Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Ready, Set, Sew - Halloween is nigh

It's October which means we're full steam ahead on Halloween costumes!

We're going for a (loose) weather theme this year.

Emma has selected a rainbow. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Source: Subtle Revelry

I get to be the accompanying rain cloud: a grey tutu and a few rain drops; I'll fit right in with Seattle weather. :)

Ben is going to be (the God of) Thunder (aka Thor).

Specifically the Thor from the battle with the Hulk in Ragnarok because he has short hair (which gets Ben out of donning a wig. I tried to convince him that it would be a stylish accessory but he was having none of it.)

Ben is completely immersed in the planning of his costume and spent about 30 minutes today telling me exactly how detailed the leather vest needs to be to suit his needs. I'm slightly anxious about it pulling it off, honestly. I tried to tell him we were going for Halloween-level of craftwomanship, rather than cosplay level...but it fell on deaf ears.

He did approve a slight breastplate simplification and I'm still debating about using a fake leather vs. a thin foam. I made a helmet in 2016 for Ben's knight costume that was fairly straightforward so we'll probably try to replicate the same general shape.

Chris, naturally, is going as The Hulk. Bucking our weather trend but it fits with our fierce little Thor.

Fingers crossed we can pull this off !

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Kitchen Update: Adding a Little Warmth

Here's a small little project I did a few months ago. I love our kitchen but it is slightly sterile - no custom touches or ingenious design solutions. I also happen to live with a fanatically clean husband: he wipes down those counters like a food safety inspector on a nightly basis and heaven forbid there is clutter that gets in the way of his dinner cleanup routine. So no stuff lives on our counters with the exception of a fruit bowl, toaster, soap dispenser, and knife block. Literally nothing else.

Emma and I have claimed the windowsill above the sink for our plant growing experiments but everything else is mess-free and very, very white. 

Time to warm it up a bit. We have this awkward space in our kitchen between the wall and the upper cabinets. 

The wall is a tiny curved nubbin over the bar so there wasn't room to put the cabinets all the way against it. Instead we have a space that measures roughly 20" wide. 

Time for a plan: shelves! Three, to be precise. 

We lived with cardboard replicas for a few months to try out several versions. 

I looked briefly into making the shelves out of reclaimed barn wood, (same as the bench) but it's dreadfully expensive. I also found our bench makers but their Etsy shop was no longer active - we loved the quality but they were months late on delivery and I wasn't sure if repeat business was warranted given their late initial job. Regardless, they were no longer a viable option. 

And then a nice block of Ikea butcher block counter top fell into my lap courtesy of my Buy Nothing Facebook group. Friends, are you on Buy Nothing? The concept is simple: post a picture of something you're done with and people in your group pipe up if they'd like to be the new owners. I love it - it's much more satisfying than sending stuff off to the landfill or Goodwill and we've scored some amazing stuff: gently-used ski jacket + bibs for Emma, an electric knife sharpener for Chris, a fitbit for me, and books for Ben. Our group is also big into lending: need a gorilla suit for a Halloween party? Post an 'ask' on the website; your neighbors might have one they are happy to loan you for the evening. 

Cutting was fairly straight forward. I initially used metal brackets to hold the shelves against the wall but they looked tacky; I eventually settled on wood supports screwed into the studs. The bottom shelf rests mostly on the quartz backsplash, with a few screws put in from the cabinet side. 

Ikea manufactures their counters of oak;  I stained it dark brown in an effort to mimic our bench. It's a close, but not perfect, match. 

Between the floor, the bench, the table, and the shelves, we have a lot of wood in the house and it looks ok, despite none of it matching.  I quite like it, actually!

Here are the finished products:

Right now there are a variety of knick knacks that we threw up there when getting the house ready for Airbnb. We've had a few things go missing over the years so stocking it with unsentimental items is key.


Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Urban Carnivores - What's In Your 'Hood?

