Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"A Long, Long Time Ago..."

This phrase, said in a low, whispery, spooky voice, is repeated all day long lately at our house.  The new favorite past-time is making up stories (a girl following in her momma's footsteps, apparently), and it's a family affair.  I snuggle up with Reed on my lap, and Lilah and Grady climb onto the couch too.  Lilah usually begins, with her oft-repeated intro, and then passes the torch to me when she gets stuck.  Grady contributes too - mostly with dramatic facial expressions, and occasionally repeating a word his sister or I say during the story.  Reed just giggles at his siblings, trying to grab at their hair (or their snacks, as the case might be.  The boy has barely started eating oatmeal and sweet potatoes, but a bag of Pirate Booty looks awfully appealing to him).

Most of the stories follow the same plot line, usually with Lilah and Grady as the key players, and are anything but scary in the end.  Here is, as close as I can remember it, a transcript of one of our impromptu "ghost stories" from today:

Lilah: A long, long time ago, on a dark and stormy night, some little children decided to go trick-or-treating.  They dressed in their costumes and went outside.

Me: What were their costumes?

Lilah: The little boy, who was named Grady, was a cowboy.  And the little girl, Lilah, was a princess.

Me: Ooooh, good costumes.  Then what happened.

Lilah: They walked down the street with their trick-or-treat bags and got lots of candy.  But then!  Momma, you tell it.

Me: But then, they saw a house they hadn't visited yet.  It was at the end of a long, crooked driveway.  It was very dark and spooky.

Lilah: It was a haunted house!

Me: Yes, it was a haunted house.  They climbed up the steps to the porch and knock, knock, knocked on the door.  No one answered.  So they rang the doorbell, ding-dong!  And no one answered.  But the big door creaked open.  Then what happened, Lilah?

Lilah: They saw a big, big, tall stairs that they had to climb.  And at the top - oh no!  There were great, glowing eyes shining.  They didn't know what they were.  So they climbed the creaky stairs. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12.  There were twelve stairs.  And when they got to the top, they turned on a light.

Me: Oh no!  What was there!  A scary ghost?

Lilah: No, Momma, it wasn't a scary ghost.  It was just a little, teeny, tiny black cat.

Grady: Meow!

Lilah:  It didn't know where its mommy and daddy were, so Lilah and Grady decided to take it home and help it find its mommy and daddy.  And they lived happily ever after.

Me: That was a great story.

Lilah: It was.  Can we tell it again?

The best part is Lilah's dramatic storytelling voice.  I seriously have to hold in giggles the whole time we are telling the story.  She's always a drama llama, and it really comes out when we are telling stories or playing imaginary games.  I really wish I had a video camera, I would love to record these moments to show them when they are surly teenagers who don't want to talk to me anymore.

This proves, once again, that it really is the simple things that provide the most entertainment.  Whether it's a cardboard box, a paper towel roll, or just an active imagination, you can truly create magic with little ones with minimal effort and basically no cost.  Try it today, and I would love to hear your collaborative stories with your children!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pinterest Project Friday: Double Feature (sort of)

I've been a bad, bad blogger my friends, and I am sorry.  Between being sick twice in one week, three sick kiddos, a wedding reception, and some general craziness happening in our household, I just haven't had the time or the inclination to sit down and write a post.  But now I'm (fingers crossed) healthy again, the kids are tucked in bed, it's raining outside, and I am about to have a little treat and a cup of tea.  I missed Pinterest Project Friday last week, so I'm going to make up for it now, although this project kind of went off in a different direction than originally planned.

I told you all I was working on something for one of the boys' rooms, and my original inspiration was this pin of a DIY trellis lampshade.  It was done on a drum shade, and used grosgrain ribbon for the trellis design.  My lampshade for Reed's table lamp is a barrel shade (I think?), and I ended up not liking the color ribbon that I had to use for the project, so I put it off until I could take a trip to Michael's and pick out new ribbon.  That trip never happened, but I came up with a different idea for the shade, and then went even a step further to create a totally new DIY project.  I'm not quite finished with it yet, so I'll do the step-by-step tutorial sometime next week, but here's a peek at where I'm at so far:

Isn't it cute?  I'm pretty proud of myself, as I drew that elephant freehand, and I am no artist.  You can tell that it's an elephant, right?!

