Have I been working on bags? Well… yes and no….

The daughter of a close friend is having her fourth birthday party tomorrow. And this week, after breathing a sigh of relief about my mom’s union and the stores reaching a tentative deal (rank and file still need to vote on it for it to be finalized), I got on my Own Bad Self and working on those dratted Projects.

Hat progress: Looks like ripping to the smaller crown size may have made the difference. Yay! It looks less like a watermelon cozy, and fits Preschool Rockstar’s head snugly.







Housecoat: The piece doesn’t QUITE match, but right now I’m at the point of not caring. It’s not a very big piece, and it’s on the back of the neck. It’s close enough for govt work. Snaps, hemming, and trimming all the bits of thread are all that needs doing before it’s wearable. I’ll get a better picture of it once it’s done, maybe explain why I’m making this. (SAPPY POST WARNING!)






And now, for the fun. Here’s one of the presents. A little girl’s apron/smock made from Simplicity #3802. Worked up rather quick and Preschool Rockstar already wants one for herself. main fabric body is denim that has wee butterflies embroidered randomly on it (the fabric came like that. I’m not THAT fast with the needle). The pocket is a cotton piece that has multicolored butterflies. The white banding and ties in the back are from purchased bias tape.

I also made this knapsack from Prudent Baby’s wonderful instructions. I really try to keep away from disposable wrapping– and utilizing a gift as the wrapping can be awesome too. All the fabrics are from my stash (knapsack made from cotton print, the ribbon is some christmas trim I had been holding onto for stuff like this).






I loved how the ends of the drawstring is anchored on the bottom corners of the bag. Preschool Rockstar will be getting a similar one as well. oh, and because I’m paranoid, I used a little Fray-check on the ends of the ribbon after I sewed and trimmed. It is quite a roomy pack for a child, and maybe just a little bigger, and out of ripstop nylon, can be a great swimbag for the summer. Make it out of canvas and some twill strapping? A durable book or craftbag.

I also threw in the new Shel Silverstein book, because that’s how I roll– books are an essential present. Toys may break, clothes may be outgrown, but books open up the mind and the future.

I hope you have a grand weekend!

When I was in school (lo these many years ago, when I walked five miles, uphill both ways, in the blizzards since my dad took the dinosaur to work) math and science and all that WAS SO BOOOORING. And had NOTHING to do with The Real World; when am I ever going to need to know the genus of a fruit fly? Who the hell cares where two trains are going to meet when one’s going 70 mph and the other is going 80? Cursive exercises of page after page after page of letters to be practised: I was singled out, since my handwriting sucked, to be tortured to do extra work (not that I’m bitter over this AT ALL as I’m typing this out). I found it interesting that the format didn’t change much for the better, even as I took teaching classes where we explored ways to make kids see what they are being taught can be translated into the real world. It’s the age-old paradox; you want to expose children to a variety of topics to keep their future options open and help them discover areas which they can excel at; the kids don’t see how this can relate to them NOW and so they could care less.

So how can we get beyond “drill till you die”? Here’s a couple of ways to help bring the learning out of the class (NOTE: I may work up how to make playtime a teachable opportunity. I just have seen many excellent online resources for this already that I want to touch on other things):

 COOKING: Everyone should learn to cook, in my not-so-humble opinion. I’m not talking about haute cuisine, either; I’m talking about learning the basics so that when the kids are out of the house, they can fend for themselves. Cooking can be introduced early, like in infancy. Put the baby carrier in a safe place in the kitchen, and talk through what you are doing with the baby (language development). When they get mobile, tupperware (or its equivalent) makes for fun toys, and they learn about spatial relationships by nesting and stacking different containers. Wood spoon on tupperware and pots? Music and rhythm, as well as learning about different surfaces having different sounds. As they get older, you can also talk about the recipes and have them help you out (a two-year old can help you put the chocolate chips into the cookie dough. TRUST ME, they’ll want to help you do this). Different measuring cups equals fractions. Four of the quarter-cups equals one of the cups. three teaspoons equal a tablespoon. Have the kids help you double and halve recipes (hey, if we are making a double batch of cookie dough, and the recipe calls for 3/4 cup of sugar, how much sugar are we going to need?) I have an awesome set of Pyrex measuring cups that are one, two, and four cup size– when we do this exercise I have Preschool Rockstar measure ingredients with the small cups and put them into the larger cups so she can see how much total we have. We also talk about the chemical reactions– melting butter turns a solid into a liquid. Boiling water is temperatures and also liquid to gas. Why cutting the carrots will help them cook faster. Eldest Daughter’s at the point where she’s cooking a meal a week, and she’s learning the finer points of menu planning for nutrition, comparison shopping (get to that in a minute), and time management. Another way to use cooking is recipes– what is a family favorite? What sorts of ethnic cuisine do you like to make? What kinds of foods do other people eat? What did people in history eat and drink? There are some pretty cheap and easy cookbooks out that talk about what the pioneers had, what colonial people ate, et cetera. Explore history through their tummies!

