Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Warm and Welcoming Wedding

 Submitted by Linda
This past weekend we had the pleasure of attending another family wedding, this time for our niece Kari (pronounced "Car-ee" rather than "Care-ee").   Kari is just a couple of years older than my boys, and we have lots of happy memories of her growing up years. She recently graduated from APU with an Art major, and is now continuing her studies in Marriage and Family Therapy.  She found her soul-mate in Justin, who is getting his MFT at Fuller Seminary. What good work they will do as a team! 

Here is their invitation:

 The key wedding theme for both Kari and Justin was 'warmth'. Notice the wording in the invite: we weren't just invited, we were warmly invited!

Another feeling I felt at the wedding was romance. These gorgeous pale flowers and her creamy gown set the tone for a sweet and special event.

Another detail that was sweet and meaningful was the use of this table. Kari and Justin are not carpenters, but they decided to build a table for their new home. You'll notice that it is very large, with room enough to gather loved ones around. The table was used in the ceremony with the unity candle, along  with the bread and juice for communion.

The venue for the wedding was gorgeous. Here you can see a natural arbor, made of tree limbs, strung with fabric blossoms. Kari's dad had a big role in the ceremony, which made for some poignant moments.  Kari and Justin involved a lot of people in their ceremony, reading scriptures and prayers, instead of having official 'attendants'.  I love how weddings can be so different and creative!

The dress code was pretty informal, as you can tell from the groom's open collar.

The kiss!


You know those irritating people who tried to horn in when the real photographer is taking that family pictures between the wedding and reception? I tried not to be one of those people, but I couldn't resist taking this picture of Kari and her dad as I walked by.

Let's talk about her dress. She is a brave brave girl, because she ordered her dress through an Etsy store, where a seamstress in china copies a picture of a designer dress, uses the brides measurements, and sends it in the mail to the bride. I was so nervous about this, thinking it could be a nightmare. I was so wrong. The dress fit perfectly, and was exactly like the dress Kari had asked to have copied. The fabric is almost blush colored, with flowing lines.

The most gorgeous detail is the sleeves. Pearls and beads and sparkles, oh my!

Moving on to the reception....
The centerpieces used dotted tulle, wood, and flowers in vintage vases and glasses. Remember my adventure at Treasures and Junk? Justin and Kari found lots of the glassware for the tables there!

Remember their special hand made table? It was moved to the reception area, where they ate their first meal as man and wife.  They had a quilt on hand as the evening grew cooler.

In the spirit of the warm and welcoming theme, Kari and Justin chose to have soups, salad and bread as their meal. Their plan was to have 'comfort food', and it even included mac 'n' cheese for the kids. The soup choices included gluten free, vegan, and a meat option. I loved the meal, and agree that it added to the home and family feeling. (And what says 'home' more than fishy crackers?)

In the top right corner of the picture you'll see wooden discs that were used to tell us our table assignment. Cute!

I hope the bride and groom enjoyed it as much as the guests did!

Children were more than welcome at this wedding, in fact the only people who walked down the aisle besides the bride and groom were 5 nieces and nephews who were ring bearers and flower girls. Kids are definitely important to this couple. So much, that they provided sweet little fabric bags, complete with crayons and paper for the little ones.

Their favor was a collection of recipes from 'our family to yours', and included their favorite family recipes.

Here's another sweet touch at the dessert table. Offerings included chocolate chip cookies, brownies, gluten free options, and old fashioned cinnamon rolls! Mmmmmmm!

Since our little family isn't often together these days, I asked someone to snap a pic of us. Despite the poor picture quality, it shows that we were there to help celebrate. Does it seem like Craig and I are unusually short? And does it seem like the boys are wearing genuine grins?

Those clowns are standing on their tippy toes, just to try to be taller than the other, and to dwarf us!

All in all, it was such a wonderful and special time. If I'm lucky, someday I may get to sit around that table for a meal in Kari and Justin's kitchen......

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Weak Moment and Contraband

Submitted by Linda
I am generally one of those 'glass half full' people, consistently positive and upbeat. I enjoy a challenge at work and like learning how to support kids with special needs and interesting behaviors. But a few weeks prior to Craig's illness, I had a week or two when my usual tricks weren't working and I was feeling stuck in how to help several of my more challenging students.  

Since then, my team and I have strategized, brainstormed, and put some new plans into place, with some improvement. But in the midst of my frustration, what's a Weight Watcher to do when she's blue?

Retail therapy, of course! 

You paper crafters out there probably already know about Peachy Cheap, right? If not, you will want to click the above link and  sign up for their daily emails, where there is one deal per day on fantastic paper crafting supplies.  

On one of those days when I was feeling 'lower than whale manure' (as my dad likes to say), I checked my peachy cheap email to find these awesome American Crafts Miscellany kits. The deal included the 2 packs shown below (Midway and Woodland Park), as well as the 9 to 5 collection and the Cakewalk pack.  All 4 packs combined were less than $10.

