Friday, September 23, 2016

New arrivals in the neighborhood

This autumn we have these new additions to our neighborhood: acorns and chestnuts.

Our neighborhood is still new by almost any standard, but the arrival of nuts on the trees feels like a rite of passage towards becoming Established. I was as giddy as the children when they started collecting the nuts. Every child should collect nuts and turn them into crazy childhood projects, right? But it wasn't so clear that my children were going to get to have that particular childhood experience. Until this year. Thank goodness. There are (a few) trees to climb and definitely nuts to collect. It only took about five and a half years to get here! We're happy!

There were definitely advantages to buying a new house in a new neighborhood, but the wait for the trees to begin maturing has been painful. For that reason alone, I'm not sure I would buy new-new again. But, bygones now. Bygones.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Cold Weather Cape

I made this denim and furry fleece cape as a gift for my goddaughter.

Usually, I'm not inclined to make gifts for people. This sounds rather horrible: but I feel like handmade gifts are not really liked by most people. Considering the amount of time and effort that goes into them, I want them to be liked! A project such as this cape takes me about 4-5 hours plus the cost of fabric. A good amount of the time goes into fiddling with perfectly lining up the edges of the denim and fussing with the furry fleece. (Man, does it shed!) If I paid myself a living wage, which is around $22/hour in Denver, then this cape is worth $88-$110 plus materials. It's selling for less than that on my Etsy website. Which is one part belief that it wouldn't sell at such a high price and one part acknowledgement that other parts of the country have a far lower living wage. On any average day, it makes a lot more sense to throw a smaller amount of time and money at store-bought gift and attach a gift receipt.

This time I was determined to hand-make a gift. Mostly, it seemed that if there was an occasion appropriate to make a gift, this was it. I felt that it was highly unlikely that she already had one. And I do believe these capes are extremely handy for those early years when you are taking a baby/little kid in and out of carseat, in and out of the cold. The first version I made for Trixie about 3 years ago and she is still wearing it.

One of the greatest things about this cape is that it is entirely machine washable and dry-able. It's also reversible. Actually, I think I might like one myself.

Maybe I can justify it by making it red instead of denim. I can wear it at Christmas time. It will be my Santa cape!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Coffee Crutch

I decided to give up coffee. It had become a crutch over the last several years as I woke up was awaken many times during the night and (therefore) felt tired during the day. But now all the kids are sleeping through the night. I have the impression I was healthier in the days before my coffee habit. And now I have NINE glorious hours to myself each week.  It seemed to be the right time to readjust and pull myself back together without caffeine.

I miss many things about coffee. I liked ordering coffee. I liked sitting at a table and drinking coffee with other people. I reeeeally liked drinking coffee on the weekend, across the table from Fritz, after brunch, while the kids played. Drinking coffee also reinforced that I am an adult even when I am surrounded by the kid's needs and wants and schedule. It is an activity that people frequently do together, so just doing it, even alone, made me feel less lonely. The ritual of making coffee gave my day an organizational point when it was otherwise filled with chaos. I frequently treated it like a motivational reward. If you just make it through X, then you may have a cup of coffee or I just made it through X, I deserve a cup of coffee.

I find when I am trying to kick a habit, the best thing for me is to have some sort of substitute habit. For example, I might say to myself: Every time I would normally have a cup of coffee, I'm going to drink some tea instead. Except this time I don't want to drink tea since the goal here is to get rid of stimulants (caffeine). Integral to the substitute strategy is that I hope to replace what has become a bad habit with a better habit. So, what should it be? I'm not exactly sure, but I know I need to feel somewhat motivated by the idea of it, or it won't stick.

So far I've been caffeine-free for a week. I've made it through the headache phase of caffeine withdrawal. Just the prospect of going through the headache phase again has stopped me from making myself another cup. But I'm sure the threat of the headache will fade, so it's time to find a substitute habit.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Firsts, of a different sort

Over the weekend, I flew to Germany for my niece – and goddaughter's – baptism. There's a lot of firsts in this trip: the first time I've been at a family celebration without Fritz, the first time I've left my own children for (as long as) three nights, the first time Fritz has taken care of all three children for four days and three nights by himself, the first time I've been a godmother, my first niece (or nephew).

