# Halloween!

The kids had lots of fun this Halloween weekend. The celebrations started Friday with Trunk or Treat at the kids’ elementary school. Saturday we planned to go to Trunk or Treat at church, but various of us weren’t feeling too good after getting flu shots so only Adrian went to that. And then on the real day the kids went to Ani’s apartment and she and her friends took them around the complex trick or treating. So much candy!

Ani has always been the queen of putting together last minute homemade costumes, but Adrian is apparently even better. He found this random blue sport coat and got the idea to be New Scamander. He put on his church clothes, a tan jacket, and the sport coat and carried my Niffler. Totally nailed it.

# Sneak Peak

Here’s a little sneak peak of the shirts we’re making for adoption day. (Six more days!)

# Card Kits

I’ve been working my way through a bunch of Club Scrap card kits. Some old ones were gifted to me, some I got through subscribing, and some I bought. I’ve had such a great time learning how to make various types of cards. I love making cards so much!

# Making Cards

I decided to learn how to make cards this year and in order to meet that goal I’m making birthday cards for people at church. Here are a few I’ve made so far.

And a bonus get well card I made for my aunt!

# Amazing Cupcakes and Some Practical Math

Yesterday Fritz and I made some amazing cupcakes. We used a recipe from the December/January 2017 issue of Gluten Free and More for Vanilla Chocolate Mint Cupcakes.

As we measured the ingredients, I asked Fritz some math problems like we have 1/2 cup of tapioca starch, 1/2 cup of potato starch, and 1/3 cup of white rice flour so how much is that all together and I need 3/4 cup of milk, but I don’t have a 3/4 cup measure so what two measuring cups can I use to make 3/4 cup. Simple questions, but very useful things to be able to calculate quickly when cooking or baking.

The vanilla cupcake mix ended up really good so Fritz, being the helper got to eat the leftover batter. That is, of course, the best part about helping bake.

While the cupcakes baked, we made the mint chocolate ganache filling. It was surprisingly easy. We just mixed cream, dark chocolate bits, and mint flavoring.

Fritz tried it, but didn’t like it very much. The dark chocolate was quite overpowering. He wasn’t sure it would be okay in our cupcakes, but he really didn’t have to worry.

The cupcakes finished baking so we set them out to cool. They turned out so nice and pretty.

With the cupcakes and filling done, it was time to make the mint chocolate chip Italian meringue buttercream frosting. It really sounded complicated, but went together pretty easily. The frosting presented us with another, harder, math problem. We had 1/3 cup of one kind of shortening left, but we needed 3/4 cup total so we had to make up the difference with butter. I showed Fritz the markings on the stick of butter and had him figure up how much butter 3/4 cup would be and then subtract 1/3 cup to find the answer of how much we needed.

We took a little break until the cupcakes were all the way cooled and then we hollowed out the centers, filled them with the ganache and then topped them with the frosting.

We sprinkled some chocolate sprinkles on top to make them extra fancy.

After almost 2 hours our cupcakes were finally ready to enjoy. They are so incredibly good and so rich we can only eat one at a time. Surprisingly, they are better after they’ve been refrigerated for a while. A definitely a hit and totally worth the time it took to make them!

We have a new instructor at taekwondo. It’s been a little traumatic losing the only instructor we’ve ever had because he’s just amazing and seen four of us to first degree black belt and one to second degree black belt. He was instrumental in changing our lives. He moved to a school 5 miles away so we could have followed him there, but we decided to give the new guy a chance and I’m glad we did.

Our new instructor is amazing with Adrian. The kid is rather difficult and we know this. But, somehow, things that used to turn into a battle of wills just don’t anymore. We’ve discovered that things Adrian has been taught, he has not learned. I don’t know if it’s from not paying attention or just not wanting to be there so ignoring the instructions. Whatever it is, he has actually been telling our new instructor he doesn’t know how to do things and asking for help. Our instructor then shows him and Adrian can do them. He also ignores certain behavior from Adrian that our previous instructor would engage in a battle of wills over. The interesting thing about that is Adrian will see that our new instructor is obviously and purposefully ignoring whatever Adrian is doing and the kid stops and does what he is supposed to do.

Anyway, our new instructor is very talented and seems to really enjoy working with kids. But he’s so awkward when he’s not doing taekwondo. It’s funny because he’ll retreat to the corner in between classes like he’s trying to hide, but then when class starts or you talk to him about taekwondo he’s animated and not awkward at all. That reminded me of James Roday who played Shawn on Psych. He was so gregarious as Shawn, but any time they had a panel or interview or whatever he was pretty quiet and if they were sitting on a couch, he would always pick up a pillow and hug and rub it through the interview. So I jokingly said I needed to make our instructor a pillow. My friend kind of egged me on a little bit and that led to me making a thing. We’ll give it to him tonight at beginner belt graduation (Adrian’s finally, after 3 1/2 years, made it to the high ranks!).

