Friday, June 28, 2013

Potato-Print Star T-shirts

Who's ready for the Fourth?!

Not me.  Not yet anyway.  We have to celebrate an even more important birth tomorrow. (Pssst.  I'll give you a hint: her name starts with "S" and ends in a silent "H".)

But at least we won't go shirtless on the big day, because we've got stars.  

AND stripes.

It all started when I saw this at Old Navy and some old potatoes in my pantry.  I thought, "Hey, wouldn't it be fun/insane to let the kids make their own stamped t-shirts?!" 

So, I gathered my fabric paints, plain t-shirts, star paper punch, potatoes, paint brushes, and X-acto knife and went to work. 
The fist thing I did was turn on My Little Pony for the kids.  *This step is critical if you want to have any hope of getting things ready without slicing off a thumb. 

Next, I punched my star out of some scrap paper as my template.  You could draw it yourself, but mine kept turning out all wonky.  

I cut the potatoes in half and stuck the template on the cut part. Then, I made some cuts around the template, slicing all the way to the edge of the tater.  Once that was done, I made a shallow cut around the brown skin of the potato and popped the extra pieces of potato out, leaving a perfect little star.  

Ok, the hard part is done.  Now you just have to keep your little Monets from getting fabric paint all over the house.  

We took it outside, and here's our setup:
To avoid the color-mixing pitfalls inherent in painting, I designated a potato stamp and paint brush for each color.

Before we started painting, we inserted some freezer paper between the t-shirt layers so we wouldn't have any bleed-through in the final results and to make a smoother surface to write on or use the brushes, if they got tired of stamping.

And, AWAY they went!
Will went for a smattering of stars...
While Sarah reinterpreted VanGogh's masterpiece as wearable art:
I tried to recreate the Old Navy shirt.  
BTW, you know you're cheap when you're knocking off Old Navy.
Once the colored paint dried, we went back and added 
some glow-paint stars for a cool night-time effect.

And here's the finished product:

This project exceeded my very low expectations in several ways:
no fights broke out during the painting, 
we kept the colors decidedly un-sludgelike,
and nobody got paint anywhere besides the t-shirts.

I call that a rousing success.

Happy Friday!

P.S. If you're looking for a patriotic painting project, this one from last year was super-fun.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Shake it up, Baby!

Now that we watch other channels besides Disney Jr., I find my young progeny humming the tune to the McDonald's jingle and advising me on my choice of toilet bowl cleaner (CLR is superior to all others, according to Sarah).  They respond especially strongly to cereal and PillowPets infomercials, but recently they saw an ad for PERSONAL Ice Cream Makers.

PERSONAL.  As in, I can make myself some of my favorite dessert anytime I want in any flavor I want. At least according to the kids' brand of logic. 

"Just shake it to make it, Mommy!!!"

After that, it was all over.  They had one thing on their minds, and nothing else would do.  For people who can't find the 2,000 lb. tiger lounging right in front of them at the zoo, they had surprisingly little trouble spotting the last remaining Ice Cream Magic at the back of the top shelf at the grocery store. 

But, I'm a super-mean mom, so I said no. 

The thing is, I know exactly how they feel.  I love an infomercial, and the As Seen On TV section is my favorite place in the store.  In fact, I am CONVINCED that my life would be more exciting if only I had a Slap-Chop, and nothing gets my juices flowing like the sound of the words "Call now, and you'll get not one, but TWO Slap-Chops for only $19.95 plus shipping and handling!"  

So, eventually I broke down.  I mean, making ice cream is on my summer bucket list, after all.  We picked out the last two Ice Cream Magics in the store and went home to make, uh, magic.  And ice cream.

Ahh, the As-Seen-On-TV gene is strong in these two.  

 Will wanted "pink banilla" but our choices were strictly vanilla or chocolate.  No worries, he was happy with neon pink food coloring in his heavy cream mixture.  I thought we could do this outside, but people were much too excited to wait.  

So, we set to work shaking...
 And shaking....
 And shaking it.
 Whew!  That was a looooong 3 minutes.

But the results were delicious, if a bit soupy.

Nobody seemed to mind, though, and a unanimous consensus was reached that Ice Cream Magic was indeed magical.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sun Tea

Sun tea. Don't you just love the way that sounds?

To me, it sums up summer.

My tea-drinking ways come from my mom.  Hot or iced, sweet or not, it's our comfort food. I've passed the tea-gene on to Will, whose feelings about sweet tea run as deep and strong as the orange pekoe he adores.  

Sarah prefers to serve lemonade at her tea parties.  That one is destined to be a coffee-drinker on down the road.

