Friday, April 29, 2011

Birthday Party Fit for a Cat

This year my daughter wanted a "cat party." Did I ever have fun planning this one! You've already seen our Cat's gift for her, but for the next week or so I thought I'd share I created the rest of her party.

In our house, birthday parties usually involve homemade napkins. I hate throwing the disposable ones away, and we love reminiscing about the party they were created for when we use the napkins later on. (What I've done in years past can be seen here, here, and here.) Since we often have napkins, this year I started with them.

I found the cat material at Joann Fabrics. It's part of Debbie Mumm's Classic Cats line. I usually cut my napkins out as a 20 inch square, so I can get six napkins from 1 3/4 yards of fabric. Since I'm a worrier (and I live on an island and just can't run out to get more,) I usually buy two yards just so I have some wiggle room. I've made double thickness napkins before - you know, the ones you turn inside out and then edge stitch. But since I got my serger I've been making single thickness ones. It's so easy to just roll the edge on the napkin and call it done. It's quick too - I think I made all of them in under two hours.

Once I had the napkin fabric, everything else seemed to fall into place. I had a color scheme (teal, green, and brown) so I could start working on the decorations...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Crazy Old Cat Lady

Yeah, that'll be me in about 35 years...

It was "Future Dress-up Day" at school. Thanks to a muumuu, one of my grandmother's wigs, a ton of jewelry, red lipstick and a stuffed cat I was able to channel my inner Mrs. Roper. Let me tell you, those Hawaiian ladies had a great idea when they invented the muumuu. It was so comfortable - I think I could wear one every day.

My son went as a high school senior. He wore this shirt,

and a graduation cap. Too perfect that I had this shirt when our school's colors are blue and white. 2023 seems so far away, but somehow I know it will be here before I know it.

Making the shirt from plastic bags was a great way to whip up something for him the night before dress-up day!

Iron on decals from plastic bags tutorial can be found here.

I purposely didn't iron the letters and numbers on well. At the end of the day I peeled the letters off the shirt and can now reuse it for something else. Quite practical, if I do say so myself.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

This year Easter is a bit unusual for us - we're home! Usually we all go to my parent's house for the weekend, but this year we decided it was time to invite them here. Not traveling has been so nice. Now I just need to go iron my good tablecloth and get out grandma's china so we can enjoy a fancy meal. We've been in our house six years and I think this is only the third time I've gotten out the good china.

My husband is making salmon. I'm not sure that it "goes" with the green bean casserole (my son's favorite) or the baked brie and homemade bread (my favorite) but I'm sure my mom will appreciate not having to cook.

My Grandma Lilly got this china when she got married in the 1930s. The pattern is called "Chelsea Bird," though it's not my favorite as china patterns go. In fact, I use to call it "the chicken china," but I love that it belonged to my grandmother. She lived in Florida, so I never got to eat off these plates as a child, but I think it would make her smile to know that I think of her every time we use them. I'm going to have to work on creating reasons to get it out more often. Any suggestions for me?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Back Hat It

The hat bug has bitten once again. I just can't stop making these beanies! I think it's because I keep finding this particular sweater at Goodwill; this is the fourth one. I think I've finished eleven of these hats in the past two weeks. Now I just need to finish up all the flower pins...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Farewell to Fred

Fred, the beloved hamster in my son's classroom, died the other day. Given the tumor growing on his shoulder, the kids knew it was only a matter of time. My son wrote him (with help) a darling little note the day before he died...

Our school custodian (the old softy) built a little wooden casket for Fred, and then helped the K-1 class bury him. It was a sweet little funeral, just perfect for a sweet little hamster...

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Good Old Fashioned Barn Raising

Walking home last week we were able to watch a group of Amish (or perhaps Mennonite) men put a new metal roof on one of the island's barns. I was surprised to discover their families came to Mackinac Island with them. Apparently, that way they have a large enough group to hold their church services while they are away from home.

