Wednesday, December 31, 2014

a look back on 2014

When we announced our pregnancy to my family, Christopher's response was something like, "Wow... This has been a great year! Jeopardy, a wedding, and now a baby!"

It HAS been a great year! Here's a look back at some of our big events.

cozy birdhouse | a look back on 2014

Top Row (left to right): Dan's Grandad showing off his selfie skills at his 90th birthday party, Kevin & Kelsey's high school graduations, our family trip to Disney World, and one of my favorite bird photos from our trip to my in-laws' beach house this summer

Middle Row: Dan with Alex Trebek on Jeopardy!, my parents and us at Notre Dame stadium, our first look at our little baby!, and the view of Half Dome from Glacier Point during our trip to California

Bottom Row: Christopher & Emily's wedding, our trip to NYC over Thanksgiving, me and Dan at the Christmas show we see every year, and finally... Christopher and Emily's Christmas present (a Wheaten Terrier named Winston!)

Some other fun things we did:
  • Celebrated the weddings of several friends including Elena & Darown, Barth & Mallory, and Ben & Jen
  • Partied with my parents, Christopher, and Emily at my annual high school fundraiser auction while Kelsey worked as a server for her final time
  • Finished up our season Broadway passes (our first anniversary "paper" gift) with Wicked, Book of Mormon, Evita, Phantom of the Opera, and Once
  • Celebrated our second anniversary (cotton) with a corduroy jacket (for Dan) and a big fluffy robe (for me)
  • Attended my 10 year (!!) high school reunion

Now we're preparing to ring in 2015 with Dan's parents at our house. I wasn't feeling up to making the trip to the East coast after Christmas, so they very graciously agreed to come visit us instead. We'll be toasting with champagne (sparkling grape juice for me) tonight! Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

big news

cozy birdhouse | christmas pregnancy announcement

We have a new addition to our little family arriving in June 2015!

How we found out

While packing the evening before our for our trip to California, I thought, "Hmm... this week will involve several opportunities for alcohol consumption (wedding, wine tours, etc). I should take a pregnancy test, just to be sure drinking is okay." There was a very faint second line, so I came out of the bathroom and told Dan, "I think I'm pregnant." He thought I was just being paranoid and told me to relax. I sat there for a few minutes and said, "I took a test." He responded with "Oh! Um... what did it say?" I said I couldn't tell since the line was so faint. I retrieved it from the bathroom drawer, and he stared at it while trying to stifle a smile. After a few seconds, he rushed out to buy another one and returned a few minutes later with one of those fancy digital ones ("the most advanced piece of technology you will ever pee on"). I left it in the bathroom and we walked back in two minutes later to read the word "PREGNANT" etched across the screen. No denying that! We finished packing, drove to Indianapolis, and caught our flight to San Francisco the next morning, but I don't remember any of that. I was so glad we had over a week away from work to let the news sink in. It was like a mini baby-moon!

How we told our families

No elaborate pregnancy announcement ideas for us... I was so nervous/excited to tell people that I couldn't do much else except blurt it out! We joked that for the first 12 weeks the only people that knew were the two of us, the bartender from Emily's bachelorette party, the bartender from Christopher and Emily's wedding, and the bartender from Ben and Jen's wedding. I've had a lot of "cranberry juice on the rocks" over the last 3 months.

My family: The weekend before Thanksgiving, we paid an impromptu visit to my parents house to tell them our exciting news. We arrived Friday evening after work. I rang the doorbell, and my mom's face appeared in the window, looking very confused. But, by the time she had unlocked and opened the door, she had already figure it out. She slowly opened the door with a huge smile on her face and tentively asked, "Why are you heeeere?" We walked down the front hallway to where my dad (also looking confused), Christopher, and Emily were sitting at the kitchen table. I pulled the strip of ultrasound photos out of my purse, and everyone was so excited! Well, not everyone. Mom called Kevin to come downstairs, and when I said "Guess what? I'm pregnant," he responded with, "Ugh" and walked right back upstairs. Classic Kevin, not a huge fan of babies in general. Fortunately, he was much more interested/curious the next morning.

Since Kelsey was still at school, everyone kept their lips sealed about the news until I saw her two weeks later for our Girls' Weekend in Chicago. At least mom and dad had lots of practice this year from keeping Dan's Jeopardy! outcome secret for so long. When we picked Kelsey up at school, I asked "Are you excited to be an Aunt?" (the answer was yes, much hugging ensued).

