2011: Year in Review

Last year I requested that 2011 be a calmer year.  Didn't exactly happen, but it was wonderful nonetheless.

2011 was a year of travel.  We started the year out in Virginia, went to Utah in Feb. to help my sis pick out a wedding dress, went back to Virginia in June for the wedding, another sister's graduation, and a family beach trip, traveled to Utah again in August, Virginia for Thanksgiving and some early Christmas festivities, then a quick trip back to Utah last week for my Grandpa's funeral.  Counting each leg of all the trips Jilly and I took 19 flights in 2011.  It exhausts me just thinking about it, but we were so lucky to get to see our family so many times!

In September we bought our cute little townhouse.  Now we feel like real adults as we spend every Saturday making trips to Home Depot and doing house projects.  We are loving all the extra space and this adventure of home ownership.

It was a big year for Miss Jilly.  She learned to smile, roll over, sit up, eat solid foods, crawl, pull herself up, walk, talk, beg for candy, and cause lots of mischief.  Our only non-success was sleeping through the night.  Here's hoping for next year...

Bryan was busy biking and working.  He celebrated his one year anniversary with his company and has been my hero repairing and beautifying our new home.  He also earned official crazy status by completing the Tough Mudder with his brothers.

I found plenty to keep me busy at home.  The most used appliances in our home were the oven and my sewing machine.  I made 5 stockings, a pillow cover, 3 table runners, a nursing cover, 2 mini quilts, dish towels, 3 hotpads, a ladybug costume, a baby blanket, 2 skirts, an apron, and a stuffed owl.  I also made these rolls almost every week and made tons of cakeballs (50 for a Valentine's party with friends, 100 for all the men at church for Father's Day, and 200 to give as favors at my sister's wedding.)

My new Mary Engelbreit calendar is up on the wall and ready to be filled up.  Welcome 2012!


2011: Books

My goal was to read 45 books this year including 5 nonfiction.  I just barely scraped by, finishing my last book earlier this week.  But I read 11 nonfiction books which I consider a great success.  In 2012 I want to read 50 books, and my beautiful new Kindle Fire will make this goal oh so fun.  My favorite part of my new toy so far?  It tells me what percentage of the book I have already read.  Currently I'm 12% through Jane Eyre, which means I have a lot left to go.

1. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, AMAZING book, read more here
2. The Adventures of an Amalga Farmboy by Vern Rice, my Grandpa's memoirs, it was fun to hear stories about his life that I'd never heard before.
3. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, I think this should be required reading in high school
4. Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns, has been one of my favorites for a long time
5. Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool, very deserving Newbery Medal winner, every child would love this book
6-12. Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling, obvious favorites
13. The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt, one of my very favorites, I would recommend it to anyone and everyone (and have!)
14. Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt, also a favorite, just an itty bitty notch below Wednesday Wars for me

15. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
16. Joseph Smith Rough Stone Rolling by Richard L. Bushman, I kind of feel like I'm cheating the system since I read all but 20 pages of this in 2010 but I did finish it in 2011.
17. Jerusalem Interlude by Bodie Thoene
18. Scumble by Ingrid Law, not as good as Savvy but still fun
19. Danzig Passage by Bodie Thoene
20. 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny by Phillip Done, so fun to read, especially for a teacher
21. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown, fascinating
22. Created for Greater Things by Dieter F. Uchtdorf, love Pres. Uchtdorf
23. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, read more here
24. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, read more here
25. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, read more here
26. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wells, read more here
27. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larsen, read more here
28. Founding Mothers by Cokie Robers, read more here
29. Warsaw Requiem by Bodie Thoene
30. The 5 People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
31. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, can't wait for the next book!
32. Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of the Relief Society
33. The Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W. Kimball

