Archive for the ‘crafty’ Category

I think Pi was two the year we first broke a homemade piñata on Christmas Eve. Why a piñata? I don’t know. We were new parents trying to drum up a kid-friendly activity. All she dared do was lightly tap it with the stick from a safe distance, and even that took some prodding, gentle creature that she was. Still, in the spirit of forging family traditions we have repeated this activity every Christmas Eve since.

The piñata is made from a balloon covered with paper maché, and so must resemble something round, like a planet or Humpty Dumpty. This year we made a pig because it is the year of the boar in the Chinese zodiac (or so Isp informs us, and why wouldn’t a seven year old know such things?)


The legs and snout were pieces of paper towel tube, the tail a chenille stem which means “pipe cleaner” in craft language. A piece of twine was tied criss-cross around the balloon for something to hang the piñata by. The paper was dipped in flour paste then layered over everything. One layer of paper maché is strong enough for us, but muscles don’t exactly run in the family.


Everybody helps. Or at least watches.

After a couple days when the paper maché was dry, we sawed a little hole in the top (since we forgot to leave one) and popped the balloon. Then we painted it pink. I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t take a photo of the finished product before we had embarked on its destruction. My Spouse secretly loads the piñata so its contents are a surprise.


Go Pi! We had another family over on Christmas Eve so there was a whole crowd of children whacking at the pig. Our friend maneuvering the pole made it harder for the big kids and easier for the littles. Even with eight kids, everybody had several turns before…


Look at the Baby! When she saw the kids dive for the loot, she turbo-crawled in to get some too.

The process of creating the piñata together and waiting for it to dry seems to bring our kids together and make the final event so looked forward to and fun. I love that it is unique to our family and a constant every Christmas Eve.

Finally, here is a snapshot of Pi and Tood with their piñatas taken in 2000, way back before color photography.


We did it. A bona fide family tradition.

(For more wonderful from-scratchiness, visit the from scratch blog carnival!)


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Pi’s dragons

My mind, it is a thousand feathers and a blow dryer, but I am not resigned.


I rage against the blow dryer! (I believe it stayed clean for nearly 3.7 minutes.)

Okay, by popular demand (one person) here are some fabulous sculpey-instead-of-homework creations by Pi herself, the self-proclaimed “Master of Puny Sculptures”.

A year or so ago she was into animals:

She also became rather skilled at food:

But there must have been a rapid spurt of fantasy brain development when she turned eleven because since then she has focused almost exclusively on dragons. They are rather wonderful, all painted with sparkly fingernail polish.


She also loves them, and has dedicated a little shrine to them.


The idea of selling any of these dragons is only slightly more repulsive to Pi than selling a younger brother. They are each named and feature in various literary works, plus they are needed in the shrine. However, she is warming up to the idea of making new dragons for cash. She has agreed to make one for a classmate in exchange for $3.50. I’m thinking in a couple years she will rule Etsy.

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mei tai

I have had a little blog break this week. Too many stupid, garbagey, stressful things that I hate, which is so unfair because everyone knows blog breaks are supposed to be for vacationing in Europe. (My winning, can-do character always shines through during times of stress.) It’s at times like these that sometimes little, puny things are the difference between, well, something preferable and something else. Like muddling through one more day, or losing your marbles all over the kitchen floor.

“I’m all sad and grumpy because I need a mei tai and I don’t have one.”

“What’s a mei tai?”

“It’s a kind of baby carrier.”

You know, I needed one. NEEDED one, because even the most perfect baby sling in the world is not always what you want, or what your baby wants. What you want sometimes is a mei tai.
Unfortunately it was past bedtime, and the all-night mei tai shop has not opened a franchise in my po-dunk town. The sewing machine wanted to be resurrected. I’m embarrassed to admit that the only appropriate fabric I had in copious quantities was corduroy and sheet, and we’ve all seen just about enough of that lately. But what can be done? The pattern looked simple enough. Surely it wouldn’t take too long. I plunged in at an obscenely late hour. I just couldn’t face another day without a mei tai! I will not speak how long it took, but the sun rose on a new baby carrier for me. La!

mei tai

The baby and I, we both adore this. It’s so comfy.


Absolutely love.



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scarecrows among us

I was absorbed in an article last night, so I only half-heard Isp walk up and ask, “Mommy?” I glanced up absently…


Oh, he got me! An impromptu scarecrow! Funny guy. I’m going to tuck that into my “emergency Halloween costume” file for sure. Actually, my latest little sewing project would be good scarecrow garb too. Digging through my stash of second-hand patterns, these trousers looked too easy to pass up (only two pieces, no side seams) even if they were technically pajama pants. I made a pair for Ood:


Who would have guessed? They look like corduroy pajama pants! I actually call them his “hobo trousers.” As with most things I attempt they turned out crummy, but how can I help but be proud? Here was free, scavenged fabric, and lo! winter pants to be worn only at home have appeared! So I put my sewing machine away, back to the dungeon. If I feel crafty again, ever, I’ll be getting out my box of fabric dyes instead because that is something I sometimes don’t totally suck at. At the moment, however, I feel I have done enough crafting to be a bona fide female for at least the next three months and possibly much, much longer.