I will say that I had really mixed feelings about going. It felt self-indulgent, because the cost was high and time was short. There was a good amount of ominous worrying about my kids on my part, even though my brain knew the odds were stacked against it.

However, it was really a lovely weekend and I am so glad I went. It was such a great pleasure to be the aunt/godmother instead of the mom. It was nice to have lots of thinking time to myself. And I came back feeling very relaxed and refreshed. This is especially good since it appears one of my own kids is coming down with something! I fear we are about to get our first round of fall sickness.

This trip also marked the end of weeks of unusually chaotic scheduling. My calendar is looking open and spacious. Just how I like it best. So maybe I'll be around the blog a bit more.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Rally Juice

Our camping trip this last week was rather rough. It was hot, the kids were grumpy. I was grumpy, (although I was trying not to be). I secretly dubbed our camping grounds, The Puddle in a Frying Pan in Suburbia. After that unfortunate naming, it was sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy that I'd continuously feel a little edgy and parched. You'd think by this age I would have learned to control my thoughts a little better. Sheesh.

Like our skiing trips this winter, Fritz and I came home wondering whether we should just give up on the camping for another year or two. It's difficult to tease out the problems: is it just this particular trip? Are the kids too young?  Is there some particular thing we need to do better? Or are we just parenting failures? (Somebody has to be, right?) We certainly got a lot of things better on this camping trip: we were better prepared. We managed to have a campfire; even though it was charcoal, not wood. We were more careful about enforcing bedtime. We packed plenty of tissues and pillows.

We were still exhausted and rather frustrated by the time we got home.

I don't know. I'd like to do more camping. I'd like it to be fun. It just feels like it takes such a Herculean effort – for something terribly fragile and easily trampled. As childless adults, it was often clearer when to cut our losses and when to soldier on. As a parent, I find it a lot more difficult to make a call. It's hard to find the sweet spot between rallying a child on and respecting the kid's right to his or her feelings. And sometimes, I, as the parent, just don't have much more Rally Juice left in me. I think the age of the children and the number of children also accounts for a lot of our difficulty. Sometimes the 6 year age spread of the children means the youngest is not ready for what the oldest wants to do, and the oldest is not content to wait for the youngest. The way this plays out is often so dynamic and difficult to address because all three kids are moving in different directions. One kid wants to go home, one kid wants to go the playground, the third kid wants to go swimming. One kid is willing to compromise, two are not. Then, within 30 seconds, two kids have changed their minds and have new request, while the third is still adamant, and then you pick direction, and the other two revolt.... It's just relentless.

I don't want to complain about it. But I want it to go away. But finding the key to making it go away? I don't know. I've got nothing. <Sigh>

To conclude this post on a positive note, here is the best piece of the camping trip: the boys washing and drying dishes. Mattias LOVED it and exclaimed, "I love this chore! I would do it all the time! Every day!"

That is NOT a request that our dishwasher (at home) should now break. Please.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Grubs (Japanese Beetles!) and African Dogtooth/DogTuff Grass: A Partial Story

A few weeks ago, I noticed grub activity in our lawn. My mother taught me to recognize it a few years ago like this: 1) see brown spots 2) kick the grass on the brown spots 3) if grass breaks off at the roots, you have grubs. This is only the second time in 6 summers that I've seen grub activity in the yard. The first time, the lawn was turning brown and we were watering and watering and watering and nothing made a difference. Colorado locals aren't used to spotting grub activity. Some Colorado garden stores don't carry lawn care products specifically for grubs. The first time it took my mother, visiting from Rhode Island, to diagnose the problem.

The second time (this time) when I saw what looked like grub activity, I dug up a bit of lawn to be sure. Yes. Grubs.

Then, I pleasantly noted that the grub were eating our regular grass, but NOT our dogtooth grass, see?

Since planting the dogtooth grass, we've been slightly disappointed by the amount of regular grass that somehow managed to survive. We'd like the regular grass to go away, because it requires that we continue to mow. And the regular grass takes more water and more treatments to look good. Fritz and I treated the grubs, but thought, well, it's not the worst thing. Maybe the dogtooth will take over, and we'd much prefer that.

The dogtooth grass is thick like a sponge and loves to launch itself into new areas. Here, it's aggressively growing over my stepping stones:

But I digress.

