Friday, August 31, 2012

A Citrus Shower for Cara and Baby H

August 18 was a special day -- a day for celebrating my friend Cara and the baby she and her husband Gregg are expecting in October.  Rebecca and I co-hosted the shower, and had a wonderful time planning every last details and doing all the preparations.

Since Cara and Gregg elected not to find out the gender of Baby Hanson, I had the idea of going with a citrus themed baby shower, because I thought gender-neutral colors (yellow, green, and a little orange) lent themselves so well to the idea.

Rebecca and I met to come up with a plan for the shower, and divided up our preparation responsibilities.  We came up with a menu and both volunteered to make some of the food, and Rebecca took care of games and activity ideas while I did a lot of the decorating, since the shower was at our house. 

I got to work on the decor preparations a little over a week ahead of time.

I used these letters from Martha Stewart for the 'Welcome Baby' garland.

The tissue paper poofs were easy to make; there's a Martha tutorial for that, too!

Then, inspired by some circle garlands I'd seen on Etsy, I set to work cutting out a few hundred paper circles (no big deal) and then sewing them into chains.  I used my Fiskars circle cutter, which has the advantage of being able to do a wide variety of sizes (most of my garlands were a mixture of 1 inch, 1.5 inch, and 2 inch circles) but the disadvantage of only doing a layer at a time and being a bit more time consuming to use than, say, a circle punch (I don't have one of those).

Once all the circles were cut, I just sewed them with a straight stitch set longer than usual, and let the machine run six or seven stitches in between circles.

When everything was finished, I had four garlands of mixed colors in small sizes.  I hung two in the doorway between the living room and dining room:

One over the mantel:

And one just to the left of the front door, to help guests find the house easily and set the mood for the shower.

Did you notice those citrus-lined mason jars with the amazing dahlias on the mantel?

Yeah, getting those fruit slices in position is a little trickier than you might imagine.  I had seen pictures of the idea online, but hadn't thought it would take me an hour or two realize the concept.  But I was pleased with how they turned out!  And Rebecca provided the beautiful flowers.

I had one vase each of lemon, orange, and lime for the mantel, plus a jar lined with mixed fruits on the coffee table.

Rebecca made a diaper cake for Cara -- both decorative and functional!

I also made nine garlands of single colors in alternating larger and smaller circles and hung them in groups in a doorway to create a 'photo booth' backdrop.  Rebecca had the wonderful idea of doing a photo booth where guests would be photographed with Cara holding up signs of their gender predictions.  I made the backdrop and painted a big frame I found in our basement white, and Becca made gender prediction signs and brought a big letter H for a fun prop.

When the guests arrived, each one got a turn in the photo booth -- starting with the father and mummy-to-be!

{Watch out, Gregg... Nathan predicted that Nell would be a boy, and look what happened!}

Rebecca is predicting a boy, too.

But Rebecca's daughter Eliza grabbed for the 'girl' sign:

I'm guessing Baby H is a girl, just to go against the flow (and the old wives' tales).

But Nell looked at the 'boy' sign when presented with both options, so we decided that was her guess.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Of course, in addition to decorations and photo booth fun, there was also lots of food.

The day before the shower, I made Martha's key lime bars, which involved squeezing itty bitty key limes until my hands were sore:

They resulted in lots of lime juice...

Which was soon transformed into a beautiful filling for the bars:

Of course I ran out of time to garnish them with whipped cream, but they tasted amazing.


I also made candied orange peel dipped in dark chocolate.

Which was also amazing.

{If I do say so myself.}

I set out some gummy citrus slices too, since they went with the theme so nicely.

There were shortbread cookies shaped like baby feet,

Rebecca's cranberry orange scones,

Incredibly delicious meyer lemon cupcakes Rebecca made,

And a cheese tray I assembled.

Becca also made lemon basil chicken salad sandwiches,

And a grapefruit and avocado salad,

And some of her lovely family members made spinach quiches, which sadly, I didn't manage to photograph.

I had gathered mis-matched mason jars for drinks, and made little name labels for each guest:

{I got those cute striped straws you see in the background from The Bakers Confections Etsy shop.}

For beverages, we served lemonade, orangina, and iced tea.

The whole spread set out on the table:

Some of the guests partaking:

In all, we had fourteen adults, three children, and four babies present.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

After everyone had enjoyed some food, we played a couple of short games, including a gender prediction game based on old wives' tales.

The old wives were nearly unanimous:

There were so many predictions for a boy that we ran out of little blue onesies and had to put some pink ones on the 'boy' side of the chart!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

After games, Cara opened gifts.

And we sent guests home with the favors Rebecca had prepared.

{There were tea bags inside with 'A Baby's Brewing' printed on the tags.}

It's perhaps worth a few photos of the babies of varying ages there to celebrate Baby Hanson's impending arrival.

The youngest one was Emmett, at just over two weeks old:

Then there was Megan, who was born eleven days after Nell:

How about a size comparison between these two girls, so close in age?

Wow... crazy, right?  Megan is a bit petite for her age, and Nell is long and chubby chubby chubby!

