Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dog Treat Ornaments

We are dog people over here at Casa del Cafe.  Mike and I both grew up with big dogs as part of the family (mutts for me, Golden Retrievers for him).  Though we don't have dogs of our own at the moment, Sarah is planning for us to have at least four, plus several cats. 

Every family gathering in Memphis includes at least five dogs, and the kids have stuffed animal puppies that they drag everywhere.  So, when I had some leftovers from making my parents' dog bone wreath, I thought I'd turn them into ornaments.  After all, every two-legged in the family has at least one ornament on the tree with his or her name on it.  It's only fitting that the four-leggeds are given the same consideration.

Are you crazy enough to want to make some of these, too?  Awesome.  Grab some Mod Podge (I like the shiny kind), dimensional paint, hot glue, ribbon, and, of course, dog bones (I used Milk Bone). In the interest of carrying a theme too far, I made these whilst watching the TV show Bones.
  1. Seal the bones with the world's greatest invention since Cap'n Crunch  Mod Podge on all sides and let it dry.
  2. Write the name of your furry friend in dimensional paint on the flat back side of the bone and let it dry.
  3. Fire up the hot glue gun, cut a length of ribbon, and glue that baby to the back in a loop.
  4. Embellish your bones however you wish.  I used rickrack and red beads to make some holly, real classy-like.
  5. Hang on a tree and watch your four-legged friend attack said tree to try and eat the ornament. 

I used the teensy bones to make ornaments for Sarah and Will's oh-so-creatively-named stuffed animals: Puppy, Puppy, Puppy, and Hector.  We'll let Eddie the house elf take the credit for those later on in the week.

These are the big dogs' ornaments.

Well, I'm off to move the Elf on the Shelf again.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ramble On

I wrote this mildly interesting recap of the past week in my head, but I wasn't ever around a computer when inspiration struck.  Plus, the munchkins have commandeered any and all writing instruments and paper for themselves, so I'm stuck with a Sharpie and old paint samples. 

So, you're stuck with this rambly thing.

I enjoyed a leisurely day off Tuesday eating bon-bons and watching TLC doing a mad dash around the house trying to get 3 people packed, cleaning toilets, and doing laundry.  Also, I had to hit the grocery for Mike since he stayed here.  Do you want to know what his list was, you know, to get him through until Friday?
  • Lettuce
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Beer
 Wild times were going to be had while we were in Memphis, I could tell.

Anyway,  after I dragged the two cranky young ones to story time on Wednesday, we hopped on the highway and pointed the trusty steed Westward.  I had to threaten them with roadside Time Outs and I-will-turn-this-car-around-if-you-don't-stop-waking-your-brother-up, but in the end they both napped until we arrived in Memphis and I got to listen to whatever I wanted on the radio.

Thursday was pretty low-key.  We did some hanging around at the park with Grumps until naptime.

Alas, I have absolutely no cool pictures of family members in turkey wattles or pilgrim garb because I forgot the props.  Next year.

An interesting thing happened this year, though.  I have turned into a hard-core Black Friday shopper.  Out of the house at 6 am, I had hit 4 stores before 9 o'clock.  It's too bad that now all the mayhem happens Thanksgiving night.  No catfights over Furby or HALO 11 for me. 

I did get this Pinterest-inspired shot of my parents' dog Moose. 

My dad took us girls out to see Annie on Friday night, so sis and I wore our red dresses as a nod to the heroine's signature look. 

We're all about culture.
Saturday morning was the perfect time to hit the Enchanted Forest at the Pink Palace.  Now, my generation of Memphians probably remembers these animatronic critters from the basement of the downtown Goldsmith's, but deforestation forced the animals to move out East.  Will was scared of most of the exhibit, but Sarah enjoyed it, as you can tell from the frightened look on her face in the picture below. 

After we sat on Santa's lap and gave him a hug (!), it was time to head back to see what damage Daddy had done while we were away.  True to his word, he had the big Christmas tree all set up, along with two little bitty trees for the kids to decorate.

Little Sarah Lou Who, who was a bit more than two.
Apparently, candy canes make superb reindeer antlers/Who antennae.

Mike's provisions held out, and he even restocked on the beer.  Good thing, too, because the next day, we decorated the tree.  As a family.  But that's a whole other post.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Let's be honest: I'm not my family's go-to gal for great side-items or delicious desserts (thank goodness for my sister-in-law and niece).  But, when you want a drink mixed or an activity to keep the kids busy,  I might be of some use.

