Friday, June 8, 2018

Taking a break

I recently finished an entire year of daily "happiness" posts on Facebook.  Every day I'd post a picture and description of the happiest part(s) of the day.  For 366 days (I went over by one because it was Moose's birthday).

And now I'm on a Facebook break.  To detox a bit.  But I still want to document things, so I though a blog post would be good.

Yesterday Owl fell out of the car and got an impressive shiner ("You should see the other guy!").  The car wasn't running, she was just not being super careful near the open door.

Yesterday Otter got a haircut.  Because we have a rule about people with long hair keeping their hair pulled back when they are at school...and Otter had several days of taking her hair down.  I told her if she kept doing it then I'd cut her hair short.  Eventually I had to deliver on the threat.  She doesn't like getting her hair brushed anyhow, so it will probably be for the best.

Last night was Chick's last Elementary Choir and Orchestra concert.  She had a solo (though not exactly a "solo" but still, she was featured).  She did great, and has loved getting into music this year.  She liked violin, but wants to switch to cello next year.  I love the sound of cello, so I'm kind of excited, though transporting may be tricky.  It's too bad that she can't do orchestra AND choir at the same time in middle school like she did this year.  She had to pick one as her elective for the whole year.  She picked orchestra.

I also had an eventful day yesterday.  Besides the haircutting, and kissing of boo-boos, I subbed for half a day, did PTO stuff, and grocery shopped.  And then after school I had a dentist appointment.  I've had a lot of dentist appointments, because in December I got a new veneer on one of my front teeth, and then it seemed to have gotten chipped and was sensitive.  So in February the dentist took it off and put on a horrible, ugly temporary.  And then I kept going back every couple of weeks or so to get the new permanent one, but the color was always wrong.  Finally, after almost 4 months of feeling self-conscious about smiling...yesterday the color was right and I got the permanent one on.  It is so much nicer to smile now, even though the tooth may hurt a bit while it settles in.

I think that's all of our news from the past day or so.  It has been busy and eventful, and today will be too (an end of year picnic at Chick's school, followed by my monthly volunteer gig with her class in the Outdoor classroom, followed by the school carnival over at the other kids' school.

I'm going to really appreciate a calm weekend!! (I'm going to see Les Mis in Seattle with a friend on Saturday, and Sunday is just church in the morning and relaxing in the afternoon. )

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Positively Medieval (An epic post that should really be 5 separate posts, but I'm too lazy to separate it all out)

This weekend was Moose's Medieval birthday party. 

I had with this theme!  Dragons, knights, castles, sword fighting, archery, catapults...all great stuff for a seven-year-old boy's party!! (And here are a bazillion photos for you to peruse.)

So to start out, we did scroll invitations.  I tried dying them in tea, but it didn't get as dark as I'd hoped, so I ended up sopping them in brown watercolor paint.  Then rolled them up and sealed with wax (rather an imperfect job with the wax, but it was for 7-yr-olds anyhow!)

The next thing I worked on was dragon eyes.  They are made from a .jpg of a dragon eye that I found online & then altered, a clear glass "marble," and polymer clay.  They are super fun, and I could have made hundreds more!!  As it was, I made more than I needed, because it was enjoyable and exciting to try different techniques.  Chick and Monkey also made some, so it's really not a hard project to do.

(Not that they are incompetent...they are just young.  It's a project that a 10 or 8 year old can do successfully.  Their eyes are on the plate in the picture below, and I don't think it's easy to tell which I made vs which they made).

These were some of my very favorites that I made.  I liked playing with texture.

Naked eyeballs, before adding the clay.
I used paint pens to draw a dragon scale design onto some plastic Easter eggs, and we put an eye into each of those, and then hid them all.  During the party the knights went on a quest to find them.

Next I worked on making tunics.  Everyone got a pillowcase tunic.  I didn't even sew them... I just cut arm holes, a neck hole, and a little notch in the front.  They won't be as durable since I didn't reinforce the seams or hem, but they should last for a while.
Anyhow, I did a freezer paper stencil on all of the tunics.  Moose picked out the image online.  I like the simple, clean-lined look of it.  Perfect for a stencil.

 We paired each tunic with a paint stir stick sword, a drawstring pouch (for keeping treasures in during the party), and a simple fabric strip sash.


Since knights need a dragon to slay, I made my first piñata.  In the past I've avoided them, because I'm not big on excess candy OR excess violence.  But the violence fit with the theme this time ;)  So anyhow, I made a dragon.  It was really fun!!  Seriously, guys...I love party prep!!  I thought I'd be sad when this guy was slain, but it was ok in the end.  I had said my goodbyes, and was ready for him to pass on.

This isn't the best angle, but you'll see him again down below in the gazillion action shots.

And the cake.  We toyed with the idea of doing a boar's head cake, but I'm glad that he opted for the easier shield cake!  It's a strawberry cake from a mix, but I substituted 1/2 of the oil with pureed strawberries, to ramp up the strawberry taste.  I'm certainly not a professional cake decorator, but I'm happy with how it turned out.

