Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Guest Bath: After

So today is the last day of NaBloPoMo (thank GOD!) and it seemed appropriate to finish it with another ending. I'm beyond thrilled to announce that the renovation of our guest bathroom is finally finished!! The last day of the reno was yesterday while I was at work. It was fun to know that I would come home to see the mess cleaned up and my finished bathroom!

So I thought I'd share pics of how it came out. I spent some of my time this afternoon (between my nap and doctors appointment and fixing dinner) trying to put the bathroom back together but there are a couple things that still need doing. Because I was so slammed yesterday at work (and consequently have only slept 3 hours in the last 36 hours) I'm exhausted and could only manage a perfunctory effort. So please excuse the bare walls and wrinkled shower curtain that has been crumpled up in a box with the rest of the stuff from that bathroom.

Eventually I'll manage to wash linens, hang decorations and finish up that bath but for now I'm so very happy with how it turned out. It's so much more my taste and actually feels like it belongs with the rest of the house. My decorations before for my guest bath had always been browns and tans and blues. I loved this color palette for a bathroom because it feels so relaxing and spa-like. I don't think that came through before because the ugly green tile was so loud it drowned everything else out. But with the modern vanity and fixtures plus the brown and blue accents, I think it looks wonderful! And, I'm not really sure why, but it also feel so much bigger!

Here is a reminder of where we started. Ew.

And now a tour of the new bathroom. Starting from right to left, this is what you see to your right after walking through the bathroom door, the new vanity, counter-top, mirror, light fixture, etc.

Because we were unable to go wall-to-wall with the new vanity we now have a space between it and the wall. I was worried it would look awkward but I actually really like it. It makes the room look less closed in and give us a place to tuck the unsightly trash can!

New toilet, towel rack, TP holder, wrinkled shower curtain, etc. Very exciting.

And our newly re-tiled and re-plumbed shower with new hardware. Love it!

As much as this whole process sucked, I know that it was SO worth doing it now and I'm really glad we decided to go ahead with it. Also, during this process Brad decided he wanted one more thing done. He loved the crown molding in the bathroom so much that he wanted to add it to the nursery and the master bedroom. That's the bad news. . . more mess, more men in the house, more money and more construction zone. The good news is that all of that is on a MUCH smaller scale. The guys will be back on Thursday to put up the crown molding in both rooms and said it should only take about half a day and the cost will be pretty minimal. So, no big deal.

In other exciting news, our nursery furniture has arrived and Brad's dad and brother are coming over Saturday to assemble it. (I don't think Brad really needs help but his mom liked the idea of it being a bonding thing. Cute!) So before long the nursery will be complete also! So exciting!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Slammed

O. M. G.

I was planning on posting a 32 week update today. (I'm 32 weeks and 3 days as of today.) I took pics and everything. But I am so ridiculously slammed at work today, I have no time to do anything. Not even eat. Not even sit. It's ridiculous. It's been like this since before the holiday but it got really bad for my shift on Thanksgiving. I've been b!tching/venting to my poor husband and I know he's sick of it but we really need more help.

Anyhoo, this is the first free second I've had all day, so I'm posting about how busy I am so that I don't have to sit and write a real post. I'll try to post an update (as in a real update) tomorrow if I'm not passed out all day after such an intense 25 hour shift.

Wish me luck that I survive until tomorrow morning. And (more importantly) that I actually manage to make it through my dinner without getting paged to the unit or called to a delivery.

Off to eat now!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas Decorations!!

As I've said before, I'm a fan of seasonal decorations, so it should come as no surprise that a pretty steadfast tradition of mine is that Christmas decorations go up the weekend after Thanksgiving. Not before that and definitely not afterward! It's something I look forward to every year as the holidays approach.

We play our favorite Christmas tunes all over the house on our sounds system and go to work making our house feel merry and bright! Brad and I have our jobs that we've kind of fallen into over the years. He puts up the tree (pre-strung, thank-you-very-much, I hate stringing lights) and I put up all the household decorations (dining room table centerpiece, seasonal kitchen towels, candy bowls, and other chachkies that I can only handle in my way only grace our home for Christmas). By the time I'm done with that, Brad is done with the tree and it's time to trim it with our ornaments!!

