I am an insomniac.  When there is nothing saved on the DVR and it is 3:30 a.m. I am faced with few options.  After a traumatic hair disaster last October (recent beauty school grad who I have since dubbed "beauty school dropout" gave me lovely green hair with grey highlights and then couldn't fix it so she then proceed to chop much of it randomly off.  For $80.  Then she asked me to refer my friends to her.  This rant is the only referral she is getting.)  I was boo hooing to  myself in the middle of the night when Jennie Garth popped on the TV raving about the new hair products she was using.  I was hooked.  I was vulnerable.  I bought my first ever thing from an infomercial and I haven't regretted a penny spent.  Mind you, I am addicted to bleach, sunshine and my flat iron.  Add in my long, thick, frizzy/ curly hair and only miracle products can even come close to taming this lion's mane.  Trust me, I have tried every thing.  Every single thing.  Nothing has even come close.  With what I do to my hair it is a miracle that I am not bald.  I have Jennie Garth to thank for that.  You can find it here.  If you hate your hair and your hair hates you, it can broker a peace agreement between both injured parties.

When Lucy was about 17 months old she became fond of sleeping au naturel. This led to many horrible cleaning and subsequent Clorox wipe needing disasters. I tried multiple onesies, multiple layers, but she still found ways to shimmy out of them. When I searched for answers I mostly came up with "duct tape the diaper shut" (impossible since she wears cloth) or "cut the feet off of zipper pajamas and put them on backwards." (I couldn't imagine cutting her cute jammies, and it is stinking hard enough to get her wriggly self into them the right way.) At the end of my rope and dreading every nap and bed time I came along the most brilliant suggestion of all. Hook and eyes. Of to the fabric store I went. Life has never been the same since. It has been nearly a year since I have had to clean poop from the crib railings thanks to these little metal miracles.
All that I had to do was hand stitch the hook and eyes under the zipper part of the pajamas. Her tricky little hands haven't been able to outsmart them. Mind you, she tries, just look at the above picture with her sneaky face and fiddling fingers. My only challenge now is finding zipper pajamas in size 2T that aren't fleece. Thus the blue, very boy looking dinosaur outfit she is currently rocking. Thank you so very much smart mom on some random message board for sharing your brilliance. You saved my sanity!

Composition Book Cover Tutorial
What you will need:
One piece of 12 x 24 inch fabric
Piece of medium weight fusible interfacing

(Click on any picture to see details.)

This is an example of the interfacing.  It gives the fabric a bit of body and keeps the cover on the book a bit better.  It also makes lighter color fabric less see through so the composition book doesn't show.

Open your composition book up on top of the interfacing.  Cut a piece of interfacing the same size as the book.

Center the interfacing on the wrong side of your fabric.  Keeping it in place turn fabric over and iron according to interfacing directions.  If you iron directly on the interfacing it will probably melt and bubble and wreck your iron.  I've done it.  Not fun.

On the long edge of the fabric fold in about 1/2 an inch and iron.

Fold again and iron. This will bring you to or almost to the rectangle of interfacing.

Sew a straight stitch down the twice folded seam, backstitching at the beginning and end.  Repeat the same steps for the other long side of the fabric. 

On one of the short sides of the fabric fold down 1/2 an inch and iron and then fold again and iron.

Sew along the folded edge.  Repeat for other short side.

Open composition book over wrong side of fabric.

Tuck in each flap and close book.

Make sure sides are tight and even.

Pin at each corner, front and back.

Take composition book out and switch pins to the inside.  It will make sewing easier.

Sew a line as close to the edge as you can on the top and bottom flaps on each side of the cover.  Remember to backstitch.  Clip all loose threads.

Slide your composition book into your brand new cover!

So, I have been stuck in the year 2002 with my expensive,evil, ink sucking Canon printer.  Big, bulky, paper eating, money pit of a beast.  It constantly runs out of all five colors of ink, even though I print everything in low quality grayscale.  To make it's evilness even more supreme, it costs nearly $60 to buy refills for.  And no, the discount ones don't work.  Trust me, I have tried.  So this time instead of  throwing my money down the drain and into new cartridges, I kicked to to the Craigslist Curb Alert.  I kissed it goodbye and sprung for a shiny, happy, new glorious printer.  For just $20 more than the cost of refills I now have a printer/ copier/ scanner/ fax machine that is half the size of the Canon monster.  I just scanned my very first thing.  Look how fancy I am!

Ty?  Pennington?  Celebrity spokesperson for baby formula?  Really?  Just like every human with a heart I love Extreme Makeover Home Edition and cry pretty much every episode.  What I have never done is thought "Wow, that Ty Pennington is an amazing designer.  I bet he could invent new packaging for Similac!"  Enter perfect idea for use of new scanner and blog post!  I had to find out more and it turns out that Similac is having a contest to have Ty makeover your nursery.  Maybe they should have put that in the ad.  You can enter here and find out all of the details.  I am good in the nursery department.  Don't really need $10,000 to burn on a place where diapers are changed and sleep is interrupted.  What I would like is $10,ooo to make over my craft room.  Considering that it is currently invisible and non-existent.  I am off to search through Papercrafts magazine to see if Ty is the new rep for Fiskars or some other random craft company in hopes that he can throw some money my way.

