Thursday, October 28, 2010

Finished for Friday: How to Make a Hamburger Costume

I have an untarnished record when it comes to Halloween costumes.  I have never made one.  I have scrounged thrift stores and eBay for components, I have helped assemble them, I have purchased prepackaged Darth Vaders and Hogwarts robes.

But this year my resolve faltered when Jungle Boy begged me to make him a hamburger costume.  My solution?  I supervised him while he made it.  This totally counts as a Finished for Friday.  It was no small feat to get this done between us.  It would have been 10x faster to do it myself.

 First, cut out some circles of cardboard.  Ignore mom when she says they're too big.  Cut out the felt slightly  larger than the top bun.  Thread a needle with mom's pearl cotton (because it's strong) and baste all around the edge.

 Rip open the bag of stuffing.  Ignore mom when she says to just open one end.  Fluff it out everywhere because it's fun.  Put a bunch of stuffing between the fabric and the cardboard.  Ignore lumps.

Flip it over. Stop for now and run off to 3-hour ballet class, leaving huge mess in the family room.

Come back the next day and wrap fabric around a cardboard circle for the bottom bun.  Use super glue and clamp it with mom's big bag of quilting clamps.  Be sure to wear the same sweatshirt you wore yesterday.  In fact, just wear that sweatshirt every day.  Ignore mom's pleas to wear a different one.

Cut some tomatoes out of felt, being careful to avoid whiskers as you go.

Glue them to the cardboard, and put some weight on them.  My son used a cat.

Cut out a bunch of lettuce and cheese.  Forget the glue now and attach it the manly way - with duct tape.

 Use leftover scraps to make a goofy hat.  Put on a brown shirt.  Suddenly remember you have a lower locker and there is no way you are going to be able to get into it today.

Few words can convey how exhausted we all were after the process of creating this costume.  One of us, at least, had to take a break.

  Thanks for playing along and Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sifting and Shifting Holiday Traditions

I'm the first to admit that I really miss having little kids around the house. Five and six year olds really know how to express glee over impending holidays. I always had as much fun as they did setting the scene.

But now we are all old and cool. No more glow-in-the-dark skeletons around the house. Gone are all the cute Halloween picture books. No more Disney Halloween videos. But they're not yet ready for some of my Halloween favorites - movies like "Sleepy Hollow." So we're coasting along in tween land; "Nightmare before Christmas," old episodes of "The Addams Family," "Edward Scissorhands."

I thought it would be a good time to clear out the enormous bin full of costumes and donate them. I was universally vetoed. "We might need some of that stuff mom!" They refused to listen when I argued that none of those old things would fit.

Yes to candy corn and cookies shaped like bats.  No to cartoonish placemats and the big pile of Halloween stickers that has accumulated over the years.  Goodbye cute pumpkin-shaped trick or treat buckets, hello practical pillowcases that hold a lot more candy.

I can't always predict what goes and what stays (well, except for the candy corn and cookies part, they'd never give those up.)  I can, however, see how traditions centered around the family are still held dear.  Carving jack-'o-lanterns is messy and challenging and the kids don't dwell too much on the merits of the finished product, but it is always a special event to go out and get the pumpkins.  There is always that sunny afternoon when they spend time on the back patio laughing with their hands in the glop.  Later we all curl up on the couch to watch a movie and eat toasted pumpkin seeds.

So I'll bid a fond farewell to the coloring books and cartoons of Halloweens past.  I'll try not to mind all the changes in the rhythms of our holidays.  As long as we can enjoy them together, it's cause for celebration.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Finished for Friday: Rag Quilt

Just finished another cozy flannel quilt. The seams are all clipped and ready to be washed and fluffed in a dryer. Not my dryer though. I just had the vent cleaners out here and they pulled out a big bucket full of lint. Nice. I need to stop washing my flannel quilts at home.

I made this quilt to go with the colors of our red couch, but everyone in the family is teasing me that it's Christmassy.  That wasn't really my intention.

The model in the picture is Jungle Boy, who always has his nose in a Kindle book these days.  Today he's reading "Three Cups of Tea" for school.  I think that's a pretty cool book to be teaching in seventh grade.

Link up and show us what you've been up to this week.  I love to visit!  You are all so creative.  If this is your first time participating, please read the guidelines in the tab above. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Desperate Times

Fall means one thing. No not exciting baseball games. Not back to school. Not flannel sheets on the bed. Sure those things happen in the fall, but there is one important event that overshadows all of them.

Making pumpkin bread.  You can keep your pumpkin pie, give me some pumpkin bread.  Maybe with nuts in it.  Or mini chocolate chips.  Or just plain.  I might even get crazy and put a little cream cheese on it.

But if you follow important trends like canned pumpkin supplies, you know that last year there was a canned pumpkin shortage.  People were buying it on eBay for $7 a can.  But this year, according to reports, pumpkin would again line the shelves of our favorite stores.

