Sunday, August 31, 2008

Turtle Back Zoo

I grew up in New Jersey. I remember visiting the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, NJ when I was in the third grade. It was right after I fractured my wrist. My mother made a point of asking the doctor if I could go on my class trip to the zoo. His reply "She can climb Mount Everest if she wants to." I went to the zoo and climbed a rock. A chaperone told me I shouldn't be doing that. I repeated what the doctor said and stayed on the rock.

This week I drove down to NJ and visited the Turtle Back Zoo with my children along with three of their cousins. It was huge. Much larger than I remember it. It was clean. There was a train ride (free with admission), Pony Rides ($2 per child), and you could feed budgies ($2 per stick of food). The prairie dogs had 'observation' areas where anyone could stick their heads up into plastic domes and look up close and personal at the critters. And, the carousel is beautiful. Full of hand carved creatures to ride upon. My daughter chose a dragon.

The kids had a great time. The only not so great thing there was the food. I didn't bring any with me so we had to stand in line to purchase food. No one ate the chicken nuggets. The fries seemed to be the most tasteful item. So - if you find yourself visiting the Turtle Back Zoo - remember to pack a lunch.

Monday, August 25, 2008


On Saturday I finally made it to the post office to mail my Fall Fabric Swap package as well as my reusable grocery bags to the ladies that won the giveaway. The one package should be there as soon as today. The others - well - anywhere from five to ten days I think. Both are international packages. I'm hoping they get them sooner rather than later.

My fabric partner said she liked pinks and purples and made girl's clothes. I'm hoping she likes the selection I sent her. The red one all the way on the right with the pink roses has sequins on it - nothing like a little sparkle to brighten up a girl's wardrobe! And the bottom one is reversible (in my opinion). The other side is predominantly pink.

Now I can focus on my next swaps. Anyone have any ideas for Vintage Fall or Halloween stuff?

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Remember, I talked about wasps awhile ago. Well, I guess they think our house is really a good spot to live because they made a nice big nest right on one of our bedroom windows. The window by my side of the bed. And it's big. Like, football sized. I guess those screens we kept meaning to replace and never did will be bought post haste now - if I can find them at Home Depot or Lowe's. Really, the wasps usually keep their nests to the underside of our skylights. The nests are easy to see and easy for me or my husband to take care in that location. This - well - I guess it goes to show we don't often visit this side of the house.

old front door

The only reason I noticed it is because we are having work done on our house. A new front and back door. The company installing the door also put a diverter up. I was trying to figure out where the diverter was when wasps frequently buzzing around by the upper half of the house caught my eye. I guess it was a good thing we had some work done or I might be blogging about a watermelon sized wasp nest.

new front door

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Laughter Therapy - a short play

My entire family lives in New Jersey. My parents usually visit us at least once or twice a year – whenever my dad can get time off from work. However, since my mother is currently not working I like to run down to NJ every so often and bring her up here to Massachusetts for some therapy. Laughter Therapy. My mother says she doesn’t laugh anywhere else like she does at our house. Every so often I call her up and ask her if she is prepared for her laugh of the day. She quickly sits down before she has me regale her with a story. Tonight, I called her to prep her for what her therapy would be like once I pick her up later on this week. Without further ado, a quick laughter therapy session for everyone to enjoy:


Mother, 3-y-o (three-year-old daughter)

Scene opens with a mother sitting on a window seat typing e-mails on her laptop. A blond-haired three-year-old girl is heard by the mother entering and exiting the bathroom. A few minutes later the three-year-old walks up to her mother.

3-y-o: Mommy, I pooped.

Mother: I’m sorry. What did you say? (as mother looks up from her laptop and raises an eyebrow at her offspring and hits the send button hoping her e-mail is complete and makes sense)

3-y-o: I pooped on the brick.

Mother: You pooped on the brick? What brick?

3-y-o: The brick in the house.

Mother: (is seen thinking – the only brick in the house is around the fireplace) Can you show me where?

3-y-o: I pooped on the fireplace. Come (gives mother her hand and a cherub smile). I will show you.

The two make their way to the computer room via the kitchen so the mother can pick up some disinfecting wipes as well as a small garbage bag. Once in front of the fireplace the mother notices a dark stain on a brick – but no poop.

Mother: Honey, did you clean it up?

3-y-o: (proudly) Yes.

Mother: What did you use?

3-y-o: A towel. Mommy, I was trying to put Knuffle Bunny on the couch, on the brick couch when I pooped. I didn’t mean it. It was an accident.

