Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November 2010 Round Up

Note: the bottom row of photos was taken by Luke in the back seat of the car during our Thanksgiving travels.

Click mosaic to biggify. Created using Big Huge Labs Mosaic Maker.

What books and/or magazines did I read this month?
If I'd taken a book with me during our Thanksgiving travels, I might have managed to read at least part of one.

What movies and/or tv shows did I watch this month?
* TV Time: Just the usual, really. Saw a little of the Addams Family for the first time in years.
* New Films: The Fast and The Furious was more blah than expected. I usually like that type of action film, but this one wasn't working for me. Far From Heaven was one of those movies that was very well done, with excellent performances that I appreciate, but I can't really say that I liked it. Tangled was great fun, and it even held up pretty well on a second viewing. We all quite enjoyed it.
* Old Favorites: Animusic, WALL-E, Atlantis, *batteries not included, Monster's Inc., Kung Fu Panda, Groundhog Day, Iron Man (again, I'm sure there were others, but I cannot think of what)

What special days did I celebrate and how?
We spent Thanksgiving at my parents, but my grandfather was in the hospital, so Dad had to stay with him.

What gifts did I give and/or receive?
Given that we visited my parents, I'm sure Luke received something, but nothing is immediately springing to mind. Things were crazy that weekend.

What illnesses or health concerns did I have?
Luke had another of his "spells" this month, throwing up after going to bed, then being completely fine. Really wish I knew what was causing them. Thinking PaPaw was having a stroke (turned out to be a TIA) and then having him admitted to the hospital for bleeding 2 days before Thanksgiving was not good. Luke also ended up with a sinus infection over Thanksgiving, and the bad spot on his cheek was diagnosed as ringworm (a fungus). Oh, what fun!

What fun things did I do with my friends and/or family?
We took Luke to his first ever Cirque du Soleil show, Ovo! It was a little long for him, but he did enjoy parts of it. We'll try it again in a couple of years.

What new foods, recipes or restaurants did I try this month?
I made red beans and rice, using dried beans, and I didn't even make anyone sick.

What special or unusual purchases did I make?
Luke's size 4 sneakers! You find those in the men's section at Zappos, BTW, not the kids' section. His shoes are now officially too large for my sister-in-law (who wears a women's size 5.5; men's size 4 = women's size 6).

What were this month's disappointments or frustrations?
Luke's first field trip got rained out for a second time in less than a month, but the third time was the charm and they got to go.

What were my accomplishments this month?
8. Correct my tax withholding on my paycheck. Stumbled on how to do this online accidentally, so that is now finally done. Yay, I now receive a smaller paycheck! Um, wait....
40. See a new (to me) Cirque du Soleil show. And we even took Luke.

I don't remember accomplishing much else this month, except a new temari. Even though it was mostly done, it's been mostly done for a while now, and I do consider it an accomplishment that it is actually finally complete! I also posted a finger weaving box braid tutorial after promising a friend I would do so for many years. Glad to finally have that done! So sorry for the wait, Terry.

What were Luke's accomplishments this month?

Luke continues to do well in school. Reading and writing are both coming along. He participated in his first school play as part of the chorus, which was great fun. Luke also received his first ever trophy, which he is so very proud of, and we couldn't be prouder of him. He worked really hard at soccer this year, and I think it was a great experience.

Anything else noteworthy to record?
The weather has been really wacky this month. We had lows around freezing during the first week of the month, which is very unusual. Then it hailed (or sleeted, still unsure) around the middle of the month. Very strange.

Monthly Round Up courtesy of Katie the Scrapbook Lady.

Currently feeling: very late on this one

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Christmas Star Temari

Hey, look, I finished a temari! I think it has only been 2-3 years in the making, working small bits at a time, then leaving it to sit for months. Then, it got lost in a bag, which then got lost in the move. I'm actually still missing a craft bag that has all of my temari books in it. (Naturally, now that I'm in the mood to do some!) This one didn't turn out exactly as I intended.

Notice how the points are on alternate division lines, not on the same division lines on each side of the obi (center strip)? The idea was to make the points really long so that they crossed over the obi line and entered the empty space between the points of the star on the other side. Obviously, it didn't quite work out that way. I didn't leave enough distance between the center pentagon and the first stitch of the star points to allow for that. At minimum, both sets of points should touch the obi, but you can clearly see they do not on one side. Oh well! I'm still learning. Now, to make another one, before I forget what I've learned.

