Why you don’t remember carving a pumpkin with your parents.

Halloween was not very important to us when I was little.  I know I trick-or-treated several years.  I remember dressing as a southern belle and attending a fall festival.  One time I remember a pumpkin being in our kitchen one year and then on the porch after that, but I don’t really remember designing it or cutting it up.

Why is that?

Now I know.

When the P was four, he begged for a pumpkin to carve.  This seemed like a fun tradition, so I picked up a pumpkin and some free newspapers to cover the floor and I cut open this pumpkin.  I showed the P, “Look, pumpkin gunk.  Help me get it out.”

He touched it once, shuttered, and never looked back.

I gutted and carved that whole pumpkin all by myself.  It was a shame.

The next year, we skipped it.  No one noticed.

This year, the P asked again if we could please get a pumpkin.  I said okay because he’s older now, right?  He can help a little.

The gunk still made him shutter, he’s still not old enough to handle the carving knife, and he can read now, so the advertisements in the free newspapers are suddenly way inappropriate.

So, again, I carved this whole pumpkin by myself.  And I vowed, “I am not doing this again.”

I imagine that’s why I do not have memories of pumpkin carving, and that’s why my children will not have memories of pumpkin carving.  And I think that’s for the best.

If they ask next year, we are going to paint our pumpkins.  Everyone is old enough to paint.

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A New Addition

Soon, our family of five (mom, dad, sister, brother, cat) will become six.

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Meet Godzilla.

He’s shy.

He is Pfc.’s turtle. Pfc. is away for a while so we get to keep Godzilla.

We have a big backyard. It’s pretty much a mess, so I wanted to do something to make it prettier and give Godzilla a safe place to play.

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So I dug a pit in the yard.

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Then I lined the inside with bricks.

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Then, I made a box to fit on top to keep Godzilla in.

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Then, with help from my 6 year old, I placed the box over the turtle pit.

I got the plans for my turtle house from Ana-white.com and this site and this site. Our turtle pen is a hybrid of these three designs.

This week, we will add a screened lid and plant some yummy herbs that Godzilla can eat.

Also, we will find something to do with the extra 24 feet of cedar we have left over…

Pictures to come.

Knitted Purses

I really like to knit, but it takes a long time for me to finish anything.  I started making scarves more than 3 years ago.  I have made 5 scarves total in 3 years.  I had a plan with the scarves.  I was working through the different types of basic patterns: Garter, Stockinette, Ribbed, etc., etc.  One day, I was working on a seeded scarf.  It was taking so long, I was getting so discouraged, and I knew I would never finish.

I laid the knitting down and it kind of folded over itself and made a little pocket.  I was inspired.  I knitted just a few more rows, folded it in half, stitched up the sides and made a little holder for my credit cards and license.  It was too cute.  From that point on, I was over scarves.  Now I make little purses because I feel like I’m moving so fast.  I’ve made two in year!  I know this is still not a very quick turn around, but compared to my scarf production, this is like lightning…

So the formula now is, knit half of a scarf, fold it in half, braid a handle, and you have a tiny purse.

It’s tiny, but big enough for my iPhone.  That’s all I need.

I love my pink purse.

Since it’s knitted, I had to make a liner.  (If I hadn’t, all my hard knitting work would sag.)  For this pink purse, I used some pink jersey fabric that our pillow cases came in.  I sewed it by hand, more than once, because I don’t really know anything about sewing by hand…or any other kind of sewing actually.  My seams kept popping loose.  It’s better now.  I got the hang of it after reading many, many blogs about sewing.

For the cord, there are probably a lot of things you could do that are better that what I’m doing now.  I read about knitting something called an I-Cord, but I couldn’t get my head around that.  I saw that some people use strips of fabric and sew a strap that is the same color as the purse, but a) I don’t own a sewing machine yet, and the strap is much to long to sew by hand, for me and b) It would drive me crazy if my purse was a different texture than my strap.  So I decided to braid a long strap using several pieces of yarn.  This was hard to do because the ends of the yarn kept getting tangled.  But perseverance is good for you, right?

Then, a woman at church saw my purse and said she wanted one.  I told her I could get it to her by her birthday, which I happened to know was in 10 months.  Well, then, everyone in my family was sick for more than two weeks.  I ended up home with my kids for two days straight and I got to knock some items off my to do list, including: Diana’s purse:

It’s reversible.

On accident.

I started by knitting whitish yarn and some fun teal yarn together.  The teal yarn was the kind you normally use to decorate the end of a scarf or the brim of a hat.  It mixed in with the white and made a nice pattern.  Then I got some remnant fabric from Joann’s for the lining of this purse.  When I bought the remnant, I could only see the “wrong” side, so I didn’t realize it had those awesome blue sequins.