The other day Chris and I were doing yard work and looked up to see a coyote trotting down the middle of the street. This was at 11am and in broad daylight.

It disappeared into my neighbor's massively overgrown lot after giving us the stare down.

But our coyote sighting pales in comparison to what showed up in my parent's neighbor's yard this morning:

RIVER OTTERS!! Four, including two babies!  [Can you feel my excitement?!.]

Growing up I had a whole school of fancy koi (fish) that lived in our pond. Some of them were 15+ years old, had names, and I trained them to come up to the surface by ringing a little bell. (I was a bored teenager, clearly). One day, all my prized fish were gone, with only a few fish heads laying scattered on the rocks. Piscinicide!

My mom maintained for years that it could only have been the work of a river otter - dad and I laughed her out of the room every. single. time.

Sorry, Mom, we should have believed you.

Note: to get to Steve's yard, this family of otters had to haul themselves out of Lake Washington, find their way past the solid block of lake-front homes, cross a street, climb a hill, cross the Burke Gilman Bike Trail, zip under a fence, cross a lawn, and then dive into the pond. Don't think that these guys are exclusively water critters - they can hustle across land at a fast gallop.

Our local zoo is currently doing a research project on urban carnivores and they're asking Washington residents to record their sightings of the meat-eating animals that live in our neighborhoods.

Want to see what is in your 'hood? Check out the map.

According to user-submitted data, we had a bobcat on the field where Ben plays baseball, a red fox in Wedgwood, an opossum in Maple Leaf, and coyotes/raccoons....everywhere. The video footage of the bobcat is pretty cool - I think the red fox sighting is slightly suspect. No bears yet within city limits. I'm wondering if the bobcat population has benefited from the explosion of rabbits that our city has experienced this year - we've got bunnies coming out of our ears.

Got anything to add to the map?


Photos. T. Dorrance. Thanks WS, for the push to get blogging again!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Projects: Lego Table and Auction Basket

Here's a recent project. Ben's school had an auction last month and our class decided to put together a Lego Gift Basket - classroom parents  generously donated building sets. I was in charge of making the seat/pouf and Lego table. 

I picked up the table at our local thrift store for $5. It was looking forlorn and in desperate need of some TLC. 

I sanded it down, gave it a nice paint job, and then glued down these Lego baseplates in the form of an island surrounded by water. 

 Ready for pirate play! Or a beach vacation! Or a shipwreck! So many imaginative possibilities.

The pouf took a bit more time. The pattern I used is roughly based on this one, with small modifications to the height to make sure that little knees could properly fit under the table.

Basically, sew a cylinder, do some math (pi!) to make a circle that will fit the top, sew that on, stuff it, and then put a sturdy base on the bottom. This last step is optional; most poufs have fabric tops and bottoms, but I needed mine to function as a sturdy chair so a floppy pouf was undesirable.

I used 1/4" plywood for the bottom disc.

A quick note about gear: recently I've really enjoyed using a very light pair of rubber gardening gloves when doing any project that requires tool use or wood handling. They certainly won't protect from saw cuts but I find that I've cut down on my splinter count and general wear and tear on my palms.  

Once the pouf is sewn and the base cut, the next step is to stuff it. Most folks use beanbag pellets or cotton batting but I found that something with less give was necessary to provide a firmer seating experience. I used an old (clean!) duvet covered by an outer layer of cotton. 

Foam around the outside of the wood provided additional cushion. 

Afterwards I simply hammered the fabric to the wood using upholstery nails and added furniture feet. Project completed. 

Ben made me swear that I'd win our own basket at the auction but I was promptly outbid by a parent that clearly loves their child far more than I. :) Sorry kid. 

Monday, April 22, 2019

Parties! Plus, my new no-meat obsession.

Our little Emma turned 5 a while back and requested an unicorn birthday party. Yesss! I love planning parties that are heavy on the whimsy and bright colors.  Her adorable (and very pink!) customizable party invite can be found here

Emma begged for a treasure hunt. I'm of two minds about the treasure hunts, mostly because they take so much time to create. The kids, however, adore them and they are always a huge hit at parties.

