Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Griswolds' Halloween

Meet the Griswolds.

Or, their house, rather. Trust me, this is tame in comparison to years past.

Their name isn't really Griswold. I just started calling them that around Halloween time the first year we moved across the street from them. Their house reminded me of something, but I just couldn't put my finger on it....


I remember watching in fascination and horror that first October, as Mr. Griswold perched precariously on his roof line, stringing strands of flashing orange and green lights around each window frame. Lights covered every flat surface of the front of the home.

My mouth was agape as he determinedly staked blue, red, and yellow spot lights on the graves in the front yard, making sure to focus on the spooky skeleton draped across Dracula's headstone.

The blinking skull lights wound around the street lamp next to their driveway about sent me over the edge.

My parents weren't into Halloween, and I spent my early years in a house set so far back in the woods that no one wanted to visit on October 31st. The rest of my childhood was spent in a neighborhood of yuppie McMansions where everyone decorated their front porches with tasteful Autumn leaf wreaths, pumpkins, and the occasional "Boo!" sign on the front door.

So the Griswolds were a bit of a home decor shock to me back in 2003 when T and I moved in. Each October was marked with the sight of Mr. Griswold's busy adornment of his house, and it eventually became a tradition to watch him work and wonder how long it would take him this year.

Last year, Mr. Griswold was later than usual hauling his wares out of the garage. When I told him how much Natalie enjoyed the nightly show, he smiled and said he wasn't sure he was going to do it because his children were off at college. The next night, I grinned to see how excited my girls were when Mr. Griswold's Halloween handiwork lit the neighborhood night sky on L Avenue.

Sarah's post on making your home YOUR haven made me look out the window and think of the Griswolds. Their way of decorating their house might not be my style, but they spent years creating a fun place for their kids to enjoy Halloween and now they offer my kids a nightly show to rival a Pink Floyd concert. I don't cringe anymore when Mr. Griswold clambers up his ladder. I smile in anticipation of the shouts of excitement each night when the lights go up.

Happy Halloween!

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Friday, October 30, 2009

If You Love The Office...

...You must watch this music video featuring Kelly, Erin, Ryan, and the 'Nard Dog himself-Andy. To see the first two shorts leading up to the music video, click here. If you are a fan of The Office insanity, you won't be disappointed! It made my evening.

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It's Friday, Y'all

In case you weren't aware, today is Friday. It's not that different from the rest of the days of the week for me, but I'm sure it is for some of you. What happened with you this week? What are you planning (or not planning) for Halloween? Feel free to play along in the comments section.

1. Highlight of my week?
Honestly? If I'm being real, I'd have to say it was the two mornings I dropped Natalie off at preschool. It's been a rough week with my oldest, who is 3 1/2 going on 15. For reasons unknown, she is a model child for her teachers, but saves all the sass for me. Preschool gave me a brief respite from the child who often treats me as one of her subjects, and I got to spend time with her polar opposite...otherwise known as the younger sister. I know that someday that iron will is going to come in handy, but for now, today is a new day with a clean slate.

2. What am I reading?

Candace Bushnell's One Fifth Avenue. To be fair, I've only read the first two paragraphs, but it's not too bad so far. Something about a script and a move to New York City. She's got my attention!

3. Favorite thing I made this week?

A personalized Trick or Treat bag for Natalie. Now that I know what I'm doing, Michaela Byrd's is going much faster. Which leads me to....

4. Plans for the weekend:
Mimi (my mom) offered to take the girls to a Harvest Festival for a few hours this evening. Maybe T and I can get a few things done around the house and yard while they are out. Saturday is the first time the girls will ever go Trick or Treating. I'm almost as excited as they are. Our church is hosting a huge Fall Festival at the local mall in the evening with petting zoo and hayrides (outdoors), games, prizes, and tons of candy. We'll stop by there first and let the girls Trick or Treat on our street before bedtime. (They've been practicing!) Then I will tax their Trick or Treat earnings. Just kidding. Or am I?

5. Best TV of the week?
I'm going to take this opportunity to admit something really (!) embarrassing to you. Please do not laugh at me, because chances are I have read your blog and have dirt on you too. I am hooked on the CW's Vampire Diaries. It's all my friend L's fault. First, she got me hooked on Twilight, then on the Sookie Stackhouse books, and now I'm hooked on Stefan and Damon and finding out who gets the girl. She's like some sort of dealer, I tell you! I am powerless to resist.In my defense, those guys are really really good looking. If you haven't seen the show, it's like a PG-13 version of a vampire story, and Twilight would be considered a PG version. Excellent fluff, lots of twists, lots of hunky guys.