Let's not talk about buying a real pumpkin and all that - I'm not Martha.  If I can't find pumpkin in a can the kids get banana bread again.  In fact, the kids are so in love with banana bread that they leave the last 3 bananas in the bowl to turn black just so I'll make it.  But back to pumpkins.

I found canned pumpkin in one local store last week.  Overjoyed, I bought a can and raced home and mixed up a batch of pumpkin bread.  Which I completely messed up.  Because I didn't measure the flour correctly my husband hasn't hooked my computer back up to the printer so I had to write down the recipe by hand and I miscopied it.  Clearly his fault.

The house smelled wonderful - which really killed everyone in the family who walked in the kitchen and couldn't find any pumpkin bread to eat.  But I was determined, and hungry, so I grabbed my car keys and headed out to get some more pumpkin.

None. Nada.  Zip.  No pumpkin for miles.  Until today.  I went back to a store and found a shelf full of the small cans.  The big cans were all gone.  I thought I showed admirable self-restraint by only buying four.  I toyed with the idea of putting on a disguise and returning later to get more.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.

I might just go back tomorrow.  You know, if I happen to be in the area.  Just to look.  Maybe just pick up one or two.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday Toonlet: Confundus


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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Finished for Friday: Halloween Horrors

Crafting just hasn't been the same since the dawn of the internet. Now we crafty types can find free patterns everywhere with the click of a mouse.  We can print them and keep them cluttering our sewing rooms forever.  Isn't it fun?

I've been a little out of control with the free patterns lately.  I have started keeping them all on though, which is a great site to organize bookmarks by tags.

Item (1) today is a filet crochet jack-o-lantern.  The original was done in white thread but I thought I'd be clever and use orange.  Put on your glasses (or maybe take them off) and squint.

See the pumpkin? Two eyes, a nose and a smiley face? No?  Neither do I really.  This is a set of clever Halloween coasters that is going to stop at one.  Let's move on.

Item (2) is a sweater for the cat.  The website showed a happy cat wearing its Halloween sweater.  My cat?  Not so happy.   I took 2 dozen pictures and these are the only ones that kind of show what it looks like.

I know.  Poor cat.  He really only had it on for a minute.

Attempt (3) was a pillow made from memory of seeing some around the 'net.  How hard can it be to make a candy corn pillow?  Oooh look!  The craft store has cute pom pom fringe.  Witness the result:

What made me think candy corn should be an equilateral triangle?  This pillow looks totally stupid if it's on its side. 

Free pattern number (4) turned out much better.  It's a Halloween dish towel.  I remembered to use the efficient "poor man's light box" for this one.  I'm sorry I can't remember which blogger gave me this tip:

You can see how careful I am about ironing towels before I start.  The embroidery police will be knocking on the door soon.  Here's the finished project.  The free pattern can be found at Bird Brain Designs.

What have you been up to this week?  I hope your holiday craftiness is going better than mine.  Link up and let's see!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Workout for People Who Hate to Work Out

I used to exercise a lot.  Back in the day.  Before arthritis made life so painful and slow.  One of the things I looked forward to after my surgery was getting back into shape.

But I'm out of the habit of getting up at 5 o'dark and going to the gym.  And I'm self-conscious about being out of shape.  I needed something I could ease in to.

And then I found the most fun workout I've ever done.  Disguised as a game.  It's called Walk It Out and it's made for the wii.

The cover image is awful, so let's ignore that.  This is serious sweaty fun for grown-ups.  You can play alone or walk with a partner using the balance board, a dance dance revolution mat, or putting the nunchuck in your pocket.

After a brief tutorial, the game places you on a virtual island.  There are sandy beaches, forests, farms, a shopping district, suburbs, etc.  As you walk, your steps are tallied up and you can spend them to unlock new areas of the island, trees, buildings, fountains, windmills, and even an airship.

Does all that walking and clicking sound boring?  There's a catch.  You have to walk to the rhythm of the songs in the game, like "Boom Boom Pow" by the Black Eyed Peas, and "Holiday" by Madonna.  What starts as a 10 minute stroll ends up being an hour-long workout as I try to unlock one more flower shop or cherry tree.

I can't wait to get on it every morning.  My legs, and especially my new hip have gotten so much stronger and toned up.  I selected to use mostly the slower songs, but I'm inching up the speeds.

There are active fan communities on facebook and at Amazon that offer a lot of support.  USA Today did a great review.  Do you have a wii?  This game's worth a try.

This review was not sponsored by Konami, the makers of Walk It Out.  I purchased my own copy.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Please tell me you've done this

I don't think of myself as particularly scatterbrained.  I plan my weeks and days, make lists, organize the glasses in the cupboard by size.  But it seems I've had more than a few forehead-slapping moments lately.

My favorite?  Remembering to buy toilet paper.  The nice big package.  Big package.  Really big.  The kind you put in the lower shelf of the shopping cart.  Then I chanted to myself  "remember the toilet paper" on my way to the checkout line.  Maybe if I put items down there more often it wouldn't be such a big deal.

