Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Treasure Island Birthday Party and Treasure Hunt

Zack initially wanted to have a "regular" birthday party this year. I guess by regular he means no theme?  I guess that's a clue that my asking him what theme he wanted was not going to work!  When I started talking pirates instead, he was all for it.  I was excited too until I realized that everything pirate has skull and crossbones all over it.  It's not that I'm anti-skull and crossbones.  See, there is one in the picture.  But I didn't want absolutely everything covered in skull and crossbones images for a five year old (ok, six now).  I'm trying to hang onto his youth!

So, we made it into a Treasure Island party.  Zack has a children's illustrated abridgment of the novel Treasure Island (sorry, I don't have a link to the abridgment we have) that we read to him last summer and he still loves it.  I even got him a matching coloring book at Christmas.  I hadn't read the story until I first read it to him.  I followed up by reading the full version myself and thought the children's version was well done.  It just came from the bin at Hobby Lobby so it was totally affordable for a party favor!  We gave that to the big kids and the matching coloring book to the younger siblings.  It was fun to give something we have a personal attachment to.

We were out at garage sales (at Zack's request) when we noticed the boys playing around with a pile of something that looked like it would make a ship.  I did a double-take, envisioning the centerpiece it could make.  James was so shocked at my interest in a giant plastic toy that he almost fell down, but the boy selling it said he thought most of the parts were there so we piled it all in a box and left with it for the super bargain price of $7.  James had to figure out hot to put it all together.  Check how it turned out:

There is a Jolly Roger at the very top that doesn't show in the photo.  It has maybe eight different sounds it makes, multiple trapdoors, cannons that flash and shoot little darts, a breakaway side, a lifeboat, a treasure chest, barrels and more.  It's quite an impressive item (it appears to be the large ship from this set with different sails) measuring 30 inches long when assembled!

I had fun with the invitations but forgot to save one so I can't show the finished item.  I can show the inside, which has the map from Stevenson's book as a watermark in the background.  Isn't that fun?? I was pretty tickled with it.  It was printed on tan paper and then folded and decorated to make it look like a treasure chest. The treasure chest look was created by stamping with a woodgrain background stamp, inking the edges, rounding the top corners and adding some darker vertical strips to the outside.  The lock was an office supply brad glued onto the top so that when closed, the brad overlapped the bottom part (clear as mud?  I really need a picture here! Oh well.).

Now, here's the problem:  I put this text about looking for treasure on the invitation... so I was compelled to come up with some kind of treasure hunt!  Aaack!  I didn't know how to do a treasure hunt.  I stressed and wrung my hands about it for the entire time between writing the invitations and the night before the party.  I got great input from friends and family but I had this vague sense in my mind that I wanted it to follow the book and didn't know how to make that happen.  I kept putting it off - preferring to stress and complain rather than do something I guess? - until the very last minute.  James took the children on an errand and I told myself, "I must figure out the treasure hunt right now in case I need James to pick up anything."  I sat down and wrote the whole thing in about an hour and came up with something we loved!  Now why couldn't I have done that two weeks before and saved myself the anxiety??

The Treasure Hunt

If you would like to see how the treasure hunt was done, here you go. 

The uncut piece of paper was a list of numbered instructions I read, one at a time.  Each gave a bit of narrative and a hint where to find the corresponding clue.  Each clue was a strip of paper that gave a little bit of the story. 

We did them in order, revealing the basic (slightly nice-ified) plot of Treasure Island.  When we had all the clues, we fit them together in order and taped them, then turned the taped paper over to reveal the simple riddle of where the final treasure was hidden.

The papers were all just printed on tan cardstock with the Stevenson Treasure Map in the background.  I used the Blackadder ITC font for a cool pirate-y look, though even the readers couldn't always read the script lettering. 

The treasure box was a hinged top shoe box (Nike) that I painted brown and added some horizontal black brushtrokes to make it wood-like.  I painted a lock with gold - all cheap craft acrylics.  We filled it with little mesh bags of chocolate gold coins, one for each kid, and glow bracelets. Pretty fun stuff.

