Rebecca had her birthday party over the weekend. She'd requested an art party long ago, and I was only too happy to oblige.
The invitations were easy enough, just blobs of colored construction paper glued to a quarter sheet of cardstock. With rounded corners, of course. The pertinent info was first printed on the backside. I was super diligent on the RSVPs this time, because I needed to know exactly how many kids were going to attend. I had the brilliant idea that each kid would get a personalized apron as they walked through the door.
Seventeen kids later, I wasn't quite so keen on my idea, but I managed. I even finished everything up before midnight on the eve of the party. Final count: 5 As, 4 Js, 3 Ms, 2 Ks, 1 H, 1 P, and 1 R; 68 straps; 34 plastic rings; 8.5 yards of fabric; 2 sewing machine needles; and at least 21 meals eaten on the coffee table, since all the sewing stuff was strewn all over the dining room.
I didn't have a pattern, just made it up by studying some of the aprons I own, and using what I had. I would have liked having D rings for the adjustable neck straps, but they were too cost prohibitive, and anyway I had these plastic circles I'd gotten years and years ago from an estate sale purchase of a box of knitting supplies. They worked fine for my purpose, and I still have some left over. These aprons are fully reversible and adjustable, and highly customizable. I hope all the kids liked them, I'm proud of the way they turned out. I've never sewn seventeen of anything at one time before, and it was quite an experience. I know there are a million apron tutorials out there, but if anyone wants to know how I did these particular ones, I'd be happy to put together a show and tell. I took a ton of pictures along the way.
So anyway, back to the party. Everyone got an apron as they arrived, siblings had their initials in matching fabrics. There was even a mini apron for the youngest guest, only 18 months old. Our first activity was cornstarch clay, using this recipe which produces the smoothest, most non-sticky homemade dough I've ever had the pleasure of playing with. Jessie kept inhaling it, saying it smelled like rice. Nothing caustic, unbelievably inexpensive, and comes together so easily. It feels amazing. I recommend turning off the heat the instant the dough starts forming, while it's still easy to stir. Remove it from the heat, you don't want a crust to form at the bottom of your pan. I skipped the food coloring bit, planning to use watercolors instead, but the kids were fine with just the white clay, so I figured why complicate things? On the tables I had plastic cookie cutters, texture plates and Play-Doh tools, along with some straws. I made six batches for the seventeen kids, but four probably would have been more than enough.
Then we moved on to fabric softies. Totally pinching Louise'sidea, I made seventeen randomly shaped stuffed things and set out buckets of fabric scraps, ribbons, yarn, buttons, beads, fabric markers and fabric glue. These are just a few of the amazing creatures that were born. I didn't go with needle and thread because of the mixed ages of the kids, but I could totally see revisiting this idea in a few years. Wish I'd taken some before photos, I liked that bucket full of chubby shapes. Some had yarn appendages, some didn't (mainly because I just forgot to include them before I started stitching).
Then the kids had some snacks while we cleaned the tables and set up for the final craft, painting. I found some wooden frames and keychains at Michaels, and along with some cheap paintbrushes and a couple dozen bottles of acrylic paint I had in my stash (yikes!), the kids really got to make a mess and play with color. It was so much fun watching everyone thoroughly enjoy themselves. Even the parents were getting into it. And, oh, in case you were thinking I was completely insane, this was all done in a rented clubhouse, *not* in my living or dining room. Ha. I'm not that crazy.
My sweet, sweet baby is seven today, she hasn't seemed baby-ish in quite a while now. All arms and legs, skinny and so grown-up. She reads Roald Dahl with legs hanging over the arm of the couch, and wants to check her email at least once a day. She plays a mean game of Dots, and puts away all the utensils as they come out of the dishwasher. Happy seven sweetheart, I'm glad you had so much fun at your party with your friends. I hope the next year is your best yet.
Great, great times, and I even had help cleaning up.
Still playing catch-up with the projects I completed before my internet connection went kaput last month. Here's the Groovy Granny Scarf I test knitted for Gardiner Yarn Works in early May. I made mine with a G hook and Paton's BumbleBee Baby Cotton in sherbet colors, less than a skein each of Daffodil, Wild Rose, Sweet Grass and Petunia. Don't you just love those names?
I helped Alice test out her Starling Handbag, back in late April, early May,when it didn't have a name yet. It is brilliant, and I love her pattern for her funny comments, clearly written directions, and of course, the finished project which is completely seamless and very versatile. She seriously put a lot of thought and much effort into writing the pattern, all with the intention of making it available to everyone. She and I sent emails back and forth several times over many weeks, and I was only one of more than half a dozen testers. A lot of work was put into it, and Alice has just posted her signature handbag pattern on her free downloads page. Yep, you heard me, it's absolutely free.
Mine (or, I should say, Rebecca's) is made with Lily Sugar 'n Cream 100% cotton yarn, in Cornflower Blue, White, Rose Pink, Hot Green and Yellow. Sound familiar? I do like this yarn, and I *love* the bag. I haven't lined it yet, but plan to use a lime green fabric that has little orange and yellow daisies on it. I used a G hook, and it measures about 8.5" x 11" x 2.5". I'm pretty sure I tested the large size, but for some reason I can't find the notes I wrote about it, maybe I sent them off to Alice and forgot to keep a copy. Anyhow, I'll make the smallest size for Jessie, I need to find an aquamarine-colored cotton. She's decided that's her favorite color. I just love hearing the way she says it, "ahh-qwah-mer-een," emphasis on the last syllable. So cute. Just like the handbag. Now go make one, you know you want to.
