Archive for Craftlicious

Illuminated

Years, and I mean years, before I planned on having kid, I started buying children’s books. Anything strikingly beautiful & well-written that caught my eye was fair game, despite being in my mid 20s and having no real career or money. I bought The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, by Chris Van Allsberg; Tuesday, by David Wiesner; The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and Smoky Night, by Eve Bunting. I bought several others, including one that caught my eye in the gift shop of the J. Paul Getty Museum: Marguerite Makes a Book, by Bruce Robertson. Based on art historical research on French illuminated manuscripts of the 15th Century, Robertson wrote a children’s book about a girl named Marguerite, who helped her father paint a book of hours for an important patron.

In university I majored in Art and minored in Medieval European History, and later racked up another degree in print design, so naturally, illuminated manuscripts, those achingly beautiful and insanely detailed books that were lettered, drawn and painted by hand just before the advent of the printing press, are my particular obsession. Marguerite not only describes the paintings in the book of hours; the story itself is illustrated with illuminated letters, botanicals in the borders, and gold details that make each page sparkle in the light.

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I’ve been waiting to share this special book with my special little someone. I hoped that she would like it. I’d been hoping for about fifteen years that my kid, now six, would appreciate it. I had NO IDEA that there would be screams of delight, arm-grasping that cut off my circulation, profuse thank-yous, and a complete inability to settle down to sleep afterwards due to the excitement caused by the book. In the book, Marguerite goes to the libraire for gold leaf, the tanner for calfskin parchment, the market for eggs, goose feathers and parsley, and the apothecary for vermilion, wax, and lapis lazuli stone. When I mentioned to Aurora that we could make paint from the stuff in our own garden, she blew a gasket. If you want to talk about delayed gratification, this was it. For me, anyway. For her, she needed to MAKE HER OWN PAINT. Like, NOW!!!

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Aurora didn’t want to go to camp the next morning. I convinced her that there would be plenty of time to make paint in the afternoon, so after lunch, we got started.

Preparing egg whites

Preparing egg whites. Oops! A bit too foamy.

Crushing flower petals

Crushing brown eyed susan petals in our mortar and pestle.

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Peeling blueberry skins was, of course, Mommy’s job. Methinks I need a macro lens for Christmas (hint, hint).

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Aurora felt sure that melted popsicles would make good paint, too (they don’t).

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And then she did it! The most surprising result of the paint-making process was that light-purple sweet pea petals make a dark blue-green paint. Who knew?

The best part for me was feeling like I was really contributing something to Aurora’s education. So much of the time I carry around this huge weight of guilt for being a stay-at-home mom. With only one kid. Who is usually in school. I’ve been told by more than one aunt (and my friends are probably thinking it, too) that a woman should have her own career, her own money, and that it’s better for me and my daughter if I work outside the home, at least part time. Most of the time I agree with them. But then Aurora gets an idea. A great idea, and I am already on my feet, running to the supply cabinets, getting out the materials, and we spend hours working on something that is really cool together. We make books, we learn new crafts, we explore our city.

Now, if only I could find a good book on knitting.

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Shiver Me Timbers!

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Halloween, for those of you who aren’t in the know, is absolutely Aurora’s favourite holiday. Don’t be surprised if she’s wearing a pumpkin, bat, witch, or skeleton shirt when you see her next March or April. It’s better than Christmas, and somewhat mixed up with her birthday, which falls earlier in October. A holiday that combines dress-up and seemingly limitless supplies of candy is a true winner in her book. Daddy and I get into it pretty good, too. Here’s a highlights reel of photos.

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For the past three years, I’ve really enjoyed going to the Pumpkin Patch in Richmond, partly because the photos usually turn out gorgeous, even at mid-day. We go with our good friends, the MossLams, so even if the lines are long, we still have fun.

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Fraser’s a good sport, especially because he gets the comfort of mom & the Ergo the whole time.

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Barrett shows me which pumpkin he picked out from this gigantic field.

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I love this picture. It almost makes up for the loss of last year’s shots.

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Ready to head home, eh?

Halloween fell on a school day this year, so the 4’s voted to wear their costumes to school.

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The Princess and the Pirate Wait for the Bus. Sounds like a hit song or something.

This year we hosted another Halloween potluck, and somehow managed to make cake pops in five hours.