I'd like to point out how perfectly the candles and the icing matches! 
I was trying to not have them be TOO different, but they ended up PERFECTLY the same, which made me happy ;)

Ok, I think that's it for the prepwork.  Let me tell you about the crazy stuff, because as much as I'd like to pretend that everything was smooth and wasn't.  A main component of the party was a giant cardboard castle.  For a couple of weeks before the party I went to appliance type stores to get big boxes (Judd & Black in Everett is amazing for this purpose!).  But the days before the party had weather that was less than accommodating...which meant that set-up was the morning of the party.  Which would have been ok if I hadn't put off prepping the shields, in addition to other things needing to be done last minute.  So the castle wasn't AS grand as planned.  I didn't have time to paint on brick lines and windows, etc.  We didn't even have time to use up all of the boxes.

And the shields!  Foxy wasn't able to bring home a jigsaw from work as planned, so we borrowed one from friends...but not until that morning.  So the kids painted them just before the party & I had to use a blow dryer AFTER friends had arrived!  But in the end it didn't really matter.  Eventually they had shields to paint.  I encouraged them to use the time to study the Heraldry book that my nephew Matt had lent us.

If I'm honest, I was a bit of a basket case right before the party.  I would have sat down and cried, but there wasn't time :)  But once the party started everything was fine.  And really, that's how I always am.

Did I ever tell you about the time that Foxy and I got married and I was so stressed on the day before that I told him that we should probably not get married?  Good times.  (It all worked out in the end.)

I know I'm biased, but isn't she just so lovely?!  Love that kid.

Matt also lent us chainmail, and a metal helmet, and a real (blunt) sword.  So we talked a little about the WEIGHT that a knight would have to deal with when he was in full armor.

(Sadly, Monkey was the only casualty. 
Man, I'm going to miss that crazy kid!  It just proves the saying that "only the good die young.")

Ok, feast time.
The dishes were probably the biggest unnecessary expense, because I spent about $20 on wood and metal dishes from local thrift stores.  It was important to me to not use disposable, so I made more of an investment.  Most of it will be reused later this year for Monkey's "Harry Potter" party...and I'm sure there will be plenty of future parties for which to use it.  I love how it all turned out looking.  I never did find a metal pitcher, so we used a metal mixing bowl and ladle...which actually added really well to the ambiance.  And I didn't find enough metal cups, so I spray painted some clear glass ones (avoiding the top and inside). 

Because it was a medieval party, we didn't use utensils for the most part, but I did allow forks for the cake.

The menu was:

honey cakes
apple juice
chessman cookies

There may have been a bit of a food fight...
but really that probably happened during medieval times too. 

Chick was the serving girl, and she took her job seriously. 
Honestly, I don't know if I would have made it through the party without her...she was a tremendous help.  She was excited to dress the part.  Some of the time she had a head scarf on, but not in this picture, obviously.

Whenever there was a lull in entertainment the kids would start to duel and play in the castle.  It was actually really perfect...I felt much less stressed during the party than usual, because they didn't really need me to provide much for them to have fun.  And for once I actually WANTED them to run wild!

 (Random teeter totter picture)

And now for a million pictures of the slaying of the dragon...





And then we ate cake.

He sure looks angelic there, doesn't he?!  Deceptive little bugger. 
Just kidding...he really is a sweet kid.

At the party he got a bow and arrow set from us, because I really wanted archery at the party and Mr. Fox was not wild about the idea of doing real archery in that setting. 

Moose's shield

Through most of the party Mr. Fox was working on this catapult.  You may ask why he didn't do it before the party...and I can't answer that.  This is the enigmatic Mr. Fox we are talking about...I don't understand half of what he does.  But he did get this built before the party was over...and we had black water balloon "cannons" to go with it.  Unfortunately they did NOT go far...maybe two feet?  lol.  After the party we added a stretchy exercise band, and that dramatically increased the shot distance.

Regardless of the catapult, the kids had fun with the water balloons.  That was around the time that parents started to arrive, so I didn't take any more pictures because I was talking to people. 

Plus I was distracted by the general lawlessness of the kids with the water balloons, ha ha.

 I think that's it for the party.  In summary, everyone had a great time.  Not everything came off perfectly or as I'd envisioned BUT the party as a whole was perfect.  The imaginative play was just exactly as I'd wanted.  Moose had fun with his friends.  It was just right.  I highly recommend this theme, because it's really fun to sink your teeth into. 

As an aside: It was important to me to keep the party low-cost and hi-reuse.  The piñata was made from recycled materials, as was the castle (except for the duct tape and chain).  The dragon eyes were from materials that I already had on hand.  Same for the shields.  The pouches and sashes were from fabric that I bought at the Goodwill Outlet for a few cents.  The tunics were thrifted and therefore a second use of the pillowcases.  Dishes were all thrifted.  The only things that were NEW were the paint sticks, pipe insulation (for the chain), duct tape, and food (of course).  Oh, and the water balloons, but they are biodegradable at least (are all balloons biodegradable?  I made sure that these were before I bought them, but maybe they all are....).  My total cost was right around $70.


Moose's actual birthday was a couple days later. 

We do the "One thing you want, one thing you need, one thing you wear, & one thing you read" approach to presents.  So Moose's were:
Want: Legos
Need: Bow and Arrow Set
Wear: Calvin & Hobbes/ Harry Potter t-shirt
Read: Spiderwick Chronicles set

On that same day, Owl and Otter both took their shields EVERYWHERE they went.  It was super cute.  Everyone was really nice about complimenting them on them & asking about their cool shields.

That night for dessert we had watermelon, because I was getting sugared out.  So we stacked it up and stuck a candle in.  Whatever works.  He was was our first watermelon of the year.