A few days later they posted the coordinating buttons, and the matching papers!!! 

So now I'm fully stocked on 'contraband' (non Stampin' Up supplies) and recently I was able to sit down and get back to crafting.  I think this one will make a beautiful Easter card.

Knowing how we usually mass produce projects, it was really fun for me to make one card, happily using the items from my new stash.

This ducky card also uses the waves paper from SU's Sunshine and Sprinkles designer series paper pack.

The kite stuff on this next card, as well as the tag came from the miscellany kits, but you'll recognize the embossed clouds from this post.

I can't wait to send this kite card out for someone's graduation!

Now, that I'm stocked up on supplies, I'd better get back to crafting. Thanks for looking!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Blowing Wishes Your Way!

 Submitted by Linda
 During Craig's recovery, I had a birthday, and received a nice box of Stampin' Up supplies. I was finally able to bust them out of the box, and have some fun with my new pinwheel die, cloud embossing folder, and this fun fun 'Sunshine and Sprinkles' designer series paper. The greeting is from 'Wishes your Way'.  (The green dotted paper in the background is old, old, old SU paper).
I love the way this card turned out, especially the bumpy clouds!

Colors used:
Night of Navy Cardstock and Ink
Marina Mist Card stock
Tools and DSP listed above are available through May 31 through Michelle's SU Website.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Craig's Hospital Adventure (or Hospital 101)

Submitted by Linda
 Michelle insists that our Front Row Friends Followers want to know what we're up to. I'm not sure that is the case, but nevertheless, I'm going to share Craig's hospital adventure with you all. As someone who had only been to the hospital to deliver babies, my learning curve was huge when going with a loved one who is very ill. So I'm going to include my lessons learned, hopefully to help any of you who end up having your own hospital adventure, or are a friend to someone who is dealing with a sudden hospitalization.

Craig went to the hospital on a Wednesday (prior to Valentine's Day), in my "little red" ambulance. Looking back, I probably should have called 911, since he had passed out in the shower, and had been lightheaded for a day or two prior. But somehow we got him in the car and off we went. After a quick morning in the ER, the doctor knew he had some internal bleeding going on (his blood count was 8, and should have been 12-15). They started transfusing blood and moved him to the ICU.

Tip #1: At the hospital, time goes very fast (though it takes forever to get tests and results, etc.) Before you know it, you've been there all day. Fill your purse or bag with snacks and water. You won't want to leave your loved one when they are worried, waiting for information and stuck in a bed.

Here's Craig at the beginning. In this picture he was already swollen from the IV fluids (and probably doesn't appreciate me putting this picture in).
 Tip #2: Bring something to do. After the ER day when I knew we'd be at the hospital for a few days more, I brought my stitching with me. It was quick to grab, and easy to pull out when Craig and I were chillin' in the ICU.  You may also want to bring things to keep the patient comfortable. Craig wanted his own pillow, lip balm, and hand wipes (since he wasn't allowed out of bed to wash).

I began stitching this towel at the beginning of Craig's stay. I kept adding panels of the pattern, until I had stitched across the entire length of the towel. This kept me busy for four or five days.
Tip #3: Speaking of chillin'! It was so cold in ICU. I heard it has something to do with keeping it cool so germs can't grow. Grab a jacket. I ended up wearing my ugg books and silk long undies under my pants most days.

In Craig's case, they thought they had solved the problem with medication, and they were planning to release him on Saturday. However, they discovered that his blood count was dangerously low (6), so they began to do more investigating. After more scoping, ultrasounds, and scans, they found the offending areas in his stomach, and decided to remove that portion surgically. Here's the Pictionary version of the diagnosis from the surgeon.
 Tip #4: Use your technology. I often referred to this picture when explaining the procedure to friends and family. Also, when Craig was having a reaction to some medication, I was able to Google it and search for side effects.  (I'm not sure the nurse really appreciated me chiming in about my googling....but when your loved one is suffering, we do what we must).

Tip #5: Write things down (bring a notepad or use your phone tools). When you are in crisis mode, it's hard to remember what doctors have told you in passing. In our case, we dealt with several gastrointestinal doctors, plus the hospitalist doctors, and nurses. They all tell you things, and it can all become a blur. Also write down your questions.

Tip #6: Plan to be there (and away from your job). Craig was pretty coherent through most of his days there (except when he was under anesthesia), but even now he doesn't remember things exactly as they really were. It's important that someone is there to hear the reports from the doctors and be able to ask difficult questions as needed. I am so thankful for my school colleagues who picked up the slack for me. I was able to be completely gone, physically and emotionally, so that I could be fully focused on Craig.

