This was my favorite project and favorite result. Inspired by this tutorial from the awesome (and sadly, now defunct) ReadyMade magazine and this one from A Beautiful Mess, I decided to make some unique photo gifts for the fam. I got some Liquitex Gel Medium and experimented with the technique on a mini canvas and a mini piece of wood. I chose a few photos that I thought would translate well and used Photoshop to reverse the images and to make them black & white. I played with the contrast and levels, printing test proofs with our laser printer, until I got the looks I wanted. Then I just followed the tutorials; print photo via laser printer, cover wood or canvas with gel medium, lay photo face down onto wet gel medium, let dry, wet, rub & remove paper fibers. Magical.

I liked the way the test on wood turned out better than the one on canvas, so we made one for each of our parents and siblings. I used wooden art blocks from Michael's in a few different sizes. Here are some process and almost-finished shots.

in progress, after the first wetting & rubbing away of paper fibers. you can see lots of paper still needs to be removed.
left: the whole collection, in progress. right: the whole collection, mostly done. I think we did another final pass on a few of those.
I loved the way they turned out, they really looked awesome in person. I'm sure the technique could be used on any size and style of wood and would really lend itself to a huge collage of images. And really, it couldn't be any easier!

Now that I've got the technique down, I need to make one for our house. I'll try to document that whole process when I finally get around to decorating our walls. Part of my gift to Jon was a pledge to invest some time into our list of house projects, so hopefully we'll make some progress soon.

With most of our gift crafting completed, Jon, Alice and I pretended it was Christmas morning one day early and exchanged our gifts on Christmas Eve morning. Luckily, Santa (and Amazon) made it in time! Alice really enjoyed opening gifts and playing with her new toys, but she didn't really connect that the toys were inside the gift packages. She'd start ripping off paper, or tearing up tissue, or playing with ribbons and then wander away without really getting that the toy inside was the main game here, rather than just the boxes and bags. Which is exactly why we try not to spend a whole lot on toys =)

Santa brought Alice her very first Cabbage Patch Kid.
Some pretty packages for Alice. Santa asked me to write the labels for him...
Alice got some fun things from Santa, including her Cabbage Patch Kid (named Casey Delaney - born the very day after Alice's due date!), an abacus, an art pad with crayons, a huge box of sidewalk chalk, a Big Bird plush, a tool box and a cooking set. She learned how to play feed everything (her doll, stuffed animals, us, characters in books, the kitties), and our days now involve A LOT of play eating complete with sound effects. So cute. 

Alice feeds her doll.
She loooooves coloring.
Santa found a Cabbage Patch Kid that looks an awful lot like Alice. Just a few more freckles and a few more curls.
After Alice was passed-outsies from all the Christmas excitement, Jon and I enjoyed a nice Christmas/Christmas Eve dinner - steak topped with balsamic caramelized onions and roasted Brussels sprouts. Yum!

We spent Christmas Day with Jon's family, and lucky little Alice received a fun heirloom. She took to it instantly and spent as much time riding it as possible. 

This rocking horse has been ridden by Alice's uncle, dad, and her first cousins-once-removed and was lovingly refreshed for a new little rider. As an added bonus in this photo, Alice is wearing a little reindeer sweater (a Christmas jumper, if you will) that Jon's grandma knitted for either him or his brother. Super cute.

The Doyer/Senge holiday gathering included the traditional gift swap and an always rousing game of Left Center Right. If you ever sit in on a Senge/Doyer game of LCR, be forewarned. Despite using a fresh pair of dice each time we've played, the game must be fixed because the house always wins - Jon's dad won at Thanksgiving, and his mom cleaned up this time!

My parents came down to visit later that week for another round of Christmas-ing. My dad fulfilled an apparently lifelong dream and wrangled an opportunity to help decorate the Farmers Insurance Rose Parade float.

We popped on over to the Phoenix Decorating facility and spent an hour or so making strawflower confetti. We "oohed" and "aahed" at all the details and intricacies of all the in-progress floats and their floral designs.

Ordinarily by that point in the float-decorating process, they would have been installing all the roses but were delaying that step until the last possible minute because it was so warm out. So we got to see the flower storage area absolutely full of gorgeous roses of every color, blooms of all kinds, and other assorted greenery. So lovely.

don't try to mess with this guy.

We also squeezed in a visit to the zoo and Alice enjoyed seeing her favorite animal friends (elephants, tigers, Siamang monkeys, gorillas, giraffes) almost as much as her grandparents enjoyed watching her.

guess who likes giraffes?
Then we celebrated Christmas again and Alice had her third round of present-opening, followed immediately by the most sedate New Year's ever. We watched the East Coast feed from Times Square and celebrated the new year at 9pm PST, and then went straight to bed. I was kind of bummed that I couldn't get my act together to ring in the new year the way I prefer, with junk food appetizer snacks, champagne, board games, and a Little Shop of Horrors singalong. I had been too busy with Christmas gift-making and then baby shower crafting to do anything else!

Once our Christmas gifts were complete, I turned my attentions to baby shower crafts. Jon was kind enough to help me finish up all my projects (cutting out one million rain droplets and circles) as it became clear that my plans had outgrown my available time! I managed to get it all done and packed flat into my carry-on. And then, the weekend after New Year's, I left Alice for the very first time and flew to San Francisco to help throw a baby shower for one of my very best friends who is expecting her first baby literally any day now.

gorgeous flower arrangements by the lovely gal 2nd from left, below.
The event turned out beautifully and it was so much fun to put it together with some of my very favorite ladies for our lovely friend. We had a wonderful time showering her with love. I can't wait for her little guy's debut! He's actually due this very day, so I hope he decides to make his grand entrance soon!

All you need is love. I used coffee to paint out these beloved lyrics from their wedding song.
The next weekend, it was my turn for full-time Alice duty while Jon was working furiously on some freelance projects. Alice and I ran seemingly non-stop errands to get ready for our trip, and then it was time for a long-awaited, much-anticipated vacation! More on that very soon, I promise!


  1. Erin, you look wonderful! Stunnin. I loved seeing all of your homemade gifts. My goal for Christmas 2012 is ALL homemade, you have supported and inspired that even more now. Happy New, Happy February!

  2. Aw, shucks. Thanks, Leah!

    I'm setting a goal to make gift projects throughout 2012 so I can relax and just enjoy the holiday season this year. You might even call it a resolution =)

    Happy Ground Hog's Day!


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