Sunday, December 29, 2013

Bad ideas

We took our kids to the Trail of Lights on December 20th.  Yep, the last Friday before Christmas, two days before it closed down for the season.  It was just as insane as you would expect.  Approximately half of Austin walked through that entrance tunnel with us--a slow, plodding crush of humanity that was actually a little depressing.
Also, we were apparently not the only ones to think, "Let's go eat at Chuy's first, and then we can just walk down there right when it opens," because Chuy's was insane as well.

The next day I went to the post office to mail a few packages.

Yep, the last Saturday before Christmas, I headed to the post office.  Walked in about five minutes before closing time.  That experience actually turned out to be far less painful than I anticipated, so bravo, USPS!  May you not go bankrupt in 2014, because boy do I love sending and receiving honest-to-goodness mail, even if it is only at Christmas time.

Oh, I also waited until the afternoon of Christmas Eve to go grocery shopping.  Maybe "become a person who plans ahead" should top my list of New Year's resolutions.

Ah, well.  I hope you had a lovely Christmas week.  

To end on a good note, here is a bit of my favorite art and music for the season.

Gift of the Magi by Squirrel Nut Zippers

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Good ideas

The beauty of watching a group of kids make gingerbread houses is that after all the community frosting cans and finger licking, you will never be tempted to eat the finished product.  It's like that saying about sausage and legislation: you really don't want to see what goes into it.

Last night, one of our boys held out a handful of Nerds to me and said, "Mom, would you like some candy from my gingerbread house?"
Thankfully, before the disgusted "Ugh!  NO!" came out of my mouth, I was able to reply, "Oh, that's so kind of you to share, but no thank you."

Somehow, I now have a child old enough to be assigned a class presentation on a foreign country.  He chose Canada, and he needed a drawing of the country to attach to the poster.  I don't know if you've noticed, but Canada has a ton of islands and lots of jaggedy edges, so freehanding was out of the question.  Our paper was a little too thick to trace the outline by placing it on top of the picture in the atlas, so I figured out an ingenious solution.  Pull up a website with an appropriately-sized picture, and trace it from there.  The monitor works like a light box.

Just as I was congratulating myself on being super duper smart, my boys asked if they could salt their own popcorn.  Of course they are old enough to correctly use a salt shaker, right?

If it were snow, we'd call it a light dusting, but in salted popcorn terms, that's a blizzard.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

DIY: Make art with your kids

This is a project I've wanted to do for a long time.  You can do it too!  There are only four steps, but with drying time, it might take a couple days total.

1. Find and prime a canvas (Let it dry completely)
2. Cover with color (Let it dry completely)
3. Add pattern and texture (Let it dry completely)
4. Use a thin sharpie or marker of your choice to add doodles and drawings.
I found a couple of wall hangings in the clearance section of a home decor shop.  They were slightly damaged, which means I got them for $2.50 each.  (You could  also check thrift shops for cheap large canvases.)  The art was totally not my style, so I was happy to cover it with two coats of white paint.
Pick just a few paint colors and cover the entire canvas.  Don't pick too many or things could get muddy.  I like to stick with similar shades for the bottom layer.
Then use paintbrushes and all sorts of other tools to create a layer of pattern and texture.  We used bubble wrap and a cardboard roll as paint stamps, and even used the edge of one of those fake credit cards they send in the mail to "slice" on the black paint.
 Then doodley-doodle all over the place.
Mason insisted that we play a couple games of tic-tac-toe, and he drew me an award ribbon when I won.
 I see more collaborations in our future.
This project was inspired by Danielle Thompson's family art gallery here and Alisa Burke, who is constantly doing art with her two year old, for example, the one in her office tour here.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving, birthdays, and even a little Festivus

