Saturday, December 31, 2011

Magoo's 9th Birthday

Yesterday was Magoo's 9th birthday.  He requested a honey cake - so a honey cake he got.
I can't make colorful sugary frosting or decorate with candy, so one of the more recent traditions has been to make a candle holder character of Magoo's choice.  Last year he wanted Ruff Ruffman.  This year he asked for a character from the game Skylander.  I believe this fellow's name is Stump Smash.

I was pretty busy in the morning: making the cake, cleaning, decorating, and taking Magoo to Toys R Us so he could use his gift card.  I would like to brag that Magoo opted to put all the money that he received in his bank account, even though I told him he could have some fun money too.  

"I want to have a good savings account," he replied.

Then, in the afternoon, I took Magoo, Curly, and Mo to Nomad's Adventure Quest which is the BIGGEST arcade I've ever been in.  There are games (of course) but this place also houses a rock climbing wall, bumper cars, a spinning ride, a full-sized baskeball court, a indoor jungle gym, glow-in-the-dark putt putt, a bowling alley, and a laser tag arena.

It's just a wee bit stimulating.

Lucky man Curly hit the 1000 tickets on the Fisherman Game.  OH THE JOY!  No child on Christmas morning has ever beamed like that boy beamed when tickets came pouring out of that machine.

After about 90 minutes in the arcade, the boys finished up their visit with a run around in the laser tag room.  Heather and I sat out so I don't know what goes on in there, but all three boys came out exhilarated and sweating like hogs.

Here's Magoo, back at home, in front of one of our other birthday traditions: the timeline.  

I don't remember how this started, but I did it a few years ago and he LOVED it.  Last year I hadn't intended on putting one up, but then Magoo asked about it so I had to whip one out post haste.  Then I wised up.  Now I pull it all down carefully and tuck it away in a folder.  So next year I'll just have to cut one number out of construction paper and print one photo.

My wish for Magoo was that he had a wonderful birthday.  At night, when I asked him how it went, he said he had an awesome day.

Wish granted.

Thanks to all the friends and family who sent gifts to Magoo.  He loved them all and the thank-you cards will me manufactured today!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Magoo Turns 9

Follow Magoo as he ages from newborn (top,right) around a clockwise spiral to age 9, in the center.

Today, at noon, Magoo will turn 9 years old.

I'm not big on mushy blog posts - but gosh darn it - I love this kid something fierce.  

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Next Richard Avedon

On December 26th, Magoo was all excited to go out and shoot some photographs with his new camera, so we went to Elizabeth Park.

He practiced getting low and on the same plane as the subject...

He practiced taking shots from unusual angles...

He got some extreme close-ups...

And I showed him how to use the self-timer...

I remember getting my first camera.  It was one of those thin, wide ones that took the film shaped kinda like a peanut - yanno what I mean?  I can't remember what they were called and I just did an internet search and I couldn't find it.  (How can you NOT find something on the internet?!?!?)  But I remember thinking I was pretty hot stuff with my own camera.  I think he's having a bit of that emotion.  When we were at the park, Magoo was snapping away and a dad passes by and asked if Magoo got that camera for Christmas.  Magoo was pretty pleased with the attention.

The challenge for me is trying not to "over-teach" him.  I want to give him a few pointers, but mostly I want him to enjoy it.  Which means hands-off for this control-freak mama.

So far, so good.  He's taken it out the last two days.

Thanks again, Gramma, for the great gift!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas 2011

It's December 26th.  For me, it means one BIG celebration is over (Christmas) and one smaller celebration has yet to be planned (Magoo's 9th birthday.)

But before I move on I'll share some scenes from the holiday season.  Let's go clockwise from the top, left, shall we?

Java looking out a window decorated with paper snowflakes.
Magoo still loves to make a gingerbread house, even if he can't eat it.
My sis-in-laws, bro-in-law and dog-in-law at the dinner table - post-eating.  Look at my pretty new tablecloth!  (I didn't take a picture of it, but I made a lovely pork loin roast based on my friend Heather's recipe.  It was great, Heather!  Thanks!)
Magoo and Java in matching Santa hats.  Java LOVES it!  Can't you tell?
I made Java her own stocking this year.
A cashmere bunny I made for my niece.
Mary and Pat getting down with Just Dace 3 on the Wii.
Ornaments on the tree.  (I read a blog post about capturing Christmas lights.  I don't think I mastered it, but it was fun trying.)

Magoo got his very own camera from Gramma - OH was he excited!  Here are a few Magoo-shots:

The family at the dinner table.

Java smiles for the camera.

Java playfully swipes.

Magoo also got a book, Cool Robots, which inspires kids to make robots out of the bins and bins of Legos they have around the house.  This is the one Magoo made.  He also took the photograph using my lightbox.