SHOPPING: Yes, I know, it can be hard. I have a toddler that doesn’t like to stay in the cart as well as a preschooler who likes EVERY SINGLE THING WE MUST GET THEM NOW. But there are ways to distract the kids and have a good lesson in at the same time. Have the kids identify colors with a modified I Spy game (I spy with my little eye… a yellow fruit!). Have them identify different fruits and vegetables. Ask them to help weigh the foods. Point out sales, have them work out the unit price and if the larger size is necessarily the better price. Start teenagers (and preteens) thinking about budget by giving them the sales ads and letting them try to plan a week’s worth of meals for a preset amount of money (and tell them a steak dinner and six nights of ramen don’t count). Talk about how things were like when you were a kid– did you have supermarkets like this back then? How did your mom and dad do the grocery shopping? If you coupon, have the kids go through the coupons: Younger kids can identify letters and numbers, older ones can help categorize them. Clothes/toys/back to school shopping: Again, have the older kids work with a budget. I’m a cheap woman and one of the things I’ve done was when the older two would ask for some big-budget item (designer clothes, what have you) I would take them to the store, and have them note the item’s price and we take it with us. I then would get items that may not have the designer label, but were comparable to the look, and I showed them how much they can get vs the one outfit/garment that “everyone in the whole world is wearing except for meeeeEEEEEEeeeee!” as well as counteract the deluge of ads that are hitting the airwaves now for the Gifting Season.

Other chores and activities can help open up the world. Whether you have acres of land or a small little windowbox, gardening can open up the subjects of botany, astronomy, geography, chemistry, biology, history (especially if you take the opportunity to play with heirloom varieties), mathematics, and help critical thinking skills. Laundry can help with chemistry, and with physics (if nothing else, it’d certainly lighten your load!).

Last, but certainly NOT least on this partial list, is communication. Talk to your kids. Engage them, work to be interested in what they are doing in school and help them find the connections in life. Talk to them about what you might be doing– working on a meal plan, trying to balance the checkbook, repairing bits and bobs of life, whatever. If your children see and experience that their education is important to you then they will be much more willing to learn and not see it as “stupid stuff that I’m never gonna use.” And if the kids need help with homework and it’s beyond your understanding… be honest, and see if together you both can find the answer online, or even with the teacher (many teachers are open for email, and would rather have a parent come up to them and say, “hey, what can we do to help son/daughter with this subject because I don’t really get it either” then have the kid stop trying).

Hopefully you’ve gotten a couple of ideas from this post. This is just scratching the surface– if you have any ideas, please feel free to share!

It’s been a rather emotional weekend, full of ups and downs.

Mom works for a national grocery chain. Right now the union that oversees her job is negotiating with the store bigwigs over things like wages, health insurance, and the like. Friday evening they canceled their agreement to extend the old contract– so in essence, the workers are at this moment not working under a contract, and a strike can be called at any time should the negotiations break down again (which was why they canceled the extension in the first place). As of this writing, they are still talking, which is positive… no real updates, but I’m flying with the “no news is good news” route. Still nerve-racking, but better than the alternative.

And Friday’s non-post was due to Projects That Do NOT Want To Be Made. Many crafters have wrestled with this beastie– whether it be sewing, knitting, or whathave you… the project that takes FOREVER and causes aggravation and dismay. Well, the planets aligned here at Squirrelhaus where most everything decided that it would be fun to instill gobs of frustration into the normal bit of insanity.

Like… the crocheted hat I’m trying to make for Preschool Rockstar to give her a little variety in her chapeau selection. I don’t know what in the world’s going on, but it’s turning out BIG. I’ve already had to frog once, and it’s still coming out roomy (and this is supposed to hug the head). It’s time to frog again, rip it down to a smaller crown and try it again before I reduce hook size.