Currently feeling: star power

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving 2010

Hope you all had a great day and week, whether or not you celebrate Thanksgiving this week. I am thankful for all of you!

This isn't just a turkey,
as anyone can see.
I made it with my hand
which is a part of me.
It comes with lots of love
especially to say,
"Have a Happy Thanksgiving Day!"

"Mommy, is this a feast?" Yes, sweetie, it most certainly is. So sorry Papa had to miss it, but we saved him plenty of leftovers.

Currently feeling: stuffed

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Dressing With Awesome-sauce

As a fundraiser for a local charity, the cafeteria at my father's school was selling pans of cornbread dressing; just bake and eat. Dad ordered one to try and help Mom with one less thing to cook. I believe he was supposed to pick it up Tuesday after school. However, with my grandfather admitted to the hospital Tuesday morning, that was not going to be possible. The following is the string of emails between Dad and the coordinator of the fundraiser (slightly edited to remove personal info and such).

Dad: I had to go to Waycross to be with my father in the hospital. I got the call before 7am this morning. Please do not worry about the dressing -- consider it a donation to the cause. Please take it home yourself or give it to one of your workers, with my compliments. Have a good holiday!

Ms. C: I am so sorry, Mr. Warren. I would like to help you still. You can come pick up the dressing at my house. That way your wife won't have to cook any. I would be more than happy to keep it there for you until you can get it. I will be home this evening after 5:30 and all day tomorrow. Please let me know.

Dad: Thanks for the offer, but do not worry about it. Chances are he will be in the hospital over the holidays, which means I will be as well -- we cannot leave him alone. Please see that the dressing goes "to a good home" for the holidays.

Ms. C: I thought you might like to know that the dressing will go to a needy family. A parent called the Guidance office asking for help with a Thanksgiving meal. Dr. W came to me saying she had everything except dressing. How about that? It actually brought tears to my eyes. So, thank you, Mr. Warren. Your generosity will help many people.

Currently feeling: fate is awesome

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bookworm: A Conversation With Luke

This is more of a retelling of a conversation with Luke, but it is too good not to share. I mentioned yesterday that I was concerned about a spot on Luke's face. I took him to the doctor, and it turns out he has ringworm (and a sinus infection). Now, before you freak out (like I did), ringworm is actually a fungus; you treat it like you do athlete's foot. The doctor said it is very common and most likely started out as something else (I'm guessing bug bite), which makes sense with his progression. Anyway, I wanted to mention it to his daycare director in case she needed to send out a notice or something.

Me: Oh, I meant to tell you, that spot on his cheek is ringworm.
Samantha: Yes, he told me.
Me: He did? I wasn't sure if he had heard the doctor or understood what she said.
Samantha (laughing): I asked him why he had a bandaid on his cheek, and he told me he had bookworm.

Currently feeling: bookish

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bad Hair Day

I suppose it was inevitable. In fact, simply making it over 6 years before it happened is rather amazing. Luke took a pair of scissors to his own hair, lopping off half of his bangs. I'm concerned about a spot on his cheek, so every time I really look at his face, that tends to be what catches my eye as opposed to actually looking at his face overall. Consequently, we're not really sure when it happened; could have been Saturday or Sunday. I finally noticed it at dinner Sunday evening.

I didn't see the point in taking him to a professional. The damage was done. I trimmed the other side to match as best I could. There's a bunch of forehead up there now! We'll attempt to get it fixed before Christmas; it should have grown in enough by then to at least be helped by a pro.

Once again, so cliche! Reminds me of scratching his face right before school portraits last year. Did he do this a few days after his birthday party when there was nothing important going on for a month? Oh no! He waited until the weekend before Thanksgiving here in the US, when there will be tons of pictures, of course. I think he somehow figured out that I was going to call the photography studio to make a portrait appointment for the first week of December. Guess we'll be waiting until January.

Currently feeling: frustrated

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Finger Weaving Box Braid (For Terry)

Many (many *many*) moons ago, I went to a stitching convention and showed off my one and only amazingly cool craft trick: a finger woven box braid. I don't know if that is the official name for it, that's just what I call it. Back in the friendship bracelet days of the 1980s, a girl in my class at school showed me how to do it, but I have not met anyone since who knows it. (Of course there are others; YouTube and Google prove that. Just no one I personally know.) Ever since that trip to Texas, a very good friend of mine has been begging kindly asking me to write up a tutorial on it, but I am just now getting to it. Something about having a baby not long before her first request, I believe. I still have her most recent request email from, um, er, 2008. Terry, this is for you! (I can't believe I'm about to give away my "trade secret." LOL)

Several folks said that the tutorial does not print well directly from the blog, so I made a PDF file of it. Thanks for the feedback and suggestions!

