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Monday, March 29, 2010

Beautiful Blue


Its spring time around our house. I know this not because there are birds chirping outside my windows or my roses are blooming, not because of the amazing weather we are enjoying or even because of my freckled shoulders. I know this because there is a brooding animosity in my home. It starts out as a few snide comments and curt retorts. Soon there will be rolling of eyes and scoffing grunts, criticizing, mocking and bragging are to follow. And it is the same every year in the Grunau household. Ladies and gentlemen, it is baseball season.

This year the battle of beautiful Dodger blue and pukey Giant orange started off with an innocent child hurt in the wake. A few weeks ago Jeff was helping me get the kids ready to go to a doctor appointment and I was about to thank him for dressing Autumn when I noticed she was wearing a heavy sweatsuit. It was supposed to be in the mid 70's that day and I knew she would be miserable.

"Honey, its going to be way to warm for her to wear that."
"It's ok, I put something underneath it."

I could hear the mischievous smile in his voice. I glared at him across the room. He looked up and grinned with false innocence and walked her to the van. I shuddered to think about the hideousness that lay beneath that warm sweatsuit. I quickly ran back upstairs and pulled a beautiful sun dress from her closet and stashed it in her backpack. When we arrived at the doctor's office Mila had to go potty and I had to feed Autumn. As soon as Jeff and Mila disappeared around the corner I knew this was my chance. I gagged as I removed the sweatsuit. There it was, vile and wretched. A pink and purple Giants body suit.

"Oh, Baby Girl, what did your daddy do to you? You poor thing! Come here and let me take this nasty thing off of you!"

She looked refreshed and happy in her white sundress. Jeff and Mila came back just then.

"Where did that outfit come from?" he smiled with irritation.
"From her backpack? Why?" I smiled back.
"What was wrong with what she was wearing?"
"My daughter is not wearing that thing in public"

Mila was called back and so we dropped it. Nearing the end of the appointment Jeff, Levi and Autumn hung out in the waiting area while Mila took her eye test. When Jeff came in holding Autumn at arms distance I knew there was trouble. He grabbed her back pack and headed out. We finished a few minutes later and I found him back in the waiting room with the contents of her bag strewn about. And her poop-stained clothes in a pile next to her.

"Where are her wipes?!"
"Oops! They are in the van. You head down and I'll make the follow-up appointment."

When I joined them a few minutes later Autumn was again suffering in her daddy-picked clothes.

"See, Hun? She made her choice!"

I sighed, embarrassed for my baby. It's a good thing Jeff had his own doctor appointment to go to and we had some time to kill before Mila's field trip. As Jeff drove away I smiled to myself and headed straight for Target. Soon enough autumn had a beautiful, new, blue dress on and a few seconds later she spit up on it. No problem, I had the perfect spit up rag.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

How-To: Robin Hood Birthday Party


This year my son, Levi, turned 5. And since we don’t do birthday parties every year (this is only his second party, ever) I wanted to do something fun, and creative that he and his friends would remember. Since Disney’s Robin Hood is one of his favorite movies and it is boy and girl friendly, I knew it would be perfect. I’ll share the things I did and give other ideas to make it work for older kids, scaled down or scaled up. Feel free to add comments if you come up with things to add!

I love to use e-vite. It’s free and I can customize them to whatever I want. I searched the Internet for a Robin Hood image and found the one above. I added that to the e-vite and wrote a message to match: Then I customized the responses with quotes from the movie. For Yes replies it read “A perfect bull’s-eye”, for Maybe it said, “Maybe it’ll even be a double hangin’” and for No it was “It’s so miserably unfair!”. Afterward I thought of another quote to use for yes replies, "Coming...coming!" Our guests even responded in the same manner with mentions of Sir Hiss and a condition of attendance based on a tax cut. If you are into paper crafting you could make a bull’s-eye out of red and white paper with all the party information on the reverse side. If you make it the size of a CD you can use CD sleeves as envelopes and tuck in a few paper arrows too.

