Saturday, October 29, 2011

Worker vest a success

The construction worker vest is a success. Starboy is enjoying wearing it, but he doesn't seem to love it with his heart, as he does the gnome outfit. He really has a sense of pride when he is dressed as a gnome.

The hard hat is from Home Depot. We put it on the smallest setting then wrapped a bandanna around the headband to snug it up. There's an orange tee (LS) and a yellow tee (SS) to complete the outfit, but he went with the blimp tee for a playdate in the park.

Calm in the forest

Starboy Red Gnome enjoyed a break in the pretend forest after a lot of Halloween activity. He has really been excited to be a gnome this week.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Red Robin joins the Gnome friends

Red Robin plays prominently in the art class stories. She flies around over the Green Wood and brings the news to Miss Gnome and Red Gnome (whom I sometimes call Big Red). Starboy was very excited to see that Mommy was making a Red Robin just like at Miss Molly's.

I used this pattern from Lavender's Blue Design as a guideline. Wool felt (20%, that's all Joann has) is a delight to hold: warm and inviting. I cut on the sewing lines to make a slightly smaller bird. I sewed the wings on as flaps so they can be manipulated, and I added ribbons on the tail (Miss Molly's Red Robin has ribbons on her tail). Then I sewed on the right side of the fabric to give more of a folksy style, and to save the step of turning it inside out.

I stuffed her really tightly to keep her sturdy and keep her from getting mushy over time. Wool stuffing is ideal, but polyester is more cost-effective, so that's what I used.

Starboy immediately took her into his mudpie kitchen. With any luck she is a sous-chef and not joining some blackbirds in a pie.....

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Buzzkill at the park

The Halloween costumes were great, and the party was lovely, until ... one of our friends let us know that the car had been broken into—the window was smashed.

They got my big, leather mama purse, and half the baby monitor.

Half. They took the receiver and the cords, but not the base. And Starboy's headlamp was in the case with a bunch of extra batteries.

We left the party early so I could call the credit card company, the banks, and start making lists. Starboy got a can of soup for dinner, and late. Techman vacuumed glass for a long time, and I still see glittery specs.

Yes, yes, you never should leave your valuables in the car, but ironically since I knew there were going to be at least 40 people at the party, I thought it wasn't a good idea to dump my bag by a tree—surely it would be much safer locked up? I was distracted and rushed and actually left it on the front seat. Stupid, stupid.

I never carry cash—except for this week. We'd just gone to the bank, and I had collected more than $100 in camp fees for a trip that I hadn't taken out of my bag yet. (Again: I know, I know...) So the thieves scored.

And, I used to occasionally throw the contents of my wallet onto a photocopier, so I'd know what was missing if something ever happened....but we don't have a copier at home and I haven't thought to do it at Staples when Starboy is complaining that it's time to go home. So I'm piecing together what needs to be replaced. Gift cards? Maybe there was one in there. Hope not. Our address? Yup. On the car insurance card.

They used my credit card an hour later at Chuck E. Cheese and McDonald's. Seems a bit shortsighted for joyriding on someone else's dime, but at least I don't have to argue with Visa over a large purchase of electronics equipment from China, or something.

I feel like a complete ass. I know better than to leave a bag with my wallet in it, in plain sight, when I'm out of sight. I lost some of Starboy's favorite cars. I'm worried about my safety at home with my address in the hands of strangers, and I'm worried about protecting Starboy. There's glass mixed in with a bunch of his stuff, and his sippy, and there's glass all in the car door, and all that is going to kill any plan for a non-complicated Monday, for sure.

Our deductible is high, so we probably won't bother the insurance company. It's just a loss. Of hundreds of dollars' worth of stuff, a load of time, and all before Christmas. It's just stuff, to be sure. I am so grateful it was just a smash-and-grab by folks with fast-food tastes.

But it's unnerving. I didn't even want to go to sleep last night.

Happy Red Gnome

The Red Gnome costume could not be more perfect.

I found a beard template online at the annoyingly useful Disney Family Fun website. Starboy wore both the beard and the hat throughout the whole party, and it was hot out! (Whoo boy, that fuzzy giraffe costume would have been a NO-GO today.) The necklace is an acorn with a bell on it, from a Waldorf fair last year.

There weren't a lot of folks dressed up, except for the young kids, but they all appreciated the Gnome Family.