Each day my son looked forward to checking ton their progress as we walked past after school.

I've always wanted to spend a summer living with an Amish family. (My husband thinks I'm crazy.) I know would be quite challenging: no computer, no blog, no ipod, no cell phone, no sonicare, no makeup, etc. and I'm sure I'd be dog tired at the end of every day. But I think once my body was use to the labor, I'd enjoy it. I think in September I'd have a new found appreciation of all those little things in my life that I take for granted.

My daughter, on the other hand, would hate it - she is all about screens these days and does not understand our family limitation on "screen time." She might not enjoy an Amish summer, but there's no doubt in my mind that it would be good for her.

How about you - would you give it a try?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Our Cat's First CD Release

We're all about themed birthday parties in our family. So far birthdays in our house are a family affair, I'm sure the day will come when they ask to invite friends, but right now we usually have a special family dinner. Over the years we've celebrated with mermaids, rainbows, dinosaurs, fairies and Candy Land, but this year my daughter requested a cat cake. Since I usually tie the party to the cake request, her party will be all about cats.

My daughter loves our cat, Sushi. So I thought she might appreciate a present from her favorite feline. The cat and I spoke and decided that an album full of cat songs would be purr-fect. But it was really important to Sushi that it to look like a real CD. Sushi tried to he helpful, but her claws just kept getting in the way, so I actually made the CD by myself. It took some time, but I think the result was well worth it. (And Sushi approves.)

I began by measuring the artwork on the front of a CD. (4.75 inches by 4.75 inches.) Using photoshop, I created an image twice that size. (In my first attempt I made it the exact size I wanted but it was pixelated when I printed it. Making my image larger solved that problem.) I edited out the background of a photo of the cat, added a colored background, added the text and I was done. After getting Sushi's O.K., it was just a matter of inserting the image into Word, sizing it to 4.75 X 4.75, printing it out on card stock and trimming the edges.

The back was a little more complicated. For my first attempt I didn't measure - I just assumed it should be the same size as the front. Not a good idea. The back of a CD case is larger than the front so I had to go back and redo it. The back artwork (which goes inside the case) is 5.875 inches wide by 4.75 inches tall. The hardest part was making sure the titles for the ends of the CD were placed so they would show up when they were folded and inserted into the case. I just winged that part. I placed them where I thought they would work and then printed a tester. Then I just adjusted the placement until I was pleased, and printed my final copy on the card stock.

We already had a few cat songs in our music library, but it would have been a very short CD. An hour or two on iTunes and Sushi and I finalized the play list:

A Cat Had a Birthday - Kingston Livingston & The Party Animals
The Siamese Cat Song - Peggy Lee & Friends
Cat and the Fiddle - Heather Alexander
Alley Cat - Sherwood
The Cat Came Back - Laurie Berkner
The Cat in the Window - The Turtles
Felix the Cat - TV Theme Players
I've Got a Dog & My Dog's Name is Cat - Barry Louis Polisar
Smelly Cat Medley - Phoebe Buffay & Friends
The In and Out Song - Garrison Keillor & Friends
Smiley Cat - Parry Gripp
What's New Pussycat - Tom Jones
My Cat Can Fly - Joe McDermott
The Cat's Meow - Barbi

An odd collection I know, but Sushi wanted her first CD needed to reflect her wide musical palate. We went back and forth about including Cat Scratch Fever, Cat in the Cradle, and The Stray Cat Strut, but in the end Sushi thought my daughter would enjoy the other tunes more. Besides, Sushi assures me she's already working on her second album...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Like Butter

My mom knit this sweater for my son more than two years ago. It finally fits and he loves it! I tell you it is the softest sweater ever. So soft! It looks like yarn, but it feels like it was knit from strips of fleece - I tell you it's like butta!

You should have seen his face when he discovered the pouch pocket in the front. He got this big grin and started stuffing in the treasures. I love how the pouch is hidden; it doesn't pop right out at you. I also love how it was actually warm enough on Mackinac Island yesterday to be outside in just a sweater. He was out for much of the afternoon and didn't complain about being cold. Perhaps spring really is here.