Now we're thinking we might have to make another stop-motion movie featuring Lego robots.  Good thing we're on break!

I hope you all had a LOVELY holiday and wishing you all the best in 2012!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Magoo's Poetry Slam

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the Third Grade's Poetry Recital, where every third grader wrote and performed their own poem.

Here is a video of Magoo and the stage reading his poem, CAT.


Claw like needles,
pupils as big as a boulder.
Fur like a bear,
they say they have
nine lives.

Striped, black or tom,
fire red coated too.
They pounce and hiss and
purr and scratch your pants.

They sleep in a circle,
as lazy and loyal
as you think.

All the kids did an AWESOME job!  They really did.  And the teachers had the whole thing moving [kids entering and exiting the stage] eels in oil.  Smooooooooth.

Apparently many kids were inspired by the poem The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams.

so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white

I heard a lot of kids say things like:
So much depends upon a plastic dinosaur ...
So much depends upon a scoop of ice cream ...
So much depends upon a white horse ...

It was pretty cute. 

Great job, Magoo!  And great job third graders!  You rock!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Stop-Motion Saturday

Some days you just gotta throw your plans to the wind.

On Saturday, I thought I would do some cleaning, some baking, and start working on the last 2 Xmas gifts I had yet to make.  But when I came home from the grocery store, Magoo announced that he wanted to make a stop-motion movie.

Well,  his buddies were occupied that afternoon and I always like to encourage a creative pursuit that does not involve reaching level six on some Wii game - so I chucked aside my baking, my cleaning, and my gifting.

Magoo was in charge of the concept (an obstacle course he built out of K'Nex) and I was in charge of the star.  So I fashioned a little Sonic the Hedgehog character out of polymer clay.

Then we had to make a set.  I cut three sides off a box and lined them with white paper.  Here's Magoo stabilizing his K'Nex course on the set.

Then we his a snag.  The webcam that I had used over the summer to make my zombie film was so completely out of focus that it was unusable.  It was a super cheapo camera, so it was no big loss.  Still - why bother making a stop-motion film if it's going to look like there was Vaseline on the lens.

So we went out to Best Buy and got a much nicer camera.  (I'll be making more book trailers so I consider it a professional investment.)

Once we got back home, I had to install the driver for the camera, but I couldn't get the animation program disc out of the computer.  (That was just plain flukey!)  So it took me a good 20 minutes to figure out how to get the first disc out so I could put the other disc in.  And by the time that all got settled, I needed to chill out and eat lunch!  Whooosh.

But after lunch we all it altogether!

Here's Magoo on set.

 We have our lights.  We have our camera.  And together Magoo and I (and our SAM Animation program) provided the action.

Magoo was a trooper through the whole thing.  He was the director and he seemed to really enjoy the process.  And he is VERY proud of his accomplishment.

Want to check it out?  It's up on YouTube.  Click here.

It turned out to be an excellent way to spend the afternoon with my son.  MUCH better than cleaning!!!

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Trees Came Down

As I had previously reported, the October snowstorm did quite a number on our trees.  Because Eric, our tree guy, was very, very busy, his crew only just to our mess on Friday.

The saddest loss was our Maple out front, which was so badly damaged that it had to come down.

The Maple was a very small tree when we first moved in.  Magoo was born soon after and I can remember taking him out front and laying him down in the shade of the small tree - which only covered his baby blanket.  I would move him around the yard as the sun moved the shade.

In more recent years it was a climbing tree, a pinata hanging tree, and the place where we sat with company when were outside.

It's a true shame that it had to come down.

The tree guys had to get the big truck into our small backyard to deal with the Mighty Oak.  That was like thrreading yarn through the eye of a needle.

There were quite a few large branches that were potentially dangerous, dangling up there.  And even more LARGE branches that had been badly damaged and needed to be removed.  Down came the tire swing.

See that huge branch in the back?  They cut that into chunks for us.  Mike bought a new log rack to hold the excess wood we're going to have and I think we might need to get another one.

And sad as it was that these things had to happen, we will be hanging the tire swing again and we will plant a new tree out front.  And maybe - with all the excess sunlight coming in the backyard in the Spring - maybe, I will be able to grow some grass back there at last.

In the meantime, I need to do some research on landscaping.  Anyone know any good books?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Yarn Along: Socks

It's Wednesday, so I'm joining the gang at Small Things for Yarn Along.

 It's exciting and daunting and I think it's going to take me a loooong time, but I am finally trying to knit a pair of socks!   I got a great, simple pattern from Ravelry that called for DK yarn, but when I went to WEBS, I was a little overwhelmed and although I started in DK, the saleslady walked me over to the sock yarn when she found out what I was making (I should have been more specific) and I ended up getting very thin sock yarn.  So, it's going to take me forever.  

