The new GiftyWeddings.com

Most of you know that I (this is Ben posting for a change) run a little wedding gift registry website called GiftyWeddings.com. It’s been going for almost eight years now, helping several couples every month create nice simple gift registries that aren’t tied to a particular store.

The design of the site was never exactly stellar (being designed by yours truly), but with bigger computer screens (and smaller phones!) it had started to look pretty dated:

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I do like old-school, but … it was definitely time for an update.

So I’ve spent the last couple of months of bus commutes rebuilding the site: a new design, new implementation, new server, and new payment system. Here’s what it looks like now:

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Complete with a fun photo of my wife going down a flying fox (zip-line) in her wedding dress.

So I’m a bit biased, but I think it’s an improvement. And the user interface is also significantly nicer, and works well on mobile phones — great for when your guests are out shopping for your wedding gift and want to cross an item off using their phone.

So if you know someone who’s getting married, please help our small, family-owned side business and point them to GiftyWeddings.com. :-)

If you’re of a nerdy bent and want to know what tools I used to build the new site, this list is for you:

I have good things to say about all those tools. React was new for me and a good experience. Stripe Checkout is an amazingly simple service to set up — highly recommended.

Please contact me if you have any feedback about the new site!

Changing things around

You’ll probably have noticed that I’ve been playing around with new blog designs. And you’ll probably also be relieved to know that I’m done now, and that this is what the site will look like for the foreseeable future! Is anyone having any trouble viewing things? If so, let me know in the comments.

Speaking of comments… we love getting them! It makes us feel in touch with you, our readers. It’s probably the closest thing I’ll get to sitting down and chatting over a cup of tea with most of you for a very long time.

In other ‘changing things around’ news… we’ve bought a house! We’ll be moving soon, and because of that there might be a little lull in posts for a few weeks. Promise I’ll post photos when I get the chance!

Thanksgiving

Here in the States, people celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday. We’re actually celebrating it today, so that it could work out for Jeremy and Lillian to be here with us.

So, for that reason, and because there’s cooking to be done, I’ll keep this short and leave you with the lyrics of a hymn whose tune I dislike, but that has powerful words. Today, as we sit around our feast table laden with glorious food, we will count our blessings, name them, and give thanks for what God has done.

Count Your Blessings

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Refrain:

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings—wealth can never buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Summer fun

The summer is coming to an end, and we are back in the full swing of homeschooling. We took a nice long summer break. I had great intentions of schooling through the summer, but somehow as it warmed up outside we all just lost steam. And so I changed my mind, and I’m glad I did. Our summer filled up with so many fun things and people that to have tried to do homeschooling through all that would have been very stressful.

We had a bunch of overnight guests, we had many, many playdates with old friends and new friends, we spent lots of time at the playground and the sprinklers and we even did an Art in the Park lesson and had a trip to the zoo.

The kids did a “Piano Camp” for a week where they spent the morning learning about composers, did ear training and other such fun music-y stuff and each got a piano lesson too. There was a little recital at the end of the week and all the kids did so well. I’m always amazed at what Shannon (their teacher) gets out of them! Though, I must say I was glad that Piano Camp was only for a week, because it meant driving an hour to Brooklyn and an hour home.

On hot days, the kids had free access to the craft box, and they created lots of fun things. They also really got into drawing, and especially Esther spent hours upon hours just drawing the most inventive things. Many puzzles also got built, and I got a puzzle bug too and did a 1000 piece puzzle, which got started with a bit of help from Aunt Sharon when she and Uncle Sherwood (and Esther and Jonathan!) were visiting a few weekends ago.

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The library also got frequent visits as Marica continues to motor through books at an alarming rate. She joined the library’s summer reading club and got some little prizes and a certificate for the thousands (literally!) of pages she read over the summer.

We also went fruit picking and camping, but I’ll share those photos in seperate posts. It’s nice to now have started the new school year and the activities they’ll take part in: piano lessons, homeschool co-op, and Girl Scouts. Routine is good!