The party itself had mixed reviews in our family, but more on that at a later time.

Starboy seemed really happy to be a gnome. He wasn't too excited about Jack-o-lanterns, but I get that. He's game to give it a go again, at the rest of our 47 Halloween-related activities this week. This kid has a better social schedule than I had in college, sheesh.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

It may be a hit at the Halloween party

"Starboy, would you like Daddy to dress up as a Daddy Red Gnome? Would you like to see Daddy in a tall, pointy hat like Red Gnome?"


"I knew I shouldn't have gone to bed early last night."

Der gnomen-plotten


After checking that the giraffe costume fits...

then realizing it will be too bloody hot to wear to an afternoon party that, anyway, is at a playground with a sandbox....and cake...a week before Halloween....

I bust ass on a construction worker vest, which Starboy has been pining for since August.

It turned out beautifully.

I picked up a yellow t-shirt (short sleeved, an orange LS one if it gets cold, you never know) at Target, and I ordered vests from Amazon for Techman and myself, and picked up orange t-shirts for us, as well. The construction family. We'll take turns being Supervisor.

Tonight, while trying to calm Starboy to get him to sleep, I tell him about the Halloween party tomorrow. I say we can dress up.

"You could be a giraffe. Would you like to be a giraffe?"

Starboy nods. Really! Okay, that's cool. It's still an option, despite the hood.

"...Or a construction worker!" I expect him to get really excited.

But he has a funny, faraway look in his eye, the same look as when he wanted to wear the construction vest to Noah's Bagels last August. Like he's having an idea all. his. own.

"Or a gnome," he says quietly.

"A gnome? You would like to dress up as Miss Gnome? Or Red Gnome?"

Starboy nods. He looks a little shy about it. Like I'm going to tell him it's impossible, or a bad idea.

The gnomes are each other's friends, and are part of our weekly story at the art class. They have very pointy, tall hats. We do not own a very pointy, tall hat.

"Or you could be a construction worker!" I add, brightly.

"Or a gnome," Starboy says, dreamily. "Or Blue Duck. With a seashell." Another character in the story.

Great. Well a duck is completely out of the question.

After he has FINALLY fallen asleep, I pull the arm on the Google slot machine and I get: Cherries, cherries, CHERRIES!

I made three felt hats, one for each of us, with stuff I already had. They took just minutes. With a plaid shirt and lederhosen, I think it's an instant costume.

If there is time tomorrow, I hope to get some more ribbon to make the Mama hat more detailed, but since I promised to bake bread for the party and forgot to do it today, the chances of pulling that off are fairly low.

At this point, I don't know that I'll even show him the construction worker vest. Because if we can get Fritz's lederhosen for Techman, that right there is a day that provides pictures you couldn't buy for all the money in the world.

Stay tuned.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Big Butt Tractor Pants

I finally got a chance to try out Made By Rae's Big Butt Baby Pants. And not a moment too soon—the largest size is a 2T. Once you realize—after cutting it the wrong way first—that "cut two" means: "Make a left one and a right one," and Not: "cut two that are the same," the pattern goes really quickly. I made a second pair as Starboy was going to bed.

It's been quite the crafty week. Today I also was able to sneak in a little gift bag for Mary Jane's birthday. It matches some Super Girl Halloween stuff I whipped up this week—an iridescent cape and a slightly sorry matching skirt, but also a mask and a star badge left over from Halloween last year. I hope she actually wears the outfit to a Halloween event, but who knows if she'll even be into it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Harvest Sensory Bin a success

Starboy had spotted the new Harvest Sensory Bin a few days ago, and I made him wait until his pal Mary Jane came over to play last week. They enjoyed the bins—but there was wayyyyy too much stuff. Both of them just sat there for several minutes and stared at the bin when it first was presented to them—they had no idea where to start. The playing field was covered with crap harvest sensory overload. It wasn't until I cleared away half the stuff into a bowl on the side that they felt like they could interact with their bins.

Starboy immediately asked for a car to drive through the bin.

It was very cute, as they found things, they played this little game of Go Fish with each other.

Starboy: "I have a fall. Leaf. Irene have a fall leaf?"
Mary Jane (thrilled to discover leaf): "YEAH! You have pumpkin?"
Starboy: "I have a pumpkin!....Turkey?"
Mary Jane: "I have TURKEY!"