First, the airing of grievances.  I turned on the Christmas music radio station tonight, and the second song that came on was that wretched, horrible, utterly hateable abomination known as The Christmas Shoes.  Then Delilah's show started about ten minutes later, and what do you think she played first?  That's right.  The Christmas Shoes.  This is why I stick to my iPod.
I have much to be thankful for this year, starting with this awesome turkey platter I found at Goodwill.  Kidding!  Starting with, of course, a sweet baby that joined our family.  Followed by a good husband, those other two kids of ours, and lots of taken-for-granted things like running water, clean clothes and a warm bed.  I've been thinking a lot more about those daily comforts since the Halloween floods in Austin and Typhoon Haiyan in The Philippines.
My two big boys are both in school this year, which means I get twice the kid holiday art projects.  I truly love kid holiday art projects.
This year we started a new tradition: The First Annual Thanksgiving Weekend Star Wars Monopoly Game.  It played out over the course of three days and ended tonight, just shy of a total nuclear meltdown by Darth Vader.  It's all fun and games until you land on Imperial Palace with a Starport (in other words, Boardwalk with a hotel), and you owe your brother $2000 in rent.
Our family has a birthday season that coincides with the holiday season.  This year's birthday cake took the form of creeper brownie mosaics.  Better than pumpkin pie, if you ask me.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Retro Friday: Cabbage Patch Kids sticker book

Who wants to look at my old sticker book?  More like, who doesn't, am I right?!?

Yesterday I was deciding on the next solid food to introduce to my six month old baby, and I had a flashback to this sticker book, so I dug it out of the closet.  As you can see, I cared more about the stickers than documenting my fake baby's stats.
 I'm sad to say that my baby didn't have a best friend.

A sleepover of six unsupervised toddlers, roasting marshmallows on an open flame in the bedroom?  Where do I sign up?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Three easy projects

Inspired by this tutorial, I made a container from a heavy weight plastic bag and a roll of patterned duct tape that I already had.  Did I need another "miscellaneous" container?  Not really.  What I need is to get rid of a bunch of junk in my house.  But it's much more fun to make something to put the junk in.

I made a set of three of these ornaments, but I'm not in love with the result.  The tutorial is here, found via this blog.  The ones on the Purl Bee tutorial look better than mine, most likely because they were made with that high quality felt that they sell, rather than the cheap stuff I bought at a craft store.  Mine are kind of limp and sad.
And I've had two of these acrylic trays sitting on top of my refrigerator for years.  Literally years.  I registered for them when I was getting married, so they are quite old and out of style.  Still, they feel exceptionally juvenile to me.  Apparently, I thought that upon entering a married state, I would spend lots of time poolside, serving trays of drinks to Rainbow Brite and the gang.
It sure is a good thing that I've grown out of cartoony florals.
Oh, wait.
[Looks up at the first project, made with duct tape purchased in 2013.]

Anyway, I decided to cover the old pattern with a slightly more stylish one.  This is a sheet of gift wrap made by iota.  They put beautiful, colorful prints on things like journals and paper plates.
Mod Podge is so addictive.  This was only like my second or third time using it, and now as I walk through my house, I'm mentally decoupaging everything in sight.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Philippines Q&A with Adrienne

A few weeks ago my friend Adrienne returned from an 18 month church mission in the Philippines.  I wondered what life was like for an American living there, and she was kind enough to answer a few questions about her experience.
Since you’ve been home, what do you miss the most? What are some of your favorite things in the Philippines?

I definitely miss the filipino people the most. I miss how loving they are and they make everyone feel so special. Some of my favorite things in the Philippines are the jeepneys, the food, and the kids. The jeepneys are great because they are the most popular form of transportation and very cheap which means every single time you ride one you are packed into it with ALL different types and sizes of people. You never know what you’re going to get BUT you do know that everyone will move over for you when you get on and everyone will help you with your things as you are getting off. Though everyone is a complete stranger, they all are so helpful and always give you a big smile. Can you imagine Americans having to do that and not complaining or not being glued to their cellphones in order to avoid awkward conversation/invasion of personal space? Haha. 
The food is amazing because it’s so simple but so delicious! Every dish has rice with a side of ulam. The ulam can be anything from adobo (fried chicken in soy sauce, garlic, and vinegar) to sinigang bangus (it’s a kind of sour fish stew with peppers and tamarind). But absolutely everything is delicious and mouth watering.
The kids are great because they are all so cute. I honestly looked hard to find a kid that wasn’t cute and I just couldn’t. They are all adorable and so optimistic about life. They entertain themselves for hours on end with pots, pans, sticks, and flip flops and are incredibly respectful and obedient to their parents. I love that about their culture-everyone is just expected to help everyone out and not complain. It is such a beautiful way of life.