But that's OK.  I might have to get a couple different projects going so I don't go sock-crazy-mad.  We'll see.

I just started reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.  This is a book that has been on my shelf for a couple years.  My mother-in-law lent it to me.  But it never whispered, "Read me next."  So I didn't.  But I've been seeing it pop up of peoples BEST lists or books that might get made into movies and whatnot, so I thought the time is now!  I'm only about 40 pages into it, but it's picking up.

I finished the Gap-tastic cowl.  I LOVE it!  Here are my notes on Ravelry.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Journey to WEBS

On Saturday, Heather and I decided to make a pilgrimage North to Massachusettes and the MEGA yarn store, WEBS.

(Above.)  Here's part of the view when you walk through the door.  Whoosh.  There's a lot to take in.
I had a super-anal 3-ring binder with my upcoming projects in my arms so I grabbed the first salesperson I saw and had her show me to the DK and sock yarn.

After I found a couple things I wanted, I allowed myself to just stroll around and take in all the colors.

I love a store with a resident cat.  This is Fred.  Technically he's not a resident, just a frequent guest.  He lives in the neighborhood and he loves attention.  So when he's out and about he stops over at WEBS to be pet by the employees and customers.  And he's welcome there because he doesn't seem to care for the yarn one lick.  Of course Java doesn't care for my yarn when it's all balled up and put away either.

After wandering around the store for awhile, I overheard a clerk directing a lady to the back warehouse section where everything was ON SALE.  Oh, you know I hightailed it back there quick!

Hot diggity dog!

I had been wanting to make a sweater for myself but when you figure in all the yarn you need it's not really a cheap option - but back here I found some lovely yarn in an orangey-squash color and got a fantastic price for it.

Here's Heather and I in the aisles.

I did pretty good.  I got yarn for my sock project, for a pair of fingerless gloves for a friend, and for a sweater.  It was tempting to get more, but I reigned myself in.  I imagine it's quite easy to go overboard with so much yarn-y goodness.

I'd also like to add (in case anyone from WEBS every reads this) that the staff was TOP NOTCH knowledgeable, friendly, and available.  There were staff people everyone, always smiling, always eager to help you find what you desired.  It was just a happy place to be overall.  So if you get a chance to head out to North Hampton, MA, and you love yarn, get on over to WEBS.

Friday, December 9, 2011

It's Cookie Time!

In years past I have enjoyed making Christmas cookies and gathering them up in pretty tins for my friends and neighbors.  When Magoo was put on a special diet, I spent so much time baking breads, cookies, and muffins for him that the LAST thing I wanted to do was make more cookies.

I think the last time I made Christmas cookies for others was 2007.  So, four years later, I feel I have Magoo's baking under control and I possess the will and energy to try Christmas cookies again.

My specialty is Buckeyes.  My mom used to make Buckeyes and they were OH SO YUM.  And I have to admit - they are still OH SO YUM.

What they aren't is easy to make.  You have to work through the whole process - there's no sitting and waiting while they bake.  Oh no - that deliciousness comes from standing up for 90 minutes, getting your hands wet and sticky in peanut butter gloop, and bending over a pot of dense liquid chocolate to coat each and every morsel. (I brought my portable DVD player into the kitchen and watched Project Runway the whole time.)


Two trays are done.  Hooray!  And the kitchen is an unholy mess.  Boo!  But it's time for lunch so it will have to wait.  And I have one Christmas cookie done for the season.

Ho ho ho.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Knit Along: Gaptastic Cowl

It's Wednesday, so I'm joining the ranks of Ginny's Yarn Along.

One of my first knitting projects (about this time last year) was the Gap-tastic Cowl.  The designer had been to the Gap and had seen a cowl she really liked, so she reproduced it and shared the pattern on Ravelry.

I liked the one I made, but at the time I was still a beginner and using cheap yarn.  So it's not super soft against the delicate skin of my neck.  So I thought I'd make a new one with luscious Malabrigo chunky in BUTTER.

The only thing I've altered from the pattern is the needle size.  The Malabrigo chunky is thinner than the chunky I used before and when I did a swatch on the US13 needles I had previously used - it was very loose - and not in a good way.  So I purchased a pair of US10.5 and they are working out just fine.

I'm still reading Savvy.  I should have finished it by now but I've been super busy and haven't been reading a lot.  It's cute but I'm not hooked yet.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Evil Christmas

Allow me to introduce the newest members of out Christmas Village: Xmas Zombie and Evil Smurf.

