1st Birthday invitations

Miss P is turning one this summer!  I’ve saved each of my children’s 1st Birthday invitations.  I’m not much of a saver, but those handmade invitations are very dear to me, and I wanted to continue the tradition with Miss P.

I went to Hobby Lobby with a few ideas in my head, but when I got to the paper craft aisles I felt completely overwhelmed!  So many pretty options but nothing was jumping out at me.  I wanted them to be sweet and lovely but simple too.

I was so close to leaving empty-handed when I came across this packet of papers.  I loved them!  I stood in the middle of the aisle staring at those papers trying to come up with a good way to use them, when inspiration struck… they would make perfect envelopes!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I opened the package, not only did it have full sheets of beautifully patterned paper, but there where sheets of small tags that could be cut apart.  They were supposed to be used as gift tags but I decided they would make perfect address labels.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI downloaded and printed off this free envelope pattern, and spent a blissful hour cutting, folding, and assembling party envelopes.

Party envelopes I couldn’t be more pleased with the way they turned out!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI like that each invitation will be a little different.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe address labels are one of my favorite parts of the envelope!

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This little striped envelope is so sweet, but I wish I would have been more careful about lining up the stripes with the envelope template.  It makes the envelope look a little slanted and not quite squared up.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor the actual invitation I decided to keep it very simple.  Just a pretty shade of pink, a playful font, and a boarder of white lace sewn to the bottom.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA1st Birthday invitations OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI used a little strip of washi tape to seal the back of the envelope.

Naturally I want to make a million more of these darling envelopes in ALL shapes and sizes, because… hello! you can’t have too many pretty envelopes!!

PS- if you’re interested in making your own envelopes there are lots of free downloadable templates on the web.  A quick search on Pinterest will give you lots of great templates!

The Week that Was

Pictures from our week and a few words to go with them:

1.  Imaginary worlds

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA2. Colorful blocks scattered on the floor

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3. Silly girl

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4. Daddy and the boys find cool new storage for the boys’ room

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5. I take advantage of half price bins from The Land of Nod, and replace the tatty fabric bins that were falling apart.  Which reminds me, when J saw the three huge boxes that had been delivered to our door the fist thing he said was, “Whoa Mom!  That’s a lot of fabric!”.  I think it’s pretty telling that his first guess was fabric ;)

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6.  Miss E gets a hand-me-down desk and insists we put a jar of flowers on it

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7.  I do a little sewing for a sweet friend and neighbor, to welcome their new little girl.

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8. Another small gift for a baby boy, soon to be born

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9. Momma gives the baby the spatula.  The baby is surprised and then delighted.

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10.  The same baby girl spent the week not feeling well and needing extra love, which her daddy was happy to supply

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11.  Mr. G wanted to sleep on his new toolbox and much to his momma’s surprise he was still there come morning light.

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12.  We all want to be the one who snuggles with her at the end of the day.

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My thought for the week:

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.“  G.K Chesterton

Some how I like the idea of our Heavenly Father doing each day’s work with a child’s unbounded enthusiasm.  It gives me the strength and courage to do the same in my small way.

 

Sub-par Vegetable Gardener

 

Things I like/am borderline obsessed with: snacks before bed, British sitcoms from the 1970′s, Italian cream sodas, polka-dot fabric, harmonicas, and cut flowers in the house.  All of the flowers, all over the house, all of the time.

As soon as we moved into a house with a little bit of land I started planting flowers.  For the first few years I would plant a vegetable garden with a couple of rows of flowers mixed in for good measure.  The truth is I’m rubbish at vegetables.  I never harvested them at the right time, I quickly ran out of ways to cook them, and my efforts to unload them on all my friends and family failed 9 times out of 10.  You can only give squash to the same group of people for so long before they start politely refusing.  But here’s the brilliant thing about flowers… no one ever turns them down!

“Would you like 74 zucchinis?”  “No?”

“Would you like a bucket of sunflowers?”  “You’d like that very much?  Well great! Because I happen to have a whole bucket full!”

Do you have any idea how much fun it is to have a bucket full of sunflowers?

{flowers from gardens past}

The Cutting Garden

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I’ve given up all pretenses.  No longer will I be a sub-par vegetable grower.  It’s all flowers from here on out.