Mother: (as she is scrubbing the stained brick) It’s okay honey. You did the right thing to try to clean it up and to tell mommy about it. (once it has been cleaned mother stands up and looks at offspring). Let’s put you in the tub.

The pair make their way to the bathroom via the kitchen so the mother can throw the small garbage bag into the large garbage can and put the container of wipes away. Upon entering the bathroom the mother spies a bath towel on the floor that is crumpled and looks stained in spots.

Mother: Honey? Is this the towel you used to clean up your mess?

3-y-o: (very proudly) Yes mommy. It is.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Farm Fresh Food

Have I mentioned how much I love the CSA my family joined? It has completely changed the way I shop for food. I love spending less time, and money, at the grocery store.

Today's Vegetable Share:

2 lbs potatoes
2 lbs peppers
4 hot peppers
2 heads of lettuce
4 eggplants
2 bunches of beets
1 bunch of green onions
1 garlic
2 chard
1 container of tomatoes
12 ears of corn (if I wanted more than 12 I had to pick it myself - but it would still be part of my CSA - no extra charge)

Today's Fruit Share:
10 apples
12 peaches
6 nectarines
1 pint
of blueberries
1 melon

My fridge is chock full of veggies!

Cooking dinner. I'm going to have to go back this weekend to pick more corn.

Wondering what all the hullabaloo is about regarding CSA's? If you happen to live within driving distance of Newburyport, MA the farm I joined is offering a try it before you buy it deal. Farmer Dick Chase is offering Become a CSA Member for a Day. Anyone can visit the farm, on a day that the farm is distributing shares, and for $25 can purchase a full day's share. It's a bargain. For more info on Arrowhead Family Farm click here.

Make it a point to enjoy local produce, wherever you are!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The girls that come to breakfast

I love the girls that come to breakfast. They are loving. They share. They eat. They say their pleases and thank you's. They clear the table without being asked. They paint each others toe nails. They are a joy.

I'm not really fond of the girls that show up around 6.00 pm. They scream. They take toys away from each other. They demand dessert. They say not so nice things to each other. They don't listen. The joy of their presence is practically non-existent.

I think there has been a little too much togetherness. I think the fact that they are having a playdate with a friend and are excited to play 'school' tells me they are ready for summer to be over. They are ready to go back to school. I'm ready for them to go. Just to have a bit of silence for myself in the middle of the day.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Safe Swimmer

This is how my three-year-old goes swimming at a friend's house. She wears a floating vest, arm bands, an inner tube and goggles.

The good part is I don't actually have to be in the pool the whole time with her which is a nice change from last year. I now get to play lifeguard and sit by the pool while I drink pink lemonade. She gets tons of exercise because she isn't hanging onto mommy. The best part, for me, is bedtime is a dream.

Ahhhhhh - if only every bedtime could be as easy as one after a day swimming with friends.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Aprons, Aprons, Everywhere

I recently signed-up for the Flirty Apron Swap (must figure out how to get that fancy button onto my blog). And, this morning, as I drink my coffee and surf the net - I saw this in my e-mail:

Now there’s a special website you can visit to find out what’s happening with aprons…the popular rage in sewing for creativity and domesticity and just plain fun.
Go there now to find out about the Apron-iCity Apron Challenge!

Apron-<span class=iCity Apron Challenge"

Design an apron…or two…or three…
to enter.

Winners chosen in each of the challenge categories by a panel of industry experts will be spotlighted on the website and other publications of interest to sewers and quilters.

This is a great opportunity to have your creativity honored and published for others to celebrate your creativity.

Visit for entry and deadline details. Perhaps you’ll see your design in print and on the small screen…the computer screen, that is!

Everyone is going loco for aprons. I have a great idea for my swap partners apron. Well, I am actually going to make three - one for me (to try to work out all the kinks) and then I have two swap partners for two different swaps that I want to make aprons for. The one is due in less than a month. EEEEK. Must actually write ideas down now before I forget them...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

My New Most Favorite Children's Book Author

Kate DiCamillo is my new most favorite children's book author. I read my daughter's all four of the Mercy Watson books that my library had and they loved them. Who doesn't love a pig that loves toast. Every once in a while my daughter will say, out of the blue, "Mommy, Mercy likes toast with lots of butter."

Right before vacation I took the book The Tale of Despereaux out of the library but neglected to take it on vacation with us. When we returned home to stormy weather we headed to the movies and saw a trailer for the movie The Tale of Despereaux. The very next day we started the book. I read the first 119 pages to my children at breakfast Sunday morning - it wound up being a long breakfast.

The book is so well written. Kate DiCamillo talks to the reader throughout the book. She even tells the reader to go look in a dictionary to discover the meaning of one word she has used. It really is a modern day fairy tale. I won't give it all away but I will tell you the complete title and, really, it all makes sense once you read the book:

The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread.