Because the point is, a few days later, I was over at a neighbor's house and her son was showing me the "funny bugs" on their grape leaves. I saw a bug that I know from growing up in New England – and a bug I dislike: the Japanese beetle. Then it clicked. That grub activity wasn't just grub activity, it was JAPANESE BEETLES. Meaning the brown spots on lawns are just the beginning. The adult beetles will actually create more damage than the larvae.

I didn't take a photo, but you can google it. Most people from the Western US have never seen a Japanese Beetle before and aren't aware of how damaging they can be.

Japanese Beetles eat EVERYTHING! Linden trees, grape leaves, maple trees, strawberry leaves, tomato leaves, etc. They kill the grass as grubs, but then they defoliate plants and trees as adult beetles. The beetles have no natural predators in North America, so the best way to get them is when they are still grubs.

Around here, we are trying to use LESS insecticide, not more, so I'll be ordering some milky spores for our lawn today. The goal is to take them out while they are still grubs, before they become beetles. I hope my neighbors will do the same, because I'd be so sad to see our entire (fledgling) neighborhood landscaping gobbled up by Japanese Beetles.

Planting the dogtooth grass plugs
Why we planted the grass (a dialog)
The African dogtooth grass experiment begins in May
The African dogtooth grass at 4 months in August
Where the bulbs get eaten by the rabbits
Fifteen months after planting
Two years in, when the Japanese Beetle Grubs arrive (hint, you're reading it!)

Monday, August 1, 2016

Visitors, Schultueten, More Tenting

Last week my parents were here visiting for a few days. The kids were thrilled! Here's a photo of grandparents and grandchildren:

I generally stay off my phone and computer as much as possible when we have guests, so I've been a little absent online.

Also, I've had a few orders coming in for Schultüten, which is fun: I really like picking out fabrics to mix and match. Schultüte translates from German as school bag; traditionally, it is a cone shaped container that is filled with candy and given to children on their first day of school in first grade. I like to think the fabric makes a nicer (and reusable!) version of the cardboard ones I always encountered in Germany. The design has evolved with my own kids. Here is Noah with his. And here is Mattias with his from last year:

The kids have been circling the sewing machine as I work, asking if they can ALL have one this year. (Nope.)

We are going to try out another overnight tenting trip this week, so we're off to the store to stock up on some supplies. Fingers crossed, thumbs pressed, that we can have a fire this time! And that everyone sleeps.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Crickets Chirping

Remember how I had thought maybe I could convince other bloggers to do a blog challenge with me and I could sew a clown costume for one of them as an incentive? Only one person has joined! My one joiner is a very nice blogger, who I have been following for years, and so I will be very happy to sew a costume for her. But my feelings are hurt by crickets chirping in this blog world.

(Sometimes I have to bribe the kids to get them to model costumes.
Sigh. This was one of those times) 

Mostly, it just feels indicative of this time in my life. By that I mean: the years I have spent at home with my kids (and blogging). Partially, it's fine because I never expected recognition from it and I never tried to make this blog monetary or to be widely-read. If anything, I've tried to do the opposite: to be a sort of well-kept secret blog. Being at home was never about a tangible or measurable outcome, nor was blogging. So, maybe, after a couple weeks of sulking, I'm fine that only one person entered my challenge. I'm also fine because I can see the end of this blogging SAHM part of life. And I'm (mostly) fine that I never grew more of a community or following here. Yes, I think I am. Life goes on.

Still. Time's a tickin'. I do believe this blog only has a life of about one year left. I would like to tell you how this part of the story ends, but you might have to put some extra effort into reading that ending. If you want to know, please read this blog in a reader. I intend to write multiple posts over the next few months that will not stay posted on the blog. They'll disappear. But you can read them in a reader whenever you want.

Oh yeah, and that blog challenge? It's still open! The challenge was 2 post per week for two months, for about 16 total posts in July and August. (It's also okay if you don't enter, my feelings are over being hurt.)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Eight Square Inches Between Interruptions

I've reached the part of summer where I'm burnt out on summer.


It is always advisable to wear goggles while catching raindrops in your mouth.

Summer is a lot of togetherness for me. Togetherness with my kids, togetherness with friends, late nights, long days. And while I do love the ease of the togetherness, I can't figure out how to have an ease of solitude as well. I feel super-duper cramped.