So, my second Pinterest project for the week is another super simple one, as long as you can find the right supplies!  I would have done this one ages ago, but I had a hard time tracking down a stepstool, believe it or not.  I checked Michael's, JoAnn's, TJMaxx, and Target: no dice.  Finally, on my third trip to Target of the week, I found the perfect little white stepstool.  It's something I have been in desperate need of, both because I wanted to do this project and because I'm short and always have to hoist myself onto the counters to get things from the top shelf in my cabinets.  Here's a link to the original tutorial, at Prudent Baby.

Since I wanted my stepstool for the kitchen, I looked through my scrapbook paper collection to find one that would work with my new paint color (which is Behr Toasted Nutmeg, by the way, and I am in LOVE with it).  I found a pretty printed one with the right color tones, plus some nice words about being thankful on it.  Here is my finished product:

I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, although I will admit that it is quite off-centered due to me having a six-month-old strapped to my chest in the Moby wrap while I was Mod Podging.  Reed was quite intent on grabbing the paintbrush in my hand, so my paper went a little crooked.  I kind of like that, though, because now every time I look at it, I'll remember my little goober trying to grab at the glue.  This was a very quick and easy project, and very useful too.  I'm going to scout for more stepstools everywhere I go, as I think this would make a great Christmas gift!

Ciao, my dears, I'm off to drink tea and read my book!  Pinkie promise I'll post more regularly next week.  At least I hope so!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Day in Photos

Today, since I've been up since 4:30 a.m., I'm being lazy and just giving you some good stuff to look at.  We took a little half-day trip to Connors Farm last week, mainly to get pumpkins, but also because they have tons of stuff for little ones to do.  It was loads of fun, we had perfect weather, and came home with gorgeous pumpkins (mine is white!), yummy cider, and a carrot that Lilah took a bite out of at the farm stand so we had to buy it.  We will definitely go back there again!

Daddy and Grady on the jumping pillow.  Lilah was a wimp and didn't like it.

The spiderweb was more her style.

This is just quintessential 'boy' right here.  I had to keep corralling him away from mud puddles.

The girl means business in the duck races.

In amazement that he's allowed to play with something so cool.

Can't leave this guy out!  He was loving the fresh air, but not so much the sun in his eyes.

"Whatchoo lookin' at?"

The one pic of me from the day.  Taken by Lilah.

Taken while we waited for Daddy and Grady, who were on the hayride.  Sister was too chicken for that, too.

Pumpkin tether ball!  She would have played with this all day if we'd let her.

I wish I had all of these in my house.  I think I have a pumpkin addiction.

The hayride.  It went probably 2 mph, and Lilah was scared of it.

So there you have it!  Hopefully I will get a little more sleep tonight.  Check back tomorrow for Pinterest Project Friday!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Pinterest Project Friday: Ballerina Tutu Painting

We've been slowly redecorating Lilah's big girl room with her chosen theme of ballerinas/fairies for awhile now, and now I'm just working on finishing touches such as lamps and artwork.  I knew I wanted to hang something on the wall that she helped to make, but that also fit with her theme.  That's why I was so excited to pin this idea from the Meet the Dubiens blog (which I love - especially Fun Food Fridays!).  It incorporates the ballerina theme perfectly, as well as one of our current favorite art projects: painting with our hands.

Here is a link to the original project in case you want the step-by-step tutorial.  I was lucky enough to find canvas 40% off at Michael's, and I wish I had picked up more, because I have lots of ideas to do some projects with canvas.  Fingers crossed that they are on sale when I go there again tomorrow!  I had some pretty pink and green card stock left over from making Lilah's birthday banner, and we mixed up our own custom pink paint with our Crayola stash.  Lilah decided she wanted glitter on her painting, so we sprinkled a little in our pink paint.  The only thing I wish that I had done was to paint the whole canvas a shade of light pink before doing the ballerina tutu, just because I have a second project coming up that we used a second canvas for, and we painted that one a pale pink all over.

Here is our finished project:

I'll post more pictures when we hang it up, along with the other canvas project we did.  I'm already excited about next week's Pinterest project - it's something for one of the boy's rooms!  Happy Friday, and happy pinning!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Meet Mr. Squirrel and Friends

Gluing on the super-fab tail I made.