Dan's family: We'd just finished the long drive to Dan's parents' house and were standing around the kitchen with them and Colleen prepping our take-out Chinese dinner. Dan's mom asked what we'd like to drink, and I (glumly) said I'd have water instead of my usual glass of wine. Then Dan said "Yeah, she won't be drinking for a while." That followed with "You're pregnant!" and much hugging. We saw Tim that Friday in New York and told him before we went to see Cabaret. He was very excited also!

Addendums to some previous blog posts

california, here we come: Yup, I finally got to see Northern California and COULDN’T DRINK ANY WINE. At least I didn’t mind nearly as much when the wedding got moved back a day, and we had to cut short our time in Sonoma! Tucked in with my Christmas presents this morning was a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from the winery we toured. The card said it was from the baby, but the handwriting looked suspiciously like Dan's. At least I'll finally get to try the wine after the baby arrives!

bachelorettes, donuts, and roller coasters: At Emily’s bachelorette party, I made friends with a bartender who made me a few pretty little cranberry juice drinks with stir sticks, a garnish, and no alcohol. I had everyone fooled, even my parents who drove downtown at 1 a.m. to pick up their “drunk” daughter! Sorry ‘bout that, mom and dad! I also had to be “sick” that weekend and miss out on the roller coasters. I felt like a bit of a fraud in that Banshee photo, though I did ride it back in the Spring.

goin’ to the chapel: Again, lots of cranberry juice at Christopher and Emily's wedding. Carried around a half-empty beer bottle for about 2 hours. Fooled lots of family though, and that’s the important thing! At the brunch the next morning a couple people casually asked, “So when will you guys be having kids?” to which I was so tempted to reply, “June” and watch their faces as they did the math.

happy thanksgiving!: One more thing I’m thankful for this year: our own little growing family! Also, my super-supportive husband who has been helping me hide the pregnancy by secretly drinking my glass of wine or beer at various events, including Ben and Jen’s wedding. Poor guy has been drinkin’ for two since September. Rough life!

it’s beginning to look a lot like christmas: We met up with my Aunt Ruthann and cousin Courtney just outside the Macys in Chicago. My aunt asked, “Is anyone shopping for anything in particular today?” as we were walking through the revolving doors into the store. I turned back and smiled, and when we were all inside the door I said, “Maternity clothes!” Aunt Ruthann was (literally) jumping up and down with excitement. Trying on maternity pants was a little depressing as I envisioned my future giant belly, but MAN are they comfortable.

In conclusion…

It’s been an exciting but extremely stressful time. We appreciate all the support from family and friends. Keep us in your prayers. Also, I promise to at least ATTEMPT not to be an annoying mom blogger. Hopefully I got a lot of it out of my system with this ridiculously long post.

Friday, December 19, 2014

a few of my favorite things

Every year, I get particularly excited as I unpack and hang certain ornaments. Here's a few of my favorites.

It's no secret: I love birds. My collection of ornaments definitely reflects that. Some I've bought myself, and some I've received as gifts. This little guy is actually a dried gourd; you can even hear the seeds rattle around when you pick him up. He was a souvenir from the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History during a trip to D.C. in 2012. We made a quick stop there after driving to Annapolis for a friend's wedding. I met Dan's grandparents for the first time on that trip!

cozy birdhouse | bird gourd christmas ornament

There's nothing particularly special about this glittery red bauble, except it's from the first box of ornaments I ever bought!

cozy birdhouse | christmas ornament

Here's a new addition this year! Nate and Amanda gave these silver-plated cones to the guests at their wedding in Yosemite. I was super glad we spent our extra day in the park hiking through Mariposa grove to see these awesome trees in-person!

cozy birdhouse | silver giant sequoia cone christmas ornament

Kelsey gave me this for Christmas along with a little snowman and a mushroom ornament (also one of my favorites). It's a bird in a scarf... 'nough said.

cozy birdhouse | bird in a scarf christmas ornament

This ornament came as a bonus when we bought a bottle of Maker's Mark bourbon. It's dipped in wax, just like the bottles! Christmas is a great time to get free "gift-with-purchase" items in cool packaging.

cozy birdhouse | maker's mark christmas ornament

Here's our tree all sparkly and decorated... I love my new faux cranberry garlands! The tree skirt is a repurposed linen table cloth that didn't fit any of our tables. I'm so glad that we've graduated from a cheap fake tree to a real tree the last 3 years! The fake tree has now been claimed by the garage spiders.