So, I'm heading to the feast armed with some board games and Thanksgiving-themed photo props.  Here's the deal: my immediate family is photographically awkward on a genetic level.  Looking through photo albums, you might think that we are a family of amputees or we move at the speed of light, but it's just that my dad likes action shots and whoever else takes pictures usually does so while not looking through the lens. My mom is notoriously camera-shy and every shot of my brother looks like an outtake from a police lineup.

My hope is that putting a turkey waddle in front of their faces or wearing a pilgrim hat might make them come out of their shells a little bit.  Also, I really want to get all 5 dogs in turkey costume.  I digress.

Here's a little preview of the photo props I assembled for the big day (pinned here).

 I still have a Native American headdress and a mustache to complete the props.    Anyhoo, we'll see who comes out of his/her shell when hidden under a pilgrim bonnet.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The All-Fiber Diet

Is it weird that I would rather sew a meal than cook it?  Yeah, Mike thinks so too.

Last year around this time I had just finished my work sample and comps, so I was in the mood to create...

A turkey made of felt.

Seriously, when I came up from my dungeon craft room and showed Mike this bad boy, his face had that she's-finally-lost-it look.  He tried to humor me, as I giddily demonstrated the detachable drumstick feature, but I got the feeling he was just being nice.

I found the turkey and pumpkin pie tutorials here.

Anyway, this year I wanted to tackle the sides and dessert.  Much easier than cooking the darn things.

What a well-balanced meal (albeit a tad bit heavy on the carbs)!  Green beans and carrots add a little color, and what meal would be complete without mashed potatoes and gravy?  I'm still trying to figure out how to make cornbread dressing.

Anyway, it gives me the kids something to play with while they anticipate refusing to eat any of the real deal.  Ah, Thanksgiving.  Maybe I should channel some energy into making some elastic-waisted pants for the big day...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I Wish That I Was Jessie's Girl

I know.  The song doesn't really go, but Sarah is convinced that it's about Toy Story's Jessie the Cowgirl. 

Y'all, I don't want to scare you, but we only have 11 months until Halloween.  But, if you or your kids are anything like us, you find reasons and occasions to wear costumes the whole year 'round.  So, I thought I'd post the how-to for Sarah's Jessie costume, since tutus are an essential daily wardrobe component around here and I've honed my skills at making them.

Here's the thing: Sarah won't wear pants. Leggings are her one concession to anything that covers the leg.  Otherwise, no denim, cordoroy, or woven material of any kind may sheathe her stems.  Two years into it, I'm beginning to lose hope that this is just a phase.  Anyway, after seeing little brother's tricked-out (store bought) Buzz Lightyear costume, she HAD to be Jessie.  Albeit, a Jessie sans pants. 

What's a mom to do? Make a tutu, that's what.  I saw this tutu getup on Pinterest, and thought it was a look my diva might embrace.

The costume is boiled down to a tutu, a cow print overskirt, and an appliqued t-shirt.  First off, I based my tutu construction on this tutorial, sans ruffles.

Here's what you need:
  • 4.5 to 5 yards of 45" wide blue tulle (fits an average-height 4T)  *I only used 4 yards, but I would definitely use 5 for the next go-round, to make it extra fluffy)
  • 1" wide elastic
  • scissors
  • standard sewing notions
 Step 1: Leave the tulle folded lengthwise, just as it came off the bolt.  Fold the tulle lengthwise again, matching the doubled side with the raw edge.  Your fabric should now measure 5 yards by 22.5".

Step 2: Press the tulle along the long folded edge, with the iron set at a low temperature, so as not to melt the tulle.

Sorry for the pink.  I think we might have a little Sugar Plum Fairy twirling around here for Christmas ;)

Step 3: Sew your casing for the elastic.  Measure about 1 1/4" inches from the folded edge and mark with pins (or just use the guides on your machine), and sew along that line, leaving both ends open.

Step 4: Measure your child's waist, and add an inch to it.  Cut your elastic to that measurement and attach a safety pin to one end.

Step 5: Thread the elastic into the casing, safety-pinned end first, sliding it out the other side.  Make sure you hold on to the other end.

Step 6:  Once the elastic has been threaded through the casing and your tulle is all nice and scrunchy, pin the two ends of the elastic together and sew.

Step 7: Fluff your tutu.

Now, for the overskirt.

You need:
  • 1 yard of cow-print fabric (you'll have a lot left over)
  • 2 yards of red grosgrain ribbon
  • 2 yards of mini-pom-pom trim
  • sewing notions
  • scissors
  • circle-skirt pattern (I used this one here.  LOVE all of her patterns.  Here's a tutorial if you're good at math)
This is basically just a circle skirt, sized to fit the child's waist and allowing for no stretch.  

