Dog Costume

Homemade Dog Costume

I meant to photograph the finished version of this, but I ended up being too distracted to do it. This was for the church spring play, and the final included a tail stiffened by a sliver of milk jug inside it.

The ears here are just pinned on, but I swear I did actually sew them to the headpiece.

The costume is made up of Goodwill items: leggings, T-shirt, with light brown T-shirt spots, plus a balaclava-type “hat” out of more T-shirt pieces. The headwear is very similar in concept to the knight helmets and ninja “hats” I’ve made in the past.

For the ears, I just made two tubes with rounded edges, then sewed them on the balaclava pointing up so that the stitching is tucked unseen just under the ears. This detail gave them just a little bit of oomph so they hung well, with a lot of personality.

My little model here was in the play but wasn’t actually the dog. Our friend who did play the dog totally rocked it out. Everyone worked so hard and did a wonderful job. I was proud to contribute and to have two young actors in the family, as both my kids were in it this year.

For more simple costumes, click here.

Scrap Quilting with a Seven-Year-Old

Scrap Quilt

I actually have three patchwork projects going now. Yes, three. Yes, I have a problem.

Hopefully more about the others soon. But this one started in the most irresistible way. I was making a bed cover for my daughter (10) when my son (7) declared he wanted a quilt, too. I told him he could look at some of my quilting books for inspiration, and he sat down and thumbed through them. He liked the Gee’s Bend book the best (is this kid good at getting brownie points or what? Gee’s Bend is my inspiration for all things quilty). Then he set about arranging my scraps into patterns.

Scrap Quilt 2

It’s been so fun to see what he comes up with. He’s very particular. Also fun to see what surprises come together as the patchwork grows. The way the deep orange pops, the way the blues and greens begin to blend together, the way the prints dance and change character according to their placement and size.

Scrap Quilt

All of these fabrics have a story. They’re bits from friends and family or pieces of other projects, some reeeeeally old.

Scrap Quilt

He seems to want it to be a lap quilt. For more of my patchwork projects, click here.

Finished Call the Midwife (the book). It was very good. I especially love the stories about the nuns. Fascinating people.

 

Weeds into Toys

Arrowhead Weed toy

Hi again folks. What have you been up to? I hope it’s getting warm and green wherever you are.

Here in Charlotte it’s very warm now, too warm, but it’s been exciting to see all the flowers make an appearance, and inevitably, there are lots of weeds popping up, too. Lately I’ve been thinking about the things my friends and I used to do with various weeds when we were kids.

  • There was the weeds-into-pop-guns trick, pictured above (arrowhead weeds, I just learned they’re called).
  • Clover chains
  • Trying to make a grass blade whistle (okay, not weeds, but still counts)
  • Of course making a wish on dandelion heads

Know any others?

I’ve been so focused on my writing goals that I haven’t been doing a lot of crafts and (interesting) cooking, though I do have a few things l’d like to share in the coming weeks. Our last day of school is today, which means my schedule will be quite a bit different from here until the end of August.

I’ll try to be here as much as I can, but you may find me more frequently on Twitter and Instagram, since those are easy for quick snippets. My Twitter handle is @emilysmithpearc and I’m on Instagram as Emily Smith Pearce.

Good news! I reached the goals I set for myself with both my nonfiction and YA novel manuscripts. This is big. So much writing done this year, though it’s easy to wish I had gotten even more done.

Currently reading: The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger and The Great Green Heist by Varian Johnson (both purchased at Park Road Books). Currently watching: Game of Thrones and Orange is the New Black.

 

Horse Pinata

Horse Pinata

My daughter wanted a horse piñata* for her party, and I decided I wasn’t spending $25 for a tiny unfilled horse-shaped one from Party City. I thought I was making things simple by making a balloon-shaped pinata with a horse on it, but of course it all ended up taking a lot more effort than I realized.

Still, though, I loved the thing while it lasted. I started with the instructions here, but somewhere along the way I went off script and in the end, the mechanics didn’t really work. It was too heavy, and there was no way to hang it, so I wedged it into the v-shaped crux of our neighbor’s tree trunk. It worked, what can I say?

Drawing the horse on the balloon shape turned out to be the hardest part since I couldn’t see the whole animal at once and had to keep rolling it back and forth to look at the different parts. I followed the drawing guidelines in Sachiko Umoto’s Let’s Draw Cute Animals. Such a fun drawing book, btw, for kids or adults.

Speaking of drawing and painting, my new neighbor came over for the party with all her polish paraphernalia and painted nails for any of the girls who wanted it. Wow! There was also a round of Pass-the-Parcel and Tap-the-Pot. Lots o’ prizes.

My boy (6) has recently gotten turned on to reading via sister’s recommendation of early reader versions of The Boxcar Children. Mind you, not fabulous literature, but boy is it fun to see those “I love this book!” sparks fly. I always loved the Boxcar children myself.