Our final activity was dessert.  Instead of cake we served Treasure Sundaes with ice cream, various syrups, crushed oreos and gingersnaps, peanuts, walnuts, m & ms, sprinkles, whip cream and cherries.  Good times!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Quilt Show

I decided that in honor of finishing my first quilt ever (oh, I've started lots and lots.  And designed them for my mom to make.  But finishing one myself is another matter entirely!), I would enter it into this year's quilt show. 

The Austin Area Quilt Guild hosts a show every two years.  It is a big show - this year in the Palmer Events center - with tons of quilts.  
Here are some of my favorites.  The first two in each row are a quilt and a closeup image of the same quilt.  The one at the top right won Best in Show.  There were a few strange pieces (or what I view as strange - that doesn't mean anyone else does!) but a lot of really amazing work.  Even some strange ones were beautiful art. 

My mom and granny were here for the show and we spent a long time walking through and making sure we saw absolutely everything. My dad kept Sammy entertained and he says they had a good time too.  I'll definitely be going in future years, and hopefully getting to enter more work!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Scrapbook Layout: Squinty Smile

Here is a layout I had started last month and finally got back around to.  It's a layout for a particular month of Sammy's first year book, but I wanted to focus on one picture and story.  I put the photos from the month on the left side and the story and focus photo on the right side.  As far as design goes, I don't find the balance to be just right.  But, as far as memory capturing goes, I like it. 

I used my Big Shot (more about my Big Shot here) to emboss a rectangle of aluminum foil (yep, regular foil from the kitchen) to accent the main photo.  I have a large paperboard tag that I painted with craft acrylics.  There is black satin ribbon, a distressed flower made of regular white paper and colored with Perfect Pearls.  I even have this weird blue tape/ribbon stuff that we'll call a "found item".  At the risk of grossing you out, I'll tell you it was medical tape they used to stick a cotton ball on my arm after taking blood.  But, it didn't get dirty, really!  The texture was so interesting I pulled it right off and stuck it in my stash (yes, I'm aware I'm a weirdo).  The purple accents are a stiff plastic that came in a multipack of large words.  Even though they are a little opposite - the script Love verses the quirky You're Funny - I liked them both. 

Since it doesn't have the focus and flow I was hoping for overall, I'm reminding myself what I like about it.  I like to see that I've branched out a little from what I usually (or used) to do.  I like the mix of textures.  Most of all, I like that Sammy face!

Monday, September 27, 2010

New Routines

Ok, I think Fall is coming- fo' reals this time. I know this for two reasons. First, last night a cool front blew in and I was actually chilly at the park in my shorts and t-shirt! The weather was crisp this morning and even though it's going to get up into the 80's today, it was still in the 60's when I fed Sammy his early lunch. Very exciting stuff. And second, I seem to have lost September.

The new routines of starting Kindergarten for Zack and starting Preschool for Sammy are quite an adjustment. There isn't anything in particular that is a hard adjustment (well, ok, getting up early is a hard adjustment for me. But not as hard as I thought it was going to be), but it's enough that it seems to be consuming a significant amount of my processing power. I would think I'd have the ability to do some other things while adjusting but it turns out, not so much.

I was thinking today about all the things I haven't been doing this month. I haven't been taking near as many pictures as I like to. I haven't been blogging. I haven't been cooking anything new or different. I haven't been scrapbooking. I haven't been watching many shows. I haven't been reading any fiction. I haven't been running (or swimming, or biking).

But then it's only fair to think of the things I have been doing. I have been making lunches. I have been devouring materials for a new class at church on Esther that has been fascinating and exciting. I have been visiting with my parents and Granny who came to see us for a fabulous week. I have been making lunches. I have been preparing for and attending the biennial* quilt show for our local quilt guild. I have been volunteering in Zack's classroom. I have been throwing a Treasure Island birthday party. I have been getting a new microwave. I have been making lunches.

So, I guess I see what my processing power has been going towards, and it's good stuff. This weekend I pulled back out the scrapbooking materials and am feeling so excited to continue working on Sammy's book. I have a brief lull in my class at church and I know that even with just a few days off I am going to be refreshed and excited to get back to it. Hm. Maybe I should put some of my good attitude toward making those lunches, eh?

*Since when do both biannual and semiannual mean twice a year? I thought at least one of them meant every two years.  But I had to look it up to remember which one, and the dictionary says it's ambiguous so just use biennial if you mean every two years.  Isn't it a little sad if even the dictionary can't seem to stand for proper word usage?  Isn't that what a dictionary is for? Ok, rant over. 

