Painting Ornaments
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Painting ornaments

Every year my knitting group gets together for a handmade ornament swap and this year I though I’d combine my swap-ornament making with kid-crafting and make some cornstarch dough ornaments inspired by these.

The dough was easy enough to make (though the cornstarch gives it a sickly sweet smell) and it was easy enough to roll out, but my attempts at yarn embossing were awful and LMC’s insistence at playing with all the dough (not just her half) meant I had to keep rolling it out over and over again, which I just don’t think it was designed to do. So in the end, I had some brittle dough, a lot of ornaments missing a limb and a few with a rather prickly texture. Nothing suitable for gifting.

But, because they were no longer “precious” it meant that LMC and her dad could go to town painting them all and now I think they’re the most beautiful smudgy mud-colored things I’ve ever seen – missing legs and all.

All of this is to say, it was a valuable lesson in managing my expectations. Of course she’s going to want to the play with the salt dough like her play dough. Of course things are going to break. But you know what? At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter a jot because LMC had a great time poking and painting and hanging them up on the bottom of the tree.

So while I did have to come up with another plan for my swap ornament, I’d say all in all, it was a success.

Speaking of success – thanks to the 136 (!) of you who entered the giveaway and a very warm welcome to any of you who are staying around as new readers!

The winners chosen via random number generator are commenters Liz (#129) for the subtle kit, Rachel (#10) for the spicy kit, and Magda (#109) for the gift certificate. Congrats -I’ve sent you all an email about claiming your prize.

I’m down to the wire on my holiday crafting, with one toddler sweater on the blocking board and three more handmade projects in various stages, but the good news is come Friday, I’ve got two weeks off – one to finish everything and one to recooperate!

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As we’ve now done every other since 2008, the Cleaver clan (now expanded!) took our bi-annual trip down to Southern California for Thanksgiving. It’s a long trip cobbled together on buses to/from Boston and long plane flights, but the travel is worth it to see my now-distant family.

A few nights before we left Mr. Cleaver and I tried to figure out how many times we had done this Thanksgiving trip (this was the 4th): there was the year I have memorialized in a photo on my desk, when my mom  and her mom came and my cousin Preston was there and my grandmother Leota was still alive and there was only one wee member of the next generation.

Then there was the year my grandfather, now a widower, had my brother and I cook an entire Thanksgiving dinner two days before Thanksgiving and when we visited my Great Aunt Betty at her house and she gave me a little brass bird to take with me to look at and think of her. She’s since moved to a senior living community and I haven’t seen her since.

Then most recently, the year we met my little red-headed first cousin once removed, while I was pregnant with my own little red-headed girl, and we stayed with my Aunt and Uncle and went to Disneyland.

This year there was one less member of the eldest generation and two more members of the youngest.  All reminders of why its so important to make the trip, if only every other year. My uncle said it best this year  – “traditions like this don’t just happen, you have to put in the work and everyone has to pitch in.”

I’ll admit that this year, with LMC as part of the group, made for a very different experience for me – not to say she was trouble – she was spectacular on the all the travel and in adjusting to the new people and surroundings, but it really struck me how much more your attention is divided when you’re the parent of a small child. When a half an hour conversation turns into 10 minutes because she needs you in another room, or the shift in times from up late and sleeping in to early to bed, early to rise. But I loved seeing LMC read a book with her Great Aunt, or sit in her Great-Uncle’s lap to watch the Polar Express or for her to play kitchen with her cousin and try to be like the big girl. Not to mention her first experiences seeing a baby hippo, chowing down on In-N-Out fries, or taking her first pass at big-ball bowling.

To some extent, visits to my family during the Holidays have always felt a little bit nostalgic – going back to the places I loved as kid and remembering all the things we did in those backyards and houses, but this year I was reminded how great families (and I have some great family), allow you to change and grow and love you all the more for it.

And for that, I’m thankful.

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Happy Halloween Everyone!!

I love costumes. It’s the theatre kid in me. But to my surprise, LMC was excited to wear hers too. The first thing she said the morning when I got her from her crib was “ears” because she wanted to put on her headband. Gotta love it – and I think she looks pretty stinkin’ adorable.

