blogging · crafty · DIY · Fibro Flares · Keepin' it real

Day 376: Coming Attractions

My elbow hurts pretty badly right now, so I’ll make this brief. Over the next week or so, you can expect to see some of the following posts:

  • Further Adventures with Epoxy
  • Stuffed Animal Upholstered Bed Tutorial
  • Make a Dollhouse Nightstand out of a Feta Cheese Container Tutorial
  • Holy Hell, my Elbow Still Hurts
  • Planned Boredom
  • Close Encounters with Customer Service
  • This Term in Homeschool
  • Did we really make our own maple syrup?

Of course, if my elbow doesn’t get some relief soon, you’ll likely be subjected treated to a string of guest posts by everyone from Mr. December right on down to E. If nothing else, it’ll be highly entertaining.

crafty · DIY

Day 375: We tried this at home.

“Clothing worn during the process should not be removed from the work area? Do not inhale? Avoid contact with skin?!?” K looked up from the label she was reading and asked me, “Why do they even make this stuff if it’s so toxic?”

We were getting ready to make our mini river table to test the effect of heat and general abuse on the epoxy. I’ll admit to some trepidation when I read “for professional use only” on the epoxy bucket; when it comes to building stuff I’m definitely more dilettante than professional.

We did it anyway.

Yesterday I cut two scraps of kiln-dried live-edge wood, along with some particle board to make a mould. This morning I assembled the mould around my two pieces of wood, using clamps to hold everything in place while I drilled.

Then I took out the wood pieces and lined the whole box with packing tape. That should make it easier to release the epoxy from the mould later on.

After reading the alarming safety warnings, K and I got suited up (this is where Mr. December’s university engineering coveralls come in handy) and took the supplies outside. We mixed some colour into this batch of epoxy; the second batch will be clear, allowing us to see some of the live edge of the wood.

Then we poured, at which point I realized exactly how off-level our table was. I carried the mould downstairs and made sure it was in a level place to dry. It soon became apparent that the epoxy was flowing under the wood pieces—not the look I was going for—so I used my clamps to hold the wood down to the bottom of the mould.

And now we wait 21 more hours before we can pour the second layer of epoxy.

crafty · Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness · what's cookin'

Day 374: If a picture says a thousand words…

Look, if it’s true what they say about pictures saying a thousand words, you won’t mind if I just post a bunch of photos from last night’s seder and leave it at that. Right?

Oh, fine. I’ll give you my summary. Then I’ll post a bunch of photos.

Last night’s seder was very satisfying. The food was good, the kids participated, the puzzle clues for the afikoman were mostly fun, and we did the whole thing. They key to seder success (defined as doing both halves instead of petering out after dinner) is to withhold dessert until the very end, it seems.

I had fun making the table look pretty and laying out the food; I took enough photos of the food to create my own catering brochure. I used tiny little plates and bowls to create an individual seder plate for each person, and as we all know, anything in a teeny tiny plate looks fancy.

(In case you’re looking at the individual plates wondering why there’s melted chocolate and a strawberry on each one: Karpas doesn’t actually have to be a green vegetable. Apparently anything over which we say the blessing “borei p’ri ha’adama” (creator of the fruits of the earth) counts. And wouldn’t you know, we say “borei p’ri ha’adama” over strawberries! Of course Karpas has to be dipped, so I added some melted chocolate to fulfil that requirement.)

Today I was tired. I’m still tired. I wanted to take tomorrow as a day off, but we’re building a sample river table with epoxy to see how it holds up to heat and scratching; we want to do the epoxy work outside and tomorrow is supposed to be warm and sunny, so I can’t put it off. I guess I’ll rest later, like maybe in 2023.

Photo descriptions, from top left: a stone serving tray with an array of lemon-filled meringue nests topped with blueberries, and brownies in paper muffin cups; miniature square bowls of chopped liver with a mini fork sticking out of each one; a corner where two runs of countertop meet, with the dessert tray, a casserole dish with marshmallows on top, and small round plates with an assortment of items visible; a large oval table set with a turquoise silk tablecloth, plates with black and gold rims, stemless wine glasses, and three bottles of wine; a close-up of dessert-sized plates with black and gold rims, each with a hard-boiled egg in a tiny square bowl, some melted chocolate on a tiny square plate, a scoop of something brown (charoset) on a tiny square plate, and a strawberry, a sprig of parsley, and three small strips of horseradish.

crafty · family fun · Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness

Day 373: Always room for one more… craft.