In past years I’ve had trouble with gophers.  They’ve eaten over 70 daffodil bulbs, 4 lilac bushes, half a row of sweetpeas, and a couple of rose bushes.  I got so tired of spending time and money on flowers that only served to keep the gopher population fat and happy.  So this year Justin made me three good-sized raised flower beds, and lined the bottom of them with gopher wire.  Now I can plant to my heart’s content and gleefully thumb my nose at all those dang gophers.

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This summer I planted dahlias, two varieties of zinnias, a whole box full of cosmos, cornflowers, a row of cutting sunflowers in a variety of colors and sizes, and a few herbs.

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Right now the boxes are all full of summer flowers, but this fall I plan on planting 4 English roses, 100 daffodil bulbs, and a whole row of sweetpeas!

I thought that three boxes would be plenty but I’m already daydreaming about three more.  A girl needs room to plant flowers!  So many more types of cutting flowers that I’d like to grow… more dahlias, bells of Ireland, amaranth, hollyhocks, iceland poppies, a small hoop-house for peonies… {sigh}

Maybe someday

 

 

We make pancakes

 

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He’s my early riser.  The first one to shuffle down the hallway with sleepy eyes and tousled hair.

“I wish we could make pancakes this morning momma.”

So we do.  Because it’s summer and we have no deeds to do, no promised to keep.  We make pancakes; just the two of us.  It’s not often that my second born son gets me all to himself.

I dig through the bottom of the pantry and unearth the griddle.  He gets the Bisquick box out and reads the ingredients.  I measure milk.  He reenacts Chip & Dale cartoons for me.  He doesn’t really know which one is Chip and which is Dale (neither do I for that matter) so he calls them “funny chipmunk” and “funniest chipmunk”.

The pat of butter drops, sizzles and slides across the black griddle.  He grins.

We make pancakes in all different sizes.  He makes “baby pancakes”. I attempt to make a “G” and fail miserably.  We make heart pancakes.  We’re good a heart pancakes.

The rest of the house starts to wake up.  The kitchen is smelling good.  But for a little while it was just the two of us, making pancakes on a slow summer morning.

As the dust settles

 

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When I met my girlfriends for dinner last week Trisha leaned across the table and asked, “Is May trying to kill you?”.  I laughed because that’s exactly what it felt like.  May was trying to kill me.  My house had become a place where we dumped our things, got more things, and ran out the door again.  I’m not a person who can handle that for very long.

But what started out as a hectic month has eased into a deliciously slow pace.  School is out for the year, most of our weekly commitments are ending, and my brain has finally stopped buzzing.  The mornings are wonderful.  We wake up slowly, eat zucchini bread with a generous helping of butter, turn on the music, and stay in our pajamas.

I’m really looking forward to summer!  Trips to the library, swimming, maybe a little camping, Miss P’s 1st birthday, summer fruit, and fireworks… it sounds perfect.  The flower garden is on the verge of taking off which means bouquets all over the house!

So how will you idle away your summer?

 

Working out the kinks

For months now I’ve been pattern searching.  Looking for the perfect dress to make for Miss P’s first birthday.  I wanted it to be simple, summery, and carefree looking.  Nothing too fussy or flouncy.  The fabric I chose for her party dress is a gorgeous bright floral pattern, so I wanted to stick with a dress that had clean lines.

I decided on McCall’s M6944.  A sweet summer dress with coordinating bloomers peeking out from under the skirt.  The finished measurements listed on the pattern were vague, so I decided to make a practice dress just to get the feel for the pattern and work out any sizing kinks.   And this is the finished practice dress-

McCalls M6944 | In An OrchardI love the pattern!  The directions were clear, and it truly was easy to sew.

McCalls M6944 | In An OrchardI added some trim to the waist line just to break up the busy pattern (and to hide some sloppy seams)

McCalls M6944 The bloomers I made in a contrasting fabric.  The bloomers gave me trouble, which seems counter intuitive… they should have been the easiest part of the dress.

The crisscross back was what sold me on the pattern.

McCalls M6944 back

The straps are adjustable and simply button on the inside of the bodice.

McCalls M6944So now we get to the nitty-gritty details.  Just because a pattern sews up nicely and looks good hanging on a hanger doesn’t mean you’re home-free.  Fitting is everything!  And that’s were things started to unravel for this dress.