For all the craft items I tried to use things I (or my parents) already had, were cheap, easy to find and uncomplicated. Also being frugal, I started purchasing items a few months in advance using my weekly Jo-Ann’s and Michael’s coupons. I won’t say you already have all these things (even though you might) because I hate it when shows say…”Using only things you already have…” and I think “Great!” until I realize that I have none of those items. Like the time Rachel Ray made a meal from pantry staples which included a can of anchovies… Really? Anchovies are a staple? Anyway… All of the crafts are simple. If you can cut, glue and sew a straight line (or know someone who can) you can make these fun party hats and favors.


Robin Hood
  • Green felt
  • Craft Feathers
  • Hot Glue
  • Green Thread
I searched high and low on the Internet for a Robin Hood hat pattern and found a few. One was in metric and the other had incorrect measurements (good thing I tried it with newspaper first!), so I created my own pattern on a 12x12 piece of card stock. You can use newspaper too. Adjust the pattern proportionally for bigger kids, and make a sample with newspaper to make sure it’s the right size. For our size pattern, we needed a 12x24 inch rectangle of green craft felt*.

Fold the rectangle into a 12x12 square (right sides together, although it doesn’t really matter with felt), Place the pattern on the felt, aligning the folds. Trace or pin the pattern and cut out. Stitch along the two sides as shown. Turn it right side out and tuck a feather in one side. Glue a scrap of felt to the underside to secure the feather. Turn edges up as shown.

Using my coupons I was able to get 1 1/3 yards of 72” wide fabric (enough for 12 hats) for less than $5 and feathers for less than $2. *Use the 12x24 measurement when estimating the amount of fabric to buy, but just fold the fabric with enough room to place the pattern and cut. Cutting out rectangles and then the hats just doubles your work (Thank you Mom, for saving me from doing that!)

Maid Marian
  • Pink felt
  • Assorted curling ribbon
  • Pink thread
  • Glitter (optional)
  • Small, wooden, kitchen skewers (optional)
  • Satin ribbon, thin (optional)
All the online patterns I saw for this medieval style hat involved tons of sewing that I wasn’t equipped or in the mood to do. So, I just made this one up. In hindsight I wish I would have done things a little differently. My directions will include things I didn’t do, and therefore aren’t in the pictures. Cut a large half circle out of newspaper. Fold it to make a cone with the circumference and height you want. Allow for a ½ inch seam and trim the top off the point as shown. Cut the newspaper to make your pattern. Take your pattern with you to the store and lay it out on the felt, counting out as many as you need and measuring accordingly. To save cutting time, fold both you pattern and fabric, align folds, and cut. Count out 12-15 pieces of curling ribbon, cut to 30 inches when pulled straight. I used, white, purple, light and dark pink ribbon. Tie a knot at the top of the bundle, do not curl. Lay fabric open right side facing up, lay ribbons along the middle with the knot at the top. Fold fabric, closing the ribbons inside.

Stitch a ½ inch seam, sewing through the ribbons to prevent them from falling out, stitch a second seam, ¼ inch. Turn right side out. Slide a kitchen skewer (trimmed if needed) in between the two seams for extra support*.

Attach 12 inches of satin ribbon with hot glue to each side for tying under the chin, keeping the seam in the back. Apply a super-fine glitter with a dry, coarse craft or paintbrush, the felt will trap the glitter very well and it won’t transfer off much at all. Or, if you can find it, buy glitter felt. I found it in other colors, but not pink. I used an iridescent embossing powder/glitter my mom found in her craft box. If you can’t find glitter felt or have any glitter to use, fore go this step. Again with my coupon I made 12 hats for less than $5.

*I figured out that I could sew through the ribbon on the last hat I made, and I highly recommend doing it that way after we had a few ribbon bundles fall out at the party. Also, I had planned to glue skewers to the inside of the hat, but it was too tricky. I hadn’t allowed for the ½ inch seam, so I just left them with out anything for support, and while they stood up fine on their own, once the girls were wearing them and running around, they tended to flop over.