This is by far my favorite part!!! My mom started another tradition with me from my very first Christmas where I get a new ornament for the tree every year. By now, I've built up a pretty good stock. Brad never did this with his family but as soon as we moved in together and had our first Christmas tree together, I started getting him an ornament each year for Christmas. I love unwrapping each year's ornament and remembering when I got it, what it signified and why it was special. Here are a few of my favorites:

This is the Christmas ornament I gave Brad this year. He is a Starbucks NUT. He loves coffee in general but really drools over Starbucks. I thought this ornament was adorable and very fitting.

This ornament is from a Hallmark series called "Puppy Love." Every year they come out with a different puppy breed doing something cute and Christmas-y. My mom started getting these for me because I've always loved dogs. The series started in 1991 and I have every one of them!

Here is another "Puppy Love" ornament. Neither of these are this year's but I think they are both super cute!

This is one of the first ornaments I got for Brad. If you can't read it, it says "3Basic Food Groups" and underneath is a platter with wine, cheese and chocolate. If you know Brad, you get why this is very appropriate.

These are little porcelain ballet slippers. My grandparents got them for me when I was 9 years old. On the bottom of each slipper my name is painted in silver along with the year I received them. These are so special to me and one of my favorite childhood ornaments.

This ornament is from our first Christmas after we were married. My mom actually gave this to us and on the silver the phrase "First Christmas Together" is engraved and the little red heart in the middle says "2006," which is the year we were married.

This ornament marks another milestone. I found this the year we bought our house. We were so in love with this house and so proud of the purchase. It's in the shape of a key with a little doorway on it and it says "New Home 2008."

And, finally, this is my very first ornament. It is a teddy bear holding a block that says "Baby's First Christmas 1982." It's plastic and old (as old as me!) but it's so special. And it makes me think of the ornament we will be getting our little girl for her first Christmas next year.

Hope everyone is enjoying the start of the holiday season as much as I am! Do you have any plans to get your decorations up? Or are they already up? Do you have any particular favorites you'd like to share?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

High School Reunion: 10 years?!?

So tonight is my 10-year high school reunion It's very surreal. In some ways I feel a million miles away from high school. I have graduate degree, a career, a husband, I own a home and we're starting our family. I've gone through so much since I graduated; death of a parent, all the drama of college years, marriage, graduations (3), multiple moves, buying my first (and second) homes, my first jobs in my career. . . Its hard to believe all that stuff could fit into 10 years.

But in other ways it's really hard to believe it's been a whole TEN YEARS?!?! (Well, really 10 1/2, since I graduated high school in May 2000.) My best friend is still the same one I had in high school, my high school boyfriend is now my husband and father of my child and a few years ago I moved back to my hometown and I now live within 20 minutes of my old high school and childhood home. So, in some ways, not a lot has changed.

I'm really looking forward to meeting up with everyone and catching up! It's pretty weird that I'll be pregnant at my high school reunion but fun too! It's at a lounge downtown and I'm sure people will be partying pretty late into the night. At the rate I've been going lately it will be WAY past my bedtime so I hope I don't turn into a pumpkin, or worse . . . fall asleep! ;-)

Wish me luck that I make a good impression and don't embarrass myself too much!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Baby Shower Update!

So my baby shower was this past weekend and it was very surreal to realize how far I'd come in this pregnancy. I loved my shower. Great food. Great friends. Great family. I really loved every minute of it.

I know traditionally the person who is being "showered" stays out of the planning. But my best friend (Kristen) and I are both foodies, planners and hostesses to the core so the idea that I wouldn't be involved at all was pretty far-fetched. (And I'm sure that my girl Kristen will be just as involved in her own shower . . . which we've already started planning even though she's not pregnant . . . YET!!)

So we put our heads together and came up with the concept, the decorations, favors, MENU (the food is my favorite part of any party) and games. Kris kept a few surprises under wraps and definitely bore the brunt of the prepping and planning but I appreciate her keeping me in the loop because I really enjoyed being involved in the design and planning. Anyway, I wanted to share a few pics from the shower:

We had the shower in the clubhouse of my mom's complex (YAY for not sticking someone with the cleaning!) This is one of the first tables you saw when you walked in. In the back, lined up, are the prizes for the winners of the shower games. And in front were the favors that each guest received. And the "centerpiece" was the cupcake tower, which I requested rather than a cake.

