October 31, 2023

So You Think You're Crafty

I'm biting my fingernails even more than usual, as I think I've gotten in over my head on something--a craft competition, called So You Think You're Crafty. Starting on Monday, I will be competing with 9 other brilliantly crafty ladies (this is the "in over my head" part, since these women are so wonderfully talented and I am just struggling here to get by!).
The way it works is the for the next few months (!), there will be a weekly challenge based around a theme, where each of us sends a project and it's posted anonymously on the So You Think You're Crafty blog. Then all of you lovely people vote on your favorite and the winner has her tutorial posted on the blog. I'm just hoping I get some nice responses, because I'm seriously shaking in my knitted booties. Yeah, I'm a certified art teacher, but I think that puts more pressure on myself to do well! Plus I'm a perfectionist and am my worst critic, so anything I submit will be flawed to me.

Here are the other 9 crafters:
Alish & Whitney @ Sisters Stuff
Ashley @ Little Blue Boo
Dana @ MADE
Jessica @ Happy Together
Jill @ Homemade by Jill
Lindsey @ Inspiring Creations
Vanessa @ V & CO.
Marilyn @ Krafty Mum
Mique @ 30 Days

I'm really excited though to be a part of this, especially that it will start a hot glue gun under my butt to get back into a weekly crafting routine. So head on over to So You Think You're Crafty and follow them via Google Friend connect, Twitter, and Facebook, and please vote for the best!

Happy Halloween!

It's been practically a blog-free week for me, since I've been battling a cold and have just felt lousy. I'm better today, but am trying to get caught up on stuff that I didn't accomplish this week.
I did finish my Halloween banner, just in time for the trick-or-treaters that came on Thursday night. It was easy to make, using felt, fusible webbing (too tired to sew), quilt binding and pinking shears.
Our town is weird. For some reason related to college students and supposedly out-of-control partying, they always schedule trick-or-treating for an odd night, like Thursday the 29th. I personally haven't seen any wild revelry, but apparently our town used to have a Halloween parade that got the kibosh when the students got out of hand.

Anyway, we had a good turnout for trick-or-treating, and I ran out of candy a little early. Is it just me or are kids greedier than usual? I had to tell quite a few to just take one or two, rather than handfuls.

We also made it to the library party this week, and had a fun time.
I just love the Keith Haring (he's from our town) inspired chairs our library has.

The children's librarian read a cute Halloween version of Goodnight Moon called Goodnight Goon, which was cute. We read Goodnight Moon before bed (I find it to be a depressing book, oddly) so SoJo liked the changed version.
Of course, he was more interested in the balls from the pumpkin bowling game.

Hope you and your little ghouls and monsters have a fun Halloween!

October 26, 2023

Let the Wild Rumpus Start!

To liberally quote Maurice Sendak, the wild rumpus that is Halloween week has begun!

Last night we went trick-or-treating at the university. The college students do a great job of putting on a Halloween party for the local kids. Before I get into the details of that, I must post pics of the Where the Wild Things Are costume that I made--specifically, Max's wolf suit.

This was the labor of love from this past week. I love how it turned out, and it was a big hit with the public, both kids and adults. And especially the college students, who like to reminisce about their youth.

For the convenience of diaper changes, I used velcro around the inside of the legs, rather than a zipper or buttons up the front of back. It worked out really well.
I took one of S's fleece sleepers and made a pattern from it, which I worked from.The white fleece I used worked well, both for sewing (not having to hem it) and for keeping him warm over some light clothes.

I was going to sew some claws on the cuffs of the arms and pants, but figured he'd either trip over them or just be fussing with them. Same goes for the whiskers on the hood. I did make a crown out of mat board and tooling foil, but he didn't want to keep it on. It's a keeper though for when he gets a little older (all kids need a crown, right?).

My favorite part of the costume is the trick-or-treat bag, with Moishe's head on it.
I made it from wool felt and fake fur (which was THE worst part of this project. Let me just say there are no hand-sewn gorilla suits in my future, ever!). The face is embroidered but the bag itself is machine-sewn.
I can see using the bag for storage in his bedroom once Halloween is over. I wondered if S would like it or be afraid of it, but he loves it. He likes to laugh at it and hug it.