  • Small plastic rings
  • Fabric embellishments or silk flowers
  • Rhinestones
  • Hot glue

Go to a party supply place and look through their party favor bins. I found small rings for $.15 each, or $1.50 for a dozen. Even though these rings already had a charm on top (hearts, happy faces, etc.) some had already fallen off. So, I dug through the bin and pulled out those with missing pieces. Find the smallest flowers you can at a craft store. I used fabric embellishments. They were the perfect size, prettier and more durable than plain silk. They were more expensive though. I got them for around $6, but you could easily use a $.50 bunch of silks. Hot glue together petal layers if you choose then glue to the ring. My flowers already had centers on them, but if you use silks you can use rhinestones to seal the center.

  • Brown or tan fabric
  • Brown or tan thread
  • Embroidery thread
  • Tags
  • Marker or printer
  • Chocolate coins
You can use any type of scrap fabric for this. I found a piece of tan felt in the remnant bin for $1. Cut the fabric into 4x5 rectangles. Place two rectangles, right sides together and stitch on three sides with a ¼ inch seam, leaving a 4 inch edge open. You can round the bottom if you choose. Trim corners and turn right side out. Using a large craft needle, weave a 10 inch length of embroidery thread in and out 1/3 of the way down the bag to make a draw string. Fill bag with chocolate coins, we used 5, that being the birthday boy’s age and all. I borrowed a friend’s cri-cut machine to make the tags and hand wrote Thank You on one side and Farthings on the other. I wish I would have used my computer to print them with a nice calligraphy or Old English style writing and then cut tags. My handwriting is terrible. Either way, attach a farthing/thank you tag to each bag and tie a bow.


  • Shuttlecocks
  • Badminton rackets
  • Bows and Arrows (optional)
Since most of the kids at this party were fairly young I ruled out having an archery tournament or organized badminton game. Although that would have been fun, I kept seeing them whacking each other with rackets, or someone walking in front of the target and thought it best to avoid those scenarios. Instead we laid down a hula-hoop (a basket would work too) and had the kids try hitting shuttlecocks with rackets into the hoop. While this proved to be more difficult than I thought (not one kid, with six tries each, made it in), it was fun to watch. We marked the driveway with sidewalk chalk and drew lines every two feet and then labeled them 1-10. Each child found their age on the number line and shot form there. 2 feet per year of age for the child evened the paying field a bit, with 5-year-olds being 10 feet away, 6-year-olds being 12 and so on. If you do this for older kids, you could definitely set up an archery area (suction arrows or real, depending on your preference and home owners insurance), play badminton or play a game of tag where the “Honorable Sheriff of Nottingham” has to capture citizens for tax evasion and throw them in jail.

Now, that is another blog entirely… stay tuned!

Saturday, March 13, 2010



Some of you may have been wondering where my latest blog post is. The long and short of it is that it's done (minus some formatting) but I can't post it. "Why, pray tell, is this?" you might be wondering. You know you think in old English. Because, despite living in the middle of a large city, we cannot get DSL Internet. Ok, we can get it, if we sign up for Comcast DSL and cable for $80 per month and a contract. Not happening. Or HughesNet for $60/month plus $300 in equipment. Nice try. Verizon doesn't serve our area, ironically they serve Sanger and AT&T, for some unknown reason, can provide phone service, but not DSL. Supposedly I'm too far from the something or other. I'm still suspicious about that since neighbors a few blocks to the north and east of us can get it. I wonder if everyone in my neighborhood bugged them enough if they would get their act together. Hmmm.... sounds like I need to make up a "Call to Action" flyer. Or maybe I'll just call Mayor Swearengin's office to beg the to pass the all-city Wi-Fi plan. My head hurts.

Until this point we have been able to use the network at the school 2 doors down. And although it was spotty but generally reliable, it is now nearly non-existent. Maybe they wised up to the fact that if they didn't pass code it, people were going to use it. In any case, this problem has prevented me from posting my blog about how to do a Robin Hood themed birthday party because all the pictures are on the computer. Sigh.

There is a light at the end of then tunnel though, I hope. We just signed up for Cricket's 3G wireless network. I'm a little concerned with the speed, but at this point. I'll take what I can get. So, for now, I'll have to be content to blog with my thumbs, wait for Fed-ex to deliver our wireless card and be thankful I have such an amazing phone.