I read that the Philippines gets lots of tropical storms every year. Did you live in an area where that was a concern? Did you ever have to prepare for a storm or evacuate?

I didn’t live in an area where I ever had to prepare for a storm or evacuate which I am very grateful for. I did experience some flooding but it only got to the point where it was to our knees and we weren’t allowed to work for two days. But that is nothing for the Filipinos. Life goes on unless the flooding starts to get to chest level and then people start getting worried. We did help a few times in the clean-up effort and rebuilding effort two times that I can remember after a big storm where there was mild flooding and people’s things had been lost in the flood. It was so overwhelming and that wasn’t even that bad. I can’t imagine how they must be feeling right now with typhoon Haiyan. 
Adrienne says that when it rained, that ditch would quickly fill up, and kids would go swimming in it.

Have you been in touch with missionaries or other friends in the Philippines since the typhoon? If so, what can you tell us about conditions there?

I have been watching the news and keeping in touch with some people in the Philippines, but no one who is actually in the areas that have been affected. Thousands have died and thousands are still missing. I do know that all of the missionaries have been accounted for, but there was one missionary whose mom, dad, and aunt were all killed in the storm. Him and his brother who is also serving a mission were saved. There is a lot of relief work being done in the Philippines and here in the states. I have seen some pictures of the wards that I served in putting together relief goods to send to the people in tacloban and leyte. I also know of one girl who I served with who has no contact with her family and we are definitely still praying for her. I’m sure it has been devastating and scary for everyone but I know the church is doing everything it can, the members are pitching in, and it’s a miracle that all of the missionaries are safe.

What is something that people might be surprised to learn about daily life in the Philippines?

People might be surprised to learn that toilet paper is not used in the daily life of a filipino. They also have major dental problems because of lack of hygiene. Some of the poorer people wait until it rains to take a shower because of lack of clean water. Many live with no electricity. At least once a day I experienced walking by or seeing huge piles of trash on the side of the road, rotting and covered in flies. It is a very big problem and I’m sure causes a lot of sickness. I can’t count the number of times I searched for a trash can at the beginning of my mission only to realize there were none and that is why everyone litters. It is sad and could be easily solved. But people just are not aware and have grown so accustomed.

I’m sure that your mission was a life-changing experience in more ways than one. Is there anything specific to having lived in the Philippines that you will take with you as you move forward in your life, a new tradition or practice or way of thinking?

Something that I will take with me as I move forward in my life that I learned in the Philippines is the emphasis they put on their relationships. They are loyal to their friends, respect their parents, and love so much. Their kids are their everything. I know that it is like that in the church, but I feel like with technology and our busy lives, our nation as a whole is slowly losing focus of what is really important. The majority of Filipinos don’t care if they have to work all the time to barely get by as long as they have their family. They are so happy and always give credit to God for the things they do have, no matter how little. Their humility is something I definitely want to incorporate more into my own life.
Thanks, Adrienne!

If you would like to read more, Adrienne has a blog where she posted the regular updates that she sent home during her 18 months away.

This interview is part of my ploy to get you to donate to typhoon relief.  I'll be picking a jewelry winner at 5pm today, so there's still time to donate and get your name entered.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Do it!

I can't stop thinking about the situation in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan.

Death toll estimated at 10,000.

The man whose ailing father was pulled from him as they clung to a tree during the storm surge.

Bodies that need to be buried soon to prevent disease outbreak.

Survivors wandering the streets, trying to find food, water, and medicines.

Every time there is a disaster on this scale, it feels a bit obscene to be going on with my regular life.  I felt the same way when hearing reports of the Japan tsunami in 2011 and the Haiti earthquake of 2010 and the Indonesia tsunami of 2004 (which, good heavens, I just looked it up and learned that the final count there was around 227,000 people dead).  How do you learn about ten thousand deaths on a Saturday and then bake a cake or play Uno or something on a Sunday?