This is my first summer with a smart phone. I'm on it all the time. Not because I'm trying to fill a void in my life, but because I'm trying to escape the craziness around me and have control over something, even if it is only the 8 square inches between interruptions.

It doesn't really work, by the way.

Last summer, we had two problems: 1) I under-scheduled the children and 2) summer was effectively three weeks longer because we took the kids out of school three weeks early to travel. I'm not beating myself up about last summer, because I did the best I could given the situation we were dealing with. But this summer, I promised myself to do a better job balancing boring days with camp. I think, by in large, it's working. The kids seem satisfied: we've got a relative good balance of do-nothing days and busy days, activities and down time. I even feel that I've reached some sort of sweet spot in finding perfect camps: the type of camps where the kids come home happy and tired, rather than in need of de-programming from children's taunts and bad manners.

Good Job, Ann. (Well, nobody else is going to congratulate me for this, so I find it necessary to talk this way to myself.)

The summer challenge now is really to factor in ME. How do I get a break from the kids (all three of them at the same time)? How do I get time to decompress? How much do I need, anyway? I contemplate numbers: Fritz works/commutes/exercises for about 52 hours a week. That means, on a regular schedule, I spend 52 hours a week alone with the kids in various combinations (1 kid, 2 kids, 3 kids). The last time I regularly had no kids was 2 years ago when I hired a babysitter for a scheduled 2 hours a week. That last for about 8 months. Two hours a week without kids was not much, but it helped.

This fall, Trixie will start preschool and then I will get 9 hours a week without kids. I haven't had 9 hours a week of time away from my kids since Mattias was born in 2010! So, this is huge. Will it be enough? Will I feel more refreshed and relaxed? Hopefully, it will offer some clues and guidance to scheduling for next summer.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Read, Write, Right

I use two different readers to read blogs. One is on my smart phone and one is on my computer.

The RSS reader (The Old Reader) on my computer is great, but not widely used. I thought I should try something else on my phone. I had already been unhappy with Feedly, so I tried Bloglovin' on my phone. 

Now I can tell you I dislike both Feedly and Bloglovin'. Both of these readers are more about marketing and reinforcing content that is already popular than exposure to new ideas. If you want diversity, you are not going to discover it by utilizing either of these readers.  I would say: Same old, same old.  But really it's more like: Same trend, same trend. Feedly and Bloglovin' remind me of living in Portland, Oregon, where everything was hip, but everything was hip in the same way


These days, all my RSS readers are very empty on the weekend. When something is posted on a weekend, I feel a bit of shock: What!? Someone is working on the weekend? 

Based on this, I've concluded the list of blogs I'm reading has become far too commercial. 

I decide it's time to weed. 


I can't be interested in Facebook at all the last few months. 


Noah hates to write. There's nothing wrong with his thinking or his imagination. I'm frequently impressed with how verbally coherent he can be. But when it comes to paper and pencil, he runs the opposite direction. I'd like to see him improve his writing and write more. 

Recently we had a conversation in which he asked me why everyone thinks writing is so important. I talked to him about how it allows us to communicate and share ideas at anytime and in any place without actually being present.  I talked about how it allows us to present our ideas very precisely.

But in the back of my head I was thinking about how we watch TED talks instead of reading papers and books. I was thinking about snapchat versus blogs. I was thinking about how Facebook purportedly has an algorithm ranking video higher than photos and higher than text. And I thought about how clicking on an article in an online newspaper can lead you to a video instead of an article. I thought about how Fritz always speaks his texts and emails instead instead of typing them. 

(Heck, Noah, maybe you're right. Writing may not be so important in our – your – future. But I'm not sure that's such a great thing, so, go get your pencil and write.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Yesterday, I successfully diagnosed and adjusted the timing on my (broken) sewing machine. And today I (quickly!) unjammed a chain on Noah's bicycle, so I'm feeling very mechanically inclined these days.

No, honestly, I owe the sewing machine success to the fact that there are so many sources online to offer advice. I know this has been possible for many decades now, but I still sometimes find it amazing that I can surf around the web and find the information that I need to do this stuff myself. Also, the information has become so good and thorough and tested!