Finally, our stockings! I made these for our first Christmas as newlyweds following this tutorial at Cluck Cluck Sew.

These are a few of my favorite things! (P.S. That is not a Christmas song. Stop putting it on Christmas CDs!)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

it's beginning to look a lot like christmas

The annual Christmas traditions have begun! Decorating commenced the week after Thanksgiving. It really starts to feel like Christmas around here when the tree is ornamented, the nativity set is arranged, and the stockings are hung by the chimney (with care). Dan and I accomplished most of that in a few whirlwind evenings after work. I wanted to finish as much as possible before driving to Chicago for our 4th Annual Girls' Shopping Trip with my mom, Kelsey, Aunt Ruthann, and cousin Courtney. Girls' Weekend emphasizes over-eating as much as over-spending, so we started Saturday with lunch at the Macy's Walnut Room. After a borderline-unhealthy amount of shopping around the city, we enjoyed a delicious dinner at Grand Lux Cafe. On Sunday, Courtney treated us to a tasty brunch before the long drive back home. Maybe we should re-brand this as our Annual Overindulgence Trip.

cozy birdhouse | chicago girls weekend 2014

Yesterday, Dan and I went to see the Christmas lights at the zoo. This has been our little tradition since we started dating; we even got engaged there 3 years ago! We've refined our technique a bit since our first visit (free off-street parking! less-crowded side entrance!), but we still always take the same route inside the zoo, starting with the Reptile House, ending at the Bird House, and always skipping the Insect House.

cozy birdhouse | zoo christmas 2014

This week I'm planning to continue the Christmas traditions of purchasing last-minute gifts last-minute, complaining about mall traffic, and frantically cleaning the house! I'm also starting a new tradition this year: stressing about getting my Christmas cards in the mail!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

happy thanksgiving!

What I'm thankful for this year:

Family. It was so fun seeing everyone at Christopher and Emily's wedding. Lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins made the trip, including some that I haven't seen for quite a while! Also, not just anyone could pull off a teal-and-orange-themed wedding, but these two nailed it!

cozy birdhouse | christopher and emily's wedding

In-laws. Yes, they could be included above with "family", but they deserve a special mention. My awesome in-laws know how to make a long drive to the East Coast worthwhile: a delicious turkey dinner (followed by my yummy dairy-free pumpkin pie), an overnight trip to the Big Apple to see "Cabaret" starring Emma Stone and Alan Cumming, and a walking tour through Chelsea, the Village, and the Meatpacking District led by my very own brother in law. Colleen isn't in the photo because she was too busy attending a fancy wedding, but we did get to spend Thanksgiving day with her.

cozy birdhouse | new york city

Friends. Ben and Jen (finally) tied the knot in November; it was super fun and fancy. Kathy, Jason, Jen, Joe, Dan and I attended our third wedding together! This shindig seriously set the bar for wedding desserts. Not only was the cake delicious, but each slice was served on a big plate with a fruit garnish and a generous dollop of cream sauce. So good. Not necessarily cider donuts good, but still so good.

cozy birdhouse | ben and jen's wedding

cozy birdhouse | ben and jen's wedding

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

goin' to the chapel

It worked! My little brother is a married man, and I have a new little sister. Can I still say "little brother" even though everyone in my family is taller than I am? I guess I should say "younger brother."

At the rehearsal on Friday night, we bonded with the church coordinator over her Gryffindor lanyard. Christopher was even wearing his Gryffindor tie from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. He's grown up enough to get married, and fun enough to wear a Gryffindor tie to his rehearsal. Such an awesome brother.

The rehearsal dinner was held at one of my parents favorite restaurants, which used to be a library. My sister Kelsey put together an awesome video of Christopher and Emily's childhood photos that made everyone a little weepy. We gathered around to watch the video before dinner.

cozy birdhouse | christopher and emily's rehearsal dinner

If you notice Christopher's rugged stubble in this photo and are wondering if he shaved for the wedding, the answer is no. Apparently he and Emily have run experiments to determine the length of facial hair growth at which he looks most handsome. Results show that 2.5 days results in optimal scruff, so he shaved Wednesday night before the wedding.

