Salt Dough Ornaments

For the real Christmas tree downstairs, I figured I’d decorate with whatever I already had, plus some handmade ornaments. And it doesn’t get much cheaper and easier than salt dough! I used this recipe, except I used white whole wheat flour (some really old stuff that was too wheat-y for making Christmas cookies… a couple of years ago), and it soaked up more water. I’ve made salt dough a couple of times before to capture M’s footprints. I did one last December, when her feet were sooo tiny, and then again when she was six months old.

I haven’t painted most of the ornaments yet, but I did finish up these paw print ones, and M worked on a couple of gingerbread men. I’m really happy with the paws — I wasn’t sure how many of the pets would cooperate, but they all did a great job, and the impressions came out really clearly. I like to paint the prints, since even if you get a nice, deep impression, it can sort of disappear if the lighting isn’t right. You have to be careful and quite neat with the paint, though, or it’ll look really sloppy!

I’m happy to have something from the pets on the tree! It’s a little funny that they all fit on the same size ornament shape. Beany has the smallest paw, and Henny has the biggest (the cat prints are red, and the dogs’ are green). But the dogs are actually smaller than the cats (well, except for Bear) — their feet are just less delicate.

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Wintery Baby Cat Stuff

I hope it won’t bother the fine folks who follow me on Instagram that I’ve been pulling a lot of photos from there for my posts lately. It’s hard to get clear shots of a toddler with a DSLR when it’s cloudy and the days are short. And the best camera is the one you have with you, as they say.

We went to the Minneapolis Holiday Market on Sunday, which was very German and fun — and chilly, of course. But there were just enough indoor spaces to stop it being miserable. Then we (M, my mom, and I) went to Santaland in the downtown Macy’s. M seemed to enjoy it and wasn’t freaked out by all the animatronic elves. I pointed out all the mechanical cats and dogs to her, and then we tried to call them over (M pats her tummy to call the pets over at home). We didn’t do a Santa photo, as A) I really couldn’t care less, B) I don’t plan on ‘doing Santa’ with M, and — most importantly — C) I know M would have FREAKED OUT.

We were in town for a hip appointment — still some progress to make there, but no surgery in the near future, whew — and on the way home, we stopped at the local nursery and bought a real Christmas tree. I have the white one upstairs, so I put this one down in the family room. I haven’t had a real tree in probably twenty years, so it’s a lot of fun. I definitely had evergreen-scent-induced childhood Christmas flashbacks.

Bear has been such a good little cat lately, especially since the new tree’s branches are too densely packed for her to climb. I’m trying to reintroduce Bear and Birdy, which is going… so-so. I thought we’d made a lot of progress — Birdy seemed to compulsively attack Birdy before, and she’s been getting better control over that. There was a scary incident yesterday that I should have been able to avoid, but it doesn’t look like Bear got scratched up, and she bounced right back afterward. Two steps forward, one step back. It definitely showed me what Birdy’s threshold is for being ‘tempted’ (when Bear runs across the room, she might as well be a mouse, as far as Birdy is concerned). Anyway, Bear is a irrepressibly cheerful kitten, and I discovered last night that she’s really good at playing fetch.

And she lets M kiss her and cuddle her and try to pick her up, so that’s adorable.

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Around the House

I just titled this post ‘Around the House’ because it feels like we’ve been all snug at home this week, but actually we were out on Tuesday, to get the second half of M’s flu shot. And we ran some errands yesterday. But mostly we’ve been staying in. It’s been chilly lately, and I had a guy come over on Monday to look at what we could do to make the house more efficient (ie, how to stop all the heat from escaping). They’re going to air-seal the attic and blow in new insulation on top of that, hopefully later this month. Apparently new windows, doors, etc are rarely needed as long as you’ve got a tight lid on the house — so I’m excited about that.

I was going to wait another year to do the Playmobil Advent calendar I bought last December, but I gave in. M has no idea what it’s all about, of course, but she still gets a kick out of seeing the new little whatsit each morning. And I love miniature stuff, so obviously I was buying it for myself in the first place. Once we get bored looking at it, I can just pack each piece back up into its little cubby, and it’ll be ready to go for another year. She’ll never know. (Playmobil makes a bunch of different Advent sets — I think this particular one must have been discontinued, as it’s more expensive now.)

I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of how funny M is. She lost her balance when she went to pick up Kitty Cat Doll the other day, so she decided to just stay on the ground and take the opportunity to give Kitty Cat Doll a long cuddle. I finally ordered a second one (it’s the cat from Moulin Roty’s Les Zazous collection), just in case. Hopefully we’ll never lose Kitty Cat Doll, and to be honest, as much as M really does love her more than any other toy, I think she’d adopt something different just fine — at this age, at least. But I think it’ll also be amusing to have a ‘control’ Kitty Cat Doll to compare M’s to as it gets more and more raggedy. Plus, I think it’ll blow M’s mind if I show her them both at the same time.