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Ghosts, skulls, and a lone Jason mask. Daddy dressed as Chris Kratt in his Creature Power Suit.

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Aurora the Ghost Pirate attempts to tuck her sword into her red sash.

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Barrett preferred his elephant mask (made by his very clever Daddy out of some leftover roofing material) to hang down his back, where it was less in the way.

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Aurora in full costume and makeup, ready to go out trick-or-treating on Halloween night.

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Happy Halloween, from two pirates and a witch!

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Wild Kratts Birthday

Aurora’s favourite TV program has been Wild Kratts since July, and if you haven’t seen it yet, watch it! When she said she wanted to have a Wild Kratts Birthday, I went online and got some great ideas from other parents who’ve done it recently, like Kara and The Kester Crew. Since the show only started last January, it hasn’t got a huge following yet, but tons of thanks to the parents who posted their kids’ parties!

Before the party, Brian and I made “Creature Power Suits” out of black felt and velcro, with different-coloured patches of felt on each suit. On the show, Martin and Chris Kratt wear blue and green, but ours also had pink, gold, and red, according to the kids’ favourite colours. The vests turned out pretty well, although the glued-on coloured bits could pull off rather easily.

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In the centre of each paw print is a velcro spot, where the kids can attach the creature power disc for whichever animal they choose to be. I worked pretty hard on making great-looking discs, based on images from the show, so I was really glad that we had them all printed out before my computer was stolen a couple of weeks ago. I cut them out (8 of each, so 40 total), and Brian did the lamination.

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For the first game, we were polar bears, and jumped from ice floe (towel) to ice floe, or swam through the icy water if they were too far apart.

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For the second game, the kids became platypuses, rescuing eggs by carrying them with spoons (see first picture, above). Amazingly, not a single egg was dropped, although I did take the precaution of hard-boiling them first!

Our third game was cheetah racing, and our six cheetahs had an absolute blast chasing the gazelle (Daddy) around and around the backyard.

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Then it was time to go inside for lunch (sandwich and fruit/veggie platters). We had a quick game of “Firefly Says” after lunch, and then our fifth and final game; Build a Beaver Lodge!

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Using logs (pretzel sticks) and mud (chocolate frosting) the kids and some helpful adults worked together to assemble a big’ old beaver lodge, just like Martin and Chris did on the show. I probably ate more than I stuck on, but the kids were really into the task at hand. This kept them busy for at least half an hour, and I actually got a chance to sit down and relax for a few minutes.

Then came the book exchange. Instead of gifts for Aurora, we asked the parents to bring one wrapped book per kid. The kids take turns choosing a book, so that each one gets to open a present at the party. It did happen that two books were less than satisfactory to their recipients, so they switched ‘em, and everyone was happy.

Finally, the cake. On the show, the animated Martin and Chris travel around the world with their crew on a giant flying tortoise ship, the “Tortuga”. I did my best to reproduce this ship, or at least build a tortuga-esque shape, without using fondant.

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The results may have been a bit sloppy, but the cake was really delicious, and disappeared quicker than you can say, “Living free and in the wild!”

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Monster Cake Pops

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I immediately knew two things when I first saw the recipes for decorated cake pops: 1) They would be ridiculously time-consuming, therefore no sane person should attempt to make them, and 2) I am not a sane person when it comes to making cute stuff.

Cake pops, for those of you who have not yet come across this delicacy, are made of cake crumbs mixed with icing and rolled into shapes, into which a lollipop stick is inserted, and then dipped in melted candy coating. Cake pops can be decorated. That is a gross understatement. Check out Bakerella’s website, for instructions on how to decorate tons of pops, including these Sesame Street characters.

Aurora is mildly obsessed with the Cake Pops book that we borrowed from Laura (thanks for the loan!). She slowly turns the pages, admiring the (definitely gorgeous) photographs of the 40-odd different types of pops. She has to show them to every person who comes to visit us, pointing out the ones that she finds the most “adorable” or “sooooo cute!” Her favourites are the halloween ones; the ghost, jack’o'lantern, witch, mummy, and black cats. I love the skulls, which look just like Dia de los Muertos candies.

So, over the course of three days I made the above Monster Cake Pops, for Aurora’s preschool’s end-of-year BBQ. They did turn out awfully cute, but if I ever make them again, I will save myself several hours of decorating and just make plain dipped ones. They’ll taste just as good, look quite appealing, and I won’t have to neglect my child for an entire day again.

