Thursday, February 26, 2015

You guys, I have a serious problem....

If you know me at all you know I am an avid reader.  I go in spurts where I read and ton and then fall off the wagon if the book I'm reading can't keep my interest or I'm heavy into other projects but I ALWAYS have a book I'm reading and a few (or a ton!) in the que waiting for their turn.  In fact, my "to read's" stack up faster than I can actually read so my list is always changing.  Back last summer I decided to do a series called "What on my Kindle?" because god knows I love reading what others are reading and I thought you guys might want to see what I was up to.

Well - my addiction doesn't stop there.  You see, now I've got a little one (nay, soon TWO little ones) to read to) god knows they don't give a hoot about the 300 page books I'm into.  So, I've quickly realized that my personal love of reading has carried over to kids books as well.  The best part?  Kids books don't take days or weeks or months to read so it's easy to justify a "new" book (at least that's what this addict is telling herself).  Of course, our membership to Amazon Prime only facilitates my's all too easy to order in two seconds and they show up two days later on my doorstep.  It's like Christmas morning!!

For me, our bedtime book routine needs to have books that I actually want to read too.  I can only do "Brown Bear Brown Bear" so many times before you've got it memorized.  Don't get me wrong, the Sandra Boynton books are great for babies but really?  Who takes a bath and THEN exercises before going to bed?  It just doesn't make any sense!!  I love finding the unabridged versions of the books we've all grown to love.  I mean, like the first edition Winnie the Pooh books where the stories are longer than 3 pages.  Short books have their place too (Abby and I can't get enough of My Mommy Hung the Moon) but sometimes I want to read something I'll enjoy too.

I think it all started when my sister in law bought Abby a hardcover set of Little House on the Prairie (of course I can't find a link my exactly copy....Erin, do you remember?).  Don't get me wrong, that book is WAY over her head and attention span but it reminded me that even though we're in that toddler stage, we can tackle REAL stories that I'd actually enjoy too.

So, without further ado, here are some of my recent favorites:

1.  The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh:  Come on?  Who doesn't love that silly old bear?  I love this book.  Each story is around 20 pages long and though we often can't finish a story in one sitting we do keep coming back to this one.  Abby calls it just "Pooh" and she's sneaky...she knows the stories are long so if she's vying to stay up a little longer she knows a request for "Pooh" will earn her a few more minutes.  My biggest complaint about this book is that at a whopping 3 lbs its heavy to hold/ready to a toddler but it's SO worth it to get the unabridged version.  You'll be hard pressed to find a bad review on this one.

2.  Beatrix Potter:  I don't necessarily remember this one from my childhood but the mischievous little bunny sure keeps Abby's attention.  We've just started into this one and the stories are around 15ish pages long.  Still a little above Abby's attention span but there are PLENTY of pictures to keep her interested.  The whimsical artwork is beautiful and the stories keep both her and I entertained.  Again, at just over 4 lbs its another big one to hold/read and my biggest complaint is that it doesn't come with bookmark ribbons but if you're looking for a great classic to add to your little one's library this could certainly be the prefect addition.

3.  The New Small Person:  It's not a classic or especially literary but this one fits the changes happening in our life right now.  As we're working on helping Abby understand the new baby on the way, Elmore Green and his concerns about the new small person in his life are hopefully helping Abby to understand the changes in store.  Elmore and his jelly bean licking little brother are cute and this book has a good message.  I know there might be little we can do to prepare Abby but I'm hoping every little bit helps.

4.  The Snow Queen:  Guys, Frozen is great....this is better.  It's a pop-up book and we're JUST learning how to not pull on the pages but the pictures/popups in this book are beautiful.  Abby's ruined her fair share of popup books already so I'm a little worried every time we pull this one out.  So far, it's still in tact.  There are even clever little pockets and pull outs with additional images/text.  That being said, I would NOT leave this one on the shelf for Abby to read alone.  One reviewer said it wasn't suited for children under 5 and I'm tempted to agree.  Buy it'll thank me.


6.  Beauty and the Beast: Did you check out the pictures below?  I mean, come's beautiful and dark all in one.  Another blogger wrote this and I couldn't say it better myself.: This retelling of Beauty and the Beast by Max Eilenberg ranks as one of my very favorite children’s books ever written.  The storytelling is superb, and the scene at the end – where Beauty realizes her love for the Beast has grown into something profound – moved me to tears.  It is one of the most beautifully written love stories I’ve ever read.


7.  The Fairy Tales of Hans Christen Anderson:  Along the same vein as Beauty and the Beast (above) this is one I just added to my quickly growing collection this morning (and spurred this post...).  I can't give a review on it yet, but I have a feeling it will become a favorite in our household.  It was the artwork alone that sold me on this one.

