Monday, November 29, 2010

Mom Cave: Phase One...Ooooga Boooga!

I finished cleaning and placing the furniture (most of it anyway) in my Mom Cave yesterday. It took all weekend but it was totally worth it. Attaching the shelves to the wall was a challenge...I have a particular talent for drilling into parts of the wall where the stud nails are - Grrrrr. Despite this, the brackets were attached by Saturday evening. I was determined to have the foundation of my cave done by the end of the weekend and it is. Yay!

I couldn't use the long piece of shelving that my friend gave me. This made me very sad because it was FREE and it was LONG and sturdy...okay, mostly I am bummed because it was free. For some reason, I could not let the changing table go, despite the fact that if I had, we would have had room for the FREE shelving. It's weird being that emotionally attached to a piece of furniture. I mean, really, it's only a few pieces of wood and screws, and the drawer doesn't work properly. However, it has been with us through all of our homes, it has never allowed either of my children to fall, has kept all of the diapering needs in one place for me, and even has space underneath to keep clothes. And the reason it has a problem drawer is because of me. Anyway, I opted to keep it. It's a nice piece of furniture anyway. I gave up the shelf and bought smaller ones.

I was able to get 2 shelves with brackets, plus 2 more shelves and cinder blocks - all for less than $100. My husband commented that I still have vertical space, so I took this as permission to get more shelves and cinder blocks for MORE shelf space. I plan on hanging pictures on the walls and knitting more decorations.

My only concern is that my son will want his room back...Where will I move my cave then?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Birthday Ice Cream Conecakes

My daughter turned nine years old today. I made her French Toast for her birthday breakfast and we took her out to The Old Spaghetti Factory (where her little brother called the Spumoni "Mustachioed Ice Cream - HA!) for her birthday dinner. I had wanted to bake a cake for her, but I thought it would be fun to make Ice Cream Conecakes instead. Her friend Jesse came over to help decorate them.

I found these instructions on how to bake the cupcake cones properly. The problem I often have with cupcake instructions is "fill to 2/3 full". What the heck does 2/3 full mean???

This is what the cones looked like the first time I filled them. Is this what 2/3 full looks like?

Not unless this is your idea of Ice Cream ConeCakes...

So I filled them up the lip. Is this what 2/3 full looks like? \
Most definitely!


My first Thanksgiving Challenge

I made my very first Thanksgiving meal yesterday. My husband was supposed to take the kids to his brother's house for the occasion, but my husband is feeling under the weather. He decided on Tuesday that he wasn't up to the almost 3 hour drive. I took is as a domestic challenge to hold Thanksgiving here and make it a semi-feast. I went shopping that evening and bought a small turkey (10 pounds - woohoo!), cranberry sauce, stuffing, potatoes, gravy. I scoured the internet for Thanksgiving meal tips. What I feared the most was cooking the turkey. Pages and pages talked about thawing out a turkey and how it takes about one day per 5 pounds of turkey to thaw it out in the fridge. Holy cow, that meant that I needed 2 full days to thaw out even my itty bitty turkey. I hoped for the best, but I searched for other ways to thaw out and cook the official bird of the holidays (which, at times, I wonder about. How are we so sure the pilgrims used a pheasant or some other bird for their feast. I mean, do we REALLY know??)

I found a very useful website that explained how to cook a frozen turkey. This is what saved my first Thanksgiving meal:
Cooking Turkey from a Frozen State.

Midway through the cooking time, I pulled out the giblets and neck and stuffed the cavity with fresh poultry herbs and garlic. The house smelled wonderful. After only about 4 hours, the thermometer told me that the meat was fully cooked, but not overcooked. The herbs gave the finished turkey a very pleasant and subtle flavor. The meat was moist, especially the breast portion, the skin was nice and crispy (I didn't share, but I took advantage of Cook's Privilege). My daughter mentioned how tasty it was. She even asked for seconds. My son announced that he didn't like turkey, but he is three and is notorious for only eating carbs, so he made up for not eating turkey by eating his share of the potatoes and stuffing. My husband, even with his cold, said how tasty it was.

I am happy to say that I met with my first holiday/meal challenge well-armed and I have succeeded.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mini Pottery

My daughter loves little things. Her latest creations were inspired by Native Americans, as we are learning about this culture in our Social Science lessons. The pottery piece she made a few days ago fell apart, much to her disappointment. This afternoon, I decided to buy some clay that would hopefully allow her to make more permanent pieces. Here are pictures of what she made:

I took another picture of them next to a spoon for size reference. Look how tiny!

