15 December 2014

A New Home for Piper

Our neighbor found this cute little dog over a week ago, but she had to go out of town so we kept him so he didn't have to go to the pound, in hopes that we'd find his owners and get him back home. We decided to call him Piper while he was with us. 

We thought he was a Yorkie, but we since learned that Yorkies should be 5 to 7 lbs, and this guy is 10 lbs. Apparently there is another breed called a Silky Terrier that is almost exactly the same as a Yorkie, but should be 8 to 12 lbs, so we think he is a purebred Silky. We assumed that since this is a rather expensive kind of dog, that his owners would be searching for him.  

But we had this little dog for some time, and no one came forward to claim him.  We had the vet scan for a microchip, but they didn't find one.  After we hung up signs around the neighborhood and at the local vet's office, posted info about him on numerous websites (Craigslist, lost dog websites, several local neighborhood Facebook pages, the Helen Woodward Animal Shelter page, and several different San Diego lost dog Facebook pages), contacted all the area animal shelters and animal hospitals, talked to a friend who is a Yorkie breader, and talked to lots of neighbors, we felt like we had done everything possible to locate this little guy's owners. They definitely could have found him if they had been looking. We were contacted by a handful of owners who had lost their silky terriers or yorkies, some locally and some from other states, but each of them determined that this isn't their dog. 

He needs some more work on house training, but other than that he is a great dog -- good on a leash, good with kids and dogs, not too noisy, extremely friendly to everyone, rides well in the car, and never tried to jump on the furniture the whole time we had him. He is a sweet little lap dog, curling up and sitting in my lap for hours or snuggling next to me in bed at night. He has such a good disposition and is so affectionate that we seriously considered keeping him ourselves, but with 5 kids and 2 big dogs to keep us busy, we reluctantly decided it would be better to find him another home. 

So we searched a bit and found a wonderful family here in our neighborhood who will be good owners, and who will really love this little dog for years to come. So even though I miss him a bit, I don't miss the extra work that came with working on house training him, and I know he'll be happy with such a good family. So I'm glad it all worked out well. 

10 December 2014

Merry Christmas!

"The 25 Days of Christmas"

from www.25daysofchrist.com
In November I saw this cool idea online at www.25daysofchrist.com.  This family has a tradition of putting a special ornament on the tree for each of the 25 days of December leading up to Christmas, and each ornament is symbolic of some part of Jesus Christ's life or teachings.  Along with the ornaments, they read certain scriptures and quotes from church leaders, and watch related Bible videos on lds.org for each of the 25 days.

When I saw this, I thought it was an excellent idea for not only focusing on the events surrounding Christ's birth, but also focusing on the other important parts of his life as we go through each day leading up to Christmas.  I decided I would get a set for us, and maybe some for gifts.  But when I looked at their website, I found that they don't sell the ornaments, they just set the supplies to make the ornaments yourself.  So since I would have to take the time to make the ornaments if I purchased their kit, plus their ornaments are cute, but they aren't exactly my style, I decided to make my own.  It was early November, and I decided to make a set for our family, one for my sister, Michelle, and her family, and one of Michael's sister, Mindy, and her family.  I knew it would make for a busy November, especially if I wanted to make them and get them in the mail early enough to arrive at the sisters' houses in time for them to use them starting on December 1st this year.  So once I had totally convinced myself to actually take on this project, I gathered my supplies and got to work.

I found thin little wooden ornaments complete with holes already, so I didn't have to do any drilling.  I found a really nice packet of scrapbook paper that was perfect for what I had in mind.  And some dark red spray paint for the wood ornaments, some darker/shiny paint to go around the edges, some thin twine tie on loops to hang the ornaments, some really cute & simple burlap bags with red ribbons on top to put the ornaments in (they were actually wine bags), some mod podge to stick the paper to the ornaments, and I ended up getting some clear acrylic sealant later on to spray on once they were done.  And later on I happened to find a really cute mini Christmas tree at Michael's, and once I replaced the ugly ribbon that it came with, it was the perfect little tree for our family's ornaments to hang on.