Well, I couldn't just give away one composition book. Or two.  It had to be three.   I also couldn't bear making another one out of princess fabric (Halley has already asked for a dress in the same fabric.  The same fabric that I would like to light on fire.  See this post to learn about my issues.) So I chose the following yummies.
Shelly (happy birthday to you) gets this funky floral one for herself.  

Brianna's daughter can write about her roller coaster adventures in this one.

Jes' son can compose chords to songs we might hear on the radio someday.

Please convo me via my poor little, neglected, empty Etsy shop  with your addy's so I can send these on their way.  
I am planning a big shop update mid-September, so keep a lookout.  I am sure there will be some giveaways involved.
Thanks for all of your comments!  I loved making these little covers and am going to post a simple tutorial on how you can make your own (seriously, simple, simple sewing) later on this week.

The other day while on a rather long drive, Halley was unusually quiet and asking me how to spell random words and how to write certain letters.  We were in my husband's car and I mistakenly assumed that she was writing on her Aquadoodle.  Unfortunately she had fished his mileage ledger from the seat back and wrote on pretty much every page.  Mind you, at the end of each month the log has to be filled out meticulously and then copied in order to turn in and get approved.  Oops.
So part of me was so proud of her desire to write and draw in the car, but the other part was freaking out about how this would affect this and the next dozen month's mileage.  I decided to pick up a handful of composition books and make a girly princess cover for them.  That way she can still draw away without causing trauma to important papers.
I just sewed a simple cover from a 12 x 24 piece of fabric.  I thought about making a tutorial, but you can find the basics of this construction right here.
This is apparently a drawing of Lucy.  I think it is funny how much hair she gave her, considering how close to bald she really is.    
I am going to make one up for a lucky winner who leaves me a comment on this post.  Just let me know if it is for a girl, a boy or for yourself (grown-ups can doodle too!).  I will pick something fun from my fabric stash and pass on the composition book love.  I will draw a winner on Tuesday morning.  Comment away! 

I was the shy kid at school.  
I am still the shy kid as an adult.  
But I fight it every day.
I honestly find talking to groups of people I don't know exhausting.  My husband finds it exhilarating.  I relish in solitude.  He panics.  I know that a majority of our personalities came already programmed when we were born, but I believe that you can learn the skills necessary to compensate for interactions in the real world.  When I was young my parents would excuse my behavior by telling others "well, she is just shy".  I began to accept it, claim it, and hide behind that label.  I now mask it well, I am a careful listener, ask great questions and can chat with anyone, anytime.  I had to develop this skill in order to survive with a husband much in the public eye at church.  Most who have recently met me would never know how truly difficult social situations are for me.  This week we attended a park day for all incoming Kindergartners at Halley's school.  I took the opportunity not only to seek out others who I did not know, but to gently begin training Halley in the art of friendship and conversation.  She is no where near as shy as I am, yet also not as outgoing as my husband.  It is my heart's desire for her to feel comfortable in new situations as well as seek out and include those kids on the fringe.  We have been talking all week about the importance of being friendly and including new friends in play.  My heart soared when I witnessed her approach a girl who was playing alone, introduce herself and ask her new friend to go on the slide with her.  For the rest of the day they were inseparable and even included other girls in their new little group.
If only it was that easy for adults.  
It could go like this:
Me:  "Hi, I'm Julie, want to go shopping?"  
Stranger:  "Sure.  Let's be best friends."  
Me:  "Okay."
End scene.  
Well, maybe not. That would actually be pretty weird.  

I take a lot of pictures.  What I don't always do is take the best care of my camera.  I know that I should and it is showing major signs of my neglect.  Since a brand new one isn't in my future I am planning on making some practical and cute changes.
I never wear it around my neck because the horrible faux leather combined with my heavy lens strangles me.  Quite a few horrific drops and broken filters could have been avoided by just keeping it attached to me.  Shealynn  is making the cutest strap covers to solve my exact problem.  She is even giving one away here.  How cute would this be on your camera?  Watch out, I just might beat you to it!
Does this look like any old messenger bag to you?  Don't be fooled!  Look at what is hiding inside:

Under the trendy fabric goodness are padded compartments for your camera, lenses and anything else that you might need for a day out.  This definitely beats throwing my uncovered camera in my purse along with sippy cups and goldfish.  You can find more bags like this here.
So dear camera, thanks for all you do for me.  I am sorry that I haven't been better to you.  I am making an effort to make your life easier, and you will look good too.