Yummy cupcake tower. Chocolate cupcakes and peanut butter frosting, another special request from me because, really, who can get enough of the chocolate/peanut butter combo? Oh, and that's a strawberry whopper on top to add a touch of pink! ;-)

And these might have been my favorite thing at the shower. My best friend is an amazing artist and she created these blocks as "topper" for the cupcake tower. They are the baby's initials and I think they are so cute and unique and seriously love everything about them!

She made the initials in script and block letters and filled the rest of the sides with images of things that start with that letter. For "P" there was a purse, pacifier, pig and penguin. For "K" there was lips for kiss, a kite, kangaroo and kitten. Adorable!

This is where the thank you card envelopes were placed. Guests were asked to fill in their own address (YAY for less work for me!) and then an envelope was drawn at the end of the shower and that guest received a prize.

This was the next table guests saw as they entered the clubhouse.

An adorable basket Kristen filled for me that was also used in one of the shower games . . . as a decoy! Guests were told to pay attention to me as I walked around the room showing them the basket. Then I walked out of the room and they were asked questions about me! What was I wearing? How far along was I? How was my hair fixed? I thought this was a fun trick to play on them! ;-)

Another shower game. The very popular shower game where you can't say "baby!"

This was the guest book. Since I love little written notes, I thought it would be nice if guests jotted down a few words that I could cut out and put in a scrapbook with some ultrasound pictures, a baby shower invitation, pictures from the shower, etc.

And here are the favors! We had a few of these set up around the room kind of acting as decoration and "centerpieces."

Because I'm a huge foodie I wanted to make something people could eat/drink. So I decided on a jarred favor and since the shower was in November, I settled on hot cocoa. I designed, printed and made the tags for the favors. On one side was a "thank you" with the baby's name and due date and on the other side were instructions for how to make the cocoa.

Again, to add a splash of pink, I had an idea to make this "strawberry hot cocoa". We layered homemade cocoa mix (Alton Brown's recipe, YUM!) with Nestle Strawberry Quik and added mini-marshmallows at the top. So it really tied in well with the pink/brown/white color scheme.

And, finally, the most important part, THE FOOD! And the people, of course! From left to right, that's Jan, my mother-in-law, Kristen (best friend/shower host) and Kristen's step-mom, Donna. And next to them is all the yummy food. Kris and I had a blast designing the menu for the shower and couldn't wait to dig into the all the yummy treats we made!

And here is the menu that Kristen created that listed all the yummy food.

And one of the prettiest and yummiest treats there was this fruit bruschetta. To. Die. For!! Although the pink punch that Kris made was also amazing. It was white-cranberry juice, Diet Cherry 7-up and scoops of floating raspberry sherbet. It was fizzy and so good and even turned out this gorgeous shimmery pink color. I wish I had a pic of it!

As you can see, there wasn't really a "theme." Just coordinating colors and patterns. We tried to tie in pink/brown/white color scheme with geometric shapes (mostly stripes, squares and polka dots) in subtle, cute ways where we could without going overboard. Kris used the brown and pink polka dot ribbon we found to accent all the table cards and menus and jars around the room. And I added it to some chocolate brown cardstock to create a "placemat" of sorts for our hot cocoa favor centerpieces.

Another thing we tried to incorporate was the baby's name, especially her initials. Since we haven't decided if/when we will share her name on a public blog, I have (so far) decided to hide her name in the pics. But I did decide to show her initials so that we could share all the cute details of the shower. In case you didn't notice in the pics, they will be KAP. We used her name/initials on the favor tags, wooden blocks, and menu. Kristen also sliced up some puff pastry and decorated the top of the baked brie with "KP." How cute! It was really fun seeing her name everywhere and hearing everyone calling her by name at the shower. It made it seem so real!