I kept returning to the title as we were reading the book and saying - hey - do you think this relates at all to the title?

I guess I'm late on the Kate DiCamillo bandwagon. She also write Because of Winn-Dixie which was also made into a movie. I have not seen it. I don't have that book. I did purchase The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane but heard that it is a sad book. That it ends sad. So, I might read it first to myself before I read it to the kids.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Winner!

Hello. The random number generator picked - jillytacy - as our winner.

But, for her comment, orangedotgreen has won a bag as well. Her comment was:

As I looked at them, i realized that using different fabrics is great, because you can display the side that matches your clothing best, so it's not only useful, but fashionable :)

I am so going to use that as a suggestion to my sister who, ummm, cares a lot more about coordinating outfits than I do.

Congrats and thanks to everyone that entered, Beth

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Making Perfume and a Reminder

Finally. Our string of rainy weather seems to have ended. For the last two days I have tried to keep my kids outside as much as possible. Every time they tried to come into the house I had to tell them they weren't dirty enough. Once they were dirty enough to warrant me running a bath they were allowed inside.

One activity we partook in during this lovely weather was making perfume (the children were so tired of me telling them to play outside that they made the perfume in the garage - which is still mostly outside). We have some beautiful rose bushes that my husband and dad planted last year - about an hour before a freak hail storm. We also have peppermint taking over our garden. The girls start out with rose perfume and end up with everything smelling like mint since it really does overpower the delicate rose scent.

And, as a bonus, peppermint is a natural bug repellent. People rub the leaves on their skin to help keep biting insects as well as bees and wasps away. That's my kind of plant.

The boys across the street had a lemonade stand a few weeks ago. My oldest wanted us to build a stand so she could sell perfume. Her gimmick - with every bottle of perfume someone bought they would receive their own daisy chain. Gotta love an entrepreneur.

Hope it is sunny wherever you are.

Oh - and don't forget - the cutoff for entering the ugly bag giveaway is 11.59 pm tonight

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Clay Snails

It's raining in New England. This is the second or third week of rain. And, it's chilly. Yup. Only about 62 degrees right now. Makes me want to throw on a sweater and bake bread.

I signed my older daughter up for a half-day camp this week about a month ago. It is at a fabulous place called The Enchanted Learning Center run by a mom that used to be a teacher but is now homeschooling her three children. When I got there she met daughter #2 and said - as long as she was potty trained - that she could stay too. It was a day for art and classical music. You bet your bottom dollar I reached into my purse and grabbed some cash before she could change her mind.

I actually got some time alone to do a few things. Not many, but enough to enjoy a cup of coffee and sort through some of the mundane stuff in life - like bills. What I really wanted to do was stop by a local quilt shop to buy thread. It will be closed all week. They're all at some show in Philadelphia. Oh well. Maybe I can find a different fabric shop tomorrow.

The girls painted and got to create with clay. The clay did start off colored - but it was played with so much that it became gray and brown. Lucy made a mommy snail with a bunch of babies. And, just after I snapped this photo, it was changed into a bird's nest for one of her toys.

Simple pleasures are always the best.

Monday, August 11, 2008

My first giveaway!

I kept thinking I was going to give coasters away. Except, I keep using the ones I make. So - I think I'll give a handy reusable tote bag away instead. Why a giveaway? Why not I say.

I've nicknamed my bags 'ugly bags' because, well, they might just not be quite as pretty as others. For one - all of the large totes I have made lately have been from fabric I purchased at a yard sale. That means one side is one fabric.

The other side is a different fabric. And the handles - you guessed it - a third fabric.

I am actually sending the four bags shown together down to my older sister in NJ but the fifth one, the blue one with birds (actually - the top two pictures - one picture for each side of the bag) will be yours. All you need to do is leave a comment by end of the day (like - until 11.59 pm) Thursday, August 14th. I'll post the winner on Friday, August 15th.

Good luck!

Saturday, August 9, 2008


I remember when I was in college and we learned about simulacra. The definition is a likeness. I have always thought of it as art imitating life. An example - a painter paints a picture that he copied off a photograph. The photograph is one step away from the 'real thing'. Does that make sense at all? Think of Andy Warhol and his Campbell's Soup paintings - similar but not the real thing.

Anyway - on our vacation - we partook in simulacra.

