Monthly Archives: January 2014

Meet Hobie……and Evi.

I’ve been itching to dig out my sewing machine (we moved a few months ago, and are still unpacking) for a while now.  I had an excuse the other day–to make a baby gift–and once it was out, well, I didn’t want to give it up.  It’s still in the corner of our living room, and it’s gotten continued use the past few nights once the kids were in bed.

So, meet Hobie.

Meet Hobie.

Meet Hobie.

Made of knit on one side, flannel on the other, with ribbons for his tail spike and dermal plates.

Hobie's less-photogenic side, which is soft flannel.

Hobie’s less-photogenic side, which is soft flannel.

My favorite element is the patterned knit……

"Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!"

“Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!”

The background is a quote from “Firefly,” from Hoban “Wash” Washburne’s introductory scene (for whom “Hobie” is named).

(Hobie was made from this fabric, using a pattern from this tutorial.)

I was very excited to give little Hobie to my seven-month-old, Wil.

Um....okay, Mom.

Um….okay, Mom.

He was fairly indifferent.  After all, our living room floor was covered in Duplo pieces at the time, which were apparently much more interesting.

My two-and-a-half-year-old, however, was intrigued.  Every time I handed Hobie to Wil, Kaylie would sit down less than a foot from him and wait restlessly for him to put the dinosaur down, at which point she would snatch the toy up and proclaim, “Baby Wil’s all done with Hobie!  Kaylie can play with him now!”

Not just a baby toy, apparently.

Not just a baby toy, apparently.

I really meant for it to be a baby toy.  I mean, look at it.  It has no face, it’s made from two different fabrics, it has ribbon tags…..the seven-month-old should like it more than the two-and-a-half-year-old.  But Kaylie seemed so excited about it and so eager to play with it that I asked her if she would like her own dinosaur, too.  Oh, the look on her face….I love that look of unadulterated excitement that kids can get.  So Evi became naptime’s (and some of the rest of the afternoon’s) project.

Meet Evi.

Meet Evi.

Evi (“inEVItable betrayal”) is satin on one side and minky on the other, made from scraps left over from the aforementioned baby-gift project.  Her ribbons are a bit more crooked, because I really wanted to finish before Kaylie got up from her nap (I didn’t quite make it, but Kaylie enjoyed watching the last few steps of the process before she got to play with her).

Kaylie with both dinosaurs.

Kaylie with both dinosaurs.

Well, at least they were a hit with one kid.  And I think they’re pretty cute, too. 🙂

Dino 09


The snow.

I live in Atlanta.

Yes, we got “the snow.”

This is our second Atlanta winter.  Prior to that, my last fifteen winters were spent in Colorado, Alaska, and northern Indiana.  Generally, I walk by all the bundled-up Georgians in Walmart and mentally shake my head and scoff, “This isn’t real cold–this is Georgia!” while I brave the barely-below-freezing temperatures in long-sleeves and a fleece jacket.  These Georgians can be cute.

But yesterday, it snowed.  I mean, I think we might’ve gotten two whole inches!  While life carries on like normal in two feet of Alaskan snow, two inches here was enough to shut the city down.  My husband left work early at 12:30 yesterday, and what should have been a half-hour commute (at most) took him three and a half hours.  Today, there are thousands upon thousands of abandoned vehicles on the roads, left behind by people who ran out of gas from idling so long or preferred to walk to shelter; stranded commuters booked every hotel in the area last night and even camped out at retail stores and strangers’ houses.  I even read there was a baby born in traffic yesterday.

It’s ridiculous, I know.  But in my city’s defense, Atlanta is not used to snow, and therefore is not equipped for it.  They don’t keep the resources and personnel on hand to clear snow and salt or gravel the roads (and they shouldn’t–there are better ways to spend tax dollars than preparing for weather we almost never get).  And while it may be easy for us northerners to shake our heads in disbelief at how little these Atlantans know about driving in a dusting of snow, I will point out that there is a huge difference between driving on salted/gravelled roads and driving on nothing but snow and ice.  I learned how to drive in Alaska, where studded tires are a must in winter; I used to think Indiana drivers were complete and utter wusses in winter, until my first non-studded experience nearly skidding through an icy intersection at a red light.  Driving on unsalted, icy roads is much the same; it’s far more treacherous than those of us who are used to salt and gravel would expect.