~Layne

PS: Strange but true: I'm actually having another shower in a couple of weeks on December 4th. My mother-in-law and her good friends insisted on throwing me a separate shower. I don't get it but who am I to refuse?!? This little girl is already getting spoiled!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful

I'm in Jacksonville with my husband working this Thanksgiving but I'm still super thankful for so many wonderful things in my life:

* For my friends and family, who have known and loved and supported Brad and I for years.

* For my mom and grandmother who I had a wonderful Thanksgiving with yesterday. I love them so much.

* For Raina who, despite the barking, freak-outs and all her eccentricities, is still one of the smartest, sweetest, most cuddly dogs ever. She'll be such a good big sister!

* For Brad who, despite his crummy sense of direction and uncanny ability to drive me crazy on occasion, is still the most wonderful person I know. He has been an amazing husband and I can't wait to see him hold our daughter and be the amazing dad that I know he can't wait to be.

* And for my little girl who, after only existing for 7 months, has already made her Daddy and I fall so hard in love with her and changed our hearts, our marriage and and our lives for the better. I love you so much, pumpkin, and I can't wait to meet you face to face!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy (early) Thanksgiving!!

Today Brad and I are spending the day with my family and we'll be making our small, potluck Thanksgiving lunch. I'm excited about cooking a fun meal and looking forward to spending some quality time with my mom and grandmother. And, in an exciting new development . . . . afterward, "Grandma" (my mom) will take "the kid" (Raina, the dog) and watch her while Brad and I head off to Jacksonville for a weird (but fun) 36 hours of work/Thanksgiving activities.

The plan: Right about the time she suggested our Thanksgiving plans, my mom offered to watch Raina so that Brad and I could take off to Jacksonville a little early. We'd stay in a hotel the first night and Brad would be able to take me to work the next morning and relax and hang out in the hotel during the day and then visit me that night for another "Thanksgiving dinner" and drive home with me the next day. It may sound strange but why not? It makes my life a lot easier and gives Brad something to do on Thanksgiving when he's other wise be sitting home alone!

I am actually really looking forward to today and my strange adventure in Jacksonville with my husband. I will get to have (another) nice dinner out with Brad the night before I work and then we'll go back to our comfy hotel (much more comfy I'm sure than our construction zone of a house) and relax for the night. And it will be so nice to get up at 6:45 am for work (instead of 5am) and have a 15 minute drive to work (instead of 2 hours) and to have my husband visit me at work for Thanksgiving "dinner" at the hospital cafeteria (YUM?) and even get to show him around the place I've worked for nearly a year that he's never actually laid eyes on! Maybe I'm a dork but this little arrangement is really going to make working on Thanksgiving a lot more fun. If I have to work on a holiday how nice is it that I can get a visit from the hubs?

And the best part? At the end of my shift, Brad will pick me up from work and DRIVE ME HOME! And if I'm beat? I can go to sleep on the way!! No worries that I'll be up all night working my tail off and have to drive 2 hours home after a rough shift! Whoopee!!!

So I'll be cooking and driving and just generally be all over the place today. Before that I wanted to wish everyone a very happy (early) Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bath Update #2

Ok, so the madness is calming down. (Thank the Lord!) And the bathroom is really coming along. There were a few more snags, so we ended up having to exchange the vanity and the vanity top we had for a different size (no biggie, they have them in stock) and pick out another light fixture. We finished all that up today and even though I was pretty disappointed about the having to get a new light fixture (it was one of my favorite things we had picked for the room), I actually think the new one we picked on the fly looks great in the space.

The worst news so far is that we won't be done for the Thanksgiving holiday. It was our (perhaps unrealistic) goal to be done by then but since we are hosting an early Thanksgiving tomorrow, we couldn't have the guys working any longer. The good news is that we have a toilet for guests (yay for the return of two functioning bathrooms!!) and the vast majority of the work is done. The ugly tile is gone, the drywall is hung and painted, we have new crown molding and new shower and floor tile. Also, the new toilet and light fixture have been installed. The crew is returning Monday to put in the vanity and counter-top, hang the mirror and install the fixtures (toilet paper holder, towel bar, etc).