Tip #7: As for supporting others, I learned so much from how others cared for me during this time. My best advice is this: Don't wait to be asked for help. Jump in and show up. The next 3 pictures are of some of the folks who came to hang with me and the boys during the actual surgery. It ended up being quite fun and lively, and we didn't have time to worry.
After the surgery, the surgeon came out to share what he did and what he found. He removed two 'ulcerous' spots, which ended up being about 20% of Craig's stomach. The photo on his Iphone is the piece that was removed and sent to pathology (nothing scary was found).   At this report, I was blessed to have one of my friends who is a doctor there to hear from the surgeon and ask smart questions.  
Tip #8: Get other brains involved.  I really felt at peace throughout our whole experience (certainly a result of many prayers), but at times I really needed support from people who weren't so emotionally taxed, and could think of questions to ask (ie "Why haven't they done a colonscopy? Are you concerned about how much blood he has lost?")  During one key time, four of our family members had come to the hospital to see Craig, and providentially, were able to be a part of a key discussion with the gastro doctor.

Which brings me to Tip #9: Take advantage of the medical experts in your life. Our family is blessed to have longtime connections with 2 doctors and at least 2 nurses. Throughout the entire process, I was able to text these folks, get their opinions on the procedures, tests, potential diagnoses, and so on. I was given advice on what important questions to ask, and I was able to ask them more details about things I didn't.  Our nephew, Jeff (one of the nurses), works in that hospital occasionally, so he was able to look at Craig's chart, and help us better understand the hospital system.

After the surgery, we all felt so much better now that he was on the recovery side of things. On day one (post surgery) he was very loopy (and therefore very funny), and here the boys are, enjoying the craziness.
During his first two days, he had a lot of pain and discomfort, so I did a lot of "nursing" (helping him get up and down, trying to make him more comfortable, and so on). Once we got the pain meds squared away, I was back to stitching.
One evening when I went to school to do sub plans, I found this note by my computer.

I love how Delaney even colored her 'star' words. This sweet note was one of the many things that people did for me. Tip #10: Do whatever you are good at to be helpful. Send a note. Send a text. Drop off food.  My neighbor messaged me her cell number on facebook in case I needed anything done at home. She had her son (and my former student) pull the trash cans out before trash day (and then pulled them back in the next day). She also dropped off food for me, since I didn't have time to hit the grocery store or really think about eating. Several friends offered to bring me a meal or a Starbuck's at the hospital. Craig's guy friends even texted him to see if he needed help getting me flowers for Valentine's Day (flowers were the last thing on my mind, but Craig and I both appreciated their thoughtfulness).

So many people came to the hospital to visit. Those visitors helped the time pass, and were so encouraging to Craig and me.  We really felt loved.  Tip #11: When in doubt, visit someone in the hospital.  I always wonder, "should I go, should I not go? What if they don't feel well and don't want company?" I think the answer is to show up and see how it goes. Even the people who were only able to stay a minute or two because Craig wasn't feeling well or was recovering from a procedure were a comfort to us.

Here's Craig, the day before his release. Despite not having a shower or shave for 5 days, he looks so much better in this picture. After all those days of very little eating and drinking, he was finally able to have his drink of choice.
Craig was released late in the day on a Thursday, after 8 full days in the hospital (and after receiving 21 bags of blood!). Various friends offered to bring meals as soon as we were home. At first I didn't think I needed help with meals, but I'm so glad I accepted. I was so exhausted, and it was so good to rest with Craig, and focus on helping him get around, rather than worrying about grocery shopping and cooking. Tip #12: Nothing says love like food.  I really think the delivery of a meal in times of trouble really is 'what Jesus would do'.
The only thing I insisted on making was Kale soup. I was determined to get Craig's blood completely back to normal, so I bought the healthiest produce I could find: Kale and Rainbow Chard from the farmer's market.
He was so excited about that soup, and we ate it throughout the weekend until it was gone. You can find the recipe HERE.
On the Friday after we had been home for about a day, I got Craig set up at home, and I ran to school right around dismissal time, to see my kindergarten friends for the first time in 8 school days. I felt like a celebrity with them, because they were so happy to see me. When I returned to work on Monday, I found this note:
Craig's surgery was on a Sunday, and I had an appointment booked for my hair for the following Tuesday. I wavered about cancelling it, but since 'hair trumps everything', I decided to keep my appointment. Actually, the truth is that Craig was recovering well post surgery, and so I asked the boys to hang out with him in the hospital for a couple of hours.  So the morning of, I snapped this 'before' pic of me.
Then I shocked Craig at the hospital when I returned looking like this:
His surgery was 4 weeks ago. This past week I forced my family to go with me to Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor so that my boys could experience my favorite childhood birthday place. Here we are, and doesn't Craig look fantastic?