You will need embroidery floss, scissors, and some way to secure the knotted end while you work with the loops. I will admit that I am still not very good at estimating how long the strings need to be. I think the length you cut each thread should be about 3 times the desired finished length of the braid, but some of that will be affected by tension.

Start with 3 times the final length and experiment. Better too long than too short; you can always just stop weaving when it gets long enough. Cut 5 segments of embroidery floss (don't pull the individual strands apart; use them all together, just as they come off the skein). Gather all 10 cut ends together to make 5 loops of floss. Even length loops is the goal. Don't worry if all of your ends don't line up due to slight differences in the length of the strings (you can always trim them up later). Carefully knot the cut ends together in a single knot about an inch (3 cm) from the end, keeping the loops as separate and even in length as possible.

Secure the knotted end; use a friend, a safety pin (be careful, the pin might wear a hole in whatever it is attached to), a clipboard, etc. It needs to be secure enough to withstand all of the tugging on it you are about to do. Some people use tape, but that does not work well for me personally. I tend to pull hard enough to have it come unstuck with the amount of tension I use, but it might work for you.

Try to untangle the loops as much as you can before putting them on your fingers. To make sure we are all on the same page, this is how I am naming the fingers. In the picture below (left hand, palm facing you), naming left to right, I am referring to them as: thumb, index, middle, ring, pinky. For a 5-loop box braid, you will not use your thumbs or your pinky fingers for weaving. (I will briefly discuss a 7-loop box braid at the end.)

With the knotted end secured to a point away from you, take three loops and put one on each of the following fingers: left index, left middle, and left ring. The loops should rest in the crook of your fingertip, right at the bend of the knuckle joint just below your fingernail.

Take the remaining two loops and put one on each of the following fingers: right index and right middle (your right ring finger should be empty). Pull the loops towards you, away from the knotted end, until there is very little slack in the loops (this will make it easier to see which strands to work with). Turn your hands so that your palms are facing each other, thumbs towards the ceiling. With your hands in this position, each loop has a "top" and "bottom" strand.

Take your right ring finger (it should be empty) and put it between the top and bottom strands of the loop on your left ring finger, then put it between the top and bottom strands of the loop on your left middle finger. Now, use your right ring finger to grab the top strand of the loop on your left index finger and pull it through. Do NOT put your right ring finger between the strands of the index finger loop before grabbing and pulling it trough; be sure you grab the top strand from above (otherwise the braid will split). You should now have three loops on your right hand and two loops on your left hand.

Pull your hands apart (don't drop the loops!), keeping the loops taut, until the loops form a nearly straight line. This will "snug up" the "stitch" you just made. Use the same amount of force/tension each time you do this so that the braid will be even. Now, take the two remaining loops on your left hand and "walk" them up your hand: transfer the loop on your left middle finger to your left index finger, then transfer the loop on your left ring finger to your now empty left middle finger. Your left ring finger should now be empty.

Repeat the previous steps, this time using your left ring finger to weave between the strands of the loops on your right ring finger and right middle finger. Grab the top strand of the loop on your right index finger from above and pull it through. You should now be back to three loops on your left hand and two on your right. Pull your hands apart to cinch up the stitch and walk the loops up on your right hand (middle finger loop moves to index finger, then ring finger loop moves to middle finger) so that your right ring finger is empty.

Repeat until your braid is the desired length, weaving about 1/2 inch (1 cm) more than you think you need to allow for the knot. Grab the braid right at the end of the woven section. Hold it firmly so it does not unravel as you slide the loops carefully off your fingers. Knot the loop ends together as close to the braid as you can. Trim ends to desired length, but not too close to the knot or it might pull itself out. (I did not trim my ends, sorry.) Ta-da!

This braid started with floss strands about 24 inches (61 cm) long. I ended up with a total length of about 11 inches (28 cm), with about 9 inches (23 cm) of usable braid. Elapsed time from cutting the floss to knotting the loop ends was about 18 minutes. Though I learned the technique for making friendship bracelets, I now use it primarily for hanger loops on stitched ornaments and scissor fob cording.

