Saturday, March 30, 2013

Happy Easter

My sister lives on a (more dirt than) gravel township road in the county that we grew up in.  They bought the farm right next to her father in law's farm.  They are slowly reclaiming land and buildings that time and neglect had taken over.  Their home was built in the late 1800's and has the crooked walls and delicate plumbing to show for it.  My sister's flock of sheep still has remnants of our 4-H sheep in the blood.

There are two different roads that we can take to get to her place.  Regardless of which path we choose, there will be a cow in the road.  This reliability is comforting. 

We celebrated Easter at her farm today.

Cora had a blast playing in the barn. 

Lily and I never quite made it out to the barn.

There were lambs to feed.

But "driving" a tractor is much more fun.

Happy Easter from the Smiths!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Monday, March 25, 2013

My favorite things

Oprah's not on anymore, right?  The only television I seem to watch anymore is Wonder Pets (who comes up with those noises that the rescued animals make?) on Netflix so I'm a bit out of the loop.  We also cancelled our Dish about a year ago, so unless it is broadcast, we're not watching it. 

I turned 32 last week.  I had to double check, I couldn't remember if it was 32 or 31.  Scott got me a new laptop.  He also placed a box of cake mix on my desk before leaving for work that morning with a note saying it was for the weekend.  We're planners like that.  

To celebrate, I'm going to give you a list of things that I'm loving right now.  This is also somewhat of a digital scrapbook for me to look back on next year. 

1. Keurig - I held off for a long time.  We already have a coffee pot and an electric kettle on the countertop.  Totally worthsies. I buy my k-cups at a local discount grocery ($0.41/each) and I'm going to check the prices at Costco.

2. Organix Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo - This smells kind of amazing and is only like $5 at Target.

3. Sharpie Pen - Not as bleedy as a sharpie, but I've never had to do the 'pissed-off scratch random paper to make it work' dance. 

4.Nutella - I put a spoonful in my oatmeal every morning.  I have no illusions about it being healthy, but it's so good. 

5. Nars Primer - Until I found this, any eye makeup ended hanging out along the crease within a few hours.  This keeps everything in place until I wash it off.  I could probably sleep in it and my eye makeup would still be where I put it. 

6. Black ballet flats - I'm not a heels kind of girl.  I'm a klutz and I have a toddler and a baby to wrangle, so that's just not a good combination.  I have this pair from Torrid.  For those of us that have not-so-small feet, plus size retailers usually have a good selection of larger size and wide width shoes.  After 2 kids, my shoe size went up about a size and a half.

7. RSS feeds - Up until about a week ago, I would have linked to Google Reader.  Seeing as Google made the awesome decision to get rid of it this year, my current favorite is Feedly.  An RSS reader puts all of your blogs in one place and new posts just show up.  I remember having tens of tabs up across my browser before this discovery. 

8.Childish Gambino - As a stay at home mom of two in a rural area, I can pretty much guarantee that I'm not the target audience for this music, but I love it.  I love it hard.  Childish Gambino is the stage name of Donald Glover (adorable Troy from Community) and every time I listen to it, I catch one more super-clever incident of word play that I hadn't caught before. Of course I'd love the nerdy stuff about rap.

9.  Rick Steves - I'm attracted to his mind, Scott.  I recently attended a lecture at the local library by Rick.  Much to Scott's surprise, I didn't embarass myself when he signed my copy of his Travel as a Political Act book.  Rick is a tour guide, tv and radio host, and author and has built a travel empire around Europe Through the Back Door.  We used his books when traveling to Germany and Switzerland a few years ago.  His travel philosophy allows you to travel cheaply and to immerse yourself in the local culture.  He's like the anti-Rudy Maxa.  PBS joke?  Anyone?  Bueller?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Salvaged Mickey Mouse Shirt

In my Pinterest overload, I'd seen bleach pen t-shirts. Oh, I've seen lots of bleach pen shirts on Pinterest.

It seemed pretty self-explanatory.
1. Mark out pattern onto shirt.
2. Put cardboard between so it doesn't bleed through to the back.
3. Trace with bleach pen.
4. Rinse off and wash.