Saturday morning, the ladies woke up bright and early to begin the beautification process. The salon worked their magic on four bridesmaids, two moms, and one exquisite bride. Emily even managed to eat some fruit and chicken salad, which is required by law to be served at all gatherings of three or more women.

cozy birdhouse | before the wedding

The beautiful wedding ceremony was followed by a limo ride to a nearby park for photos. We enjoyed a little champagne on the way!

cozybirdhouse | the happy couple

The reception was held at a 150-year-old mill converted into a banquet center. I can't wait to see the wedding photos; I'm sure they'll look stunning against the brick backgrounds. The most popular part of the reception was definitely the photo booth. People were waiting in line to don the silly hats and glasses and take their snapshots for the guest book.

Sunday morning, my parents hosted a brunch for almost 60 people! Towards the end, Christopher and Emily opened their gifts including the knit hedgehog ornament I made. They have a little pet hedgie named Watson, so I just couldn't help myself.

This is the second hedgehog I've made from the Little Cotton Rabbits pattern. The first one lives upstairs in the craft room as a pin cushion. Details on my Ravelry page. (The wedding bunny I knit was also a LCR pattern.)

Congratulations, Christopher and Emily! Enjoy the honeymoon and every day afterwards!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

the smallest one was madeline

Happy Halloween! My Madeline costume was a success... several people recognized me right away, including one little trick-or-treater (whom I rewarded with extra candy).

cozy birdhouse | madeline halloween costume

The costume consists of a dress, capelet, and hat. I prefer to make my own patterns, so I usually start with several yards of cheap muslin and make a practice piece. Zippers and fasteners would complicate the dress construction process, so I traced a simple tunic that pulls over my head. After making one out of muslin to ensure proper fit, I cut, seamed, and hemmed the same pieces in blue fabric. The front has a faux seam with buttons sewn on to look more like a real dress or coat.

The capelet is a large circle of fabric with a head hole, white collar, and red ribbon tie. While finishing the cape and the dress neckline, I decided that hemming curved edges is officially my least favorite of all sewing tasks. All the little pin pricks in my fingertips concur.

The cap is a felt sailor hat, again of my own design. This is my first attempt at making a hat... I would definitely change some things if I made a second one, but I think it completes the Madeline look nicely.

cozy birdhouse | madeline  costume hat

We spent Halloween at home for the first time this year, and I was pleasantly surprised with the number of trick-or-treaters. I'm glad I bought enough candy! Dan's parents arrived late in the evening for a weekend visit. Since his grandparents moved to assisted living recently, his parents brought us some rugs, furniture, and decorations that needed a new home. I'm so happy to replace my cheap, scratchy rug, but I'll have to be more careful not to drop food when I eat at the coffee table now! We had a fun weekend bowling and watching football before they had to leave on Sunday. It was a short visit, but we'll get to see them again in just a few weeks for Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 27, 2014

bachelorettes, donuts, and roller coasters

I think I've just now recovered from two weekends ago... so busy! Friday afternoon I left work a little early and drove two hours to get to my future sister-in-law's bachelorette party in time for dinner. After a tasty meal celebrating our beautiful bride-to-be Emily, we walked across the street to a dueling piano bar where we spent the rest of the night belting Journey songs until we were hoarse. It was nice to have a little girls night! I called the mom-taxi to pick me up around 1:30; it's just like Lyft except way cooler because your mom (and dad!) picks you up.

cozy birdhouse | emily's bachelorette party

On Saturday, we (mom, dad, brother, and sister) drove to a farm/orchard for some autumn activities: apple picking, corn maze, stuffing our faces with food. The corn maze was probably the best one I've done. It was spy-themed (sweet!) with word clues and crayon-rubbing stations scattered throughout the path. We were super proud to complete the entire maze worksheet.

cozy birdhouse | corn maze completion!

After the maze, we picked some apples and walked to the General Store and concession area where we discovered the heavenly confection known as "cider donuts": handmade donuts coated in sugar and cider spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc). Delicious. DELICIOUS. Did I mention they were STILL WARM? I must warn you though, once you taste the cider donut, there is no going back. You will not be able to satisfy your craving for more until next fall. You will try to eat other donuts, but they will taste like compromise. You have been warned.

On Sunday, we took a family trip to Kings Island amusement park. Kevin earned the right to wear his Banshee t-shirt that he bought during last year's trip before the coaster was open. Seven inversions and a top speed of 68 mph... that's an accomplishment!

cozy birdhouse | banshee roller coaster at kings island

After such a crazy weekend, I was glad to have this past weekend at home. I was the bachelorette this time, with Dan at the Penn State vs. Ohio State game. It was a craft-filled weekend, so I should have some projects to show soon. Saturday was my knitting day. I gave up on my Monte Rosa sweater because it was taking FOR-EV-ER. Cables and I just don't get along well. The yarn is now re-purposed as a Guernsey Wrap in lap-blanket size. I'm hoping for a 4' x 5' blanket. I finished about half of it while binge-watching old episodes of "Lie To Me" on Amazon Prime.

