October 31, 2007

Jessie Cowgirl!

Jesse Cowgirl Costume (2)

Happy Halloween everyone! Today I experienced the total cuteness overload that is Halloween at Lara's daycare - a sea of tiny kids dressed in adorable-adorable tiny outfits, standing blank-faced and confused amidst a chaos of adults with cameras, adults with candy, adults with unyielding happy smiles, and adults in costumes. It was the best.

Lara's costume was tough. She doesn't really get Halloween as a concept yet, and is at the same time fairly adept at taking off her clothes - thus, she can't really be expected to suffer for the sake of a really great costume idea, nor can she be compelled to do so. So we needed to come up with something that would in general be "normal" clothing that wouldn't be too annoying to wear all day, but also should be a fun thing she could recognize. Thank goodness for Toy Story 2 - one of Lara's three favorite movies (Toy Story 1 & Monsters, Inc. - can you see the Pixar theme? These are the only things I can watch on endless repeat and not go crazy). So Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl it was!

Jesse Cowgirl (movie images)

Jesse Cowgirl Costume (1)

All handmade and handsewn from scratch except the white shirt base. The belt buckle is made out of a Photoshopped and printed out picture of a bull, cardboard, and Mod Podge. The buttons are fabric-covered cardboard circles. The hat - oh, the hat! - is made of two pieces of felt, some ribbon, and yarn.

Jesse Cowgirl Costume (3)

I might secretly be a milliner. I'll be honest, I'm pretty damn proud of that hat. Thank you so much, Lara, for actually wearing it!

Jesse Cowgirl Costume (4)

You're making me blush...

Thank you so much to Apartment Therapy: Nursery for blogging about the Little Kitchen! I love all of Apartment Therapy's blogs, and now it feels like they love a little piece of mine.

And also a huge thanks to Craft Magazine for their write-up! Incidentally, get a subscrition to their magazine - Misha got it for my birthday and I seriously can't put the first issue I got down. Yay!

October 30, 2007

Boxes for Sanity

Entryway Shelf Box Closeup

Do you have a little corner of your home that bugs you, but you kind of just live with it because of the daily routine you've fallen into? I have this as an ongoing problem with our entry. We come in, we dump stuff all over the place, and our tiny apartment never looks neat (well, ok, that, and the fact that we have a two-year old running around, but still...). But recently there a was a tiny perfect storm on the internet that made me rethink my "resigned ignoring" approach.

A little while ago, writing about her amazing transformation of her floor from dingy carpet to beautiful hardwood, Crazy Aunt Purl posted about the necessity to feel as though you are worth the effort that a dedication to your living space would require. She wrote movingly about her struggles to overcome the mental game of waiting for some indefinite but perfect future in which the small (and big) domestic problems would be fixed. A little later, Apartment Therapy: Green ran (it just finished) a really fantastic deal-with-your-living-space program called The Cure. While I'm not really ready to paint walls and pull up carpets, I did finally decide that I'm worth a couple of fabric-covered boxes.

With Gem Tac, recycled cardboard, and Freecycled fabric, everything is easy-peasy and takes no time at all - I'd say 15 minutes tops for each box. Don't be fooled by the indications listed on the Gem Tac label - I've been using it for fabric for a long time, and it rocks. Anyway, look at the difference!


Entryway Shelf before Boxes

And after:

Entryway Shelf after Boxes

Now I even have a space for a tiny seasonal display!

Oh, and that amazing etching is by an artist whose name I can't decipher - I bought it for Misha at Art for the Cash Poor last summer.

October 29, 2007

Little Kitchen Plans are on Etsy

Please visit my squeaky-clean, brand-spankin'-new, state-o-the-art Etsy shop to buy a set of plans to build the little kitchen. There is also a new link to it in the sidebar.

October 28, 2007

Little Kitchen Update

Thank you all so much for your lovely comments! They are making my day, every time I read them. I really am overwhelmed with the flattery. And thank you to the Parent Hacks blog for including the kitchen in last week's link list and to the Daddy Types blog for writing it up.

I am as we speak drawing up plans for the construction of this kitchen and will post when they will be available from my Etsy. Should be sometime in the next few days. It was really a thrill to give Lara such a addition to her playspace - I think it would be a fantastic thing to build for a holiday present.

Games Night & Love Soup

It's my party and I'll play board games with my friends if I want to! And I did. So we did.

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october 28 - 2

Fourteen people to eat delish snacks from Fairway, play Apples to Apples and then Wise and Otherwise is pretty much my idea of a perfect evening. I haven't laughed so hard in weeks.

Every time (um... or should I say both times?) that we've thrown a party, we have such a great time that we vow to do it more. Yet, we've been together for something like eleven years, and this? Is party number three. We should do it more often!

