Tuesday, November 5, 2019

creature report

For Halloween this year, Mae decided to dress as Captain Barnacles, a character from one of her favorite TV shows, Octonauts. Captain Barnacles is a polar bear who leads a team of animals to explore the oceans and help out various sea creatures. Since our Halloween weather tends to be quite chilly, I am always on board with costumes that involve sweatpants and hats!

Here's a pic of the Octonauts for reference.

Halloween was (literally) freezing and soooo windy, so I'm glad Mae got a chance to wear her costume the weekend before when we visited the zoo. We visited our favorite animals, including (of course) the polar bear!

I loved that the train was converted into the Hogwarts Express for the month of October. We traveled through the Forbidden Forest and saw many magical creatures!

Our little Captain Barnacles was right at home with the undersea exhibits!

We carved our pumpkin the night before Halloween. Mae was not a fan of the slimy "pumpkin boogers" inside but she did like helping me to design the face. I took a piece of white paper and drew three options each for the eyes, nose, and mouth. She chose the triangle eyes (classic), the pig nose (funny), and the scary mouth (a surprising twist).

Mae didn't want to wear her coat on Halloween (for obvious reasons), so we put on an extra layer of clothes underneath her costume. Dan took her out to Trick-or-Treat for about 20 minutes. Then we swapped roles and I took her out until she froze into a little icicle. At home, I wrapped her in a blanket and let her watch Octonauts while Dan and and I sipped hot cider and handed out candy. We handed out a little less than 150 pieces of candy, with slightly lower turnout than expected (likely due to the weather.) Just ignore our unlit pumpkin here... it was impossible to keep it lit with the wind.

We've enjoyed the Halloween haul, and Mae even shared her full-size Hershey bar with me. She was so excited about it that we had to take it with us on our mini-vacation last weekend. Mae also got in a little "trick" on us this week. We were discussing how many legs different types of animals have, and I asked about Professor Inkling (the Octopus from Octonauts).

Me: "How many legs does Professor Inkling have?"
Mae: "None."
Me: "None??"
Mae: "None. He has tentacles!"

Well... she's not wrong!

For the costume, I ordered the blue sweatpants and t-shirt from Primary. Their clothes are a bit pricey (I used a coupon code), but it's surprisingly hard to find a matching shirt and sweats in a color other than black or gray anywhere else! I also ordered the rubber boots from Amazon. (One of Mae's favorite Octonauts episodes features a Long Arm Squid, so it feels very appropriate that she refers to this blue t-shirt as a "long arm sleeve shirt.")

I made the hat, collar, and belt from white fleece and light blue felt purchased at Jo-Ann. The belt is just a doubled rectangle of felt, held in the back with two strips of sew-on velcro. Mae was very excited about the Octo-compass on her belt, which consisted of scraps of craft felt held together by a combination of sewing and fabric glue.

I made the collar by tracing the neckline of the t-shirt and sketching a collar shape. I cut two identical pieces from the light blue felt and stitched them together. They're held together in the back with a velcro strip. The chevrons are glued-on bits of craft felt.

The hat was the biggest challenge. I tried to freehand the fleece pattern, but couldn't get a good fit, so I used a free pattern from Fleece Fun and added little fleece ears into the side seam. Then, I free-handed the fleece captain hat, but my math/measuring skills were NOT WORKING. I made at least 4 hat brims before I found one that fit correctly on the fleece hat. To make the captain hat, I made two identical felt brims, sewed them together into tubes, sewed them together along the top edge, then turned them inside out, pressed, and topstitched the top edge. Then I made a slightly domed hat portion, cut it into a circle to fit inside the brim, and machined-sewed it to the inner brim piece only, about halfway down the brim. Then I topstitched the bottom edge of the brim closed. The stripes and Octonauts symbol are cut from felt and attached with craft glue. I put a bit of stuffing into the captain hat so it would hold its shape before I hand-stitched it to the fleece hat.

I've heard variations of this joke before, and I'm no exception: I refuse to spend $20 on a Halloween costume, but I'll spent $40 on materials and spend a month making it myself! Worth it.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

romantic roller coastering

Dan and I celebrated our 7th anniversary last month with a trip to the amusement park. Our discount day through work happened to fall right on our anniversary! My whole family came in for the day, and we all enjoyed a beautiful day of roller coasters and fun.

We alternated between grown-up rides and kiddie rides. The lines were short for most of the big coasters, so we got to ride everything we wanted without making Mae, Oliver, and Archie wait too long for their turns.

The kids lines were actually a lot longer, but Mae, Ollie, and Archie were pretty patient. They loved the bumper cars and little automated car track just like last year.