Sunday I started working on my Halloween Costume. I'm a big fan of the homemade (at least partially) costume. I struggle to find something that's recognizable, easy-ish to make, and work-appropriate (e.g. not Sexy Ebola Containment Nurse, yes it exists). My favorite was the Dorothy dress I made about 5 years ago, which met all three of these requirements. This year I'm going as Madeline, the little French girl from the books. Hopefully recognizable, simple construction, not scandalous. Time to go work on my hat and collar!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

california, here we come

Just got back from our second trip to California in three months! Our friends Nate and Amanda invited us to their wedding at Yosemite National Park, which gave Dan and me the perfect excuse to explore Northern California for the first time. The Friday before the wedding, we flew into San Francisco, which is about a 4 hour drive from Yosemite. We spent the day doing touristy things: lunch in the Mission District, driving down the wiggly part of Lombard Street, and taking lots of photos of the sea lions at Pier 39.

cozy birdhouse | the golden gate bridge

As we were walking to the Pier, I said, "I really hope there's a sea lion to look at!" I wasn't aware that it's pretty much constantly covered in them. The ones that had just popped out of the water to rest on the docks were slick and shiny, but the ones who had been resting in the sun for a while looked so soft and fluffy. I wished I could be both close enough to pet one and far away enough to avoid the smell.

cozy birdhouse | san francisco pier 39 sea lions

On Saturday, we drove from San Francisco to Yosemite. We passed miles and miles of orchards that we later discovered were almond trees and saw evidence of the devastation caused by a huge wildfire. Some of the road was pretty treacherous with hairpin turns, a steep drop over the edge, and no guard rails!

We arrived in Yosemite mid-afternoon and got ready for the wedding rehearsal at Sentinel Beach. That's when the trip started to get a little crazy. On Friday, a disgruntled employee at an air traffic control facility in Chicago had started a fire, causing a lot of damage to the radar facility. O'Hare airport was shut down all day and not expected to be fully operational for over 2 weeks. (Side note: I can't type the phrase "fully operational" and not think of the Death Star.) Unfortunately, Amanda's parents and grandparents were supposed to fly from Chicago that day and were having issues getting re-booked. Saturday evening, Nate and Amanda decided to delay the wedding from Sunday to Monday to give her parents more time to get there.

I know this whole ordeal was super stressful for Nate and Amanda, but there were a couple upsides to a delayed wedding. Firstly, it POURED rain on Sunday. The wedding was scheduled to be outside at Glacier Point, and we heard it was actually sleeting there! Monday, on the other hand, was absolutely gorgeous. Secondly, having a free day on Sunday gave Dan and me some time to explore Yosemite! Our original itinerary didn't include any hiking, because we had planned on staying two nights in Sonoma after leaving Yosemite. Fortunately, we were able to shorten our stay in Sonoma to accommodate the extra day at the park. We used our free time Sunday to hike through Mariposa Grove and see the Giant Sequoias!

cozy birdhouse | mariposa grove at yosemite, california tunnel tree

We walked through the California tunnel tree, which is still alive and producing pine cones despite having a car-sized hole cut through the base. I did stray from the trail occasionally to take photos of the wildlife including these little squirrels called "chickarees." I also spotted a bright blue Steller's Jay.

cozy birdhouse | yosemite, douglas squirrel aka chickaree

cozy birdhouse | yosemite national park, steller's jay

Everything went smoothly for the wedding on Monday; I only saw one cloud the whole day, and it was the white, fluffy type. The view from Glacier Point was breathtaking. After a short ceremony attended by a small group of friends and family (and a much larger group of nature enthusiasts), we snapped some photos of Half Dome and then took the bus back to the Ahwahnee hotel for the reception. We had a tasty dinner and then played card games including Uno and Go Fish until the party ended.