In the meantime, Lara was off in a sea of delighted and adoring relatives, starting off equally delighted, but ending stuffy-nosed, mildly feverish, and generally pretty grumpy.

october 28 - 3

When we got home I made some soup featuring these love carrots.

Love Carrots

Isn't that wild? I've never seen anything like it. I almost feel like I have to turn that picture sideways to control the visual double entendres. But the soup turned out yummy, and not at all torrid - one of my standard veggie "kitchen sink" soups (you know, everything but the kitchen sink). The simple recipe can include pretty much any vegetables you have sitting around; the only musts are potatoes, an onion, and carrots.

This time around I included:

1 onion
3 large carrots
3 small sweet peppers (1 purple, 1 orange, 1 white)
1 large zucchini
3 medium potatoes
2 leeks
1/2 head of cauliflower
1/2 head of purple cabbage (what is this called? it's not radiccio. oh, and any cabbage will work here)
1/2 cup barley grain

1. Dice, place in a large pot of lightly-salted water, and then boil the onion, carrots, peppers, and zucchini (this will function as your stock).
2. Add diced potatoes, barley, diced cauliflower, and chopped leeks.
3. Allow to boil 10-15 minutes, skimming foam off the top of the water. Taste and add salt if needed.
4. Add chopped cabbage.
5. Allow to boil for another 5-10 minutes, until cabbage leaves wilt. If you are using the purple cabbage, the soup will turn purple.
6. Voila! Serve and be happy. I add a dollop of sour cream, but Misha eats it plain.

October 26, 2007

Rainy Day Camera Art

How beautiful and saturated the colors are when everything is wet! Lara and I wandered out in the rain to celebrate her first rain boots and I played with colors and textures with the camera.

Love these scattered leaves.

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Fun surfaces here.

october 26 - 2

Self-portrait with porpy.

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Love how the rail matches her boots.

october 26 - 4

Fun Mentions

My recent projects are getting some love out there in internetland!

Adrienne of Baby Toolkit wrote sweetly about the cardboard kitchen.

The kitchen has also been blogged about by Parents magazine!

And it also got a mention at Geekdad.

Meanwhile, the "Close Your Clothes" book is one of the featured projects on Crafster (just look through the thumbnails under the "Featured Projects" heading on the homepage). It's also seeing ink (I guess pixels) on Craftpad.

Sweet! Thanks, everyone.

October 25, 2007

Toy Kitchen is Finished!

Toy Kitchen 1

Finally this very long project is complete. To recap: this little kitchen unit is built entirely from recycled (as in, salvaged from the dumpster) corrugated cardboard covered in contact paper. No glue, no nails, nothing but clever joining cuts make the kitchen entirely disassemblable so it can be packed flat for moving/storage. The structure is all my own design. (Can you tell I'm pretty proud of this?)

Updated to add: Please visit my squeaky-clean, brand-spankin'-new, state-o-the-art Etsy shop to buy a set of plans to build a toy kitchen of your very own! There is also a new link to it in the sidebar.

Toy Kitchen 2

The sink (a baking pan sunk into a hole cut out for it), complete with fully turning hot and cold water taps.

Toy Kitchen (sink)

Lara demonstrates the oven door, which is held in the upright position with a velcro tab.

Toy Kitchen (oven closed)

Toy Kitchen (oven open)

It's hard to explain completely how the pieces fit together (let's just say that all those hours of playing Tetris apparently didn't go to waste!), but you can get a sense of it from this picture of the disassembled cardboard before the contact paper was applied. The notched pieces slide onto and then hook through the slotted grooves:

Toy Kitchen - cardboard parts

October 24, 2007

Lara in Action

Pumpkin Farm

We went to Springdale Farm yesterday to pick some pumpkins with Lara's daycare class. She loved the "haywide" - particularly picking up wads of hay and throwing them all over herself and other kids. You know what's itchy when it gets all over you? Yeah, it's hay. Guess who was cranky when it got all into her clothes.

october 24 - 2

We also picked a pumpkin for daddy, who couldn't come. Lara refused to get down from the hay wagon, then when I finally coaxed her down, she grabbed the pumpkin closest to the wagon, and then demanded to go back into the hay and didn't come down again.

october 24 - 1

Also, I keep meaning to post these pants and shirt I made for the fall. I added sleeves to a tee that still fits her from the summer. The pants are the sleeves of a long-sleeved shirt Misha got from some drug company, with a tiny green pocket sewn on for cuteness. So simple to make, and so comfy and easy. I love them.

pants - dark blue with green pocken

October 22, 2007

Patchwork Whale

patchwork whale - johannawright

One of my birthday presents from Misha. I love it. I LOVE IT!!! It was painted by Etsy seller johannawright who has many a delightful thing in her shop.