Introducing...Mr. Squirrel
Sometimes I plan out projects ahead of time, and get my materials ready the night before or during nap time, so that everything is ready to go when the kids feel like doing something artsy at the table.  More often than not, though, I fly by the seat of my pants and throw us into an activity or craft with no prior planning.  This means that we do a lot of easy projects, like tracing hands with markers or making a magazine cut-out collage.  But the other day, Lilah said she wanted to make puppets, so I figured it was fairly easy to throw together at the last minute.  I dug in my craft supplies and found some teeny tiny paper bags, the good old Elmer's glue, and some felt scraps.  I asked Lilah what she wanted to make, and she decided on a squirrel first.  A squirrel, really?!  I had no idea how to make a squirrel, but usually I can put something together that sort of resembles what the kids ask me for, so I went for it.  (I mean, Lilah thinks my stick figures of our family are beautiful, so what do I really have to lose, right?)  I cut out some circle shapes from white felt, and smaller ones from black felt for the eyes, some ear-shaped pieces from brown felt, and a red tongue.  Then I of course had to make a squirrel tail.  Eeep.  Not so pretty.  Lilah thought he was cute though, and christened him Mr. Squirrel.  She's nothing if not creative.

We then proceeded to make a bear and a bat, Bubba and Batty, respectively.  Meanwhile, Mr.Grady was bop-bop-bopping away on his construction paper with the Bingo daubers.  He likes to do projects too, but puppet-making was a bit beyond his attention span.  Give him something to bang on the table with, though, and the boy is happy, especially if he can make a mess with it and attempt to eat it.

Once Grady saw Lilah playing with her puppets, he decided that he needed one too, so Lilah made him a dinosaur.  He makes a guest appearance in Lilah's creative story, but he didn't actually last thirty seconds once Grady got his hands on him.  I found an eye stuck to the couch and I'm pretty sure his tail ended up in  my laundry.

Since Lilah is very into making up stories lately, she said she wanted to tell me a story about her puppet friends and I would have to write it down.  So here it is, unabridged and completely in her words:

"Once upon a time there was a squirrel.  his name was Mr. Squirrel.  He had a friend Batty the Bat and a bear named Bubba.  They went on an adventure.  And one day, a dinosaur saw them.  He gobbled them up.  So they cut out his leg and climbed out.  Then he was their friend too.  We'll call him Mr.Dinosaur.  They all go to the zoo.  He didn't really gobble them up because he was just a teeny-tiny baby one.  That was their imagination.  They decided to go on a picnic and swimming too.  They ate bread or something, and some cake after their lunch.  They lived happily ever after."

I'm keeping the story to put in her scrapbook, but sadly, the puppets are no longer with us.  The Elmer's glue was just not strong enough to hold them all together, so if I did this project again, I'd probably use fabric glue or break out my glue gun if possible. (Meaning, if Grady is asleep.)  It was really fun to make them and to play with them after, though, and it kept the two of them entertained for over an hour, so it was a very successful impromptu project.

Stay tuned for further adventures of Mr.Squirrel, Bubba, and Batty!  Well, maybe not...

Batty the Bat.  He was my favorite.
"Please!" - I made the mistake of giving him a sheet of stickers, prompting him to beg me for one every .5 seconds.
Yes, that's a dinosaur.  Really.
He got tired of eating Bingo dauber, so we broke out the Cheerios.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Introducing: Pinterest Project Friday

I have mentioned Pinterest a couple times recently, and if you haven't checked it out yet, you must.  Like, right now.  Actually, maybe you shouldn't.  It is extremely addicting, and I do not want to be held responsible for your obsession.

I love the way Pinterest works - you can do a search for just about anything, from "cute boys bedding" to "Halloween DIY", and tons of images come up related to your search.  You can then click on the image to take you directly to the original link where it's from.  If it's something you're interested in keeping for future reference, you can create boards to "pin" things to (for example, I have a Crafts board and a Wish List board.) So instead of using up space on your hard drive, you just login to your Pinterest account and access your boards.  Simple!  You can also "follow" people on Pinterest, whether it's your personal friend or a blogger who happens to have great taste. ;)

For the past couple of weeks, I had been toying with the idea of a regular feature here on the blog, but I was stumped.  Then I realized that I have all of these DIYs and crafts I have pinned, some that I have tried, but many that I have not yet.  So I decided that each week I'll pick something from one of my Pinterest boards to share here on the blog.  If you'd like to follow me and my boards, click here.

