Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Us in a Nutshell

We've had a week. Let me rephrase: we've had a week of swine flu, bronchitis and pneumonia. Today my kids were chanting "H1N1, otherwise know as swiiiiiiine flu, H1N1 otherwise known as swiiiiiine flu!" Poor Girlie got taken down by the bug. It actually wasn't as bad as regular flu, but she's had to stay home. We've all been climbing the walls. Haven't gone anywhere--except for KFC drive thru, when they had free chicken Monday night. Doc gave us the all clear today, though. She'll head back to the wild world of 1st grade on Friday, just in time for her Halloween party. In the words of Nurse Deb, "Take your time. This place is toxic. People are sliming all over each other here." The thing is, J is taking off for a week in the UK. I asked him, Wasn't it this time last year that the kids all got sick and you took off for a week in Hong Kong? We've GOT to kick this tradition!

My birthday was yesterday. J took the kids to the Dollar Store to pick out gifts. My birthday loot included a Dora jump rope, a photo mouse pad, and a pink calculator. And the cutest coat in the world that I picked out on a date a couple weeks ago (the date happened to include a stop at Nordstrom Rack) and thought that it was something that J would love to give me for my birthday. He also surprised me with an ice cream cake, and "made" dinner that looked and tasted just like the Fiesta Lime Chicken from Applebees. It was a lovely evening, spent in my favorite place with my favorite people in the world. J had a mission buddy that once told us he was marrying a "smokin' hot 21 year old." That made us laugh, and all the time I ask J if I'm still his smokin' hot (now) 32 year old. He says yes, always, but I think it's going to be really funny when I'm his smokin' hot 75 year old.

We're gearing up for Superhero Halloween 2009. I'll take Super Girl, Batman, and Baby Superman trick-or-treating to the 12 houses in our neighborhood. I'm trying to decide if I make them wear coats, or layer sweats underneath their costumes. A tiny part of me says I shouldn't take them out in the cold at all, but a bigger part scoffs I laugh in the face of swine flu.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Closet Full of Nothing to Wear

I got three shirts at Target last week. Only three, and at Target, of all places. A wild hair detour somewhere in between diapers and antibacterial wipes. Yet, I felt like a million bucks when I got the first compliment on the olive green, cable knit sweater.

Why is that? I wondered. My closet is busting at the seams. I stared at all the pretty fabrics, textures, all the varying lengths of sleeves and pants. Why is it that I feel I've got nothing to wear? Am I really reduced to being thrilled at a cream-colored cardigan on sale at Target? Then I figured it out.

I took a closer look at my clothes. It didn't take long to figure that I could categorize my clothes by size. Ever since the body-rollercoaster of kids "happened" to me, I have fluctuated a total of FIVE sizes in the last seven years of child bearing. This is how it breaks down.

I have the PRE-BABY SIZES. Mostly work clothes. Wardrobe classics. Trim dress pants, darling skirts. Things that I would use to dress for success. I coordinated lighting schemes, picked out the perfect rug, and explained the benefits of leather furniture in these clothes. They didn't get worn out, because there was no one spitting up or exploding their diaper on them. I wasn't crawling on the floor, and having sippy cups spilled on them. So I hung onto them. And I swore that someday, SOMEDAY I would fit them once again.

I have my POST BABY FAT CLOTHES. These are the ones tearfully purchased when I admitted defeat. When I sorrowfully conceeded, that I could no longer zip myself into the black pencil skirt with the beading at the bottom. When the extra 55 lbs (that's right, fifty-five) I gained with Baby #1 didn't all melt away, as I planned. This is the stash that I turn to when I realize that my baby is 2 months old and it's time to stop wearing my maternity jeans. A goodly number of these were purchased with a skinny friend, who, sensing my distress, comforted me (very sincerely) with the admission that she had some fat clothes that were (gasp) size 8. I no longer shop with her. But, I can't throw these away, because if I have another baby (if...), I'm going to need those fat clothes.