I can see the finish line!! Woo hoo!! Until then, here are some updated pics of the progress for your viewing pleasure:

Entrance view (hard to see everything since the door is back on the hinges).

New shower and tile with new faucet/showerhead fixtures and new paint and crown molding.

Opposite corner of the bathroom (on the other side of the toilet).

This is where the vanity is going. And you can see the new (last minute) light fixture.

New floor tile. I love that it's the large 18x18 tiles!

That's it for now! Just one more day of work left and we'll have a finished bathroom. Can't wait!!

~Layne

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Hosting Duties

So, as I've previously mentioned, I am scheduled to work on Thanksgiving. It's kind of a bummer, I know. But that's life when you work at a hospital. The good news is that my last day of work before maternity leave is December 23rd! So I'm off the hook for Christmas and New Year's this year!! Woo Hoo!

Anyway, Brad's family (mom, dad, brother and brother's girlfriend) is actually going out of town to visit family in Louisianna this year. So the only option for us for Thanksgiving is my family, who likes to procrastinate when it comes to holidays. Ever since I found out that I was working this Thanksgiving I've been asking my mom about what our family's plans are. Usually we eat at my aunt's house but again, they like to procrastinate and I wasn't getting any info. A little over a week ago my mom called and wanted to talk about Thanksgiving. I thought she had heard about some plans for the family but she hadn't. Instead she suggested we have our own Thanksgiving Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving with just Brad and I and my mom and my grandmother.

At first, I was worried that I was being volunteered to host and cook everything a week before the big day. But my mom went on to say that it could be very low-key and we could all split the cooking. The more I thought about it the better it sounded! I asked if she minded if I hosted so that I wouldn't have to make the 1 hour commute to their house the day before I work a 24-hour shift 2 hours away. And if we could have it early in the day so that I could cook and host and clean and still be done early enough to rest and go to bed at a reasonable hour. She said that's exactly what she was thinking. Then I asked if I could plan the menu and assignments and go pretty low-key on the spread (knowing that my grandmother likes to go overboard with the cooking). Again, she agreed! So I planned a simple but yummy menu with everyone making things that they did really well but were also pretty easy. Here's what I came up with:

Dinner:
Herb Roasted Whole Chicken (me)
Green Bean Casserole (me)
Honey Yeast Dinner Rolls (me)
Fresh Sauteed Corn (my grandmother)
Mashed Potatoes (my grandmother)
Salad (my mom)

Dessert:
Blackberry Cobbler (me)
Chocolate Pound Cake (my grandmother)

I was trying to think of an alternative to a huge turkey since we are only serving 4 people and Brad suggested my roast chicken. (Not surprising since he loves it!) It's really easy and only takes a hour in the oven but tastes and looks amazing with golden brown, crispy skin and really moist meat. The green bean casserole is again a favorite of Brad's that was originally his family's recipe. Of course, over the years I've tweaked it to make it my own. It's the only green bean casserole I've ever seen that doesn't use canned soup (which I'm not a fan of) and I think that's what makes it so good. Now we can't have a holiday meal without it.

The honey yeast rolls are a phenomenal recipe that I got off a wonderful blog. Last year, I got the baking bug and started experimenting with quick breads, then no-knead yeast breads and finally traditional yeast rolls/breads. I tried these last, fearing that they'd be too hard for me. While they do require patience and planning ahead, they are easy and amazing. So soft, so sweet. . . seriously the perfect dinner roll. My grandmother and mom are in charge of the rest of the sides. Since they are traveling I wanted to go easy on them. My grandmother makes amazing fresh corn, right off the cob, really tender and sweet. (I personally think good corn is one of the best sides ever. Maybe it's a southern thing?) So I asked if she'd bring that. And we are rounding out the meal with mashed potatoes and a salad. Simple but yummy.

And for dessert, I had my heart set on making a recipe I'd be eying forever. First you have to know that I absolutely love fruit desserts; cobblers, crisps, gallettes, pies, buckles, all of them! But Brad isn't a fan. But since my mom and grandmother like them I could finally have the perfect opportunity to make a recipe I've been wanted to try for ages! Meanwhile, I can't leave Brad high and dry in the dessert department (the boy really loves his sweets!) So I'm having my grandmother bring over some of her famous pound cake. She makes it in virtually every flavor imaginable but Brad's favorite is her chocolate version with chocolate icing. She almost always has one around so I bet she won't even have to bake one fresh!