Today was a whirlwind of preparation as I organized, baked, and cooked for our seder. The kids set the table (I decided to be kind to myself and use disposable plates, so we had these fancy gold and black ones) and when I came to see it, I noticed they hadn’t put down any napkins yet. They didn’t have the patience for fancy folding; I thought napkin rings could be an ideal (and pretty) solution.

The problem was, the only napkin rings we own are a silver colour. I decided we’d make napkin rings out of sparkly paper; I led the kids down to the makery, got out the glitter paper… and noticed some gold wire. Now that would look really special, particularly with some shiny beads.

So we forgot about the paper and started wrapping the gold wire around our play-doh rolling pin to shape it. I found the nicest beads we had in a turquoise colour to complement the tablecloth. After the first five were finished I realized I was out of gold wire. No matter, I finished up the rest with clear elastic strung with gold beads.

They looked great. So did everything else. As much as Mr. December would differ on this point (he’s forever telling me not to add extra touches,) I believe there’s always room for a bit more beauty—even (maybe especially) when it takes more work.

crafty · DIY · hackin' it · Keepin' it real · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 346: Made with love… and some dental floss.

Building on yesterday’s success, today I finished N’s roller shade—sort of—and fixed E’s Roman shade. It’s fully operational again, now with a hint of minty freshness!

If you know how Roman shades are made, you’ll understand when I tell you that the clear plastic rings detached from the shade, rendering the string useless. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a picture:

It’s ugly, I know, but nobody sees that side. Anyhow, nine of these little plastic rings had come off the shade when the string holding them broke. I had to sew them back on stronger than before; I had absolutely no desire to fix this shade every six months. That’s why instead of thread, I used dental floss.

Confession time: I’m not a flosser. I mean, I know how, and occasionally I’ll do it if I feel the need, but that happens rarely if at all. Our dentist gives us free floss at every visit (along with toothbrushes, toothpaste, and anything else we feel we need) which means that I’ve built up quite a stash of the stuff.

It’s pretty friction-tolerant (it would have to be if you’re dragging it past sharp biting edges of teeth) so I figure it should be able to survive the rigors of life as a bedroom window treatment. Time will tell, I suppose. In the meantime I get to feel productive—which my friends remind me shouldn’t be the yardstick by which my worth is measured, but it makes me feel good nonetheless.

crafty · DIY · Fibro Flares · Keepin' it real · whine and cheese

Day 345: Where did the weekend go?

Maybe it was all the sugar from the Purim treats, followed by the challah and dessert at Shabbat dinner. Maybe it was exhaustion from being woken up 1:00 a.m. on Friday and then having insomnia at 4:30 on Saturday morning. Maybe it was a fibro flare. Whatever it was, it left me achy, groggy, and mentally foggy.

After my 4:30 a.m. wakeup on Saturday I tried my best to be awake with the kids for a while, but I lost the battle with Morpheus around 8:30. I woke up for a couple of hours around noon, then went back to bed until seven. When we got into bed at ten that night, I fell asleep almost instantly.

You’d think that almost a full day and night of sleep would leave me feeling refreshed, wouldn’t you? Well, you’d be wrong. I woke up this morning feeling not much better.

“I don’t know why I’m so tired,” I yawned to Mr. December, hugging him in a bid to be able to sleep for a millisecond or so.

“Me neither,” he said, “I don’t understand how it’s possible to sleep that much. It’s just not normal!”

I’m not generally perturbed by being labelled “not normal”—it’s practically my superpower at this point. As far as I’m concerned, normal is either a myth or boring as heck. But if normal is going to sleep at night and waking up refreshed in the morning, I want a piece of that.

I hate weekends like this because I generally come out of them feeling useless. Doubly so today because Mr. December was teaching the kids evolutionary biology and some chemistry while I puttered around trying to stay awake. Seriously, he’s Superdad. He’s working a full-time job remotely and spending two hours a day homeschooling the kids, then even more hours planning his lessons and looking for new resources. I’m in awe, and very lucky to be married to this guy; but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel pretty useless standing next to him… until something needs fixing, or something has to be made or built or baked. Then I’m a total rockstar.

To keep myself from feeling like the entire weekend was a waste of time, I worked on fixing N’s window shade. It’s a cheap vinyl roller shade to which I had glued some cotton fabric. The glue didn’t last very long, though, and for months it’s looked pretty crappy, with the fabric kind of dangling uselessly from the middle of the roll and the sticky residue on the vinyl shade attracting every dust particle that flew by.