I pulled some of the clues from the internet but most of these are my own creation, made with significant help of an online rhyming app.

Here is a pdf of the clues. 

Each year I am determined to make a fancy lunch and somehow we always end up with our usual (and unimaginative) fruit/cheese/veg spread.  Everyone is guaranteed to find something palatable though so no complaints. 

 Pink cake! I am now an expert at ombre desserts. :)

Cake was followed by Pin the Horn on the Unicorn. 

And another with a similar theme: Unicorn Horn Ring Toss. 

 And that, my dears, was a wrap on the unicorn birthday party.

Ben's party this year was a slightly more low-key event. He picked out a few buddies and we headed over to Red Robin for lunch followed by the Lego Movie 2 at the theater. It was lovely, actually; his friends were very sweet and I think everyone had a good time, birthday boy especially. 

I used this free printable. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Speaking of printables, my sister-in-law had her bachelorette party a few months ago up here in Seattle and I threw together a few cards to go with the gift baskets. I copied the invitation from one online and I can't find it (feeling hugely guilty on that score). The party was a blast; my favorite bit was the electric boat rental we did on Lake Union; highly recommended! We brought along heavy appetizers plus a few bottles of bubbly. The boat is fully enclosed and comes with blankets and a heater. Bonus points for those that can pick out the Sleepless in Seattle houseboat!

Chris and I are still on our no-meat-but-lots-of-seafood meal plan and it's going well, although I occasionally cheat at restaurants. Let's just say that Chris has better self restraint that I.

The other day we sampled the Beyond Meat burger available at Whole Foods and Kroger. Friends, I AM A CONVERT.  We have subsequently learned that everyone has an opinion when it comes to fake meat but I will be a repeat customer. Have you tried it? What do you think?

Speaking of vegetarian staples, this slow roasted tomato and caramelized onion soup is absolutely heavenly and quickly became my go-to lunch this winter. You could easily make it vegan but I usually drape the top of mine with a slice of toasted french bread and gobs of melted cheese.  Adapted from the Rebar: Modern Food Cookbook by Audrey Alsterburg & Wanda Urbanowicz. Trust me, this soup is worth the prep time.

I have a few house projects that I've been working on recently so I'll throw those up presently. It's been a slow return to the world of blogging but I'll do my best to post a bit more frequently.


Thursday, April 18, 2019

What's On Loan From The Library

I've had a few interesting reads lately although they're quite the hodgepodge of recommendations.

Let's dive in.

Bad Blood
by John Carreyrou
Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup The Story of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes. I CANNOT believe this was real life it was so crazy. Definitely recommended.

A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell Series)
by Deanna Raybourn
A lepidopterist living in 19th century England that solves murders? Yes, please. I tore through this series, but then again I'm partial to (odd-ball) strong women protagonists with scientific obsessions.

The Burning Sky (The Elemental Trilogy)
by Sherry Thomas
This is a hard book to quantify: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance but not the gloopy sort of romance that leaves you wishing for a heroine with a stiffer spine, stronger self esteem, and better critical thinking abilities. The girl is powerful and the supporting characters are excellent.

Additionally, I also enjoying the author's take on the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, also devoted to strong, smart, odd women. :)

I'm still trying to make my way through Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. Good god it's taking forever. Its 832 pages but it's a hell of a slog. I'll get there. Eventually.

Come As You Are
By Emily Nagoski
An essential exploration of why and how women’s sexuality works—based on groundbreaking research and brain science
This book came hugely recommended by the readers of  the (wonderful) Cup of Jo blog; it's a great read for women (and men that love women). Given the dismal state of proper sex education in our country, Emma and Ben will both be getting a copy when they reach an appropriate age.

Next on my list: Educated by Tara Westover

"Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home."

Anything you've read lately that's good?