Since I've been using my sewing machine a lot lately, I've become rather panicky about something happening to it. I only have one sewing machine. What if it breaks on the evening before I've promised to ship something to a customer?! My parents gave it to me for my birthday and Christmas some years ago. They don't sell this particular model anymore, but I think at the time it ran in the ballpark of $200-$300. A new, simpler, but sufficient, sewing machine could be purchased for about $80. Repairing the $200-$300 machine was going to be in the ballpark of $90, just to have someone look at it.

These are the type of numbers that really make you wonder: should you just endlessly purchase new cheap sewing machines when one breaks? (Icky disposable consumerism!) Should you pay even more money to repair the existing one and just hope it doesn't (ever) break again? Fixing it myself was definitely the best option but I was pretty nervous about it. I still remember my Dad swearing he would NEVER fix my mother's sewing machine after one bad attempt in my childhood.

I may have done this exact same dance when I fixed the sewing machine.
But, ah, Sweet Internet. You saved me. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Also, there's something to be said for a piece of machinery that is simple enough that you CAN fix it without fancy, expensive tools to assist.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Car Tenting

We took the kids camping – no, tenting –  no, really, the best description is something like – car tenting – this past week. It's significant because this is the first time we've taken all three of them somewhere other than the neighborhood park to sleep overnight in a tent.

Fritz and I have always thought that we wanted to do outdoor things like this with the kids. However, with the arrival each successive kid, the idea of camping felt increasingly onerous. Take a child in diapers, who barely sleeps through the night, out of her familiar bed and put her in a tent with her two excited siblings and expect a good result? Hmmmm... But! BUT! This summer it started to feel like a possibility again. We are very hopeful that this trip was the beginning of many more to come. So instead of telling you it was a great success, let's just say it was a good start! We learned a lot! We made a big long list about how to improve our next trip. And, as is almost everything with kids, I think the more we do it, the more habitual it becomes, and the easier it is to continue doing.

Here's our very picturesque campsite.

It can be difficult to get a campsite within 90 minutes of the metropolitan area in the summer. Like most people with kids, we didn't want to spend all day in the car to get to our destination. Most of the campsites were booked months and months ago. We booked this 2 months in advance, for one mere night, but we still had to choose a night midweek to actually be able to reserve a site.

That meant we missed out on some things. Like getting firewood at the camping ground store. (It was closed. And we weren't willing to spend a lot of time driving the kids around in search of firewood for sale elsewhere.) Fortunately, there was the beautiful lake to compensate for the disappointment.

And the kids weren't deterred from making their own version of a campfire.

Fritz took a lot of initiative, from initially finding our camp site, to the driving, to the food, to the packing, to walking the three year-old back and forth from the bathroom one-hundred-and-twenty-six times. It was nice.

When we returned home and I was once again thrust into the position of making almost every decision and responding to almost every call, I thought maybe I didn't appreciate our 24 hour camping trip quite enough.

But nobody got very much sleep. We were glad to have the whole weekend to recover.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Bamboo Update, Fifth Growing Season

Last year I did not update on our bamboo privacy screen. It was the second year of really dismal growth and I could not bring myself to write another sad post.

Bamboo plant screen, looking pretty good, after the 5th growing season.
This year, the bamboo is doing really well again. It is almost perfectly the green wall of foliage between our house and the neighbors that I hoped it would be: about 8-10' high and dense enough in most places that you can not see through it.

July 2016

So, here's a fifth season update as well as some speculation as to why seasons 3 and 4 were so bad. Links to a review of each growing season are at the end of this post.

  • 20 linear feet of bamboo planted in 4' wide x 24 inch deep planter.
  • Colorado USDA Zone 5B at an elevation of about 5200'
  • Four cold hardy, running bamboos: Rubro and Spectabilis varieties (purchased online from Lewis Bamboo) and Yellow Groove and Bissetii (from a local nursery).
Early June 2016. The leaves at the bottom are last year's growth.
The stalks or culms rising above are this year's new growth.
The culms will unfold into branches and leaves once the culms
have reached their final height. 

Lessons Learned during Seasons 3 and 4:
  1. Our cold hardy bamboo can survive temperatures of -20 Fahrenheit, but it has massive death of foliage above ground.
  2. If the temperatures stay above 0 degrees, the cold hardy bamboo keeps GREEN leaves all winter. (Below 0 degrees Fahrenheit and the leaves turn brown and the culms/stalks begin to die from the top.)
  3. If hail or snow collects on the bamboo during the grow season (mid May-mid June), it can destroy much of the growth for that year.