I cut the lining the same size as the knitted purse (instead of a tiny bit smaller), so when Diana goes to the grocery store, she can use the knitted side, but when she goes to dinner, she can have sequins.  Who doesn’t like sequins?

And now, I have a half yard of awesome blue-sequined fabric, and no ideas for it at all…

Okay, so in case you want to make your own cute iPhone purse, this is what you do:

Decide how big you want your purse to be.

Knit a rectangle to a bit more than the width and double the depth/height you want your purse to be.

Fold knitted fabric in half.  Right now, you want the prettiest part of your fabric on the inside.  We’ll flip it out in a minute.

Stitch seams up the sides (I think I use a mattress stitch.  There are probably lots of ways to stitch up the side of the purse.)

Right now, your purse is inside out.  Flip it so the seams you’ve just made are on the inside.

Take 6-8 long pieces of the left over yarn and braid a strap. Tie knots on either end of the strap.

Secure the strap to the purse with *a lot* of thread.  When you think you have used enough thread, use a bit more.

Cut fabric for the purse liner. (Lay your fabric on the purse and cut just inside the width of the purse.  You can cut out one long rectangle if you’d like, just like the long rectangle of knitting.)

When you work with your liner, remember that if people see it at all, they will see the inside of the liner because the outside will be back to back with the purse.  If your fabric has a “right” side, make sure it’s on the inside.

Hem the top edges of the liner.

Stitch a seam up the sides of your liner.

Attached the liner to the inside of your new purse by stitching it to the top inside of your purse.

Enjoy your work.

The Crib is Complete!

This week, my husband found a really cheap house here in town. It’s going for something like $35/square foot. It’s in a really nice part of town. We are not house hunting, so I’m not sure how he found it, but seriously, if we had the down payment available, I think he would have made the offer.

He sent me an email with a link to the listing.

I immediately thought, as you would also, “Something is seriously wrong with that house.”

I thought, “I bet they used to make meth in there.”

So I sent him this link back.

While looking over the meth site, I saw something that really scared me. There was a list of signs that your neighbor is on meth.  Most we obvious, such as “frequent visitors who park a block away” and “will accept Sudafed as payment for services.”  But one was “has many projects going and doesn’t seem to finish any of them.”

Oh no!

So I decided that this week, I was going to finish a project no matter what. Luckily for the Princess, we had a deadline coming up of her birthday, and she needed a place for her babies to sleep.

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Head First! That's the way.

This is from the DIY (asterisk) file. I found the plans for this doll crib here: ana-white.com.  I took the plans to Home Depot and bought the wood.  Then I took the wood to Papa Daddy’s house because I knew he had a saw (He has made a little chair for the P, bookshelves, and lots of other stuff.).  My plan was to cut the wood at their house and then bring the wood home and assemble it using the two tools that I own (a Kreg Jig and a drill).

After Papa Daddy cut the wood, he was like, “So, what’s your plan?”

I was like, “Build the crib?”

He was like, “Here, use all these cool tools, and I’ll show you how to do it.”

I was like, “Awesome.”

(This conversation was paraphrased.)

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The Princess saying, "Ohhhh" while noticing the finer details of her doll crib.

So, Papa Daddy totally made this baby doll crib.  If I had made this at home, it would be painted all white to cover all the mistakes I would have made and it would not have cute arched end boards.  I was not even going to try to cut and sand arches.  But look at them:

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Thank you PapaDaddy!

I did etch the flower.  That was nerve wrecking, but I really like how it turned out.  After I felt comfortable using the rotary tool, I told my husband that I was going to etch celtic knots into all of our door frames.  He reminded me that we do not own our current home, so maybe that would not be the best idea.  He was right.

At some point, I decided that the mattress fabric would be like Dorothy’s dress, so that meant the wood needed to be stained the color of her basket.  I’m really glad it turned out nice enough to stain.

This is the mattress.  Ana’s site has a tutorial on the mattress, too.  This is only the 3rd thing I’ve even sewn, and it was so easy.  You can totally do it.

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The Princess’s birthday is not until next week, but she had already seen the crib by the time we took it home to finish it, and the whole time the finish was drying, she was asking, “Mine crib ready?” “No, dear, it will be 12 more hours.” “Mine crib ready?” “No, dear, 11 and three-quarters more hours.”

Then, at some point, she saw me carefully inspecting the crib for stray cat hairs.  She “ran” over and asked, “Mine crib alright!?” “Yes, dear.” “Mine crib ready?” “No.  In the morning.”

