Friday, March 30, 2012

An Easter treat (made by the kids!)

Chickie's school had a carnival last week, and one of the events was a "Kinder Cake Auction." Kindergarten kids were invited to decorate a "cake, cupcake, or anything in between" for auction. Proceeds benefited the PTA.

I stretched the definition of "cake" a bit when I decided to make dipped Easter Eggs made out of crispy rice cereal. (Yes, I did use the generic brand of Rice Krispies!) There's a basic recipe on the Rice Krispies website, but we changed it a bit. We used melted Almond Bark instead of chocolate chips with shortening (easier, and it "set" very quickly); and instead of dipping the eggs in sprinkles, the kids just shook the sprinkles on.


One thing I love about this treat is that even a four-year-old and a six-year-old can decorate the "eggs" and they still turn out really cute! No "adult expertise" required.

Caught you eating a sprinkle, Zoodle!

One recipe made about 30 eggs. I made sure that Chickie decorated a dozen for the auction. (We kept Zoodle's eggs for ourselves!)


Chickie's eggs went in a cute basket.


They didn't sell for much. They were sold at the beginning of the auction when things were "ramping up," and I didn't drive the bid up like a lot of other parents ended up doing--oops! But the person who bought them seemed to really want them, and I hope she enjoyed hers as much as we enjoyed ours.

I highly recommend this as a great kid activity for Easter--an activity that results in snacks that Mom and Dad want to eat too! (I mixed and formed the eggs by myself while Chickie was at school, but that's something she would have been old enough to help with too.)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Happy birthday, Zoodle

Oh, my sweet boy. Four years ago you made our family complete (barring any surprises in the future, anyway!) I'm so glad you made me the mommy of a son.

We had Zoodle's party Saturday. (And try explaining to a four-year-old that it is indeed his "real" and "actual" birthday party even when it's not on his birthday. And that he doesn't get a second party on the day of his birthday.)

He wanted a Spider-Man cake. I haven't had the motivation for five-hour decorating jobs lately, so I bought a plastic cake topper off Amazon. (It even says, "Happy birthday from your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!" when you push a button on it.) Knowing that a Spider-Man cake should have lots of red on it...and knowing how awful homemade red frosting tastes...I used white buttercream with lots of red sugar sprinkles. Cute, easy, and still tasty.


Here's my boy this morning...officially four years old!


I fully expect him to have a happy birthday. He's pretty good at bringing happiness to every day!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Evolution of a hat

I really love designing crocheted items. If I didn't design most of my own projects, I might have gotten bored by now! I'm so glad there are free patterns online. They were so useful to me when I started out, and I sometimes still use someone else's pattern. But in general, I find the creative process so much more gratifying when I'm designing my own pieces.

I thought I'd share my two most recent hats with you, and explain how the design process worked.

The Engineer's niece just had her first baby, a little girl. I wanted to make a hat for her. I had an idea of the types of stitches I wanted to put together so the hat would have a particular "look" and texture. But as I sat down and began working, what was in my head just wasn't working. I pulled out many rounds of stitches and adjusted what I was doing...and pulled them out again, and adjusted more.... I'm not sure how many stitches I ended up pulling out, but this was one hat that required a lot of "re-doing" before I was happy with it!

It did turn out cute...


...but it also turned out big! I didn't want the baby to have to wait years before she wore it, so I gave it to Chickie. I must say, I think she looks adorable in it.



Once it was done, I decided I really liked how the main stitch pattern looked. It's easier to see details in person, but in addition to the "shell" stitches, there are cute little "bumps" around the hat, under each shell row. But I wasn't crazy about the crown of the hat--solid stitches without the open look of the hat body. I thought it would be nice for the baby's hat to have more of a "spring" feel.

So when I sat down to work on the baby hat, I chose yarns that were much lighter-weight than the yarn I originally chose. I also used a net-like stitch pattern for the crown of the hat so it would be nice and open like the rest of the hat. I made other adjustments...pulled out a bunch when I didn't like the result...and finally came up with something I really liked.


Knowing how unlikely my babies were to keep hats on (once they figured out how to take them off), I added an adjustable chin strap and a cute button.


It took a lot of work (and a lot of re-working!) but I love the final product--a cute little bonnet to dress up a baby in the spring! I think it will be a little big for a newborn, but hopefully it will fit The Engineer's great-niece perfectly next year.