And then… the housecoat. I’m plodding along, pinking the seams, fighting the blind hem function (which I have mastered! hahahaha!), when the project comes to a screeching halt, due to the fact that one of the pattern pieces has disappeared into the ether. Which wasn’t a total loss since I tend to copy patterns onto interfacing (more durable, and I can make modifications and notations onto it) so I have the original pattern. But the fabric… not so much. And this is a piece that’s going to be seen rather than a lining piece which can have a substitution of a solid color fabric. So that entailed a trip to the fabric store, and the fabric’s being washed now.

I have a third project that I’m working on for a friend, which still needs iron-on numbers of a certain type that I’m trying to find with little to no luck. And this can be trying enough… but on top of having very little time to devote to these projects makes the snafus and the fubars all that more pronounced. It’s doubly frustrating to realize that I need to rip out several rows of crocheting when it took me three nights to get that far. It’s nearly time to break down into tears when a toddler’s insisting  you read them Good Night Moon for the FIFTH TIME IN A ROW and all you want to do is try to sew in one damn sleeve. 

But within the crazy, some fun can be had which keeps life in balance. Last Saturday we had an opportunity to go to an event held by a local organization that put together a temporary drive in movie theater. There were some neat food trucks, and a Roller Derby team raised money and awareness for their group by acting like car hops– you let them know what you wanted, and they would go to the trucks (or several of the local joints by the parking lot) and get it for you. It was nice to have the younger two (Eldest Daughter was with her biological father last weekend) in their jammies, the van set up so we could sit with the girls and watch the movie (Ferris Beuller’s Day Off– which was sorta unfortunate since a cable station was also showing the same movie THAT DAY). It seemed to be a success; the organizers are talking about having another one. I think we shall attend!

Paging Thomas Dolby…

Recently a lady posted on a Facebook group I belong to, about how they recently moved (a very good thing) and were getting the kids set up in school… and found out her daughter was two FULL GRADES behind in science (which was not her fault; and many parents who have moved have had this fun discovery) and would have to take a test at the end of the year. She needed resources to help her get her sweetheart up to her current grade.

First things first. Every state, despite No Child Left Behind, has their own set of standards as to what every child should know in each subject by grade. Some, like California, are above and beyond what NCLB call for, while other states may still be lagging (and sadly, families that move may get the brunt of that discrepancy). I honestly feel every parent should know what their kids are supposed to be learning, and it’s not even that hard to find out; go to your favorite search engine, type in your state’s name along with state standards for the subject you are looking for. Many states have them on websites, either on the webpage itself or in a pdf format.

Today’s post will concentrate on science again, but this will be for the older elementary set. Many of these sites also give supplemental information/activities for parents and teachers so you can expand on the lesson or casually see how the information’s sinking in.

PBS Kids ZOOM! This has a little something for everyone, with tons of different experiments for different subjects. Children can learn while doing.

Utah Education Network Science grades 3-6— bells and whistles galore (you’ll need flash, shockwave and java to fully utilize the site. Basically a site for home, not for a smart phone). Lots of interactive games and lessons by grade, and seems to introduce concepts and lessons in a fairly entertaining manner.

National Geographic Kids!— a good natural sciences site that can really appeal to the grades 2-6 set. The magazine that’s tied to the website’s pretty nifty too. Another website/mag combo is Ranger Rick.

As before, check your local area for museums, zoos and other such locations. Many offer special exhibits at different times, and sometimes offer unique member-only opportunities; plus your money provides much-needed funds and usually will give you free or discounted membership for a year. Not so bad if you are able to go multiple times and it does give you a place to go when the kids are climbing the walls out of boredom.

Another place to go is the park system. Your child can become a Junior Ranger (hey, I was one!) and learn about the history and the nature that is not so far from the computer screen. During the summer they also offer a program where the kids can go to the park, talk to a ranger or do a little activity and be rewarded with a patch specific to the park you’ve visited. Pretty neato, if you ask me…

Hopefully this can help get you and the young ones excited, motivated, and raring to go. And if you have any other resources that you would be willing to share, I would totally appreciated it if you could leave a comment!

About once a month, Hubs and I get the chance to esca… er, have an opportunity for a date night. Usually we try to do an activity that we may not normally be able to do with the younger girls, or perhaps try something out that we’ll take the whole family to later on. Frankly, there have been times where we just go to the corner coffeeplace and laugh maniacally in the corner at the fact that WE ARE ALONE! YET NOT! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! (The baristas don’t seem to mind; it’s either a more common occurence then just us or that we leave a decent tip when we get our coffees)

A neighboring town has an Old World shopping area; when it was first started, it evoked a fairly Continental air, with ethnic stores and whatnot. Nowadays it’s a wee bit away from that startup, but it’s trying to recover its luster, and one of the ways it does that is by throwing an Oktoberfest. This past weekend was the first weekend of their celebration; we never had been even though we’ve lived here for years, and figured what the heck? How bad could it be?