So, first I went online and found images of silhouettes to use as patterns, printed them out, and got to work cutting out the silhouettes from the scrapbook paper with an exacto knife.  Most of them were pretty simple to figure out a silhouette for -- but some were more tricky.  Like with the scripture story where the men lower the man with the palsy down through the roof of a building so the Saviour could heal him -- I tried more than once to cut out a silhouette of a man in a stretcher, but instead it just looked kind of like a lumpy caccoon.  (I finally went with a man walking for that one -- since that's what he did once he was healed).  I think my favorite cut-outs ended up being the animals, the 3 wise men (I had to use other silhouettes and tweak them in photoshop to get a good pattern of 3 wise men that would all fit together on one of these little ornaments), the bread and wine flask representing the Last Supper, and the boat.

I also painted all the wood ornaments with a couple coats of spray paint each on front and back, then when they were dried I used a mini roller to roll the darker shiny paint around the ornaments' edges.  Once the paint was dried and all the paper silhouettes were cut out, I gave each ornament a coat of mod podge to attach the silhouettes to the ornaments, then gave each one a coat on the back sides too.

And I decided that instead of just printing out some papers with the scriptures and quotes for each day, I wanted to make it a little nicer so I made a book on blurb.com.  On each page I included the day, which ornament is used for that day, which video(s) to watch that day, and I used the scriptures and quotes that they used on the 25daysofchrist.com website (but I decided to include the entire text of each scripture, instead of just the scripture reference, so all the reading material would be in one place).  And I found a painting to go with each day in the book -- most of the pictures I used are traditional pictures from the "gospel art" section on our church's website, but a few I had to be more creative and looked to Google for help finding a relevant picture).  So I was able to order three of these little books, and I'm pleased with how they turned out.

Everything was going well, until I was mostly done with the ornaments, and noticed that even though they were dry, they still seemed just a bit tacky.  I didn't want them to stick together when they were being shipped, or when they were in storage when not in use at Christmas time, so I read on the mod podge bottle that if your project is still tacky after drying you can use a clear acrylic sealer to help with that.  So I went to Michael's and picked up a few spray-on cans of mod podge brand clear accrylic sealer.  I sprayed down all the ornaments, and waited quite a while, but even after they dried they still seemed somewhat tacky.  So I gave them several more coats, following the instructions on the bottle.  Still, the same result.  I had them laid out on a tarp in the garage, and I made the kids and dogs all stay out of the garage this whole time.  But after a few days of spraying on coats and leaving them to dry, I noticed that they were starting to get a little dust and dog fur on them, so I carefully removed the dust, then I picked them all up and set them aside in a little pile while I carefully swept the floor and the tarp off so everything would be clean.  I went to lay the ornaments out again to try another coat, and they were stuck together!  Some of them weren't stuck badly, but others were completely stuck, and some pulled the paper apart as I carefully unstuck each one.  After all the time I had spent on this project, I was really upset! I just left them all, and waited for Michael to come home.  That night after the kids went to bed, he helped me try to salvage as many as possible, picking off tiny spots of paint and paper that had stuck onto them from the other ornaments.  If you know me, you know I like to have things turn out just right, especially if I'm going to put a lot of time and effort into something, so I wasn't very happy to see all the little imperfections.  Michael was trying so hard to help me feel better, but unfortunately it didn't help when he told me I should look on the bright side now, because when we give the ornaments to our family members they won't have to worry about their kids touching them and messing them up.  I actually had a mini meltdown that night, and I don't think Michael knew what to do with me as I sat in the garage and balled (I'm not really one to cry easily, usually).  But Michael kept telling me we could salvage them.  Eventually we got enough for 2 of the 3 ornament sets to still be use-able.  So after spending that much time, I gave up on the 3rd set -- I decided it would be better to just scrap it and buy a different gift for Michael's sister, rather than starting over.  But things were looking a little brighter the next morning, and I went and bought some more supplies, and got busy replacing the ruined ornaments.  It took some time, but they were done surprisingly quickly.

