01 January 2016

Photo Friday #236: a fond farewell

Happy new year, everybody! I’ve decided to start 2016 with some big news (in addition to the big job news last time, I guess).

Here’s the deal: I’m an optimizer. I am sure it makes those around me crazy, but I’m always that person asking, “Why are we doing it this way? Doesn’t it make more sense to do it this other way?” I’m not one to keep doing something the same way when it no longer works. Instead, I step back, figure out the end goal, and change the routine to match that goal.

It’s in that spirit that I’m drawing a close on regular posting here on the Redheaded Stepchild.

I know, just as we were about to move to a new town and new house with new jobs and start a whole new phase in our lives! But that’s just it. Right now, my days are entirely consumed with work and family – in a good way. I love my work and, obviously, I love my family. But I don’t want to publicly document my kid’s daily life, nor talk extensively about my job on a blog. That’s not what this blog was for, anyway. I used it for motivation to get stuff done, and believe me, I am getting stuff done – but caring for a toddler, being on the job market, working full-time, and blogging here nearly did me in over the last few months. I’m just not working on things I want to put out there for public consumption.

Then there’s the fact that, for many months now, I’ve felt like I’m out of anything useful to say here. Even when I have good content, I’m out of time and energy to write about it in a clever way. I still enjoy doing projects, but writing about them has begun to seem like a chore, which is precisely the opposite reason I started blogging. For years, this blog was my daily encouragement to be productive and creatively write about it. It was a useful and meaningful part of my life – which is exactly why I’m reluctant to continue posting and taint what I worked so hard to create with posts I don’t love.

So. It’s time to optimize. I admit, it makes me sad, but then again, there also are days when I want to shut this whole thing down and archive it. Instead, I’ll just write when I have the time, content, and brainpower to write a post worth sharing, whenever that may be. Until then, I’ll keep quiet.

Oh, and one last thing, my dear, dear readers.

30 December 2015

The Redheaded Stepchild 2015 Year in Review

Here we are, poised at the end of 2015, which means it’s time for a look back over all the happenings of the past year. While it wasn’t quite as memorable as 2014 (in terms of not adding 50% to our family), as I reflect now over the year behind us, I realize just how busy it was! And you saw most of it here on the blog.

I told you about all the DIY projects I took on this year – not as many as years past (and not one per month, as I’d hoped), but good enough!

Custom framing an antique dress
Turning library prints into décor
Silhouettes from digital photos
Faux photo-wrapped canvas
Faking a blackout shade
Painting a gold scalloped pillow
Making a custom handwriting font
Streamlining the photo book creation process

Even if I didn’t DIY as much, I did give my house a little bit of love by adding a few new pieces (free vintage bar cart!!) and finishing some long-standing projects.

Our duvet cover, Lady Ofelia
Raising the bar cart
Reclaiming the master bedroom
Finally, a new bathroom rug
Hanging our family gallery wall
Family photos in the office

I also didn’t organize my house as much this year, but it’d be hard to top last year’s organizational frenzy! Still, there was plenty of closet-cleaning-out action all around the house.

Sorting baby’s storage
Pantry purge, part two
My best closet cleanout tips
Jewelry collection reorganization

I also spent a surprising amount of time in the kitchen – surprising to me because I feel like we’ve spent the year in a solid pasta/taco/stir-fry/chili rut! But turns out I actually cooked a few new dishes, many of which actually do make their way into the meal plans, and a some excellent (mostly chocolate!) treats as well:

Gnocchi and sausage bake
Bacon, swiss, and scallion muffins
Mini meatloaves
Chicken quesadillas
Teriyaki chicken salad
Chicken saltimbocca pasta
Lemon pepper chicken with orzo

Chocolate orange muffins
Chocolate chip cake cookies
Easy chocolate toffee
Chocolate chip wedding cake, part 1 and part 2
Almond chocolate chip granola
Lemon berry tartlets

I also realized, looking back over the year, that I played hostess to three big family gatherings this year. Huh! Granted, I was mostly hostess-in-name-only for my sister-in-law’s shower, but I guess I did work pretty hard for Baby P’s baptism reception and first birthday party.

Baptism party planning
The baptism of Baby P
A bright and sunshiney baby shower
Little P’s party food
Little P’s party decorations

And because I went all-out celebrating in a winter ONEderland for Little P’s party, I took every opportunity for Christmas cheer this year.

