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My 8-year-old needed her party to be out of this world



Dorothy was on an “I want to be an astronaut” kick this winter that lasted only slightly past her realization that astronauts need to study lots of math. But before it ended we read lots of cool books about planets and space, stalked the International Space Station, read a biography of Sally Ride, and had a fun solar system birthday party.

IMG_1200I made her a planet-printed skirt from fabric we found on We bought a set of inflatable planets online that served as teaching tool and party decoration in one. It also occupied a couple hours of my big kids’ time as they experimented with the pedal air pump. I took birthday portraits of Dorothy in her party clothes, mostly at her artistic direction. (Her enthusiasm for choreographing photos exceeds her zest for math, at least at this point.)


Nana supplied the fabulous cake, as usual.

planetsI hung the planets from the ceiling in our dining room. Sticking easy-peel hooks to the ceiling to hang the planets seemed like a great idea until I realized about halfway through that I’d not be able to raise my arms above my head again for days, because each surface has to be prepped with alcohol and then the hook has to be pressed firmly to the surface for a minute before it is set. Oh well, it’s like cheap CrossFit, right?

mini-moonsWe handed out mini Moon Pies to our guests.

cheeseAnd we used cookie cutters to make star and moon cheese shapes for our snacks. I had the cheese sliced extra thick to make better shapes, but seriously over-estimated the number of cheese shapes our (mostly adult) guests would eat. The week after the party involved cheesy chicken and broccoli, cheese enchiladas, cheese-stuffed chicken breasts, and lots of cheese sandwiches in my kitchen.

gameDorothy’s friends played a bean-toss planet game on our stairs. This game probably would have worked better outside on the driveway, but it was raining. All our little guests were winners; Dorothy made the prizes herself on her new sewing machine.


In which I admit that girl clothes are a little more fun…


Which is nice, because I’m going to be making more of them!

My 20-week ultrasound went beautifully well today. Baby seems perfect and healthy.

This is how I told the kids.

balloon-box pink-balloonsDorothy squealed like a crazy girl. Worth was like “balloons? You got us balloons? Are some of them mine, and do we get to play in the box?” He has his priorities.

Now I’m girl clothes shopping (I kept no clothes from Dorothy’s babyhood), yarn shopping, fabric shopping. Fun! I’m going to re-do all the fabrics on our little mini crib and the nursing pillow and all the little baby accoutrements, so now I’m let loose to find just the perfect ones. I’m kind of loving the Love & Joy fabrics by Dena Designs.  If you click on this one, then you can look below the fabric to see all its coordinates. I know I use aqua and red too much but I just love it. And birds are so trendy–they will look just as 2010 some day as sunflowers now look 1990s–but I still like them, and her little crib bedding doesn’t need to be stylish forever. Plus our bedroom has kind of a bird thing going, and she and her little crib will be in there. Fun, fun!

Grape jam


Kentucky seems to have received a (temporary?) reprieve from this summer’s blistering heat so everyone here is running around in the warm-but-not-sweltering sunshine trying to check outdoor activities off summer bucket lists before school resumes next week. My family is no exception. We made an outing to our local u-pick farm with my aunt last Friday. The weather was perfect. I’d envisioned picking strawberries, then blueberries, then…well, we finally got the right weather during grape season.

Most of the grapes were up too high for Worth so he was our official taste-tester and loader of the boxes. Dorothy picked until I was stung by a bee, then she mostly chose to point out good clusters and let my aunt risk her fingers for them. We picked a lot of grapes, and I admit that the quantity seemed much greater back in my kitchen than it had in the vineyard. Rob made fun of me and suggested that I’d never use them all…

…but I proved him wrong! After a grape-scented Saturday in the kitchen I ended up with eight quarts of jam (one batch is pictured here, cooling on one of my crochet-edged dishcloths), which we’ll probably have eaten by next Tuesday at the rate we go through jam, one grape pie, one gluten-free grape crisp to share with Nana, three big bags of washed and cookie-sheet frozen grapes for fall smoothies, and one rather modest container of leftover grapes just for snacking. I have no idea what type of grapes they are; they are delicious like concord grapes but are thin-skinned and seedless like their more bland and tart supermarket cousins. I used the old-fashioned recipe for jam, which basically just involves combining 2 parts grapes with 3 parts sugar and cooking the crap out of it (that’s a technical term) until it reaches the slightly mysterious gelling stage, at which point you pour it into clean jars. I usually make jam this way, without pectin, although it takes longer and uses more sugar. It just tastes jammier to me and feels more like channeling my foremothers, which seems like a legitimate goal of making jam in the age of Costco. Dorothy and Worth set up a lemonade stand out in front of our house under the guidance of their father while I made jam and raked in more than $20.00 in profits over the course of the gorgeous late-morning, which they spent on plush foxes at the zoo next day. So glad we’ve finally been able to crawl out from under the air conditioning for a few days!


My camper is sold!


I listed it on craigslist a few days ago, but because I’m, um, emotionally attached to the item it took me a few days to get the courage to own up to it on here. Don’t laugh–the next owner is going to love it too. And of course I’m not getting out of the vintage camper business, I just have my eye on a new one with an extra bed so my son can get booted to his own sleep space and will quit kicking me in the ribs all night. I think an extra two feet or so of camper will serve us well. So hurry up and share the link to mine, so I can sell it and buy the “new” one! Eek!