34. Shopaholic and Baby by Sophie Kinsella, fluff
35. Remembering Isaac by Ben Behunin, no characterization- every character was the exact same
36. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, I can't really put my finger on why, but I just didn't really like this book
37. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, I'm probably a terrible person for not loving this book
38. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, read more here
39. Dear John by Nicholas Sparks, exactly what you'd expect (didn't help that I'd already seen the movie, haha)
40. If I Should Die by Jennie Hansen, couldn't put it down but at the end I realized I really didn't like it that much
41. If I Stay by Gayle Forman, not my favorite, but I did like the format- his side then her side
42. Where She Went by Gayle Forman, same as above
43. Grace by Richard Paul Evans, sappy but cute

44. Leaving Cold Sassy by Olive Ann Burns, unfinished and kind of depressing
45. On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo, this book really made me feel like a loser


A California Christmas

We got to spend a wonderful Christmas with Bryan's family this year.

Cousins by the tree- we're probably going to dress these girls in matching clothes for their entire lives!

My sweet girl and me - more on my outfit later 

We had a family Ugly Sweater party- the boys' backs were their best features

the girls- I couldn't find an ugly sweater so I went with an ugly nightgown 

Everyone got jungle-themed jammies- the babies have monkeys, we have leopard, and the guys have gorilla (you really really wish I had gotten a picture of the boys in theirs!)

We put Kirra to work pushing Jilly on her new princess bike 

My parents gave Jilly a play kitchen so I made her a little apron

But my favorite gift I gave this year was this snow globe I made for Bryan

I'd say Christmas was a huge success this year.



I spent a good part of my Sunday afternoon reading the birth stories Kayla posted.  I love reading about the sweet moments when a little baby joins his or her new family.

Then we had some friends over last night whose due date is TODAY.  They are delivering at our same hospital so we had fun reminiscing about that precious night our little Jilly joined us and getting so so excited with them for their little guy to make his entrance any day now.

This morning I woke up to the news that my Grandpa Anderson passed away in the night.  He turned 90 this year and lived a full and very impressive life.  His death wasn't entirely unexpected, he got sick earlier this month and went into the hospital and just hadn't been able to recover.  Knowing that it could be very soon, my dad and his 6 siblings were all at the hospital with him Sunday night.

The past 24 hours have filled me with a sense of awe in the miracle of life.  I'm more aware of the fragility, preciousness, and sanctity of life.   Christmas seems like bad timing for a birth or a death, but really it's the perfect time.  It's a perfect time to remember that our Savior came as a sweet tiny baby and sacrificed so we can live again with our families.  This Christmas, I'm so so grateful.

Grandpa Anderson
More on what I believe here


Merry and Bright

My parents gave Jilly this little nativity.  She loves playing with it and I love the sweet reminder of the reason for the season.  Every night I set it up perfectly like this and inevitably every morning wise men, animals, and baby Jesus get scattered around our family room.

Last year I had great intentions of making stockings but then I had a baby.  This year the stockings are a reality.  I loosely used this tutorial (and by loosely I mean that is the tutorial I was going to use last year  and didn't look at again this year, just did what I could remember and figured it out along the way) but I made a cuff because bias tape and I are not friends.   I'm very pleased with how they turned out.

Some Christmas decor on our shelves

 This is what a Christmas tree looks like in the home of a one year old.  The only ornaments on the bottom half are the gold balls I got at the Dollar Store and a couple other Jilly-proof ornaments.  

We have one very excited little girl!

You know that obnoxious Target commercial where everyone screams DONE! as they finish all their shopping?  Well, my friends, I am about to add my cheer to the chorus.  I have a few projects I still want to do in the next week but I am DONE! with all the necessities.  Ho ho ho!



Jillian's first sentence is going to be, "Hi, my name is Jilly and I am a chocoholic."
Yesterday we made Christmas treats to give out to our friends.  And I'm embarrassed to say I don't know who ate more chocolate- me or my one year old.

Our counter started out looking like this:

Eventually we had this:

And ended up with these little yummies

Now they're all packaged and waiting for our chocolate hangovers to wear off so we can deliver!