cozy birdhouse | yosemite national park, wedding at glacier point

cozy birdhouse | yosemite national park, view of half dome from glacier point

We hopped in the car Tuesday morning for another four hour drive back to Sonoma. I'm lucky Dan is a good conversationalist! He quipped that it's a sure sign you get along well with your spouse when you put over 600 miles on your rental car in less than a week and never turn on the radio. We arrived in Sonoma just in time to catch the last tour at Benzinger Family Winery where we took a tour of the vineyards and cellars, ending with a wine tasting. Afterwards, we checked in at our fancy hotel on Sonoma Plaza and enjoyed an early dinner across the street at The Girl and The Fig.

cozy birdhouse | sonoma, benzinger family winery

On Wednesday morning we drove back to San Francisco to visit Alcatraz. We had discovered on our first day that the tours sell out days (sometimes weeks!) in advance, so we had purchased tickets for Wednesday afternoon. The audio tour of the cellhouse was very well done, with lots of first-person narrative from former inmates and guards.

cozy birdhouse | san francisco, alcatraz

After the tour, we drove to the Mission District to meet up with Dan's friend Kevin for an authentic Mexican dinner. Kevin saved us lots of money letting us stay on his futon for the night. We had to get up around 3 a.m. to catch our flight, so it would have killed me to pay for a hotel for only a few hours of sleep!

Congratulations, Nate and Amanda! We're so honored you invited us to the wedding. Thanks for giving us the opportunity for this amazing vacation!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

go irish, beat boilermakers

The Notre Dame vs. Purdue game is a big deal for my family since we have graduates from both schools among my siblings and cousins. So we were super excited for the Notre Dame Shamrock Series (our annual home-away-from-home game) at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis this year! Our tailgate was complete with delicious food, cornhole, and our annual game of "cups." Before the game, we walked towards Georgia Street where the pre-game show was being filmed and met up with some of my high school friends in the Purdue lot.

cozy birdhouse | circle monument in indianapolis

cozy birdhouse | shamrock series pre-game

cozy birdhouse | notre dame vs. purdue game in indianapolis

I didn't expect the roof to be open in Lucas Oil. The day was gorgeous when the sun was out, but it got pretty chilly by half time!

cozy birdhouse | lucas oil stadium for the notre dame vs. purdue game

Purdue put up a good fight in the first half, so I was a little worried. I kept thinking, "At least if we lose to Purdue, Michigan will feel even worse about being shut out by Notre Dame." That's mean of me. Sorry, Michigan (but not really). On to the next game: Go Irish, Beat Orange!

cozy birdhouse | notre dame shamrock series game in lucas oil stadium

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

go irish, beat owls

It's that time of the year again: college football season! I'm planning to live vicariously through my sister who is a freshman at St. Mary's this year and has student tickets to all the Notre Dame home games. Fortunately, the ticket lottery blessed me with four tickets to both the season opener against Rice and the Shamrock Series game against Purdue at Lucas Oil Stadium.

cozy birdhouse | notre dame vs rice

My parents went with us to the Notre Dame vs. Rice game last weekend. Despite a forecast predicting an 80% chance of rain, we stayed dry until mid way through the game. Then the heavens opened, and the entire stadium played a game of "how quickly can you put on plastic rain poncho." We got a little soggy, but we did get to see a victory. I also got a peek into my sister's dorm room... I might be jealous of her tickets, but I do not miss living in a tiny room with two other people!

cozy birdhouse | at the notre dame vs rice game

Don't be fooled by Dan's Notre Dame jersey. He's wearing his Penn State t-shirt underneath "so the Notre Dame doesn't touch his skin."

Saturday, September 6, 2014

a little bride bunny

I learned how to knit in high school, but all I could really make was a rectangle (a.k.a. a scarf). I knew the basics of how to start, how to finish, and a little bit of what to do in between. So how did I get from knitting scarves to knitting sweaters?

  • YouTube. You can learn every single thing you need to know about knitting (and lots of other hobbies) from YouTube. Every confusing instruction, every weird stitch, every interesting technique is explained step-by-step in a video. (I even replaced the cracked gas tank on my lawn mower by watching an instructional video on YouTube.)
  • Ravelry. This online community for all things knit and crochet is a treasure trove of patterns (free and for sale), inspiration, and support. I wouldn't be nearly as interested in knitting if I didn't find all these awesome ideas on Ravelry.
  • Yarn shops. Michael's and Hobby Lobby have decent yarn. But, oh my gosh, I didn't know what I was missing until I ventured into my local yarn shop... there are some really beautiful yarns out there. Working with quality materials makes knitting so much more fun.
  • Little Cotton Rabbits. I stumbled on this blog a couple years ago and immediately fell in love with the adorable knit animals. I followed the blog for a while and was indescribably excited when she published the patterns for her girl and boy bunny. These patterns are not simple and not quick, but they are so rewarding. Wanting a bunny for my very own was my biggest motivation to learn more about knitting.