Mae has been learning about vitamins and protein and how important it is to eat meat and "betchables" during meal time. She loves to tell me, "My leg is growing! My foot is growing! Because I ate my broccoli!" I guess all those vegetables have paid off, because this year, Mae and Ollie were tall enough to ride some new things. They were a little hesitant on the tiny roller coaster, but loved the swings!

I have had tons fun at the amusement park before, but I don't think I've felt as much pure joy in one moment there as I did watching Mae and Oliver on the swing ride. Every kid on that ride was having the time of his life, and every parent standing by to watch had a huge smile on their face!

While the kids' absolutely loved the swings, I think the highlight of Christopher's day was finally getting to drive the antique cars. The ride was removed years ago, just before he was tall enough to drive them, and was only re-opened recently. I enjoyed the double layer of nostalgia: fondly remembering 20 years ago when we puttered around in these cars, which are, themselves, a throwback to 100+ years ago.

For days before our visit to the park, Mae talked about a "yellow ride that goes up and down." I thought she was referring to a little airplane ride that she did last year, but when we got to the park, she insisted on the kiddie version of the drop tower! She was so brave and excited, and by far the tiniest kid on the ride. Look at her cute little face in there! (Also, props to Dan for agreeing to take Mae on this ride. Heights really aren't his thing. Good job conquering your fears for the sake of our kid.)

Our daredevil also enjoyed being whipped around on this little buggy ride. She wanted to ride everything in sight... even the stuff she's too small for! It's very hard to explain to a self-declared "big kid" that there are many more levels of big to achieve.

The only ride that left Mae a little scared was the haunted house where you get to fire laser guns at the "bad guys." That turned out to be Oliver's favorite ride! Fortunately, she is NOT afraid of giant mascot characters and was very excited to meet Charlie Brown. We had just watched The Peanuts Movie, so when she saw him standing near one of the rides, she nearly leapt out of my arms to run to him.

We had a long, fun day and stayed until the park closed. We admired the colorful fountains as we headed for our car. Such a fun way to spend our anniversary... even if it wasn't particularly romantic! (By the way, the "traditional" anniversary gift for 7 years is wool. Maybe that's the true cause of the "seven year itch." Anyways, that's how I justified my recent purchases at the Kentucky Wool Festival.)

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

mommy and mae weekend

Over Labor Day weekend, Dan flew to Minnesota for his cousin's wedding while Mae and I stayed home for a "Mommy and Mae Weekend." We made a list of fun things to do while Daddy was traveling. Mae specifically requested a visit to the zoo to see the bird show. I suggested going out for ice cream. We also agreed on a trip to the library and an adventure walk on the nature trails at our nearby park.

We kicked off our long weekend on Friday with a breakfast of english muffins (jelly on the side), a visit to the post office, and lunch at McDonalds. We have recently (thankfully) discovered that Mae is a big fan of "hangubbers." At first she insisted they have "no stuck-on cheese," but is slowly learning to love cheeseburgers as well.

After lunch, we accomplished the most important item on our list: the bird show. We saw all our favorite birds, and we even got to see Sam the eagle up close after the show.

We finished up the zoo trip with a ride on the carousel (Note the selected animal. Good continuity... and patriotism).

Friday evening, Mae and I walked to the square for ice cream (gelato, if we're being specific). They'll let you sample a bunch of the options if you're having trouble selecting one, but Mae knew right away that she wanted birthday cake flavor, covered in rainbow sprinkles. I opted for a mix of tiramisu and chocolate. Yum!

We had a quieter Saturday morning with a leisurely breakfast followed by some sidewalk chalk time in our jammies. The early morning dog walkers are probably getting quite used to being greeted by a busy, chatty toddler and her disheveled mom watching from the stoop while sipping tea. Morning chalk is becoming a regular activity for us.

We visited the library late Saturday morning. We picked out some new books, and I tried to teach Mae how to use a mouse on the library computers. This child of the touch-screen generation has a ways to go. Should we consider getting a "family computer" so she can grow up with Reader Rabbit? Or will mouse technology be obsolete by the time she's old enough to need it?

On Sunday, we took advantage of the cool, clear weather and finished up our last checklist item: adventure walk. We followed the park trails for a while and then spent time splashing around in the creek. We tried to hike back up the creek to the trailhead, but were thwarted by a huge spiderweb (and its unpleasant-looking maker). Mae spent a long time throwing rocks and sticks into the water and climbing over the little waterfalls and rocks. She was thoroughly soaked by the time we headed for home.

Mae has definitely inherited my affinity for box-checking. While she was very excited for all our fun activites, I think she was equally excited to color in the associated square on our checklist afterwards. (I should definitely harness this energy with chore charts soon.)

Fortunately, Mae napped well all weekend, so I was able to FINALLY paint our downstairs hallway. In a rare bout of decisiveness, I put up only one paint swatch on the wall and immediately knew it was the right color. That was almost a year ago. I let the project lag while the bathroom renovation was on-going but finally ran out of excuses not to paint. It feels so good to have it done now!