Earlier this summer I borrowed a book from our local library entitled: Summer Crafts: Fun and Creative Summer Projects for the Whole Family. In this book, by Marjorie Galen, one of the crafts is creating a mermaid on the beach. We did that. The Craigville Beach on Cape Cod had an insane amount of seaweed washing up on it when we were there. What else are you to do with seaweed (other than make a seaweed tower) than to use it for mermaid hair!

In addition to there being an excessive amount of seaweed there was also an excessive amount of shells. Seriously, we cut our feet. The shells were at least a foot deep into the ocean and an inch or two deep. All my husband had to do was bring me handful after handful of shells from the ocean floor so Lola & I could decorate the mermaid. Lucy's job was to find seaweed.

And - to get back to the book - I liked it so much that I ordered it. It is no longer currently in print but is available used and new via Amazon's search. She has patterns for sewing up some backpacks for your kids to use at the beach - brilliant! Make them carry their own things off the beach in their own backpack. There is a chocolate chip cookie recipe. There is an entry on using mod podge and paper on rocks as well as baking your rocks and then coloring on them with crayons to create one of a kind art. All the photos are great and her explanations / directions are easy to follow.

The only reason we actually wound up making the mermaid is because Lucy looked through the book before vacation and once we got to the beach that is what she requested we make. So we did.

Before summer ends, see if your library carries this book. You won't be disappointed by it. Be careful about where you leave it in your home. Your children might start asking you to sew them a mermaid doll or make them a necklace with seashells if you leave it someplace they can find it.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Reusable Grocery Bags

I love using reusable grocery bags. I like making them too. I've tried a bunch of different patterns. They are mostly the same - some include front pockets. Some have you attach your straps on the outside, some on the inside. I think the pattern I like the most so far comes from the Sew Mama Sew website. It's easy to follow and you can whip one up in a night of sewing (or even two - really - they are that fast to do).

I'm going to make some and bring them down to NJ. My mother says the local grocery store by her gives her a nickel off her order for each reusable bag she uses. That's exactly five cents more than I get.

The fabric I used came from my yard sale booty. I have some large pieces of fabric, some smaller pieces, and have been trying to figure out what to do, aside from letting Lucy make 'tooth fairy bags' for all her friends. This seems perfect for the larger pieces. The smaller ones just don't make big enough bags. I'm thinking maybe they can be pockets on bags. Or perhaps pockets on something else.
And, as you can see from the above photo, I have easily placed three boxes of cereal into my bag with room for at least one if not two more boxes. Who knew that this orangey-yellow color was so popular for cereal boxes? Not I - until these were in the bag.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Daisy Chain Tutorial

Daisy Chains! Okay, we use black-eyed susans but you get the point. This is such a great, easy, no cost (unless you need to buy the flowers) activity.

First - pick some flowers from your yard. Make sure your stems are at least two inches long. Daisys and black-eyed susans work nicely. We have also done this with dandelions. I don't recommend making chains out of any flower that has a milky sap. The sap will be all over your fingers, or worse, your child's head.

Pick up your first flower and about an inch or two down make a slit in the stem with your fingernail.

Open the hole a bit.

Place stem of a second flower into the hole.

You now have a chain of two flowers.

Repeat the process of making a hole in the stem with your fingernail and inserting a new flower into the slit.

Look - three now. Keep going around. When you come to the last flower, what I do, is I make sure the stem is longer than the others and weave that stem through at least one other hole making it a little sturdier.

Voila! A flower fairy with a beautiful crown.

Here is Lucy making herself an anklet. She's six so a child of six years of age, if motivated enough, can do this all by herself.

Get out and unplug your kids. Make some daisy chains. Draw with some chalk on the sidewalk. You can even brush the dog. And if you don't have a dog to brush feel free to come over and brush mine. She's got a ton of fur!

Photos of my un-manicured hands courtesy of Lucy.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Skylight Curtain Tutorial

When we moved to New England seven years ago we noticed a trend. Most of the houses had skylights. I love skylights. I love that they vent the hot air out and that during our long winter months they let light in. Lots of light. What I don't like is that my children's bedrooms are so bright when they go to bed the children (1) refuse to go to sleep while Mr. Golden Sun is still up and (2) are unable to sleep in late in the morning with Mr. Golden Sun shining in their eyes at 5.30 am.

I first whipped this skylight curtain up about six years ago for my husband, who couldn't see the t.v. or play his X-Box on weekends because of the glare on the television.

The skylights in my children's bedrooms are huge. I measured the width of the window to be 43 inches across. I added one inch onto this number for a hem. The width of the fabric would need to be 44 inches.

I then measured the length. 50 inches. I then added a few inches on the end for the rod sleeves and came up with a length of 56 inches.

