Archive | May 2016

Happy Birthday Fiona! But first with the Zombie MLP cake and the weekend…

Today Fiona turns 4, unbelievable yet totally believable because I’ve been here for all 4 of those years and I completely appreciate how far she has come!  My ‘dear Fiona’ post is in process but not ready but I can’t post ON her birthday and not even mention it.

This past weekend was all the fun.  We had friends come from ND so we made extra efforts to hang out with them.  Another friend hosted a BBQ and we did indeed bring the Cowboy Caviar mix that Lars made and I had a good time creating a My Little Pony Zombie cake.  It was a special request for a 13th birthday and I think I could not have done better and kept it tasty.  Fondant looks so nice, but, tastes so yuck.  I like to use a really simple chocolate recipe that is 1c heavy cream brought to a boil and then 9oz of chocolate added – stir until smooth and remove.  It’s great because you can pour it right on hot for a smooth shell look or wait until the consistency you want to ice with happens due to solidification.  You can also wait for it to cool and whip it and that makes it even better for smoothing or piping or even sculpting.   I firmly believe that MLP are full of rainbows so I started with a rainbow cake, then a crumb coat, then the icing, then  the accessories including swedish fish cut to look like ribs and whopper eyes and my extra ‘puppy chow’ got used as gnarly pony teeth.

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The reason I got to do such a fun fancy cake was because our new neighbor is awesome!  She is a year older than Niamh but the younger of a boy/girl sibling set so they really don’t play together much and she is girl starved.  Their house backs on ours so you don’t even have to cross a street and the moms can both hear what is going on in the yard.  She loves coming over and plays with everyone, including Fiona, and they all played with very minimal parental guidance all day Saturday and half the day Monday.  I kept an ear on them (bonus to windows open time of year, and, a relatively small house) and around lunch time just piled up a tray with fruit and carrots and leftover pizza and just slid it into the playhouse entry.  I also got a good chunk of the routine cleaning done so today I don’t feel behind even though I semi missed my Monday.


Sunday we actually got to go to Valley Fair!  The weather cooperated, Vacation Friend was able to go and as always we split nicely where I love the thrill rides and she loves the water stuff and the kids love her so we were set to cover the kids.  Our ND friends were the reason we were even going and they also lent a hand on the kid watching since there is nothing better for a 13 year old than the love and adoring company of little kids.  I ended up alone on a ride because they all choose other adults and/or teens to be near!  It was our first try to stay ‘late’ and it worked pretty well because Fiona just crashed out on me for an hour and a half in the sling and I missed a ride or 2 but no problem, I got the ones I really wanted first thing.

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Yesterday was a holiday here so it was like a preview of my summer with 3 kids solo on a nice day.  The summer will need some time management instituted but overall it was a nice relaxing day. **I’m really really glad I got that play house done, it is such a perfect place for summer play**

That brings us to today, #3 birthday and I’m at cake capacity.  Today I made a bunt just to do something new but it has been a very good cake season.  We need to do our 3-girls ‘family’ party soon but thats another schedule issue that I’m going to think about tomorrow.

Frugal Friday

I’m a day late for my 3 things Thursday so I’m trying this instead.  Ironically yesterday completely felt like a Friday because the kids don’t have school today AND I went to the gym yesterday (normal Friday thing) so in my head I’m 2 days late (or something)

Yesterday I started a project that I hope works out…  I got nice patio chairs (9?)  years ago but they are solid things and the frames hold up well.  The cushions, not so much.  I griped about this earlier in the season but was determined to find a way to fix my problem.


9 years ago; Cream color cushions on solid metal frames on the right.  Sorry about the blurry picture, way before good camera


  • IMG_9119

    Now 😦  still super solid but also cushionless

    solution #1 was pool noodles!  I could cut noodles to fit the frame and sew a sleeve case for them and while not perfect looking it would be water proofish (better than a cushion filled with rainwater) and I could throw away the noodles yearly if I didn’t want to store them so the cost would be in the $10 range to replace and that is a reasonable yearly expence to NOT have to store a pile of cushions.