Step 1: Fold your  yard of cow-print fabric in half lengthwise.  Fold it over again, making a rectangle with your short, raw sides together. 

 Step 2: Place your circle skirt pattern in the top left corner of your fabric, like this:

Sorry for the different fabric.  Didn't have enough cow-print.
 Step 3: Cut around the top and bottom of the fabric, where your waist and hems will be.  Leave the folded sides intact.

Step 4 (Optional): If you have a serger, you can serge the waist and hem edges to finish them off.  I didn't, just because I was pressed for time and running out of white thread.

Step 5: Cut up the middle of the circle skirt, rounding the bottom of the cut edges.

Step 6: Find the middle of a length of grosgrain ribbon that is at least 10 inches longer that your child's waist measurement.  Pin the middle of the ribbon to the middle of the skirt, and then pin the ribbon over the top of the waistband, leaving long enough ends to tie a bow at the waist.

Step 7: Topstitch the ribbon to the skirt waist all the way around.

Step 8: Follow steps 6 & 7 for the mini-pom-pom trim around the hem, and you're almost there.

Step 9: Insert child, and add any cowgirl accessories you have on hand. (I also made some Jessie hair, an appliqu├ęd t-shirt, and some cowgirl cuffs for the shirt.)

Step 10: Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Funk

All of us over here at the House of Brown have been in something of a funk lately.  The funk has manifested itself in various ways: enforcing mandatory fun (which is never fun), emotional withdrawal, or, in Will's case, all-out demonic possession.  

After a tense weekend involving a fair amount of bribery and a WHOLE lot of time-outs, we headed out in the front yard to burn some daylight and get some fresh air.  And... we stumbled upon the cure for the funk:

Pool noodles and superhero capes.

So, do you need a cure for the funk? Put on a superhero cape, grab a pool noodle, and whack your dad in the kneecaps with it.  Over, and over, and over again. 

 Definition of a Super Dad: somebody who will take a beating for the mental health of his family.

In times of uncertainty and chaos, one man stands for justice.  And pool noodles.

Defenders of the neighborhood
I'm a big fan of this game (which we've been playing for 2 nights running), mostly because my character is named (undeservedly) "Super Mommy".  Also, my role is getting the heroes to huddle-up, make a plan, and then yell, "CHARGE!" as they blitz Mike (the Monster).  

At least for a little while Sunday night, a family game of running around, hollering, and smacking each other with foam, we let loose and had actual fun, instead of mandatory fun.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veteran's Day and a Momentous Occasion

Today, our littlest soldier would like to salute military veterans and heroes past and present.

  My brother got Sarah and Will these VCU's? (ACLU's? IOU's?) I forgot the acronym.  Anyway, my brother got this uniform for Sarah and Will about 3 years ago, and today seemed like the perfect occasion to try them on.  By the way, this getup is a pimped-out mini-version of the real deal.  She has her name on it, some patches, and I think she outranks my brother.

 In case you're wondering, teddy bears are NOT standard issue in the army, unless you're part of the elite preschool battalion known as the Little Rascals. 
 Oh, and why is this a momentous occasion?  Sarah is wearing pants.  For the first time in 2 years.  And she's SMILING about it.

 I'm pretty sure this qualifies as conduct unbecoming an officer.  Probably won't get a court martial, but I'm thinking she'll be cleaning latrines and doing pushups for it.

Detail of the uniform
 Does anyone know why the flag is backwards?

Meanwhile, little brother wanted to get in on the dress-up action too, but he refused to wear the uniform.  Apparently, he's part of the fabled black ops Bumblebee Brigade. 
Naturally, our man specializes in demolitions.

We also got a little crafty for the occasion as well, taking inspiration from the paper marigolds we made for Dia de los Muertos, and turning them into red poppies, the international symbol for Remembrance Day.  

Hooray for pipecleaners, tissue paper, and buttons!

Sorry for the crummy pictures of our poppy-making.  The situation began to deteriorate and Mike and I found ourselves surrounded by hostile indigenous personnel.  

Friday, November 9, 2012

It's Never Too Early...

For some Thanksgiving songs!

Especially since Thanksgiving is really early this year.

Our kids are at prime song-singing ages, and Sarah informed me the other day that her "voice is an instrument".  I dropped the ball on finding any new material for Halloween so I was determined that I would search high and low for some good Thanksgiving songs/rhymes.  Thank goodness for the 'Net.  I found one silly rhyme about turkeys and another more educational ditty about the first Thanksgiving.  Unfortunately, I don't know what website I found these on, but I just thought I'd pass them along to you folks out there to sing with your little folks while you wait for the turkey to cook.

5 Little Turkeys

5 little turkeys standing at the door,
One waddled off and then there were four.

