Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Halloween Transformations

I found this ugly, old, Styrofoam skull at the thrift store for $2 and knew it had potential for our Day of the Dead 50th birthday celebration, but also for a fun addition to my Halloween decor.
First, I painted it white. Then I filled in the eye and nose cavities with black paint. The teeth still had dark paint in the crevices, so I left them alone.
Last, I had a really fun time adding designs with sharpie markers. These started out with some of the traditional designs you would find on Mexican Day of the Dead skulls, but after a while I just filled space with random patterns and dots. Easy, fun, cheap!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Recycling Halloween

Most years I make our Halloween costumes. By "ours" I pretty much mean anyone who is in earshot. Stand around me long enough and I will probably put you in a coordinating outfit too! With an entire cast of characters to costume, I can't make everything from scratch. Lots of outfits are recycled, either from thrift stores or from previous costumes. Here are a few examples. This was my Halloween costume in 2007, they year I made all my friends into carnival freaks. Most of it came from the thrift store with some minor adjustments. PJ's jacket started out as a red blazer that got the front cut a an angle and the extra sewn on as tails. I added a felt color and a lot of gold fabric paint. I lucked out finding my jacket which matched a skirt I already had in my costume bin. I bought some old shower curtain valance for $1 just to have that long black ruffle to add to the skirt. I gathered the skirt vertically in a few places to show some leg, glued on some facial hair, and we were a carny couple.
Pj's jacket reappeared in 2010 as part of his Mad Hatter costume for Lydia's Alice in Wonderland birthday party.
In 2008 I was on maternity leave prior to Halloween and PJ was out of town for the holiday, so I turned three thrift store dresses into mermaid costumes for Jennifer, Lydia, and myself. They were a challenge that I enjoyed making and then promptly gave mine back to Goodwill after Halloween. I kind of wished I had kept it, but I was overwhelmed with baby stuff and my body was a weird post baby shape and I don't repeat my costumes and couldn't see a way to turn this one into anything else, but still I kind of wonder who loved it after me.
OK, remember my skirt from 2007?
It became Jennifer's witch skirt in 2009. It was supposed to be her Flower Fairy skirt, but that idea never really panned out so the day before Halloween, I scrapped it and made us all witch costumes out of our failed fairy skirts.

Remember that jacket from 2007? It became part of my Wicked Witch of the West costume for 2010. I had a black skirt and a black shirt from the thrift store, but the outfit needed a little something. I wasn't sure about adding the jacket at first because it wasn't solid black, but in the end I loved the extra shape it gave my outfit and even the pop of the red, blue and purple that stemmed from the jacket. I still need to figure out a Flying Monkey costume for PJ. I think the circus jacket may make an appearance in that one too. Hmm, I wonder what it will turn into next year!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sick and Stalking Nellie

I have apparently caught my first illness of the school year. Just a nasty sore throat sort of a thing, but I have seen a few co-workers fight it for a week or more, so I am taking their advice to take it easy. The timing is bad, we had Andrea and Alyssa in town and Lydia and I were scheduled for a few adventured with them that got cancelled. Alyssa turns three on Monday and I am hoping we didn't give her our germs as a gift.

