Halloween Festivities & Kid Crafts

We’re getting excited for trick-or-treating tonight! But the festivities have been going on for a couple of weeks. Highlights:

Halloween fun at friend Vivian’s second birthday.

Pumpkin-carving party last Saturday

A ghost craft Jax and I did last night:

I asked if he wanted to glue black “eyes” on, and he enthusiastically asked for several, attaching them to the bottom.

Jax made this cute spiderweb at preschool.

The two of us made this bat last night. Tracing around his hands is something Jax loves to do, and he practiced cutting to make the border.

It’s Beginning to Look Like Halloween

This past Sunday we finally checked out the hugely popular Jack-o-Lantern Blaze, just minutes from our house. It was packed! I think Jax wasn’t too keen on staying in the stroller because it looked like so much fun to wander around the pumpkins. Unfortunately he wasn’t allowed to have free reign and patience was running low. Better luck next year! We did grab a couple of pictures, though.

Jack-o-Lantern Madness! Quite a spectacular show.

Sunflowers – all carved out of pumpkins.

It was really sweet how into the candles Jax was.

As we prepare for Halloween crafting and the like, I am reminded of the stuff I threw together last-minute for Halloween 2009. Jax will be able to participate much more in these projects, so more fun to come!

Cock-a-doodle-TWO!

We had a wonderful time celebrating Jax’s second birthday at Muscoot Farm. Over a dozen other kids along with their parents joined in the fun. Since my talented sister, Monica, was in town, as well as my mom, the baker extraordinaire, we went a little crazy with the crafts and decor. Some people go to the gym or watch movies. Us? we stay up until midnight gluing felt to make a farm scene and devising ways of creating frosting of varying shades of brown “dirt.” Poor Jax.

Here are the craftastic highlights!

The invitation (created in minutes on kodakgallery.com using a July 4th template):

First, we had a craft table set up where the kids glued fuzzy balls of various colors to sheep silhouettes cut out of cereal boxes. We also had paper glasses to embellish with feathers.

Then it was time for the pre-lunch hayride!

We kept lunch simple by ordering party heros from the local Italian deli. Twelve feet of sandwich, three feet each of four kinds. Even 40 people couldn’t get through half of the sandwich slices. Now we know.

{Sources: animal plates, recycled plastic plates, wooden silverware, recycled napkins}

The cake:

Yes, there is a huge problem of scale here. Where you see the little tractor was supposed to be a wooden “2” in place of a candle. I forgot the number and we had to improvise. Cake Wrecks here we come!

We tried to have many activity options for all the kids. In addition to the craft table, I made a farm scene out of felt, with removable animals the kids could rearrange.

Of course, we also had a mini farmer’s market. It turned out to be a hit with the kids to grab a market bag and “shop”:

I made the canvas market bags out of a drop-cloth I bought at the hardware store and some ribbon from the craft store. I made 16 in all, but with one drop cloth probably could have made another 16. They are really, really easy to make using these instructions. The most time-consuming part was attaching the handles, and I think that was because I went overboard reinforcing them. I would estimate they took about 8-10 minutes each.

Inside each favor bag was a little wooden tractor from Etsy seller TnTWoods, which is based in Wisconsin and wonderful to work with (we created a custom order of 16 toy tractors.)

Highlights from the festivities:

…and a very happy birthday boy!

Homemade Pesto

Who knew something seemingly so complicated was actually quite an easy and toddler-friendly kitchen project to do together? Our neighbor (who has a plot at our local community garden) had more basil than she could use, so she gave us a bunch. It was finally my opportunity to try making pesto myself.

I first did a bit of internet research and although we have a food processor, I decided to take the advice of this site and chop the basil by hand (Jax is scared of the noise of kitchen gadgets). It didn’t take very long, actually, and was the perfect activity to do while Jax smashed the pine nuts with the mortar and pestle.

What you need:
~a big bunch of basil (see photo below)
~pine nuts (about 1/2 cup)
~olive oil (about 1/4 cup)
~freshly grated parmesan cheese (about 1/8 cup)

What to do:
Smash the pine nuts with the mortar and pestle and finely chop the basil leaves.

As soon as Jax sees the camera he wants to reach out and “see Jax” on the screen.

In a bowl, combine the nuts and leaves and add olive oil and parmesan until the pesto reaches the desired consistency.

