Monday, June 30, 2008

Magoo's 5 1/2 Birthday Bash

Magoo is a Christmas time baby.  It's difficult to have a fun kid party in late December, so I decided long ago that we'd have a family party around his actual birthday and a kid party in the summer.  He gets two parties and I only have one child so I can handle two parties.

I usually try to keep things simple - mostly for my own sanity.  Also - I want the kids to be able to just let loose and have fun.  We started with a sprinkler rocket and a big water balloon fight.

The kids looooved the water balloons.  Of course, I think it's a fair estimate to say I spent about 45 minutes filling them up.  The fight took no more than 7 minutes - but I was glad it lasted that long.

It started to sprinkle, but the big tree in the back provided enough shelter for cake and ice cream.  I made a sugar-free yellow cake and used strawberries and blueberries for color.  (And some really long, colorful candles.)  I made a batch of casein free, sugar free coconut ice cream as well.  But many children preferred the store bought vanilla.  (Mike was psyched b/c that meant more coconut for him!)

Some of the kids didn't go for the cake either.  When they think birthday cake - they picture a ton of frosting and sugar and toys, yadda, yadda.  This is a very good cake - kinda like if a sponge cake and pound cake had a baby.  But it's not colorful.  Magoo loved it though - and that's what counts.

Next, it was pinata time.  Can we take a moment to appreciate the hard work I put into making this pinata?  Please.  It took me a really long time.  I know I'm absolutely crazy for doing this myself when I can buy one.  And then what happens?  It gets smashed.  I am.  I'm crazy.

But they loved it.  All except one poor boy who was so disappointed that there was no candy inside that it brought tears to his eyes.  It wasn't empty, mind you.  I stuffed it with tattoos and stretchy frogs and sticky bugs and beads.  Just not candy.  If only Magoo could have candy - I would have put some in.  But another mother was trying to cut back on sugar so I thought it would be okay.

Sorry, kid.

But everyone else seems to enjoy picking through the remnants.

All in all it was a good crowd of kids and Magoo had a very nice party.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Concert in the Park

I love my neighborhood.  There are definitely things that I'd like to fix upon my house, but I'm very happy with my house's location.  Last night, my neighbor Jackie organized a neighborhood outing to Elizabeth Park to hear a band play.  A bunch of us went.  See?  That's fun.

The roses were in full bloom and the place really looked beautiful.

Now, I had never been to a concert there before.  They have them every Wednesday night in the summer.  Magoo was little and bedtime was important, so I was always intrigued, but we never went.  As a result, I had no idea of what kind of crowd to expect.

Apparently, a big one.

We rode our bikes with another family - but Jackie saved us a good spot.  (They went early and drove.)

Here the boys are chilling out listening to the music.  I guess Magoo likes a canopy.

But then Magoo got back up and we went out and played Frisbee with some of his buddies.

I have to say the children played really well together - tossing it to and fro.  That probably seems like an odd statement, because - of course - that's how you play Frisbee.  But sometimes the boys like to fashion this game where you toss it and then everyone chases after it and then whoever jumps on it first - or can pry it out of the others one's hands - wins. If you have boys, you know this game.  That one's a little less fun for the group. But they did great - until an older boy playing a different game plowed poor Magoo down.  That pretty much ended the evening.  But before that - it was fun. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Happy Summer!

It's the last day of school and the beginning of summer pool parties - so I thought I'd give you all a good laugh.  (Of course the laugh for me in that sentence is "all".  Maybe 6 people will look at this!)

I'm the dork in front.  Do you like my JCPenney's pose?  The year is 1985 and I'm thirteen. See, if more thirteen year olds looked like this we wouldn't have a teen pregnancy problem!

I can totally remember taking this picture.  It was at my friend, Ocean's house.  Yes, her name was Ocean.  If you know someone named Ocean and you think you can find her in this picture, then yes, it's probably the same Ocean.  I think the pool was fairly new so we were excited to hang out.  Ocean also had the Madonna album, Like A Virgin.  And her parents had ABBA albums and a really small and boxy Mac.  It was cool hanging out at Ocean's house.

But we had Pong and illegal cable.  So our house was alright too.

I hope the sun is shining on you and have a wonderful day!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Tag Sale Follow-Up

Well, it went okay.

The weather was great. I just think by late June most folks are spending their weekends on the beach instead of hitting tag sales. I wanted to get my act together and have one in May, but I just couldn't do it.