That sneak peak was mean wasn't it?  Here are the finished products.  We are having our second Aqua Apron Sisters events for one of our own.  The gender of this little one is a mystery which makes planning shower a fun challenge.  I found the idea here (I can't resist borrowing one of the best invite ideas ever) months back and was just waiting for one of my friends to get pregnant so I could use it.  Alicia and I stayed up late chatting, cutting, sewing and gluing and we are so thrilled with the end result.

So you are at a dinner party... what two topics should you never bring up?  Religion and politics.  Being married to a pastor means the conversations either become lively between new people I meet or they suddenly rush off to refill their punch.  Being a Christian is so much a part of my every day life and who I am that it does not even occur to me to not talk about it.  In each word I speak I always want to be loving and encouraging above all, in the same way Jesus was to all who came across his path.  I know at times I fail miserably and am not exactly a perfect example.  But I try.

What I don't try to do is share my political views or opinions.  Mainly because I don't really know what they are.  Many of you have sweetly asked which way I am leaning after what I heard and learned this weekend.  I wish I could say that I came home from hearing both candidates share knowing securely where I stand.
I don't.  I am just a simple, stay at home mom, trying to live an authentic life in a much less than authentic place.
My heart breaks for the sick, the poor, the orphans, those at war and those without access to acceptable education or healthcare.  I wish our country had better programs in place to serve the vast needs in our people.
But at times I just wish that Jesus would come back and take us away from this broken world.
I feel like the problems that we all face as humans are much bigger than any one man or one  administration could even begin to solve.
I want to see more of Christ in the Republican Party.
I want to see more of Christ in the Democratic Party.
Because when it comes down to it, this is not about me or what I think.  It is about what I do and who's life I can make a difference in.
I plan to pray for wisdom in my decisions come election day and pray that the person best suited to help our hurting world is put in the White House.
That is all I can do.  I encourage you to do the same.
Blessings and thanks.

My knowledge and passion for politics is rather small, yet when I heard that Pastor Rick Warren from Saddleback Church was hosting Senators McCain and Obama for a civil forum I knew that somehow I needed to be there.  To actually witness the person who will lead our country answer questions posed by a man who I respect immensely would be eye opening and life changing.  Jason and I both put our names into the lottery system for the free tickets to view the event on campus in a tent.  We both figured that being chosen was an impossibility.  However, a friendly email in my inbox Tuesday night informed me that my name was chosen.  We couldn't believe that we would be witnessing history, even if on a TV screen.  We arrived hours early yesterday in order to be shuttled in and to go through the elaborate security screening process.  Right as we were about to walk into the venue a random man who I have never seen before asked me if I was going to Tent 3.  Assuming he needed directions, I answered yes and he proceeded to tell me that his friends could not make it, and would I like two tickets to the main auditorium.  Confused and dumbfounded I asked him why he wanted to give them to us (they are really pricey seats and he was asking for nothing in return) and he just smiled and handed them over.  Elated we jumped over to the auditorium line to go through more security checkpoints.  In the back of my mind I thought that maybe these amazing tickets would fall through and we would go back down to the tent.  Instead we were led to our seats in the 10th row.  We watched Pastor Rick boldly ask the candidates about faith, worldview, evil, taxes, marriage, rights of the unborn, adoption, war, education, and moral failure.  I walked away much more knowledgeable as well as amazed that these two men agreed to come into a church and face difficult and dangerous questions.  I am still in shock that we were actually there and immensely grateful that a sweet man that I might never see again gave us such a gift in those tickets.

To top off the fine day, we picked up the girls from my parent's house, chatted politics with my dad, went home to tuck them in and then turned on the Olympics.
On the same day I was able to see the future president in person as well as watch my "boyfriend" make history with his eighth gold medal.  Happiness.   

Okay, so there are tons of moms (like here, here and here) out there that relish in craft time with their kids.  It is something I wish that I wanted to do and often feel guilty about.  I honestly just don't do well with the mess.  I desire to foster creativity in the girls which means I have to give up a bit of control.  As much as I love Crayola for their Color Wonder products, I know that experience with REAL paint can't be matched.
So we went to the craft store today and I let the girls each pick a paint.  I also grabbed some foam brushes and a two pack of 16 x 20  pre-stretched canvases.
We went out in the backyard and painted away.  Lucy takes a more liberal approach and covered the canvas in seconds.
Halley is focused and trying her best not to get paint on herself.  She could spend hours covering the canvas perfectly.
While the paint was wet I wiped off their hands and feet and put them on the canvas.  Their clean, dry hands take off just a bit of the wet paint leaving a simple, perfect outline of their hand and footprints.  I found the idea here and am so glad that I actually decided to do it, instead of just bookmarking it.  A few minutes in the tub and they were sparkling clean and proud of what they created.  I need to do this more often.