I tried filming myself doing this with my digital camera, and I wasn't very good at being my own cameraman! If you need to *see* it done (which really does help), this is the best video from a technique perspective I have found: How to Make a "Box" Friendship Bracelet by ImaginaryOranges. She's not the most dynamic speaker, and she takes a while to get going (about a minute in). I also don't find her verbal explanations the most helpful, which is why I wrote my own. But for demonstrating the technique, this is the best video I've found so far.

Erin's Tips:
* The first little bit of the braid up by the knot won't be perfect. Keeping the loops/ends in order as much as you can while knotting will help, but don't worry about it too much.
* It is best to start and complete the entire braid in one sitting; starting and stopping is difficult and can result in a flubbed spot in the final braid. If you must start and stop, be sure you put the loops back on the same fingers they came off of. If you don't, there will be both a flub and a change in the order of the colors.
* The more even the tension as you cinch up the stitches, the more uniform the resulting braid. The tighter it is, the boxier (less rounded) it will appear. Experiment with tension to produce a braid that *you* like; there is no right or wrong tension, just personal preference.
* It is critically important to grab the top strand of the loop you are pulling from your index finger from above the strands, not from between them. If you grab the strand from underneath, or if you grab the bottom strand instead of the top strand, you will end up with a split braid instead of a single square box braid.

Regarding Colors:
You can make each of the 5 strands a different color, you can make them all the same, or some combination. You just need 5 strands total. If you want the colors to appear in a certain order, put them on your fingers from the index finger down, doing one hand first, then the other. For example, to produce a braid with the colors in rainbow order (red, orange, yellow, green, blue), place the loops as follows:
red = left index
orange = left middle
yellow = left ring
green = right index
blue = right middle

To produce the braid shown, I used the colors as follows:
dark green = left index
light green = left middle
white = left ring
light red = right index
dark red = right middle

You can do this same braiding technique with 7 strands as well. Put 4 loops on one hand and 3 on the other, then use your pinky fingers to weave instead of your ring fingers. For 7 strands in ROYGBIV order, place the loops as follows:
red = left index
orange = left middle
yellow = left ring
green = left pinky
blue = right index
indigo = right middle
violet = right ring

If you try it, I'd love to hear from you! I haven't had anyone trial these instructions yet; I hope they work for you. Let me know if you have any questions, or if you think some parts of this tutorial need additional explanation or clarification. Enjoy!

Currently feeling: stringy

Saturday, November 20, 2010

One Year Moving Anniversary

A year ago today, we moved into this house. I certainly cannot say that we've made many (any?) of the improvements we intended to make. Other more pressing issues came up: plumbing issues, air conditioner repairs, additional attic insulation to prevent a second year of $500 gas bills in the winter.... Such things tend to take precedence over things like paint and light fixtures; that's life with an older home. But we really do love it here, and overall, we are very pleased with his Kindergarten, which was the whole point. Looking forward to at least 20 more wonderful years!

Currently feeling: homey

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ovo: Cirque du Soleil

From the day I learned I was pregnant, there was a short list of things I could not *wait* to do with my child. Some have been as wonderful as I expected (Disney!), some have not worked out exactly as I envisioned (not wanting to touch cake on his 1st birthday), and some things are still on the list (Rockin' Roller Coaster, hopefully next year!). But we did strike another item from the list this weekend. Anyone who has ever been to one of their traveling shows should recognize this tent:

We took Luke to his first Cirque du Soleil show, Ovo. After burning so many calories yesterday at the pizza party after soccer and not eating much all day, he was still in calorie deficit mode, which did affect his mood. It took me forever to get anything but a frown for this photo.

This was my 5th different Cirque du Soleil show (La Nouba, Dralion, Allegria, Varekai, and Ovo), and I can't say that it was my favorite (still Dralion). Don't get me wrong, I quite enjoyed it! But I didn't find much new in it compared to the other shows I've seen. For anyone who has only seen one or two Cirque shows (like my parents; special thanks to Papa for the tickets!), it would be fine. Luke was fascinated by the costumes, the grasshoppers in particular. I think it took a little too much time to get going, but once it did, they held Luke's interest pretty well. He actually laughed a lot more at the clowns than I expected. His favorite parts were the trampoline/climbing wall group and the guy with the diablos.