We had a fun weekend, although we missed Dan. Mae talked a lot about weddings and Daddy all weekend. When she accidentally bit her tongue at dinner, the first words out of her mouth (besides "waaaahhhh") were "I want Daaaaddddddyyyyy." Life's just better with Dan around, but we're glad he had lots of fun at the wedding and at the Minnesota State Fair on Sunday!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

beach bums

Since summer is wrapping up and I'm seeing "back to school" stuff everywhere, I realized I should share pictures from our last trip of the summer!

On our drive out east to visit Dan's family, we split the drive into two days. We stayed overnight in central Pennsylvania and then spent a fun morning at Hershey's Chocolate World. We did the free tour (a fun little ride) to learn how chocolate is made, and then Mae and I demolished a gigantic s'more. We finished the drive to the beach in peace as Mae slumbered off her sugar coma.

We woke up Monday morning and headed straight for the beach. Mae dug into the sand toys immediately, but she took a bit to warm up to the crashing of the waves. Each day, she got a little more comfortable playing in the surf. By the end of the week, she was boogie boarding in the shallow water!

We filled our mornings at the beach digging holes and moats, building sand castles and sea witches, and collecting clams and sand crabs. Mae is entering the unicorn/princess/mermaid-obsessed phase, so she had lots of fun making mermaid tails in the sand with me. (When I asked what kind of swim suit she wanted for this summer, she said "a gray one." Her second choice was "unicorns." Lucky for me, 99% of girls swim suits have either unicorns or mermaids. Approximately 0% are gray. Win some, lose some.)

We spent the afternoons playing and napping back at the house. Mae especially enjoyed her naps in our "big kid" bed and being silly in the hammock with GranE and Batman.

We took turns cooking dinner and had lots of delicious meals. Mae appreciated the clams, though she wasn't interested in eating them... just using them as puppets. (I wonder where she got that idea.)

We only had one rainy morning, and we made the most of it with a trip to the nearby shark-themed playground (so cute). We returned to shark park after dinner (Taco Tuesday) which happened to be National Night Out. Mae got to see helicopters, police motorcycles, and other rescue vehicles up close. She also tried her hand at the dunk tank and was very proud when she succeeded!

Our little beach bum had so much fun. I don't think I've written a post before that had THIS MANY smiling photos of Mae. Clearly the beach is her happy place! While a beach vacation with a toddler is a lot less relaxing, it's a lot more entertaining!

Thanks for a great vacation!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

our new outdoor pets

Since Charlie died, Mae has been talking a lot about getting a new pet. I think this obsession can be explained as follows: 10% Mae trying to cope with the loss of a pet, 20% her fascination with pets in general, and 70% trying to understand the concept of allergies. It all stems from the first conversation we had when I told her that Charlie had died and was not coming home. When I said we wouldn't get a new bird right away, she asked if we could get a doggy. I responded, "No, dogs make me itchy." She asked if we could get a cat and I told her the same thing.

A few days later, she springs this bit of trickery on me:

Mae: Mom, do cats not make you itchy?
Me: Cats do make me itchy.
Mae: Mom, do dogs not make you itchy?
Me: Dogs do make me itchy.
Mae: Mom, do fish not make you itchy?
Me: No, fish do not make me itchy.
Mae: ... Can we get a fish?

We have had this same conversation DOZENS of times in the last couple months. Replace "cat/dog/fish" with every other animal you can think of. Goats? Turtles? Pigs? Giraffes?? Thank goodness I have allergies or we'd be shopping for a whole zoo's worth of animals. (For the record, if it has fur I assume I'm allergic to it.)

Resisting adding a new pet to the family has been slightly easier with this addition to our house.

I've had this hummingbird feeder (thanks, Mom & Dad!) for a while but couldn't figure out where to hang it up. I finally noticed an old bracket hanging outside the big window in our kitchen. I was able to reach the bracket from the extension ladder and hang a length of chain from it. With a cup hook attached to the end of a long dowel rod, I can hook and unhook the feeder from the chain to refill it. We have almost constant hummingbird visitors, and they go through a cup of sugar water in about 3 days! They are very territorial and I love watching them fence each other mid-air. En garde!

They are entertaining, low maintenance, and I don't have to clean up their poop. The perfect pet. Plus they don't make me itchy!

Here's the other addition to our house that's making me happy. New shutters! I ordered these black vinyl shutters from Home Depot, and Dad helped me install them when he visited a few weeks ago. It took us all morning, but it went pretty smoothly with two people and his hammer drill. Well worth it... they make me so happy. Thanks, Dad!

Here's the before photo. New shutters, storm door, door paint, handle set, light fixture. Just ignore those overgrown bushes... they're next on the list!