A very IKEA Christmas
DIY winter chalkboard art
DIY burlap flag garland
The annual holiday card

But when we weren’t throwing parties at home, we traveled all over the dang place – semi-regular trips to Wisconsin and Tennessee, plus Oslo, Salt Lake City, and upstate New York (not to mention all my recent job interviews). I almost forgot how we spent almost a consecutive month traveling this past summer! So hard but so fun.

DIY infant passport photos
Easter up north
Nursing-friendly summer travel wardrobe
Team P takes Oslo, part 1, part 2, and part 3
Tips for a European trip with an infant
Wisconsin Dells and Snowbird, UT

Of course, all that I’ve recounted pales in comparison to my absolute favorite project, which is helping Baby P become Little P. I think I can count this past year as fairly successful (and that’s not even counting the nine months I spent as his primary source of nutrition, oh my gosh).

The unabridged Baby P birth story
Our favorite newborn gear
Baby’s first Easter
Fall at Grant’s Farm
More fall family fun
The weekly photo project
Baby P turns ONE

But there’s one last big success of 2015. Remember those passing mentions of testing the waters on the job market? Well, while we were celebrating Little P’s first birthday, I was also in the middle of negotiating and accepting my dream job – a well-supported faculty position, at a fantastic school, starting next fall. So that means there are BIG changes for 2016 for Team P... finishing up our jobs here in STL, saying farewell to our wonderful bosses and coworkers and Little P’s teachers, finding a new place to live (maybe buying?!), and moving Casa P to Ohio. It’s crazy and overwhelming and we are all THRILLED.

So here’s to 2015, and all the successes we had! And here’s to a year filled with as much family, excitement, new experiences, and fun for 2016!

28 December 2015

My Favorite Things, December 2015

Whew, what a month. What a year! I’m too brain dead from holiday malaise and probably too much wine (cheers!) to be clever about an introduction, so let’s get to it. I hope you’re still on holiday break, because here comes...

Let’s see what the internet had to offer this month? Starting on theme with...

Holiday cheer

How about the annual edition of the hater’s guide to the Willams Sonoma catalog? If you’ve extra time to kill, know that this year was relatively tame compared to the reclaimed wood chicken coop in the 2012 edition. File this under “things I won’t be purchasing with my Christmas stocking money.”

This year, if you can believe it, I have not watched Love Actually. The wine-with-movie-while-trimming-the-tree tradition was supplanted by the raising-a-toddler-while-interviewing-for-faculty-jobs chaos of 2015. But I got a taste of it from the Lindy West article “I Rewatched Love Actually and I Am Here to Ruin It for All of You”. The title doesn’t lie. But I still love it, Lindy, sorry.

But if I do get around to extending the Christmas season and watching it, perhaps I’ll enjoy it with this pomegranate manhattan from Shutterbean. I mean, there are twelve days of Christmas, folks.

Moving on to the usual...

Good reads

If you haven’t already figured it out, my usual go-to for finding good longform journalism is Longreads. And they’ve compiled a ton of year-end reads for you, but I of course am partial to the Longreads Best of 2015 Science reads. If you’re still lazing around your relatives’ houses looking for some intellectual stimulation, fall down the Longreads wormhole!

Pope Francis is reiterating the church’s stance that Jews can go to heaven (and in the last few days, atheists too). Some people may roll their eyes about the “mysterious” nature of it, but I’ll be honest, this is exactly what I love about faith. Sometimes ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ is the answer.

Have you ever noticed the “Medical ID” button on your phone? Me neither.

If you’ve ever wanted your phone to serve as a sort of ID bracelet in case something goes wrong for you, this is your chance. Get the directions for how to input it here! Note that all the info is available without your passcode, so don’t give TOO much away, but just what you need!

Finally, if you’ve ignored the Pottermore website like me (and after all that hype years ago!), you might also be happy to learn that J. K. Rowling has been writing a ton for it. And of course, it’s gold. If you click on one article like this one, there’s bound to be a link for more at the bottom. When you emerge from the Longreads wormhole, slip down this one next!

Good videos

Let’s be multimedia this month! Here’s a collection of gorgeous videos from the annual Nikon Small World competition. My work looks pretty cool under a microscope, but these are almost powerful enough to make me jealous!

And did you watch the SpaceX launch and, more importantly, landing? Here’s why it was so amazing, and here’s the whole thing you can watch for yourself. (By the by, that's my childhood friend/teenage boyfriend explaining stuff around the 16 minute mark. My brush with fame!)

This month’s maps

Just one collection this month, and it’s unfortunately a depressing counterpoint to the rocket launch excitement: This is what your city would look like if all the world’s ice sheets melt. It seems a lot more real after that 78-degree walk we took on Saturday in Memphis!