While I was cutting out the bloomers a little voice inside my head kept saying “Man those look big.  They’d almost fit me.”  But I pushed those thoughts aside and kept sewing.  Sure enough…they’re huge.  MC Hammer’s got nothing on these pants.

McCalls M6944 bloomersThe dress is just too big as well.  It is supposed to be loose fitting, but this has a really big pucker in the back right were the straps crisscross.

McCalls M6944

You can see from this picture how much it sticks out in the back.  Sizing is the most frustrating element of sewing.  Pattern companies all size differently.  The store-bought size your child usually wears is not necessarily the size you will end up making for them.  Miss P is a tall girl and a bit big for her age.  She’s been wearing 12 month clothes for several months now, so I was a little surprised when the size 1 (as it’s called on this pattern) was so loose on her.

McCalls M6944Now I have to decide what to do next.  The pattern has a 6 month size (or as they call it 1/2 size…which is just dumb), but I’m worried that it will still be too big.  The bloomers are just ridiculous and not even worth trying again.  I think I’m going to cut out the smaller size, and make another practice top out of muslin.  I’m going to scrap the bloomers all together and use See Kate Sew’s, bloomer tutorial.  If that doesn’t work, I’ll make her birthday dress using Rae’s tried-and-true Geranium pattern.

I still haven’t given up on the pattern!  I just think she might need to be a little older and a little bigger before it will fit right.

So, the moral of the story: listen to the voices in your head, and make the practice dress out of cheap fabric instead of darling fabric you actually like.  Hopefully this will fit her next summer!

EDITORIAL NOTE:  After reading this post, my friend Aliya, cleared up some of the sizing problems I was having.  The sizes on the pattern are listed like this: 1/2, 1, 2, 3, 4.  I assumed that the 1 was equivalent to a 12-month size.  Aliya explained that the 1/2 is actually the 12-month size.  Which would make the 1 approximately an 18-month size? I guess?

Basic Flower Arranging

 

Basic Flower Arranging

Don’t you just love the flower section at the grocery store?  All those colorful bunches of flowers, packed into buckets of water.  They look so happy and fresh!  So you bring home one of those cheery bouquets, and plop it down in a vase of water.

Basic Flower Arranging

Somehow the effect is always a little disappointing.  That pretty little bouquet that caught your eye in the grocery store suddenly looks a bit disheveled, haphazard, and not quite as charming as you had hoped.

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But not to worry!  It’s nothing that a little bit of arranging won’t fix.  I know it looks like the flowers come pre-arranged but they still need some help.  So here’s a little step-by-step breakdown of basic floral arranging.

Start by opening your bouquet and laying all the flowers out onto the table.  Then sort them into the following three categories~

Basic Flower Arranging Most store-bought bouquets come with some greenery (all the leafy stuff that doesn’t have any flowers), several stems of small “cluster” flowers (meaning multiple-head small flowers), and a few big “showy” flowers (those are your large single flower stems like roses, lilies, large mums, etc).

Once you have them sorted, you want to take each stem and strip away any leaves that are on the bottom section of the stem.  If you can help it, you don’t want leaves submerged in the water.  It makes the water get yucky fast… flowers don’t like yucky water.

Basic Flower ArrangingI also pull off any damaged petals while I’m at it.

Basic Flower Arranging

Now you’re ready to begin arranging.  Start with your greenery.  This bouquet didn’t come with very much greenery, so I placed it all around the lip of the vase.  The rule of thumb with greenery is;  put any drooping greenery around the lip of the vase, and any tall, straight greenery in the center of the vase.  The straight greenery in the center of the arrangement should be slightly taller than the rest of the flowers.

Basic Flower ArrangingStarting with the greenery is important because it will give you the bones of your arrangement. It provides structure for the rest of the flowers.

Now you’re going to choose one kind of the smaller cluster flowers, and start adding them to the greenery.  I chose the purple Status flowers because I have the most of them.  As you add each stem be sure to trim a little of the end off.  The shorter stemmed flowers should go at the base of the arrangement and the taller ones in the center.

Basic Flower ArrangingOne at a time, add the rest of the cluster flowers.  You want to keep the bouquet balanced.  Don’t group all of one type of flower together, spread them out evenly.  Trim the stems as needed.  You want your bouquet to be nestled down into the vase, not standing two inches above it.

Basic Flower Arranging

Once you’ve added all your smaller cluster flowers it’s time to move onto the last type of flowers.