Anyway, she really clicked with the tent recently, and she likes to take stuff she finds and stash it in there. I gave her an ornament she spotted on my bedroom shelves today, and she carried it all the way to the other side of the house to put it in her little nest. Between the tent and her new-found love for wedging herself into her Bumbo chair, she’s been enjoying playing downstairs a lot lately.

Oh, last thing — Bear climbs up on the backs of the kitchen chairs, just like Beany. I don’t know if this is just a ‘cat’ thing to do (although I’ve never seen any other cat do it) or if she actually learned from watching Beany. Beany does enjoy showing off, and I think she likes having a rapt audience as she walks along the railings upstairs.

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Kitchen Cupboard Topper

Thank you for all the supportive comments on the last post. I’m really excited to see a lot of you guys over on Instagram! It’s a different sense of community, for sure; I like having everybody else’s photos right at my fingertips. And I can post little video snippets, which wasn’t quite so easy here. I need to add an Instagram link to my sidebar, but for now, here it is again: link!

I took this kitchen photo a while back, but I forgot to post it. I built a little storage crate for the new cupboard topper. I actually plan to have two in this cabinet (one on either end) and then a few more when I eventually build toppers for the rest of the kitchen. But I figured it made the most sense to build them all at the same time, so I can get the painting out of the way in one go. I used Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint (the color is Eulalie’s Sky) and the same brand of antiquing wax. I had to be quite careful to use a light touch with the wax, as the thin coat of paint I used would have happily absorbed the very dark color of the wax. I’m thrilled with the way it turned out, though! I figured it was better to build something myself that would make the most of the space, since a store-bought basket probably would have left a lot unused at the back.

I still have a bit of touch-up painting to do on the cabinet topper — and then a bunch more of them to build!

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M Lately (13-ish Months)

– M is into everything these days. She figured out how to open the lower cupboard doors in the kitchen (I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner!), and now I keep finding canning lids all over the place. I’ll be ordering some latches soon! M’s other favorite naughty activity is playing with the pets’ water dish. She’s started bringing over cups to help her empty it out more efficiently. I haven’t come up with a solution to this, since I can’t put the water up high, and if I block it off in some way, it’ll scare Henny. Right now I have a gate up so M can’t access it from the side, which at least cuts down her water play by about 75%.

– M has expanded her selection of acceptable fruit pouches, and she gets really excited when she sees them. She’s a little more open to eating veggies in prepared dishes, but fruit is easier in the pouches. We had a good stretch where she would eat a large serving of baby oatmeal from a refillable pouch in the morning and yogurt from the same in the afternoon, but she’s totally over oatmeal for now, and yogurt is hit or miss. She’s getting better at using utensils, though, and I can put her food in a dish without her instantly tipping it out.

–She’s really starting to enjoy the tent I made for her birthday, especially with all the cushions inside. She’ll go inside and just lounge for a bit, or she’ll bring stuff in to play with. I put down her ‘old’ play mat the other day, and she instantly went over to sit on it, and she kept bringing her toys over to it all afternoon. She’s also been revisiting the Bumbo chair — if she keeps one leg under herself, she can get out when she’s done sitting. If both legs go through the spaces, though, she gets stuck, which is very frustrating for her (and, it seems, a little embarrassing).

– M is really steady on her feet now (compared to a few weeks ago, anyway), and she’s building up some speed, too. She’s just starting to realize that she can get down and explore when we’re out running errands, but she’s still pretty good about sitting in the cart. Being the master disorganizer she is, she’d tear a store apart in a flash, so she can’t be on her feet too much of the time.

– I’ve decided to switch around which photos I post here and on my Instagram. My account there is now private, but I’ll add any requests that seem legit. I won’t be posting many photos of M’s face here anymore — it just feels better. I’ve really struggled with balancing M’s privacy with a desire to share all the fun, cute stuff. There are bloggers I don’t respect much who really overshare with seemingly no regard for their child’s future wishes (or safety!). But then there are others — who I think of as being very sensible and cautious — who also post a lot of kid photos (usually pretty restrained ones). So it’s hard to know how much is too much. I’ve tried to be guided by what I would want kept private if it were me instead of M. Anyway, for now, it feels more comfortable to stop posting so many photos of her face, since I can’t control who’s looking. That makes sense, right?