So, first thing the next morning, she was ready to move the baby doll into the crib.  Hence the pajama pictures.  She just couldn’t wait.

Now what to finish next…?

Bringing up a Diva

I do not remember the age that the P started to pickup on rhyming.

I do remember thinking that he was so into it that I should really encourage his inner poet, so I pulled out the best of the best modern poet, Bob Dylan.

I remember thinking that I had successfully passed on good music genes when the P asked, “Can we listen to that song about I’m sleepy and there is no place I’m going to?”

I almost cried. I’m serious.

I don’t know if Bob Dylan’s influence has made my son a better poet. I do know that it didn’t hurt, now we can both sing along to Tambourine Man, and it’s very special for both of us.

Now there is the subject of the Princess. This girl can’t rhyme yet, but she loves to sing- all the time. She’s always humming to herself and has already written a song.

It goes, “oh, dada.” But there are alternative versions out there on video. If she likes you well enough, she’ll sub your name for “dada,” too.

What’s the best thing to listen to when you are a budding soprano?

Opera, of course.

We’ve been listening to opera on Pandora. Opera is nap time magic.

On opera days, she is asleep in about 2 minutes, not to mention more cultured.

I love my little diva.

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Look at her. Doesn’t it look like she’s about to throw a plate of strawberries and cheese across the room?

Not to worry. Aretha, Carole King and Adele are on our top ten list, too. But they are more for dancing in the kitchen. Not so much for nap time.

And here is a little preview of the Princess’ birthday gift:

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More coming soon!

The Nightstand Kitchenette

A few months ago, I decided the Princess could really do with a kitchenette. I immediately went to google and searched “DIY play kitchen” and found all these amazing examples of nightstands turned kitchenette. I had to make one – right away.

I talked to Aunt Shirley and she not only had a nightstand to spare, she had my old nightstand that she inherited when I moved out. It was much smaller than all the other nightstands I had seen on other blogs (about 15 inches across) but I felt like it was a good size for our small house. Plus, it was in the worst possible state of health, so I couldn’t make it worse:

Isn’t it bad? Who knows where the knob on the front went to, and the inside bottom is all messed up because somebody spilled a bottle of glue down there more than ten years ago and didn’t notice until she cleaned it out one day and the finish came right off. And, you can’t tell from the photo but, it wabbles.

First, I disassembled the drawer and the inner workings of the drawer. I saved the front of the drawer for the oven door and the bottom of the drawer for the bottom of the oven. It’s true that the bottom of the drawer does not stretch all the way across the bottom of the oven. Our oven is not air tight. Yes, this bothers me. No, the Princess has not mention it. She’s two.

Then I sanded and cleaned the whole thing. I didn’t sand through the finish. I’ve read several places that if you use a good primer (like Kilz or Gripper) a light sanding is sufficient. I was mostly cleaning off 2 teenage girls worth of nail polish marks and about half of the bottle of dried glue.

For the sink, I used a small rectangular cake pan. I drilled 4 large holes, one in each corner, of where the sink would go. Then I used a jigsaw to cut “straight ” lines from corner to corner.
They are not really straight, but the lip of the cake pan covers many wrongs.

I ran into one problem here. Be sure to look at the underside of you nightstand top when you are making your design to see if there are any elements that might get in the way of your future sink and knobs. I had to reposition the sink after I saw a huge chunk of supporting wood under where the faucet would have gone. It was easier to redesign the top to miss the supporting wood than it was to try to take out that piece of wood. Plus, although I couldn’t tell what that wood was there for, I felt like it might be worth keeping.

After the sink hole was done, I was ready to prime the whole thing. So I did, twice.


I used white primer on this little kitchen. The second kitchen in progress is going to be bright red and robin’s egg blue, so I used grey primer for that one. The nice man at Home Depot said that for bright colors, you need grey primer.

I painted the oven burners on top. Our kitchenette is smaller than others and only has a double burner. It’s okay. We have a small family.

The inside of the oven is silver.

The outside of the whole thing is perfectly peach, or something cute like that. It coordinated with the orange curtains.

I did not make the curtains. I bought these fabulous orange curtains on eBay more than 5 years ago. I only used them in one kitchen. The valence turned out to be the perfect height for the tiny cabinet space, so I cut it a little width wise and hot glued a seam. I drilled holes for the dowel rod and hung the curtain after the paint was all dry.

I made three knobs for the stove/oven. I started with short lengths of dowel rods. I baked lumps of polymer clay on one end of each rod and stuck them through my drilled holes with the clay lump on the bottom and the tip of the dowel rod sticking out of the top. Then I glued cabinet pulls to the tops of the dowel rods. After 5 months, one of these dowel rods has broken. When I replace it, I’ll try some kind of metal rod.