The ladybug is an old metal toy. The plane is all that remains of Misha's childhood Gobots collection. It is actually Leader 1, the main good guy (the leader, if you will) of the Guardians. He transforms into a robot. Lara loves to play with him in plane form, pointing out the nose, where the pilot sits.

October 21, 2007

"Wheh'd it go?"

I'm amused that Lara learns so many new words every day and week, and my vocabulary has stagnated. I can't think of words besides 'amazing' and 'astounding' to describe her language development, and there are honestly too many examples of her cute wordings to post about them and do them any sort of justice.

However, she is also exploring the world in other ways, that are also fun to watch. As it has been getting darker later, we're often out during twilight and early evening. Today, walking back from the park, looking for the moon, Lara started asking "Wheh'd it go?" Last week, when her grandparents were here, it was cloudy, and the moon was behind the clouds. So she answered herself, "No moon, no moon, s'hind cowds!" But when we got to an intersection (and the buildings were lower, allowing the moon to peak out) Lara triumphantly shouted, "Deh's da moon! Da moooon!! White moon!"

As we kept walking, the moon vanished behind the tall buildings again. Lara asked, "wheh'd it go?" in a concerned voice. I answered, "It's behind the building." She then proceeded to repeat, nonstop, for the entire block, "wheh'd it go wheh'd it go wheh'd it go" (it takes us about 3 minutes, real time, per block - she literally asked, nonstop, about the moon, every block, for the entire walk... and it never stopped being cute).

Every intersection, when there was a break in the buildings, Lara would shout, "Deh's da moon! Da moon! Deh it is!" She literally wouldn't take her eyes of it, excitedly pointing and dodging her head around trees and other obstacles to keep her eyes on the moon. I think we have an amateur astronomer.

Since Anna is reading her "One fish, two fish," right now, I'll also add that Lara knows the vast majority of that book, adorably able to end every rhyme, even ones that would surprise you. (Though it's not my favorite page of the book, there one page with a part that goes 'I sing high, my Ying sings low,' which Anna and I always sing in high and low octaves - now Lara does too! It's so cute.)

What's another amusement.... hmm... She has a book about Olivia, who is a young lady pig. There's one picture in her book where Olivia stubbornly crosses her arms. Today in the elevator Lara crossed her arms and announced, "Coss ahms, ike Oyivia! Oyivia pig! Ohk-ohk - dat's what pig says!" Her sentences are the best.

I guess I need a photo... There's one incoming, since she asked me for "Oven mitt!" and ran around the house with our oven mitt coming all the way up her arm square to her shoulder. Check back later for the photo.

We love her!

Post-bath-time addendum: Lara was (as usual) sad during her bath; I tried to distract her by asking "Where's the moon?" and she immediately said "s'bahinda buiding!"

October 19, 2007

The Big 3-0...

...I turned it on Monday, but we're not going to party it up until next weekend, so I don't yet feel any older or wiser. Two thoughts about thirty. In high school, we had a thirty year old English teacher, a very young guy compared to the mostly middle-aged faculty, but I so distinctly remember feeling, "well he seems young, but he's thirty! that's so oooold!" Later, when I taught my first class in grad school I was 24 teaching a bunch of 18-19 year old freshmen, and we were totally buddies - I dressed like them, I talked like them. On the first day, they didn't realize I was the teacher. Five years is nothing! Now if I go back to teach to get my last year of funding I'll be closer to twice their age. :)

Anyway. Lots and lots of projects brewing around here but I never like to share until they are done. Get ready for many big reveals in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, I made some apple muffins with a few of the apples from Linvilla Orchards. They were delicious. I was totally in shock - I'm still at a place where I don't quite believe that things I mix together and heat will become the food they are meant to become. But, just like my favorite no-frills cookbook said, the dough became muffins and the muffins were devoured. Here they are just out of the oven:

Apple Muffins - with apples from Linvilla Orchards

Next batch I'll make with apples and craisins. Truth be told, I bought craisins to put into these but forgot them in the flurry of the kitchen with Lara around.