So that's my plan for Thanksgiving lunch. I'm actually really excited because I love cooking and I don't get to host and prepare meals for people (other than Brad) very often. I actually hosted Thanksgiving last year at our house with my parents and Brad's parents and prepared the majority of the food, with each family bringing one side dish. I absolutely LOVED it! This year is a little more crazy so I'm not sure that I would be up for all that but this is great! It's the perfect compromise between preparing a few favorite recipes for the holiday and going overboard at the last minute and burying myself in holiday hosting.

So those are my Thanksgiving plans! What are yours?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Stop the madness!

So, I've had my house destroyed and turned upside down and inside out this week with this stupid bath remodel. No one likes their house to be a construction zone but for some reason it's getting to me even more than I thought it would. I keep telling myself it's going to look great but in the meantime me and my OCD/Type A/Neat-freak nature are going crazy. I've been off work for several days and scheduled this job so that it would happen while I was home so that I could open my house for the guys and be there if they needed anything. Unfortunately, that also means I've been completely immersed in the madness without much opportunity for escape. Not to mention all the other stuff I have going on while they guys are here and after they leave (baby shower planning, doctors appointments, wokring on the nursery, etc) and I'm running from sun-up to sun-down. My nerves are totally fried

I have men tracking through my house with dirty shoes, drywall dust settling on every surface that exists within the walls of my house, plastic tarp taped down through out the house that just seems to catch the dirt so that we can spread it everywhere, my dog is going bananas all day long and the noise is deafening!!! And every day when they leave, I have to clean up after them so my house is livable again that night, cook dinner, run any errands and help Brad with the nursery once he gets home. (Why, oh why, are we doing two home projects at the same time?!?)

I've had 5 days off from work and, today being my first day back at work, I'm almost looking forward to it. Somehow after this week, being in an ICU all day with screaming babies and cranky doctors seems almost calm and relaxing. Hmmm . . . ?

OH! And did I mention it's taking longer than they expected? In large part, due to some unforeseen complications with the plumbing and a vanity top that won't arrive until next week. . . . Meanwhile, Sunday (today) was supposed to be the last day of the job and now they are talking about needing to be here on Wednesday!?!? Uh, hello?!? I'm having Thanksgiving at my house on Wednesday (because I work on Thanksgiving day). And while I'm really not happy with not having my guest bath back by then, I could live with that part. What I can't live with a construction crew stomping through my house during the Thanksgiving festivities.

Ugh. Can I sit down and cry now? I just want my calm, peaceful house back! I feel like I'm developing a tick. And this is apparently the rambling, kvetching, annoying person who I turn into when I can't seem to regain some semblance of calm and control. Please pardon the crazy!

For your enjoyment, here are some photos of the madness:

Guest Bath (Before)

No more tile!

New Shower Tile

We moved an outlet, very exciting!

The mess in the hall. Yuck.

This is actually after they've left and "cleaned up" their stuff. I can see the bathroom coming along and so far I'm really happy with it, I'm just ready to have my house (and my sanity) back now!

Ok, rant over.

~Layne

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Baby Shower!

I can't believe that today is my baby shower! Me?!? I'm gonna be a mom?!? And in less than 2 months?!?! Holy cow!! I'm so excited but also very perplexed that this day has come so soon. I remember the first 2 weeks we knew we were pregnant and no one else knew. It was so exciting but it seemed that every day just dragged. And then we announced it to our families over my birthday dinner (since we knew everyone would be together), and it was a little easier from then on but the rest of the first trimester and few weeks of the second also just seemed to go so sloooow.

All of a sudden I hit the middle of my second trimester and things started picking up and before I knew it I was in my third trimester and now I'm over 31 weeks along and having my baby shower! How crazy/awesome/scary/fun/exciting is that??

I'm so excited for the shower since so much love and thought and planning has gone into it by so many people. And I know I'll have fun and love seeing everyone. I also worked hard (with my best friend who's hosting) to plan this shower and put it together so I can't wait to see the finished product.