6. Favorite Links of the Week:
Kate and Kim's apron projects
"A Soldier's Wife" feature over at my sister Alison's blog
Trash to Treasure switchplates by Kimm
Julia's tour of the Practical Magic house

{Have a wonderful weekend, wonderful readers! Don't eat too much candy!}

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

To Whom It May Concern:


To the Makers of Infants' Vitamin Drops with Iron,

It would be awesome if you could come up with a product that does not cause my toddler to turn into a cranky contortionist every time she sees me coming after her with a dropper.

It would be great if it didn't require some sort of industrial strength cleaner to remove stains from my clothes after she yells and it comes leaking out of the side of her mouth and she buries her face in my shoulder. Seriously, I need to find whatever they clean the Statue of Liberty with, and maybe that will get the stains out.

I bet she wouldn't yell and try to bend herself backwards out of my arms if the stuff didn't look and taste like that betadine antiseptic they swab you with at the hospital.

I know it tastes bad because I tried it this morning.

I thought, "Come on. It can't be that bad. It's just a little vitamin. I'll give it a try.

It was that bad. It was so horrible that all the chocolate cake in the world can't block that awful taste from my memory.

It's not my toddler. It's you. It's definitely you. When it's time for her sulfamethoxawhatchamacallit antibiotic, she dances around as if Santa Claus was coming. So that would lead me to believe that there could be a slight problem with your marketing strategy.

We have put a man on the moon and we can't make vitamin drops that appeal to fickle and finicky toddler taste buds?

Do I need to put you in touch with the Flintstones people?

Because I will.

I am running out of ways to trick her into coming into the bathroom every morning.


The Mother of a Weasely Toddler

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Why I {Heart} Blogging


Today's post was inspired by an article written by Laurie over at Tip Junkie. She wants to know why her readers blog, why it's not a waste of time, and perhaps a tip or two.

I don't know that I'm qualified to share any blogging tips, but since my little bitty blog grew to reach over 200 Followers this week, I thought it's as good a time as any to share why I started blogging and why I continue to do it.

I typed up my very first blog post when my youngest was just a few weeks old. It pretty much summed up my reasons for starting a blog: I was feeling frustrated after being cooped up in the house with a newborn and a two year old, it was January, my husband was at work all day, and my friends were busy. I had things to say, but no one to say them too. Nothing particularly earth shattering, just funny little things that were going on, or my opinion on various subjects from fashion to TV to food.

I wrote one or two posts and then took an 11 month break. The newborn baby phase was wearing on me, and it seemed like I was just talking to myself. It wasn't until after I started reading other people's blogs that I realized a potential for community within the blogosphere.

Sure, I could write about dirty diapers and Starbucks all I wanted, but no one was reading my words because I wasn't putting myself out there. When I took some time to visit other blogs, leave thoughtful comments, and get to know the writers behind the screens, I felt so much more connected.

Some women blog to chronicle the cute or embarrassing things their little ones do. I certainly do some of that and a lot of the other. Some women love to write about the way they create a beautiful, welcoming environment in their homes. I try to do some of that too. Others share their love of fashion. Me too.

I guess for me, blogging is slightly more than a hobby. I truly do it to find some "Serenity Now." Taking some time to write about things I find interesting or things that are going on in my life is like pouring all of my jumbled up thoughts from the day into a strainer. Once filtered, I can see things more clearly. It's not a waste of time to me to feel a bit of serenity in my life because I was able to express myself in words.

The icing on top of the cake is that some of you stop by to offer feedback. Whether you are a man or a woman, a mom or a single college girl, the fact that you take the time to share your thoughts with me means that I may sometimes find something that resonates with you, despite our differences in life stages. That is community. That is my serenity.

Visit Tip Junkie to share your own story of why you blog! I hope you'll return to Serenity Now!

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Most Sincere Pumpkin Patch

*Don't forget that It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown airs tonight on ABC, 8 pm ET.*

Linus: He'll come here because I have the most sincere pumpkin patch and he respects sincerity.
Sally Brown: Do you really think he will come?
Linus: Tonight the Great Pumpkin will rise out of the pumpkin patch. He flies through the air and brings toys to all the children of the world.
Sally Brown: That's a good story.
Linus: You don't believe the story of the Great Pumpkin? I thought little girls always believed everything that was told to them. I thought little girls were innocent and trusting.
Sally Brown: Welcome to the 20th century!

One of the annual rites of Autumn when you have children is the obligatory trek to the pumpkin patch. Last year, I learned my lesson after hauling around a baby in a Bjorn, two pumpkins, and chasing an ornery preschooler...we brought the jogging stroller this year to load the pumpkins (and any children who gave me a hard time).

There are several local farms that offer pumpkin patches and harvest festivals. One in particular is pricey...we didn't choose that one. Close to 30 of my friends from MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) met up at "S Farm" for a hayride and some Fall fun last Thursday. Natalie had been looking forward to it all week.