The pesto is ready to use!

We used it on chicken breasts pan fried with a tad more olive oil. The beauty of such a recipe is that it doesn’t matter if the proportions are off or if some of the leaves and nuts remain whole in the finished product. You can leave out the parmesan (recommended if you want to freeze the pesto) or replace the pine nuts with walnuts (something my sister swears by). You can use it like a meat rub, as we did, or mix it in to simple pasta. Jax loved the chicken, albeit without the chunky parts of the pesto. But a success all around, I’d say.

Buon apetito!

Party Planning for our Toddler

In these couple of semi-less-hectic weeks before the semester begins I’ve decided to plan Jax’s second birthday party. Last year’s theme worked out well for a baby who was mainly interested in things that moved and were brightly colored. This year, Jax has provided us with so much inspiration, since he is old enough to express his likes/obsessions. So what is he into these days?

~Farm animals: The noises they make, the hay and grass they eat, the fields they hang out in.

~Barns: He is exceptionally excited about the barn-shaped tool shed our neighbors have in their backyard.

~Gumby: Who would’ve thought? We tried to make it to age 2 without any TV, but I know I’m not the only parent who’s had to accept that The Plan doesn’t always work out in reality. Sometimes keeping the kid safely away from boiling water and hot oil in the kitchen takes priority. Why Gumby though? Of all the kid shows on Hulu, this is the one that stuck. “I want to watch Gumby and Pokey” is the evening dinner-prep hour request.

~The Farmer’s Market: For the past couple of weeks, every other sentence that comes out of Jax’s mouth is “I going the farmer’s market.” Literally. He’ll be playing with his firetruck and have the little fireman say “I going the farmer’s market. See you ater.” He’ll have the baby pig tell the daddy pig that he’s “going the farmer’s market.” When asked for specifics, Jax tells us he’s going to get cucumbers and tomatoes. It’s crazy sweet.

~Garbage Trucks: This has been an obsession since April, when Grandpa Ron took Jax out onto the balcony of their Florida condo to see the garbage truck collect the garbage. His passion for “wabage” and garbage trucks hasn’t waned. When we go out for ice cream, I swear the most exciting part for him is throwing away everybody’s napkins.

~Tractors: When we were in Ohio in June Jax got to play with Seth’s matchbox cars from when he was growing up. There is a tractor in the collection and it’s a favorite. Keeping it in my purse has made certain outings a tad more manageable.

So given these interests, and the fact that there will be other children there with parents who may not have introduced them to Gumby yet, and who may not find it socially acceptable to spend two hours pretending to throw away napkins, can you guess what the theme will be?

Summer Projects

It’s been quite a summer for us and I finally have about a week of downtime before my postdoc position begins. I am determined to finish the projects I’ve daydreamed about while finishing my writing and letting the house and yard and sweet little Jax fend for themselves!

Some of these took more time than others. Some things we’ve been working on:

A little project for my little nephew. I’m not finished yet so I can’t reveal any more about it!

New fabric roller shades I made using this tutorial on Design*Sponge.

I made this craft table and chair set from found items and decoupaged scrapbook paper. The only issue we’ve had is that because I used non-toxic milk paint, the finish is not very durable. You can see from the multicolored stains that we’ve done a lot of various painting projects!

A 5-minute craft organizer for under $10: That’s an inexpensive towel rod from Home Depot, some industrial S hooks, and metal buckets found for a dollar. If you wanted to make it a 30 minute project, you could paint it to match the decor. We’re all about function for the moment!

We also had a momentous month, with my finishing my dissertation and Seth contributing to the cover story of the current issue of Fortune. Whee!

Seth’s cover is cooler than mine.

There he is! In print!

July

It’s been too busy to write, and I have a feeling the rest of the month will be more of the same. Don’t you hate blog non-updates like that? I’ll be back eventually, but in the mean time have 2 months (to the day!) to my defense, am teaching an intensive summer course, have some awesome friends visiting, and am spending every spare minute I can possibly grab to cherish my dear family and friends. The best is that I get to chase this wonderful little boy ?? from the sand to the ocean to the river to the aquarium to the carousel to the dirt in the flower beds.

“I swim in the ocean.”

“I make a firework.”

Seals at the New England Aquarium

Carousel in Boston