I think my first mistake was to combine freezer paper and bleach pen DIY.  
 Bleaching away

I found the Mickey picture online and cut it out of the freezer paper using an exacto knife and my cutting mat. I then ironed it onto the shirt (waxy side down!). So far, so good. 

I took the bleach pen and colored in the spots that I had cut away.  From my research, it was supposed to take 15-30 minutes to start bleaching.  I waited over an hour with no real results other than a bleach-induced headache.

I peeled the paper off to find this hot mess.  What I thought was just the color of the bleach gel was the shirt getting ever so much lighter. 


I should have immediately peeled off the freezer paper after the bleach pen process so I could have seen how the image was taking the bleach.  As it was, I was bleaching blind and it seeped under the paper.  Because I had paid a whole $3 for the shirt, I had to salvage it.  I come from a long line of wrapping paper savers.  Saving is in my blood.   

Enter DIY process #2: fabric paint.

I wanted to just clean up the lines, so I made another freezer paper stencil.  This time, I used some fabric paint (for the love of God, don't use puffy paint - it's not the 80's) and a spongy brush.  

  Let's just call it vintage.

It's not perfect, but you can actually tell it's Mickey.  

  Does it look like she's trying 
to get away?  She was.

It went quite nicely with a Mickey Mouse skirt I bought from uniquejas on Etsy.   

What I learned:

 - If you're going to use a bleach pen, don't do a very intricate design.  The bleach bleeds a bit and muddles your design.   
 - Take off the pattern immediately so you can see what's happening.
 - Freezer paper stencils are really easy to do with fabric paint.
 - Cora likes Disney characters from afar.   

Update 5.20.13:  I have more Disney DIY crafts here, here, and here.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Public nudity that's totally legal

Y'all, I get to meet Rick Steves.  In 3 days.  This could go one of two ways.  I'll either hide in the back of the room or embarrass myself by going all fangirl on him.  In anticipation of this event, I'm doing important things like freaking out as I try to figure out what to wear and deciding if I have enough time to cram in a manicure.  You know, the important stuff.

This won't be the first time I've been close to meeting my travel icon.  Years ago, I submitted a safe-for-NPR version of the following story to his radio show.  Due to a little mix up regarding time zones (long story short, I'm bad with math), the show called to get me on air to discuss it and I totally missed the call.

Without further ado, this is my story of how Rick Steves tricked me into looking at weiners on my wedding anniversary. So, so many weiners. 


Scott and I didn't take a honeymoon after we got married.  It was always the plan to go somewhere to celebrate our anniversary a year later.  This allowed vacation time and bank accounts time to rebound after the wedding.  With mom dying 6 weeks before our wedding, I was even more happy that we made this decision.  I wasn't in the mood to do any traveling.

I researched options for the anniversary trip: random islands in the Caribbean, out of the way resorts in Mexico.  Each location got a lukewarm reaction from Scott.  He finally perked up when I started looking into Europe.

We decided on Germany and Switzerland.  We liked it so much that we went back two more times before having kids.

But this story is about a town called Baden-Baden in Germany.  It sits in the Black Forest and is home to the ritziest casino I've ever been to.  I've been to Vegas a few times and while I consider the casinos there to be palatial, they're more gaudy and crass than fancy.  This place requires men to wear jackets.
I was afraid to touch anything.

It's also home to mineral springs.  Naturally, there are spas that take advantage of the mineral-rich water.  There are two main options to "take the waters" in Baden-Baden.  The Caracalla seems to be more swimming pool than spa experience.  The Friedrichsbad is all spa. 

Fancy, huh?

Like any PBS fan, I love Rick Steves' Europe show.  He also has a very through and useful guidebook series for cities and regions all over Europe.  The Germany guidebook has a section about the Friedrichsbad that is very specific about the steps involved in going through the bath.

Step one was exit the locker naked.  There were no signs explaining this.  Honestly, I poked my head out a few times looking for other naked people to assure I was supposed to be.  Eventually, I found the entrance to the spa at the corner of the locker room.  The friendly attendant asked me "Erste mal?" (first time?)  Naah, this is a thing I do.  Come here often and hang out with other naked ladies.  Whatevs.