But, on the up-side……

One of my very few regrets about moving to the South is that the thought of my kids growing up without snow in the winter.  No sledding?  Snowball fights?  Snowboarding, or snowmen?  So I was very excited that we could take Kaylie outside to play in our little dusting yesterday!

Snow! .....What do I do?

Snow! …..What do I do?

She was very excited at the prospect of playing in the snow she saw from her window, but once we bundled her up and got her outside, I don’t think she knew what to do with it…..

There's snow on our new van!

There’s snow on our new van!

So, in typical Kaylie fashion, she wiped the snow off of our van!  Because it shouldn’t be there.  (Yesterday and today, every time she looks out the window, the first thing she says is, “There’s snow on our new van!”)

Kaylie's version of a snowball.

Kaylie’s version of a snowball.

Casey encouraged her to try to throw snowballs.  And she tried to make a snow angel.  She came in covered in melting snow, but she had a blast.

And, the cold weather was a great opportunity for me to try out my new heat-transforming TARDIS mug!

It disappears!

It disappears!

The hot chocolate made the TARDIS disappear from the streets of London!  I could almost hear it while I watched it fade….

...and reappears!

…and reappears!

The TARDIS reappears on the other side of the mug, amidst stars and galaxies.  I think I’m going to get back into drinking coffee again…..


Cheesy Chicken Packets.

Cheesy Chicken Packets

Cheesy Chicken Packets

This is one of my all-time favorite go-to recipes.  We typically eat it at least once a week.  It’s quick and easy, and I always have all the ingredients stocked except for the crescent rolls.

You’ve probably seen similar versions on Pinterest and elsewhere.  This one is my own combination of primarily this version and a friend’s cheesy chicken casserole recipe.  I haven’t tried any other versions, but this idea is very customizable, so play around with it!

Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 package crescent rolls
  • 5-6 oz cooked chicken (you can buy a 5 oz can, or split a 12.5 oz can into two servings like I do)
  • 2/3 cup shredded cheddar
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • 1 Tbsp butter, melted
  • Italian bread crumbs, to taste

Preheat your oven to 350.

Cheesy Chicken Packets 03

Drain the can of cooked chicken (and divide into two portions, if using a large can).  Dump the chicken into a medium-sized bowl.

Cheesy Chicken Packets 04

I usually shred the chicken with my fingers, but you can leave it in larger chunks if you prefer.  I don’t really like the taste of meat, so my goal is to help that chicken hide in all the cheese.

Cheesy Chicken Packets 05

Add the cheddar and the milk to the bowl of chicken.  (That’s a 1/2 tablespoon pictured, because all my tablespoons seem to have disappeared from my kitchen.  Drat.  But use a whole tablespoon.)

Cheesy Chicken Packets 06

Mix well.

Cheesy Chicken Packets 07

Open the package of crescent rolls and unroll them into four rectangles; lay them flat on a greased cookie sheet.  Press diagonal seams together to prevent gaps.

(If you are doubling the recipe or using a smaller cookie sheet, you could alternatively form each packet one by one on a plate and arrange them on the cookie sheet once they’re filled and sealed.)

Cheesy Chicken Packets 08

Spoon gobs of cheesy chicken goodness onto one half of each rectangle.

Cheesy Chicken Packets 09

Leave room around the edges of each pile.

Cheesy Chicken Packets 10

Fold each rectangle over the filling and press the edges together to seal it.  Use your fingers to flatten each packet a little bit as you go.

Cheesy Chicken Packets 11

All sealed shut!  I like to rearrange mine to line up all pretty, but that’s just me.

Cheesy Chicken Packets 12

Microwave the butter in a small bowl to melt it.

Cheesy Chicken Packets 13

Like so.

Cheesy Chicken Packets 14

Brush each packet thoroughly with the melted butter.

Cheesy Chicken Packets 15

Sprinkle each packet liberally with bread crumbs.  I recommend using lots.

Cheesy Chicken Packets 16

Ready to bake!

Cheesy Chicken Packets 17

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, or until the packets are golden-brown.

Cheesy Chicken Packets 18

Like so.

