Well, this is embarassing…

I went from a nice pace in the beginning to a very long gap between posts. The good news is life is good, the bad news is life is busy, and hobbies take a back seat. Our babies turn one tomorrow, and it’s incredible to look back on how our life has changed for the better with them in it. I definitely plan to take some time this winter to write a few posts about our journey and the early days with them. 

In the meantime, I’ve officially entered my first ever crafty challenge, and am coining a new term to describe it: embarrifying. Seeing myself on video is both embarassing and terrifying, especially when it may be shared with a larger audience. But I did it, and am now battling nervous excitement for the wait to see if I did okay. I had a lot of fun and challenged myself with some new techniques. I may post the full video eventually, but for now here’s a sneak of my project. Enjoy!

Supplies (PTI unless noted)

  • Stamps – Colorful Words, Grand Ampersand, A Thrill of Hope, Vintage Ornaments 2, Holiday Greens, Stained Glass, Petite Places: Nativity, Christmas Faith, Tucked In: Holiday
  • Inks – Americana, Enchanted Evening, Olive Twist, Saffron Spice, Smokey Shadow, Versamark 
  • Paper – Stamper’s Select White, watercolor paper
  • Dies – Cover Plate: Comic Strip
  • Other – Scor-tape
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Show and Tell Tuesday: Testing my new Claritystamps Stencil Brushes 

Craft supplies are one of my guilty pleasures. Most of the time it feels like I am collecting more than crafting, but luckily I am able to squeeze in a little time in my craft room from time to time. Today I got to do a quick trial run of what is going to be one of my new staples for ink blending: the Claritystamps stencil brushes.

Claritystamps Stencil Brushes

These things are ridiculously popular right now, and apparently they really do deserve their incredible reputation. Ink blending with sponges takes a good deal of practice before you have the right touch with it, and I know I’m still working on my own technique. These brushes have zero learning curve and achieve beautiful results with no experience required.

Exhibit A: (and please forgive my awful photography)

My first attempt with the stencil brushes

I chose a basic stencil, picked out some fun colors, and went to town. The blending took about 10 minutes, with two passes of each color to get a little more saturation. Added a sentiment and some accents, and mounted the trimmed panel over a strip of black shimmer cardstock. Total project time: 20 minutes. Not bad at all for a first attempt! I can already pick out things I would have done differently, but that’s what experimentation is for after all. I can’t wait to play with some other color combinations and other blending techniques. These brushes made blending easy and enjoyable – and completely without the stress of accidentally ruining the panel at the end of the process and having to start over.

I want to give a shout out to Tupelo Designs LLC for their amazing shipping. I ordered my brushes Monday afternoon at 3pm, and my order was in my hands Tuesday before 10am. The overnight shipping was free, and if you sign up for their free rewards program you get a $5 off coupon to use on your first order. I will definitely be shopping with them again!

Final side note: the big 3-0 is in two days. My twenties were an amazing decade, and I’m excited to see where my so Call life takes me in the next one and beyond.

 

Supplies (PTI unless noted)

  • Stamps – Scribbled Sentiments
  • Inks – Hawaiian Shores, Green Parakeet, Harvest Gold, Summer Sunrise, Melon Berry, Berry Sorbet, VersaFine Onyx Black
  • Paper – Stamper’s Select White, Onyx Shimmer cardstock
  • Other – Modern Background Stencils; adhesive gems; foam tape,

Show and Tell Tuesday: Stamp-a-Faire Project #1

One of my favorite things about my old job at the hospital was spending Tuesdays working in the Ambulatory Oncology Center. I made some amazing friends there, and we share a lot in common, especially our crafty hobbies. Since we only saw each other once a week, we had to cram a lot sharing into that one day. Thus began Show and Tell Tuesdays. Aside from the people, those days are what I miss most about that job. We still talk, we’ve even taken cake and cookie decorating classes together, but I still wish I had those Tuesdays to share our fun new things for the week. 

It’s easy to want to share with people you know. It’s a lot more intimidating to share with the rest of the world. I enjoy making all sorts of crafty things, and love giving handmade cards, but there’s still a level of self-consciousness about it that has kept me from starting a blog sooner. Now that I’ve gotten a whole two posts under my belt, here is my first crafty themed post with a card made today, for my first blogged Show and Tell Tuesday!

Papertrey Ink had their annual Stamp-a-Faire this past weekend, and I was only able to follow along online since we were out of town. It was exciting to play in my craft room with the first technique of the day, Starry Night by Amy Sheffer. Her card was beautiful, and I’ve always wanted to try watercolor on a card. 

Amy’s SAF card

 I know it’s a complete copy of her card, but for my first attempt I just wanted to see if I could come close to what it was supposed to like it. With the exception of the star sequins and thread, all of my supplies were the same. I think it turned out pretty well! There are a few spots at the top where the watercolor didn’t quite match, but I’m still satisfied with it. I am excited to try again with other colors, and am looking forward to trying get out the rest of the Stamp-a-Faire techniques!