And I decided to give all the ornaments some more coats of the sealer, but to wait a lot longer to let them dry (I had previously been waiting overnight, thinking that would be plenty of time -- and the bottle didn't say how long to wait to let it dry).  But apparently that was a big part of the problem, because when I waited 2 1/2 days for one coat to dry, it worked a lot better.   Of course, with all the extra time it took, I was close to not getting them done to ship in time to be used for December 1st this year, but I did finally finish them.  It didn't help that the book order got delayed for some reason, and took almost an extra week to get here.  But at least blurb.com's customer service was great, they refunded my shipping costs and sent the books overnight when they had been printed, and once the books arrived they looked great.  And I guess that gave the ornaments a little longer to dry too. 

Even though they didn't really feel tacky anymore, I didn't want to risk the chance of them sticking again at all.  So after I tied the little twine loops on each ornament, I put each one in a separate snack-sized ziplock bag.  They just barely fit into the burlap bags (and the little books can fit in the bag too, if you squeeze them in).  And I was able to get them in the mail just in time to arrive by December. 

Phew, I'm glad that's over with.  (This is why I don't take on lots of big crafty projects very often).  But I am pleased with the results, and I think our sisters like them.  We started doing our 25 Days of Christmas on Monday, using it as our family scripture reading for the month.  The boys seem to like it too, each taking a turn to hang an ornament on the little tree each morning.  I'm glad to have this as a new tradition for our family, and I'm glad to be done with making them.  :)


***Update:  The other day an old friend from med school saw my blog post about this 25 Days of Christmas project, and she asked if she could order a copy of the book from the website I used to print it, so her family could do this tradition too.  I thought that sounded like a great idea.  I used blurb.com to make the book.  I had used blurb before to print our family blog books and some photo books in the past, but I had never made any of the books available for purchase before.  But I went to the website, and it was easy to set it up.  First I made a couple minor corrections that I had noticed the book needed.  Then I set it so the book is just for sale for the cost of printing (no profit -- although I did spend my time putting the book together, the original idea wasn't mine, so I felt it was best not to make a profit from it.  The original idea for this book and the ornaments came from www.25daysofchrist.com).  So now there is an option to buy the book in paperback, hardback image wrap, or hardback with a dust jacket (our family ordered the hardback image wrap and we were pleased with it).  Anyway, here is the link if anyone else is interested in using this book for their family's personal use:  http://blur.by/12KBok1

07 December 2014

Christmas Card Frame

Previously whenever we got Christmas cards or letters from family or friends we enjoyed reading them and looking at the pictures, then we would put the cards into plastic page protectors in a binder. But this year when we got out the Christmas decorations, I pulled out the binder that was over-stuffed with cards, and decided I wanted a better way to display the cards so we could enjoy them throughout the Christmas season. 

So I did a little google search for ideas of how best to display them. At first I was picturing putting up a couple strings on the wall to hang them from -- something like this:

But then I came across this idea:
And I thought it could be really cute for Christmas cards. So I found a frame on sale for half price, used small nails to attach the twine to the back of the frame, and got some mini clothespins and some simple snowflake ornaments. It was simple to put together, and I'm pleased with how it turned out. (If I had to change one thing about it, I'd use darker colored twine -- I didn't realize until I was finished and mounting it on the wall that the twine was the same color as the wall paint, so there's not much contrast in the colors, but oh well). I quite like how it turned out.  I put it on the wall in our stairway, where we'll pass by it each day. And we've already received a few cards in the mail so far this December, so it's looking pretty cute, I think.  