A Christmas Carol

I've seen Mickey's Christmas Carol hundreds of times, Bill Murray in Scrooged, and while we were dating Bryan surprised me and took me up to the Hale Theater in Salt Lake to see A Christmas Carol.  But this year I finally read the real deal.  I did myself a great disservice by thinking I already knew the story and didn't need to read Dickens' actual words.  I loved loved loved celebrating Christmas this way.

"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year."


Candy Cane Pie

Candy cane pie is a tradition in our house and it's a tradition I love.

Step One:  Spend hours mixing, rolling out, and baking your very own pie crust.
Ha.  Buy an oreo crust.

Step Two: Spoon partly melted peppermint ice cream into said oreo crust (my favorite part of the pie may be that it's pink.)

Step Three: Unwrap a candy cane, put it in a plastic bag and use a hammer to smash it (most fun part of the process.)  Spread the candy cane bits on pie.

Festive, Easy, Delicious- possibly my very favorite words.


An Oven Story

About 2 months ago I posted about our oven's missing racks.  We decided that even though it was ancient, we couldn't justify replacing an oven that worked just fine.  So we ordered new racks and went on with life.

Then just a few weeks later our oven went kaput.  We called the warranty company and crossed our fingers they'd replace instead of fixing.  We were in luck- they proclaimed our old oven dead and ordered us a new one.

Isn't she a beauty?

We've had our new friend for 27 hours and I've already made two batches of cookies.  Life is sweet.


Christmas Parade

Remember this?

Poor Rudolph was maimed in the Richmond Christmas parade last year.  So this year we went to check on our red-nosed friend.  He had a big bandaid across his forehead but he successfully made it under every traffic light.

Jilly put her new skill of waving to good use while watching the parade.

It was a fun way to start celebrating the season.


Missing You

We're back in CA and loving being reunited with Bryan. But, there are still lots of things we miss:

I miss having my mom to watch Jilly while I sleep past her usual 5am wakeup time.
Jilly misses Luna, the dog, whom she calls "woof woof."  (Luna misses all the extra food Jilly gave her.)
We miss lots of people to play with, our home feels very empty during the day!
I miss watching Gilmore Girls (we re-watched Season 7 while home.)
Jilly misses the huge backyard with a playhouse and swingset.
I miss all the candles in the windows- I think VA has the most beautiful Christmas decorations.
Jilly misses her Aunt Bethany's big blue ball she always played with.
I miss all the meals not cooked by me.

Most of all we miss our family.  Hopefully we'll get to see them again soon!


family fun

We had such a fun week with my family; it was great to have all of us together for a few days.  I'm still here for another week but Bryan, Neal & Katie, and Jenn all headed back.

One of our favorite things we did was go apple picking.  We went to the "mountains" of Virginia and enjoyed a perfect day with yummy apples and beautiful views.

Katie is a long-time fan of jumping pictures and convinced us to snap a few.  Great entertainment for us and for everyone else on the mountain that day.
youngest to oldest but we're missing mom 

the crazy ballews 

mom and dad (my dad has the very best jumping face I've ever seen) 

can you tell I was once a cheerleader?

Jenn and Leslie had a race rolling down the hill that ended rather unfortunately for Jenn.

and so we headed home for the day...



We have so so so many things to be grateful for.  And, what a blessing it is to have a day to relax and enjoy being with family.

I channeled my inner Manny and designed our centerpiece.  Bryan told me it was "a hit and a miss" but I won't let it get me down.

We had a most delicious feast all prepared by my amazing mom.
our excellent turkey carver 

 around the table  (Jilly was conveniently napping during dinner- we missed her, but it was so delightful to have a peaceful meal)

Jilly's favorite part of the day was her post-dinner lollipop

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!



Bryan got here Sunday night and on Monday we went to Maymont.  Half of the park is a petting zoo and the other half has beautiful gardens.

A very close encounter

 I was definitely screaming at this moment

 How cool is Tyler?



This is my first fall in Virginia for 8 years so I am basking in the state's very best season.  In general, I am not a huge fan of yard work.  But I make an exception for leaves- I love love love raking leaves.  Jilly and I got to help my family rake and play in the thousands of leaves that fell on our yard.

