Eva’s Nursery: A Work in Progress

Posted by Carly Morgan

Even though we moved into this house in March, there’s still a long list of things that I want to do before I’ll feel settled in. Some of them are pretty big (buy new furniture) and some of them are so little I can’t believe I haven’t done them yet (hang new towel hook in bathroom). Isn’t it funny how all of that stuff just seems to pile up?

Well, I managed to get off my butt long enough last weekend to take care of a handful of things that I’ve been wanting to do to Eva’s room. Her nursery is a nice place to sit and hang out, but even with all of her stuff in there it was looking a little…blank.

Before:

 

After:

 

I started by hanging a bunch of letters above her bed, so they’re the first thing you see when you walk into her room. I love how they fill the space all the way to the ceiling.

 

In the corner of the room, I was starting to get bugged by how short her giant giraffe looked standing behind her crib. So, I made a few “rainclouds” out of tissue paper and cardstock to fill in the empty space.

 

For the wall behind her dresser/changing table, I made her a little art gallery. The best part of this wall is that almost every piece of art was a gift from someone, so it’s really special how it all came together.

 

I still have plans for her room. I’d like to paint the bookshelves to make them stand out a little bit and I want to make a cover for her little reading chair, since she uses it every night and it’s not too easy to clean. A cover will also protect it from the cats, who can’t seem to figure out whether or not they should be scratching holes in all of our furniture.

I’m also scheming other storage options for her books, of which she has about a bazillion (this is roughly half of them). I don’t want to put any away because we rotate them out a lot and go through them pretty quickly. Maybe a long shelf/bench somewhere else in the house?

 

Even though it isn’t finished, I’m still very pleased with how much I finally got done this weekend and very appreciative of my husband for helping me out. Eva seems to be pretty happy with it, too…

 

* * * * *

 

Shopping Guide for Eva’s Art Gallery:

  1. Canvas print of wedding gift designed by Sarah at craftyFOLK
  2. Giraffe wall hanging – a gift from my mom from a few years back
  3. “Year of the Rabbit” letterpress designed by dutch door press – gift from Janean
  4. Personalized alphabet poster from Petite Lemon – gift from Jessica and Adam
  5. Print by Nikki McClure – gift from Janean
  6. Vintage cardboard Disney decoration, found at a local bookstore
  7. 2011 calendar by dutch door press – promo from Alt Design Summit
  8. Eva’s Chinese name written out by my Aunt Carole
  9. Plastic clock from Target
  10. Thomas Kinkade Princess and the Frog prints – gift from Kyle’s parents
  11. Porcelain bear – gift from Eva’s Red Egg party
  12. Colored pencil drawing of a mouse on the moon – gift from my dad and his family

DIY Moment: Candy Dipped Oreo Pops

Posted by Carly Morgan

 

We held Eva’s Red Egg and Ginger party in the meeting space of my family’s church, where a lot of our family events our held. (Our wedding reception was there just a couple of years ago.) It’s a large room and it can be a little tricky to decorate, since you feel like you need a lot of something to fill the space.

Rather than buying large centerpieces to decorate each of the tables, I decided to do a lot of small things grouped together. We did a collection of cakes, cupcakes, candy jars, and jars holding these: dipped Oreo pops. Mmmmm…

 

Making dipped oreo pops is easy. You just need a bag of Oreos, a bag of lollipop sticks, a bag of candy melts in your desired color, and a roll of parchment paper. (I purchased the lollipop sticks and candy melts at the local fabric store.)

 

Step one: carefully insert the lollipop sticks into the Oreos, far enough to hold them securely. This is a little tricky, because the cookies want to break and separate, so be gentle. If the cookie does crack, but you can keep it more or less together, it will still work as an Oreo pop.

Step two: microwave the candy melts in a coffee mug according to the package directions. When the candy melts are ready, grab a butter knife and start spreading the melted candy over the Oreos. I know that it seems like it would be easier to just dip the cookie into the melted candy, but cookies that are truly dipped turn out lumpier and less pretty. Plus, most of the time the cookie ends up being too crumbly to be dipped.

Step three: Place the candy-covered Oreo on parchment paper to dry. If you’d like to add sprinkles, you have a small window of time before the candy hardens. I’ve also seen people add marshmallows, Rice Krispies, crumbled Oreos, or chopped nuts, but I’m a purist.

Step four: Set the cookies in the fridge for at least three hours, but preferably overnight. The colder they are, the less likely they are to break when you pull them off the parchment paper.

NOTE: I also dipped cookies in milk chocolate. To do that, follow the instructions above, but instead of using candy melts, use chocolate chips and a tablespoon of Crisco. (I actually used Hershey bars that I purchased on sale and they were pretty delicious…kind of like an Oreo that happened to also be a Hershey kiss.)

 

* * * * *

I made around 75 Oreo pops for about $7, not counting the cost of the sprinkles since we already had them. I was able to get a great deal on both the Oreo cookies and the Hershey bars I melted at Target by doubling up on coupons. Since Target accepts both Target coupons and manufacturer coupons on the same item, I got around $2 off of each item. Add to that the fact that the Oreos were on clearance because they were the springtime Oreos (which just meant they were yellow on the inside) and the Oreos ended up being only 55 cents per package.