February 2016. The main reason to have bamboo: it stays green in the winter
(unless the temperature falls below 0 degrees Fahrenheit).
The bamboo is so short because it was really damaged by hail
during the previous growing season. 

Our favorite varieties continue to be the Spectablis and Yellow Groove. The Bissetii is also doing fine. We contemplate removing the Rubio once in a while. In the very first photo above, the center area which is thinner and lower than the other areas, was originally planted with Rubio. The varieties haven't mixed with each other as much as we thought they would: they still tend to hangout predominantly in the 9 square feet in which they were planted. (No widely invasive running bamboo. Yet.)

This year, our bamboo did most of its growth over the month of June. I've covered the particular growing habits of the cold hardy bamboo in previous posts. I suggest the links below if you want to learn more about it.

July 2016. The bamboo leaves and branches have unfolded from the culms.
The bamboo will remain like this until next year,
barring extreme cold or hail.

We've decided that if we would like the bamboo to stay like this, we are going to need to protect it better from Colorado's (sometimes) extreme cold and (sometimes) hail. Some commenters pointed this out to us over the last few years. Now that we see the potential of the bamboo, we are planning to act on their advice!

Before the fall, the goal is to build a light (but strong and visually unobtrusive) wood framework over the bamboo that can be covered if the weather suddenly turns bad. If we get it done, fingers crossed, thumbs pressed, I will share it.

It's so much more inviting out there, I would also love to find some comfy outdoor seating. And a rug. That would be nice, too!

Links to Past Posts:
1st Growing Season (positive)
2nd Growing Season (positive)
3rd Growing Season (negative)
4th Growing Season (negative, no post)
5th Growing Season (hint: you're reading it!)
The Deck
The Bamboo Planter

Friday, July 1, 2016

June Wrap Up Segue

Our summer vacation started with the kids playing... I kid you! Because, I don't know, what else are you going to do at 8:00 in the morning when there's no longer a bus to catch? Apparently, it was pajama day for Trixie.

Then, Mattias spent several days in his pajamas because he had a tonsillectomy. Mattias also lost two adenoids and his two (loose) front teeth with the tonsils. I wonder if there's a discount for removing body parts in bulk during surgery? Six body parts – that's half a dozen!

(Who am I kidding? Knowing the medical industry, there's probably a surcharge.)

My brother flew into town for a surprise Feel Better Soon! visit. I got teary eyed when I opened the door and saw him standing there. Mathias's spirits were lifted by the idea that somebody came to see him.

We lifted Mattias up on this chair while tracking the growth of the bamboo this year. I should probably do a bamboo update. But for now, this is turning out to be SUCH A GOOD GROWING SEASON! Thank goodness, really, because if every year was like the last two years, I'd...I' discouraged from ever attempting to grow anything in our yard again. The kids have been very helpful in snacking harvesting from all of the edible landscaping we've painstakingly planted over the last 5 years.

We painstakingly attempted to feed this baby bird once he fell out of the nest. Sadly, he did not make it. But certainly squeezing mashed up meal worms through a syringe counts as a solid attempt. Maybe he would have preferred the strawberries?

In addition to the strawberries, this year we have a good number of currants (Johannisbeeren). Fritz was all set to make an Obstboden, which is a German cake with fruit on the top, until we went outside to start picking the currants. Then he declared that there weren't possibly enough currants for a cake, so we might as well leave the currants for the birds. (Oh, Fritz. He can't be bothered to make any sort of food unless it is in huge quantities.)

Finally, here's a photo of Not Enough. I thought this was a nice amount for Something.

Psst - Did you see my blog challenge? If not, check it out here.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Blog Challenge with a Clown Costume Reward

This summer I would love to learn about some new blogs and have a bit of motivation to keep blogging.

So I had this idea: join me in blogging regularly (2x a week) for the months of July and August. I'll enter your blog in a drawing and will personally make the winning blog a custom clown costume for Halloween. The clown costume could be for you (I'd love an excuse to try an adult size costume!) or it can be gift for a little one. Your choice! There are examples of costumes in my Etsy Store.