This went on for a few minutes. I needed to add an empty spice jar to each bin, because both kids wanted to "pour" and there wasn't much to pour with. They both liked the little rake, the silk leaves, and filling the wooden box with beans and puffs.

Mary Jane lost interest sooner than Starboy, but when her mom came to pick her up, she was impressed that Mary Jane had sat and played for so long! She played with some Pumpkin Spice Play-doh, and then they took turns eating it while I wasn't looking. Yech.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Now to find some temporary tattoos.....

Luckily I was able to find some matching bias tape. Starboy hasn't seen the finished product yet, but I think he's going to freak out. He is supposed to be a giraffe for Halloween, but if this warm weather keeps up, I'm not sure I can make him stick to that. Luckily we have several events to attend, so we can mix it up a bit.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


So after fruitless FRUITLESS searching on the web for a construction worker safety vest for Starboy I decide: You know what, it's time to give up searching and just make the dang thing.

It was hot here--it had cooled to 86 indoors by 6pm-- and I wasn't getting anything done and Joann is air conditioned. Starboy was game because he really wants this vest. He's been pining for it since he saw one at Auntie Troi's in August. So I go to Joann and get some orange fabric and miraculously find the LAST package of reflective tape that is PERFECT for what I need, along with a thing of bias tape for the edges. Of course, I get off-track and also pick up some fabric for some bubble pants for Starboy and then he wants tractor pants, so I get some fabric for that, too (P.S. Do you know of a free pattern for flannel pants/PJs?). The entire store is a monologue by Starboy explaining that he "does not want (whatever I've just shown him) any more. Starboy just wants car pants." He is referring to at least four different hideous children's fabrics we pass by, none of which I'm willing to consider. Especially since I've already said OK to the tractor fabric that he is caressing like his first love and it says JOHN DEERE all over it. (This is not an exaggeration. The brand name is part of the pattern, all over the fabric.)

So, anyway, I come home and make a pattern out of a grocery bag and try it on him. The first one isn't great, the second one is close enough, and then he pitches a fit when I take it back. I start cutting everything out and he's all into everything he is SO EXCITED about this vest. He's into the pins and decides to pin his shirt (by stabbing himself in the belly, natural consequences, ha). He wants to drive cars on the reflective tape. I finally convince him to go to sleep so I can get the thing finished.

It's all going swimmingly with Grandma's loaner Bernina workhorse, and as I'm pinning the bias tape, I'm thinking: Hmmm. This is going to be tight.

So I get to the armholes, and loosely measure, and am relieved that I have JUST enough.

I sew the first armhole (this is the second real mistake here), and then I go to pin the first armhole, and through some miracle of stretchy, circular mathematics that my feeble, journalism-major brain did not anticipate, I have exactly FOUR INCHES not-enough of bias tape. Maybe less.

You know, the bias tape that I conservatively bought only one package for, because I was trying not to overdo it so I wouldn't look like a conspicuous consumer, as always.

The first real mistake.

And then I think, A-HA! I might have some from another project! I rifle around my very small sewing stash box and immediately come up with TWO packs of orange bias tape. And the colors are close! And I rip it open, and—it's single fold, not double fold. It just, totally, will not work.

So I get to drive 30 minutes round-trip on four-buck-a-gallon gas for a single pack of bias tape tomorrow. Because the whole vest is finished except for that 10-minute tiny bit. And because I saved myself $1.40 plus tax by not buying "too much" in the first place.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Thing of Beauty — Pull-apart Pumpkin Spice Bread

Oh, dear, sweet, sublime loaf of comfort and all things that are good in heaven and on earth.

The photo on Sunny Side Up was Pavlovian enough to put the recipe in the queue. The half-can of pumpkin puree, left over from pumpkin pancakes with added spinach earlier this week, moved it up to number one. Forgive me, as I hopped to Sunny Side Up via a different blog, and now I can't remember which one to give credit to. She found the recipe at Willow Bird Baking, and adapted it (even though Willow Bird adapted it from three other places. And so on....and so on....). I think the Willow Bird post has a bit more detail in it.

Tweaks to the recipe:
• I sifted together 1 cup of white whole wheat flour and 1 1/2 cups white flour (no cake flour). The bread isn't maybe as light and springy as a result, but the tradeoff is adequate in my opinion.