To download and print Target coupons, you can use this link. If you’re a big Target shopper like I am, you might also want to peek at Totally Target, a coupon blog that tracks sales and consistently has posts on couponing items at Target down to less than ten cents.

Dear Eva: On Teeth and How Getting Them Sucks

Posted by Carly Morgan

Dear Eva,

I wish that you were old enough to understand this letter, because then I’d be able to tell you that this teething thing doesn’t last forever. I’d promise you that one day you’d be able to make it more than three minutes without jamming your fingers in your mouth and biting frantically.

It’s the most frustrating thing in the world not to be able to make you feel better. I know that you want me to fix it, but I just can’t. You need teeth. Everyone gets teeth. It’s one of those crummy facts of life, like growing pains and hangnails.

Some day you’ll have bigger problems. There will be kids who won’t play with you. There will be subjects in school that you won’t want to study. You won’t get the part you wanted in the school play. The boy (or girl) you like won’t like you back. And when they do like you back and you really like them and you spend years being in like with each other and then one day you get a text message saying they’ve met someone else…yeah, that will suck too.

The bad news is that I can’t protect you from those kinds of things. They’re all going to happen and that’s how you’ll learn things about yourself and other people and life. If I stopped all of those bad things from happening, I’d have to stop good things from happening and believe me when I say that you’re going to experience good things. Things that are even better than getting that morning bottle or kicking your legs in the bathwater or reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear for the twentieth time. You’ll just have to trust me.

You have such a big journey ahead of you and this teething thing is just a little speed bump. For as much as you’re irritated about those ouchy gums these days, I promise you won’t even remember this pain. Mom and Dad have lots of teeth and neither of us remember what it felt like when they showed up.

Even though I can’t wiggle my nose and make your teeth show up all at once, pain-free, I promise to be here to rub your gums with a washcloth. I’ll make the puppets read you stories when you get fussy. I’ll put you up in the air like Superman when you just can’t take it anymore. So will your dad. That’s why we’re here.

In the meantime, hang in there and keep working on those teethers. Don’t worry…if the last five months are any indication, you’re going to be all grown up with all your teeth before mama can even blink.

Loves you,
Mom

* * * * *

The photo strip above was made using a free photo editing website called PhotoFunia. There are a bunch of different effects (including a few that are animated) and the site is completely free to use.

Most of the effects are right there on the front page, but there are a few more if you click on the “Lab” tab up at the top. (That’s where the photo strip effect can be found.) You can either download images that are sized for web use or larger images designed to be printed. I had a lot of fun messing around with it, so go play!

BlogHer ’11 Recap: Notes From My First BlogHer

Posted by Carly Morgan

Whoa.

Well, BlogHer was a little fast and intense. Comparing it to past blogging conferences, I would say that Altitude Design Summit is a blogger group hug and BlogHer ’11 is a blogger mosh pit. I met so many people and saw so many cool things this weekend that it’s all just running out of my brain before I can process it. So, here is the quick and dirty recap:

 

On the conference…

This conference is big and overwhelming. I’m so grateful that I thought out exactly what I wanted to get out of the trip before I went, because it helped me relax about missing thing A when I had to be over at thing B.

Past conferences I’ve been to have been all about the sessions. You have meet and greets and lunches, but really you’re there to learn in the sessions. This conference really seemed to be more about getting together with sponsors and bloggers on the side than about being in the actual classes.

I’d definitely go back if it wasn’t in New York City next year. (August seems like a very crummy time to go to NYC and I think the conference would feel even more chaotic and crowded than it did this year.) Hopefully I can make it out to BlogHer ’13…

On the sessions…

There were a lot of sessions offered, but surprisingly few had a mass appeal. I went to five classes and was only able to get a lot out of one of them. They were either not exactly what I was looking for or it seemed like the speakers didn’t have a handle on what they were supposed to be talking about. I did step out of two of the classes only to find that the one I wanted to switch over into was full, but I know other people had more success with session hopping.

I would have loved to have seen more sessions on sponsor relationships and fewer sessions on personal growth, but obviously there are a lot of different motivations for why you’d attend BlogHer.

Most of the sessions were liveblogged, so if you want to see the type of stuff that the speakers were sharing, you should check out the liveblogs.



On the attendees…

HUGE range of people at this conference. I met lots of mommy bloggers, but also a bunch of sponsor reps, marketing pros, artists, photographers, and entrepreneurs. There were also a ton of professional bloggers with law degrees, so I guess it’s not that weird after all!

I admit that I wasn’t a fan of the attendees with babies, just because it seemed problematic. Two of the sessions that I was in were “cried out” by a fussy baby and I walked out of one fairly decent session because the woman next to me was reading her toddler a picture book to quiet him down. (Note: if you’re in a session and you’re reading a picture book out loud, you aren’t getting anything out of the session. So go out in the hall and quit bugging everyone!) Last year I might have thought that I just didn’t understand, but since I made the sacrifice to leave Eva at home for the conference, I felt fine thinking that all those mommies needed to take those babies elsewhere.