We bought 10 colors and I couldn't help but make a few pieces for myself. My plan is to make enough beads to make a necklace. We'll see if that happens...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Little Anime Boy

My son has anime hair. He always has, especially when I let it get long. When he was 6 months old, his hair stood up on end, and there was no hair gel that could tame it. When he grew more hair, I thought for sure that the weight of it all would help tame the anime tendencies. Boy was I wrong!

Jesse's Hat

Finished Jesse's hat. I got gauge and it fits. Woohoo!
Now I will make a matching fingerless mitts for her. Can anyone tell me how to pause November??

Update: Jesse let me take a picture of her in her hat:

Her mother says that she wears it often...and I must say that she wears it well.


Our current Social Studies lessons involve learning about Native Americans. I found a book focused on the Miwok Indians, the group indigenous to our area, here in the valley. I have always found that lessons are always more meaningful if they include some type of activity related to what we are learning, so I found a few art activities online.

I made some clay with baking soda and cornstarch. I added some red food coloring, at the request of my daughter. I showed her to make pottery using the coil method. I gave my son some of the clay too, although he wasn't quite adept at the technique as my daughter was. The clay was flimsy and after about an inch or so, my daughter's cup was starting to sink into itself. Oh well.

Next time, we'll use Sculpey. I know, not exactly the way Native Americans made their vessels, but it's the idea that counts, right?

Saturday, November 13, 2010


We had my daughter's ninth birthday party today.

We played Stick the Nose on the Alien:

I painted this alien myself (and whom I secretly named "Henry"). I painted noses on a separate piece of cardstock paper, cut them out and laminated them. I placed pieces of double sided tape on the backs of each. I found a really cool bandana at Michael's, decorated with stars and moons, and used this as a blindfold. I tied the bandana around each child's head, covering their eyes, spun them around 10 times (overkill, I know, but they didn't seem to mind), guided them towards Henry on whom they stuck the noses. I wish I had picture of Henry after the game! My children, interestingly enough, placed both of their noses on Henry's left hand. There was a nose on Henry's lip, another on his middle eye, one on his neck, one that found its way way over Henry's far right eye. The winning nose was placed almost perfectly where it should have been, right on top of his lip. I seriously think that she studied Henry because she felt her way to that spot. Smart Girl (it wasn't my daughter)!

We also played "Comets". I cut out a 3 foot circle from a cardboard box that we had in the garage. I painted 5 rings on it. I made "comets" using styrofoam balls and old tights that didn't fit my daughter anymore. I placed the circle on the floor and gave each of the children 3 comets. The object of the game was to throw at least one of your comets in the center of the circle. Three of the children got pretty darn close and they each received a prize.

I had two activities for them related to space. The first activity involved decorating star cookies. I baked star shaped sugar cookies last night. I supplied decorating gels (tubes of decorating frosting mixed with edible sparkles) and pareils. I allowed them to take as many cookies as they wanted to decorate.
The second activity was painting Meteorite rocks. My children and I had a couple of rock collecting trips, which they thoroughly enjoyed. The only problem was that I had to remind them the rocks were not for them to keep - ha! We took home the rocks, washed them, and brought them to the party in buckets. I bought 5 tubes of glow in the dark paint and several vials of neon paint. I supplied brushes and instructed them to paint whatever they wanted. All of the children enjoyed these activities (based on the length of time that they spent on their chosen activity) and it was interesting to see that each of the girls preferred one over the other. The boys (my daughter's best friend and my son) were the only ones that wanted to do both. My daughter, of course, had her Buggi dance on her rock while she painted it.

If I had to do it over, I wouldn't change a thing. I feel very, very fortunate that I was able to find a venue that was affordable, close by, clean, and available. It had just enough space for all of the kids and parents that joined us today. My friends helped me and my husband decorate and set up the room, and clean up afterwards. Best of all, my daughter had a great time with her friends and the party was uniquely hers.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mr. Cool with the Square Hat

I found a Woolly Wormhead pattern that I wanted to knit for my daughter's friend, Jessie. I love her independent spirit and I LOVE that she is not a girly-girl, just like my daughter. They get along so well, it is very hard to believe that they have not always been friends. I thought Bridget was the perfect hat for Jessie. Knit in the round, it is essentially a tube seamed at the top with pom-poms added for the "pigtails". There is no decreasing for the crown. I am not a current fan of pom poms so my idea was to add braids instead.

I forgot that I am a tight knitter...okay, maybe I am in denial, but whatever. I am also not used to the fact that my little girl is almost 9! How did she get so big? I mention these things because she and Jessie wear the same size; therefore, I used my daughter's head measurements for the hat.

After I finished the hat I attached one braid before I asked my daughter if she would try it on for size. She flinched and said that it was TOO TIGHT. UGH.

Just for fun, I placed it on my son's head (he is more than 5 years younger) and it fit him perfectly. He even wore it to bed that night. He loves this hat and gets upset if my daughter even looks at it. She teases him about it because of the one braid, but he does not care. He has claimed it.