My attempt at a starry night watercolor card

Definitely a few things I’d do differently on a remake, but I’m excited to have shared my first virtual Show and Tell Tuesday craft project! I’m hoping to make it a regular weekly post, but no promises on that just yet. My goal is to learn more about all of the extra options with blog posts to make them pretty with supply lists and better links. For now I’ll be satisfied with what I can do, with cards and posts!

How do I love thee, stroller? Let me count the ways…

I have an overwhelming love for our stroller.  It may even be intervention-level adoration, but I really think it deserves all of the accolades. I spent a lot of time searching for the perfect twin stroller for our family, and after extensive research and some awesome recommendations, we decided on the City Select Double by Baby Jogger.  It’s basically the MacGyver of strollers, and since I love sharing good recommendations I want to give a detailed look at why this was the best stroller for us. Hopefully it’s helpful to someone out there in blogland!

I knew I wanted a tandem rather than a side-by-side (SBS) stroller for a few reasons. Navigating doorways and narrow aisles was one consideration, but the biggest was the ability to get both babies in and out of the car by myself in a parking lot without having to park the stroller behind the car. Even though the $500 price is a little steep, deciding to add the City Select with the second seat to our Amazon baby registry (such an awesome registry option that I’ll eventually write about, link takes you to how to get started with your own) was the one baby gear decision I would make again in a heartbeat. Plus if you’re a really savvy shopper, keep your eye out for the second seat to be offered for free! It is an occasional sale that saves a bundle on the system. If you consider how much you’re going to use a stroller, I think it is definitely worth the investment into a quality item that will last a long time rather than buying multiple options as little ones grow or having to replace cheaper models. There are plenty of baby items where you can save money with less expensive options, and it was absolutely worth it for us to do that and be able to get the stroller that fits our family so well.

You can check out the City Select page on Baby Jogger’s website for all of the technical details and specs. The color options are great, and I love how our teal stroller looks in person! Such a fun alternative to black or tan, and we won’t lose it in a crowd. You could get a second seat in a different color if you wanted to mix and match, but only if you buy the second seat separately. As great as it is that it looks nice, the important thing about a stroller is how well it works. The City Select excels here. This thing turns on a dime and you can feel it just wants to roll. I highly recommend test driving one in a store if you’re considering it, and then compare to other strollers as well. None that we tested compared to how well this one moves. It weighs about 25 pounds by itself, which I think is pretty light for a twin stroller, but probably heavier than many single strollers. The weight doesn’t feel unnecessary though – it’s a very sturdy build that has held up well with our extensive use for the past 9 months. I have no doubt we will outgrow it before it breaks down, but with a 45 pound weight limit per seat, that might take a few years.

I love that this stroller was usable from the day the babies came home – adapters attach where the stroller seats connect to allow you to attach your car seat so that babies can stroll right from the beginning. We absolutely love taking walks, and our little ones have enjoyed it since we first started walking with them when they were a week old. Being able to go directly from the car to the stroller without transferring them was also a really convenient feature. Word of advice: use this pdf from Baby Jogger to see what car seats are compatible and to get the exact part number of the correct adapter for your car seat model. Babies R Us ordered us the wrong part twice before we just bought the adapters on Amazon instead.  We were trying to take advantage of their twin discount on baby gear and use some of our gift cards, but it wasn’t worth the few dollars we were saving to have to keep returning the incorrect items. Wherever you get them, I’d recommend these adapters as required accessories if you’re considering using this stroller with infants.

Speaking of getting in and out of the car, I can park, unfold the stroller, and get both car seats attached and be walking into the store in about one minute. No joke. The one-click latches are a breeze to use, and the fold mechanism is really smooth. If your car has the space, leave the second seat adapters on to make it even faster.  We’ve only had to remove them once, when we were packing a lot of other stuff around the stroller for a long vacation, but the whole stroller disassembles pretty easily if you need to save space. Using the stroller seats for shopping trips take an extra minute or two to transfer little ones from car seats to stroller seats, but is still really quick. We delayed trying that for a while, thinking it would be a hassle, but were surprised at how quickly we got everyone settled and moving. The babies are so much more cooperative when they get to switch to the stroller seats that it’s worth the extra minute or two to transfer once they are big enough. Now we take the stroller seats for everything except quick stops.

Baby Jogger sells bassinets that use the stroller seat frames with the one-click attachment directly into the stroller.  At $100 each, these are an expensive accessory for something you may only use for a few months.  We received two on loan from a twin mom friend, and I loved being able to bundle the babies up for walks and naps in fall and winter instead of always strapping them in their car seats. I’m sure they’d be a much cooler option than car seats for spring and summer as well. I can’t say they are a must-have accessory, especially for twins with the high cost of two on top of the stroller itself, but they would definitely be worth it if you can snag them for a good deal or find some used or to borrow.We definitely enjoyed them when the babies were small, and I’ll be looking for them myself for our future little ones.