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Day After Thanksgiving Feast

We had a great Thanksgiving Day at my cousin’s yesterday. She served an amazing meal, and my mom made some beautiful desserts, but M and I woke up this morning with no leftovers — and worse, NO PIE. I don’t see what the point of being thankful even is if you don’t get to have pie for breakfast the next day. I also realized that yesterday had been missing green bean casserole, and that got me thinking about what my perfect Thanksgiving feast would look like. And who says you can’t cook up a storm the day after Thanksgiving?

M and I had to make a trip to the big box store to get groceries, and the place was delightfully deserted. We went fairly early (not for us, but for shopping in general), and it was much emptier than a normal weekday. I let M peruse the aisles a little bit, but she really wasn’t making wise choices. If it had been up to her, we would have feasted on muffin mix, box cake, ramen, and some weird, brightly-colored kids’ drink. I suppose that’s why babies aren’t usually in charge of the shopping.

What we DID have: crockpot mac ‘n’ cheese, green bean casserole, chicken-fried tofu bits, and cranberry dressing. I used this recipe for the mac ‘n’ cheese, and I wound up having to wing it with the tofu. I was going to use a packet of batter, but I didn’t realize until right as I was about to open it that there was a small ‘Spicy!’ label on the side. I figured it wasn’t worth risking it being too hot for M, so I made my own mixture with flour, cornmeal, and some (non-spicy) spices. I pan fried the pieces, and to my surprise, they didn’t wind up too greasy or completely charred. They’re quite tasty, actually. I always think that cold, cooked tofu tastes like cold chicken (I’m sure it probably doesn’t), so I’m interested to try the leftovers straight from the fridge. I made a plate with some of everything for M, and she ate it ALL. I thought she’d turn her nose up at the cranberry sauce (it’s a little tart), but she came back to it after eating everything else and managed to finish it.

I also made a pumpkin pie, using the Libby’s recipe… except that I keep forgetting to buy more ginger, so I tossed in a little extra cinnamon and a pinch of cardamom instead. I made a shortening pie crust — butter tastes better, but I love how light a shortening crust is, and it’s so much easier to work with. The pie looks and tastes just perfect. I feel like my crusts usually get a little overcooked, even when I try to shield them, but I got lucky this time.

All in all, I think I can declare our Day After Thanksgiving feast a win!

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Recent Creations

1. I thought this pattern for baby boots was the cutest thing ever, and they did turn out pretty well. The big downside is that they don’t stay on M’s feet for more than a second. I thought they’d stay in place, since the tops of the boots can be tightened around her leg, but nope. As soon as she takes a step, they start sliding down and bunch up under her heels. I’m not sure why / what the solution is. They’re borderline too small for her (the pattern only goes up to size 5, which should be okay for M, but my seams might have been too generous), but it’s hard to imagine that they wouldn’t just slip off more quickly if they were bigger. Shoot!

2. I haven’t done much screen printing, but when I’ve made screens in the past, I’ve always used drawing fluid and screen filler. When I took it out the other day, both bottles had dried up! The bottles of photo emulsion seemed okay (they all came in the same starter kit a few years back), so I tried that method for the first time. I cut out the shapes from card and taped them to a large piece of glass, and then I used a dry-erase marker to make the little dots. I wasn’t sure the screen had exposed properly (I used one of my big CFL grow-light bulbs) because the emulsion didn’t really change color. But it washed out perfectly! I did some test prints on canvas last night, and I quite like it. I could use some more practice with the printing process!

3. My grandma got rid of some of her old sewing patterns a while back, and I now have McCall’s pattern 6322, which has a few different stuffed animals. I just had to try making the duck, and it’s very duck-shaped! I’m not sure I’ve ever used a pattern for a stuffed animals that wasn’t basically doll-style. This one was quite clever, and I had fun picking out the fabric from my stash. M will get it for Christmas.

I do most of my sewing/creating on the weekend or after dinner, but it’s pretty much always while M is awake and playing. She’s (usually) so good at playing independently, although I’ve been naughtily letting her disorganize things to get a few more minutes to finish projects here and there. The family room is a little bit shocking right now — she figured out how to get to the DVDs, so she’s done a thorough job of inspecting those, and she’s about halfway through sorting out the box of fabric scraps she found. I had filled a basket with baby toys that she’d outgrown, but I didn’t get it put away into storage yet, so of course she found those, and OF COURSE they’re now the funnest toys in the house. But never mind. She’s happy, and it can all get tidied up later.

