Tuesday, August 31, 2010


This week, we tried out two new projects: Lite-Brite and Fuse Beads! We brought back my old Lite-Brite from Ohio for Aidan and tucked it away in the basement. Today was a hot, humid day and Addie was taking a long nap, so I figured it was a great day to bring it out. When I took it out of the box, it seemed much smaller than I remembered. I guess I'm just bigger. I plugged it in and the twenty-five-year-old lightbulb still worked!

Aidan had a blast with it. He dumped ALL of the pegs out so he could "see them better". We made some shapes, letters and smiley faces. His only complaint was that the pegs were full of air bubbles. Aidan has high quality control standards.

Fuse Beads were one of my favorites when I was a kid. You design a pattern on a little plastic peg board and then iron it with piece of paper between. The plastic melts a little and the pictures stick together. This weekend, Aidan and I found a set at Joann's made for tiny fingers. The beads are much bigger. The kids had a great time with them. Aidan made a "gear machine" with his, big surprise, I know! Adelaide was more into sorting and organizing them. I made a fish and a school bus, in case you're wondering!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Last Stitch

Last week my sewing machine officially died. In our our house, this sort of declaration is a big deal. "We" don't ever throw ANYTHING away, "we" just keep fixing it. Therefore, I have the good fortune of never having to inconvenience myself with selecting a shiny new dishwasher or fancy washer and dryer... sigh.

Now, the White 999 Precision Built (debatable) Zigzag lived a VERY LONG life. Before I inherited her, she belonged to the deceased great-aunt of a long-ago boyfriend. It's important to note that when I received this sewing machine, it was a vast improvement upon the one I had been using, which only sewed in reverse.

The old girl has never worked all that well. I have always spent as much time untangling messes as I have actually sewing. In spite of that, I have been able to make a few pieces of clothing and some toys for the kids. I bought a great kids' clothing book a few weeks ago and could not wait to make a dress for Addie. It seems the White 999 was in no mood.

Aidan, my machine-loving cohort, is always interested in how everything works. I am forever picking up bobbins and spools of thread scattered all over the place. I told him that the time had come to take the old girl apart. He worked for three solid hours today unscrewing anything he could reach and had a BLAST! I think it was the most fun anyone has ever had with that old machine. We finally packed her various parts and pieces up into an old bird seed box and washed our greasy hands. I did tell Aidan that this was a "one day" project. Tomorrow, we are putting the box to the curb to, "let some other friends have a chance to take her apart".

Coincidentally, my birthday is coming up soon and I have made subtle suggestions that I could really use a new sewing machine. So, if you happen to run into Matt in a craft store, remind him what a wonderful wife he has, then shove him towards the Berninas.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Feast or Famine

Each morning, during breakfast, I read the kids a short Bible story and then we talk about what it means. Aidan ALWAYS finds a way to apply the story to machinery or lightbulbs. For the past week, we have been reading about the life of Joseph. Aidan was intrigued with the story about Joseph interpreting Pharaoh's dream. We talked about the seven years of bounty that would be followed by the seven years of famine. I explained to him that they were going to save all of the extra food they had now, in order to have some later when the famine came.

I thought our garden would be a good way to explain the story. We've had a very productive garden this year and Aidan has been busy helping me pick, wash, can and freeze. We've made all different kinds of salsa, jams, ketchup and spaghetti sauce so far this summer. I told him that we do all of this work now so that we'll have lots of yummy stuff in the winter when the snow covers our garden.

Aidan thought about this for a while. Then, he decided to "can" some spare gears he had now, in case of "famine" later...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Shake, Rattle and Roll

Today was Sock Hop day! We had a blast with all of our friends. The weather was hot; but, the milkshakes were cold! All the guests looked great in their nifty fifties attire. We even had a few guests from "the future" make an appearance! The kids both were fairly cooperative in getting into their costumes. Addie ripped her poodle off about an hour into the party; but, I got a few good pictures first.

Aidan playing it cool on the drums!

Adelaide guarding the snacks!

All week long, Aidan has called this our "Sock Puppet Party". After our last guests left, I asked him if he had a good time. He told me, "Yeah, I did; but, you forgot the puppets."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Poodle Skirts for Toddlers

This Friday, we're hosting a Fifties Sock Hop for some of our little friends from our local Mom's Club. We are expecting a great turnout and hoping for cooperative weather!

To get in the spirit, the kids are going in their niftiest fifties attire. Aidan's wearing a cool pair of jeans, a white pocket tee, slicked-back hair and a new pair of sneakers. Still debating the message sent if I roll up candy cigarettes in his sleeve. Really, though, what does a three year old know about smoking? Last time my mother-in-law was visiting, Aidan told me she was, "blowing out birthday candles in her car". We'll see...I'm sure humor will prevail over common decency.

Adelaide is going in a poodle skirt. I had planned to sew one and had been checking out patterns. My sewing machine died last week, though, so I had to come up with a new plan. My husband suggested "hand sew". I opted for "no sew". So I looked around online and found this simple instructional. I had to change the measurements a little because Addie is so small. I wasn't sure how the project would turn out or when I would even work on it. The kids both fell asleep today on the way home from the zoo, so I decided to give it a go. Super simple! Half hour, start to finish! I think it turned out really well. She's still asleep so I have no idea if it will fit; but, it turned out so cute I don't even care!