4 little turkeys sitting near a tree,
One waddled off and then there were three.

3 little turkeys with nothing to do,
One waddled off and then there were two.

2 little turkeys in the morning sun,
One waddled off and then there was one.

1 little turkey better run away,
For soon it will be Thanksgiving Day!

Upon the Mayflower (to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle")

Upon the Mayflower pilgrims sailed
Until America's Plymouth was hailed.

They anchored there in 1620
Food nearly gone, and hardships plenty.

Indians shared their seeds, meat, and corn
That's how the first Thanksgiving was born!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Magical Properties of Play Dough

Back in September, I signed up to bring favors for S & W's class Halloween parties.  No biggie, right?

My original plan was to make some witches' fingers and skele-bones crayons for each classmate and tie them up all cute in a bag.

It soon became clear that, since I didn't start the process a month in advance, there was no way it was getting done in time for school on Tuesday.

So, I went to my two go-to places for kids' stuff: Pinterest and Vicki Lansky's Feed Me! I'm Yours, a book my mom passed on to me when I became a mama.  I saw the pumpkin pie spice play dough jack-o-lanterns on Pinterest, and did a mash-up with the no-cook play dough recipe in FMIY.  

Here is the end result, plus some monster teeth for extra fun:

I knew my peeps were going to need some of their own to play with from now until Thanksgiving, so I whipped up a batch and plopped it on the dinner table.  Surprisingly, this time Sarah was the one who asked "Can we eat it?".

Now, to the people out there who don't like play dough because it's too messy (ahem, Mike): it's actually a really versatile learning tool.  Just squishing it around builds hand strength, getting those digits ready to write.  You can also use it to learn solid shapes, letters, and numbers, not to mention all of the creative activity it sparks in those brimming brains.

Here's the recipe, if you want to make your own: (Adapted from Feed Me, I'm Yours! and the inter-web)

No-Cook Pumpkin Pie Spice Play Dough

  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. alum
  • lump of pumpkin pie spice
  • orange food coloring
Add in a little bit of water at a time until the mixture is the consistency of bread dough, not more than 1/2 cup of water.  If you're going to add food coloring, mix it into the water before you add it to the dough.  Hand it to your kids, and hop on Pinterest for awhile.  This will keep indefinitely if stored in an airtight container.  And nobody eats it.  **I doubled this recipe for Sarah and Will.**

Back to playtime.  I gave the kids the standard plastic utensils, but they wanted rolling pins.  Sorry, but the only rolling pin we have is enormous.  So, I solved the problem by giving them cans of vegetables: same principal, different look.  They had a great time using them to roll out the dough and cutting it with cookie cutters, but then they took it in a different direction.

So, here's the incontestable proof that my children are creative geniuses:

They took the cans intended for rolling out the dough, and turned them into "Mr. Play dough Heads".

They gave them hair, ears, eyes, the works.  
Every single day they find new ways to surprise and amaze me.

Seriously, go out and get some pumpkin spice and alum and whip up a batch of this stuff.  The smell alone is worth it, not to mention the fact that you might be able to get caught up on Facebook or (gasp!) read a book.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Halloween: I'm Over It

Thanks, Halloween, for being the gift that keeps on giving.  Sugar highs give way to sugar crashes.  Being out after dark leads to sleep deprivation that snowballs into the perfect storm of meltdowns and tantrums.

Don't get me wrong, I love Halloween.  But this mid-week nonsense has left us all with a SERIOUS case of TGIF.

The big day started out bright and sunny.  Those fake monster teeth were a big hit with the kiddos.

Mike had the day off, so he decided to wear the Brown family Winnie the Pooh suit to drop off the kids at school, frightening  delighting young children throughout the halls of learning.  

Will wore the bee costume, a rather snug size 18 months, and Sarah was a donut with some bite to it.

Since I was at work until 4:00, Mike got the kids ready for the neighborhood Halloween parade.  Will went as Buzz Lightyear, but Sarah went through another wardrobe change and emerged as 
Princess Tiana. I called it, didn't I? I can't be too upset, because the Jessie costume got a whole lot of wear, and it wasn't a whole lot of work to make.
Who could refuse this face?
The trick-or-treaters were undaunted by the cold weather, but the parents secretly hoped that they'd forget about going out after an all-too-brief dinner break.

Will went up to a grand total of 4 houses, and then parked himself in the wagon, from whence he staunchly refused to move.  The girls proved their stamina and hit all of the houses on our end of the street, coming away with a good haul.  

We had a great time, but I'm glad to be on the other side of this holiday.  Only 362 days left to figure out our costumes for next year...