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more sheet

I think maybe I should learn to sew the right way after all. I made the pattern for this little dress, fully lined, but didn’t have enough wits to sew it together in the right order. Which meant it was very fiddly and involved using the seam ripper just a tad more than the actual sewing machine. To top it off, there was a bad pucker by one armhole, and I think I made it too short! Other than that, it is lovely because it is being worn by The Sweetest Baby in the World and makes her look just like a little Hobbit.

new dress -1

Note that it is made from that old sheet so it will match the pockets of everybody’s shorts when they are finally all finished (two more to go, at which point I will most likely be Done Sewing For Awhile.)

let me eat the camera

We are really saving the planet today! Not that it matters, because this past week the planet is working overtime to uglify herself despite my efforts with the sheet. Wild fires in the hills surrounding us have turned the pastoral landscape into the blackened cliffs of Mordor. The night breeze blowing in smells like the monsters under the kids’ beds have all taken up chain smoking. It is sweltering hot and dusty and smokey, the perfect time to fire up the oven! (Well, the heat may have hastened the ripening of those bananas.) This especially good recipe makes one moist, golden loaf. But if you can’t take the heat, please stay out of the kitchen!

Banana Bread

  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cup sifted flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

Mix first five ingredients. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and add, alternately, with buttermilk. Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350° F. for about 1 hour.

banana bread


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Reading crafty-mommy blogs puts me in the mood to sew, although the truth is I am the sloppiest shortcut-taker at the sewing machine that any home ec teacher’s nightmare ever was. So the other day, because it was my birthday, I dragged out my cheap-o sewing machine and began making a little pair of drawstring corduroy shorts with patch pockets out of the old sheet that was the lining to that bag. Lucky for me, my older sister and mother both paid me a visit as I was working. Both are skilled seamstresses, both strict perfectionists in their work. So with absolutely no effort whatsoever I was able to annoy the heck out of them , whether it was laying butter knives on the pattern pieces to keep them from shifting as I cut into the fabric, having the nap go the wrong way on one side (really you can hardly tell), pinning it wrong, or worse yet, not pinning at all! Oh the shame! I finally politely reminded them that it was my birthday and I could sew the wrong way if I wanted to. Which I did. Paired with my son’s favorite ratty old hand-me-down tie dye, I thought these very wrong shorts could have turned out worse (or maybe they just look good compared with the shirt…)

new shortsback pockets

Frankly, it doesn’t matter, because my little boy loves them and all the other kids want a pair just like them too. So there!

Speaking of hand-me-downs, in the past two weeks a couple very generous people have given me enough used clothing to outfit a small African village:

hand me downs

Please don’t get me wrong, I love second hand clothes and so do my kids, but this just looks a bit daunting, does it not? My task tomorrow is to inspect every article and weigh whether it might fit, whether it is in good enough shape, whether the appropriate child will deign to wear it, whether my husband will lose his job and we become homeless and live in Siberia and the only thing shielding us from certain death by exposure on a snowy Siberian park bench could be this faded sweatshirt from Knott’s Berry Farm where none of us have ever even been… I think I might need some chocolate to get me through this job.


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Mrs. Potato Head

When I began this blog a few weeks ago I also set up an account on Flickr to host the photos. I didn’t expect anyone to be looking at my photos on Flickr, and for the most part nobody has. However, those professional-looking portraits of my feet, so generously included the the previous post, have generated a surprising number of views. Like, a lot more than any of my other photos in just the first day. The reason I even paused to notice this is because a total stranger actually left a comment, and I quote:

Yeah they really lOOk good now.
I’d like to see them in a French Pedicure

Whaaaa???!? Like to see them in a… AAAAAAAH! Something about this just CREEPS ME OUT!!!! I mean, these are my feet, it just seems so, so wrong. I would have to delete the comment and quietly forget it ever happened if it weren’t also making me laugh very hard!

Anyway. Between doing virtual academy with my two oldest kids (read home school) and having a baby, this past year hasn’t been one full of attention for the little boys. Today I set up a craft activity just for them: making greeting cards with potato stamps.

potato stampstamping cards

It was a lovely afternoon. They both seemed to enjoy crafting without older siblings for a change, and now our supply of greeting cards is amply replenished.



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