This isn't about building an email list, or beefing up my social media accounts. I'm just looking for other bloggers to join me, and I'm trying to find a good motivator for others. Therefore, you can enter either by 1) sending me an email with your blog at at gmail dot com OR 2) leave a comment with a link to your blog. Then, make sure you blog twice a week for the month of July and August. Maybe you've always considered starting a blog, but need a little incentive? Maybe you already do this; all the better! I'll give each blog a number and use a random number draw to choose the winner at the end of August. The only caveat is that I can only ship within the USA. If you are outside the USA, and would still like to enter, you can, but the cost of shipping will be your responsibility.

This blog is neither monetized, nor does it have a very wide audience, so please feel free to share this challenge via word of mouth. (I'd be really sad if nobody entered!)

Ready? Set. GO!

Don't be shy! Please join us anytime in July!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Pierrot Costumes

I just finished these Pierrot–inspired clown costumes for a wedding. I'm so happy with them!! I must give credit to my awesome client who had the idea of a Pierrot costume in the first place, and then was willing to let me experiment a bit with the design.

Pierrot is a classic pantomime clown dating back to the seventeenth century. He wears a predominantly white costume. He reoccurs throughout history in art, theater, and literature: from the performer Paul Legrand, a mime who always emphasized Pierrot's sentimentality, to paintings by Cezanne and  Picasso, to David Bowie's Threepenny Pierrot. I spent a good amount of time surfing the internet, looking a photos and reading about all the variations interpretations of Pierrot through history. Very cool stuff.

Anyway, I feel like there are so many great things to say about this project. First of all, I started doing some new experimenting with my sewing machine. I'm not entirely sure this is clear from the images, but I'm trying to create not just patterns, but also textures and weights by the way I stitch the fabric. I wanted these two costumes to be simultaneously the same and different: One silhouette is more round and horizontal, while the other silhouette is more bell-shaped and vertical. I think the above photo illustrates this pretty well. Finessing the same basic pattern to go in two different directions comes down to the manipulating the patches and pockets. Well... and I changed the pattern subtly. I try to make some parts stiffer and more prominent by, for example, stitching layers of fabric together.  Other parts I try to blend with stitches.

I love this! It think it really adds such depth. It may be relatively complex for a clown costume, but it is complexity with intent!


Can we just pause and say that children wearing clown costumes – or any sort of costume – to a wedding is brilliant?

How much money did I spend last year on the kids clothes for my brother-in-law's wedding? A lot! What if the money I spent on the kid's clothes had been useful for Halloween or a dress up box? Also, how did my kids act for the entire wedding weekend?

Like clowns!

Remember how they rode a push car and tractor across the cobblestone courtyard while the bride and groom were doing a 3 hour photo session and I cringed the whole time? The photo is funny. But, AACK! I was fretting.

Maybe I'm just out of the loop. Maybe kids wearing costumes to weddings is more common than I realized? Because I've had two requests for wedding clown costumes in the last three weeks! I wish I'd thought of that! Really!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Naked Salad

I have a go-to dressing-less salad that I make almost every night for dinner. Fritz and I split it; the kids aren't into salad. I used to use salad dressing, but about 18 months ago I stopped using salad dressing as part of my one ingredient goal. (Mentioned here.) Since then I've been experimenting with ways to make a salad moist without using salad dressing. The best strategy I've found it to grate carrots or (raw) beet into the salad. If given a choice, I always pick the beet: it looks so pretty with the greens! Also, there's something perfect about the way a raw, grated beet is sweet and juicy.

I'm also a big believer that salad aesthetics are important. I like a mixture of color, intentional chopping of vegetables for maximal textural impact, and visibility of the bowl. Food always looks more appealing when it's full of color! Like me, you've probably also read that food with lots of colors is somewhat related to having a good diversity of vitamins and nutrients. That sounds good to me, so I go with it! Especially with fruits and vegetables, they can be unusual, organic shapes or really standard shapes depending on how you chop them (Thank you, Arch 101), so I try to maximize the shapes and sizes of the various ingredients for a bold textural appearance. And after taking care to make a beautiful salad, I put it in a glass bowl so I can see it. Our glass bowls get so much use that I really could replace them with something a little less worn. I guess I'm currently working against myself on this point. Here's my lovely salad in my slightly less lovely bowl:

