Saturday, April 28, 2012

NEW Cricut Expression Guide! (By Cathie Rigby, Gibbs Smith Publisher) PLUS! FREE DOWNLOAD!

I was very lucky to recently review a guide for the Cricut Expression (and Expression 2), written by Cathie Rigby (Gibbs Smith Publisher). 

Upon receiving this hefty guide in the mail, I was immediately struck by its attractive design (even the text is cute!). But how practical is it? Is it worth purchasing? See below! 

The guide is clearly designed to offer in-depth instructions and support for new Cricut users. For those of you who bought the machine, stared intimidatingly at the parts in the box, stumbled through the manufacturer’s guide and asked yourself, ‘How and where do I begin?’ – this guide is for you! (It’s also meant to help skilled Cricut users get the most of their machines, utilizing all of the features it has to offer!)

I really wish the manufacturer’s guide came with an introductory section as in-depth as this. Rigby includes a lot of personal advice about purchasing cartridges and materials, as well as helpful tips for operating the machine. She has sections called “The Cricut Way” and “Cricut Handbook Strategies” to help users get comfortable with the machine and prevent new-user frustration.

To give new users a wide variety of ideas, Rigby has compiled projects from real users for everything from paper cards to fabric banners. What I love about the projects is that they look complex but are actually easy to complete! The instructions are easy to read and follow, with lots of step-by-step pictures:

(Pictures from the project "Smile Banner")

First, each project lists all necessary materials:

Next, you’ll find a handy matrix listing all of the die-cut cartridge pieces required in full detail:

In sum: The introductory sections of the book are, by far, the most helpful. The rest of the book features amazing project ideas, which are helpful for new-users (and comfortable users looking to spice up their skills!). You can also generate a lot of inspiration from the featured ideas, customizing them to meet your creative needs. But once you’ve experimented with the projects and become comfortable with the machine, those beginning chapters are going to serve as “refresher courses.” With any guide like this, the timeline of usefulness will have an end. You will outgrow it. However, it will give you the solid foundation to ensure you use your machine for a long time! 

If you’ve purchased a Cricut Expression or Expression 2 and don’t have the time to surf blogs for tips and ideas, this book is a quick and easy resource for you! At a retail price of $19.99, it’s a solid investment for new users, or those feeling like they need to add some variety to their Cricut crafting!

Find out more by visiting Gibbs Smith Publisher! (Test it out by downloading four projects (PDF) for FREE!)

Unique and Personalized Infant Crib Bedding

Finding crib bedding you really like can be difficult and expensive. After poking around on sites a bit, I was surprised by the lack of variety. If you're looking for themes beyond the princess and safari options, guess what? There's something out there for you!

Option #1: Search for alternative styles already on the market. (Probably the cheapest of all options.)

Land of Nod (Crate and Barrel) offers a cute unisex option (gray and yellow are very "in" these days):

(This set ranges from $24-$79.)

Here's another Land of Nod option:
(Khaki in the Mix, ranges from $24-$138)

Kids Line Nursery ( have a cute forest theme (and it's organic!):
(Ranges from $16.99-$44.99, but does not feature a blanket or quilt on

Option #2: Customize your own set at Carousel Designs ( The items are listed from $19-169. I LOVE their design page! You can pick from a wide variety of fabrics to construct your own set and customize even the smallest details (like trim or tie strings)! 
Here's one I made:
Here's another! (This is way too fun!):

One last design (because why not, right?):

The price can get steep pretty quickly, but I love that you can customize every detail without having to make it yourself or find someone to make it for you.

Option #3: Find it on! Etsy features handmade baby bedding (and everything else handmade) by independent designers. These sets (or partial sets) tend to be more expensive (because they're homemade), however, you have the option to personalize most items. This can make it easier for you to construct your perfect nursery. 

Here's one I found from Miss Polly's Piece Goods when I searched for "crib bedding":
She also has these patterns:

($250 for the complete set.)

Here's another I found:

(These are the fabric samples offered by ETSY shop SweetDreamsBedding. How cute are these? A handmade set costs $229.)

From the All Nestled In Bed ETSY shop:

(This handmade partial set is $225. These patterns are made of brushed twill, making it unfit for bedsheets, but great for the bumper and bedskirt. Pricey? Of course! This is something I'd recommend for those looking for one-of-a-kind crib bedding.)

This one is totally and ridiculously out of most people's price range (at a whopping $425 for the set), but I love the subtle details and clean look!
(Check it out at the Poids Plume shop.)