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Guest Blogger: Zack on Homework Project

We made this for school. We made it so we could hang it up in the hallway. It is supposed to look like me. First, we got some paint and all the stuff that made the eyes. And we got some spaghetti for the hair and started making it. First we did the hair, then we did the eyes, then we did the nose, then we did the mouth. Daddy suggested it.
Thanks, Zack, for guest this guest post telling all about your first kindergarten homework assignment for the holiday weekend!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Fall is in the Air!

Today when I went to pick up Zack, a breath of cool blew over the schoolyard.

I made chili for dinner (although possibly that was jumping the gun).

We took the boys to a high school football game.

We were not hot outside for the first time in many months.

I guess fall is going to come after all!
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Friday, September 03, 2010

Sprout Fail

Again today I'm having to censor photos to avoid grossing you out.  This time, I didn't bother taking photos of the grossness so that I wouldn't have to look at it either.

Here's what I thought: Alfalfa sprouts are yummy.  Alfalfa sprouts were easy.  Arugula sprouts are even yummier.  Arugula sprouts must be easy.  I will try Arugula sprouts.

I got the same brand of arugula (rocket) as I'd used with such good results for the alfalfa.  The packet recommended trays but since the trays were sold along side the packets, I didn't pay much attention.  I liked the accessibility and absence of any specialized equipment in the jar method so I used that instead.  Bad idea.

Arugula sprouts might be easy to grow... but not in a jar.  I should have done a little more research because it turns out arugula are a mucilaginous seed, which means when it gets wet it forms a gel around itself.  It's a nice trick for the plant but it makes a big mess in the jar.  First they just formed a gooey mass.  Then the mass turned hard.  Eventually they started sprouting but the gel held the water so they didn't drain properly after rinsing and they got stinky.  I rinsed more often but they got really stinky.  I finally just threw the whole batch out.  YUCK.

Now I've discovered that you can grow arugula sprouts in a sprouting tray or on a solid medium.  I don't know if I'll buy the trays to do that.  They aren't expensive but sometimes I feel my kitchen is being overrun with gadgets.  I read one website that says you can add less than 10% of a mucilaginous seed to a regular seed and make a mix that will work with the jar method.  If I try it I'll let you know... but after a few days of the yuckiness, I'm not sure if I want to risk it! 

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Vegan Mini Wellingtons

Now, before you ask yes, yes of course I prepare my personal luncheon in this fashion on a daily basis. I also have no piles of laundry or undusted shelves. I certainly did not have to go put on shoes this morning because there were so many crumbs on my kitchen floor that it was hurting my feet. No, no.

Ok, so the lunch is staged. The dinner photo of the finished wellington looked weird - it didn't do the recipe justice. I'm not sure how cookbooks make ground up brown stuff look appealing because my casual photo didn't look good. I hated to gross you out. So I had to put this together and now I have a lovely lunch plate to eat.

But back to the recipe.  I had these for lunch at a girlfriend's house and they were so delicious I wanted to try them myself.  She made them out of a favorite new cookbook of her family's, Vegan Lunchbox.  She warned me that it was a little extra prep, and it was, but not too much - doable for a weeknight with a little extra time.  Plus, I had Zack help me and even though he lost interest before I was wrapping them up, he still thought the final product was very cool.  

Even though we aren't vegan, I like to have some vegetarian meals and this was a great one.    I liked the flavor and texture.  It's really easiest to just pick them up and eat them rather than using the knife and fork, so don't feel bad about digging in!

Find the recipe for Vegan Mini Wellingtons here and be sure to add the mushrooms listed in the variation - even if you aren't an enthusiastic mushroom person like me, they work into the mix without being heavily mushroom-y and add a lot of richness.  If you aren't going to add them, though, the sauteed garlic alone would be a good addition.

I served them with a honey mustard that I made from brown Dijon mustard, honey and some ranch dressing (not vegan, but that's not a problem for us). 

Oh, and in case you need grocery store tips like I do, the Puff Pastry was in the frozen dessert pastries section at my store, not the frozen breads.  And the oat bran was in the bulk section (and very inexpensive) but I think if you couldn't find it you could substitute something else pretty easily.