Seriously- how cute is that outfit?  She got it from some friends for her birthday 

We put Jilly in a big pile of leaves and almost lost her! 

Playing with Uncle Ty  

and with Grandma



We made it!  The irony of our trip was that Jilly was great on our 4.5 hour flight but much much less great on our 1.5 hour flight.  Guess that's better than the other way around.  Our survival mechanisms included:
- Dum dums: Jilly may have had 4 lollipops over the course of the day.  Don't judge.
- Walking up and down the aisle: people were so friendly and kind.
- The restroom: I've talked to other flying moms before and they agree- being in the restroom is such a relief, no one else is around and you have much more room than your little seat.  We may or may not have hung out in the restroom for much longer than a usual diaper change would have taken.
- Goldfish, graham crackers, pretzels: when she has a lot of food in her mouth it's more difficult to make noise.
- Stroller: You can take one baby item for free and I've always taken her car seat but this time my mom had a car seat we could use so I got an umbrella stroller and it made our time in the airport much more pleasant.
- Sky mall magazine: I let Jilly rip it to shreds then picked up all the pieces at the end of the flight.
- Ice: I let Jilly play with the leftover crushed ice from my water.  I didn't love having freezing cold ice pellets melting on my lap but it kept her very occupied.

Our second flight was rough because we only had a 30 minute layover which was not enough time for Jilly to get the wiggles out.  Then we flew through a huge storm so there was awful turbulence and we weren't allowed to stand up at all.  I would estimate Jilly screamed for 80% of the flight- not the most pleasant experience of our lives, but we made it and were so so glad to be home.



This is our little red townhome.  The other day I looked around and realized that I really love it here.  I love decorating our house, I love the beautiful leaves outside, I love that our master bedroom is no longer a closet, I love that Jilly loves climbing up the stairs.  California didn't really feel like home until we moved to this house.

But, at the same time, Virginia will always be home.  Jilly and I are excited to hop on a plane in the next few hours to spend a few weeks at home.  Hello delicious food that I don't have to make, lots of entertainers for the little Miss, and best of all- spending time with our favorite people.

My magical powers will be greatly needed as we take a 5 hour flight from Sacramento to Atlanta (that's right- one coast to the other in 1 seat!)  Wish us luck!


Birthdaypalooza Part 2

We had a fun second weekend of birthday celebrations with Bryan's parents.  On Saturday while Bryan and his dad worked on the house his mom and I made cupcakes, shopped, and played with the birthday girl.  That night we went to Red Robin for birthday burgers.

On Sunday morning we went to church.  It was lovely to have two extra adults to wrestle with and entertain the birthday girl.  After church and  Jilly's nap we went on a walk.  The fall weather was absolutely perfect.

When we got home Jilly opened her presents.  We got her her favorite kitty book because we had reached the limit of how many times we could renew it from the library.

Bryan's parents got her a baby doll and crib.  She walked around the family room saying "baby baby baby" and lifting the baby in and out of her crib.

She also got some letter magnets, a baby stroller, a ball popper, some cute clothes, and a piano which has been the source of some crazy dance parties in the past 24 hours.

After dinner it was party time.   We had snickerdoodle cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and chocolate cupcakes with raspberry frosting.  I liked the cream cheese frosting best, and Bryan liked the raspberry frosting.  Apparently we didn't even notice the cupcakes beneath.  I made Jilly a mini cake in a mug and frosted it with both frostings.  I found the free cupcake toppers here (and just remembered that I forgot to tie a ribbon on the stick like they did... oh well.)

We sang Happy Birthday and I helped blow out the candle.  Jilly just stared at the cake for a minute.  I gave her a taste on a spoon then she started licking the frosting a little bit.  Finally Bryan gave her a cupcake and because it was small enough for her to hold she went to town on it.  And we ended the night with a very messy and happy one year old!
Janssen, is this looking familiar?  I'm afraid I copied a lot from Ella's birthday party