So, what do you think?  Do you like posts like this?  I can keep doing them as I find more favorites if it's something you guys want to hear about.  If not, that's fine too...I'll just keep my little "problem" to myself :)  Also - a word of warning....if you're a parent with little ones and have a celebration coming up that I'm invited to don't be surprised if you find one my favorite kids books in the bag!  As the toys pile up around our house I'm valuing the staying power of a good book over a plastic toy or clothes they'll outgrow in a few months.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The McGrath Family is Expanding AGAIN!

Yep, this happened.  Check out the newest addition to our family.  We just had our 20 week ultrasound today and I figure it was probably time to share the news with the world.  Yep, that's right.  I'm half way through this pregnancy and I couldn't be happier to add another little one to our family.  This little peanut is due July 5th.  Since Abby was a c-section we've chosen to go that route this time around as well.  It's still too early to schedule but if they let us, we'll choose July 4th for this little one's birthday.  I mean, how awesome would it be to have your birthday as a national holiday every year!  You're always off of work and there is always a party with fireworks!  I mean, it sounds pretty awesome to me!  We'll see.  Babies often have plans of their own (Abby was 2.5 weeks early).

Boy or girl? - Just like with Abby, we've chosen not to find out what we're having.  You'll find out right along with us come early July!!

Have you told Abby yet? - Yes, we've started working on her big girl room and started talking about the baby in Mommy's belly.  I can tell that she totally doesn't get it yet, but it's fun to watch her little brain working through it.  We've been asking Abby if she wants to have a brother or a sister and more often than not, she says sister.  Though, I'm not sure she even understands that concept yet either.  I've also been asking her what we should name the baby.  She's come up with some pretty interesting suggestions: Pumpkin, Pencil, Button....I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.

Have you thought about names? - Yep.  Since we aren't finding out the sex I don't mind sharing my name choices.  We've got the boy names set from Abby and they are still the same, Benjamin Aaron or Jacob Daniel.  The girl names are new.  So far we've pretty well narrowed it down to Hazel Frances or Molly (middle TBD).  

Are you going to cloth diaper? - Nope.  It didn't work out for us last time and I've since sold the diapers.  With Abby potty trained and down to diapers only at naps and bedtime I'm fine with going down that road again.

What about that photo project you did for Abby? - When I started that HUGE project for Abby I had lots of people warn me that if I did it for #1, be ready to do it for all the kids.  And of course I'll be doing it again for baby #2!!  So, like it or not, get ready for a second blog with way too many baby pictures coming your way every week.  If you're interested in contributing to the project, I'm looking for 1 yard of fabric for each a grand total of 52 yards of fabric!!  And YES, I'll be quilting it all at the end for this baby too.  

Thursday, February 12, 2015

It's a Hard Job but Someone's Gotta Do It!

A few weeks ago I needed to make some impromptu brownies.  Let me start by saying that I hate brownie mix from a box...homemade just tastes so much better.  But, you know what is nice about boxed brownies?  Then't don't require a shopping trip to get ingredients and they take less than 10 minutes to make if you don't include bake time.

So - last minute boxed brownies it is!  And I couldn't have had a better helper.  Abby'd just woken up from a nap so excuse the bedhead.  She was all to happy to help!

There's no real point to this post other than to share a few photos of my peanut these days.  Plus, don't ALL kids need a few "licking the beaters" pictures for their baby books??  I think so!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Safari Moon (Quilt)

Well, I've got another quilt in the books.  This one is currently living on the basement couch until it finds the perfect home.  It really is the perfect size for snuggling with: 68x68.  Big enough to feel warm but not too bulky and falling on the ground.  All the bright colors are just what this winter landscape needs.  Come on spring and tulips....I'm waiting!!

The backing is improv pieced using whatever I had on hand and few strings of blocks that were "accidents" when I was making the front.  Don't you just love that zebra print?  It's such a large scale pattern I knew I had to have it for the backing.

If you're looking for more details on the pattern/fabric etc check out this blog post I wrote a few weeks back.  I included a ton of details.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

1 Family x 12 (Feb)

Well, 19 inches a few weeks ago and Ryan in Miami during the storm = a very messy driveway situation to deal with this weekend.  Luckily the nearly 40 degree temperatures meant we could take a break and have some fun with Abby.  Thanks to Ryan's brute strength we ended up with a snowman nearly as tall as us and Abby was thoroughly happy with her "Chilly". Here's to spring coming around sooner rather than later!!!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Family Trip to the Water Park

I wasn't a bit surprised when our first encounter at the water park started out with tears. Don't let the picture fool you though, Abby loved our time at the water park. It just takes her awhile to warm up to new things. When we got there Kayden immediately went for the slide so we tried putting Abby down it too....that probably wasn't the best choice. Abby is like me in a lot of ways, she wants to take things at her own pace. She'll get there eventually, but on her own time. After we got over this round of tears she splashed around in the 1-2 inch deep water for awhile avoiding anything that squirted water on or near her. She was perfectly happy playing in ankle deep water.