I took pictures of him wearing it and I asked him if he wants the other braid on it, so both sides match. He said no.... In fact, each night, he asks me to make the braid that is attached a little bit shorter. Hmmm, maybe I should take the hint and just cut the darn thing off....

Thursday, November 4, 2010

So I have this idea...

I perused through Lorna Miser's Faith, Hope, Love, Knitting (signed copy from when she visited one of my FLYS last year) last night and happened upon her project for making your own needles. It looks pretty easy...just some polymer clay and imagination, supplies from the local hardware store, a hot glue gun, and patience. It occurred me that my daughter would love to make at least one set. I say this because she loves making little things. Miniature houses, miniature furniture, miniature food (she once made a mini pizza out of Floam), you name it. What a great project for us to do and, not to mention, fairly inexpensive.

Then I thought how great it would be if I could get her into knitting again. Then I thought that maybe the best way to do that would be to give her something easy peasy to do, like knitting squares for her Buggi. Then I thought that we could FELT some of those squares (making sure this was actually possible). And I thought, "WOW, I could TOTALLY incorporate the bean bags in our Social Science lesson about Japan." I remembered a game that I read about in one of my homeschooling books that Japanese girls used to play a game called Otedama with bean bags.

I feel like such a genius!

You see, these Japanese beanbags were called ojami and were filled with red beans that made a very distinctive sound when played with. Traditionally, grandmothers made them with silk kimono scraps. I don't have any pretty silk fabric scraps lying around (boo for me, they are so pretty) but I do have pretty scrap yarn, some even with silk. Most importantly, a lot of my beautiful yarn will felt nicely and are in the colors that she likes.

I can't wait to finish my holiday knitting. At the moment, it seems like it keeps growing, but that's okay because I still have over a month left to finish. Yeah, I'll stick with that.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Or maybe it's the holiday season...

At this time of year, I feel the need to exercise. Not in the Spring, not in the Summer, when many people are concerned about looking good in shorts and swimsuits. For me, it's in the Fall.

One of the reasons is because here, in California (especially where I live), it gets pretty darn warm. Maybe I'm weird, but I like to exercise when it is cold. I like my walking routine because I warm up - but not so much that I am uncomfortable - and also get to spend time with my dogs, who love the walks as much as I do. My favorite time to walk is during the mid morning, when the air is crisp but not icy and the sun is out but not high in the sky and the day hasn't warmed up yet (which usually happens around 3:00 in the afternoon).

Of course, I am also concerned about losing weight. Running is better than walking, for this. However, I am not a big fan of running, unless it is on the treadmill, something that we do not have the room for in our house.

I found an article this morning about Walking Routines that help burn more Fat. Knowing me, I probably will not remember half of the tips listed (yes, I know there are only 3, but my memory has not been the same after kids - haha). So here it is, for my future reference. Feel free to use it as yours too...

3 Fat-Blasting Walking Routines.

by Woman's Day, on Wed Oct 20, 2010 1:54pm PDT55
By Karen Asp

Walking is one of the easiest ways to get fit. It’s free, you can do it just about anywhere and it burns up to 200 calories in 30 minutes. That’s why we enlisted Bob Harper, one of the trainers from NBC’s The Biggest Loser, to create a walking program that blasts calories by including strength-training moves. Aim to walk four to six times a week, ideally picking a different routine each day. For motivation, check out the stories of four women who each shed major pounds mainly by walking. In just a few weeks, you’ll be on your way to becoming the next weight-loss success story!

Walk #1: Muscle Up

Location: Your neighborhood
Goal: Increase upper-body strength by alternating cardio and strength moves. Throw a resistance band in your pocket before you leave.
Total time: 38 min

5 min Warm up: Walk at easy pace.

1 min Walk fast, pumping your arms.

3 min Stop walking and do the following moves with your band, moving as quickly as you can:

Lateral Raises

Standing with both feet in the center of the band, hold the ends in each hand. With arms at sides, lift band to shoulder height (or as high as you can without going past shoulders); release. Do 30 reps.
Overhead Presses

Hold ends of band in each hand. Place left foot in center of band and right foot about 8 inches in front of the left (the band should be behind you). Lift arms to shoulder height so they form 90-degree angles. With palms facing forward, press arms straight up, keeping arms next to ears. Lower back down to starting position. Do 30 reps.
Biceps Curls

Hold ends of band in each hand and stand with both feet about shoulder-width apart in center of band. With palms facing forward, arms by thighs and elbows close to sides, lift hands to shoulders. Keep wrists straight. Release. Do 30 reps.