    • Problem – my frames have supports for the cushion but they are too wide for a noodle.  Poop.
      • Another solution!  Weave something in and out of the supports to create a more firm base.  What to use?  Well, I am keeping in mind that they will be outside year round so need to be freeze and sun and rain resistant.  They don’t really need to be strong because all it is doing is keeping the noodle pillow from falling.  I also want it to be inexpensive so the classic webbing is around $20 a roll so I think I can do better….
        • Garden Hose!  more specifically dead garden hose – so this is now an upcycle because usually they are trash..

So I asked my local Facebook friends for any free old hose and 2 friends turned up 2 hoses pretty darn quick.  Ask and see – never hurts.  *side bonus, in hose exchange meetings I got a mini visit with two friends I don’t see often*

Yesterday after a long day of gardening and FINALLY getting 99% done and all plants planted (only pretty extras not done) I had the perfect opportunity to try my experiment.

After cutting off the fittings things worked better.

My ‘help’ quit pretty quick because they wanted to play and this was not easy as pie.  The hose is uncooperative most of the time and weaving with it is not an exception.


I started by pulling through a long section and weaving from the center toward an edge.  I did this because pulling the entire hose through was just impossible.  I judged well because when I got to the end of the section (that was one end of the hose) I was near enough to the edge to squish everything I had done over to the edge so I was just over half done and the remaining hose was sticking out of the center of the chair ready to be woven.



I worked from the middle over, this is half done, just tucked the end into the neighbor loop


Since I still had a TON of hose at this point I measured what I would need.  I counted how many rows I had made, estimated how many I would need, added two just in case, and measured the length each row needed.  Totaled it up, measured the distance and cut the hose at that point.  Second ‘manageable’ half to work with in hand I kept weaving.

It was almost 2 hours to get this far but I like how it’s going.


Technique – I can’t decide on a good method really, I’ve tried a few ways and they all work and all remind me of pulling lines on a sailboat.  This morning, I feel the workout of odd muscles…

I learned that no matter how empty the hose seems, there is an endless amount left to splash on you.

It is also better to find a way to make this project working height before you kill your back and arms.

I was muddy to the elbows from this seemingly clean hose…

Finally – this is skilless work but not easy work, feels like moving landscaping rocks – not hard in concept but difficult to do.  Hauling hose in and out and in and out is ‘fun’.


Today I hope to finish up and give it a coat of spray paint.  I got the type that should adhere to plastic so we will see…  If this works out, I’ll fix my chairs for about $20 (noodles+fabric+spraypaint+free hose).


Lots of words wednsday

I owe words!  I’ve been everywhere except my computer for the past few day.  Yesterday I left the house at 1pm (with a no nap Nona) and didn’t get home until 9pm because we had

  1. field day for Niamh – well done actually, kudos to the staff and bigger kids that ran it all.  Everyone had fun (except Fiona)IMG_9093
  2. Picked up Zoe to add to the fun – she was not included in field day, just 1st and 2nd grade, but I got the joy of waiting in parent pickup line!  It actually was not bad at all
  3. Drive to get our hair rechecked – yeah for lice treatments that keep giving…  All good there though, just one re-recheck to go.IMG_9099
  4. Back to school and I do the worst – I stopped at a drive through to get food into kids and myself because moods were declining.
  5. At school for STEM night half to support the program and half because we like it.  There were not a ton of people there and I’m fine with that!  More for usIMG_9104
  6. Over to Mexican to celebrate Zoe’s birthday a tad late but although she only orders chicken she loves it there. Or she loves the hat….IMG_9110
  7. Finally home to battle them all into bed

And that was yesterday – the days before looked a lot like it.  Good weather, fun outings, later nights out playing not to mention putting in a garden and general outside + inside chores there has been no time to document our lives.