First, I cut a large circle out of pink felt. I cut a smaller circle inside slightly larger than her waist. I used a marker on a string to make the circles perfect.

Next, I cut a slit in the back and added some velcro pieces.

Last, I glued on my poodle and a little fray-checked leash. That's it!

I also made her little barrettes with records for her pigtails and cut out a little "scarf" from some extra felt to go with her onesie. I am hoping to stuff her big wide feet into a pair of hand-me-down saddle shoes.

I'm really happy with how it turned out. If it fits well, we might use it for Halloween, too.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The One Dollar Garage Sale Treasure

This little bicycle makes me smile.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Homemade Ketchup for Fun and Profit!

Today we decided to make our own ketchup. We are still picking LOTS of tomatoes from the garden and thought this would be a good way to use up a lot of them. The kids and I went to Penzey's Spices this morning to get all of the whole spices we needed. That part was big fun. The rest of the project ended up being a large, long (seven hours) and messy undertaking.

I have always been intrigued by do-it-yourself articles and instructional shows that make incredibly arduous tasks seem like no big deal. You know the type. They often contain phrases like, "JUST gather six dozen roses..." or "JUST mix up a fifty-five gallon drum of cement..." I will now recount our tale in that fashion.

Homemade Ketchup ...What could be simpler?!?

First, you'll need to make an infused apple cider vinegar. Remember, only spices derived from the most exotic of locales will taste good. You'll need cinnamon sticks from Sri Lanka*, whole cloves from Madagascar, celery seed from India and allspice berries from wherever allspice berries come from. Be sure to use one of these nifty little bags!

*Obscure Historical Note
Some cinnamon sticks may say they are from Ceylon. In 1972, Ceylon officially became the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. Be sure these cinnamon sticks are fresher than 1972.

Next, gather whatever tomatoes you have around the house. You'll need twenty-four pounds. Quickly wash, core and quarter them. If you start to feel overwhelmed, remember, Theresa Heinz is probably doing the same thing you are RIGHT NOW! Put the tomatoes in a large pot*. Most well-appointed kitchens have pots of this size.

*Enrichment Note
Witches often use pots like this. Put together a quick witch costume to wear while you stir. This will open opportunities to discuss the Salem Witch Trials with your eager home schooled children.

Chop and add LOTS of onions. You may tear up at this point anyway, so it's a good time to consider your misspent youth and unfinished master's degree. Oh...add cayenne pepper too!

Now, start stirring. You're going to need a spoon with a nice long handle to avoid steam burns. Once your tomatoes have cooked down, put all of the tomato mixture through a food mill. You're going to need LOTS of bowls and pots to collect the pulp.

Once you've finished, it's time to dump it all back into your giant pot and add sugar and salt. Boil the mixture down to half. This part should take approximately forty-five minutes. (It took us approximately three hours.)

Finally, it's time to prepare your canner and jars. You'll need to fill and process your jars following "standard canning procedures".

What could be simpler? Delicious homemade ketchup to share with friends and family that costs nothing more than a day of your life.

Now, go and freshen up, your husband will be home soon. Don't take too long though, your kids aren't going to drum along to Neil Diamond much longer and dinner isn't going to make itself now, is it?

Inspirational Note
There will be times during the ketchup making process where you may become overwhelmed. You may even wonder, "Why don't I just go to Kroger and buy a bottle?" Let's take a moment to consider lessons gleaned from the local foods movement: Only bad mothers and serial rapists feed their kids STORE-BOUGHT ketchup.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Soldering for Preschoolers

The Henry Ford hosted the Detroit Maker Faire this year. It's a giant fair devoted to taking things apart and putting things together. We knew Aidan would LOVE it! He learned all sorts of valuable things that a three-year-old needs to know: soldering, disassembling laptops and "hacking" into his electronic toys to make them do crazy things.

All of the exhibits were really well done, even if some were a little weird. The kids seemed to really like the Sashimi Tabernacle Choir, a car covered in singing fish reprogrammed with opera pieces.

Matt and I did alot of "chicken tractor" research in the agriculture tent. Matt is ready to start building the thing. I am still trying to decide if chicken tractor relocation, egg collecting and general chicken maintenance will fit into my daily schedule.

The highlight for our family was a much larger than life Mousetrap game. Mousetrap is big fun at our house since it combines all of our greatest loves: Rube Goldberg machines, marbles and cheese.

The Faire seemed to provide Aidan with a ton of inspiration. He has spent the past week taking apart his tool bench. He keeps telling me that he needs to take apart the laptop. If my postings cease, assume he did.

Just Peachy

Strawberries, blueberries and lots and lots of peaches! We've had a busy summer. Aidan and Adelaide helped me pick lots of strawberries early this summer. Addie ate most of hers before we left the field. By the time we were finished, I had two very muddy kids and some delicious berries to eat, share and make into jam.

A few weeks ago, my parents came for a visit. We went to the wonderful Dexter Blueberry farm where we picked forty pounds of blueberries! We ate as many as we could. The leftovers we froze and made into jam. We also discovered a delicious new blueberry butter recipe.

Our last major harvest came from our very own little $14 peach trees. The first year, we got one peach, the second year we got two. This year we picked about two and a half bushels between the two trees. Not bad for a $28 investment! We made peach pies and peach popsicles and we gave lots and lots of peaches to friends. I wonder how many we'll have next year???