Option #4: Make your own! (So, I know this task instantly seems daunting, but there are SO many helpful options out there to make it an easier task!)

Step 1: Visit - Not only can you find THOUSANDS of prints and styles, you can create your own! Because they have so many options, I highly recommend searching by color scheme or category. 
(Note: Many fabrics start at $18/yard for cotton material. I would roughly buy 6-8 yards of fabric to make a complete set, costing between $108-144 for fabric. This would not include lining, padding, thread, etc.)

Here's one I found under the Category "Animals," called Night Owl (by Leanne):

When you find a print you like, the site instantly recommends complementary prints to coordinate with it!
(Downpour, by Leanne)

(Featherland White, by Leanne)

Obviously, you can also take a trip down to your local fabric or craft store and pick up fabrics. I highly recommend searching for a fabric warehouse or discount store in your area, as these places tend to have a wider variety and are (typically) less expensive. 

Step #2: Decide whether to sew yourself or find someone who can for you. This really comes down to a time vs. money situation. If you have the time, patience and tools to do it yourself, I highly recommend it. I made my daughter's first quilt, and it's a family treasure to this day. If you don't have the time, energy or tools, it's very easy to find someone who can do the work for you. Often times, they won't charge much. 

There are SO many options for unique and personalized crib bedding! Your best bet is to establish a budget and determine your options from there. Have fun!!! 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Knowing Baby's Gender

As mentioned in a previous post, my husband and I found out what gender our baby is.

Having had a child before, the experience has been interesting in both instances. With my daughter, I experienced a slight feeling of disappointment that she was a girl, which led me to believe for years that I had wanted a boy. This time, I experienced that same feeling of disappointment, except that now I was carrying a boy. In both instances, the feeling caught me off guard.

Obviously, this feeling of disappointment morphed into confusion pretty quickly. Why was I disappointed? I think now that the feeling stemmed from the idea that once I knew what the baby was, my imagination and options became instantly limited. This needs a more accurate explanation.

When you don't know what sex the baby is, your imagination runs wild with all of the clothes, activities and rites of passages of both genders. Once you're limited to one gender during the ultrasound, half of your happy visions of the future go away.

Knowing my baby is a boy means I can't buy cute dresses or girly shoes anymore. Maybe that's all it comes down to, because my son may end up liking tea parties and dress up and dolls. He won't get his period and probably won't ever wear a wedding dress, but who's to say he would even get married if he were a girl?

It's hard not to instantly start directing him down a gender-specific path, even before he's born. I guess that's where the feeling of disappointment really stems from. The state of not knowing offers a limitless world of possibilities, whereas knowing subjects you to all the socialization you've acquired about either gender.

I'm thrilled to know what I'm having, and just as thrilled that it's a boy, but I can see the attraction in deciding not to know until baby's birth.

Indie Garden Wedding

The Ruffled post features some really unique ideas! It's got kind of a bohemian feel to it, no?

I think the dress totally works for this type of theme and venue. (See more below.)

I've never moved away from the idea of bringing in furniture to create a rustic and comfy environment. How one would get and transport such furniture is a completely different question...

Somehow (and I have no idea how), the dress, necklace and pig mask totally work... I think it's the collaboration of every color and texture in the photo. Belovely Events are (I imagine) the creative minds behind this photo shoot. They're events have a really charming and playful feel - I'm impressed!

Really interesting color scheme, and they've worked in rustic and antique accents. 

Hey, nice guest book! I love how people are taking this idea and really personalizing it!

Having a wedding in a greenhouse could have it's complications, but in the springtime (when it hasn't gotten too warm yet) it could be perfect!

Carnival Wedding - MUST SEE!

One of the most creative weddings I've seen!! You MUST check this out at Green Wedding Shoes
I love the creativity! This wedding had to be crazy expensive (unless you have carny friends), but it's really memorable!

Love the invites! Pricey, but one-of-a-kind! If you have friends or family capable of drawing, this could be totally easy! 

I love the commitment they made to their theme. Incorporating these types of details can be labor some. You must either purchase them on your own or rent them. Then, you have to consider transportation, set up and break down of these items.

The parasol idea is BRILLIANT! Love it! This idea wouldn't necessarily be expensive. It could be an awesome DIY project, plus they could be given away as favors (because who needs 30 parasols in their garage after the wedding?).

Check out the entire wedding at Green Wedding Shoes!

It's a... Announcement Cards + NEWS!