I'm super disappointed that I forgot my big camera so I was stuck with my iPhone. Honestly, it takes decent pictures especially for being a phone, but it has nothing on my big camera in sport mode where you can catch all the action and none of the blur. So, sadly I only have a few pictures for the water park. We're headed to the Dells in a few months so I promise to remember my camera.

We got to the water park early afternoon on Saturday after a delicious lunch with the family at Vinny Vanucchis. It's one of my favorite restaurants of all time and their garlic bread is to die's covered in butter.

After a few hours at the water park the "big kids" ditched the "little kids" with my parents and we went to a movie!  I haven't been to a movie since Ryan's birthday last year. Seriously, its just not something you do when you've got little one. Or, I should say, it's not something we've made time for in the past year. We went to see Unbroken. It was a great movie, though not a pick-you-up sort of movie.  HA!  The boys loved it though. They sold buckets of beer at the theater so they were set. Joey and I were perfectly happy with our large soda and large popcorn. We got back in time to have pizza with everyone and put the girls down to bed.

The next morning we hit the park again before we had to check out. We were getting every minute out of our time there! Plus, the added benefit of wearing the littles out is hard to resist! We spent a few hours trying out the slides and floating around the lazy river before heading up to the room and packing up. All in all it was a great weekend!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Safari Moon - Progress (Quilt)

I love making quilts for other people.  Indulge me for a minute.  When I'm sewing or knitting the project usually already has an intended recipient.  Very rarely I decide "this is for ME!  It's mine, mine, all mine".  When I'm working on a project for someone I think about them a lot.  I wonder if they will like the colors or fabric I chose.  Wonder which squares they will come to love above all others.  I think about how this blanket will show up in family photos for years to come.  Not staged and meant to shine, but just there keeping people warm, being a part of their memories etc.

Often my handmades are for a super special occasion.  So I spend time thinking about how fun their wedding will be or what they'll name their new little baby.  I'm connected to that person through the many hours I spend on these projects.  I remember special memories I have with them and dream about the memories our kids will make some day.  Almost like I'm sewing those memories, along with my love, right into the fabric.  So when they pull it up to their ears and snuggle in for a nap, I'm there too, in spirit.

It's strange, but Ryan once told me all of the things he thinks about when he's on a 6 hour bike ride....craft time is that time for me.  It's time to decompress and just "be".  All that time alone in your head can be peaceful and scary!  HA!

What does that have to do with this quilt?  Well, for the first time since I started quilting, I'm working on a project that doesn't have a home yet.  It might live here with us on our couch, or maybe it'll just vacation here for awhile until it's called into action for a gift.  But that makes this quilt different.  I love the personal connection I have with my projects but it's also fun to be able to share the process with you guys via Instagram, Facebook and the blog.  Since almost everything is an eventual gift, I don't end up giving many sneak peaks away.  Which may lead you to believe that these handmades sort of "make" themselves.  You'd be wrong!

There are hours and hours behind each and every one I make.  This quilt for instance, I started it on Christmas break, so just about a month ago.  My usual pace isn't quite so quick but the larger blocks (3.5 inches) and the fact that I had two long weeks off over Christmas really helped keep this quilt move forward.  Oh, and the fact that it's cold outside!  I'll be snuggling up with this quilt as soon as it's washed and dried.  One of these days I'm going to try and log the hours I spend on a project just to get some perspective.  On some level it doesn't matter, as long as I'm enjoying myself, who cares how long it takes.  But, the type A in me just want to have the data to analyze.

I can take zero credit for the fabric arrangement or pattern of this quilt.  I copied Faith's pattern exactly as she wrote it.  She did such a great job with color placement and the bright rainbow colors are hard to resist in winter.  The quilt top is comprised of 558 squares all set on point which was an interesting twist for me.  I worked the pattern in diagonal rows from the bottom left corner to top right.  A traditional quilt would be worked top down but the rotation of the blocks made these diagonal lines easier to work with.

This quilt top is ready to be basted and quilted hopefully this weekend.  I finished piecing the back last night so I'll start pinning here soon.  I choose to pin baste instead of spray mostly because that is how I was taught but also because I don't like the idea of all those stinky chemicals so close to something people will snuggle up with.  I know it washes out and it's perfectly safe...but the old fashioned way works just fine for me!