Ani had physical therapy yesterday morning so on the way home we went to Michaels and got fabric, a pillow form, and a pineapple applique.

I printed two copies of the Victory logo and cut it up to use as a pattern.

Then I started sewing. My mom does applique stuff all the time. I think I have once before ever. I was pretty happy with how the Victory logo came out.

I made an envelope pillow case to fit the pillow form. I googled for instructions because I literally had no idea how to do it.

I sewed the Victory logo onto the center of the front of the pillowcase.

I sewed the pineapple applique onto the back of the pillowcase as a nod to Psych and the whole reason I even thought of making him a pillow. I stuffed in the pillow form and it was almost perfect.

I added a few more stitches to fix the corners better and I am very happy with it. I just may have to make one for us to keep!

# Best Christmas Ever

We have five traditions surrounding Christmas. One is that the kids line up by age before coming into the room with the Christmas tree. This year Ani had to stand two steps above Cameron to be taller than him. (The others are watching Holiday in Handcuffs, Santa presents are not wrapped and they get nothing from Jamie and me, they get a book, a cross stitched ornament, and something else, and we always have pickles and olives with our holiday meals.)

Santa brought great presents for the kids. He also brought stuff for Lola (two toys, two bags of her favorite treats, and two cans of special meals), Filli and Kree (three bags of yogurt drops), and Hera and Demeter (wooden chewies, dried corn on the cob, and these crispy treats they love).

As I was setting out the gifts Christmas Eve night, Lola stole one of her toys. It’s got lots of ropes and ropes are her favorite. She was a bit miffed when I took it back from her. She got the idea that she wasn’t allowed to play with it and amazingly left it alone all night. When the kids went to their piles, she went to grab that toy. I laughed and told everyone to look at Lola. She must have thought I meant she couldn’t touch it because she ran away from it. She was so happy when we gave it to her.

I finished the kids’ ornaments on Christmas Eve. I always insist I will get them done early and I always don’t. This is the latest I’ve finished them, though.

Ani got a breadmaker and The Fever Code by James Dashner. She immediately sat down to read it and was quite surprised to discover it is signed by the author. We ordered it from Amazon and had no idea it was signed so that was a nice surprise.

Cameron got a Man Bag and an Audible book. He apparently really likes bags since last year he got a taekwondo bag for Christmas. He promptly put his new book on his phone. He’ll probably finish listening to it within a few days. He’s a voracious listener.

Fritz got a chess set and a book of Mysterious Benedict Society puzzles. He’s been playing the Fritz and Chesster games so now he can try out his Chess skills in real life.

Adrian got a science experiment kit and one of the worst case scenario for kids books. He hugged his science kit and then immediately sat down across the chess set from Fritz to play a game of Chess. They spent about 45 minutes playing right then and played another couple games later on (and did one of the science experiments from his kit).

I got some awesome gifts, too. Jamie gave me a Kindle Oasis. (I gave him part of a computer – the rest of his computer came from my parents and his mom.) My Kindle Keyboard served me well for almost 6 years, but it was time to upgrade. It wasn’t holding a charge very well anymore and the off/on slider button was sticking and becoming stubborn about turning the thing on. It was also just generally slowing down. I am amazed at the difference. It’s obviously so much smaller and lighter, but the font is also crisper and it responds so much faster. I love it. My parents gave me money and I chose to get an Instant Pot. I love that thing possibly more than my new Kindle and that’s saying something. It arrived about a week ago and I have used it at least once a day. Christmas dinner included three things cooked in it (ribs, potato salad, and corn on the cob). I also got purple slippers with the money from my parents. They won’t arrive until Friday. My mother-in-law also sent money and I chose to get a purse. The one I’ve been using is big and was wearing out. This one is small and fits my phone and new Kindle perfectly.

And then there was the gift that has made me laugh the most. It came from Cameron. He gave me Christmas in a Nutshell. It is a little baby Jesus inside a half walnut shell. It’s awesome. My son really gets me.

In addition to gifts and an amazing dinner, Christmas included apple cinnamon oatmeal for breakfast (made in the Instant Pot, of course), a bit of reading, and a PokeWalk with most of the family. Seriously the best Christmas ever.

# Oil Lamp Ornaments

A month or so ago my friend asked me if I’d like to join in a Jesse Tree ornament exchange. I thought that sounded like fun. I chose Samuel and made ornaments with an oil lamp on them.

I got plain white 1/4″ foam sheets for the background. I traced around a jar with a mouth about 2 1/2″ in diameter to make the circles.

I made 36 circles. I needed to send in 29 for the exchange. I shipped 30 in case one got messed up. I pulled out the 6 worst after all 36 were put together.

I used an X-Acto knife to cut the circles out of the foam.

Most of them turned out quite nice.