And finally, let’s cut to the usual...

Fun stuff

If you’re still in a Harry Potter mood, here’s a few reasons why Harry Potter will never die. (After all this time? Always.)

Here are the awards I’ll be collecting next.

I guess I missed McCalls Pattern Behavior when it blew up in March, so if you missed it too, you really must catch up.

And finally, let’s end this month and this year the best way I know how: with RED PANDAS.

View post on imgur.com

That’s all I’ve got, dear readers! Rest up now for 2016!

25 December 2015

Photo Friday #235: a very happy Christmas

Don’t be alarmed! We’re just here to wish you a very merry Christmas today!

From our home to yours, wherever you may be, we hope you have a lovely holiday!

23 December 2015

The annual holiday card, 2015 edition

We’re on the road to visit family for Christmas. All that’s left here is to wish you and yours a very happy holidays!

Safe travels and much love to you, dear readers!

21 December 2015

Little P's party: the decorations

By now, everyone is certain to be in the CHRISTMAS SPIRIT – and why wouldn’t they big, with the holiday this week?! And here I am, talking about my kid’s birthday party. Well. Fortunately for us all, his birthday party theme is perfect for all your last-minute Christmas crafts!

Yes, the DIY burlap banner was made for a pun-themed birthday party! Oh, all right, a wintry-themed one, too. (Just be glad I didn’t hang up a photo of Christopher Walken captioned “Walken in a Winter ONEderland” because double pun points!)

When people first walked in to the party, they had the chance to sign a guestbook of sorts. This is an idea I totally stole from my sister-in-law – she picks a book similar to the party theme, and has all the party guests sign it! I chose this beautiful mini pop-up book by Robert Sabuda – perfectly sized and plenty of space for family and friends to write in it! (I almost hated to disrupt the art, but what is a book if not enjoyed and made memorable, right?)

I also framed the invitation, which was my ONE concession to blue and white, because even though it was a wintry theme I did not want blue and white. There’s tons of Frozen-themed blue and white birthday party gear, and I snobbily rejected ALL OF IT. I wanted more white, plaid, cozy-ski-lodge vibe over snowflakes and ice. Unfortunately, I ran out of time to execute the sort of invitation I envisioned (because JOB INTERVIEWS) so I modified this one from Shutterfly instead. It worked! Guests were invited! That’s all that matters.

Also, note that soft glow? Because what would a wintry party be without twinkle lights?!

And what’s that in the background? Why, the weekly photo garland I told you about!

This was a ton of work (obviously, a year’s worth!) but it ended up so great – just as I’d hoped, our guests spent time looking at the photos and seeing Little P go from his earliest days...

To the most recent weeks!

Also, you may have noticed above that yes, the Christmas tree has a place of prominence in the party. How could it not, in December? But I did try to make it feel separate and focused on Little P as much as possible, even if his birthday presents were literally under the tree!

My hope is that he always thinks of Christmas as a special time of year for extra celebration, not something to begrudge for being near his birthday. So that’s why I incorporated as much “winter” décor as possible, to really work toward a special ONEderland for this holiday baby!

In addition to the photo garland, I also hung a bunch of stuff personalized with Little P’s name, which I can’t really show you (privacy!). But I can give you a peep at the wreaths I DIY’d to put Little P’s initials on the doors. (And you can see the framed photo of Baby P in the background!)

The supplies for those wreaths were total impulse buys – I was in Michaels for who knows what, and I walked out with the clearance wreath frames and snowflake ribbon. The mini tinsel garland came from Target. I ended up loving these so much that I’m tempted to have a wintry party every year to justify using them!

And finally, a favor for this pun winter-themed birthday: DIY s’mores! Each bag was packed with half a Hershey’s bar, one jumbo marshmallow, and two of these genius graham crackers (they are already square!). And I designed that label myself.

I did not, however, assemble them. That credit goes to my mom, who showed up a few days early and helped with party prep! Goodness knows I needed it.

So even though we were blessed/cursed with a 70-degree December day, I hope the decorations got people in the wintry spirit, at least enough to celebrate in our ONEderland! Now I just need to start working on puns that include “two”...

18 December 2015

Photo Friday #234: birthday boy

I’ve established here that I’m fond of the birthday weekend, or even the birthday week. Little P is not exempt.

So far he’s only learned the signs for things like “more” and “hungry” and “sleep”, but if he knew “cupcake”, I wouldn’t be able to resist... even at breakfast. Celebrate!