The guidebook also says that a few steps of the experience are co-ed, but not many.  I was prepared for this.  

Rick Steves is a dirty, dirty liar.

ALL of it was co-ed.  I don't know if that was a new rule or maybe just the rule on a Sunday afternoon, but there were weiners everywhere.  I was raised Lutheran people - there's a certain level of modesty that is assumed.  Needless to say, I was a bit tense. 

At the welcome desk, I added the soap brush massage option to my spa experience. When Rick got his on TV, his butt was covered by a towel and he laid on his stomach for the duration of the clip.  Ah, the magic of television...  I laid down and the massotherapist told me to lay on my back.  My cleavage has never been cleaner.  Allow me to remind you that this is all in German, so I'm doing a hell of a job verstehing her while freaking the hell out about my jiggly bits on display.  She had me flip over and worked on my back.  I knew she was finished when she smacked me on the ass.  No, I'm not kidding.  

Of course all of the massage tables (more like slabs of marble) were in one cavernous room ohne partitions.  Well hello mister naked German, how are you?  Did you grow that hairy back yourself?

There was a young German couple ahead of me in the steam room.  The woman started up a conversation with me.  I couldn't keep up with her German, so I meekly apologized and said that English was my first language.  I can either be naked or speak remedial German, not both.

She quickly switched to English and we had a nice chat in which we stared over each others heads the entire time.  She said it was their first time to this kind of spa as well and they weren't sure what to expect. I explained I was from Ohio. She said "oh, Salt Lake City is the capital, right? No, that's the capital of Idaho." I preferred not to correct the naked German woman.  During this whole time, her boyfriend is doing what can only be called strutting around the room - fiddling with knobs on showers and who knows what else.  Dude, sit down. 
The model on this Swiss underwear ad 
would have been waayyy overdressed.

Conversation tapered off and after I sat there for what seemed like an appropriate amount of time post-conversation, I moved on to the pools.  Thank God the ceilings are decorated in gorgeous mosaic tiles, because that's where I looked most of the time.  I don't know the rules about eye contact in these places and I'd rather err on the side of caution.  

After three pools, one frosty dip, and getting dried off in a huge linen bathsheet, I was led to a room lined with vanities and mirrors.  Each station has a huge bottle of lotion that has an earthy, metallic hint mixed in with the fragrance.

The next stop is a warm, quiet room where I was swaddled in a bundle of sheets and blankets and made to rest.  Up until this point, each attendant was a woman in her early 40's.  Nope, not at this stop.  That's right, a gawky college-aged young man tucked me in because of course he did. 

After naptime, I headed back towards the locker room and rescued my clothes from the locker.

One of the things that helped convince me to go to the spa was that I would never see these people again and I would kick myself for not doing it.  After the cold plunge, there was a bit of a bottleneck as attendants were trying to get bathers dried off.  The next morning, the older couple I waited behind at the towels were seated at the next table at breakfast.  So much for never seeing these people again. 

I enjoyed being pushed out of my comfort zone.  This was one of the highlights of my trip.  I suppose that if the account in Rick Steves' guidebook had explained my spa experience exactly, I don't know if I would have gone.

Well played, Rick.

FYI - Scott didn't go along with me.  He went to the Deutsche Markt convenience store instead - lame.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Miss Austen

I'm a relative latecomer to Jane Austen.   I don't remember any of her books being a required reading in high school.  The lone English class I remember in college was called Fiction and Film.  We watched Angela's Ashes.  An entire semester of reading/movie watching and that's all I can remember. 

Miss Austen is now my new favorite author.  Pride and Prejudice is my current favorite.  Hell, it'll probably be my all-time favorite.  I'm also a fan of Emma.  

I'm embarrassed to admit that a mini-series sparked my interest.  I was up watching Lost in Austen until the wee hours of the morning a few years ago.  Sadly, it's no longer on Netflix.  From there, I read Pride and Prejudice as a free Kindle book and I haven't stopped.  Cheesy fan fic?  Sold!