This will be short post since it's a busy (exciting/fun) day. I'll be sure to post an update and pics of the festivities!

Happy Saturday everyone!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Christmas Cards from Shutterfly!!

I love Christmas cards! They are one of my favorite parts of the holiday season. They didn't used to be but a few years back (the first Christmas after Brad and I were married) I decided to make my first holiday photocard and use one of our wedding photos in it. I loved our wedding pictures and finding another way to show them off sounded awesome! They were a huge hit and from then on, I got bit by the bug and we've done holiday photocards ever since.

Photocards have always been my favorite kind of Christmas card to get and I love displaying them on the fridge or mantel or entertainment center. I love seeing everyone in the pictures, especially the young'uns as they get bigger, and the cards themselves just seem to be so much prettier than store-bought. There are so many relatives who live far away and who we never get to see and the more I thought about it, I really liked a holiday tradition that involved a specially designed photocard with a recent picture of our family that was sent to all our loved ones for Christmas. So that's what we've been doing for the last 4 Christmas's and this year would be no different!

Then I got a very pleasant surprise!!! I read in another blog about a promotion that Shutterfly is running. If you blog about your Shutterfly Christmas cards, then you get 50 Christmas cards for free! WHOOPEE!! I was super excited about this for two reasons. First, we JUST had pictures taken for this year's Christmas cards and I was itching to get to my favorite part of the process, the designing/printing stage! So this could not have come around at a more perfect time! And, second, I have used Shutterfly in the past and really like working with them!

I love designing stuff on Shutterfly. Mostly because, while I do not have an artistic bone in my body, ever since my days as editor on my high school newspaper I have really enjoyed graphic design and editing. And Shutterfly gives me lots of creative ways to do TONS of things with my favorite pictures. In fact, remember how I said that I loved our wedding pictures so much?

Well, at the time we could not afford to buy wedding albums or professional pictures of the wedding for our parents. But I knew they would love to have an album of their own of the big event. So after I got the images of our wedding photos back from the photographer, I used Photoshop and Shutterfly to create special "parent albums" for each of them from our wedding day! They both loved them!! And I loved that Shutterfly gave me the creative freedom to design my own album and upload MY designs into their photobooks. You get complete creative control! Or, if you aren't the artsy type, they have loads of great templates you can use.

And the best part is it's super cheap and they always have a bunch of deals going! For instance, right now you get free shipping for spending over $30 (which is easily 2-3 Christmas present worth of stuff) and 20-30% off of almost all of their products. You can find 200 personalized, printed Christmas cards with photos for less than $1 per card and another 600 designer cards that are around $1.50 per card!! Meanwhile you can also spend $3-4 per card (or more) in Hallmark for the mass-produced Christmas cards. No thanks!

I've already started narrowing down my favorites from Shutterfly's Christmas and holiday cards and here are a few of the top contenders for this year's card, all appealing to me for different reasons:

I love how sharp and modern and fun this one is!

Still fun but a bit more traditional.

How cute is this one for our baby girl's "first" Christmas?!?

Because I can't just pick ONE photo!

And while I was perusing their site for Christmas cards I saw some adorable birth announcements! (As if I already can't wait for January, here's another reason I'm itching for time to fly by just a little faster!!) Here are some of my favs:

Beautiful and classic!

Fun, funky and so true!

Just gorgeous!

After I get my pics uploaded I'll start designing and hopefully I'll have my Christmas card in a couple of weeks! I'll make sure you show you the finished product when all is said and done! YAY! I love the holidays!!

~Layne

PS: This is available to any blogger no matter how big or small your blog is! So if you are looking for a deal on adorable holiday photocards, check it out:

Bloggers get 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly… sign up: http://bit.ly/sfly2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

National Prematurity Awareness Day

So, as many of you know, I work in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) as a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner. And, yet, somehow I missed this very important day. National Prematurity Awareness Month is November and November 17th is actually National Prematurity Awareness Day. November 17th was yesterday. Oops!