Months ago, at the LA Times Festival of Books, Jessie "won" a squeezable dog bone (yeah, I don't get it either, but that's where she acquired it). Now, I really don't know what makes a kid get attached to one thing over another, but she instantly fell in love with it. She kept asking Rebecca to hide it for her, and she'd go looking for it. Bone Hide and Seek, I guess. So, inevitably, the game was played once too often, and Rebecca forgot where she hid it. We looked everywhere. Tears ensued, emotions were high, and then the next day I came across Fetch! by KrisKnits. Talk about fortuitous!
These are worked up with size 6 needles and Lily Sugar 'n Cream 100% cotton yarn, in Rose Pink, Hot Green, Cornflower Blue and Yellow. Less than an evening to finish one of these, and very fun to do with different colors, striping. Totally excellent to practice mattress stitch and seaming, too.
It was uncanny how the sizing worked out! And, yeah, we found the original squeeze bone a few days later. But these are much more fun, and every few days Jessie thinks of a new color combination she needs to have. I think two is plenty, but she's pretty darn stubborn persistent...
My husband has been telling me about going on grunion runs when he was a kid, with his uncle and cousins, for years. He did some checking, and this year, with Rebecca on summer vacation, and no preschool for Jessie the next day, timing was perfect to attend the organized run at Cabrillo Beach.
We left shortly after dinner, arriving at the beach around 8pm. In this picture, can you tell who just woke up from a long car-ride nap? I love that photo.
There, all better now and ready to go. There was a lot of waiting that night, and the girls were so patient and never once complained or seemed bored.
We explored the aquarium
for about an hour before the movie about grunion, then afterward, we hatched our very own grunion babies. See those little streaks in there? Well, okay, maybe not, but, seriously, trust me, we watched the eggs pop open before our eyes while we swirled the sand and sea water in the glass jars (simulating the tide and wave action). It was so amazing and thrilling. Then it was finally time to head out to the beach with our guides. We sat in
a line parallel to the waves, while the numbers of grunion increased,
and waited our turn while the researchers gathered buckets full for
their studies. Then, at last, we were let loose.
I don't know who was more excited, the kids or the adults, but I do know who was the wimpiest at picking up the crazy, surprisingly (and disconcertingly) muscular, squirming, wriggling six inch long fish - me! I squealed like a pig, giggled like a four year old, and had a fantastic time. Before we even made it to the beach, Rebecca said she was going to get at least 20, and Jessie was shooting for "100. Or more!" But actually, the girls didn't even attempt to grab any, just stood in the midst of the glistening, shimmering mass and laughed and laughed, heads thrown back, mouths and eyes open wide. Such pure joy.
We caught three. Talked to them, named them (Reflect, Sparkly and Michelle - don't ask), Jessie really is a little jokey jokester) and then said goodbye, as we sent them back to "be with their families." Super great, super fun, something I'll remember forever. We're making this one a tradition, and will do it every year for as long as the girls want.
Oh, hello, hello, finally! That was a painful three weeks without the internet, no dial tone through my home phone, and hours upon hours spent dealing with nice but completely freaking clueless customer service representatives and those blasted voice activated menus. Will someone please tell me why a machine will instruct me to dictate my name, address, ten digit account number, service issue and blah blah blah, put me on hold, transfer me six times, and then, twenty minutes later, direct me to an operator who asks me for the exact. same. stinkin'. information? I just deleted the whole novella I just wrote about the saga, I don't need to relive it. Let's just hope my internet stays connected or my head seriously might explode.
Anyway, moving on. See how magnanimous I'm being? How I haven't even once mentioned which incompetent, royally screwed up company I've been dealing with? I'm so good, huh?
So now it's summer vacation for my 6 year old (the baby still has preschool two days a week throughout the summer because I can't risk losing her spot in the program) and we both are looking foward to a slower, lazier few weeks ahead. This last month and a half I spent most of my days helping out at Becca's school. There was Teacher Appreciation Week, Book Fair, Open House, library inventory, yearbook distribution, taking down the students' work from the walls, submitting another bunch of Box Tops and Campbell's Labels before vacation, and the classroom work I'd been helping out with all year. Rebecca's first grade teacher was just spectacular, the kind you dream of for your
children. She is dedicated, loving, enthusiastic, energetic, patient, and encouraging, and with all that she did for Rebecca and her students, she even took time to make Jessie feel welcome and comfortable.
For the last day of school, I made her a Craft AppleMini Patchfolio, included a brown Sharpie (to match the fabric), and I'm proud of the way it came out. I quilted the flower motifs and that was an easy way to acheive a nice design without having to do any marking or think about it too much. I didn't include the final step of adding cardboard between the layers before topstitching around the whole thing, because I figure this way Rebecca's teacher can throw it in the wash in case it ever gets dirty. I covered the original header of the little notebook pad with a strip of excess fabric and some gluestick, which I think made a really nice finishing touch. Much better than an office supply store logo blazing away up there on top.
And each one of Rebecca's classmates received a little sewn notebook, personalized with their first initial. These were made from some bright copy paper, cut into fourths. Each quarter sheet (4.25" x 5.5") was folded in half individually, corners rounded with my new cool toy (which my husband still can't quite believe essentially performs only one function), unfolded, stacked into groups of eight, placed inside a cardstock cover (4.5" x 6" folded in half and then unfolded), and machine sewn down the center. The initals were taken from scraps of the cardstock, or cut with my Sizzix, and raised with a bit of foam tape.
I actually had all of my year-end gifts completed and ready to go well before the last week of school. Didn't have to stress out or stay up late one single evening, nearly a miracle for me. And I'm sure entirely due to the fact that the vortex that is the internet wasn't available to me. So I guess it wasn't all bad, huh?