While I have been resting, I have been stalking a little orphaned Irish girl named Nellie O'Malley! This is Nellie. She is an American Girl Doll that was introduced several years ago. Long enough ago, that some little girls who bought her are now older and their parents are now selling her on ebay. That's the good news. The bad news is that Nellie was apparently retired or discontinued, or took a purity promise or whatever it is that happens to American Girl dolls that makes them rare and unusual and expensive. Anyway, a new American Girl doll is around $100. A mint condition Nellie in the box with her purity in tact is going for $325 and up on ebay.
I don't really care all that much that Nellie is an American Girl Doll or that she is rare or whatever it is that makes her crazy expensive. I like the idea of getting Lydia an 18 inch doll and making them a few matching outfits. As long as they are going to match, I thought it would be neat if they looked similar. From what I have researched it seems like you can buy new American girl dolls from the "Like You" line for around $100. The historical American Girl dolls cost about the same and are also ethnically diverse so they might look like you kid as well, but they also have story books about their little orphaned lives and that is a neat bonus. You can pay a little more and get a My Twinn doll that is custom made to match, but they are bigger and more fragile and their aren't as many patterns for matching outfits. There are several cheaper brands of 18 inch dolls and several of them have a token readhead, but the hair is always really long and really red. I have been searching and researching for a week or so and then I saw this strawberry blonde doll. And I couldn't help compare it to my strawberry blonde doll.
Same hair length, same coloring, same side part, and she almost always has a bow in her hair. So I am searching ebay trying to find the rarest of all auctions. The auction where the seller doesn't know what they are selling. I thought I hit the jackpot when I found a Nellie that was labeled with the wrong name. So people searching for that doll wouldn't want to bid and people searching for Nellie wouldn't find it. Unfortunately for me, but fortunately for the seller, someone told them their mistake and the doll sold for almost $100. So I am back to searching for vague descriptions, like "American doll", and wading through thousands of auctions, looking for a doll that isn't named as Nellie, is hopefully missing her originally outfit, and may even have some minor damage, preferably in a non-visible location. I have my moments, when the cold medicine haze wears off and I wonder if I shouldn't admit defeat and buy the knock off red headed Madame Alexander doll that looks sort of like Lydia. And then I found 3 auctions buried in the recesses of ebay; 2 auctions for slightly abused strawberry blond American Girl dolls who (hopefully) shall remain nameless until I can be the high bidder on one of them, and one auction for Nelly's doll. Did you know some of the American Girl Doll's have their own baby dolls to hold? Neither did I until I was searching for Nellie and this doll popped up instead of Nellie.

Why did Nellie's doll catch my eye and restore my energy to search on? Nellie's doll is named Lydia! Weird or just the cold medicine talking?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Halloween Sewing Finished (photos to prove it!)

I feel slightly inappropriate posting so much about Halloween SO early. I have a great excuse. My sister, who has been my Halloween side kick for years, is going to Hawaii for a month. Luck girl! She leaves in a few weeks and gets back right before Halloween. We started coordinating our calenders and realized that we are both busy every weekend between now and when she leaves. If we wanted pictures taken together, we had to do them last weekend. Even worse, we went to the Fair Friday night and Lydia went to a car show Saturday so it had to be Saturday evening. Worse still, it rained all day and Lydia had an upset stomach. Needless to say, I was not optimistic about the pictures! Boy was I WRONG!!!

Lydia as Dorothy, with her trusty dog Toto (played by a stuffed animal version of our dog Buckley). We took pictures at a local park and this picture was her realizing that there was a playground and then running away from our carefully planned photo shoot location to get to the playground. There are several more shots of her throwing a tantrum as we try to keep her away from the playground and closer to any area that would look good for pictures.

Mommy and Auntie playing Good Witch and Bad Witch. By this point we both gave up being bad witches and let Lydia play on the playground. Suddenly we both becane good witches!

I LOVE this picture!!! Two of my favorite people in the world, draped in yards of tulle!
Could she be less interested in kissing me? OK.... It kind of works with the whole wicked witch theme. To be fair, I was covered in green stuff. I am lucky she didn't run screaming from me. Actually, that would have worked well too!

This TOTALLY works! I think this was the end of the day and we were walking Little Miss away from the playground and back to the car. We walked the long way around hoping that the green background might lend itself to a good shot. Somewhere in here we noticed that the community center at the park was full of kids having a birthday party. They got such a laugh out of seeing us walk by and we laughed right back. Mmmmm, maybe I cackled back!

If you want to see the costumes being made, click here.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Celebrating Anna's Birthday

One of my co-workers is celebrating a MAJOR birthday this weekend. The other two, still young and energetic, art teachers decided a little desk decorating was in order. We quickly moved on from the all too overdone, "over the hill", to a celebration of the birthday girl's long gone youth. We decided to decorate in the spirit of the Mexican "Day of the Dead". We turned her desk into a mini shrine, complete with a photo of the birthday girl at a much younger age, several Mexican inspired decorated skeletons and skulls. candles, and some creepy feeling statues I had laying around.
Everything got draped in black fabric. We even asked her students to wear black!
I wanted the look of "Papel Picado", Mexican tissue paper flags, but did not have the time. So I found some pictures and patterns of the real thing. I made them black and white in photo shop and printed them on colored paper. Good enough!
I found a wreath and added a ribbon banner reading "RIP - Youth" since that was the thing we were saying goodbye to!