You see, Xmas Zombie was just a regular ol' Joe who went out for some Christmas caroling when he was attacked by zombies.  Although his skin is green and he thirsts for brains, he still remembers what the Christmas spirit is all about.  So Xmas Zombie has brought a brain, just for you.  What a thoughtful zombie!

Evil Smurf has less of a back-story.  Magoo says he wanted to make a Christmas guy but he wanted him to be evil ... with blood on him.  Still a Smurf is pretty jolly - so Merry Christmas Evil Smurf!

In other news:  I have some lovely fuschia blossoms on my cactus.  They are all crammed against the glass in the window so I was finding it difficult to get a good shot.  At one point I just held the camera out and got this one... which I quite like!

 We bought a Santa hat for Java.  She's not in love with it.

Mike detected a squirrel heist in progress.  Seems Squirrel A repelled down the rope to steal seeds via dropping them down to his accomplice, Squirrel B.

I'm actually shocked it took this long for the squirrels to get into it.  I've had it up for months.  Maybe there were so many tree seeds and acorns and things for them in the warmer months that they didn't feel the need to invade the birds' buffet.  But they have figured it out now.

Yanno, I'm not opposed to helping a squirrel out, but I'm a little afraid they're going to hogs about it and clean me out of my birdseed.  What to do?  What to do?

Hope you all had a great weekend!

Friday, December 2, 2011

I love Pumpkin Pie!

(To be sung to the tune of Joan Jett's I Love Rock and Roll)
I love pumpkin pie
so put another bite in my mouth, baby
I love pumpkin pie
so pull out a plate and eat with me

If there's one flaw about our family's Thanksgiving, it is that my in-law's do not hold the absolute love for pumpkin pie that I do.  It doesn't appear to be a big New England thing.  Oh, if I beg the pie makers for one, they'd make one for me.  But only a couple people would eat it - so why bother.

Instead, I made one that my peeps could eat and enjoy.  A gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free pumpkin.  I know what you're thinking, Yummy, yummy, right?  But it is!  With the exception of the rim of the crust - which I burn every single time - it's really very tasty and has a nice thick consistency.

I don't expect anyone out there to make this.  But I'm going to record it for my own purposes next year around this time.

Here goes:

Start with the CRUST!

You'll need:
1 1/2 C. gluten-free flour mix
1/2 tsp. salt
1 TBsp. agave
1 stick "butter" - we use a vegan Earth Spread kind of dealio
4 TBsp ice water

Pop the flour, salt, agave, and cut up "butter" in a food processor and PULSE until  the dough starts to form pea-sized clumps.  Add the ice water and keep on pulsing until combined.  Put the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and chill it in the fridge for an hour or so.

Now it's time for the FILLING!

You'll need:
A can or box of pumpkin
1/2 cup of softened "Butter"  - again we use a vegan brand
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup agave
2 eggs
1/2 cup canned coconut milk
1 1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 TBsp GF flour
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Start with mixing the pumpkin and butter.  (I used a food processor, but you can mix it however you like.)  Then add everything else.  You might want an electric mixer here b/c you want to get it all nice and smoooooooth.

Why don't you go ahead and preheat the oven to 450 now.

Now it's time to roll out your pie crust.  What I do is tape down some parchment or wax paper.  Flour is up good.  Plop the dough on it.  Knead - only a little - basically just getting the flour on it and taking the stickiness away.  Roll it out.  When I have it wide enough and thin enough, I brush away the excess flour, pull the tape up, and cut the paper around the edges of the dough so I don't have any excess to deal with.  Then I invert my pie pan (which I sprayed with oil) on the flat dough, then flip the whole thing over so the dough is on top.  (The paper is still stuck to the dough.)  I gently tap the dough in place, then remove the paper backing.  If there are holes - I use the excess dough to patch them.  Then I trim the excess dough from the sides of the pan.  Boom - it's ready to fill.

Pour filling into the pie crust.  Pop that pie into the oven for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350 and bake it another 50-60 minutes.

After that first 10 minutes, I put foil over the crust, but I was too late.  Next time, I will put the foil on right away and take it off closer to the end - if need be.

When you remove the pie - it will need to cool and set a good long time - preferably overnight.

 If you can't wait that long - like I can't - you know what you do?  You take some of that excess dough from the crust and you cut smaller circles and line little individual baking cups - or even cupcake tins - and you put a bit of pie filling in there and bake those for, like, 20-30 minutes.  Then you have little pies to eat.  Ours weren't completely set, so we called them Pumpkin Puddings - but they were sooooo good.

I was going to take a picture - but honestly - I was more about the eating than the photographing.

Hope you all have a lovely Friday and a wonderful weekend.  I think we're going to see the new Muppet Movie - yay!