Then comes all the stuff in the middle. I have Skinny Day clothes, and Fat Day clothes. There are my very comfortable-but-unstylish Mom Day clothes and the Going Out with Girlfriends ones. There are the ones that are a little more forgiving--the type that are kinder to the parts of your body that won't (after 3 kids) ever be the same without the help of a good surgeon. Shirts that are huge now, but you know as soon as your milk comes in can barely contain busty you.

It comes down to this: Only a small percentage of my wardrobe is flattering at any given time. This revolving body of mine is the reason. The reason I have a closet full of nothing to wear. And the reason I rejoice in the three new shirts that fit me.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Milk and More

Sammy: Is milk made from water and white?

Me: No, where does milk come from?

Girlie: Milk comes from cows.

Sammy: So, cows drink milk?

Me: No, cows produce milk.

Girlie: Like mommies make milk too.

Me: That's right. Mommy cows make milk.

Girlie concludes: So mommies are cows.


Girlie: Oh, my ear hurts.

Sammy: Why?

Girlie: I don't know. I hope I don't have a middle ear infection. (She had one in Jan.)

Sammy: WHAT? A METAL ear infection??

Girlie: NO, a miT-Tle ear infection.

Sammy: Oh, that is not awesome.


Sammy: Mommy, everyone starts on earth as a baby, right?

Me: Yep, everyone starts as a baby.


Sammy: Except grandmas. Grandmas and mommies and daddies. Because someone has to feed the babies.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Going Batty

In the spirit of the spooky season, we made some bat hair clips! Who doesn't need flying rodents (I know, I know, they're actually mammals--it's just that "flying mammals" doesn't sound spooky enough) tangled up in their tresses? If you want some, too, there are two ways to get them.

#1-Make them

If you can't tell, this is sparkly black felt. Fold it in half and cut a bat shape, like so.

I used pinking shears to cut the bottom of the wings.

Cut a body out of regular black felt.

Stitch them together with white embroidery floss.

You can add eyes if you want. After all, no two bats are alike.

I covered the clip (I bought a whole box at a beauty supply store for just a few dollars) with ribbon, using hot glue.

Then I used hot glue to attach the bat to the clip.

And, #2 (perhaps even easier than #1)--Leave a comment and I'll pick some lucky people to receive their own batty clip! Just like you always wanted.
As you can see, I made more than we could ever use.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Halloweening at My Place

Okay, is this not the cutest "pumpkin tree" you've ever seen? I don't know what it really is--I'm guessing some variety of tomato, but isn't it darling? I found it with the cut flowers in my local grocery store.

Here's a Halloween countdown calendar that I made with my friend, Chelsea. It was inexpensive and fun, but extremely time consuming. It's a great project that you could start for next year! To start you out, I included a couple shots of some of my sketches for the pocket designs below. You could also use the designs to do a billion other crafty things. If you can't get the pictures big enough to be useful, let me know and I'll email you a scanned copy of them along with some detailed directions. A supply list is below.
We use the calendar, and each day I put a slip of paper in the appropriate pocket of a place to look for that day's Halloween activity or treat. The kids love it. You could also use the designs to make a single pocket or Halloween scene where you hide something every day.

Supplies you'll need to make a calendar:
Black canvas, 30"x37"
Felt--orange, white, black, green, purple, yellow, brown, sparkly black, tan.
White and black stiff felt with adhesive on the back (got mine at Michaels), 1 sheet each
Eyes--very small ones, 2 very big ones
Metallic stars
Orange ric rac, 11 feet
Black bias tape and white ribbon for hanging loops
4 medium purple buttons
1 big black button for spider body
Color coordinating thread and embroidery floss
Pinking shears

Friday, October 16, 2009

Who doesn't love spiders in their cupcakes?

We had some fun making spiderweb cupcakes this week. I tried to ignore the nagging feeling that perhaps I should lay off the baked goods, but it started raining here in Seattle. And there's nothing quite like chocolate cupcakes to make the rain feel cozy. We started by frosting them orange (you can use my favorite Cream Cheese Frosting recipe at the bottom of my cinnamon roll post).