Cheesy Chicken Packets 19

Mmmm!  Ready to eat!

Cheesy Chicken Packets 20

Enjoy!  I’d love to hear your variations on the packet idea!

Here’s the recipe, for your cut-and-paste convenience:

Cheesy Chicken Packets

  • 1 package crescent rolls
  • 1 can (5 oz) cooked chicken (or half of a 12.5 oz can)
  • 2/3 cup shredded cheddar
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • 1 Tbsp butter, melted
  • Italian bread crumbs, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Unroll crescent rolls and divide into four rectangles on cookie sheet.  Press diagonal seams together.
  3. In bowl, mix chicken (pulled into smaller pieces, if desired), cheddar, and milk.
  4. Spoon chicken mixture onto one half of each rectangle.  Fold rectangle in half to cover chicken mixture and press edges to seal shut.
  5. Brush packets with butter and coat liberally with bread crumbs.
  6. Bake 20-25 minutes (or until golden brown).

The trouble with Amazon.

We needed to place an order on Amazon this week, so I started browsing for things to bump us up to free shipping.  One “Dr. Horrible” DVD, a “Buffy” CD, a “Firefly” decal for our van, and a heat-transforming TARDIS mug later, and the thing we needed was no longer in stock.

I placed the order anyway.

Well played, Amazon.  Well played.

(We also needed sleep sacks for Wil.  I got those, too.  I’m not totally irresponsible….)


DIY Menu Board: A Tutorial.

Time for my first tutorial!

DIY Menu Board.

DIY Menu Board.

I have my hands full with a two-and-a-half-year-old and a six-month-old, so menu planning is a necessity if we’re going to eat anything that isn’t microwaveable.  Otherwise, I forget to make dinner until it’s time to eat dinner….

I’ve seen a number of creative menu boards on Pinterest (who hasn’t?), so I decided to try my hand at making one myself.  I wanted to be able to plan a full week at a time, I wanted to be able to plan multiple dishes for a single meal, and I wanted nothing hand-written (I’m a perfectionist, and my handwriting isn’t perfect enough for me).  So here is the board that I made to work for me. Here’s what you need:

Supplies.

Supplies.

  • A large frame (mine was a float frame from Target)
  • Scrapbook paper (from JoAnn Fabric & Crafts)
  • Clips (seven – one for each day) (two four-packs from Walmart)
  • Letter stickers (to spell the days and “menu”) (from JoAnn’s)
  • Organizer bin (for entree/dish cards) (from Target)
  • Not pictured: entree/dish cards (made from index cards)
  • Not pictured: washers (if your clips are magnetic like mine, you will need washers if the magnets are set back into the bottom of the clip…I’ll explain when I get there) (from Walmart)

(Obviously, you can get your supplies from stores of your choice; these are the places I got mine.)

Tools.

Tools.

  • Mod Podge glue
  • Foam brush
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Super glue (suitable for glass)
  • Uber helpful: paper cutter thingy, for straighter lines!

Let’s get started!

Step One: Measuring

Step one: Measuring.

Step one: Measuring.

Lay out everything in your frame approximately where you will want it to go on the final product.  (If you only divide up your frame into seven sections for days–no bin at the bottom–you will need to be very precise in your measurements and in cutting so that your final strip is not fatter or skinnier than the rest!  Adding one unique element–like my bin, or a header or space for a quote or grocery list–is helpful in giving you a little wiggle room.)

Step Two: Cutting

Step two: Cutting.

Step two: Cutting.

Once you know how wide each section needs to be, begin cutting strips of scrapbook paper to go between the glass.  I chose two different patterns of scrapbook paper that complemented each other; you could use as many colors and patterns as you like.  But it is always a good idea to buy more paper than you expect you will need!  I managed to mutilate almost an entire sheet before I realized I was using the wrong blade to cut it; fortunately, I waaay overbought since JoAnn’s was having a sale on scrapbook paper the day I went shopping.

Since I had a little wiggle room, I cut my strips slightly wider than I needed them, so that I could overlap them just a hair.  That prevented gaps between the strips from imperfect cutting.  I would especially recommend overlapping like this if you are cutting by hand with scissors.

Check to make sure everything fits before gluing!

Check to make sure everything fits before gluing!