ETA: Camper is now sold and listing is no longer active. Thanks!

A camera bag


I have been looking for a camera bag. Standard-issue camera bags are both ugly and very expensive. There are some fantastic ones on Etsy, but those are beautiful and very expensive. I’d been considering making a camera bag but the construction of a sturdy enough bag to protect my camera in transit had me a little worried. Then yesterday I found this red vinyl case at a thrift store. It’s got the look of something that might have been a gift with makeup purchase twenty years ago but it’s in perfect condition. It is sturdy, with hard sides and strong handles, and it is just the perfect size for my little DSLR with the flash attached. It was kind of awesome in it’s own right, in a red lipstick kind of way, but wasn’t my style. I thought I could make it better if I had different colored old vinyl bags to cut up and make into flowers, but, well, I didn’t have any of those, and thrifting more bags just to cut up to decorate this one didn’t really fit my project schedule or budget so I improvised with what I had on hand–felt.

I used more of the felted wool blanket I’d used to make my Kindle case, plus other felt from my stash and some cool buttons to make flowers. I used hot glue to attach the pieces to each other and to the case. This project took less than a half an hour and I think I paid $2.50 for the case. Now this case is the kind of awesome that fits my style and I’m looking forward to using it for my camera. I’m also pretty sure that if I get tired of the decorations or want to change them that I can just peel off the glue.

I’m also going to share a review of a recent purchase from My Pix 2 Canvas. I’d purchased a Groupon (or was it Living Social?) deal for this company and finally took just the right photo to try out their services. I snapped this picture of the kids in front of my brother and sister-in-law’s barn last week and I really like it. Both kids look like themselves, the weathered barn siding looks cool, and the colors the kids are wearing just happen to work really well in my bedroom, which is where I’d envisioned hanging my bargain canvas. Uploading and ordering the canvas was easy and it arrived fast. The print quality seems very good, although I’m less than impressed with the way the extra canvas hangs off loose in the back. There is also no hook or wire to hang it with. I’m still very pleased, though, and I’d probably order from this company again. The actual image quality and color faithfulness just seems a lot better than those I’ve seen at, ahem, large warehouse club stores, for example. Their regular prices are a bit high but it appears that discount codes are easily available with a little Googling. I like the look of traditional, framed prints but this is an inexpensive nod to this current photo-display trend, so I’m sold.

Fall snacks and more pillows


When I did the bat pillows last month I also cut out pillowcases for my family room sofa. I wanted something that could stay out all fall, not just for Halloween. I vaguely remembered seeing something in a magazine that used a similar style for a felt leaf applique and I liked that idea, so I went with it. I didn’t want these pillows to match so I put an acorn on the other. These pillows have been nice projects because they are quick but make a nice impact. I used really inexpensive clearance fabric for the pillow cases, attached the felt cutouts with fabric glue, then stitched around them with embroidery floss. I printed out some internet clip art to look at while I cut out the shapes. The only problem with these was that in a couple places the fabric glue soaked through the felt and left dark splotches. If I did this again I’d use less glue and not handle the pillowcase at all until the glue was dry. After these were done I thought that if I was going to blog about it I should try to look up that magazine reference and I found it. I love the shiny fabric they used but that wouldn’t be so practical in a home full of peanut-buttery fingers.

This autumn has been so erratic with the temperatures. Right when I get settled into fires in the fireplace, homemade wool socks and hot spiced apple cider (with brandy after 6 pm!) it turns warm again and I need something refreshingly cool. One day I experimented by stirring some maple syrup into sparkling water and pouring it over ice and I was so happy. Yum. Since that day I have experimented with the syrup, cream and milk and determined that the perfect maple cream cooler is this: 1 TB real maple syrup + 1 TB whole milk + glass full of iced sparkling water. This is what warm autumn days are for.  🙂

And while I’m on fall snacks, it annoys me that the popular consciousness considers peeled apple slices dipped in sugar syrup (caramel, whatever) to be a “snack.” I hate to break it to anyone, but peeled fruit with a side of sugar is dessert. But the dipping of apple slices is kind of awesome, and I’m pleased to have landed on a new apple dip for the days when we’re tired of our usual almond or peanut butters. I stirred a dollop of honey and a pinch of pumpkin pie spice into plain yogurt and it’s very good. Fallish and creamy and reminiscent of pie. And much more virtuous than caramel! If you don’t have pumpkin (or apple) pie spice you can easily make your own. Here’s a recipe that turned up in a quick google search, or you can create your own based on your favorite fall spices. I use it in everything this time of year from pancakes to yogurt to sprinkling it on top of my coffee grounds before brewing. The local schools are on fall break today so my little homeschooler took the morning off as well. Our neighbor friend came over to play with Dorothy and I helped them have a crafty morning together. The girls decorated treasure boxes out of old yogurt containers that seem very much like some flower pots we made once before, and they sewed dolls inspired by the ones I saw in Martha Stewart Living this past month. They made theirs out of old white napkins because they didn’t like the idea of a doll made from printed fabric. They have big plans for sewing doll dresses next but have now taken an extended break to dig in the dirt out in this lovely fall sunshine.