My husband and I went to our 5-month ultrasound last Friday. This ultrasound is used to measure baby's size and the proper development of all growing body parts. Oh, yeah, you also get to find out the gender! While I really admire those who decide not to know, my husband and I just don't have the patience for it. I'm glad we found out, for as soon as we heard, we realized how unprepared we were for that answer.

In an effort to be crafty, I created these cards to let our family know what the baby is. Because I'm so close with my family, I had to have them ready to send the day of the ultrasound. So, I made the cards, but saved attaching the hearts for afterwards.

 The heart is hidden by the "diaper," requiring the recipients to unfold the diaper to find out the gender.
This is the "diaper" sealed with baker's string. The diaper card template is a Silhouette SD template, available for $.99.
To make the envelope, I took normal business size envelopes, measured a solid line to indicate how big it needed to be, then measured a 1" cut line above that to create a folding seal.
I cut along the cut line.
I cut along the folds of the envelope from the cut line to the solid line, then cut off one of the lips. I then rounded the corners.
I sealed the flap of the original envelope. 
I stamped it with the monogram I made for our wedding.

In the end, it was a great idea for my husband's side of the family. Since we don't talk to them every day, it was a pleasant surprise for them. For my family, who I speak to on a daily basis, it was torture for them. Having to wait a whole day to receive the news after I had found out was hard for them. 
If you want to do something like this, and you talk to your family all the time, I highly suggest not telling them when your ultrasound is, so it's a surprise!

Oh, and by the way, it's a BOY!


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Baby Gender Announcement

What a cute way to announce baby's gender to close friends and family!!!
I'm going to type "It's a..." on the top exposed part of the card, and paste a pink or blue puddle shape on the covered part. That way, people will have to remove the diaper to find out the gender!

We find out on Friday, so I'll pop them in the mail right after the ultrasound!

Saturday, April 14, 2012


(Little Bat Photography via 100 Layer Cake)

Oh, how I suddenly wish I wore a full-length dress on my wedding day... Gorgeous!
(And, really, how awesome is the woods for a ceremony??)

DIY Menus

How lovely??!?!?!?! (Check this wedding out over at 100 Layer Cake, seriously!)

Bridesmaid Dresses + Thank Yous

I love how the bridesmaids are wearing different dresses and are totally complimentary! Those are definitely dresses they can wear again! (See more at 100 Layer Cake)

Plus, how cute were their thank you cards????

Ceremony Location

How cool is this? With old wood and a few window panes, they've completely dressed up a simple grass area! (See more at Green Wedding Shoes!)

Baby Registries

Let's face it - babies are high-maintenence! They need a lot of stuff - however, that does NOT mean new parents should run out and buy every product on the market! There are definitely some things I managed to live without with my first child and I won't even think about buying this time around.

My Unnecessaries List:

  • Bassinet (for home or stroller) - it's one extra thing that takes up space, an unnecessary "middle man"
  • Wipes Warmer - too often they dry your wipes out, wasting money (and energy)
  • Changing table - your bed, couch or floor work just fine
  • Infant shoes (this hardly requires explanation)
  • Baby Carrier - many of them require more assembly than I have patience (or time) for
  • Baby food maker - a regular household blender or food processor works wonders!
There are more things on this list, but my pregnant brain think of them right now...

Of course, there are things I couldn't have lived without as well...

My Necessaries List:

  • Humidifier
  • Lightweight stroller with large storage
  • Light car seat
  • Car seat base
  • Changing pad (for when outing public)
  • Diaper rash cream
  • Emergency kit (with nail clippers, thermometer, infant tylenol, baby wipes, Vaseline)
  • Surplus of onesies
  • Surplus of burp cloths
  • Boppy (or other nursing pillow)
  • Bottle/Pacifier sterilizer 
I'm bringing this up because sooner or later, you'll have a create a registry. This can be really fun (and really overwhelming). When adding things to the registry, keep in mind that you'll have to have space for everything you get. Often times, people buy items that you won't need right away. This, of course, includes clothing. You'll get more clothing than you'll ask for. In fact, you'll get more clothes that you didn't ask for than items that you did! People simply cannot resist buying cute baby clothes!