Speaking of, there has been much daddy-missing lately. Misha has been on call and on consults (call during the day) for the last three out of four weeks. Late days mean no daddy time, and it really shows. Today she cried when he tried to go in the shower, climbing up his torso like a little spider monkey and yelling "Stay he-ah! I yov oo!" The last few times I came to pick her up from school, Lara looked at the door behind me expectantly and then accusingly demanded, "Wheah Dada? Dada! Wheah Dada?" before sighing with resignation, "Dat's Mommy." Misha got to be around for a couple of hours on the weekend, so:

october 19 - 4

And, why, yes, that is the apron that she is wearing. Thank you for asking. I made those pants also, and should photograph them at some point. Here are some cute faces for you.

october 19 - 2

october 19 - 1

october 19 - 3

October 12, 2007

Red Running Hood

Fall has finally come in full force in the last two days - from 85 to 60 in the span of a day. Yesterday this was yet another pile on the day of disaster, wall-climbing, and crazy-mommy syndrome, the highlight of which was Lara rubbing shredded cheese into the couch cushions. "What are you doing!!?!" "Ah wipe!" Ugh. Today however, a different story. After a bit of a break from the momming and the wifing (ah, Borders tea and apple crisp, you're delightful with a fistful of X-Men comics...), we went for a walk in the park. How cute is Lara's jacket? A beautiful present from Tanya and Senya for her upcoming birthday. I even got her to wear the hood for a couple of seconds.

october 12 - 1

I'm kind of in love with this picture. I love that little smirk that you can just start to see on Lara's face.

october 12 - 2

October 9, 2007

Aprons Galore

So last week, at the parents' meeting at Lara's preschool, her teacher mentioned that the kiddos like to have aprons when playing with the cooking toys - and of course, hearing that, I decided to make some for them.

White and blue apron for preschool

This one is made from a piece of an old tablecloth (thanks, Amy!), the front of a totebag, and a long piece I nail-creased into bias tape. (I'm impatient with the ironing and lack one of those bias-makers.) And really, truth be told, lots of the "iron the crease" instructions get the nail treatment at my house.

Next is a half-apron with a double pocket. The blue fabric has ladybugs on it, and the white fabric has frogs.

Patchwork apron for preschool 1

Here is Lara modeling it in front of the mirror.

Patchwork apron for preschool 2

The last is from a bigger piece of the same tablecloth and another self-fashioned bias piece. I made this one first, and was all set to give it to the school, but Lara has fallen in love with it and refused to take it off all day... I think we're keeping it to go with that kitchen I'm building her!

Tan apron with flowers for Lara 1

Tan apron with flowers for Lara 2

October 7, 2007


A delightful Saturday at Linvilla Orchards. Lara's pony was named Sugar, and she has been talking to her for the last two days. "Goo'girl, Sugar. Bye-bye, Sugar." Also we went "appah-picking" and then finished off the morning with a "haywide". Somewhere in there we also learned that "Gobba gobba, tuhkey says it!"

October 5, 2007

What I've been building

Toy Kitchen - cardboard assembled

This is coming along nicely, hopefully in time for Lara's birthday in November. Here are the cardboard sections assembled (minus the back, for which I still have to scrounge up a large piece somewhere). The countertop measures 14x30, and is 20" high; the total thing is 38" high.

I had to fairly dramatically rethink the jointures which would have been too weak the way I originally designed them... not sure I can explain what I ended up doing without some kind of complex diagram. Now all that remains is to cover it in contact paper, and create the stovetop and sinktop in the two counter sections.

Here are all the pieces separately. Lots and lots of measuring, though I have to say that I've been pretty cavalierly only measuring once before cutting, not twice. So far, so good.

Toy Kitchen - cardboard parts

October 4, 2007

Portable Lunch

Lunch - sweet potato fries

I realize I never mentioned here that daycare is going swimmingly for Lara the Penguin. We are really thrilled - she doesn't cry at all at drop-off, instead saying "Bye-bye, Mommy!" and running off to play with "Miss Eya!" (Miss Ella, her teacher). She's really grown tremendously in the last three weeks, also - it's just incredible, but apparently it really is true that there is a huge skill and ability leap in little kids just from the experience of being around other kids. This might go double in Lara's case, since she is one of the youngest in the Penguin room (which has kids from 18-36 months, for a Montessori-inspired approach). I know now the trend is for parents to hold their children back so that they are the oldest in their class at school, but I'm of the old school that being younger is better. It just seems better to be the aspirer than the aspiree, I think.

In any case, three times a week I pack Lara some kind of finger-foodable lunch, which has so far tended to be pasta with cheese, or eggs, or some bean/chicken/cheese pieces. But it occurred to me today that she loves - LOVES - the sweet potato fries they have at Marathon Grill, which is basically the only restaurant we can go to any more with her general misbehavioriness. So I whipped up my own batch, probably way healthier than the deep-fried ones they serve. Mine are just coated with olive oil and a little salt and baked at 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes (it's an inexact science, just keep looking at them and poking them with a stick). She couldn't shove them in her mouth fast enough. I guess we have a winner!

Oh, and, how about those awesome gourds? Lara calls them "punkin gahds." They are so seasonally festive... I wish I had some better place to display them than her high chair!