Ironically I blogged about a particularly hard day that I had at work a couple of weeks ago the day before National Prematurity Awareness Day. And on that day, I was actually working. And having another hard day. (The short story: I lost one very tiny baby right after a difficult delivery in the middle of my shift and at the end of my shift I admitted another slightly-less-tiny-but-still-incredibly-small baby who was actually doing pretty well, but born to a diabetic mom with lots of complications. Yikes. I felt really good about how well the second baby was doing as I was leaving work but it's always a hard day when you can't save a patient.)

I have TOO. MANY. OF. THESE. STORIES! Life and death stories. Sad stories. Stories about great parents who did everything right but still lose a child. I'm so sick of it. Some days this job is heartbreaking and seems so fruitless. But most days I love it. I'm helping. I'm making that baby's start in life just a bit better or, on a great day, a LOT better. I'm giving them every chance. And I can't think of anything I'd rather do.

There is a blog that I've been follow for over a year that I think really exemplifies all the ups and downs and wonderful and horrible things about what the parents of my patients experience in the NICU. It's called Three Cheers for Babies. This mom originally had a cooking blog and was also trying to get pregnant with her husband. After fertility treatments, they conceived TRIPLETS!! Can you imagine? Two girls and one boy. They were over the moon. Unfortunately, these triplets delivered 15 weeks early. Charlie and Lily had a bit of a rough time but Annaleigh was actually progress along with her respiratory support and her feedings nicely. And even though parents aren't allowed to have favorites, as a reader of this blog and someone who works in the NICU, Annaleigh was my favorite. Such a little rock star!

And then she got the disease I hate most in the NICU, Necrotizing Enterocolitis. NEC is undiscriminating. It can take a sick baby and make him a thousand times more critically ill. But it can also take a baby like Annaleigh, who is doing wonderfully and kill her in a few days. And that is just what happened to this beautiful family. Many times, especially in the babies who are doing so well, we don't catch it until it's too late. I. Hate. This. Disease.

Charlie and Lily had a rough (but fairly typical for 25 weekers) ride for the rest of their stay in the NICU. But, Thank God, today, they are happy healthy toddlers, just over 1 year old. Their mom and dad wrote a wonderful post on their blog yesterday about National Prematurity Awareness Day and, if you are at all interested, you should definitely check it out!

Diabetes isn't the only passion of mine and I couldn't let this day go by without talking about it, especially after so many of us in the DOC are moms, moms-to-be or are trying to conceive. For every expecting mom out there, but especially for all of you T1 moms and moms-to-be, I just can't emphasize enough how important prenatal care is. For your baby and for you. It's free through several government programs and available to ANY pregnant lady. So many of you already know this, but I just have to say it because good prenatal care is where it all starts. If you want to learn more about prematurity or how you can get involved or even to get tips on how to best protect you and your unborn child against premature birth, birth defects and many other things even including tips on caring for your normal, healthy newborn, please visit the March of Dimes website.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

I just realized since my post about the bathroom remodel that I have NO house pictures posted on here. I thought for sure I did but I looked and looked and can't find any. So when I say that my hideous bathroom has nothing in common with the look and feel of the rest of my house, you have no idea what I mean!

So I decided to post a quick tour for Wordless Wednesday. Enjoy!

The outside. Usually there is a Gator flag up but I must have taken this NOT during college football season. :-)

Our front porch/courtyard, the view from the front door.

Living Room. Right next to our front door. The window faces our courtyard.

More Living Room.

Raina, in "her" spot.

Dining Room, right off the living room, which is behind me in this shot.

More Dining Room.

Kitchen, off the dining room. (You can see it through the doorway.)

More Kitchen. The "den' is behind me in this shot, don't know why I never got a pic of it?

Back porch and patio (and Brad's beloved grill).

Master Bedroom. There is more decoration in there now but this was taken shortly after we'd moved in.

Our (messy) office.

Guest Bath. (YUCK!)

And, finally! The guest bedroom! It was blue when we moved in and it went perfectly with my guest bedroom bedding that we already had. THIS room will be the nursery! And if we'd had a boy the base color would have been perfect! (It was a little boy's room for the family who lived here before us.) But it's just as fun to start from scratch!!