Supplies needed:
  • Two fabric pieces cut 44 x 56 (make sure your backing fabric is black - my first skylight curtain has Nemo fabric for the front and back and it does not do the job well)
  • Two tension rods that extend to 60 inches (the kind you use for shower curtains - can be found at some grocery stores or at large discount stores. Pay attention to the lengths - they come in a variety of sizes - buy the ones that will fit your window)
  • Sewing machine, iron, thread, scissors, ruler, yardstick

Find a nice large table or floor and cut both your front and back fabric to size. Sit there and cut and sew extra fabric onto main piece since you used it before on a quilt and completely forgot. Actually - a patchwork front to match a homemade quilt on a bed would be nice as well. Remember to wash, dry, and iron your fabrics before cutting.

On both 44 inch sides of both the front and back fabric fold the fabric down one half inch, iron and sew. You now have a hem and your fabric is now 43 inches wide.

Place the fabrics right sides together. Sew up both of the 56 inch sides. You now have a large tube you can capture children in.
Once you release your prisoners turn the tube so it is now right side out. Iron it.

Find that large table or floor again. Place the tube on the floor with the black fabric facing you (pretty fabric will be on the floor - remember to sweep up dog hair before this part). Fold the fabric up 3 or 3 1/2 inches. I think three would have been fine but I went with 3 1/2 (see above image with ruler as a guide). Try to put your tension rod in the opening. If the widest part of the rod can easily slide in and out pin your fabric and sew. If not - adjust until the rod does slide in and out easily and then sew. You just made a sleeve for your tension rod. Repeat on other side.

Take rods and curtain to window. Insert tension rods into the curtain. Stand at window turning the rods until they fit. Stand back, admire your work and listen to your children scream "Mommy! It looks like the night sky!"

Can be taken down and washed. Can be rolled up to let in light. The kids can use it to build a fort or as a blanket for their dolls (okay - maybe just my kids). And mommy can hope it will help with bedtime / rise and shine time.

Happy Sewing!

(Edited to add: Children each slept at least one hour longer with the new skylight curtain in the bedroom window.)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Lucys Quilt

Lucys Quilt
Originally uploaded by bethvanduzer

On the Sew Mama Sew forum a fellow sewer was looking for an easy pattern for a first quilt. This was the first quilt I ever sewed. It was for my daughter. I returned to work when she was 13 months old. Before I went back I started this quilt so she would have something to remember me by while at daycare. This quilt was washed at least once a week for 2 1/2 years - until I quit my job and took her out of daycare.

The quilt was just a bunch of fabrics I picked up at either Wal-mart or Joann's. A lot of them were 1/4 yard cuts. The yellow border with the red cherries is also the fabric I used for the backing - it is a Mary Engelbreit fabric. I actually have three different cherry fabrics on this quilt - my husband likes cherries.

The only rule for putting this together - try not to have two of the same fabrics touching. I should have used more fabrics but this was my first and I had no clue as to how much fabric to buy or how many squares I needed. I believe I decided on five inch squares because the batting recommends quilting every five or six inches. So - squares a little smaller than that would mean I would only have to stitch in the ditch. Much less intimidating to me to do that.

The binding is what took the longest. I think binding is something you need to do a lot of before you get it right. And, once you do, you will be able to whip bindings onto quilts, and other projects, at lightning speeds - or at least faster than I do by looking in my Quilting for Dummies book wondering - what was I folding where?

I kept waiting for the sun to come out (and stay out) today but it kept evading me. So, here I am, after I get the kids to bed, hanging it in the bathroom - at least the tub is clean.

Kid's Swap

The mailman brought my kid's the best return from vacation gift ever - their kid's swap mail! Lucy and Lola received so much good stuff.

Lola loves her monkey.
Lola's loot - a Barbie - with her own surfboard, coloring book, crayons, a magic towel, a ring pop, journal, pen, change purse and a very 70's green hat and heels!
Lucy's loot - a mermaid sticker book, Uno, beads, fabric, a magic towel, crayons, a journal, pen, and a skip it - rope thingy - very cool, except that it was raining yesterday and I had to take it away from her since it flew off her leg directly at one of our windows. Today there is sun. She can use it later & I can take an action shot.
Lucy's favorite is her pillow. I'm loving the bags Sherry made - they are so nice. I'm thinking of liberating one of them - if the girl's will let me. I noticed she also sells them in her Etsy shop. They are completely reversible, soft (lined with flannel?) and quilted. And - she adorned one with Yo-Yo's and the other with crocheted flowers. they are fabulous. Did I mention how much I like them? I think they are too nice for groceries.
Who had a blue ring pop?

Thanks Mallory & Jace! You guys are awesome.


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