I remember my mom making sun tea once or twice when I was younger, during the dog days of a Memphis summer.  The name made me think that there was some sort of magic going on, like it could only be made at high noon on the summer solstice or something. 

Twenty-five years later, a cloudless 90-degree day (the first day of summer, actually), I decided to try it for myself. 

So I gathered my materials: 
  • Glass pitcher
  •  7 tea bags (nothing fancy, just plain old Lipton)
  • water
  • Saran wrap
  • Sun
*I saw online that the ratio of teabags to water should be about 2:1 ratio of ounces of water to grams of tea, but, seriously, who's going to do all that measuring?
And filled the pitcher with water.  I stuck the teabags in, covered the top of the pitcher with plastic (no Saran wrap here, so I had to use a cut-open Ziploc and a rubber band), and set it out to let the sun work its magic for about 4 hours. 
Here's what it looked like when I first set the pitcher out to brew:

Even my future-coffee-drinker got caught up in the idea a little and we talked about how the sun was going to be our heat source, instead of our teakettle.

By dinnertime, we were ready to sample our concoction: 
More delicate than traditionally-brewed tea, the sun tea appealed to some of us more than others.  Sarah enjoyed her glass immensely, while Will took a sip and handed it back with a grimace.  I was somewhere in between, since I like my tea on the strong side, too. 

I think I'll try mixing in some fruit or lemonade next time.  
Any way you dress it up or pour it, the official drink of summer rarely disappoints.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Disney Domination

Hey, did any of you know that Disney World is a race?

Me neither.  But, apparently it's on the Y chromosome to attack Disney World at a flat-out sprint, leaving your wife and short-legged children far behind in your single-minded effort to ride on EVERY SINGLE RIDE as fast as possible.  I'm getting Mike a shirt that says,
 "I Won Disney and All I Got Was This Stupid T-shirt."  

Seriously, though, we got to the Magic Kingdom at 8:00 a.m., 
didn't leave until 8:00 pm, and never once had a stroller.  

Like I said, we got to the park at 8:00, so that meant catching the bus over there at 7:00.
Will is not my morning person, can you tell? 
I was trying to get a shot of their reaction to seeing Cinderella's Castle, but these seasoned travelers were only mildly impressed.

And we were on our way!
Mike hadn't started sprinting yet, so I could take pictures instead of huffing 
and puffing to keep up.
Even though we'd promised to hit the teacups first thing, we stopped at a few other rides along the way.  First up was the Ariel/Under the Sea ride, 
then the Barnstormer, and Dumbo. 
I think what makes Disney all happy and magical is not the cheesy, too-short rides or the sweaty, too-long lines.  Nope, it's the fact that I can remember being Sarah's age and riding Dumbo and the teacups. There's a picture of me at age 5 riding Dumbo with my dad(?), and checking out my brother stuck in the stocks.
My roller-coaster buddy was still waking up.
We discovered two things about our kids at the theme park: Sarah is a roller-coaster hound and Will is NOT.
 Between his aversion to chocolate and his nervousness about roller-coasters, I'm not quite sure if he's actually related to me.  But we're keeping him anyway.
Going into this, Mike and I were trying to keep expectations low and plans loose so the kids could go at their own pace (ha!) and do what they wanted to do and see what they wanted to see. We only planned to ride 4 key rides and see a character or something.
Consequently, by 10 am, we had checked almost everything off of our must-do list and needed to map out a new plan. 

The new plan included visiting Winnie the Pooh:
Rapunzel's Tower:
And one of Will's favorites, the rocket ships in Tomorrowland:
After all of that, we needed some vittles.  Others of us needed a nap.
Refreshed and rejuvenated, we headed back into the fray for more adventures.
Mike and I tried soooo hard to convince Sarah that this was the parade:
But she wasn't buying what we were selling.

Around this time, we finally experienced the miraculous invention called the FastPass.  Even though we'd heard of it before, we thought you had to pay extra to skip the line.  According to a Disney employee, "We don't charge extra.  This ain't Universal."  
As the day wore on, we got a little braver with our ride choices, taking the munchkins on Pirates of the Caribbean (A/C, glorious A/C!),

And the Haunted Mansion.  
The enigma that is Will Brown had no problem with either of these kind of scary experiences, even though Goofy's mini-roller coaster had him clawing me for dear life.  Meanwhile the Sis and I were pretty jumpy and a little freaked out when the Haunted Mansion ride stopped 3 TIMES while we were on it. 

We put Daddy in the stocks for that.

Then, in a stunning lapse of judgement, bought ourselves some swords.
Rookie move, I tell ya.
The rest of the day was spent accidentally stabbing fellow tourists, smacking each other, and trying to find a place to stow the darn things on rides.