Before you begin gluing, double-check how everything fits together.  Re-cutting paper is far less work than removing glued paper from the glass if your measurements are incorrect!

Step Three: Gluing

Step three: Gluing.

Step three: Gluing.

Remove the backing from the frame.  If you are using a float frame like I did, you will glue your scrapbook paper to the back piece of glass; if you are using a standard frame, you will glue your paper to the backing or a piece of cardboard cut to fit, or you could glue the front of the paper to the back of the glass.  I suppose you could even glue it on top of the front piece of glass, but I like the multi-dimensional depth of having a layer of glass between the paper and the stickers and clips.

(I’m not a Mod Podge expert.  I had some leftover glue from a project a few years ago, but I am not the person to ask about which type of glue is best for a project like this.)

View from the underside.

View from the underside.

I cut my scrapbook paper the appropriate height top-to-bottom, but I didn’t trim the sides until after gluing.  I found it worked well to line up one side of the paper with the glass, and then I went back and cut the extra paper from the other side with scissors after the glue had dried a bit.

Glue, glue, glue.

Glue, glue, glue.

Next, I coated the entire thing with a layer of Mod Podge.  I did not take great care to be sure that every edge and corner laid perfectly flat, since the front piece of glass would go over the glued paper.

Step Four: Framing

Step four: Framing.

Step four: Framing.

Once the scrapbook paper is completely dry, reassemble the frame.

Step Five: Stickering

Step five: Stickering.

Step five: Stickering.

I used letter stickers on top of the glass to label each day.  Other options would be to sticker the scrapbook paper before reassembling the frame, hand-writing the days onto the paper or the glass, or using dry-erase markers to label days (a good idea if you often menu-plan mid-week or your schedule fluctuates).

I laid out the clips, with cut index cards, on the board before stickering, so I knew how much room I had to work with.  Originally I had planned to spell out entire days, but “Wednesday” was just not going to fit!

Step Six: Adding clips

Step six: Adding clips.

Step six: Adding clips.

First, I measured how far from the left side I wanted my clips; then, I lined up my metal 18-inch ruler along this proposed line and held it absolutely still while I worked.  I very precisely measured the height of each section and marked the exact middle with a permanent marker, right up against the ruler.

Plotting dots.

Plotting dots.

Dots in a straight line!

Gluing clips.

Gluing clips.

I used super glue to adhere the clips to the glass, centering each circle on my dots.  Since the clips were magnetic, and rather cheaply made, the magnet part was set back into the metal circle, leaving a gap between the magnet and the glass while the circle’s metal edge is against the glass.  The clips began pulling off with some use, so I went back and glued metal washers, slightly smaller than the circle, between the magnet and the glass.

Step Seven: Adding the bin

Step seven: Adding bin.

Step seven: Adding bin.

This was the one thing I didn’t measure to death.  I centered it by sight and super-glued that puppy on.

Finishing touches.

Finishing touches.

I bought raised metallic stickers at JoAnn’s for the “Menu” at the top.

Dry faster, dang it!

Dry faster, dang it!

I let everything dry much longer than I probably needed to.  Being both extra careful and extra impatient can be frustrating sometimes….

Finished menu board!

Finished menu board!

My menu board is done!

Now for the entree/dish cards….

Planning entree/dish cards.

Planning entree/dish cards.

This is obviously a very customizable step.  I wanted to be able to display up to three different dishes–one entree and two sides–for each meal.  I also wanted to color-code dishes to easily plan out having an entree, a carb side, and a veggie side, so I could tell at a glance if a week was too carb-heavy or too low on veggies.

Finished entree/dish cards!

Finished entree/dish cards!

I used blank unlined 3×5 index cards.  I cut them in half lengthwise.  For veggie dishes, I used a full half; for carb dishes, I cut off a quarter of the strip and used three-quarters; for meat entrees, I used half of the half.  I measured how much space was viewable on each piece when they were overlapped, taking into account that I would need some room to color-code, and typed up the names of my favorite and most-used dishes in a Word document using columns and setting the column width to what I needed.  I printed them off, cut them out, cut color strips, and taped it all together with clear packing tape.  Laminating them would be preferable, but I don’t have the tools for that.