Mr. Cleaver and LMC painted the pumpkins together on Wednesday. The tempura paint is starting to peel a little, but I think they’ll make it through the night.

We’re planning to eat pizza and hand out candy, we get 80-100 kids a year. We’re holding off on treat or treating for at least another year.

Hope your Halloween is fun and fabulous!

  • Olivia Dress: McCall’s M6913, View B with D collar. All Kona cottons from JoAnn’s.
  • Pig Ears: Improvised by me. Wool Felt from Z Fabrics.
  • Striped Leggings: Target
  • Tintin outfit: Goodwill and Mr. Cleaver’s closet

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Just one of those classic childhood moments. And since our two big maples have only just started dropping leaves, one that we’ll get to repeat several times more this year!

Hat: Vintage Pixie Cap by Hadley Fierlinger, project on Ravelry

Teeny-Tiny Rake: purchased at For Small Hands, a great resource if you have a little helper like mine!

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We went Smiling Hill this weekend, picked some pumpkins, petted a goat or two and took a ton of photos.  Beautiful fall day and adorable kid? It’s hard not to.

Since we last came in the spring, the petting zoo goats have gotten a lot chubbier and LMC’s gotten more independent. She wanted to be wherever the bigger kids (3-5 year-olds) were: climbing on the trains and planes, driving the John Deere-a-saurus, riding the mini tractors, going down from the top of the tall slides. She also wanted no help in carrying her pumpkins of choice. Is it any surprise that we’ve switched to the booster seat from the high chair at home? This girl is ready for her seat at the table.

With the pumpkins brought home and her costume finished last night (she’s gonna be so cute!!), we’re all ready for Halloween here. The only thing left to do is pick out the kind of takeout we want for Friday night (a Cleaver Halloween tradition).

Do you have a favorite pumpkin patch or Halloween tradition? When I was a kid in California it was Stanly Lane for pumpkins every year and my mom would sew whatever incredibly complex costume I desired that year (as chosen from the back of the Simplicity or McCall’s pattern book at JoAnn’s) including full renaissance dress. I figure this is probably my last year before LMC has an opinion about what she wants to be for Halloween (maybe one more?) so I’m trying to make it a good one.

Me-Mades: Minoru Jacket, Lamina Sweater

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We Cleavers are creatures of habit, and this is never more true that when fall begins. As soon as the leaves begin to change color, you can bet there’s a good chance we’ll be hitting the fairgrounds, picking apples, baking pies, and hiking Bradbury Mountain.

Since Mr. Cleaver and I had our first date there back in 2005, we’ve made a point of returning each fall we’ve lived in Maine, and so this year, LMC got to take her second trip, having been carried up last year. And truth be told, I carried her about 90% of the way this time too, without the benefit of a carrier this go around. But this year my budding geoloist was enamored with all the rock and ledge, but perhaps even more enamored with all the dogs on the trail!

And LMC was quite the trooper, as she got carsick on the way up (fortunately primarily on a waterproof jacket). We were spectacularly ill prepared, having no extra clothes and having forgot her sippy cup (and Steinbeck’s doggy bags). But despite that early mishap, we had beautiful weather and a lovely hike. And LMC did look awfully cute in her new winter cap.

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Not gonna lie, of all the pies I make, apple pies are by far the the most time consuming with all the peeling, coring, chopping and mixing, it probably takes twice as long as a berry pie (even with a peeling machine, which I can’t recommend enough!). But all that work? So worth it!

My baking assistant certainly though the ribbons of peel were fun,and the cinnamon and sugar-covered apple-slices were A-OK by her. And truthfully, after eight years of annual apple pie-making, I’ve got my process down. And so we’ve already eaten one pie, and have the second in the freezer for later this winter.

Want a video of me walking through the pie-making process? Check! Or the recipe? Check!

Book Illustration:  Time for A Hug by Phillis Gershator, Mim Green, with Illustrations by David Walker, a new favorite in our house.

Interested in Children’s books? Me too! As the daughter of a former elementary-school librarian, who currently reads at least 5 new picture books a week (thanks local library!), I’ve started compiling a list our our household favorites with detailed reviews over on my Pinterest Page.