Rebecca's daughter Ellie (pictured here with her grandmother) was the oldest of the babies present, at seven and a half months.

That's three little girls and a little boy, all looking forward to a new friend.

Dear little Baby Hanson... we are all so excited to meet you soon!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So that was Cara's baby shower.

You know you're hoping Rebecca and I will plan YOUR next event.

Do you think we could become party planners?

We certainly enjoyed planning this one!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Catching Up With the Joneses

Back towards the beginning of August, my dear friend Story and her girls came to visit for a couple of days.

Since the boys (Abel and his dad) were going to a Sox game, Story and I decided to make sure that Gwendolyn had some special fun of her own.

We had a morning of "crafting" that involved colored paper, stamps, paper punches, markers, and other such fun things.

We ate Thai food for lunch, wandered through thrift stores in downtown Beverly, and then went to Orange Leaf in Salem for frozen yogurt.

Gwendolyn enjoyed using my iPhone camera.  I think her photos turned out pretty artsy.

So there you have it: the experience through the eyes of a four year old.

After eating our yogurt, we walked to the waterfront, where we learned some history:

Gathered up rocks and shells:

And saw an old ship:

The visit also involved violin playing by Story's cute children, staying up late talking about life, and lots of oohing over how cute our babies are.

What a difference two and a half months makes, right?  The above photo was taken on August 8th, about a week before Nell turned three months old.

Here's a photo from May 17th, when Nell was not quite two days old.

{Wow, even my eyes were swollen from the IV fluids...}

Come visit again soon, Joneses.

{Or perhaps Nell and I should take a trip to Virginia!}

Monday, August 20, 2012

three months

Last Wednesday, Nell turned three months old.

{Unfortunately, by the time I got home from teaching lessons on her three-month birthday, it was already late afternoon, and the lighting inside wasn't very good for pictures.}

No more keeping track of her age in "eight weeks" or "ten weeks" these days; we're solidly into the months phase of her life.  Really, Nathan would prefer to answer the question of her age with the simple statement, "a quarter."

{He originally wanted to declare her "zero" until she turned one, so we're actually making progress in this regard.}

Thanks to a deluxe digital baby scale I got off of freecycle, we know that she is 15 lbs, 10 oz.

Not a scrawny baby, this girl.

In fact, her uncle Andrew recently declared, "She looks like a mob boss!"


I'm sure he meant it lovingly.

In the past couple of weeks, thanks to some inspiration and help from my friend Story, I've begun trying to move us towards some semblance of a nap schedule.  Nell has basically always been a good sleeper at night time (she wakes once or twice a night to nurse, and then falls promptly back to sleep), but not such a good napper unless she is being held, is in the Moby or Ergo, or has me napping beside her.  As soon as I would set her down, she'd wake up in, well, somewhere between ten minutes and ten seconds.

Between a hand-me-down velcro swaddler (thanks, Abby!), a white noise machine, and a few other changes, we are making progress!  And much as I love having her with me, having those three nap times each day (even if some of them are only 45 minutes to an hour) with my hands free to get things done is really pretty amazing.

Nell also goes to sleep for the night before we do now, around 9 or 9:30, and sleeps soundly until I come half-wake her for another feeding before I tuck in, too.

I still haven't read any books on babies, parenting, or nap schedules (any recommendations?), but what we're doing seems to be working for the time being.

Dear Ellen,

In the past month, you've taken your first camping trip, had your first babysitter (just for a few hours, and in the same building where both your Dad and I were!), gained two pounds, outgrown all your 0-3 month clothes, and started drooling like crazy almost constantly.

You smile at everyone, nearly all the time.  You are really the happiest of babies.

I've heard you called a "bait baby" and a "sucker baby" -- the kind of baby that suckers parents into having more babies, or baits childless friends into having babies (which they really ought to, anyway).  Because you're so content, easy-going, happy, and cute.

Remember last month's letter?  You were making little sounds that I thought might turn into laughs soon.  Well, not long after I wrote that, you started really, definitively laughing.  If there were a way to bottle up a baby laugh, it would be the perfect antidote to depression.  I'm convinced that nobody could hear you laugh without laughing joyously along with you.

We do all kinds of things to make you smile and laugh around here: I blow raspberries on your belly, sing silly songs, and hold you way up above my head.  Your Dad wiggles you around and makes nonsense noises, and your Uncle Andrew zooms you around the house while making rocket or airplane noises.  You love all these things and more!

The summer is rapidly drawing to a close, and "real life" is closing in on us.  I'll be working more during the school year than I have been this summer, and I'm not entirely looking forward to it.  It's not that I don't enjoy my work, but to be honest, my favorite days are the ones I spend at home with you, with no schedule to keep to except your own cues that you need to eat, sleep, play, or be snuggled.  Dad and I are still figuring out how we're going to manage our work schedules this year and still make sure you are well cared for.  I'm trying not to stress about it all too much.

Your chubby cheeks are so soft and sweet that I cannot stop kissing them.  You probably get approximately a hundred kisses a day, between Dad and me kissing you constantly. 

You are loved, girl.