By the way, this is my last web post before I go under the knife, um, er, laser, to fix my eyes. Goodbye, cokebottle glasses. I shan’t be missing you at’all.

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A Bit of Randomness

I’ve been sick for almost three weeks, so blogging time has been hard to come by. Here were some highlights of the past couple of weeks:

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Aurora had her 3-year vision screening, and somewhat to her disappointment, she did not get to pick out new glasses with sparkly frames. So I made her some. (T-shirt decorated by Mommy & Aurora for Christmas Jammies)

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When Mommy’s sick, we don’t do much, but there’s plenty to do around the house. The Toy Story guys and the mice and their pets climbed aboard Aurora’s rocket and flew to the Giants’ Planet (the kitchen) for a camp-out and picnic.

Grandma Gail & Grandpa Larry were here for almost a week. They got to visit the preschool for a Valentine’s Day dance, and Aurora had her first parent-free sleepover at G&G’s condo. Talk about excitement! Grandma reports that Aurora was lying in bed talking until after 10 p.m., but it was fun to listen to her. Mommy & Daddy struggled with a sewing project, went to see a movie, and made Aurora a Valentine’s Day card. I think a good time was had by all.

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Later in the week we met up with some of the Bartons for dinner at a nice Thai restaurant in Burnaby. It was good to catch up with y’all, and such yummy food, too!

After G&G left, I got involved in the decorating of Kate’s 4th birthday cake.

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Yes, believe it or not, this is a cake! Kate requested a pink princess castle, so that’s what she got (figures on top: Jasmine, Mulan, Belle, and Yoda). Laura & I were just happy that Kate was so enraptured with the results, because that was the main point of it all. Happy Birthday, Kate!

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Who Can I Be From Toy Story?

Aurora asks me this question every. Single. Day. She never says, “Mommy, I want to be Buzz Lightyear.” Every day, sometimes several times, it’s always exactly the same, “Mama, who can I be from Toy Story?” I’ve learned my lines pretty well: “You can be Buzz, and I’ll be Woody.” “I want to be the Old Buzz!” “Okay, you can be Old Buzz.” Daddy has more variation in his script. Sometimes he’s “New Buzz” (the one in Toy Story 2), sometimes Rex, or one of the other supporting characters.

So, luckily for all of us, this conversation didn’t change from the time, in July, that Aurora decided that she should be Buzz Lightyear for Halloween. Mommy would, of course, be Sheriff Woody, the cowboy doll, and Daddy, well, what should he be? Then I found it; at Value Village, a Rex head. Not just any dinosaur mask – this was definitely the Rex from Toy Story. We had it made!

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Maybe she should have been a hockey player? Sorry, kiddo. We’ve already got your costume. Thanks to Stephanie and her family, for the use of their old Buzz costume. She grew so quickly from July to October that I didn’t even need to take it in!

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At our Halloween Potluck on Saturday night, Aurora and Kate play doctor with Aurora’s new doctor set, practicing on Teddy Bear and Miga. Kate looked like a tiger on Saturday night, but on Sunday she still hadn’t exactly made up her mind, and arrived on our doorstep as a fairy kitty.

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The potluck gang, including Barrett the Stegasaurus (I wish I had a good picture of his awesome costume to show you), helped us demolish this Halloween haunted gingerbread house on Saturday night. I can’t believe this was the first time I tried making a gingerbread house before. So much fun to make & decorate!

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All set and ready to go on Halloween night. Rex stayed home this year to hand out candy, while I took Aurora to about 20 houses for her tricks and treats. Every house we stopped at had at least six stairs, sometimes a lot more, but she tromped up and down them slowly and carefully, never letting go of my hand. This year she had finally gotten the hang of the script (”Trick or treat!” “Thank you!” “Happy Halloween!”), with only a small amount of prompting. Her little voice sing-songing sweetly at each door was one of the cutest things I’ve ever heard. This is definitely why people have kids.

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Rex shows that his species of dinosaur only had two claws on each hand. “Rrraaargh! Did I scare you?”

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Aurora looks over her booty at the end of the evening. Awesome bag she made, eh? Oh, and as she looks at how much candy she got, she says, “This is a lot. We should save some of this candy to give to the kids next year.”

Yeah, right, that’s what we’ll do with the “extra” candy.

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