I got to the checkout line, and put the toilet paper on the conveyor belt first.  Smart me!  La La La I didn't forget!  I even had all my handmade fabric grocery bags along with me.

La La La out to the car.  La La La drove home.

You see where this is going, don't you?  Of course the bagger put the big package of toilet paper on the bottom shelf of the cart.  Which is where it still is, for all I know.  Because it never made it into the car.

I think next time I'll bring a string, and tie one end on my wrist and the other on the package of toilet paper.  Good grief.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Finished for Friday: The Enchanted April

Here is a book that you really ought to read.  It's in the public domain, so if you have a Kindle, or the Kindle app for PC or Mac, or cell phone or ipod touch, you can download it.  It's also available free in many formats from Project Gutenberg.

It begins with two women who don't have much in common except a bad case of burnout.   Lotty is the frumpy, stuck-in-a-rut housewife who first finds an advertisement for renting an Italian villa.  She convinces Rose, who lives to volunteer for others, to join her.  Together they enlist an elderly woman and a socialite to help them cover the rent.

The four women initially cannot relate to each other but solitude and the complete beauty of their surroundings soften their minds and hearts and brings out the best in each of them.  It's a beautiful novel, with lush descriptions of the glorious gardens and castle grounds, as well as the hidden doubts and longings in each of their minds.  Although their transformation and bonding is predictable, the writing is so superb I savored every page.  Reading this book is as relaxing and refreshing as taking a holiday yourself.

What have you been up to this week?  Finish a book or a project?  Join in and let us congratulate you.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Yearling

I try to introduce my kids to the classics.  Sometimes I have no success at all.  For example, a few years ago we all sat down to watch The Yearling.  You remember that one?

The kids thought I was crazy.  Here is Drama Girl's take on that classic:

Now look at this beautiful guy in our front yard.

We see him almost every day.  I've named him  "Flag" after the deer in the movie.  Because in my world, the mom doesn't shoot the deer, he lives to a nice old age and sleeps in the front yard.

Welcome to my world.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Meet the Author: Shelley Stout

Originally from Annandale, Virginia, Shelley Stout resides in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she enjoys spending time with her two grown sons. She also enjoys volunteering at a local homeless shelter. Shelley is a contributing writer for local and regional magazines, and her award-winning fiction has appeared in anthologies, The Storyteller Magazine and online at WordRiot.  Each of her books is available for the Kindle for only $2.99.  Here's Shelley:

After nearly a decade, writing has become a huge part of my life. I've been continually busy, either writing, revising, editing, submitting, or promoting/marketing my work. I also have a full-time job, so I frequently wish I could spend more time on writerly activities!

My first novel, (Radium Halos) was released in July 2009 as an ebook from In October 2009, it was released in print from Librifiles Publishing, the sister site of Girlebooks. I've had several book signings, where I've met many wonderful people-- readers and other authors. I've also visited several book clubs-- some via Skype. I enjoy speaking with my readers and learn so much from them and from other authors.

Radium Halos is historical fiction. It is based on the true story of the Radium Dial painters-- young women factory workers in the 1920s who were exposed to radiation while painting watch and clock dials with radium paint. These innocent young women were taught by their supervisors to dip their brush into the paint and then between their lips for a sharper point. In the process, they were swallowing small amounts of the radioactive paint. This scenario happens in companies even today, where employees are merely following instructions from someone higher in authority. In this particular case, the Radium Dial Company denied any wrongdoing. Their focus was on production, not on worker safety.

Many people have asked me where I got the idea for Radium Halos. In the late 1980s, I watched a documentary on the Discovery Channel, called “Radium City.” I was stunned and horrified, but at the same time, the story of these young women fascinated me, because I had never heard of it. The documentary was phenomenal – it presented a great deal of information about what the young women went through. Every so often, I would think of it, but it wasn’t until about four years ago that I decided the time was right: I needed to write a novel based on this true event, because so many people were unaware of it.

Radium Halos has received praise from various sources. I have included reviews below:

Batt Humphreys, former senior producer for CBS News and author of Dead Weight

"Shelley Stout debuts with a novel of characters as compelling as the true story it covers. Like a good reporter, she follows the facts. In this case she not only uncovers a story little known, but more importantly she reveals in her characters, the humanity of a tragic tale."

The Historical Novel Review

"At turns humorous, feisty, and heartrendingly childlike, [main character] Helen’s narrative voice is powerfully blunt."

Red Adept's Kindle Book Review Blog

"Five stars......this was a novel to tug at the heart." News: Badeau P.O.V.

"Stout’s strong storytelling skills and clever use of humor make this a novel that just won’t stay closed."

"While the subject matter is intense, the tone of the novel is surprisingly light. Thanks is due to [main character] Helen who adds humor through her naive and bluntly honest outlook."

What's up next? Shelley has just completed her newest ebook. It's a romantic comedy, entitled "Celebrities for Breakfast."  It's getting 5-star reviews at Amazon and is available for just $2.99.

Shelley's facebook page

Shelley's twitter

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