My one fear about the show came true, though: it was a little too long for Luke. It is two 1-hour segments with a 30-minute intermission in between. He did great the first half, and was quite patient (with the assistance of the games on DH's phone) with the intermission. However, he clearly started losing interest about half way through the second act. With about 10 minutes to go, he leaned over on my shoulder and asked if it was time to leave. I do believe some of that was due to him still being so tired from Saturday, but not all of it. Two and a half hours is a long time for a 6-year-old to be interested in anything! But overall he did great, and he still talks about the grasshoppers, so I know he enjoyed it. We'll try again, but it will likely be 1-2 more years before we do so.

Currently feeling: lacking in talent

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Soccer Star!

When his soccer portraits arrived last week, I decided to save the reveal for today, knowing this post was coming. Luke played in his last soccer game of the season today. Everyone has improved over the course of the season, including Luke, and they definitely played well. Usually one of the teams dominates, but these teams were very evenly matched, and it was great fun to watch.

Afterward, the coach treated everyone to a pizza party at one of those "bounce house" places with all of the large blow-ups. Luke had fun on those:

He also had fun playing foosball and air hockey for the first time.

After playing *hard* for over an hour, it was time to eat. As is pretty standard for Luke, immediately following that type of caloric expenditure, he wasn't hungry. He just wanted to go play some more. At least, until the presentation started.

All we heard about for the first few weeks of the season was "will I get a trophy?" I suspected he would, but I didn't want to say yes if that was not the case. By the last game, he had forgotten about it until he saw some of the other teams getting theirs immediately following the game. I figured part of the reason for the pizza party was to hand them out, but again, I wasn't sure. He has *literally* carried that thing around the house with him ever since. Where he goes, it goes. I'll probably have to put my foot down about it going in the car on tomorrow's outing. But he is absolutely thrilled with it. He has come a long way since he first set foot on the field in September. We are so very proud of him!

Currently feeling: a very happy mom!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Killer Kidney Beans

Homemade red beans and rice. Doesn't look poisonous, does it? I saw Claire Robinson of 5 Ingredient Fix make this in a crock pot a few weekends ago, and I thought "I can do that." I even decided to be brave and use dried beans for the first time ever in my life. I was double-checking the recipe online when I noticed the recipe review that happened to be at the top. The first sentences read, "It doesn't say not to use kidney beans. The Wikipedia says that the poison is present in all beans and concentrated in kidney beans. The Wikipedia says that slow cooking releases more poison."

Say what?! Beans are poisonous, especially kidney beans? How did I not know this? I considered it especially important since I did not know that red beans were different from red kidney beans, and of course it was kidney beans that I had purchased and already soaked. I also know that Wikipedia is notoriously incorrect about things, so I did my own research. Sure enough, there were many posts from what I would consider reputable sources saying the same thing, like this one. Apparently undercooked beans of any kind, especially kidney beans, can indeed cause intense nausea and diarrhea. This problem is a common issue in kidney beans cooked in a slow cooker because not all slow cookers get hot enough to neutralize the toxin. Here I was all proud of myself for stepping out of my cooking comfort zone, and I get smacked down by nature. Lovely. And you know what, maybe it's just me, but shouldn't there be some kind of warning on the package?! Sheesh.

I did as the link suggested and boiled the beans for 10 minutes (40 minutes is probably closer to the truth, since I was paranoid), and we all survived. It was quite yummy, in fact (and made way too much for just 2 people). But to me, having to boil the beans before adding them to the crock pot pretty much defeats the whole purpose of doing them in a slow cooker. I just wanted to soak the beans, dump everything in the pot, and turn it on. Even if I used the proper red beans next time, knowing the possible consequences, I would feel compelled boil them (or use canned). I knew it was too easy!

Currently feeling: dejected

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Kindergarten Play: Goldie and The Bears

We accidentally discovered on Thursday that the Kindergarten class would be performing at the PTA meeting the following Tuesday. It was in small type and buried in the bottom corner of the "this is what we've been doing this week" newsletter. No special note home, no nothing. I guess most kids came home talking about it the week or two prior when they were practicing, but naturally not our child. That would have been too easy! But we did make it.

I took some photos of his work that is posted in the hall outside of his classroom.

And ready to perform:

Then it was time for the meeting (blessedly short) and the entertainment! Here is a short clip:

No, I don't know what he was trying to say to me. Yes, he is supposed to look angry in the second part of the video. The lead (shown briefly) was played by a girl Luke has been in daycare with since he was 2. She's one of the only kids taller than he is, and she is about 6 months younger! (Her parents are both quite tall as well.) She also ended up in his Kindergarten class, so this is their 4th year together. We were very proud of all of them!

Currently feeling: very proud