But of course, you just do, because you have to keep living.  And then in the middle of changing my six-month-old's diaper, I think, "How many mothers right now don't have a single diaper for their babies?"  And while slicing an apple for my kids to snack on, I think, "How many mothers right now are literally watching their kids starve?"

When the Haiti earthquake struck, I kept thinking, "Oh, yes, I need to donate to the relief effort..."  and then I got distracted and I never did it.  So I'm donating today, and I hope you will too.  If you do so in the next two days, I'll enter you in a giveaway for a necklace.  It's beautiful and sparkly and you can keep it or give it to your mom for Christmas.
All you have to do is donate to the relief effort, and leave me a comment that says "done", and I'll pick a winner on Friday.  This is not an effort to promote a business or get blog traffic or anything like that; I just want to motivate you to donate right now.

Here is the Red Cross donation page.  I don't care what amount you give or what organization you give it to, as long as it goes to the Philippines relief effort.

Friday, November 8, 2013


This is Bandit.  He was our family dog starting around 1995.  I love this picture so much, because it's got little Bando, plus my baby brother and that fantastic purple Geo Metro.
Here he is reaching for a treat from my Grandma.  He's pretty much a fur-covered skeleton, right?  But he was a sweet dog, the perfect addition to a couch nap, curled up in the crook of your knees.
I'm thinking of him this morning because of this conversation I just had with my boys.

A: Hey Mom, is there a dog that's really big and all grey?

Sarah: Are you thinking of a greyhound?

A: What's that?

Sarah: It's a big dog that can run really fast.  Remember Grandma & Grandpa's dog, Bandit?  He was a miniature one.  So there's regular sized greyhounds, and then he was a mini.

M: He was a Snickers fun size.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween awards

Friend who saved the day by lending us costumes: Andrea
(Andrea, do you read this blog?  I hope you do, so you see me publicly declaring your awesomeness.)

Most annoying moment: When an adult couple came "trick-or-treating" with their probably still toothless baby and took five candy bars out of the bowl I was holding. 

Sweetest kid quote: "This is the best day ever!" (said by my Dracula as he ran to the next house, cape swooshing dramatically behind him)

Nicest neighbor / Person who will receive our next set of dental bills: Heidi, who dropped off two full size candy bars for each of the boys.  They almost died of pure joy.

"Better to give than receive" moment: When my kids were sitting in the driveway, trying to flag down passing cars so that they could hand out candy
And here it is, the reason I put together this silly list, just so I could set up a suspenseful reveal for...
Best Costume of the Night:
When he knocked on the door, the boys looked out the window and said, "Hey, it's a missionary!"
Sarah: Great costume!  Are you actually Mormon?
Guy: No.
Sarah: Oh.  Well, we are.
Guy: Oh, uhhh...sorry.
(I'm pretty sure he meant "sorry if you find this offensive" rather than "sorry that you're Mormon" but who knows?)
Sarah: Hey, no problem.  I love it.
Guy: It's from the Book of Mormon musical.
Sarah: Yep, got it.
I gave him some candy and told him that he should read the book.

Monday, October 28, 2013

A few thoughts on costumes

My boys are heavy into Minecraft these days, and they both wanted to dress as Minecraft characters for Halloween.  Unfortunately, we realized that both the big, boxy cardboard head and the giant pixelated pickaxe we planned to make were not allowed at school.  (No masks and no weapons, respectively.)  Even though the pickaxe really is just a mining tool, I'm ok with it being forbidden if it means there will be no knife-wielding Chucky dolls or knife-glove wearing Freddy Kruegers (also known occasionally as Chalkie and Freddy Cooter, respectively) at school on Thursday.

Anyway, a lovely friend of mine came to the rescue by letting us rummage through her costume box, and we came up with fine alternatives.

In other news, this family is hilarious and amazing.  Diamond face cream!  Mrs. Featherbottom!  Pirate baby!  There's just so much awesome here, especially because the family appears to be at a Mormon Halloween party.  You don't expect to run into one Tobias Funke - much less six of them - at trunk-or-treat.  And I love these Wayne's World babies too.