This time I used clear school glue to paste the fabric to the vinyl. That was step one. I hung it back up to dry; tomorrow I’m going to use some slightly diluted glue as a topcoat, the way I’ve done with Mod Podge in the past. Then I just have to turn the edges over and glue them to the back of the shade, and I’ll be that much closer to being able to give you the tour of N’s room.

It’s bedtime and the only thing I’ve achieved this weekend was that darn window shade. I didn’t even do my lesson planning, which means I’m going to have to pull something together in the next five minutes so the board is updated when the kids come downstairs tomorrow. And then I’ll go back to bed, where I haven’t been for a whole five hours.

crafty · family fun · Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness · Kids · The COVID files · what's cookin'

Day 343: We Made Lemonade

Happy Purim!

Know what I did almost all day yesterday? This, four times over:

Yes, those are miniature lemon loaves. I baked almost thirty of them yesterday. I only had eight mini loaf pans, so it took a long time. Never mind how the loaves turned out—the batter was pure silky, creamy deliciousness.

I am never doing that again. From now on, mishloach manot will be cleverly chosen premade goodies, labelled with puns and witticisms.

Since it’s been kind of a rough year in a lot of ways, I suggested to the kids that we call our mishloach manot “When life hands you lemons…”

There had to be a whole lemon—and enough sugar to turn it into lemonade—in each package. Obviously. Then K asked me if I could find a recipe for the lemon loaf they sell at Starbucks. “So when life hands you lemons, you just loaf around?” I asked. The puns spiralled from there.

In addition to the “you could loaf around” lemon loaf, we had “start over from square one” lemon squares, “you might snap at people” lemon snaps, and in some packages, “you may feel like pudding everything off ’til tomorrow” lemon meringue pudding cups. The best part is that I actually remembered to take pictures this year before we delivered all the treats!

Instead of our usual evening at shul followed by carnival-hopping from one synagogue to another, we logged onto Zoom to watch an online Purim shpiel (play) starring families from the congregation. Then I stayed on and listened to the megillah reading while the kids went into a breakout room to play party games with the other kids.

Although it’s a religious obligation to hear the megillah read twice each Purim, I can honestly say that before last night I have never actually heard the megillah read in its entirety. See, normally there’s so much noise from excited children waiting to drown out Haman’s name with noisemakers of all kinds that the readers can hardly be heard and the rabbi has to pound on the table repeatedly to get everyone to quiet down.

Ah, the magic of the mute button! The only people I could hear were the readers chanting the megillah; when Haman’s name came up we all unmuted ourselves and made noise for thirty seconds or so, then politely muted ourselves again. Some people (including yours truly) made signs to hold in front of our webcams when Haman was mentioned. Here’s mine, hastily scribbled at the last minute. The kids especially loved the angry-faced O’s.

Following the reading we had a Zoom dance party where four judges watched all the costumed people dance and then awarded prizes. I’m pleased to report that we were awarded “funniest costumes” for E’s lion, my ladybug, and N’s constantly changing outfits (he kept running back up to his room.)

I hadn’t expected the online programming to be particularly enjoyable; I was wrong. We saw a lot of familiar faces, we danced, we actually heard the megillah, and we all had fun. The kids went to bed feeling like they had just left a party, which I guess they had.

Today we spent Purim day in the traditional way: driving around the city to deliver the goodies we’d prepared for friends and family. This year I limited each one of us to four people, meaning a total of twenty-four packages, max. The first couple of years we did it I had to hype up the delivery aspect to K (who was having really bad Halloween envy.) Now the kids clamour to come with me, and they serve as faithful runners from the car to each front door.

This year I noticed how great it felt to actually see people who don’t live with me. As isolated as we feel now, the bonds we have with friends and family are still alive and well. It made me realize again that when COVID is over I’m going to hug everyone so hard and not let go for a few weeks. You’ve been warned.

So it was a good Purim. We made lemonade (Zoom parties, megillah readings, and treats) out of this year’s lemons (COVID lockdowns.) And if you ask the kids, it was the best Purim, because they got lots of mishloach manot and have divvied up all the candy and Bissli and chocolates—they’re well stocked until Pesach, I think.

crafty · Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness

Day 330: Themed Treats for Purim

After yesterday’s fun with fake text messages, I started wondering what to do for Mishloach Manot this year. I had some ideas but wasn’t sure if I’d already done them, so I dug deep into my photo vault to find all the Mishloach Manot I’ve made in the past 13 years.