My current favorite is the YouTube series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries which is a contemporary web series in conjunction with 'real time' Twitter feeds and Tumblr accounts.  It's a beautiful thing.  I watched the first few videos and thought "This has a definite Hank Green vibe about it."  I was totally right, he's one of the developers.  

If you don't have that kind of time to devote to watching hours of YouTube video, this one makes me laugh. 

We've got ears, say cheers! (at least I think that's what they say)

My kid has an issue with hair accessories.  She refuses to wear barrettes or headbands, which is a bit of a pain in the ass because with her hair style (and I hesitate to call it a style), she many times gets mistaken for a boy.  People thought I was a boy when I was a kid due to my permed mushroom cut (thanks mom!) and I hated it.  I try to walk the line with Cora.  I don't want to shower her in glitter and pink, but I'd like her to stop being called a he.

I kept this in mind when deciding to buy or make Mickey ears for her.  I could spend an hour and some yarn I already had on hand, or spend $15-20(? I have no idea how much they actually cost) on a pair at Disney and end up storing them in the stroller the whole time.

 This ball moves around less than a toddler.

The pattern I used was Minnie Mouse Headband from Jennifer Pionk.  It came together very quickly, even after having to crochet the base part twice.  The trick is to weave the store-bought elastic headband through as you go - this isn't noted in the pattern notes that I saw.  I left off the bow because Cora's more of a Mickey girl than a Minnie girl. 

Another thing I'd do differently is to sew the base to the headband.  While putting it on and taking it off, it gets a little twisted where it's woven.  I think if the ends were tacked down at each weave, I'd want to throw it out the window less.  

My guess was right, she refused to wear the damn thing during the entire trip.  Therefore there aren't any action shots of it.  To be honest, I don't even know where it is now.

Scott did manage to get her to wear a Minnie Mouse baseball hat with ears that we bought in the resort shop at the Boardwalk.  He's still trying to get her to wear it around here.  She mostly refuses it everytime.  It's the fashion equivalent to trying to make fetch happen. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013



I've always been one of those people that scoffed at that guy.  You know, the one that wears the t-shirt prominently displaying the band to the concert.  I'm a Judgey McJudgerson - I can't help it.

In a complete reversal, I became that guy that wants my kids to wear Disney head to toe at Walt Disney World.  I'm aware of the cost of Disney licensed goods, so I decided to make some myself.  I have a general knowledge of sewing, I own an exacto knife and a cutting mat, and a Pinterest addiction.  WHAT COULD GO WRONG?

My first project was some sort of mouse ears for my 7 month old.  I didn't want to spend money on anything that I knew she'd wear only for a few photos.  I chose the Mickey and Minnie Mouse Crochet Hat on Ravelry created by Sarah Zimmerman.  P.S. - Ravelry is needlecraft-specific Pinterest.

I made the largest size available, which was 6-9 months.  I tend to crochet rather tightly, so this barely fit her.  I should have known better.  The pattern calls for two black circles for each ear, but I was crunched for time and only did one.  It also calls for real buttons, but I just made a couple of white circles instead.

I personalized it a bit more by chaining some yellow yarn and sewing it into an L shape for Lily.  It turned out rather well.

This hat came in handy on our trip in February.  Evenings were a bit chilly and this kept my bald baby warm.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

We went to Disney and I was consumed by Pinterest

Shortly after my last blog post (I know, I know, it's been forever), we decided to give Walt Disney World a try with 2 kids under 3.  We bought plane tickets for the first week of February.

I say this with only a hint of hyperbole: I went batshit crazy making Disney shirts and clothing for the kids for most of the month of January.  I was the crazy lady with rit dye stained hands from tie dyeing matching Mickey Mouse head shirts.  Much to my family's dismay, we learned that sewing machines at 3 am are in fact NOT quiet, regardless of how slowly you run them.

I'll be posting a short series of projects here of what I made leading up to our trip.  Here's a tip: If you've constantly got your baby in a bib, don't bother making cute onesies.  Spend that time making cute bibs.  Lesson learned.

Here's a teaser picture of one of the projects I finished.

FYI - This castle is more 'authentic European castle'
 than normal thanks to the crane.  I'm fairly 
certain Europe uses scaffolding as currency.