This coming weekend is another doozy.  Tons of parties and we are invited to not just one but THREE events and two are actually called MeatFest.  At least I won’t need to make meat this weekend, just an epic amount of sides to contribute.  I’m thinking corn-bean salad – it’s fresh and tasty and best of all Lars makes it 🙂

I seatbelted myself to my chair today to plow through all the neglected details of email and phone.  I now have a dentist apt, paid bills, Zoe’s thank you cards are created and at print, I’ve inquired about an annoying insurance puzzle and set an apt for our local insurance, got our new tenants square on electric, water, sewer, mail, trash etc…  even got a coffee break with Vacation friend to plan out some upcoming events so basically I took 4 hours to book about 30 future hours into actions and activities!

So that is my life – how is yours?


Share your world week 20

Host site is herequestions are provided and answers are shared.  If you want to see other people’s answers check the site.


When do you feel most connected with others? When I am having positive conversation and learning about them and sharing common ground. Blogs and facebook are my touchstone to keeping track of all my people scattered in the world and help me feel connected.

What daily habit would you like to introduce to your life? Last year I would have said flossing but now I actually DO floss daily!  I would like to get some yoga or more plyo exercise daily.  There are tons of routines and subroutines that I do daily and I really like when I get to do them but they are all balanced on the head of a very tippy chair being rocked by a trio of crazy girls.

What one mini-little-adventure would you like to have in the coming week? I would like for it to actually work out to go to our amusement park with friends.  I’m not sure it will but I really want to go.

List at least of things or events that changed your Life: It could be as simple as a book or meeting a certain person? I’m of the opinion that everything pushes you in the direction you end up going.  There are plenty of things that didn’t happen that allowed some important things to happen so even having to say no to my 1st choice college that was really hard at the time let me go to Cabrini that I truly loved AND could afford AND took all my AP classes so I was done with (my) college debt by 23ish.  I also had to walk away from some relationships and that was sad every time but it led me to here and I’m in a good place.

  • My time in CAP where I was challenged and learned so much
  • Meeting Lars obviously was a big life changer
  • Moving to MN completely changed my world – my move to PA was a change but my life really did not shift as dramatically as moving 1000 miles away
  • Winning crown (SCA thing) it pulled together a ton of theater (HS love) and leadership and political science and our hobby and for once being the most important set of people – it was a life changer for so many more reasons too.
  • Having my kids – each one changed my world in ways I can’t describe but if you have kids you know.
  • Getting and leaving each job I’ve had – each job was like its own mini world that I had to make my way in and eventually my way out of.
  • Staying home decision – it’s a big one – total change in many parts of life.
  • Key parts of my MBA – I’m really glad I took the more formal yet longer route because there were some real life changing moments in classes over those 3 years.

And there is also the other biggies and smalls – getting married, buying a house, choosing to invest, trips I’ve taken, all the books from Charlotte’s web to Starship trooper and all the blogs I’ve read that have opened my eyes to new things and/or confirmed and validated my experience by someone else doing or feeling the same.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?  I’m grateful for nitpickers and I’m looking forward to a fun friend filled weekend next weekend.

Zoe 6

Dear Zoe

Here we are, you are 6, officially documented by the doctor and everything.  You are 3’9″ and 46lb and meet or beat all the stats they want except memorizing our phone number – want to guess what the iPad password is going to be next?  You also have perfect BMI – long may that last!


I just went back and re-read the other notes I wrote for you.  Basically, you are just MORE you this year!  You still are a loud talker, you still are the most responsible at remembering what you need for school and even packing it.  Over the past year you have continued to love art and surprise me with your drawings all the time.  They are detailed and clever and I’m not sure what the average 5-year-olds art looks like but I’m happy with yours and more importantly, you are very happy with yours too.


Kindergarten is just about over for you, just 2 weeks to go.  I can say with confidence that you can now read.  You can’t read every word yet but you have a very solid foundation and ability to sound out words and you also WANT to read.  You read signs and menus and my notes so we can’t tell you that places don’t have ice cream because you can read that they do.  You also have developed an appreciation for the different values of coins.  Even though you know that a quarter is worth 25 pennies, you will still do anything for the promise of a penny (I’m sure that won’t last).  Except clean the car, for that you charge a dollar but you actually do a good enough job you earn that dollar.  Oh yeah, I do tricky mom things and get you to clean the car 🙂  If it is a challenge or a game you are all for it, if I just tell you to do it you will dissolve into a puddle of “I can’t” but sometimes you just decide to go do something without being asked.