We were greeted by a corn maze and a neat tee pee that the kids loved to play in.
It had a secret tunnel going out the back. I wish my house had a secret tunnel. Maybe I'd get some reading done if I went in there for awhile with a flashlight and some Starbucks.

Farm animals are always a kid magnet. The horses were very good-natured about having 60 sticky fingered toddlers and preschoolers clamoring after them.
"Mommy, can he come home with us, PLEASE?"

We had great pumpkin patch weather. By the time the kids made out to the fields, they didn't need jackets anymore.

It's so fun to watch your kids interact with other children as they grow older. Little girls like to hold hands, giggle, and chat. The boys growled, grunted, and ran into each other.

I liked the hay ride best! All the kids were contained in one area.

Michaela Byrd didn't remember last year's hayride, so the sights were all new to her. One of the farm dogs ran alongside of the wagon the entire time, and she had the best time calling and waving to him.

Time to choose pumpkins! Michaela Byrd and her little friend R stroll hand in hand down Pumpkin Lane. I hope T doesn't see this picture...he won't be pleased to see his youngest holding hands with a boy at so young an age!

R's older sister, "Bee," and Natalie made it their personal mission to find the "perfect pumpkins."
Bee's perfect pumpkin turned out to be a small green gourd that looked like someone chewed a bite off the top. Her mother was thrilled.

The chickens didn't seem to mind the invasion of their turf. They seemed used to being chased by frantic toddlers.

Found one!

We had time to play up near the house before heading down to the "Fun Barn."

The llamas gave us directions.

The stage is set for Fall in the countryside.

It really is fun in the Fun Barn. Rope swings, bales of hay, lots of dirt...

...and a cranky old goat who was probably sick of the hay the kids were trying to get him to eat.
He decided to sample the bucket instead.

No morning with friends would be complete without a stop at Chick-Fil-a!

I think the cows from S Farm would have been pleased. You know..."eat more chicken" and all....

{Has your family done the pumpkin patch thing this Fall?}

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Personalized Trick or Treat Bag Tutorial

We've all seen those $1 plastic pumpkin Trick or Treat buckets at Target and Wal-Mart.
I decided I needed some creative time yesterday, so I sat down while the girls were napping and made a Trick or Treat bag with some Halloween fabric I found in Wal-Mart's fabric department. I had looked in JoAnn's, but they were pretty picked over, and I fell in love with the candy corn fabric I found at Wally World.

I should make a disclaimer here that I am pretty new to sewing, my skill level could be classified as EXTREME beginner, and if you have any sewing experience at all you may just want to skip to the end to see the finished product because my methods might make blood shoot out of your eyes.

I decided I needed to cut out a squarish rectangle thingie (see how precise I am?!) about 12 x 14. I wanted the bag to be roughly 11 x 13, so I figured that would allow for 1/2 inch seams on the sides. I folded my fabric in half and trimmed the bottom so it would be even:

Then I cut out through the two layers to create two pieces that were roughly 12 x 14.

I measured a half inch seam on the top of each piece for the opening of the bag, pressing and pinning to make sewing easier.
See how much easier it is to sew when the seams are crisp and pinned down?

Then I cut a square of a contrasting fabric to go in the middle on the front of the bag as a pocket. I pinned, pressed, and sewed a straight seam across the top of the square first so the pocket would have a finished opening. This, of course, had to go on the "right side" of the fabric since it would be an outside pocket.
Leaving the top of the purple square open for the pocket, I sewed around the rest of the square, making a very small seam.
I used some of the leftover purple candy corn fabric to create some handles for the bag. I just measured and cut two long rectangles that looked like they'd make long enough handles.

I folded the purple rectangles in half with the "wrong side" of the fabric facing out, then pinned them.
After I sewed those seams, I had to turn the straps right side out.

Then I pressed the handles so the seam would be in the middle of the back.

Pinned the handles on where I thought they'd look nice. Then I sewed straight across the top, making sure the seam went through the handles and made a nice seam on the top of the bag opening.

After that, I just had to sew around the rest of the bag to pull it all together.

Then I got out my BFF, Fabri-Tac, which has stayed with me through several projects.

I used the adhesive to glue some orange rick-rack over the pocket seams on the front of the bag. Very easy to use, doesn't burn your fingers, and dries quickly.

All that was left was to hot glue a stiff, black felt "n" (for "Natalie") to the front of the new bag. Tomorrow, I'll make an "m" bag for Michaela Byrd.

This project took me some time because the girls kept interrupting me after they woke up from their naps, but once I decided what I was doing, it was really easy.

This will be so much easier to store than one of those plastic pumpkins, and I got to practice on my sewing machine again. There might even be extra room for some candy for ME on Halloween! *wink*
Visit Kimba for more crafty, DIY inspiration!

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