I wrote on the sombrero with a sharpie marker, through a blanket over her chair and added a funny head sculpture that was laying around the art department. Hopefully she enjoyed the tribute to her long gone youth as much as we did!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Elmers Sqeezable Paint Brushes!

I have been meaning to buy some paints for Lydia. It sounds weird because we have SO many different kinds of paint in my house. Most of the paints are permanent (acrylic) or require a fair amount of parent involvement (watercolors). So I set out to get something washable, that she could apply with a paintbrush without me having to add water or clean up huge spills.

I saw these Elmer's squeezable paint brushes and thought I would give them a try. They cost about the same as a pack of 5 paint brushes, only these brushes are a good thick size, with paint in the handle. I figured even if I didn't like them, we could use them as paint brushes with pans of paint instead.

Luckily, I LOVE them!!! Lydia could easily squeeze out a blob of paint and then spread it around. I just had to remind her to squeeze on the paper and from there we were pretty good. They hold enough paint to cover a few pieces of paper, we did 2 big sheets and still had more paint, but I like that the paint doesn't go on forever. There will have to be a time to refill and that may be a good time to stop and start up again later. There are no pots of paint to knock over, or to reach for and inevitably get paint on your shirt or sleeve. The pack of paints I found only came in metallic, but they do make them in regular colors too. The tops come off so I am hoping I can refill mine with any colors that I want to later. That also means that I can fill them with any brand of paints I like.

Lydia seems to like them a lot. I LOVE that when she sets them down they are shaped in such a way that the brush part can't touch the table and make a mess. They also have clear lids that screw on to help keep the paints from drying out. I cleaned the brushes, screwed on the lids and am looking forward to our next painting day.

I know Lydia is looking forward to painting again soon, too.

Fall Cloths

It isn't quite cold enough for the sweat shirt, but we were sorting Lydia's cloths this weekend, and she was wearing her new black tutu that coordinates with her new Boston Terrier sweat shirt, so I thought I would try it on for size. It's still a little big, but then again, it's still a little hot outside.

Really, how cute are the girl dog and boy dogs. Lydia doesn't know Boston Terrier, so she calls these Buckley Dogs. We LOVE our Buckley dog!

I am also in LOVE with these shoes! I found them at the thrift store and picked them up because our church has a sock hop in the winter. How perfect are they?

Labor Day Drawing

After Lydia went to the potty this morning (please don't judge the lack of clothing and abundance of messy hair) she was looking at a book so I started hanging up her laundry. I looked over after a few quiet moments (too quiet, I should have suspected something was up) and I saw this. She had found a marker and was happily drawing all over the bathtub!
I checked really quick to make sure it would eventually wash off, it would, so I let her go.
She was absolutely silent and focused on her work.

After a while, without any words spoken or direction from me, she washed off her drawings and started again.

This time she didn't stop with one side of the tub.
Again, without saying anything, she got up and moved to the end of the tub for more room to draw.

Then she stretched out on the floor to get the bottom of the tub and eventually colored the claw feet of the tub!

I wish I had noted the time, because she was doing this for a LONG time. Washing and starting over again, and washing again, and drawing some more. At some point she told me some part of her masterpiece was mommy and daddy and a space ship. Cool! I got all the laundry folded, switched out summer clothing for fall, organized drawers and Lydia had a BALL!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Halloween Sewing

So, it is officially September and time to get started with Halloween stuff. Can you guess what we are going as this year? I knew that this would be a busy fall for me, teaching two new courses, so when I saw this dress at a discount store (it is a real dress, not a flimsy costume) I snatched it up. A different discount store had the sequined shoes this summer.
I cut the sleeves off the dress and will put either a long or a short sleeve white shirt under it depending on the weather. Add pigtails with bows, a basket, and Lydia's stuffed animal doggy and Dorothy is DONE! On to the adults. Don't you think Jen looks like Glinda the Good Witch?
I found a tiny tiny 1980's pink prom dress (It's a Gunnie Sax, doesn't that take you back!)The dress was only $3 at Goodwill. It was originally $6, but I got half off with a senior citizen discount! (Long story involving a little old lady who took FOREVER in line in front of me)