Our only worry for you is that you worry.  You have been really good at taking a concept and applying it all over, you were doing that last year too, but too often right now it is going down a path of anxiety.  For example; this year when the France bombings happened our flags were at half mast, you asked why, I gave you a true but not graphic explanation, your first reaction was to worry that it would happen here and to make you feel better I told you it probably would not because the bad guys are mostly interested in places that are way more big and important than here.  The first words out of your mouth after that were “they are going to get NY…”  followed by a list of people in NY you love including friends we only see a few times a year but you don’t forget people.  Someday you will learn about 9-11 and I dread the day because you probably won’t want to get on a plane for a year.  Other fears explored this year; fire, house fire, losing all ones toys in a fire, hurricanes, volcanos (and resulting fire), earthquakes and tornados.  Get the feeling you learned about natural disasters at school this year?

Aside from the anxiety, you are absolutely fearless.  I know that sounds weird but I have absolute confidence in your ability to do things.  You can climb, you can run around the block (2min is your record) and you monkey bar so well we had to make a set inside for the winter.  I trust that I could send you to the store and you would do fine but that isn’t allowed.  You are fine on the bus, at school, at jujitsu and I have zero fear dropping you off for a party or playdate.  You went to your first overnight camping trip with girlscouts and was 100% smiles.


Socially you have a few BFF’s and seem to get along with everyone.  You have a strange love to befriend people that have some troubles and you insist the little boy in your class is your friend even when he punched you in the face and bit you and often breaks your things.  I have to admit, I asked for you to not be allowed to sit with him because you WANT to and it just isn’t good.  I know he is working on it and his mom is super nice but I hope to never, ever, ever, hear the phrase “I like him even though he hits me” again!

Fashion is still your thing and you even stopped hating polka dots.  You get in a run of wanting the exact same thing every day like the same bow in your hair or the same sweater and your fashion choices are actually really awesome.  The 30 piece wardrobe works for you because you like what you like and wear it.  I can’t guess what you might like in the store because it is only rational to you but you are ok when I say no about something too.  Shopping with you is mostly fun even.



these bows, every day for months



Recently you have been very concerned with things being ‘fair’.  Can’t really help you there but I’m trying because we are not all the same and we can’t do the exact same for everyone.  Maybe it’s a middle child thing or just a 6 thing but you unbridled joy at all things is certainly tempered by your ire at any perception of unfairness.  Unfortunately, you are surrounded by a big sister that just can do more and a little sister who needs more help.  I agree, it really isn’t fair, but I would love to find a way for you to stop saying it daily.

Overall you are a loving sister.  You think about what everyone wants and needs and you try to help.  You can pour apple juice (that you still love with the fire of 1000 suns), completely dress yourself.  Shower and teeth only need minor help.  You can now tie your shoes and use the microwave and mostly make scrambled eggs.  For some reason, you are against learning how to use a knife but you eat better this year. We work on that, giving you points for trying new things (or trying thins you claim to hate but we know you like).  You are the best with reward charts and even quit biting your nails (for a while) with a chart.


Your favorite games are anything you can convince someone to play with you from Rampage to candy land and of course uno.  You want to be as big as Niamh but you also do like to play with Fiona too (sometimes).  When I have a project you are my helper Zebra and I almost forget your real age!  In the past year we have gone to Pennsic, Texas, and a long visit to NY.  Our good friends moved here so there are two new loving adults in your life and you also got to learn about breakups from another good adult friend and you had an excellent example because his new girlfriend is awesome AND we are all still friend with his former girlfriend and she is someone you always love due to your Z name bond.  Other people might read this and think I’m giving you extra credit for understanding these things but I’m here, it is totally true, you understood, asked questions, and came to the conclusion that they weren’t ‘true love‘ but can still be friends since you only get 1 true love and you can have lots of friends that works.