My menu board!

My menu board!

Here it is!  My finished menu board, with a week’s worth of meals planned.  I hope you are inspired to plan your own menu board–I’d love to hear about it!


Toddler armor.

Whenever we get to the end of a paper towel or toilet paper roll, my daughter asks for the “telescope” (i.e., the empty cardboard tube).  Usually that’s what she uses it as, but other times, she’ll shove her tiny arm through it and ask, “Mommy, what is this?”  Half the time, I answer, “It’s a cast!”  (Grandma Carol broke her arm several months ago, so Kaylie’s familiar with the concept.)  The other half of the time, I answer, “It’s a vambrace!”  Sometimes she goes along with my answer; sometimes she corrects me and tells me it’s the other one; often, she flip-flops between the two over the course of the conversation.

Today, after the usual cast/vambrace routine, she took the tube off her arm and rested it against her leg.  “Mommy, what’s this?”  “Well, if you could fit it around your leg, it would be a greave.  Like a vambrace, but to protect your leg in a battle, instead of your arm.”  She considered the idea for a moment, and I could see she was trying to figure out how that would work, so I offered to get scissors so we could put it around her leg.  She was game.  “Look!  I have a greave!”  I even pulled out my iPad and showed her pictures online of vambraces and greaves.

If you give a kid a greave, and show them pictures of people wearing more than one, they’re going to want another.  And if you give them a pair of greaves, they’re going to want a pair of vambraces to go with it.  One paper towel roll tube and a few cuts later, we had this:

 

Kaylie sports her arm-and-leg armor.

Kaylie sports her arm-and-leg armor.

“Mommy!  I have greaves and vambraces!”  And no pants….sorry, we’re potty-training this week.  (She pooped in the potty today!  Yay!  You know you’re a mom when that’s the highlight of your day…)

Armoring up.

Armoring up.

My toddler has cardboard armor.  That’s a parenting win, in my book. 🙂


Raising little dragonslayers.

So, what is “Raising Little Dragonslayers” about?

Write what you know, right?  So I’ll be writing mostly about the things that have the majority of my time, attention, and interest: parenting my two kids, general geekery, and the relationship between the two.

Full-time mom

Momming is a 24/7 gig.  Literally.  My six-month-old has a cold and was miserable last night, so I didn’t get to go to bed until my husband relieved me just before 3 am (they both finally made it to bed half an hour later), and he (baby, not husband) woke up crying and congested at 7:15.  Fortunately, my two-and-a-half-year-old slept through the night for once; lately she’s been prone to waking up crying multiple times a night, usually sobbing about pooping in her diaper and insisting she needs a diaper change (she never poops in her sleep–I think she has dreams about pooping in her diaper, and, being only two, can’t differentiate between dreams and reality upon waking in the middle of the night).  I spend in the ballpark of ninety percent of my time taking care of my kids: feeding them, changing them, chasing them, washing them, playing with them….it is my life.  It’s exhausting and frustrating and wonderful.

Being a mom is my identity right now.  My kids are young, so they need a lot from me, which doesn’t leave a lot of time and energy for very much else.  So I anticipate sharing stories of my kids–their funniest and most frustrating moments–on this blog (because what the kids did today is often all I did today, too), along with thoughts on and experiences of parenting in general.

Part of being a stay-at-home mom is also running the house: keeping up with laundry, dishes, cleaning, cooking.  Ha!  These days, I just try to keep up enough to keep things from growing where they shouldn’t.  (And that’s okay.)  I look forward to sharing thoughts on what works in our house and tips and ideas that have made my life easier, including favorite go-to dinner recipes and crafty organizational projects.

Full-time geek

I suppose technically I’m more “nerd” than “geek”, since I prefer books to technology and I’m atrocious at video gaming, but I use the term “geek” broadly to communicate that I am a person that enjoys passionately pursuing, to whatever degree I desire and/or am able, things I find exciting, regardless of the interest level of those around me.  What kind of geek am I?  I am at home with a book in my hands, especially of the epic fantasy or young adult dystopian varieties; David Tennant is “my” Doctor; I adore everything Joss Whedon has touched (particularly “Firefly” and “Dollhouse”); my sewing machine sees more use sewing costumes than anything practical; I collect swords, knives, and guns; I am a tabletop gaming enthusiast.  If it has to do with Lord of the Rings, “Buffy”, “Sherlock”, Narnia, pirates, modern “Doctor Who”, original Star Wars trilogy, horses, linguistics, Felicia Day, or Harry Potter, I’m in.  I’m always open to checking out new things, and I’m usually a little late to the game since I don’t watch live TV and I merely dabble in social media.  These interests inform who I am, and, right now, how I parent.  The things I love are a part of me.  So I’ll be writing about them.