Basic Flower ArrangingNow it’s time for the fun part!  The showy flowers!  Again, add one stem at a time, keeping the taller flowers in the center and the shorter ones around the edge.  You don’t want any one flower to stick out too far, just have all of them nestled together.  It will take a little fussing with.  It’s a good idea to occasionally step back a few feet to see how the arrangement looks over all.

Basic Flower ArrangingAnd there you have it!  Not too hard right?

Here’s a little side-by-side comparison-

Basic Flower ArrangingI think the extra effort is worth it but maybe that’s just me.  I like playing with flowers.

Another bonus for the extra TLC; it helps your flowers last longer!

Basic Flower Arranging

Although if I had to choose, I think I prefer the carefree look of garden flowers, spilling out of pitchers or Ball jars.  No fuss, no particular color scheme, just lots and lots of pretty blooms!

Garden Flowers | InAnOrchard

But my most favorite of all, are the little arrangements that are picked with small grubby hands.  The flowers with the stems that are almost too short to get into a vase, the ones that a may or may not be weeds… but are given by blue-eyed boys with lots of love.

Favorite Flowers

 

Children’s Activity Table

Before I was a mother, I was a preschool teacher.  Those years of teaching and learning from the children in my classroom, undoubtedly impacted the way I mother my own children.

When my kiddos were pre-k/kindergarten age I started doing Activity Tables with them.

Activity Table

The purpose of the Activity Table is to give the kiddos the opportunity to follow their own natural curiousity.   When I set up an Activity Table, I choose a theme, gather a variety of supplies, and set it all up on the kitchen table.  The kiddos job is to have fun!  No end product in mind, no time limit, no specific instructions… just them exploring and creating on their own.  I’m always near by to help but I don’t interfere.

This is the first Activity Table I did with my children-

Activity Table: art mediums

The theme behind this activity was “art mediums”.  They were given a stack of papers in all shapes, colors, and sizes.  I set out watercolor paints, tempera paint, colored pencils, crayons, markers, chalk pastels, charcoal pencils, and brushes in all different sizes.  They had such a good time!  I left the supplies out for the better part of the day and let them come and go as they wished.

Activity Table: art mediums

The second Activity Table we did was a Science theme.  I went to the Dollar Store and stocked up on all kinds of ingredients.  I put out cornstarch, oil, colored water with eyedroppers, shaving cream, salt, vinegar, bar soap, baking soda, sugar, and cornmeal.  The purpose of this table was to let them mix, dissolve, measure, and observe any chemical reactions that happen along the way.

Activity Table: Science

This project was messy!  No getting around the mess.  But they had a great time trying different combinations of mixtures.  I made sure I had plenty of paper towels and rags on hand to deal with any accidents.  I also made sure they were wearing play clothes.

Activity Table: Science

They most recent Activity Table we did was 3D art.  For the last three months I had been saving egg cartons, toilet paper tubes, soapboxes, half & half cartons, oatmeal canisters… anything that had an interesting shape.

Activity Table: 3D art

The purpose of this table was to use the supplies to construct something.  The boys really got into this project!

I tried to set out anything I thought they might need for assembling their 3D art.  We had white glue, a low-temp glue gun, a variety of colored and patterned tape, pipe cleaners, hole punches, Sharpies, stapler, twine, colorful poms, googly eyes, buttons, and paint.  I even set up a few cans of spray paint on a work table outside so they could spray paint the plastic containers.

Activity Table: 3D Art

G wanted to make binoculars

Activity Table: 3D Art

As always I let the children come up with their own ideas.  I made sure I was around to help with any cutting or carving but for the most part I let them do everything themselves.

These are the little egg carton turtles that Miss E made.

Activity Table: 3D Art

These are the robots that the boys made out of Miss P’s old Puff containers.  Aren’t they fun?!

Activity Table: 3D Art

This is G’s soapbox robot.

Activity Table: 3D Art

Miss E really wanted to make animals!  This is her egg carton caterpillar.

Activity Table: 3D Art

J even managed to make a few robots that had moving parts; arms or feet that could be moved back and forth.

Activity Table: 3D Art

The Activity Tables are work, and they are messy, but I don’t mind because the payoff is worth it.  Watching them happily create something on their own it totally worth the work!