Then we used black decorator gel to draw concentric circles, like so.

Then we used toothpicks to drag "spiderwebs" from the center dot to the outside edge.

And we finished with assorted-color arachnid rings. Yummy!

Monday, October 12, 2009

The apple, the tree, something about falling...

Do you know what I find really funny? The way that parents influence their young children. Not so much morally, socially, or educationally, but more, in a sense,...professionally. For instance, we have a friend who is an osteopathic surgeon. As we were hanging out, their 3 year old was hovering around the adult conversation. "Go play," they urged, "go get your human body puzzle." Another friend is an accountant. Their preschooler sets up play offices and computers for fun.

That's the same reason that my kids know words like 'armoire' and 'ottoman' and 'taupe' and 'window treatment.' Also the same reason that they don't blink when J asks them to please "Confirm that you've gone potty before we go." They also request 'progress payments' from him instead of 'treats'. And the reason I heard this conversation. The kids had set up a "book fair" in our living room.

Kids: Hi! We're having a book fair. Do you want to buy something?
J: You're having a book fair, huh? Okay, I'll buy a book. How much does this one cost?
Girlie: Nothing. You can have it for free.
Sammy (at the same time): Forty-five dollars.
J: What? How can you make any money if you are selling your books for free?
Kids: I don't know. Do you want a book?
J: I'm having a difficult time understanding your cost structure.
Kids: (silence)
J: Is this a Ponzi scheme?
Kids: A what? What is that?
J: I just don't understand how your business can be profitable if you are giving away your services and merchandise for free. Are you subsidized by the government?
Kids: Um, yes. We just have book fairs and you can have stuff for free.
J: So let me get this straight. You are subsidized by the government, so you have free book fairs--and you just sustain a loss with every transaction?
Kids (after I whispered in their ears): We're Socialists.

I'm just sayin', this isn't something you consider when you're picking your major.

PS: In case you're wondering what my husband does for a living, I'm not entirely sure. Sure, he has "Finance Manager" on his emails from Microsoft, but I'm not clear on what that actually means, except that he deals with very large budgets and can produce a pretty mean spreadsheet.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Robot Fun

We had ourselves a little robot fun today. I simplified an idea I found in Family Fun magazine. We washed out some cans of different sizes, and taped the edges for safety. Then with the kind help of the folks at Home Depot, I picked out some assorted bolts, nuts, washers, etc. I started to hot glue the pieces onto magnets that I got at Michaels, but then stopped when I realized there was a good chance that I'd want the magnets for something else someday. Fortunately for me, the robot construction worked just as well unglued. Family Fun suggested all kinds of other fun "attchments" for our little metal Mr. Potato Heads--curly wire, etc. I had to keep it simple, though.

The kids are having a creative blast! And for only a few dollars, too.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Jam Session

I've been asked a lot of jam questions lately. So, here are a couple thoughts on jam. I am certainly not an expert, but I happen to have an entire counter-ful of canned jam I made this summer, which I think prompts the questions.

Pectin Matters: I've found my jam turn out the very best when I use a "no sugar needed" pectin. That way, I can put way more fruit than sugar in it, and the flavor is amazing (it's actual flavor instead of just sweet). Those pectins don't need the sugar to set up, so you can sweeten it to taste. It just makes it more expensive, since fruit can be pricey.

Agave: I've been substituting agave for sugar in some jam recipes. And by substituting, I mean instead of 8 cups of sugar, I use maybe 2 cups agave. (Agave is at least 4 times sweeter than sugar). It's definitely a different texture. More liquidy--like a fruit spread. I LOVE it, and it produces a more flavorful, less sugary "jam". I think it's perfect for jam, ice cream, toppings, pancakes, etc. But, if you are craving good, old-fashioned jam (as J does), it may leave you wanting.