Where do you create a registry? There's no right answer to that one. What I've done is created 2 registries. The first is through Babies R Us, a large company with many physical locations. This is good for people who don't use the Internet for purchases. Then, for my computer-savvy peeps, I create an online-based registry. I've chosen, although there are MANY to choose from today. The difficult thing is then deciding which objects go on each registry. To avoid duplicates (and the hassle of having to return/exchange items), I've reserved larger objects for the registry with physical locations and harder-to-find (or cheaper) items for the online registry. Of course, stores won't always have the same inventory, which makes having more than one registry beneficial. You can be sure to ask for everything you want/need.

Tip: Let creating your registry be a fun process. If deciding which breast pump to use is driving you crazy, let it go and come back to it later. If you won't need an item right away, don't worry about it until later. Like I said, only a fraction of people will actually refer to your registry when buying a gift. Don't let your list stress you out. IT'S NOT WORTH IT!!!


The Stroller Dilemma Continues...

The last time I wrote about strollers, I was pretty confident that I had found "the one." Well, I decided to do something that I didn't do with my first child - I decided to test drive some.

The stroller that had made it to our registry was the Inglesina Zippy, a stylish, light-weight umbrella stroller made in Italy.

Well, it's very difficult to actually find any Inglesina stroller in a store. So, I was left to do some extra research. So, I referenced a book a friend had given us, Baby Bargains.
This book provides grades (A-F) for the leading brands in everything from breast pumps to strollers. It also features a few money-saving tips for first-time parents. What I liked about their Stroller Review section was that they offered information about each major company, details about their major models and the pros and cons of each. Their grades are based on their own test drives and the feedback received from readers. 
While the book was really helpful (I found myself referencing it quite a bit), I didn't want to rely on it as my only resource. (Some of the grades were questionable even after reading the explanations.) So, I also peeked at what parents were saying on, and
I first heard about from a friend who created a baby registry on the site. Their inventory tends to be a bit bigger than, say, Babies R Us (and some of their prices are lower, too!). They tend to carry more of the chic newer brands, and offer more models or accessories for major brands. 

As one might expect, sorting through consumer reviews can be exhausting and frustrating. Even the most popular strollers still feature a few 1-star reviews. No product is perfect! But going through the process of cross-referencing also gave me insight into the strollers I was most interested in. For instance, the Inglesina Zippy (priced at a high $399), my front-runner in the race of light-weight strollers, was too short for many of the tall consumers who bought it. That wasn't something mentioned on the store sites. Since my husband is 6'4", those repetitive comments automatically zipped the Zippy out of the race!

My husband's choice, the Baby Jogger City Mini is consistently ranked really high in customer satisfaction across all references. On the company's site, there's a page dedicated to all the celebrities who've chosen it for their own. Offered at about $240, it's a strong choice. The only rip was that the baby seat was too big for infants and didn't recline enough for bigger babes. Apparently, the 2011 model features a better seat...
The other stroller I really liked was one I got to test drive at my local baby boutique, Tot Tank. The Bumbleride Flyer ($399) was instantly appealing to the eye. It's sleek, features a button that instantly switches the direction of baby from forward-facing to rear-facing in seconds (without having to detach the seat), has an adjustable hand bar and other whistle-worthy perks. Unfortunately, when I tried folding it, the process was slightly more cumbersome than I liked (and it would take up at least half of my trunk). That alone knocked it down the ladder a bit. Still, the sweet design tugs and my heartstrings....
For no apparent reason at all, I decided to check out stroller frames. These are literally frames that you snap your car seat into. 
What I like about this option is that it's extremely light (it lacks all those bells and whistles that add weight to a traditional stroller), it's compact and (hopefully) folds easily. The rub is that most of the brands that make these require you to buy their car seats. 
What I found, however, was one in particular that got AMAZING reviews across all of my references and was CHEAP! The brand is Chicco (which I always thought was pronounced "cheek-o," but is actually pronounced "keek-o." 
The product is called the KeyFit Caddy, and it's a light-weight umbrella frame that features a large cargo bin and a one-hand fold and set up. It's a mere 11 lbs, making it the lightest option I've seen yet. Because the only seat is a car seat (a Chicco one at that), this stroller has a weight capacity of 30 lbs. 
Ideally, you want your stroller to last you at least to 50 lbs, but what's nice is that once baby grows out of the stroller frame, we can move on to another umbrella stroller.

So, I find myself in a familiar situation (once again). I think I've found "the one." Since I have roughly 5 months to go, I could easily see myself changing my mind 7-10 more times. However, I'm suddenly reminded of something I learned when crafting my wedding - there are always lots of ideas out there. Find what you like and stick with it. Don't stress yourself out!

We'll see....