It was impossible to make solid connections because there were just too many people. I have two fistfuls of business cards and a very hazy grasp on who I met this week. To really connect with bloggers, I think you’d have to arrange a dinner meet or just catch them at another event.

 

On the expo…

Overwhelming, but really fun. The expo is the meeting hall where bloggers and sponsors can steal a little face-to-face time. Tons of companies were there giving out free samples and introducing the bloggers to new products. Not everything was for me, but I loved exploring!

I do think it’s easy to start feeling a little entitled, with everyone shoving free stuff in your face. I was thrilled with the first few free samples, but by the end I was turning things down right and left and wishing the samples were bigger and better. I had to keep reminding myself that these were free gifts and I needed to not be greedy.

The giveaways were definitely worth my time! I won something on all three nights of being at the expo. Day one was a year’s worth of Downy Unstopables from P&G, day two was a portable device charger from SwagBucks, and day three was an iPad2 from YoCrunch. (Thanks again for the goodies!)

On the swag…

Even beyond the big swag I came home with (like the iPad2), I was really impressed with the swag they gave out. Lots of full-size products and cute custom items. I can honestly say that I plan to blog about the majority of the things I picked up and I tried out some things that I never would have known about or purchased on my own. (Did you know that McDonalds has an apple and walnut snack that comes with a little dip-able thing of yogurt? So good!)

Some of the swag they gave out on the expo floor was downright surprising. Like the pancake-wrapped turkey sausage on a stick. And the sex toys from Eden Fantasys.

One of the best parts about the conference was the swag exchange, where you could drop off what you didn’t want and pick up things you didn’t have. I dropped off two bags of stuff, including DVDs we weren’t going to watch, water bottles I didn’t need, t-shirts I didn’t fit, and appliances we’d never use. I picked up four full-size Disney baby dolls, six Sesame Street baby toys, three card games, six CDs, and a few blank journals. I had to cut back because I didn’t have very much room in my luggage, but I saw kitchenware, photo frames, suitcases, yoga mats, tennis shoes, cases of bottled water…it was like a hoarder’s dream. Hopefully everything found a home!

Taking a pedicab to the You-Phoria party

 

On the parties…

There were three kinds of parties at BlogHer ’11: parties for everyone, parties for anyone who had managed to RSVP fast enough to grab a spot, and parties for people who were specially invited to the event. I went to two of each and, not surprisingly, liked the last category the best. (It helped that those were both Disney-hosted parties.)

I thought all of the parties were well-hosted, particularly the large BlogHer parties that were for all invitees. The food was good, the music was energetic, and there were fun surprises at each event.

There seemed to be a little bit of envy/competition surrounding the different private parties and the gift bags that came from them. Neither of the general parties that I had RSVP’d to had very good gift bags, though, and it seemed to be more about connecting with the sponsors. The invite-only parties, however, had the best swag out of the whole conference and I’m glad that I reached out to the hosts and asked about the events early to grab a spot.



On the fashion…

For as much as people were worried about looking good at BlogHer and wearing all new clothes, I thought it was going to be like fashion week. Instead, there were so many people that I didn’t really notice what anyone was wearing. I remember a few people who looked a little too dressed up during the day and a few people who needed longer skirts. That’s it.

Lots of people were either limping or went barefoot by the end of the first day. We walked a solid four miles between events during the conference…they weren’t kidding about taking comfortable shoes!

I wore clothes from Target and H&M and still got plenty of compliments. My advice is to wear something comfortable that could go either way depending on whether you’re at a day session or a party in the evening.



Superlatives…

Best part of the trip: even with as much fun as I had and winning the iPad2 and hitting all of those parties, I’d still have to say that the best part of the trip was seeing Kyle and Eva at the airport. It’s so much fun to be the mom coming home!

Worst part of the trip: There was a nasty stomach virus going around BlogHer ’11 (as well as a streak of wallet thefts) and Carrie and I were really worried about catching something. You shake a lot of hands and share a lot of buffet food at a conference like this, so I’m sure it would be easy to pick something up. Luckily, we seem to have Purell-ed our way out of danger, but I feel bad for the attendees who were not so lucky…

Favorite new product tried: Stacy’s Cinnamon Sugar Pita Chips. (Who knew they were that good?)

Favorite new service discovered: I’m excited about both Swagbucks and Eversave. Hope to learn more about each this week…

Best thing I packed: Comfy flip-flops. My nice flip flops and nice dress shoes both lasted about two hours, before I realized nobody was looking at my feet.

Silliest thing I packed: I took a cloth grocery bag, thinking I might need something to carry my swag in at the expo. Didn’t even occur to me that someone might be passing out cloth bags. I think I came home with 15 or 16?

I‘m glad that I: left Eva at home, even though I missed her. I had no time free during the conference and would have been a crazy person if I’d been worried about her on top of everything else. Plus, it was amazing to come home after four days and just squeeze her up.

I wish that I’d: trained a little bit more for the BlogHer 5K. I finished it, but my hip joints are still complaining…

Next time I’m going to: drive if I can and see if I can extend the trip out for a few days. After the madness, it would have been really nice to take a little vacation!

Thanks, San Diego! Hope to see you soon!
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