Proud moment: he read while walking home from school. No injuries—I was right there with him and it was really just a moment until he finished the book he’d already started. I just ordered him several used Boxcar easy readers as an end-of-the-school-year present. And I’ll figure out some version of a similar gift for my daughter. We go to the public library a lot in the summer, but it’s always handy to have a large stash of used paperbacks for travels. Goodwill and the used bookstore are great for that. Anything to keep them feeling excited about reading, really. The school is doing a book exchange, too, so I’m hoping especially Little Miss will trade out some of her old fairy books or whatnot for some new-to-her stuff.

I’m still enjoying Gary Shteyngart’s Little Failure and just bought a copy of The Divorce Papers, which I’ve been told is in the vein of Where’d You Go, Bernadette? (which I love love loved). What’s on your summer reading list?

*Sorry, folks, neither WordPress nor my keyboard will let me type a proper ñ in my title text box.

 

 

 

Why May Is Like December

Tree Costume

Well hello again! I’m sorry I’ve been away so long. It’s been a very busy month with not much promise of getting less busy anytime soon. Is it the same for you? I’m betting yes.

I’ve decided that the end of April through May is really just December all over again, with better weather. All the end-of-year events, school testing, gift-buying obligations opportunities, etc. etc. etc. General nuttiness. With that in mind, I’m trying to give myself permission to buy some ready-to-eat meals, to not bargain-shop every last little thing, to split infinitives, and to volunteer at the school only sometimes and not for every single event.

That said, I do love the weather, the flowers coming up, the outdoor meals, and time with extended family. Our daughter also (10) had her theatrical debut in a full-length play at our church, which was so, so fun to see. My most recent sewing project was tree costumes for the play. In the rush I forgot to take a photo of the finished costumes, but the photo above gives you an idea of the look.

Meanwhile, I’ve been very serious about moving forward my nonfiction book and my YA novel. Nose still to grindstone! Both are going well, but I’ve got a few more goals to reach before school lets out. Wish me luck.

Currently reading Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart. Such an interesting and funny read with a quirky, wry voice that I love. It’s a memoir detailing the author’s move from the Soviet Union to the U.S. in 1978, when he was a child. Thanks, Christina, for the loan!

Also, listening to Pop Culture Happy Hour podcasts and now All Songs Considered and Tiny Desk Concerts.

If you’re a kidlit person, maybe you followed the uproar over the lack of diversity at BookCon and the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign that followed on Twitter and Tumblr. One of the coolest things to come out of it was a lot of buzz for a forthcoming book by Varian Johnson, The Great Greene Heist. Billed as Ocean’s Eleven meets middle grade, it sounds like such a fun read and *bonus* has a diverse cast of characters. So excited for Varian, who is a fellow Florence, SC native (though we’ve never met in person, only virtually). I’ve read one of his previous books (My Life as a Rhombus) and was very impressed. If you want to diversify your shelves, join the #greatgreenechallenge and pre-order Varian’s book from your local bookstore.

Hope to see you here again soon before long.

 

 

 

Peppermint Marshmallows

Peppermint Marshmallows

We actually made these around Christmas, as a rainy day activity with the kids. We just followed Martha Stewart’s recipe and added some crushed peppermint candy on top.

We loved the way the concoction of sugar and gelatin morphs into white foam. It made me feel like a chemist (my chemist grandfather, by the way, loves to make candy and measures things out neatly on little squares of waxed paper).

Candy Making

True to form, I tried to cut out some of the sugar, as drowning the finished cubes in yet more white stuff seemed a bit excessive. Turns out, though, that you kind of need the powdered sugar on top at the end to keep the marshmallows from being a total sticky mess. It’s like flour, I guess, when you’re rolling out pizza dough.

Uncut Marshmallow

Marshmallows weren’t hard to make but they were definitely messy, even for my high mess threshold. I would totally recommend a giveaway plan, since even my kids, who were sure they’d want to eat the whole pan on their own, couldn’t finish them before they were past their prime (a couple of days).

The best part for me was having a giant marshmallow (we call them marsh planets) to put in my hot cocoa, which I made not-too-sweet on purpose.

Marshmallow in Cocoa

For more of my cooking and eating adventures, go here.

Around these parts we’re still being absolutely buried by fourth grade homework (what’s up with that?). I’m still loving, really loving My Berlin Kitchen by food blogger Lisa Weiss of The Wednesday Chef. It’s got love, travel, international friends and family, and recipes to boot. Currently dreaming of baby artichokes with potatoes and separately, braised endive. Never thought I’d be interested in endive, but she makes it sound so exciting! As an added bonus, the book is making me want to keep writing, and in my mind that’s the best kind of book.

I’ve been sewing a bit, some of which you can see on my Instagram feed. You can find me there under Emily Smith Pearce or in the lower righthand corner of my blog homepage.

This interview with writer/ director David O. Russell (of Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle) was so good I may have to listen to it again. I also loved reading this interview with the author, the illustrator, and the translator of Sydney Taylor Award honor book The War Within These Walls. The translator (Laura Watkinson) is a friend of mine in Amsterdam, and the interviewer (Joyce Moyer Hostetter) is a friend here in North Carolina. Small world!