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Our Day

I squeezed some extra little tasks into our usual morning today. Made some bread that’s okay-but-not-amazing. What I’d really like is a no-fail, idiot-proof bread machine — is there one of those? I got this to rise nicely by putting it in the oven with just the light on, but it wasn’t amazing after being baked. I’d love to be able to make our bread and get away from all those plastic bags, but it would have to be good sandwich bread (and usually I make bread that’s only good for toasting).

I tried to organize the pantry a little, while M actively undid the previous day’s organizing. It’s hard to want to stop her, though, when she seems so methodical and enthusiastic. Oh well!

I made mini quesadilla triangles and some fake chicken for lunch, and we both had guacamole. On the whole, M has been doing a lot better since she had the procedure to stretch the narrowing in her esophagus (back in July). But there are times when she’ll have trouble swallowing foods that I know she’s had no problem with before. I think it’s just a matter of how well she chews her food during any given meal. Today was a bad-chewing lunch, and she had a hard time getting her food down. I try not to short-order cook for M, so I don’t offer alternatives when she simply doesn’t WANT to eat something, but it’s different when she’s trying to eat and having trouble. So she wound up having a LOT of guacamole for lunch, plus a fruit and veggie pouch. And a few nibbles of crackers. The ladies at Tobies think it’s so funny that M likes guacamole — and, of course, it’s best eaten with one’s hands. So M had a rinse in the bathtub after lunch.

The rest of the day (when we weren’t snuggling) was spent working, of course, while M napped or wandered around the living room and kitchen. She’s been so busy lately, and it’s interesting to see what grabs her attention. She gets so absorbed in her books and can ‘read’ quietly by herself for quite a while.

In the photo of Nova on the little rug, she was carefully positioned in front of a furnace vent. Once, I caught Bear lying right on top of one, and I can’t blame them for soaking up the warmth. It’s been chilly! Bear and Birdy are still on alternate schedules (when one is free to roam the house, the other gets locked up) because Birdy won’t stop being mean. But Beany is much more accepting, as you can see!

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Our Weekend

M is turning into such a kid! Earlier today, I wanted to move (and to move her) from the hallway to her play area in the family room, and I was able to just take her hand and lead her there instead of picking her up. I still enjoy carrying her around, but it’s fun to walk places with her.

We had a really nice weekend — my mom spent Saturday night and was here most of the day beforehand. M loves playing with her grandma! And I was able to get the new cabinet (Rob says we should call them ‘cupboard toppers’) into place and attach the trim. I still have a little more caulking and painting to do, but it’s really starting to look like it did in my head.

M is starting to get a little better with a fork — she usually uses a small toddler fork with metal tines and a rubbery handle, but I gave her mine today when I finished eating. There’s a LOT of concentration that goes into trying to get a piece of food onto the fork. She’s quite nimble about putting the fork in just the right spot, but she still hasn’t mastered the stabbing motion. She did a good job with the eggs and potatoes we had for lunch today, though, especially the bits she discovered were hiding in her bib pouch.

I pulled out M’s crayons (a Melissa and Doug set) for the first time in a while this afternoon. Before today, she hadn’t really gotten the concept of making marks with them. But I drew a heart for her today, to show her how they work, and then she was off and running. She had to take every crayon out of the case, of course. There was quite a nice collection of different-colored lines when she was finished. There’s nothing better than watching her realize what new thing she’s capable of doing!

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– We got a ‘little bit’ of snow on Monday! (M is in her snow pants in the second photo — we had to go check out the snow.) It’s hard to tell how much, exactly, because it always drifts so badly out here. There are places where I can see grass poking through and others where the snow comes up to above my knee. I’ve decided to be relentlessly positive about winter this year — no complaining from me. I’m just trying to enjoy the beauty of it. And the coziness of being inside.

– In my free time, I’ve been building the cabinet (shelf? — I can never decide what to call it) to go above the short run of kitchen cupboards. It needs one more coat of paint and then can go up. I’m still intimidated by the nail gun, though, and I’ll need to use that to attach the trim.

– In my not-free time, I’ve been proofing the sequel to this book. I really enjoyed that one, but I’ve been really enjoying this new one. The author has such a knack for creating words and elaborating on concepts. This was the first book of his that we published — I love that one, too. I never really talk about the books I’m working on, but maybe it’s interesting? Yes/no? Depends if you like books, I suppose.

– Yesterday, while I was putting M’s left sock on, she was busy trying to put on the right one. She managed to find the top of it and stretch it open to get her toes on, but the coordination for the rest eluded her. I was impressed, though! She’s also started patting my shoulder when I’m holding her and calling one of the pets — I guess because I pat my leg to get them to come over. It’s funny what little kids learn even when you’re not going out of your way to teach these things.

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