I made about $50. Just barely worth the trouble. But I think what's even better is that I either put the unsold stuff on the curb or took bags of clothes to Salvation Army and now they are gone - out of my house. And that feels very, very good.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Tag Sale Tomorrow

My dining room has been repurposed to a junk room.  
All week long I have been filling it with piles and boxes of things for the tag sale.  Today, Friday, I will organize and price - get everything ready to just be carried out tomorrow morning and set up.

My last tag sale didn't go very well.  A whole lot of effort and I think I made $25.00.  So I'm hoping for better results tomorrow.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Totes & More Totes

It hasn't been easy - but I've been sneaking some sewing time in here and there.  The beautiful thing about some of these simpler designs is that I can complete a project in an hour or so - and that's just about all the time I can manage.

These are (75%) Simple Totes from Lotta Jansdotter's book, Simple Sewing.  (I made a few of my own alterations.)  I made these for Magoo's teachers.
Can I just say, at this point, that taking nice pictures of bags is difficult!  1. I don't have a good lense for it.  2.  I need to make myself a light box.  This is my third set up!  (I felt kinda like a dork placing my bags all over the yard to take pictures of them. )  

Now these are my own design and I'm calling them Paperback Totes.  They are more like a kicky handbag but are big enough to carry a paperback.  I made them deep so your goodies stay in the bag and don't bounce out.  And I put a pocket on the front for your mail, grocery list, or a notebook.  These will be in my shop - when I get around to opening one.

This one shows the fabric a little better and the lining.  They are both fully lined.

This funky fabric is Kashmir Okra by Amy Butler.  It's what I made my Cabo Halter out of.  LOVE this stuff!

I just ordered a new book entirely on making handbags.  In the meantime, more totes to come!!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Fair Is Fair

This past weekend was the town art and fun fair.  Last year it was hotter then Hades.  This year, still toasty, but not as bad.  They had bike valet service, so we rode in.  Here's the scene of the "Fun" part.
Magoo's first stop was the Fun House.  He loves this thing!  Me, not so much.  Tickets are expensive and I like for him to get a little more bang for the buck - so walking through a 60 second funhouse seems like a bit of a waste to me.  But then, I guess I'm just not as much fun as the gal on the haystack!

Next was the Sizzler.  Now this was fun!  It also aired me out after riding to the fair.  Fun and functional!  4 tickets, please.
Then Magoo and his dad, portrayed here by Gene Simmons, got on the Tilt-o-Whirl. 
If you're new to this blog, I'm not married - nor would I ever wish to be - to Gene Simmons.  My husband doesn't like having his photo featured here so I have to come up with creative ways to mask him if I want to use a shot.  The guys were doing "rad" looks, so I thought this disguise would be work well.

We played some games and finished off at the Duck Pond because every duckie wins a prize.  Magoo won an inflatable hammer and then proceeded to pound his father and I until we hated the Duck Pond with every fiber of our being.  Just kidding.  But only a little.  Stupid hammer.

By the time all this was done, we were all kinda wiped out.  Not a lot of art was seen.   I had every intention of coming back to walk leisurely through the stalls, but it just didn't happen.  Next year.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Big Ol' Rain

Saturday started out well enough.  Sun was shining - hot, but not too hot.  Our town was having it's big art and fun fair in the center and we went at noon.  (More on that tomorrow.)  When we came home we were all pretty wiped and vegged out in the living room.  Then, at 4pm, the rains came.  OH - how they came!

This is an early shot just so you can get a sense of our front yard.  A little bit of grass between the street and the sidewalk.  About mid way to the house there is a tree and some wicker chairs.  Got it?
So the rain came down as though poured from a pitcher.  So very dense.  And the winds were whipping it all over the place.  I felt so bad for all those artists set up in their little plastic gazebo's b/c this was not a sprinkle.  Anyway, here's our street when it was just starting to recede.

It got a little past the tree and you can see how it's creeping up the driveway on the side.
Normally, you would see the street back there, but it's not longer a street, it's a river.

Here's my 360 degree view.

We didn't get water in the basement - so that was good.  And it went back down quickly.  Still, it was a doosey!  (And we're supposed to get another one today.)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Not an Azalea Post

I have been tagged for a meme by one of my critique group writers, Natalie.  This is my first meme.  I'm not even sure what "meme" means.  So here goes:

1.  Pick up the nearest book.

The nearest book to me is one of my husband's, Complexity of Lattice Problems: A Cryptographic Perspective by Micciancio & Goldwasser

2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.