I freehand drew an oil lamp shape on paper. I cut that out and used it to trace onto glittery black self-adhesive foam. Then I cut out the oil lamp shapes. It took forever, but at least I had The Crown on Netflix to entertain me.

I peeled off the paper back and stuck the lamp shapes to the circles. It’s pretty amazing how strong the adhesive on the foam is.

I made a pattern for the main part of the flame, but just randomly did the smaller part of the flame. I cut the main part out of glittery yellow self-adhesive foam and the smaller part out of glittery red self-adhesive foam. I attached the red part to the yellow to make the flames. I was a little concerned the glitter would make it so they wouldn’t stick very well, but I needn’t have worried. That adhesive is crazy strong.

I attached the flames to the circles so they look like they are coming out of the oil lamp.

I poked holes at the tops of the circles and pushed glittery white cord through them, tied knots to make the cord into hangers for the ornaments, shifted the cord around so the knots went inside the holes, and, after 4 1/2 hours, I had an awesome set of oil lamp ornaments to send in for the Jesse Tree exchange.

I can’t wait to get my complete set of 29 different ornaments back. I’m looking forward to seeing what other people used to make theirs. I am sure they will all be just adorable!

# Tinker and Doodle Crate

A few weeks ago we decided to give Tinker Crate for the boys and Doodle Crate for Ani a try. They gotten one crate so far and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the second this week.

The first Tinker Crate had the boys play with making 3-D images. They put together a viewer that has spots for nearly identical sets of cards facing mirrors. They look through it and see the pictures merged together in 3-D.

It also came with a round mirror that sits on paper with a picture on it. The picture is reflected in the mirror and appears to be 3-D. The crate also included dot to dot pages and special blank pages with instructions on how to make their own reflectable images.

A nice little booklet was included in the crate with the instructions and explanations. If this crate is any indication, we’ll be having many months of fun with our Tinker Crates!

Ani’s first Doodle Crate directed her to make little embossed paper lanterns and then string them together to create a pretty, fun light for her room. The embossing and holepunching tools it came with were of excellent quality. The instructions were easy to understand.

The result was beautiful (actually, she’s not quite done yet – she still can make and add a few more lanterns). She can’t wait to get started on this month’s project (a personalized desktop corkboard).

# Minecraft Taekwondo Party

A couple weeks ago the little guys had a combined birthday party at taekwondo. They decided they wanted it to be Minecraft themed.

The cakes were a lot of work. We started on Thursday evening by making marshmallow fondant. We had never used any sort of fondant before so it was a bit of an adventure. It was pretty amazing how the melted marshmallow combined with the confectioner’s sugar and Crisco to make an amazing, rollable, cuttable dough.

We spent all day Friday making cakes. Sixteen 8×8 one-inch tall square ones to be exact. We colored them various shades of green, brown, red, and gray. Eventually we were ready to put them together. Considering we didn’t start until something like 8pm, it should be no surprise that the two cakes weren’t done until 1:30am. The cakes were so huge (about 17 pounds each) that we couldn’t fit both of them in the refrigerator at the same time. Cameron suggested calling a friend to use their refrigerator, but I didn’t think any of my friends would be too thrilled with a call asking for refrigerator space after 11 at night. Jamie fashioned an ice box out of a plastic storage container, ice, and a blanket. Thankfully that worked very well and both cakes stayed just how they were assembled until they were cut and eaten the next day.

We had three tables at the party. The first table was the majority of the food. The back row is Yellow Wool (foil wrapped chocolates), Bread (Lay’s potato chips), Fish (Swedish fish), Slime Balls (grapes), and Coal (blueberries). The front row is Carrots (Cheetos), Golden Apples (grapes coated in yellow Jell-O powder), Sticks (pretzel sticks), Red Apples (grapes coated in red Jell-O powder), Snowballs (mini marshmallows), and Redstone (strawberries).

The third table held Creeper Juice (green dyed Sprite) and Lava (red Jell-O) and Water (blue Jell-O). We made the Jell-O in little cups with spoons stuck in them.

The middle table held the amazing (and delicious) cakes. The grass block was Adrian’s and the redstone block was Fritz’s.

Our regular taekwondo instructor was out of town that weekend so Ani ran the party. It was the first party she’d ever run by herself, but it went great. The kids (and a few adults) had tons of fun. The birthday kid at taekwondo parties gets to wear a black belt for the day. Fritz and Adrian got to wear extra special belts. Fritz wore Cameron’s and Adrian wore Ani’s.

The boys, with Ani and Cameron’s help, got to make the first cut of their cakes with swords. We had brought a knife to cut for serving, but it turned out the swords worked better for all the cutting.

The inside of the cakes was totally awesome. The grass block one was just full layers while the redstone block one was four triangles per layer (two shades of gray and two shades of red).

The boys were so very happy with their party so we’ll call it a definite success!