• I tried the vanilla in the glaze (I don't think we have any rum), and it struck me that a bit of maple syrup in place of some of the sugar might be a nice holiday touch. Um, so would rum.

• I used a mixer with a dough hook, so kneading time is about 4 min.

• Lord help you, if you use the last of your milk in the recipe. You're going to need a tall cold glass of it to chase that sugary goodness.

Eggciting Snack

I am fascinated with Bento Boxes — insanely over-produced meals of beauty. I don't know what parent has time to create these every morning. But I feel like there still are some small things we can do to make fun lunches and snacks.

I picked up an egg shaper on Amazon, and we tried it for our snack this morning. Big hit!

Place peeled, boiled eggs in the molds while still hot.

Squeeze shut. I guess you need a small egg for it to completely fit in?

Soak the mold in cold water for 10 minutes.

Pop open and trim excess with a sharp knife.

(The camera wouldn't focus on the eggs! Sorry!)


Monday, October 10, 2011

Autumn Harvest Sensory Bin

After watching and thinking for a year, I finally pulled together a sensory bin for Starboy. He loves his rice box like crazy; it's just a plastic container with rice and a few cups and scoops. He runs his trucks and trains through it and can spend literally hours playing.

I have mixed feelings about the bins. When I first saw them on Counting Coconuts, they looked like incredible fun—but also overstimulating. And all of the plastic...crap! We've been trying to keep things natural for Starboy so he can appreciate natural, earthy materials before mainstream kindergarten hits him with an onslaught of made-in-China Disney Cars, Hot Wheels, and a bevy of multicolored stimulation. So I held off. Our rice bin is monochromatic, and the materials of the tools are wood, steel and glass for the most part.

But I still wanted to try—it just seemed so fun! I decided a perfect time was while my friend the Thumbstumbler* was moving, and needed a hand watching her little one, Mary Jane.* You know, one of those times when you just need your child to be safely engaged so you can get stuff done. And when everything comes 5-10 to a package, it's going to cost the same to make two bins as one [note: if you are starting these from scratch, and you don't homeschool with a use for the extra stuff, go in on the expense with 2-3 other mamas!]. The thought of buying all of this stuff (and storing it) every month has seemed a little overwhelming, so I chose a Harvest theme to cover both Halloween and Thanksgiving. It's a direct rip-off from Counting Coconuts. Well, the idea, anyway. I bought what I could find at Micheal's and the 99c Only Store; a few things are the same and a few aren't.

I realized after I opened everything up that maybe I'd over-bought; I think the bin could stand to have a few less items in it. Ah, well.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A decade of sheer talent with a side of raw luck

Tyler Hicks in Afghanistan this week • C. J. Chivers/The New York Times

Tyler Hicks has been photographing the war in Afghanistan for ten years now. Take some time to read this outstanding NYT appreciation of his person and his work that ran in the Times this week.

Techman and I just saw The Bang Bang Club, which ties in. (I'm late to the party on the book. Maybe I'll read it some day.) It's about a bunch of different professionals just like Hicks. Well. They aren't as lucky as Hicks.... Of the original four, there are two guys left—and Joao Silva stepped on a land mine in Libya in April and blew his legs off. (He continued to photograph from the ground.) The other, Greg Marinovich recently was on the PR rounds of the 10-year anniversary of the book and said after being shot four times and coming out mostly fine, he realized he was running out of E-tickets and should quit while he's ahead.

I thought it was a great movie about what photojournalists do to get us the news we merely glance at. (Don't ask me about the picture editor, seriously: a picture editor who doesn't understand why a photographer tells a story but is able to protect all of the shooters from Apartheid harassment? Seriously? I'd bet the book depicted her far more judiciously.)

Hicks is really well known; his dad is friends with a pal of my dad's, they are scared to death for him every day. I can't imagine. I was putting Starboy to bed last night, and as he was asking for "sides" and asking me to "hold him small," I couldn't imagine him, grown, choosing to dash in front of bullets every day like that, in a place where a single misstep can cost you your life or your quality of life or your livelihood. I am grateful for Hicks and Silva, and Dan Eldon, and Nachtwey and the rest for their reports; they are so important to how we understand our world.

But in some ways I hope that Starboy is not such a successful journalist when he grows up. I don't want him to live and work in peril, selfishly I can't bear the thought of his beautiful rich life snatched away and squandered by greedy thieves.