People have asked me for specific jam recipes. I don't really have a favorite ONE. It seems that each pectin is a little particular, so use the recipe that comes with your pectin. I just made a couple batches of blackberry jam (photo above) with Ball brand no sugar needed pectin, and it turned out wonderfully!!, I'm lucky enough to live in the Pacific Northwest, where blackberries are literally undesireable, uncontrollable weeds that grow all over the place and produce oodles and scads of delicious berries. I also used the Pomona's Universal Pectin (also a "low sugar" one) earlier this summer for cherry jam and it was terrific. So, those two definitely have my recommendation. I do still use sugar in these, just not nearly as much.

For spiced peach jam, which has been wildly popular, use the recipe that comes with the pectin, but add a 1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon, allspice, and cloves for each 3 lbs (4 c chopped) of peaches that you use. Am I making sense? So, if you're using a recipe that calls for 6 lbs of peaches (or 8 cups of chopped peaches) add 1 teaspoon each cinnamon, allspice, and cloves.

I've used both water bath canning for jam, and the "turn it upside down" method many times each--all successful.

If you are a jam beginner, I'd recommend starting with a water bath canner, a utensil set (jar lifter, lid magnet, etc), pint jars, brand new lids, and rings, and no sugar needed pectin. Then decide on a recipe (comes with the pectin) and go for it!! If you live near me, I'd be happy to help you. If you don't, ...well, maybe you should move closer, because I probably really miss you.

I've made a truckload lately and will be giving some as gifts. I'll post on how to decorate them quite adorably later.

Here is a favorite recipe for quick, yummy, and easy Peach Pineapple Freezer Jam.

3 c peeled, finely chopped peaches
3 c sugar
1 can crushed pineapple with juice
1 sm. pkg peach or apricot jello
Bring peaches, sugar and pineapple to boil. Cook, stirring for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add gelatin. Stir until dissolved and pour into jars or freezer containers. Freezes.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

More Fall Decor

I heart Halloween. I do. Not creepy, gory, scary Halloween, but cute, playful, pretend Halloween. This year is Superhero Year. My kids and I pick out our theme at least a year in advance. Girlie will be SuperGirl, Sammy Batman (surprise), and Little Buddy will be a tiny little Superman. If I had the body for it, I'd go all out and be Wonder Woman. But, alas, it is not to be. One friend suggested I could get a cape and put bandaids, hand sanitizer, coupons, a glue gun, etc, on the back. It's entirely appropriate. You know I think moms are totally heroes.

But, before I move onto Halloween-themed posts, I thought I'd post a few more fall decor ideas. These can be table centerpieces, top buffets, decorate serving tables, accent side tables, you get the idea. Knock yourself out. If you have any specific questions about these, just ask.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

More of the Darndest Things

Okay, I promise I'll try to catch up sometime soon. Heaven knows there's plenty that needs catching up, but for now, here are some choice tidbits of conversation from our recent past.

During our Family Van Evening yesterday (for those of you unfamiliar with Family Home Evening, it is a designated night--Monday--that we spend as a family having fun, teaching our kids, playing games, etc. We happened to be out and about, so we called it Family VAN Evening instead).

Daddy: Kids, tonight we're going to talk about gratitude. Do you know what gratitude is? What is gratitude?

Sam Sam: Is it like 'Ratatouille?' It sounds like 'Ratatouille.'

Daddy: No, not like 'Ratatouille'.

Girlie (shoots her hand up in the air): Oooo, I know!! It's like when you float up in the air if you don't have it!

Me: You mean gravity?

We were talking about the apostles Peter, James and John.

Sammy (having just seen Peter Pan) corrected us: Mommy, I think it's actually Peter, John and Michael.


Girlie and Sammy must have been having a conversation involving the definition of 'old.' I walked in as Girlie was explaining "You know, like when your skin is all dry and wrinkly, and you walk like this (she imitates a hunchback), and you have to use a walking stick (acts this out also)." Upon my arrival, she jabbed in my direction, "MOMMY. Like, Mommy is old, too." She appeared satisfied that Sammy now had a visual aid of the definition of "old".

Glad I could help.