I didn’t find thirteen years’ worth, but I did find these. Feel free to copy any of these ideas—I don’t think they were mine to begin with.

Have a Campy Purim!

This one is pretty easy: mini Hershey milk chocolate bar, kosher marshmallow, 2 graham crackers, a hot chocolate packet, a skewer, and a candle (to roast the marshmallow over, of course.) The back of the card had instructions for making microwaved s’mores.

Paper Bag Surprise

The surprise is that I don’t remember what I put in these. But this packaging is probably my favourite. It’s just brown paper lunch bags, a piece of ribbon, and some staples. Easy peasy.

Mishloach Manot for Breakfast

I couldn’t find a pic of the package, but it was definitely in a brown paper bag (like the one above.) I put in a mini cereal box, a single-serve carton of milk, a cup of yogurt, a banana, and a box of orange juice. This was especially well-received by an elderly neighbour of ours who appreciated having her breakfast just handed to her.

Take a Hike!

Another great example of me forgetting to take photos. This card was stapled to a clear cellophane bag that contained a bottle of water, a granola bar, and apple, and a box of raisins… or something like that.

Go Bananas!

Banana-shaped candies, banana chips, a fresh banana, and a mini banana bread went into this one. The packaging was super simple: those yellow bags are from the party section of Dollarama.

Night at the Movies

Homemade oil-popped popcorn with a mini mars bar tucked into a popcorn box. A can of Coke was attached to the outside along with a movie ticket for the card.

Tea Time

I used white paper bags to make these packages that looked (a little) like giant teabags with a giant tag on a string. Inside we put mini jam packets, a couple of tea biscuits, a miniature pie or other dessert item, and—of course—tea.

Cookies and Milk

Try as I might, I couldn’t find photos of this one anywhere. Each package contained chocolate chip cookies and a single-serve carton of milk. It was packaged in a brown paper bag (of course) with an attached card that said something like, “Imagine how much better the world would be if everyone sat down at 3 p.m. for milk and cookies…”

This year’s theme is…

A secret. I have friends and family who read this blog. You wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise for them, would you?

What’s the coolest Mishloach Manot you’ve given or received? Please tell me in the comments!

crafty · education · family fun · Homeschool

Day 323: Monet isn’t everything…

Sorry. I couldn’t resist the awful pun.

We haven’t done art class in a couple of weeks. I’d forgotten how much fun it is. First we learned a bit about Monet and the impressionists, and then we went down to the makery to try our hand at some impressionistic oil painting.

It was my first time using oils. They feel great to paint with—creamy and smooth. I chose to paint a landscape that was more Group of Seven than Salon des Refus├ęs. As usual, I probably enjoyed the work more than the kids did.

I also washed more paintbrushes than the kids did, which made me think that a scientific investigation into the properties and uses of dish soap would be a great idea. From making giant bubble solution to stripping cloth diapers to washing oil paints out of brushes, is there anything dish soap can’t do?

I wish I had something witty to say today, but it was a very full day with little to no downtime, and I’m beat. We explored a new-to-us park today and between walking on uneven snow and along with the lack of sleep last night (I was awakened by certain children who will remain nameless,) it’s left me with sore legs. I’m off to bed; I’ll just leave you with this photo of my very first oil painting.

crafty · family fun · Kids · The COVID files

Day 311: I guess everyone likes to feel useful.

Strange things are happening at my house: K came downstairs this afternoon and said, “I never realized how much fun cleaning the bathroom is! What should I use on my bathtub?”

Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I passed her a sponge and some dish soap. “Soap is soap,” I told her. “Have fun!”

And she did.

Last night E asked if I could sew clothes for her stuffed animals.

“I could teach you how to do it,” I offered.

She began to wail, “It’s gonna beeee too hard for meeeee!” (there might have been some crocodile tears involved.)

I assured her that I have a special sewing machine just for little kids. That did the trick. This morning she cleaned up her small table in the craft room to make room for the machine; with a little guidance she sewed a pillow for one of her elephants.

R had impromptu tryouts for a band tonight: she played her three chords on the guitar while N drummed and E danced and sang. She must have sounded fine to them, because E enthusiastically welcomed R to the band. Now three of my four kids are planning to head out on tour as soon as COVID allows.