I really, REALLY should learn that the Universe loves it when I say the above line. Because the Universe can and will show me just how bad it can be.

We get there, park the car, and I notice…  you know, for a holiday where drinking is not only allowed, but rather encouraged there was a noticeable lack of revelers. Ah well, it’s early still and–

a banner on one of the buildings mentions that on weekends, to get in was $15. As it turns out, this particular area didn’t just let all the crazies loll about drunk as lords. They did have a special beer garden-esque setup where you could go, get your ticket, get your oom-papa on and drink yourself silly. But this we found that out later.

We decide to wander around, and we go into a small bar (it said it was open for dinner, and hey, dinner equals food!). Down the narrow dark stairway we went, the dim illuminated by neon beer signs. Into what I swear to the heavens looked like Hotel California’s seedy lounge area, or if The Regal Beagle never was allowed to remodel and was left to molder. There was a scattering of patrons, some employees talking to patrons (they did look up when we came into view from the stairwell and back to their regular people). In the corner, there was a DJ, who alternatively mumbled and pressed his mouth to the mic so all you heard was a constant stream of BLARBLARblarblarblarblarblarBLARBLARBLARBLARhahaha… What did it for Hubs was when he started singing something that sounded vaguely German (but for all I knew it could have been Swahili. it was blarblarblaaaaarBLAAARRRRblarblar with what can be called a melody). We scooted up the narrow stairway, seeing the night sky framed by pink and yellow neon.

Across was a German restaurant… that has a Taco Tuesday night. Against our better judgement we decided to eat there (blood sugar trumps judgement). They also had German Pizza. When we asked our waitress what she liked on the menu, she looked a little taken aback, then said, “Well… I’m German.” The beef Goulash I had was rather nice, as was the beer I indulged in (hey, Oktoberfest, c’mon!). Hubs was happy with his saurbraten and amber… one time I looked up, and saw a man wandering around with a grey felt pointed hat on. It was almost like an escapee from Unseen University had made an appearance, and at that point? It probably would not have thrown me if he was.

We bought a slice of delicious torte from the market (that had a LOT of headcheeses and sausages. And candy) and wandered. Found the very quiet beer garden– I would have pegged it as closed,but then I saw people go in and pay for tickets. At a nice wee coffeeshop we shared our dessert with some excellent coffee. Most of the shops were closed but we enjoyed wandering around and looking at the storefronts.

Even on the nights that are a little off-kilter, we do try to make the time to do a date night so we can connect as adults and as a couple, rather than always be Mommy and Daddy. Plus nights like these give us something to laugh about in the middle of tantrum meltdowns and exploding diapers. It would be nice to find an Oktoberfest that’s a little more rocking… but perhaps we’ll be back to the area. After all, Eldest Daughter can practise her German with the waitress… and every Sunday they have dachshund races!

So I showed you a basic tote bag. I showed you different things you can do to your tote bag to make it even more awesome.

As I mentioned before, the city I live in passed an ordinance about plastic grocery bags. This is sorta a bummer as I do happen to reuse them– to put soggy kid clothes in, as liners for small trash cans, also as crafty items. But hey, powers that be will be and they said get rid of them. However, that’s not what drives me to distraction.

What does… are those plastic bags for produce or for meat. You know the ones I’m talking about– usually transparent, very thin, will tear apart if you look at them cross-eyed. HATE THEM. And these are truly one-use bags, which I will put in recycling when I’m done because I can’t really reuse them for anything.

So I’m playing on TEH INTERNETZ when I came across a bunch of bag tutorials, so many cute and neat and all sorts of interesting.  One of these awesome tutorials is from a fabric designer, Daisy Janie, for a produce bag that she designed for a no-plastic bag challenge. Here’s her Tutorial, which links you to a free pdf pattern and instruction file. I squee’d, I chairbopped in front of my computer at how neat and cute and righteous these are. “FINALLY,” I thought, “I can get corn on the cob and the bag won’t rip open!”