"Let W = T (Z) {0,1} 4n."  The 4n is tiny, but I didn't know how to do that on the computer and there are a few symbols missing because I also didn't know how to do that on the computer. So don't try this equation at home!   Doosy of a sentence though, huh.

4. Post the next three sentnences.

Oooooookay.  Here goes.  "Notice that the probability distribution of matrix T (conditioned on the event [G] ......."  Okay, you know what?  Maybe I'll pick another book.  Hmmmmm.  I found Selected Poetry by Yeats under the chair.  Let's try again, shall we.

Page 123, fifth sentence, and the following three:  (You know what's nice about this book already?  It smells good.)

"To afflict mankind, but now
That winds of winter blow
Learn that we were crack-pated when we dreamed.

We, who seven years ago"

That's all you get!  

What's crack-pated?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My Little Sewing Nook

Down in the corner of the basement, I have my little sewing domain.  Since I've been featuring my sewing more - and because I had to clean it up due to the furnace man coming - I thought I'd show you around.  Come in, won't you?

Up on my shelf - which is level even though it doesn't appear to be, I have ...

1. my sewing books.  Simple Sewing by Lotta Jansdotter, In Stitches  by Amy Butler and The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soule.

2. Jars filled with buttons and measuring tapes.  Pin cushion.

3. Dr. Phil doll that I made for Magoo when he was a baby.  he loooooooved Dr. Phil.  I think it had something to do with his big, round head.

4. My newly re-purposed thread rack.  This used to be a box of ink and stamps that Magoo got for a birthday present years ago.  I just couldn't throw the box away.  Now I can see what colors I have.  (I need another box!)

5.  Embroidery hoops.  Guess who doesn't know how to do embroidery?  Me!  Why do I have so many hoops?  I dunno.  But they look cool and I actually just ordered a book on embroidery so I can learn.

6.  My good ol' Singer.  It's not the best machine on the block - to be sure.  But it's getting the job done.  Maybe someday I'll upgrade.   Ssssh - don't tell my Singer.

Since it's been so hot, I have been able to get a few sewing projects done b/c the basement is the coolest place in the house.  But today, Wednesday, it's mellowing out a bit.  All the windows are open to let the cool air in, then I'll close it all up again when the yard gets good and toasty.

Have a cool day!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Eagle Has Landed

Yesterday I dropped my picture book, Wink, the Ninja Who Wanted To Be Noticed, off at the publishers.  Very. Freakin'. Exciting.

It's being published by Viking which is an imprint of Penguin Publishing.  Not too shabby.

So here I am, very happy and relieved.  (You can't imagine how many scenarios I went through in my mind of different ways I could lose the book en route: leaving it on the train, leaving it on the subway, getting mugged - because that's what muggers really want.  Original picture book art!)  But we (Michael, Magoo, me and the book) all made it there fine and dandy.

Here, Magoo and I stand in front of a case of Viking Books.

In the art director's office - Denise Cronin, who is so great - Magoo got to spy ships in the Hudson.  Not a bad view!

After the initial meet and greets - (Regina Hayes: publisher, Tracy Gates: Editor) Mike and Magoo went into Brooklyn to visit one of his good buddies, and I took the book into the conference room to lay it out and show it off.  Moment of truth time, people.

Imagine a very long table.  You start at one end, and work your way all around viewing the book from cover page to dedication at the end.  All sort of folk came in to see it.  The designer, marketing, asst. editors, people who's jobs I can't remember.  The first group told others, and people were creeping in left and right. Everyone was so nice and made me feel very, very good.  

Then I had a nice meeting with my awesome editor, Tracy Gates.

After that I had to scurry to the west side to have lunch with my very excellent agent, Scott Treimel, who treated me to Dim Sum at the the Chinatown Brasserie.  Look at those cute little things. They're like Day-glo slugs!

Dim sum yum!

Then I met up with Magoo and Mike at a playground in Washington Square Park.  Magoo was exhausted and so was I.  We took at cab to Penn Station where a friendly New Yorker snapped a pic.  (Mike's in disguise.)  And we took the train back to New Jersey, where we were staying with our good buds, Erik, Shirley & the boys.

It was so great to meet people in person after phone conversations and email and I feel like my little book is in very good hands.  If anyone from Viking is reading this (which I highly doubt) thank you so much for your fabulous treatment.  And thanks, too, to Erik and Shirley and the crew for being such awesome hosts!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Gluten-Free Graham Crackers and a Vanilla Bean

Let's start with the vanilla bean, shall we?  Because Magoo is sensitive to yeast and all that goes with it - I can't use vanilla extract in recipes.  (Due to its alcohol content.)  But one day at Whole Foods I saw this.  One single vanilla bean in a jar.  For some reason - I thought this was the strangest and awesomest thing ever! 
So I bought it thinking, "I bet I can do something with it someday."