Also just sent out my nonfiction manuscript to some early reader friends. So excited to be moving ahead with it. How are you? Cooking/ reading/ watching anything good?

Gluten-Free Pasta from Scratch

Gluten Free Pasta

We were going to go to the pool, but it was thundery. So we pulled out our pasta crank and got going on our first try at gluten-free homemade pasta.

Hubs got me Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking as a gift not long ago, and though I’d looked at its lovely pages many times, I’d never tried anything from it. Now that we’ve got two gluten-avoiders in the house, though, I’m more inclined to try gluten-free baking and such. The book has a special gluten-free flour blend recipe. You make a big batch of it and keep it in the fridge for all sorts of recipes.

I’ve made regular pasta with the crank a few times. The gluten-free version was definitely more challenging, and the results, while yummy, aren’t quiiiite the same. Everyone ate it enthusiastically, though, and fought over who got the last bits. I’m sure it will be easier and better the next time. The kids did a great job, but my patience was definitely wearing thin by the last few cranks.

Click here for a similar recipe by the cookbook authors. Hubs and I ate the pasta with basil and walnut puree (same ingredients as in the last post, just adding walnuts. Yum! The kids are begging to try the cinnamon rolls (from the book) next.

For more of my food posts, click here. Have a great weekend!

Cardboard Rocket Ship

Cardboard Rocket Ship

Hey folks! I didn’t mean to be gone for so long. End-of-year activities completely knocked me off course in the last weeks.

Meanwhile, my five-year-old came up with this project. He designed the whole thing, directing me to cut the box into specific shapes and getting me to help him put it back together with duct tape. It’s a rocket for his Lego guys.

Cardboard Rocket Ship

He often has cardboard construction projects going on, but this is by far his best yet. Next up, the two kids are working together on a shadow puppet theater. Hopefully I can share that soon.

As busy as we’ve been, I’ve found a few minutes here and there to finish up a few of my own projects that were alllllmost done, so I hope to show those to you, too.

Sadly, I did not finish my novel revision on time (my personal deadline was the end of preschool). But, I’m stealing all the minutes I can to keep working. Having a deadline definitely helps, even if it’s already passed me by.

What about you? Have you made any summer plans of things to do with the kids, or for yourself? We started making a list of fun things to do together. What’s on yours?

Simple Knight Costume

DSC_0980

Knight "Helmet"DSC_0965   DSC_0973

I made four of these after one of our nephews asked for a knight costume like the German Waldorf one our son has. I figured everyone should have one!

The “tabard” (red drapey thing) is basically a round-cornered rectangle with a hole for the head, finished with bias binding. I machine-appliqued letters on the front of each.

The “helmet” my son has is crocheted with silvery yarn, but I don’t crochet and knew I couldn’t knit anything fast enough, so I came up with a balaclava-type answer.

The first nephew got one made from a thrifted silvery sweater (picture #2). The sweater wasn’t big enough to make more helmets, though, and I knew the other three nephews (brothers) would be happier if theirs were all the same.

So, I made theirs out of a thrifted grey polo, with the added bonus of the bottom edges  already being finished (parts of the sleeves or bottom hem of the shirt). I added a “visor” of sparkly thrifted fabric and added pewter-look buttons to each side as the bolts.

I thought they turned out really well. Also, the time invested ended up feeling appropriate. Know what I mean?

I hope my little knights will defend their aunt when necessary! Although I look kind of Joan of Arc-y myself, don’t you think? Maybe I should’ve made one for me.

5 Simple Gifts to Make, With or Without Kids

Nearly every year, I like to make a bunch of one kind of gift that I can give to any number of people: relatives, neighbors, friends. It’s always good to have some on hand. I try to keep it something fairly simple so it’s not a stressful process.

Here are a few of my favorites:

1) Hand-Rolled Candles

I just discovered rolled beeswax candles (above) and have only actually made them with the kids at a bazaar. They’re dead easy but so pretty, and the kids loved the process. Instructions here. We did not prime the wicks, as suggested in the link—not sure if ours were pre-primed or what but they burned just fine.

2) Hand-Decorated Cloth Totes:

This is another fun one that’s useful, too. For information on materials, click here.

3) Self-Mixed Loose Teas:

I like to make Rooibos Chai, but over the years I’ve also made up various combinations involving spices, citrus peel, even dried cherries. Get creative with your favorite flavors.

4) Body Balm:

Another good, easy one is Lavender Body Balm. You melt beeswax with some oils and voila!

5) I don’t have a picture of this one, but Spice Rubs are another good gift, especially if the recipient likes to grill. I love Stephen Raichlen’s basic barbecue rub, from his book, How to Grill. Penzey’s is a good place to get the bulk spices.

Cardboard Christmas Trees:

This one’s more a craft than gift but it’s so easy to do with the kids or to make a bunch for table decorations. Make them fancy or plain. You can recycle them and make them again next year, which is one of the things I love best about them. Instructions here.