1 huge handful mixed lettuces (I buy the boxes of "prewashed" salad because too much fussing with lettuce deflates my enthusiasm for making salad)
1 huge handful baby spinach (Ditto on the box)
3 latitudinally thinly sliced sweet peppers
1 finely chopped slice of onion
1 peeled and latitudinally sliced carrot (or grated carrot)
1 peeled and grated small raw beet (Surgical gloves if red-died hands bother you, alternatively, usually the red beet washes off after about 2 hand washings)
pecorino romano, shaved
handful of raw sunflower or raw pumpkin seeds


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Power of Humor

This weekend we watched the subtitled Er ist wieder da (Look Who's Back), a German movie that is based on a 2011 book.  The movie has recently been released on Netflix. Over the last two years, I've caught several snippets on German media about the book and then film. The idea explored in the movie is what happens when Adolf Hilter wakes up in modern day Germany. Mostly, I'd heard the book (and the movie) were good satires. I also understand that the significance of Germans laughing about Adolf Hitler. Because basically, they don't laugh about him. At all. Until now. In the current times, Hitler finds his audience as a comedian.

So.... I found the movie PROFOUNDLY disturbing. I haven't read the book, so I can't tell you if they are basically the same or if the movie expands where the book left off. But the movie definitely mixes the fantastical storyline that somehow Hilter just wakes up 70 years later in modern day Germany with recent film footage of non-actor Germans interacting off-script with the actor playing Hitler. It's not reassuring; I, as the viewer, had no idea sometimes where the lines between humor and entertainment and and ratings and politics and reality were.

For all the comparisons between Hitler and the apparent Republican US presidential candidate this year, this movie, for me, drew disturbing parallels. The parallels were not about two people and their fascist ideologies. Rather the parallels were about the way we equate entertainment with being a leader. I think most scholars would agree that in Germany of the 1930s, the aspect of entertainment that lead to Hitler's rise was not humor. But watching this movie and thinking about our current political scene in the US, humor might very well be an aspect of entertainment in which we are still vulnerable. I started to think about how many times I've been sucked into a reading an article about the presidential candidates because, he said/did what now? You can't be serious! Are we separating the ability to entertain from the ability to be a good leader? Even if it makes us laugh?

I sure hope so!

And for me, I hereby refuse to read (click on) on any more political articles for the sake of entertainment.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Morning Birds

Sunday was a typical weekend morning. Trixie woke up at 5:37am, which is the normal time for her. Mattias joined us within 10 minutes. All of our children wake up early. Although, in the last two years, Noah started sleeping as late as 7am. We refer to his current sleeping patterns as sleeping in.

I'm a morning person, so I've tried to be kind and generous about the fact that the children are also morning people. Or it seems they are morning people. But I do resent not having the mornings to myself to go running. I loved waking up in the morning to run. Sigh. That was a decade ago. These days, I run kid interference so that my night owl husband can sleep in. Sleeping in for him means the same sort as Noah: maybe 7am (but not usually as late as 8 am).

The kiddos are hungry right away. No, they're hangry. So I take them downstairs for first breakfast. They will eat second breakfast later. Like hobbits. Or because they've got a healthy dose of Bavarian blood surging through their veins. I hear Bavarians construction workers call it Vesper, which sounds like a prayer to my English ears. After first breakfast and before second breakfast, they'll do some of their best playing of the day. That is when I finally get a few moments of time to myself, but I've already lost my enthusiasm to run.

Over the last decade, we've lived in several areas that are quite densely populated with children. Especially during the winter months, I've noticed there are NOT other lights on at 5:37 am in the morning. So I guess my children are just outliers in the waking up early category.

But I hear that second breakfast is more common.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Minimalist Earrings

I picked up these gold earrings for my mom at a craft fair the other weekend. She is always looking for small earrings. These are the smallest earrings I've ever seen.

And they're brilliantly simple! Made from left over pieces of metal from jewelry making, they are nothing more than a line across the ear lobe when worn. Understated and genius: they hold in place because for two reasons 1) the bend in the shape and 2) the fact that the front and back are in balance. Essentially, the middle of the Z fits through the hole in your ear and the front segment balances with the back segment. There's no separate earring back to get lost or poke you! You could wear them to bed without getting stabbed! I'm rather kicking myself for not buying several pairs.

You can check out more jewelry at Sparkle + Stone work here.