I just finished making my eighth bunny from Little Cotton Rabbits. She is a gift for my friend Jen who is getting married in November, so I decked her out with a wedding dress, a veil, and even a little garter. I love how she turned out, and I know she's gone to a good home!

cozy birdhouse | knit wedding bunny

cozy birdhouse | knit wedding bunny

cozy birdhouse | knit wedding bunny

This little bunny was made with Cascade 220 in color doeskin heather, and her dress is Rowan wool cotton 4-ply in antique. Additional project details are available on my Ravelry page.

Friday, August 29, 2014

glass etching & bridal shower

My brother Christopher is getting married soon to a super sweet girl named Emily. My sister Kelsey and I hosted a little bridal shower for her where we had lunch and cupcakes and played silly shower games. I put together a "How Well Do You Know The Bride" questionnaire (trivia-related shower games, how can I resist??) and we made a bouquet with paper flower cards on which the guests wrote their memories and advice for Emily. Christopher came for the gift-opening portion at the end of the shower, and we played "The Shoe Game." The bride and groom sit back-to-back so they can't see each other and exchange one shoe so they are holding their shoe in one hand and the other person's shoe in the other hand. Then I read a series of questions like "Who takes more time in front of the mirror?" and they raise the shoe of the person they think best fits the answer. It's funny if they agree and even funnier when they don't! I found lots of fun questions online, but my favorite was: "If you were both trapped on a deserted island, who would be more likely to eat the other one to survive?"

cozy birdhouse | emily's bridal shower

As both a shower host and a future sister-in-law, I wanted to do something slightly more special than just a registry gift. To me, "special" means A) expensive, B) particularly thoughtful, or C) handmade... and you can guess which one I usually pick. Gift-making is a good time to try out a new craft because you can just go buy a gift if the handmade item doesn't turn out as planned. So, here's my first attempt at glass etching!

cozy birdhouse | glass etching, bridal shower platter

cozy birdhouse | glass etching, bridal shower platter

These photos make the glass look a bit cloudier than it actually was, but at least it makes the plate show up against the wood table. It's not perfect, but I'm happy with how it turned out! I couldn't find any stencils with the right size lettering for this plate, so I made my own out of contact paper, following this tutorial from Keep Calm & DIY. I etched the back of the plate to avoid the issue of food stains in the etched area, so the only step I had to add was making the stencil a mirror-image on the computer. This craft is not too pricey, since you can find relatively inexpensive glassware at places like Target. I boxed it up with some kitchen towels and a hot pad. Now Christopher can just take a peek in the kitchen if he forgets his wedding anniversary!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


I got you, finch! You thought you were so perfectly camouflaged in my sunflowers, but I spotted you... and your little girlfriend. She's adorable, by the way. Have you two been together long? I'd love to have some little finch babies around.

Enjoy those sunflower seeds, little guy!

Yes, I'm fully aware that these are different finches than my nemesis, but it still feels like a victory.

Friday, August 15, 2014

me vs. the finch

I have a new nemesis. He has been taunting me almost daily for the last two weeks.

I guess this whole saga started back in the spring when I planted sunflowers to fill in some gaps in the landscaping. They blossomed about a month ago and the backyard wildlife has been going crazy over them. The bees are all a-buzz, and there's a big pile of seed hulls on the porch where a squirrel stuffed its little belly.

cozy birdhouse | the sunflower and the bee

But I don't care about the bees or the squirrels... I care about the one little American Goldfinch who has been avoiding my camera for two weeks. Every evening he hangs out in the sunflowers until I come home from work. He sees my car pull into the driveway and watches me as I dash inside to grab the camera. Then, just as I'm about to take the photo, he laughs maniacally and flits away into the backyard tree line. The most frustrating encounter was when I spotted him hanging upside down from one of the sunflower heads... it was such a perfect image with the bright yellow finch framed by the bright yellow sunflower petals. But of course he took off just before I could get the photo.

I caught him just once when he paused briefly to rest in the neighbor's yard, but couldn't get my camera to focus before he got away. I used the blurry photos to make this wanted poster. Keep your eyes peeled.

cozy birdhouse | wanted: finch