This week's Pinterest project was so easy, I almost feel like I cheated, but it's really cute and very useful.  I made a custom dry erase board from a picture frame and a piece of pretty fabric.  It took me less than five minutes and cost me about $6.  You can't go wrong!  The process is pretty intuitive (find a pretty frame you like, choose a fabric that works with your decor, and cut to fit.  Voila!), but here is a link to the original tutorial if you want to check it out.
Oh, and today is my dog's birthday, in case you were wondering.  Cosmo is four years old today!

I hope you enjoy Pinterest Project Friday, and I would love to see your creations if you decide to make them too.  Happy pinning!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Among all of my many cookbooks is a small collection of books that is very special and dear to my heart.  You see, from the time I was an infant right on up through high school, my mom's side of the family threw a huge Fourth of July shindig every year.  That in and of itself probably doesn't sound that spectacular; many families throw huge Fourth of July parties.  But these parties weren't merely day-long picnics with a culminating display of fireworks at night.  They were three, sometimes four days of camping out on my great-aunt and great-uncle's lawn, whether it was in a camper or a tent.  If you didn't have either one, well, there was always a free bed nearby, since my grandparents, uncle, some second cousins, and my (now departed) great-grandparents all lived within a stone's throw of each other.  I mean that literally.

Anyway, each year there was a theme for the annual party - some of the most memorable for me were Halloween in July, Down on the Farm, and Native American Pow Wow.  We incorporated the theme into everything for the weekend: the parade, the kids' and adults' games, the decorations, the food, and the talent show.  Oh, yes, there was a talent show, and we have them all recorded on VHS (and I know for a fact that my sister digs them out from time to time just to watch them.)  These videos capture the essence of our family circle, which is wide and encompasses relatives with such ties as "third cousin twice removed", as well as anyone we just happen to love enough to adopt into the family.  It's truly amazing to watch these tapes, not only for the funny and embarrassing moments, but because there are many family members captured on film who are no longer with us.  My great-grandparents, my great-aunt and great-uncle, my mom's cousin (who was like an aunt to me), and even a dear friend of mine from high school, they are all there on the TV screen, full of life and enjoying our crazy family traditions.

Okay, back to the cookbooks.  Among all of these traditions, we also put out a yearly cookbook that tied into the theme of the weekend.  At some point a few months before we all pulled up in our campers, my mom's cousin, or "Aunt Cindy", would ask everyone to submit recipes for the cookbook.  It didn't matter if it wasn't gourmet, or new, or even very complicated (I'm pretty sure a recipe for toast is included somewhere).  Everyone was encouraged to participate, and the more creative you got, the better.  In the "Down on the Farm" cook book (1991), for example, there are recipes for Rhubarb Cobbler, something called "The Fruity Farmer", and my very own recipe for "Elysha's Chocolate Meadow Muffins".  And in "The Magic Book of Potions" (Halloween in July, 1995), the creativity reached new heights, with Graveyard Mystery Cake, Ghoulish Malted Milk Cookies, and "Witches Brewski".  These books not only include dozens of great (and some not-so-great) recipes, but drawings that us children did pertaining to that year's theme, as well as little nuggets of information about family members and traditions.  Most of the books were created before computers were in every household, and are photocopied pages of type-written recipes (and some hand-written), that are stapled together with a single sheet of colored photocopier paper as the cover. I love them.

Now that I've dug them out, there are tons of recipes I want to try.  A legendary family recipe is one that my great-grandpa used to make, called "Burn Your Guts Out".  I think I'm going to put it on my weekly menu list for next week, and if all goes well, I'll take some photos and post it on the blog very soon.  It's a perfect cold-weather dinner, similar to chili, but...well, different.

I'm happy to say that my second-cousin (or is it second-cousin once removed?  I have no idea.) now lives on the land that my great-aunt and great-uncle used to live on (his grandparents), and he has revived the tradition.  We had a good old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration this year at his place, and he built a brand new stage just for the talent show.  The food was great, the weather was perfect, and memories were made and reminisced over.  It's a tradition I had been missing, and I am so thrilled that my children will get to experience it just like I did.  Now I might have to get to work re-creating the cookbook...