A bonus Laurelin feature

This post is specially for grandparents, aunties and other such doting people who would be interested in these videos of our little Lorax.

Marica loves to play rough and tumble with Laurelin, but she’s very careful not to be too rough. Laurelin loves Marica!

One afternoon we had a special afternoon tea of chocolate milk and s’mores. Hilarity ensued.

And, saving the best for last: Laurelin is now officially a toddler, preferring walking over crawling. Please pass me the tissues!

 

A general update. About time too

Three weeks ago, Laurelin turned one. I started writing a post the week before her birthday and got about two paragraphs in. Life is a bit like that at the moment — some people have hinted or asked directly if we will post regularly again. The answer is that I’d love to, but I’m not quite there yet. It’s hard to believe it’s been a month since our last post! In the mean time, please put up with my sporadic posts!

Life is good. It is full (sometimes too full) and settling into some sort of routine with homeschooling, housekeeping, cooking (etc, etc!) and keeping the baby from killing herself. I’m not kidding — that kid is on a mission to put an end to herself: if she’s not playing in the toilet (in various states of flushed), she’s digging in the rubbish bin, playing with food scraps, or unpacking the dishwasher and playing with the super sharp victorinox knives. The fact that she still has all her digits and eyes is nothing short of a miracle.

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Laurelin’s been here.

 

Marica has been devouring books at an alarming rate. I’m glad we’ve joined the library. I’m just afraid the library might run out of books for her to read in a few months, ha! She reads any spare moment she’s got. Novels, the encyclopedia, the dictionary, all sorts. And she has some uncomfortable-looking reading poses!

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Esther has just started reading, putting sounds together and able to read 2 and 3 letter words. For the rest she loves just quietly sitting and ‘reading’ books. She’s so good at entertaining herself and has a wonderful imagination.

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Laurelin is a hoot. She’s funny, demanding, and has 3 mothers. Not to mention she is a very messy eater!

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As a result, baths happen frequently and are a much loved activity for all 3 girls!

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Homeschooling is very full-on and takes a very large chunk of the day. (I am making some adjustments to find the right balance between work and play for the kids!) Some days it is very rewarding and fun, other days we all want to cry and crawl into a dark corner somewhere. :-) So, I needed to recruit some help! I finally realized that I am not superwoman, and I don’t have to be, so I hired a cleaning lady. I got to that point after not cleaning my house in over 3 weeks and realizing that I didn’t see it happening in the following 3 weeks either. She is fantastic. She comes on a Friday and leaves this place sparkling. Marica was exclaiming how the taps and sinks were now shiny after Mrs. Sylvia has been here. I just smile sheepishly and swallow my pride!

We’ve moved in!

Just a quick note to let you all know that we’ve moved into our new apartment where we hope to be for the next year (or more) in Jersey City Heights. We moved in on Monday and it’s been a bit of a shambles around here that is slowly turning into order. We don’t have much in the way of furniture until our container from New Zealand arrives, but on Friday our new living room set was delivered. How wonderful it felt to sit on soft chairs again! We had Ben’s cousin Hannah staying with us Wednesday and Thursday nights for a lovely quick visit, and I think she appreciated sitting on our new couches for about an hour too and having a break from sitting on the floor!

Now we eagerly wait for our container to arrive — it’s ETA in the country is on the 7th of this month, but then it could be 1-4 weeks until we get it depending on how long it is in quarantine and whether or not it has to go through some sort of customs exam. I really hope for sooner rather than later!

The apartment is a really great size. We have two floors, ground level and a first storey. Downstairs is the laundry, a bathroom and one big open room that I’m planning on turning into a playroom/schoolroom/guestroom. Upstairs are the bedrooms, two more bathrooms (who needs 3 bathrooms?!) and the living area. We also get a parking space, which is wonderful. Unfortunately there is no yard to speak of, but there is a really nice big park about 10 minutes walk away where Ben has taken the kids this morning.

It’s been nice to get out a bit more with the weather warming up a teensy bit. We’re looking forward to being able to go out again without multiple layers!