Here's the part where I sound old and crotchety.  
Since when did Disney characters hold press conferences?  
Back in the day, Mickey and his cronies came to the people, 
the people didn't go to them. 
Oh, well, I guess when you're a princess, you get to hold court.  So that's where we met up with Tiana.  And a seriously hardcore Disney family.  They thought we were kind of weird for only coming to the park one day.  
I thought the same about them coming back every year.  
Every. Year. 

We capped the day off with a drive around the race track.
I think this was Will's favorite because he got to combine impossibly slow driving with reckless driving.  It kind of made me homesick for Nashville drivers;)  

Mike couldn't figure out why I was so whiny and the kids were so tired 
until I told him it was 8 pm. 

So, yeah, we did one day of Disney.  And we were glad to keep it that way.  We had a great time and the kids were troopers, but you could not have convinced me to go back and do it all over again the next day. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Florida Vacation, Part 1

We just came back on Sunday from an 8-day trip to Florida, and I'm currently starring in a new reality show called When Laundry Attacks!
Actually, Mike had a conference in Orlando, and it seemed like an optimum time to visit family as well, so we thought we'd squeeze it all in to one glorious whirlwind 
we like to call: Family Togetherness on Steroids.

We kicked things off with a 4:00 am wake-up call on Saturday morning and a trip through the McDonald's Drive-Thru/Social Hour With Your Homies and Make Us Almost Miss Our Flight.  After a leisurely trip through security, we sprinted to the gate with approximately 17 seconds to spare, plopping down in our last-row seats with a collective sigh of relief. 

Let me tell you, air travel is a whole different ball game when your peeps can walk and you're not hauling bottles and diapers.  Up until now, flying with the kids has been an event to which I counted down with all of the glee of the Doomsday Clock.  This time, instead of worrying about explosive poop and roaming gnomes toddlers, my biggest consideration was how many versions of Angry Birds to download.  

Somehow, Mike finagled a seat by himself on the way down there, while I was sandwiched between my sidekicks for two hours.  No biggie, because they were AWESOME.  Seriously, nobody even asked to go to the potty or tried to smack a sibling.  Shoot, we didn't even drop a crayon.  

I brought some of those Lincoln Log popscicle sticks along, and we built ninja traps and leprechaun houses for awhile.  

But they soon tired of that, and so it was on to Angry Birds.

Upon arrival,we totally could have tricked the kids into thinking that the Orlando airport was Disney World because of the "monorail" (train between terminals) 
and the Disney schwag. 

But we didn't.  
 After we landed, we borrowed a car and headed over to Daytona to give my Miami-bred beach boy a much-needed transfusion of sand and sea. 

 Good-natured relatives joined in the hole-digging, castle-building, and wave-jumping.

And we wore those kids out.  

The whole family celebrated Sarah's birthday (which was a little tough for Will) and splashed and played in Uncle Jami's grotto-esque pool.  Of course, we feasted and most of the grownups/older cousins capped off the night with the Brown Family Traditional Risk Tournament.  I have never actually played Risk with the fam because I am Old, Tired, and notoriously bad at board games, but it seems like it would be fun.  
If I liked really long games.  

Plus, I'm always passing out 
with the kids I'm attempting to put to bed.  

After a super-cool weekend in Daytona/Ormond, it was time to head back into Disney territory.  Hold me, I'm scared.


Monday, June 17, 2013


It's been awhile since my last post, but I promise I have good reasons.  I've been writing papers and tromping through Central Florida, only to find myself back home, mired in 45 loads of laundry.  Just as I came up for air, I realized I was a week off on Father's Day and missed it entirely. 

Not to worry, Mike got to celebrate his special day trapped between a stranger and the World's Most Talkative 3-Year-Old in a flying jalopy, and topped it off by hauling 3 car seats and a POD-sized suitcase over to Economy parking at the airport.  
 Ahhh, fatherhood.

The House of Brown has officially moved the celebration to any and all holidays back to mid-July, at which point I hope to have a clean pair of underwear and my lost luggage back.  Fingers-crossed!

Anyway, here are a few random pictures of what we've been doing for the past couple of weeks, as a little teaser for some bigger posts that are (hopefully) on the way in the next few days.
Another munchkin got this shot of my little comedian.
Downton, ahem, Down TOWN Disney
Apparently, we've gone without illness for too long.  Will sought to remedy the situation by licking some bus rails.
Never thought of Yoda as being particularly cuddly...
 I can feel the laundry readying for attack.  
Better get back to work!