My friend Sara said that she uses them sometimes when making creme brule'.  She opens them up and scrapes out the seeds.  She suggested that I boil it up in water and kind of create my own vanilla extract.  So that's exactly what I did.

I scraped out the seeds, but I also just popped the whole shell in there to simmer a bit.  Then I drained it and poured it right back into the jar.  It's MUCH MUCH milder than the real stuff, but a little smack of flavor is better than none, right?

So here's what I used it for, graham crackers!  Living Without has a recipe for Gluten-Free Graham Crackers that I'd been wanting to try, but there's brown sugar and I wasn't sure what to substitute for brown sugar.  (Magoo can't have sugar either.)  Then I discovered Muscovado.  I looked it up and it seems like something Magoo might be able to handle.  And honestly, when it comes to things like this, sometimes you just have to give him a small amount and see what happens.  (It's not like his throat is going to close up or anything.  I just watch for excessive loopiness or twitching - things like that.)

So now I had a homemade vanilla liquid and muscovado and I was ready to go.  Here's the dough all rolled up.  I used more liquid then the recipe called for, so when they suggested I add more water to the dry dough, I just used my vanilla elixir.

Then I rolled them out, cut them up and poked lots and lots of holes in them.  Here's a peek in the oven.  Not too shabby!

I have to say they came out quite tasty!  Next time I think I'll roll them just a little thinner and use two cookie sheets - but otherwise it wasn't that difficult and super yummy. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


This morning my husband and son were watching the news while they ate breakfast.  The story was on the presidental candidates and the word" inspire" was used.

Magoo: Inspire?
Husband: Do you know what "inspire" means?  It means someone makes you feel so good that you want to go do something.
Magoo: I want to watch Bob the Builder. 


And now, because I like visual aides, Magoo looking bad-ass!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Schwetty Balls

Okay - they're not Schwetty Balls - and you either know that reference or you don't - but they are balls and since I have a juvenile sense of humor, I had to make some sort of crack.  (And if you don't know that reference, click here for audio.)

These are actually some fabric throwing balls that I made for my little friend, Andrew's third birthday.  Whenever he and his brother are over, the three boys (Andrew, Than and Magoo) love to chuck our "snowballs" at each other.  They're so soft, you can peg someone in the face and they'd be fine.  So I thought I'd make Andrew a set of his own.  

They're very easy to make on a sewing machine, but I see no reason why you couldn't use felt and handstitch them either.  The pattern is here, if you are so inclined.  And if you have a friend that is having a baby, you could make these with different textures and the baby will probably love it!

After all, these balls are here for your pleasure.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Water and Sun

My father-in-law was here for the weekend and my sisters-in-law also stopped by for a visit.  So there was a lot of family time.  Saturday was supposed to be a wash out.  Rain, rain and more rain.  And it certainly threatened - but really that's all it did during the day.  in fact, after about an hour of thinking "A storm is a' coming," the skies opened up to beautiful sun.

In the evening - still dusk - there was some rain, but the sun hadn't disappeared and there was a fantastic rainbow over our neighborhood.

I'm sure there are cameras in the world and people with enough skill to capture a rainbow.  This is as good as I could get.  You could actually see both ends of the rainbow - but there was a tree blocking my view and I would have had to go out in the sprinkle to capture it.  I'm far too dainty for that!
Magoo was exhausted in bed already, but the hubby, father-in-law and I all stood out on the porch and enjoyed the scene for awhile.

Another big fun of the weekend was the new sprinkler rocket.  Yes, my son is spoiled.  Not attitude spoiled, but he gets his fair share of toys.  I can't help it!  It's so much fun to watch him really enjoy something like this.  And OH he did enjoy it!

Here's what you do.  You hook up your hose, set up the rocket and there's a lever.  When the lever is at zero - no water comes through.  But you can count down and move the lever and BLAST OFF!  Here, Magoo and rocket are ripe with anticipation.

A trained adult can manage a very nice, steady lift-off that holds the rocket in the air about 10 feet off the ground and the kids can jump through the water and sure enough, the rocket will stay up for awhile.  But my boy likes to BLAST IT!  Big payoff, then the rocket crashes to the ground.  Big time fun.

See - see that smile - how can I resist that?