I would like to have made a hood like this for the costume
but came across it too late (it's from Glitz Concepts on Etsy) and ended up tracing the hood of one of his jackets. Next time...
The students put on a fun party for the kids, including games (all of which ended in a candy prize), like toss the ball through the candy corn
and a cookie decorating stationand a pick-a-duck-for-a-prize game, which was my son's favorite because of the water feature.
He also liked the pumpkin bowling, but I think it was because of the college girls he was flirting with. He's still chewing on the cookie below.
Plinko was fun too.We stayed away from the pumpkin painting area, since white costume+tempera paint=disaster.
Each floor of the dorm was decorated in a non-scary theme, like Willy Wonka land
to Candyland
to 1950s sock hop. Another dorm was decorated with an underwater theme, complete with black lights and glow sticks. We didn't make it through all 5 floors of trick-or-treating, since it was getting close to SoJo's bedtime, but we did spend some time playing in the leaves.
He loves when I throw leaves on his head in the park. Sigh. I wish we had a tree in our yard, other than the overgrown holly bush.
A pleasant time was guaranteed for all, and thus starts the first day of Halloween week.
Stay tuned!

October 23, 2023

Friday Feast: Autumn Curry and Ginger Cayenne Iced Tea

The days of our farm-cooperative's veggie drop-offs are dwindling, so I'm relishing the last of our farm's harvest. For lunch yesterday, I used some of the sweet potatoes, carrots, onions and red kale to make a tasty curry.
I diced the onion, sweet potato and carrot, sauteed them in a bit of canola oil until the onion was browned. I added a can of vegetable broth, a tsp of curry powder, a few dashes of soy sauce, and 1/4 cup of apple cider. I cooked it until tender and then added the kale and until it turned bright green and softened up. Served over brown rice, this is a delicious dish reminiscent of fall.
I also made some of my favorite iced tea, a Ginger/Cayenne blend. I first tried this at the Union Square Farmer's Market in NYC, where someone was selling it from a 5 gallon drink cooler. I love the kick it left in my mouth, so I've recreated it myself at home. It's surprisingly good.

I boil a quart of water, add 4 ginger tea bags (or a few pieces of dried or raw ginger) and make a tea. After the tea has steeped for 10-15 minutes, I remove the bags and sprinkle in a dash of cayenne, or more if I'm daring. Ice it in the fridge, and drink.

My friend Nicole over at Momtrends is hosting her usual Friday Food hookup, so head on over to share your epicurean posts or find some other culinary inspiration.

October 21, 2023

Wordful Wednesday: Halloween Preview

This is motherhood. Staying up late, working during nap times on something other than dishes or blog posts or reading and knitting for pleasure.

Sewing a costume (mostly by hand) for a little boy who won't remember this, other than through photographs.
Spreading out felt and fleece on the kitchen table, since said little boy has taken up residence in my former craft room. Cleaning up felt and fleece and thread in order to serve nutritious lunch to little boy and his parents. Pulling out the fleece and felt yet again when little boy goes to bed, sewing toward the witching hour.
Years ago, I would have spent time making my own costume, but this Halloween I'll be scuffing around in jeans I've had on all week, holding the treat bucket, ringing doorbells, probably holding the boy too when he gets shy at the neighbors' doors. What makes a mother do such un-sensible things for her child? The easy answer would be love, but I think it's something more.

Yesterday I sat SoJo on my lap on the big-kid swings in the park. We glided along, in and out of the warm sun, and he put his head on my chest, snuggling in. I said to him--as I was taking in the smell of his hair, that unique smell that is only your child--"you will always be trying to get back to this time in your life, always." It's true. I think about my childhood all the time, particularly in Autumn, when I remember all of those cool afternoons running through the leaves in our backyard. And Halloweens of years past.
So why the costume, why the long hours? I guess it's because I want him to have something good to come back to, to long for in his mind. Something imaginative and magical, even if it's more of a feeling than a solid memory. And of course, it ties me back to my memories of being little too. That's the best part of motherhood, reliving childhood.

So what do you think of Max's Wolf Suit (from the book Where the Wild Things Are, if you don't know) so far? More to come as I finish it.

For more Wordful Wednesday, including some on the theme of Motherhood (the prompt this week is inspired by the new movie Motherhood coming out this Friday) visit...

October 19, 2023

Bring on the Fever

Back in August, SoJo had a terrible fever when we were at the beach. It was awful. He was so hot, and after rushing him to a 24 hour clinic, he was diagnosed with an ear infection. It would have been nice to have had an accurate, easy-to-use thermometer to have monitored his fever, particularly in its early stages. It would have allowed us to start him on a schedule of Tylenol or ibuprofen before the fever got too high.