If you’re interested in doing and Activity Table with your own kiddos here are some tips I learned over the years-

- Cheap plastic tablecloths are your best friend!  They are water proof and disposable.  When you’re cleaning up you can just leave any bits of paper and trash on the tablecloth, wad it all up and throw it away!

- be sure to set up near a sink, and always have paper towels and rags on hand.

-set up different “stations” at the table.  Make one end of the table a “painting station”, have designated spot for glue, and a spot for cutting and taping.  This will help keep the chaos at bay.

-if the table starts to get too messy, take a few minutes to clear away the trash and reset the stations.  Too much mess and clutter can hinder creativity.

-take a deep breath and relax!  There will be moments when you want to loose your cool, especially if your like me and have a hard time letting mess just happen :)   Messiness, clutter, and a bit of chaos is just part of the experience, and you have to learn to let go and not be too controlling.

-give the process some time.  When the kids first sit down they will be keyed-up and excited.  That initial excited frenzy will pass and that’s when the creative magic starts to happen.  Don’t give up before it gets good!

If you enjoy doing projects with your kiddos and are looking for new and fun projects to do with them, The Artful Parent is one of my favorite blogs!  Jean Van’t Hul is a never ending wealth of knowledge and creativity!  I also love her Pinterest Boards.

 

Now go out and have some fun with your kids!  And thanks for stopping by!  ~April

Days go by

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m developing the bad habit of doing once-a-month posts.  I will have to remedy that.

But for now here are some of the highlights from the month of April-

Baseball season started!  Justin is coaching both of the boys and it’s been a great experience for all of them.   G is playing for the first time this year.  I had to stifle a laugh when Justin announced at the beginning of their first game, “All right boys, we have too many players so someone is going to have to sit on the bench this inning.  Any volunteers?”  Over half the boys hands shot up and waved frantically to which Justin responded, “You guys!  Sitting on the bench is a bad thing!”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe winter wheat on the back of the property was chopped and left to dry in the sun.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMiss E lost a tooth!  When she was 2 she fell and damaged her front teeth.  One just got chipped but the other tooth turned grey.  At her last dentist appointment our dentist decided it was time to pull it out.  She was very brave and the Tooth Fairy rewarded her handsomely.

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The boys had their annual Speech Meet at school.  They get all dressed up and preform poems for all their families.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey work hard memorizing their poems and learning good public speaking skills.  Of course we all get a kick out of seeing each child stand up and preform.  Their little personalities have a way of shinning through!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMr. G is always a little nervous

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This guy right here is getting pretty handy in the kitchen!  He wanted to make lemon cookies for his Grandpa and Grammy and he did it all with very little help from me.

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The first day of Spring break we headed to the library and maxed out all of our library cards.  Smartest thing I’ve ever done!  Those books kept them quietly occupied many afternoons during their vacation.  We also have a habit of stopping at Sonic afterward for tater tots and half price slushies.  Really, life doesn’t get much better than that!

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I also ordered 3 Ed Emberley drawing books which helped keep away the “boredom blues”.  They’ve gotten so good at following the step-by-step instructions and they’ve made the most darling pictures lately.

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We spent Easter weekend at the beach.  It was lovely…

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My thought for the month:  I wish we Christians would spend less time being outraged, offended and argumentative, and more time being His hands and feet.  Defending our faith to the faithless is a waste of time, and it tricks us into thinking we are doing His work.  He doesn’t need my outrage.  He needs my obedience.

 

March

This is the part where I cram an entire month into one post~

March… you were good to us.

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Rainy days where we all crowded into the kitchen and made soup together

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Doctor E. tended to many a sick bunny

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J got his first baseball related injury

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I got my very own raised beds for my cutting garden!!  There will lots and lots of flowers this summer…

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Daddy had lots of good help (well dressed help I might add)

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Babies are gross… in an adorable way

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We went to San Fransisco for a field trip to the Exploratorium OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATheir motto is “touch everything!”  and we did!

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It was a gorgeous day in the city.  We ate a late lunch with our good friends and enjoyed the sun

 

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Miss E. turned 5!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe celebrated with crafts, and brownie Sundaes

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA…and watching Frozen

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI turned 36 and managed to drag my birthday celebrations out for a full week.  My mother-in-law gave me this darling tray.

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Big Sis turned Miss P’s crib into a tent much to her delight

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Yup Miss P is pretty infatuated with her big Sis

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And now it’s April!  Time for spring