It was too short, but I also found a pink bed sheet for $2 at a different thrift store. After proper sanitation in the laundry, I added a long ruffle and have just enough fabric to make a puffy sleeve later. I had some scraps of pink tulle that I took to work a while back. I'm going to wait and see about adding that as a final frothy pink layer before I consider Glinda's dress finished. She will need a tall hat, a wand, and a silver butterfly necklace if I can manage it, but it should be doable. I will be the Wicked Witch of the West. Black Skirt (have it), black shirt (have it), witches hat (have it), green makeup and I will be good to go. PJ may be joining us this year and his costume is still up for consideration. I am hoping to talk him into being a flying monkey, partly because it sounds fun, partly because the WW of the West controls the Flying Monkeys. How fun would that be? Maybe I can put him on a leash for trick or treating!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Baby Gear

Let me preface this post by saying that I am by NO means an expert on babies or baby gear. I only have one baby and a lot of the baby gear that I had was passed on to me by loving friends who were eager to get rid of their no longer needed items. However, I have a small budget, a smaller house, and a desire for the things that I use to be both functional and well formed With that said, I have been asked on many occasions to elaborate to a friends who is expecting, what baby gear I liked and why. Because I am a planner and a researcher and I love helping my friends, I tend to write and write and write. So, I decided to put it in the blog and save myself some time then next time I am asked about baby gear. If you don't care about or don't need baby gear, stop reading now. Turn back from the crazy world of baby gear while you still can!


I was told by a friend to get a good umbrella stroller, something small but sturdy. A newborn baby can't ride in it right away, but I got a Chicco umbrella that is about 60-$80. Not cheap compared to most umbrella strollers (I got mine used so it was less) but baby can ride in it pretty early because it reclines some and it has a shade and some storage below. I have used other umbrellas and I think my Chicco handles really well. I also had a BIG jogging stroller that I really liked, because compared to other joggers it was light. No jogger is actually light, and I don't know if everyone needs a jogger. Some moms like getting the travel system were the car seat matches and fits into the stroller. Either way, check out the weight ahead of time. has reviews and info on almost every stroller and they list size and weight. My big stroller wasn't made to fit with a particular car seat, but I read in one of the Amazon reviews that someone used it with the car seat I had and it fit well without an adapter of anykind. THis isn't as safe as one that actually locks in place because it was made to fit, so this one depends on your comfort level and how crazy fast and dangerous you plan to be with your stroller. So you might want to know what car seat you will use and then find a stroller that is either made for that or that will accommodate that. I took my car seat to the baby store and tried it out in different strollers to see if it would fit securely. Practice opening and closing and getting car seat in and out of the stroller. Some are a pain!

Car seats:

I lucked out and was given a Graco Snug Ride. Not sure if Graco has updated or changed the name, but I had to shop for a big girl car seat and found that I REALLY liked the way the Graco clasps connect the top of teh 5 point harness. Lots of cheaper seats had a top harness buckle that was like a button you push down to release the hold. By 18 months Lydia would have known to push the button! The Graco clasp you push down from the top and the bottom to release. She is now able to slide it together to fasten it herself, but she can't undo it herself. All that and it is actually easy for parents to clasp.

I got a DVD called the "happiest baby on the block." It shows a technique for soothing a baby with a weird little jiggly movement on their side. I was a HUGE help around 4 weeks when baby got really fussy, which was also when I was SO sleep deprived I was going CRAZY! Being a DVD it was easy to devote 20 minutes to watching it (when I would rather be sleeping) and I felt like I saw results right away. Even hubby got into the baby jiggling. The author suggests a larger size baby blanket to swaddle with. I bought a few in that size and really preferred them to the smaller standard size. You could probably google "swaddle blanket" to get the size to watch for if you aren't familiar with "HBOTB".