Thanks Mom.
He loves it.

I can't wait to see what's next...

(Yes, I suppose that was a hint. Wink wink.)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Homemade Hallway Theater

We had so much fun this past weekend with our new theater. The kids had a blast putting on "shows." (Which brought up great memories of my friends and I putting on shows for our parents all those eons ago.)

First up was The Tick Tock Crock, starring Crocky the crocodile in his acting debut.

Next, I was treated to The Jammy Show, starring my daughter and every pair of clean pajamas she could find.

The final performance was an untitled work in progress about a snake, a wizard-princess, and a pajama-wearing kitten. (I gave it a standing ovation.) In this show my son wanted to change the way the curtains looked, so he decided to tape them to the wall. I kind of like the effect.

Putting the theater together was easy - I just strolled through the home area at Meijer. Armed with the width of my hallway (46 inches) I knew which of the three shower curtain tension rods to purchase and which curtains to buy. Sure I could have made all the fabric pieces myself, but I couldn't have bought the fabric for the price of the finished curtains. (Not to mention the value of my time!) If I had been willing to compromise on the color, I could have gotten curtains on clearance for $4.00 each. But I had to have red curtains; there's just something about them that made it look more like a real theater to me. Crazy, I know.

The back panel is slightly wider than the hallway - 54 inches if I remember correctly, but it works perfectly. Each red curtain is 42 inches wide - wide enough to still be gathered when they are closed. Before I bought them, I used the hanging samples in the store to make sure the rod pockets were large enough to hold a shower curtain rod. It was close, so I just used the bottom hem as the pocket. It was quite big, and it's loose enough for the kids to open and close them on their own. Looking back, I probably didn't need the big rods - smaller rods would have fit the bill just fine - probably would have been less expensive too. Oh well, live and learn.

All the costumes, A.K.A. our dress-up clothes, get stashed behind the back curtain - ready and waiting for the numerous costume changes involved in a good show. Perhaps sometime in the near future we'll have more scenic backdrops and a sign, but this will do for now.

I also could have done this cheaper by buying shorter curtains. I wanted the 84 inch long panels so my husband and I could open the curtains and walk through. That way the theater can stay up for several days at a time and my husband and I don't have to bend over every time we want to walk down that hallway.

What do you think? Should I save you a seat for tomorrow night's show?

Sunday, April 3, 2011


We spent the beginning of our spring break at the Potawatomi Inn in Pokagon State Park in Angola, Indiana. If you haven't been there, it's well worth the visit.*

There are miles of wooded trails through the park. Luckily Grandma came prepared; she brought each of the five grandchildren a new pair of hiking boots. After our mornings of geocaching, they were well used.

As we walked through the park one morning, it was clear someone had beaten us out that day. We weren't sure who or what those prints belonged to,

but we didn't have to wait long to find out.

The kids loved exploring the woods,

the nature center,

and the other areas of the park. My daughter, the little fish, enjoyed the pool the most, but I never seemed to have my camera out while we were swimming. Imagine that. We also did a little early birthday celebration for a little girl who will be turning five soon. Where did those years go?

S and K only get to see their cousins a few times a year. I'm so thankful that all five of them (5th grade, 4th grade, kindergarten and two in pre-school) get along so well and genuinely look forward to the time they spend together. I know it may not last forever, especially as we delve into the teenage years, but that's OK. They'll have years of memories to sustain them until they leave the hormones behind and return to sanity in their early twenties. Hopefully the bond they shared as children will still be there - waiting to be rekindled...

* If you do stay at the Potawatomi Inn, I suggest avoiding the main dining room. The service was just plain awful every time we sat down to a meal. There are many restaurants six or seven miles away; save yourself the frustration and just eat out. To be fair however, in every other regard, I do highly recommend the Inn.