Plus, I figure I'll leave it up when it's not Christmas too -- I'll just remove the cards and snowflakes, and instead I'll put up some family photos and if I'm really motivated maybe I'll add some burlap flowers in a corner or something. 


And here it is half way through December with a few more cards. I still like how it looks (although we'll see if I'll eventually have to replace the thin twine I used with something a little thicker -- with this wide of a frame, each long thin piece of twine potentially has to hold the weight of 3 or more cards. It's holding up great for now, but I wonder if it will be a little stretched out by the end of Christmas. That's ok, if I need to replace it I'll use a thicker twine next time. 

05 December 2014


So, Michael has a work party coming up, and it's an ugly sweater. So I went over to a nearby town where I know there are lots of thrift stores near each other, and set out to find something. Only one out of like 8 thrift stores had Christmas sweaters, and those were women's ones that would have been too small for Michael. 

So I got this sweater at WalMart. It was definitely far from stylish, but I wouldn't call it "ugly" so much as "unfortunate." 

So I decided that since I couldn't find any seriously ugly sweaters, I'd have to improve (or "un-improve"?) on this one. 

So one night while we watched a show together, I added gold fringe under the arms, then added some shiny rhinestones and little jungle bells to the front, some white "fur" around the cuffs of the sleeves, and a line of jingle bells down each arm. 

He modeled it for me last night. And it certainly is ugly. (I especially like the fringe under the sleeves, but I told him he's going to have to make sure he raises his arms so it's noticeable).   :)

So no one I know would be caught dead going out in this sweater, but at the same time lots of the things I added are rather small details, and now I'm wondering if it's not quite ugly enough for an ugly sweater party?  We'll see -- maybe I'll get motivated to add something else. (This has been kind of a fun little thing to do for Michael, especially since it doesn't take too much time, and it doesn't really matter if it turns out perfect or not). I did tell him this will be the last ugly sweater he'll ever need, though. :)

01 December 2014

It's Beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . .

Every once in a while I will be really on the ball and get all the Christmas prep done before December starts, with the idea of having a calm and peaceful month leading up to Christmas. I didn't do this the last couple years, and there were times around Christmas that life felt too hectic (and a couple years ago I even had to miss out on a little time I could have been spending with extended family that was visiting from out of state, because I hadn't prepared earlier and I was still doing last minute Christmas shopping, wrapping, and mailing the week before Christmas). 

So, this year I decided to be good and do the Christmas prep work early again. It made for a very busy November (especially because I came up with an idea for some homemade gifts that of course took much longer than I planned to make), but I did it. I had all the gifts made or purchased, and wrapped, helped the boys get and wrap their gifts, got the packages in the mail for our extended family members, framed this year's family photo for my little Christmas tree with framed family photo ornaments from each year, and finished our Christmas letter just in time before Thanksgiving. And I'm a firm believer that no matter how busy this might make November, it's always better to have December feel peaceful and calm (at least looking back, after I'm all done with everything).  :)

Since my parents and brothers ended up changing their ski plans and stayed in San Diego for Thanksgiving, we got to enjoy spending the week with them, and then we went over the weekend and cut down a Christmas tree at a little tree farm in Ramona. (The types of trees that grow in this climate aren't quite as pretty as some of the ones that they have shipped here, but it's such an experience to go pick one out and actually cut it down ourselves -- and the tree always looks good once it's all lit up and decorated). 
(That's our tree, behind my head). 

Then on Sunday before church we got to decorate the tree together. Always so fun. (And only one ornament broke in the process, so that's pretty good with all our eager helpers). 

(We tried to take a picture of the whole family in front of the tree, but it was hard to get all of us plus the tree in the same shot. So we went with a cute picture of the boys in front of the tree). 

Now it's really starting to feel like Christmas time around here. :)

(That little tree with the family photo frame ornaments from each year since we were married is probably my favorite Christmas decoration. I just love looking at the pictures and reflecting back on each time of our life that they remind me of).