Friday, August 2, 2019

white is the new pink

After 14 weeks, our bathroom renovation is finally finished! I love how it turned out, and I'm thrilled to have our main bathroom back in order. While the pink tile was original and pretty, it was in rough shape with multiple large cracks and 80+ years of accumulated damage and grime from regular use. Other bathroom fixtures were not original and dated. Plus, the room layout needed some tweaks to improve the functionality of this small space. This is our only bathroom on the main floor and is located adjacent to our bedroom, so it is both our powder room for guests and our master bathroom.

As a reminder, here's the "before" photo. (It looks like it's in much better shape in this photo than in real life):

Our contractor started the first week of April by gutting the whole room, which meant chiseling 5" thick slabs of concrete and metal mesh out of the floor and walls. (Tile setters in the 1930s weren't messing around. They built bathrooms like bomb shelters. This is why we didn't even consider doing the demolition ourselves. I think one of the contractors cried the first day.) By the end of the first week, we could see the inside of our exterior brick walls, the underside of the upstairs bath tub, and straight through the floor into the garage. We had a bit of a delay with the plumbing, but most of that was finished up in April.

In early May, the new layout was more apparent as the framing, subfloor, and drywall were installed. We eliminated the small linen closet on the left and moved the vanity to that nook instead. This opened space on the right wall to add a door to the bedroom, so the bathroom is accessible from both the hallway and our bedroom. I had originally wanted to split the bathroom into a separate powder room and shower area, but space (and budget) constraints nixed that plan. Adding just the door was a good compromise. We also rotated the toilet so our knees don't hit the shower any more. Win!

The tiling work continued through the end of May. I picked out matte marble-look porcelain hex tiles for the floor (Home Depot) and white square tiles for the wall (Floor & Decor). The 4x4 wall tiles, chair rail, and baseboard are a nod to the original tile layout, but the wall tile is set in a "running bond" or brick pattern instead of the original "stacked" pattern. (I never knew I'd have such strong opinions on tile patterns.)

The detail work was finished up in June. Since this is our main floor bathroom, I wanted to have hidden storage for everything like toothbrushes, makeup, etc. I bought the mirror (actually a roomy medicine cabinet) from Signature Hardware along with the light fixture and towel ring. The vanity I originally purchased was on indefinite backorder, so I ordered a different one from Home Depot. We had an outlet installed in the back of the cabinet, so we even have a hidden charging space for an electric toothbrush!

We'd originally planned on a swinging glass door but instead opted for the sliding doors to save space. I love the frameless glass, and I find much enjoyment in squeegeeing them dry after a shower. *Squeeeeeeak* Mae is enjoying the new shower, since there's more space and a little shelf to keep a couple toys. The hand shower is super helpful for rinsing her hair and rinsing the shower walls clean.

Though everything went pretty smoothly with the construction, I was still absurdly stressed through the whole project. I frequently woke up in a panic over minor details (what if the floor tile looks bad with the wall tile??) and unlikely scenarios (what if the floor collapses and the bathroom falls into the basement??). My stress level is finally returning back to normal, where I wake up panicked about other non-bathroom-related disasters (what if the crab grass takes over the whole yard??). I don't think I'm ready for another major renovation any time soon. Though I'm dreaming about painting our kitchen cabinets... Thoughts??

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

me made may

This is a very belated re-cap of my first year participating in Me Made May, which is a month-long challenge around wearing handmade clothing. I committed to wearing all my handmade items at least once during the month. May is a good month for both warm- and cold-weather clothes, so I wore almost everything (except for a couple sweaters and knit accessories). I shared my progress on my Instagram stories, because Me Made May is quite popular among social-media savvy sewists (I have learned "sewists" is preferred to "sewers"... for obvious reasons).

I also finished a few sewing projects for Me Made May. First up is this striped shirt. I used the Bettine pattern (like my chevron dress), but I lengthened the top and shortened the sleeves. I also swapped out the neck facing for a neckband since I used a knit fabric. I wore this on our boat tour of Providence and blended right in with the gondoliers.

Next up, here's a Blackwood cardigan (pattern from Helen's Closet) made from the same green knit fabric as my Camas blouse. I also made the sleeveless top in a pattern of my own design (a slightly gathered scoop neck top with bias bound neckline and arm holes) with some rayon fabric from Jo-Ann.

Tired of that seeing that green fabric?? Too bad... I bought a lot of it. I also used it for the sleeves of this Hey June Lane Raglan. The lemon fabric is leftover from my Skater dress.

The first day I wore this shirt, Dan took one look at me and walked straight back upstairs to put on a different shirt. I made him take a photo of us twinning before I let him change.

I had fun working my way through my handmade wardrobe during May, but it didn't change my clothing habits much. I love wearing my me-mades all year!