I tried the cute letter J turned upside down like the other kitchenettes I have seen, but it had two problems. 1. The Princess didn’t care for it. The minute she saw the J glued in place, she walked over to it pointing and saying, “No. No.” 2. I glued it on the top and didn’t have a good was to clamp it. I bumped it two days later and it fell right off. I thought about trying to screw it into the top somehow, but since the Princess didn’t like it anyway, I didn’t go to anymore trouble for the J. I’ve been searching occasionally at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore for a single handle basin faucet with no luck. But right now, the interested parties do not seem to know that there is no faucet, so we are not in a hurry.

The part that took the very longest was the oven door. I tried 3 different hinges before I found the ones that worked best for our kitchenette. The first ones set the door too high when it was closed. The second set simply fell apart with use – they weren’t designed for so much opening and closing. The third set was just right. They were from Ace Hardware. I think they were called “barrel hinges.”

Then came the Velcro. This was to keep the oven door closed, but with too much Velcro the Princess couldn’t open the door and with too little the door would flop open. We ended with a small square of Velcro in the middle, near the handle. The handle was super cheap, by the way. I found 10 drawer pulls for $5 at Big Lots. I realize this is only really a steal if I make 10 kitchenettes. I’m already working on the second with a group at church. I don’t have firm plans after that, but we’ll see what comes up.

So that’s it. That’s how I made my first kitchenette. As she grows, we’ll add more features. I thought a chalkboard on the side might be nice, but in our house right now, our motto is, “We only draw on paper.” I don’t want to confuse the poor Princess. And if I ever find that awesome faucet I’m looking for, I’ll post an update.

Cost:
Nightstand: free from sister
Cake pan: on hand. Never used. Found with other pans in my house
Paint: $6 (bought swatch samples-still have some left over for expansion pieces.)
Knobs/handles: $6.50. (with 9 handles left over)
Velcro: on hand
Dowel rod: under $1.
Faucet: Haven’t found it yet, but I’m not willing to pay more than $5.
Curtains: on hand.
Misc products from Home Depot: Spackle for hole filler – got left over from mom’s house

Project (almost) complete for under $20.

Oh! And a friend called after she heard about project kitchenette and offered play food that had been sitting in her garage for months. It was enough to support two kitchenettes, so the kids at church will be enjoying that play food, too. Thanks Bekah!

If you need further inspiration for your nightstand kitchenette, check these out:

My Little Gems 
Creative Kristi
Spearmint Baby (has a working light in the oven! That’s legit.)

The Hang-it-all That Started It All

A few months ago, I was searching eBay for a little coat rack. The one I had looked good in our living room 2 houses ago, but it wasn’t working in the kids’ play area by the back door.

Searching eBay wasn’t working out. I wanted something playful and something that matched my curtains but I was having trouble with just the right search terms for that. After a while, I googled “DIY coat rack” and I found the Eames Hang-it-all. Well, really, I found Thompson Family Life that described how to make a coat rack based on the awesome Eames design. After you see the Eames Hang-it-all, you know you’ve got to have it, but when you see the price tag, you know you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself. Danielle’s tutorial calls for a vice and a drill which are scary at first, but you can totally do it.

I made mine almost exactly like she did. I just used acrylic paint instead of spray paint, and to let the balls dry, I made a rack from lumps of polymer clay and toothpicks. Also, I used a smaller drill bit so the balls are very snug, but removable in case I want to change my color scheme later. The whole process was not anywhere near as cute as the Thompson’s, but I do like the way it turned out. It’s just what I had in mind:

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However, in practice, in the winter time, it really looks like this:
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But that’s fine, too. It keeps our coats off the couch. That was the point.

And the great thing about the hang-it-all project is that it opened my eyes to all the DIY resources on the web. Since hang-it-all, I’ve made a nightstand kitchenette, coasters, a knitted purse, and I’m working on a play house for the P’s action figures. (Let’s be clear. It’s not a dollhouse.)

Almost all of these projects came from a need and a quick google search.

My husband calls these DIY spells “monomanias.” They tend to occupy my time and our kitchen counters.

They also yield cute, cheap Christmas gifts and home decor.

Stay tuned for more fun monomanias.

My one issue with Hang-it-all is that I was restricted to the shape of the Rubbermaid coat rack. But recently, I’ve become aware of this magical stuff called JB Weld. It sounds like the perfect thing to use to make your own metal rack. I will not have time to play with this idea for a couple of months, so if anyone out there knows about JB Weld – please share.