24 min Alternate 3 min of fast walking with 3 min of the above strength moves. (You should do circuit 4 times.)

5 min Cool down by walking at an easy pace and stretching.

Walk #2: Fat Blast

Location: Indoor mall or outdoor park
Goal: Burn fat with high-intensity cardio moves while increasing lower-body strength.
Total time: 41 min

5 min Warm up by walking at an easy pace; work up to a brisk pace.

3 min Do walking lunges.

Stand with feet together, hands on hips. Step right foot forward about a foot or two, lowering body until right thigh is parallel to floor. Release, step left foot next to right, and repeat, this time stepping the left foot forward. Keep moving forward with each lunge.
4 min Walk briskly.

1 min Skip/walk briskly.

2 min Walk at a slow pace so you catch your breath (recovery walk).

3 min Walking lunges.

4 min Walk briskly.

1 min Skip/walk briskly.

2 min Recovery walk.

3 min Walking lunges.

4 min Walk briskly.

1 min Skip/walk briskly.

2 min Recovery walk.

1 min Do speed squats.

Stand with your back to a bench or chair, feet hip-width apart and arms at sides. Lower body as if you’re about to sit, extending arms in front of you. When thighs are parallel to floor, stand back up. Do as many as you can. 30 sec Recovery walk. 1 min Speed squats.
30 sec Recovery walk.

1 min Speed squats.

1 min Recovery walk.

1 min Do a standing bend: Bend forward until head is hanging. Put hands on elbows and breathe deeply. Let neck relax and feel your muscles release.

Walk #3: Indoor Power Walk

Location: A treadmill
Goal: Burn big calories by alternating harder and easier periods of work (intervals); build overall strength.
Total time: 46 min

3 min Warm up: Walk at an easy pace (3–3.5 mph at 1 percent incline).

1 min Walk fast (4.5–4.8 mph).

1 min Moderate-pace walk (3.5 mph).

28 min Continue alternating 1 min of fast walking with 1 min of moderate. Challenge: Increase the incline during the fast walk to 3–5 percent.

3 min Cool down with an easy walk (3–3.5 mph with no incline).

10 min Do the following strength exercises (repeat series up to 3 times):


Lie facedown on floor with elbows under shoulders, feet hip-width apart. Contract abs and press body off floor so only forearms and feet are supporting body. (If this is too difficult, keep knees on floor.) Keep body in one straight line; hold 30 seconds, then release.

Lie face-down on floor and place hands under shoulders, fingers forward. Keep knees on the floor and bend lower legs back, crossing at the ankles. Contract abs and lift upper body off floor until arms are almost straight. Keeping head in line with spine, lower chest until you’re about 3 inches from the floor. Push back up to starting position. Do 25 reps.
Treadmill Squats

With the treadmill turned off, put your feet on either side of the treadmill belt, hold the handlebars and lower your body toward the floor, keeping your knees over your ankles. Lower until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor. Release and return to start. Do 50 reps.

Photos: Daniela Stallinger/Woman’s Day

Original article appeared on

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Halloween 2010

When I was a kid, Halloween was THE holiday to celebrate (aside from Christmas). You get free candy and you get to dress up as anything you want. I loved wandering around the neighborhood with my friends, knocking on doors, yelling TRICK OR TREAT and feeling my candy bag get heavier and heavier. Sometimes we got money, which was really cool back then because I could actually get some Annie (the movie) cards from Wawa, my neighborhood version of 7-11. Stickers and candy, what more could a girl want?

In our neighborhood, we do not receive many Trick or Treaters. Consequently, we normally spend the evening with our friends. What made this year different was that it was the first year that both of my children got involved with choosing their costumes.

My daughter has never been picky about her costume. Most of the time, I just chose one that I thought would look good on her and she usually agrees. She has been a Bumble Bee, a Spider, A Fairy Princess, Super Girl (2 years in a row! I got a lot of mileage from this costume), a black cat.

This year, we went to a Halloween store. My daughter mentioned wanting to be a dog, because she thinks she sounds just like a dog. 8 year old logic, what more can I say? Anyway, went to the store intending to buy her a dog costume. We couldn't find one, much to my daughter's disappointment. I told her to look around while I looked for a costume for her brother.

He saw the Ninja costumes and decided that he wanted to be a Ninja. We purchased a set of Tridents to complete his costume. I enjoyed his excitement about wearing his costume for Halloween - he told everyone we knew and often asked if he could wear his costume.

My daughter chose to be Cleopatra. It is a beautiful costume and she looked so grown up in it, especially with Egyptian makeup on.

I also dressed up the dogs. I have to admit, at the moment, I truly believed that I have the cutest dogs in the world. I found a witch costume for Pippin and an angel costume for Lucy last year at the Halloween clearance sale at Target.