You can use either a fat quarter or an 18″ square. Poor Hubs asked what a fat quarter was, and I think I confused the poor man even further with the explanation. I made up two, using two different fat quarters and stitched them up, playing with the orientation of the stitch guide:

They are also a fast project. Maybe in all, given that I had kids that needed attention and I was working slower since it was a “new” pattern, it took about an hour for both.

As a test run, I took them yesterday to a farmer’s market-esque store. I was a little concerned; after all, they did not seem very big. It would be one thing for someone who might be buying a few items. I have three kids, one of which is on swim team, and three adults to buy for. Would these bags be good for a full house?

This bag is holding 8 apples. It’s only half-full, and kept closed thanks to the loop construction.

And here’s a closeup of a bag of nectarines! OH BOY! Preschool Rockstar loved helping me by holding the bags while I put the produce in them, and she was able to close them on her own. Yay for self-sufficient lessons!

The cashier had no problems with the bags either, which was another concern. She also LOVED them, so I happily directed her to the Daisy Janie site. I also dig the fact that they are washable. I’m so tempted to make about twenty, so I always have my produce bags and help to reduce waste.

Daisy Janie sells lots of cute organic fabric (I have a metric TON of fabric and I was impatient so I used my own). She also has other tutorials that I was eyeing, so please! Go to her site, give her some love, and tell her a wee squirrel sent you there.

Monster Princess

A typical exchange these last couple of weeks. Preschool Rockstar would be acting squirrelly (a common thing right before school), and Hubs would comment, “You are a monster!” to which Rockstar will say in a loud volume, “I’m NOT a monster, I’M A PRINCESS!”

I know there’s been quite a dustup over the whole princess deal. There’s some concern over how princess tales and the marketing of the princess label might be damaging to little girls, making them into shallow consumerist spoiled little whiny brats. And how it might be undermining progress the feminists have fought over, making for a generation of girls who are going to swan around waiting for their prince to come.

I’m not concerned. Because at Rockstar’s age, it’s about exploration. It’s about learning who you are. Right now she’s a magpie, and seeing a glittery dress and a jeweled crown? Heck yeah! Who’d NOT want to be a princess when they get to wear sparkley stuff??? She pretends to be a princess and five minutes later, she’s Mommy, putting her baby doll up to her chest and announcing she’s taking care of her baby. Ten minutes later, she’s playing with her horses, or her cars, or whatever.

In a couple of years, we’ll venture out of the modern depiction of princesses who have talking animal companions and princes who may or may not have names. We’ll delve into the original Grimm Brother stories, the original Hans Christian Anderson, the original tales (although the animated movie depiction of Mulan? Didn’t stray too far from the poem it was based off of which was a pleasant suprise). I have several collections like The Serpent Slayer: and Other Stories of Strong Women (which do include princesses).

Tangent alert: I once attended a storytale class, and I realized I was in trouble when the professor declared, “The original Grimm Brothers are just too… SCARY! for children.” The woman didn’t have kids of her own and never really worked with children, only teaching to adults what to tell kids. I should have brought up the Goosebumps books, the Are You Afraid of the Dark? and other stories. I didn’t and I sorta regret not even if she would have flunked me out.

And of course, there will be the talking. What do princesses do? What do you think they are like? I will fully admit to playing the Princess Card when it comes to reminding Rockstar about manners: “Would a Princess stuff her mouth like that?” “Does a Princess leave her room so messy like this?” stuff like that.

Eldest Daughter had been enamored of princesses when she was young– still is to a point, and loves watching the movies and reading the books with her little sisters (I tease her that she does that because she secretly wants to for herself and doing it with her sisters makes a great excuse. She smiles, neither confirming or denying). She’s turning out a stong woman in her own right– and we’ve talked about the downsides of being a princess (how you don’t have any privacy, you have to have perfect manners ALL THE TIME, and how doing things can be complicated and you can’t just pop off to Starbucks for a latte when you have to get your security team to be assembled and scout out the place and and and). But she still will indulge in a fantasy of glittery dresses and balls and feeling like the most special girl in the world.

My final reason I don’t worry about Rockstar and the Princess mindset? At school, she’ll go up to a child– could be in her class, could be another class sharing the same playtime as hers– grab their hand, and announce, “you are my friend! Let’s go play!” and drag them off to play. When I was told this, I was initially mortified, but the teachers quickly reassured me that she is never mean about it, and is always so sweet as she strongarms her new friends (and if they pitch a fit, she will be respectful and let go). She’s strong, independant, and yet can be kind and lovely. So if she likes to pretend to be a princess? She’s one of the best kind out there.