Thanks to Parent Reviewers Network, we had the chance to try out the Exergen Temporal Scanner, an easy-to-use, non-invasive thermometer that takes a reading by moving the device across a person's forehead and temple.
The Exergen scanner is designed to measure the temperature of the skin surface over the temporal artery, a major artery of the head.

Thankfully, we were able to test it during a non-crisis situation, rather than during a stressful, feverish episode. The thermometer is extremely easy to use, even on a wiggly toddler who was very interested in the device and wanted to hold it rather than let me use it. It takes literally a few seconds to use, and you don't have to sit there waiting for an accurate reading while your child keeps a traditional thermometer under his tongue or arm.

To take a temperature, one simply presses and holds the single button on the Exergen Temporal Scanner, then lightly runs it across the center of the forehead to the temple.
Obviously one needs to make sure the hair is out of the way, but since I was trying to hold the thermometer and the camera, I couldn't move the hair too. You can also take a reading behind the ear, if the person is perspiring on the forehead from the fever.

When you've scanned the patient, release the button and the reading will show on the LED screen for 30 seconds. To do it again, just press the button. So simple, especially when you have an irritable, feverish child on you hands. I'm glad we have this thermometer ready and waiting for the next fever.

Thanks again to Parent Reviewers Network, who provided me with a sample of the Exergen Temporal Scanner to review.

October 18, 2023

Soap, Salts and Cupcakes

My brother's fiancee's bridal shower was yesterday, and I had spent the week making favors for the spa-themed shower. I loved how they turned out, and I think the guests all enjoyed them too.
Those are bath salts to the left, and soap to the right. Lots of cutting and pasting, but so worth it. It kept me busy as I was minding the boy.

It was such a lovely shower, with scrumptious food, made by the bride's mother, and yummy cupcakes made by a friend of the bride.
That's the famous cupcake tower, borrowed from my mother-in-law. It has 5 tiers, and we used the bottom ones for cookies and pizzelles to dip into my mom's chocolate fountain that I messed up.
I stupidly added a little milk instead of oil to the chocolate (it was too thick), and I clogged it. It looked awful, as you can see in the photo above, but the chocolate still tasted good and the heating element kept it warm. Lesson learned.

The soap and bath salts are really easy to make, and I've made them for other showers and for Christmas gifts. You need to buy a block of glycerin at the craft store (tip, get one of the 40% off coupons from AC Moore or Michaels to save some money). You'll also need a microwavable bowl or measuring cup, dyes (also available in the craft store), essential oil for fragrance, soap molds and bags.
Because I've made these many times over, the molds have definitely gotten their money's worth. You could use a PVC pipe capped on one end to make circular soaps. You pour it in, let it harden, then push it out and slice.

Here's the block of glycerin, out of the plastic container.
Cut some slices off of it
then cut into chunks.
Put them in the microwavable bowl or measuring cup (easier to pour)
and heat anywhere from 4-7 minutes, depending on your microwave. The glycerin will melt into a liquid when ready.Add the dye, just a drop or two at a time. I added 4 drops of purple and one drop of green to get a light, muted lavender color. Add the essential oils too, usually 2 drops per ounce.

Then pour into the molds. I added a lavender flower from my garden into each soap while the glycerin was still liquid.
Let it harden (I stick mine in the freezer to expedite the process), then pop them out of the molds.I stuck them into candy bags (also at craft stores) and printed a label for them that I folded in half and stapled over the folded bag. For a bridal shower, I write We celebrated {bride's name} before her "I Do", Now here's a little "shower" gift especially for you!.
For a baby shower, it's We showered {mama's name} in pink and blue, Now here's a little "shower" gift for you! Corny, but cute.

The bath salts are much easier. You just mix one box of Epsom salts with an 8 oz. box of baking soda. Add about 15 drops of lavender essential oil (or another of your choosing) and mix.
I added a pinch of herbs de Provence, which have lavender in them. I couldn't find my bag of dried lavender blossoms, so this had to do. It's more for color and interest. But don't add too much, or it annoys people in the bathtub.
I had lots of leftover baby food jars that I had saved, which made perfect free containers for the salt.
I fancied up the jars with scrapbook paper, cutting circles to cover the tops and strips to go around the middle. I stuck a label on to hold the strips in place. I also referred to the mix as bath salt/foot soak, in case some people weren't into baths. You could easily put this mix in a small tub and soak your tired feet in it.I think they look lovely, especially by candlelight!
Here they are at the party, alongside the homemade shampoo that the bride's sister's friend made. So that's it. Hope this has inspired you to try a little soapmaking.
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