Prior to entering the hospital, Craig had lost about 10 pounds. While in the hospital, he gained 20 pounds of water weight, from all the IV fluids. During his recovery he has lost the water weight and more (is down over 30 pounds), and is about 5 pounds from his goal weight.  What a nice bonus! (On a side note, I've been attending Weight Watchers since January, and I've lost about 18 pounds the old fashioned way. I gotta keep up with my new and improved, slim and trim husband!)

I know I haven't mentioned everyone who was so helpful...who brought books to Craig in the hospital, delivered plants to our front door, who stopped by to visit when we got home. On the other side, we are newly grateful for our health,  for family and friends, and for God's presence during Craig's adventure. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Simple Chipboard Book

 Submitted by Linda
My life is one where lots of people and pastimes intersect. The biggest example is that I live right across the park from my school, so I run into my kindergarten friends everywhere. I've learned my lesson about going places in my grubbies, or without my 'face' on (without a doubt I will run into someone I know if I'm not looking my best). My church is also less than a mile from my house, so I run into those folks here and there as well.  Add family to the mix, and like I said, my worlds intersect. One such intersection is that my niece Courtney has been the children's director at my church for about 5 years. She is now adding twins to her family,  so she is stepping down, so that she can be the 'children's director' for a family of 5. I was asked to decorate a chipboard book for friends to write messages to her, and here's what I ended up with. 

The chipboard book was purchased from Hobby Lobby. I added papers from the "Howlstooth and Scaringbone" papers.  I gathered up some newsprint paper, and tucked it under the striped ribbon. The scripture is from a very old set, "Say it With Scriptures".

Here's the back:

And the inner pages look like this:

To assemble I used some very strong glue. I wouldn't recommend a regular glue stick - get a Stampin' Up glue stick (totally worth the money) or a Super Stik from Michaels. As for tape adhesives, I would definitely suggest using Sticky Strip rather than a regular tape runner or snail adhesive.

After gluing on the pages, use an emery board or sanding block to sand all the edges of your pages. This adds a distressed vibe and also makes each paper edge look uniform. Of course, you can embellish as much as you like!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Better Late Than Never

 Submitted by Linda
One thing I learned while hanging out with Craig at the hospital is that the days that you are there seem to have never existed in the real world. It still feels like we lost a couple of weeks of our life.  So, I realize that in just 4 days, it will be a month since Valentine's Day. Since I'm still playing catch-up, here I am posting Valentines stuff.

I purchased some of these cute CUTE polka dotty bags long before Christmas with the intent to you them in February for Valentine's treats. Then in January, I saw this uh-may-zing sample at Collective Journey in Redlands.  Each of those tiny cupcake pieces are cut with a die and layered on the bag. So darling, but I decided to go with a 'less is more' approach.
I followed Barbara Cheatley's lead and used a doily. (Have you ever been to her store in Claremont? If the answer is 'no', then you are missing out! She always will giftwrap a purchase for you and she always uses a doily!) I added a layer of vintagey valentine paper and a big heart tag. Though it may not have the 'Wow factor' of the sample above, I think it's charming (if I do say so myself).
What went in the bags? Our family-favorite sugar cookie. I used my biggest heart cookie cutter and lots of pink frosting.
The serendipitous thing about the timing was that I prepared the bags over my long weekend and delivered them to my kindergarten colleagues and secretaries on Tuesday the 12th. On the 13th, Craig and I were hospital bound, not to return to my regular school life until February 25th.

I had also made some to deliver to my big boys, which I popped into the freezer. At some point I'm going to bust them out, frost them, and deliver them.  Thankfully, college boys aren't going to care that Valentine's has come and gone, as long as they get the cookies!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Stitching Update 3/3/13

 Submitted by Linda
Helloooooo out there in the blogosphere! Some of you local girlfriends know that I lost a week of my life when Craig had an interesting adventure in the hospital which culminated in an emergency surgery on his stomach. I'm planning to share more details about that, but in the meantime, I thought I'd share some stitching. Believe it or not, I was working on uploading these pictures on February 13th when I heard a huge crash in the bathroom! Craig had passed out while taking a shower, so we were off to the ER. But more on that later.

Remember this towel I stitched to put in Tommy's Christmas stocking? 
I used the same vintage Vogart pattern to stitch the Bee Tasty and Bee Relaxed towels shown below:

They are wrapped up and ready for a bridal shower for my niece Kari that is happening today - good thing they were done way ahead of time.

Another project I completed is another Mill Hill Cross Stitch kit. I bought this kit and the frame right after Christmas, and I love how it turned out. These little kits are fun, and not too overwhelming for a novice cross stitcher like myself.

And finally, a little bragging on my mom. For Christmas I got her a big book of cross stitch designs meant for cards. She's been working away, and surprised us with this sweet valentine card! I think it may need be to framed in a tiny frame.
Stay tuned....and thanks for looking!