Part-time grown-up

I’m twenty-seven, and I still don’t feel like a grown-up.  Is that weird?  I’m older than the characters on “Friends” were when the show started….bizarre.  I still can’t wrap my head around it.  When I was a kid, “grown-up” seemed like such an obvious stage of life or state of being, but I didn’t feel grown-up when I graduated high school, graduated college, had my first alcoholic beverage, got engaged, got married…or had two kids.  I think that’s partly because of the nerd-slash-geek that I am: I think “growing up” carries connotations, in my mind, of getting boring.  Of abandoning the pursuits I loved as a child.  Of living only for grown-up responsibilities.  And I suppose that’s true, to some extent: I have had to sacrifice many of my pursuits as I’ve grown into more responsibilities.  But I still love the things I love, and love them passionately, and I still get uber excited about things that don’t seem very “grown-up” to me.  Like Lord of the Rings LEGO….those two sets were two of my favorite Christmas presents last year.  I think I’m beginning to learn that my idea of what it was to be a grown-up wasn’t very accurate; either that, or geeks just make for more interesting grown-ups. 🙂  So on this blog, I’m going to be honest about what I’m excited about, even if I think I’m coming across as childishly giddy over something some might find silly.  Because that’s who I am.

Raising little dragonslayers

So, that’s me: I’m a geeky mom.  I want to raise my kids to passionately pursure what they want.  I want them to be unafraid to love what they love; I want them to have the courage to speak up about and fight for what matters to them.  I hope they like some of the things I like, but if they don’t, I want to be the mom who cheers them on in whatever they love.  I want them to live adventures of their own, and slay their own dragons.  And I’m gonna write about it.

My little dragonslayers, Kaylie & Wil.

My little dragonslayers, Kaylie & Wil.


Getting started.

I’ve been talking about starting a blog for months.  Mostly to myself.  I’ve had so many “that would make a great blog post idea!” moments in the last year….I’ve even taken process pictures of most of my craft projects–you know, “just in case” (I hope to post a few of those soon!).  But it’s hard with two kids to get the ball rolling on anything that you know is going to take up time.  Free time is precious.  I have a two-and-a-half-year-old who takes one nap in the afternoon, and a six-month-old who takes two naps a day, but there are days those naps don’t line up AT ALL, and I feel as though the only things I have done today is feed children and change diapers.  But on some blissful days, like this one, the naps somehow line up and I get an hour to myself.  On those days, I have to decide which thing–because I’ll likely only get one–to spend my hour, sometimes two, on.  Watch an episode of whatever geeky show I’m plowing through on Netflix?  Disappear into a chapter of whichever epic fantasy I’m currently reading?  Try to make some progress on that craft I’ve been dying to get back to?  Squander my time in the black abyss that is Facebook and Pinterest?  Or, some days, fold laundry and try to quietly wash a few of those dishes that have been piling up?  So, naturally, blogging has never, until today, risen to the top of that list.

“You’re starting a blog?  Now?!?”  My husband juuuust walked through the door, unexpectedly home early, and in one sentence I greeted him and told him what I was doing.  He gave me a look like I’m a little crazy.  “You’re starting a blog?  NOW?”  Yes, now.  Even if I almost never have time to post.  Even if I forget about it for a while.  Even if, in a week’s time, or a month’s, or a year’s, I decide this was an utter waste of time and I ought to jump ship and abandon the idea completely.  Because getting started might be the hardest part.  Maybe, once I’ve gotten going, I can turn some of those “great blog post idea” moments into actual blog posts.  Maybe not.  But yes, now.  Right now.  Before the excitement of actually doing it wears off (or my kids wake up).  Because I am excited.  And I’m just getting started. 🙂