Once the twins were sitting up with assistance, we started transitioning to the regular stroller seats. They looked like their heads were on swivels for the first few walks – it’s a totally different view for them! Both of them enjoy sitting upright and surveying the neighborhood from their little thrones. They are 9 months old now and won’t complain if they stay in the car seats for short trips, but definitely prefer the stroller seats. They can sit straight up or recline almost completely, and several positions in between, and we can position them both facing us, both facing forward, or facing each other, and have used all three configurations on multiple occasions. You can do a Google image search for the 16 possible combinations of car seats, stroller seats, and bassinets. It’s nice that you can also use it as a single stroller too – just detach the second seat adapter and choose where to put the single seat. The canopies are huge – it feels like an entire extra panel compared to their car seat canopies, or even other strollers. Definitely a plus if you have a little one who is sensitive to the sun in their eyes like one of ours!

I’ve saved my favorite accessory for last: The Hychair. Seriously, this inventor deserves some sort of medal, or a cuddle, or something. I loved our stroller before we got these, but they have changed our lives. If I had found these sooner, I may have even considered exclusively using these for high chairs at home instead of the Fisher Price Spacesavers we have now. The Hychair is a foldable frame which attaches to a table or counter, and the stroller seats lift off of the stroller and directly onto the same style of one-click attachment and is now a high chair. Let me say that again – you unclick the stroller seat, lift it up, and click it into this origami bracket and your kid is now in a high chair at the table with you. Sorcery. You can do this with little one still in the seat, and you have now gone from a stroller to sitting at a table in a restaurant with no fighting with straps or wrestling them in and out of the seat. The height adjusts so they can be closer or farther from the table as they grow, and their seat can still fully recline so they can take a snooze while you eat. We had these on vacation with us at the beach this summer, and we didn’t need high chairs at the condo or when we went out to eat. Absolutely amazing. They will be coming with us on every trip from now on, and I would recommend them as a required accessory, they are that good.

A few small accessories can help make your setup even better: we have a great console that lets us easily access keys, phones, drinks, doggie bags, pacifiers, burp cloths, and whatever else we may need at hand. You definitely don’t need to get the same one, but some sort of console would be really helpful instead of digging in the lower basket every time you need something. I plan on getting either the belly bars or the snack trays for the twins soon – I’ve heard mixed reviews on how well two snack trays actually fit in the double seat configuration, so I still need to do some research on these options. I attached some inexpensive reflective stickers around the frame and seats for extra visibility at night. We don’t need it yet, but Baby Jogger also makes a glider board that connects to the back of the stroller for older kids to stand on while you walk. I’m looking forward to having that third kid option available for our eventual next round of little ones – we’ll have the car seat adapter for the youngest, one stroller seat for whoever is tired, and the glider board for a ride-along if someone needs a quick break.  All bets are off in the unlikely event we add more multiples. But I’d seriously consider getting a second City Select.

Welcome to our so Call life.

I’ve always admired people who blog. They put their lives out for all to see. Their every word made public, subject to both praise and criticism, and the Internet is full of examples of both to the extreme. But despite this admiration, I never thought I would try it myself. Who would want to read what I have to say? What insight could I possibly be adding that doesn’t already exist on some other site that is fancier, more popular, and wildly more intelligent than mine?

Even though blogging for my own enjoyment is reason enough, I thought about how I use the Internet and read other blogs, and discovered a new reason to add my voice to the already saturated internet. No matter how many blogs I read, or definitive lists on baby registries or ultimate vacation destinations I tried to wade through, Google was always lacking that one person whose experiences matched mine. Why not add one more story to the mix? If anything I write can help just one other person, that’s good enough for me.

So, a blog is happening. But what am I going to write about? How do I pick a topic to offer up as support for a stranger in front of a screen half a world away?  It’s a running joke that I haven’t decided what to be when I grow up.  And another that Rich and I are into everything. Skydiving, beekeeping, scuba diving, DIY candy making, gardening… you name it, we’ve tried it, or it’s on our to do list! If that’s not enough to keep us busy, in October of 2015 we welcomed our amazing twins.  My favorite comment about our bundles of joy: “Of course Julie and Rich are having twins – they do everything in bulk!”  In the spirit of doing everything in bulk, and because everyone who has ever met me knows that it’s hard to get me to stop talking, I’ve decided that my blog will cover it all. We do it all, we try it all, we’re constantly busy with some crazy new project, and I want to share it all with the world.  Maybe someone will find something useful in all of this mess, but at the very least it will be a window into our so Call life.