I think I could go on for ages.  You are a great kid – frustrating sometimes but insightful – once you said I don’t smile enough so I’m working on that just for you.

Love you Zozo bean

Mom and Dad

Ps.  this is how you live life all year long;


Puppy Party!

Puppy party is a really common theme according to Pinterest, so many ideas I only took a fraction.

According to my favorite developmental book series, this year’s birthday needs lots of quick activities and plenty of loot for the guests.  Apparently 6 is the most self-centered age after 2 (and before 12) and they are all concerned with fairness and/or getting the most.  I can see that with Zoe in some ways but get 10 6-year-olds together and it’s like getting smacked in the face with 3d models from the book.  The loot aspect (their word) was not hard, we already had planned activity 1-3 to include making/getting something that was theirs.  The ‘doggie bag’ at the end was pretty trivial really.


As kids arrive they recommend an independent style art project so as kids arrive they can just join in.

#1 – adopt a puppy – Oriental traders had the best deal so each pup was $1 IMG_8994

#2 – make a collar for the pup – we used pipe cleaners and letter beads.  This one ended up needing a bit of help since the holes were small and some kids are not confident spellers yet but they liked them.  About half the pups were named after the kids, they know how to spell that for sure.  I got WAAAAY too many beads (1pack of 250 and 1 500) but I didn’t want to run out and now I have extra for all my future letter bead needs


#3 – decorate a dog house – I pre set up these boxes and cut out a half circle so the dogs could peek out.  Some kids really used the markers and stickers, some didn’t, but it filled the time nicely as kids were arriving.


Niamh played party game director as they played ‘fetch’ where she threw balls and they ran around the yard.  They also played some version of tag…  They got semi-bored of the games in about 10 minutes and so we did the classic pin the tail on the dog


not that you should have any trouble with this game but things that made it easy for me were;

  • I used leftover double sided tape from another project and left the paper on the ‘outside’ sticky so they could peel away while waiting in line
  • I put the board on the kid easel that way it can be played anywhere, no wall needed


We all went in for a snack – I amended my earlier version by using peeps instead of cupcakes because the frosting made a mess last time and the peeps hold the candy in better.  Unsurprisingly a pretty glass full of candy was well received by the group.



added a gummy bear option for our dairy free friends – good trade because they don’t fall out as easily as hard candy!


While snack was consumed (and many m&ms spilled on the floor) we opened presents – dull to most involved so we kept it snappy and rolled into another little game “doggie doggie wheres your bone” that they played a round or 3 while I got the cake ready.

Top off the party with cake and pre scooped icecream (best party hack ever!  scoop into cupcake papers and keep in a cupcake tray in the freezer until serving) and fruit.



puppy cake – not pinworth but tasty


We had one other activity set up; a photobooth.  Sounds more complicated but it was a tablet on a tripod with a special tablet holder for hands-free use.  I set the tablet to stay on and I activated the voice activation so they could say “smile” and it would take a picture.  I had some props and a backdrop but they moved it a bit to suit themselves.  Given how tech savvy the kids are this was awesome activity.  They took 300 pictures, 8-10 are classically good, and there are a ton that are crazy fun over all for the set up it was a hit.


This took a whole hour and a half, they were not joking about them running through the activities.  However, our education system has conditioned them all to love “free choice” so I told them all that after one group picture they all had “free choice” and there were cheers.  Soon the squeals of glee threatened to take the house down and my friend and I churned out balloon animals and swords to the point where no kid left the party without a puppy a house a collar 2-3 balloon creations the official ‘doggie bag’ and some with a helium baloon (if they asked).  One of our favorite friends left with 50% less because she would forget her head if it were not attached and I found her sweater under a chair and her puppy in the yard etc.



boxes are ‘cupcake boxes’ from oriental trader 


Other than the whole lice thing it was a wonderful party on a great day with minimal fuss.  The only regret is that with this theme Zoe’s extreme desire for a real dog is now cranked up to 110.