My favorite "surprise" piece of baby gear was this little timer thing called an "itzbeen". Probably cell phones and computers can be set up to do this too, (my phone does NOT have an ap for that!) but I bought this little thing and it had 4 buttons, one for feeding, one for diapers, one for sleep, and a bonus what ever you want it to be button. You could set each button to have a certain time that it counted down and every time you hit the button it would start that countdown. It would blink or beep if too much time had passed. So when I was really sleep deprived and crazy and stressed and the doctors tell you to monitor when they eat and sleep and poop it was my sanity. I felt like i knew if Lydia was crying because it was time to eat or if she was tired a little better. We quickly got her on a rhythm that made life easier and after a month or so I didn't use it anymore, but it was really helpful.


I liked using Playtex drop ins for bottles while Lydia was away from the house because I could stack the drop in liners together and have 6-8 liners and one liner holder take up the same space as one bottle. I put formula in pre-measured snack sized baggies, so that they were quick and easy and when it was used it was gone, instead of some plastic solid formula containers that take up the same amount of space full or empty. I would put 6-8 nipples in a ziploc and as they were used and dirty, they would go in one of the used ziplock from the formula packets. So she could have a full day of bottles and food in her diaper bag at daycare and it took up very little space.

If breastfeeding, I really liked having a cover up, but it had to fit in the diaper bag. i was given one that was a nice thin material, so not too hot in summer. It was basically the size of a baby blanket but has a weight sewn in one corner. That went over my shoulder to keep it in place and the rest was just a square of fabric, no weird attachments, so for me it doubled as a baby blanket if Lydia was cold (summer baby in the south with AC set too cold in too many places)

I did end up needing a swing. I was against them at first, thought I should be able to sooth my own child.....then reality set in! I really don't like how big and bulky they are, so I found a foldable swing that was made to work with my car seat (the graco snugride) It folded up and slid behind our furniture when not in use, but when i came home and Lydia was asleep in the car seat, I just carried the seat into the house, set the car seat into the unfolded swing and turned it on. SO nice!

Standard stuff, like doorway bouncers, exercaucers are nice and not too different by brand.

I LOVE my baby gates. You don't need them until around a year, and most houses aren't weird like mine, but we have big open rooms, so no standard gate would work. I bought a super yard baby gate. It is really 6 panels connected together with one of the panels having a gate that opens and closes. So initially we stretched it across the opening to the living room and that room became her play area. You can make it any shape, so at Christmas it went out around the tree so she couldn't get into anything breakable. Later, when we were OK with her being on the first floor, we just sectioned off the bottom of the stairs. i bought it in wood (had to get it online for $120) but it matched our house and did many different jobs for about a year and a half. It is sturdy and not really showing wear so when I am done I feel like i can sell it and get my $ back. PS you can set it into a play pen configuration , take it outside, or use it for dogs, too!

I really liked having a video baby monitor. I found one where the video monitor part is shaped like a walkie talkie and you can carry it around. When Lydia was needing to cry herself to sleep, I could check in on her, with out her seeing me and getting more upset. I could also peak in without worry of waking her once she was asleep.

We had one of those plastic baby bathtub deals but no good place to put it and it took time to fill and was hard to empty when you had a wet cold baby in your arms, so i bought a little mesh and wire tub support that Lydia laid on in the big bathtub and we just filled the tub with a little water and the support stayed in the tub so no extra space needed. I really don't understand using anything but a shampoo and body wash combined. Who needs 2 bottles to deal with when you are an insane person from lack of sleep?

Finally, I tried making my own fancy looking diaper bag, but it was so bulky and heavy. When I was breastfeeding I could get away with a smaller, messenger style diaper bag. I used the more manly looking one with the idea that PJ might actually be seen carrying it, didn't happen, so get what YOU like!!!! I upgraded to a bigger bag when Lydia was full blown in the middle of milk allergy madness and I had to pack an entire days food in her bag each day. I found a Loom Marsupial bag at a consignment sale. I liked it instantly because of its cool orange giraffe like pattern and its washable surface. It was expensive for consignment, so I was debating it, but a girl near me recognized the look on my face and shared that she had the same bag, paid four times as much for it, and LOVED it. I carried that bag everyday for almost 2 years and will carry it again with the next kiddo. It somehow so light, even when FULL, that I think it contains pixie dust.
Here is hoping you LOVE your baby gear as much as I do. It's tough out there and the right gear for the job can make such a difference. Feel like sharing your list? Comment and let me know what gear you LOVED.