There's no magic to crochet design...just lots of trial and error! And it's so fun to see how it all comes together in the end.

Monday, March 26, 2012

My wonderful mother-in-law

It's time for an update. And it feels good to write about something that I've been wanting to share for some time.

When I first met The Engineer's parents (not too long after The Engineer and I started dating), I immediately just loved them--both his mother and his stepfather. They accepted me wholeheartedly without any of those pesky "Is this girl good enough for our boy?" vibes.

At the time, they were 70 and 71 years old, about the same age as my grandparents. (The Engineer is eight years older than me, and his mom was 41 when he was born.) But I was so impressed--they seemed so much younger than 70! I remember The Engineer telling me that he'd recently taken them rappelling down a mountain! They both had such sharp minds, and I genuinely enjoyed just sitting and chatting with them. I was thrilled to join their family officially about a year later.

We didn't get to see them all the time, since we've always lived pretty far away. But we visited them about once a year, and their retired status allowed them to come visit us pretty easily. We went on two cruises with them before we had kids. (Those are great memories!)

Unfortunately, several years ago, The Engineer's mom gradually began to show her age. Her husband kept us posted, and when we saw them in person, we'd really watch her to see how she was doing. Things have been worsening significantly over the last two or three years.

After considering the options, The Engineer and his stepfather determined that the best way for his mother to get the care she needed was for her to be in a facility where skilled caregivers could help her, around the clock. They decided it would be a good idea to move her close to us, where there are more facilities to choose from. I know it was such a hard decision for them both. Recently I wrote about how proud I've been of my husband through this time. He's been awesome--wise and kind and loving. I also have such strong respect and love for my father-in-law. He's made huge sacrifices for the wife he loves!

In February, The Engineer flew out to see his parents. He spent the weekend there, and then they all flew back here. After staying here a little over a week, his mother was moved into a really wonderful facility only 15 minutes from us. It's small and family-run, and in a lovely area backing up to the woods. It's very personal since the maximum number of residents they can have is 12.

It's a great facility--but the transition has been tough. We've gone up and down emotionally, wondering if this is going to work out. It's just not wise for her to live at home (or with us) right now, though we all wish that wasn't the case.

Things are looking up, now that she's been in the facility for awhile. We pray that she fully transitions there and begins to consider it "home." Her husband was able to stay with us for a couple of weeks after she moved in, to help with the transition. It was wonderful having him here, as hard as the situation has been. His family is all halfway across the country, and that is his home, so he eventually flew back there and will visit here frequently.

Aging can be beautiful. And aging can also be tough. I've seen my mother-in-law experience the beautiful and the tough sides of aging. It seems so cruel for such a vibrant, awesome woman to change so much. God has given me so much peace through this process, and I pray he gives that same peace to my wonderful mother-in-law. It will be good to have her near us.

At the same time, it's so hard to see her as she is today, so different than the energetic woman I met in 1999. I look forward to the day when we'll see her, whole and complete, for eternity.

The Engineer's mom and stepfather, in 2006

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Why I love The Hunger Games

Many months ago, I kept reading effusive comments online about The Hunger Games series. I looked it up online, and decided it wasn't for me. Kids killing each other...for sport?! It sounded too disturbing!

But I kept hearing good stuff. Then I got a Kindle. I was offered a special deal on a book...and The Hunger Games was one that I could choose. I could, essentially, buy it for free. So I decided to try it out.

And I loved it. Yes, on the surface, it's a story about pre-teens and teenagers who are forced into a fight to the death, for the entertainment of the ruling class. That's pretty gruesome. But as I read the book (and quickly devoured the other two books of the trilogy too), I realized this series doesn't glorify violence.

It's a story about fighting against injustice.

It's a story about respecting life.

It's a story about love.

It's a story about trust.

It's a story about how people are changed by violence.

It's a story about how terribly people can be changed by war...even when they fight for a just cause, even with the war is necessary.

In the end, The Hunger Games trilogy touched me, thrilled me, and made me think. It entertained me--not because it plays up the "entertainment" value of violence. But because the characters, the plot, the eternal themes of good against evil--were so well-written and compelling.

I can't wait for the movie (released on March 23). I'm reading the first book again, in preparation, and I know I won't be able to stop there--I'll need to read the other two books again too.

I love getting lost in a book, and it's especially satisfying when it's a book that really says something, something worth hearing. That's what The Hunger Games does for me.

This book review is uncompensated.