Some of you know that I had a Princess Leia costume years before Liz Lemon made it cool.One year, Matt and I were trying to figure out last minute costumes for a Halloween party.  I suggested Han and Leia, but he assured me that he had his own costume covered.
He took some big cotton balls and stretched them out and taped them to his head.  He's EYEBROWS GUY.  Yep.  Eyebrows guy.  I believe he's related to Crazy Pickle Arm Man.  And yes, I searched for the Adam Sandler clip, to no avail.  Curse you, NBC, and your insistence on copyright protection.

Monday, October 21, 2013

"Rather tall cowboy with all his clothes burned off at 10:31."

We're just back from the Texas State Fair in Dallas, and I'm happy to report that Big Tex is back.  We first went to the fair in 2011, and he looked like this:
Then last year, an electrical malfunction caused a fire that burned Big Tex down to his skeleton.  You can watch a 22 minute documentary about the rebuilding here. (The quote I used as the title of this post is from the emergency dispatch recordings.)

Within a year, the fair had a new Big Tex built and installed, and we saw him last weekend.  The boys were very happy to see him restored to his former glory, and his presence was all throughout the fair.

Here's the main view, taken from the Fletcher's corny dog stand, with the Cotton Bowl and ferris wheel in the background.
 Here's a kid's Lego rendition of the fateful day.
 Naturally, this year's butter sculpture features Big Tex in repose, cuddling with some toddlers.
 Awesome Lego portrait.
 And the rear view, because, why not?
 There is an exhibit of Big Tex stuff in the museum area.
And finally, I adore this picture, which I found on that same Dalls Morning News photo blog linked above.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

I didn't know that

I've learned a couple new things recently, or more accurately, I've had things clarified that I kinda sorta knew already.  I thought I'd pass them along.

This weekend Austin got like 6 inches of rain in several hours.  While I knew that one storm could not end our years-long drought, I figured it helped significantly.  Then Matt explained to me that the rain has to fall upstream of Lake Travis in order for us to be able to capture and use it.  Oh, yeah.  That makes sense, doesn't it?

Here is how the Lower Colorado River Authority describes it on their website:

"The weekend’s heaviest rain fell in the Austin area near Barton Creek, which empties into Lady Bird Lake downstream of Lake Travis. The water is flowing down the Colorado River toward Matagorda Bay."

"The weekend rains have increased combined storage in lakes Travis and Buchanan about 17,500 acre-feet from 8 a.m. Saturday through 11 a.m. today and is continuing to rise. Lake Travis has risen about 2 feet and is expected to continue to rise slowly. Lake Buchanan has risen about a tenth of a foot. The combined storage of lakes Travis and Buchanan is now 34 percent of capacity, up from 33 percent on Saturday. "

So our water storage is up one percentage point.  Keep praying for rain, people.

Item number two you probably saw floating around on facebook yesterday; I know a lot of my friends posted it.  I knew that Columbus didn't actually "discover" America, but I had no idea just how crappy his story really is.

Sorry to be sort of a downer on both fronts.  But at least the grass is green, right?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Six dollars, well spent

I went to the thrift shop on Friday to look for a few kid t-shirts.  I came home with t-shirts, plus a giant polyester quilt top.
This could so easily have come from my late grandma's pile of handmade things.  She made lots of clothes for her husband and six children, and she wasn't one to waste the leftovers.  Remember how I put together a little collage of some of her fabrics?
Many of the prints are garish; I'm sure that the bell bottom pants made from that brown plaid are stunningly ugly.  But somehow, when you sew them all together and edge them with polka-dotted pink, they are beautiful.  To me, anyway.
The "projects to do" pile in my craft room is worthy of its own hoarding reality show, so I snuck this baby in the house and threw it in the washing machine without showing it to Matt.  You know how wet dog smell is so much more pungent and offensive than dry dog smell?  It turns out it's the same with the thrift shop/mothball scent of a polyester quilt.  After hanging it on the line to air out a bit, I tried to fold it up quickly and put it away, but I was spotted.
Matt: Why are you trying to hide your quilt?
Sarah: Oh.  Yeah.  I bought a quilt top today.  I didn't think you'd seen it yet.
Matt: Seen it?  I could smell it.