Saturday, March 1, 2014

Outdoor Adventures on the Peninsula

February came and went in a blur. I know in many parts of the U.S., that blur was one of snow and ice. Not so here in (surprisingly) sunny Northern California.

What, you don't have a water temple in your neighborhood?
Since the Professor had Valentine's Day off work (hooray!) we spent the afternoon exploring the landscape of our new Peninsula neighborhood. We live within easy driving distance of some truly beautiful country, so we figured we'd expose the young 'un to a little nature.

First stop was the Pulgas Water Temple. No, fellow Legend of Zelda fans, there weren't any dungeons or puzzles or fairies. Just a nice dome and a reflecting pool.

Unfortunately, little Bubby fell asleep in his car seat right as we arrived, so I did a solo scouting mission to see what was ahead. It's not like we could wait. For some reason, the parking lot is only open Monday through Friday, and only until 4 p.m. sharp, as the sign in the lot says. Oh, and you could only park for 30 minutes. You'd think the city doesn't want anyone to see this!

So, off we went to our second destination, the Crystal Springs Reservoir.

I love this place. Well, what I've seen of it so far. I'd previously taken Bubby on a stroller walk on the Sawyer Camp Trail in Belmont...and it had ended in tears. For both of us. I figured we'd have a better shot at a good time with Daddy along.

Yeah, not so much.

We did manage to enjoy some of the sights after Bubby had an al fresco lunch, though we really didn't get much further down the trail. I think his hands were cold, poor guy, and I'd forgotten his mittens ('cause it was like, 60 degrees).

I highly recommend this trail for anyone looking for a pleasant walk. It's a wide, paved path with plenty of restrooms and benches lining it. It draws folks of all types, from solo bicyclists to clans of families with strollers and tricycles. I hope we can finally get Bubby to enjoy this place!

We've only begun to scratch the surface of what we can find here on the Peninsula. It's been quite a change for us, after living 15 years in the highly urban Berkeley/Oakland area. Though, every time I start to miss it (which is often), I remember that this... just a five-minute drive away, and I instantly feel better.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Crafting a First Birthday Party

Now that February has arrived, I can finally look back at the whirlwind that was November through January. On top of the usual holiday fun, we had an extra-special event that landed smack between Thanksgiving and Christmas: Vinnie's first birthday!

Hooray! We made it!
I was quite excited to put his birthday party together. I've hosted dinner parties, a Halloween baby shower, and St. Patrick's Day parties, but this was the first time I've put together a child's birthday party (even if most of the guests were adults).

As comedian (and father of 5) Jim Gaffigan pointed out, "the baby's first birthday party is not a party for your baby; it's a party for you." So, I didn't get all crazy with a meticulously coordinated theme or blow a bunch of cash on an expensive smash cake (especially since I had a feeling Vinnie wasn't even going to touch it).

Doesn't mean I didn't get crafty, though! I opted for a primary color scheme and some "Baby's 1st Birthday" plates and signage. I got a lot of my gear at Daiso, (a large, Japanese dollar-store) including serving bowls, plates, invitation supplies, and decorations. My favorite were the pre-folded tissue paper puffs; much safer and (eco-friendly) than balloons, and they're re-usable.

Party favors for everyone!
For favors, I made large gingerbread cookies in the shape of a 1. I bought the cookie cutter from an Etsy store called West Tin Works (check them out, they have lots of fun shapes!). My mama and I decorated the cookies with royal icing. We did this pretty late at night, and I think our exhaustion fed into our creativity.

Batman, zombies, vampire clowns...the usual for a 1st birthday, right?
 Mama and I also baked the cupcakes for the party. OK, my mama did pretty much 99% of the work on those, which is awesome (especially since she used to be a professional cake decorator).

I've always wanted a cupcake tower!

For decorations, I didn't want to go too overboard since I had rented a nice space in our apartment's complex. The main attraction were the galleries of photos of Vinnie, which were mounted on colorful cardstock trimmed with decorative-edge scissors. I did one section that was Vinnie at each month, one that was Vinnie with friends and family, and one that was some of Vinnie's "greatest hits." It was a really nice way for guests to see some of my favorite pictures of the little guy, since I don't post many pictures online.

I think my favorite thing we made for the party, though, were Vinnie's birthday bibs. I finally followed through on my threat to applique. I used the same "1" shaped cookie cutter to make a template for the fabric, then attached it to the terrycloth bib using fusible webbing. My mama then sewed it on with a super-close zig-zag. We made two, one for his birthday at home, and one for the party the next day.

Hmmm...wonder which party Vinnie liked better?

Not that I had to worry about my little man getting messy. As I predicted, he didn't even touch his cupcake. It was still amusing to watch.

"You want me to do what with this?"

I had a lot of fun putting this party together. I had a LOT of help from my family--especially my parents, who flew in from out of town--and I feel so lucky to have been able to gather so many people together to help the Professor and I celebrate our little man's first birthday.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The First Halloween: Timmy the Lamb and Mama Sheep

For years before I became a mom, I'd dream about having a child to share Halloween with. It's my favorite holiday (if you couldn't tell by my past crafting and spooky baby shower), and I'd started to hit that age where raging parties were hard on the body and the schedule. At that point, Halloween becomes a stay-at-home holiday, and I became relegated to the giving end of the trick 'r' treat ritual. Nothing wrong with that...unless the only one that comes to your door is your downstairs neighbor looking to bum a smoke.

So, when I had Vinnie, I began planning his costume waaaay in advance. Maybe too far in advance. Like, when he was a few weeks old. In January.

OK, to be fair, I was hit with a bolt of inspiration thanks to my Netflix queue. I watched quite a lot of TV in the early days of Vinnie's life, and the one show that never failed to cheer me up on the most difficult, sleep-deprived days was Shaun the Sheep. If you're not familiar with Shaun, it's a British claymation show featuring a cast of  mischievous barnyard animals. The lack of dialogue lends a universal quality to the show, making it enjoyable by all ages.

There were two characters in particular that struck a chord with me: the little lamb, Timmy, and his roller-sporting mother:

They were too flippin' cute, and spoke to the core of my new mama-hood. I knew what I wanted us to be for Vinnie's first Halloween.

Easier said than done. Timmy is a very specific lamb, and no generic sheep costume would do. This would involve garment sewing and possibly pattern making, two things I have little to no experience in. So, I called in the big guns: my mother, who is an extremely talented quilter and seamstress. She'd made plenty of Halloween costumes for me and my brother growing up. A couple of sheep costumes would be a piece of cake, no?

Since she lives across the state, we perused patterns online and I'd call her from fabric shops for her input. We decided on a McCall's toddler pattern for the body (which she'd scale up for mine), with leggings and long sleeve shirts underneath. We debated about the hats for a bit, until my mother commissioned a crafty friend to crochet a pair of black beanies. During a week-long visit to her house, we (and by "we" I mean "she") whipped up the two soft, fluffy sheep shells.

Costume fitting!
My job was the hats, and I had to create the ears and face from scratch. It was trickier than I initially imagined. The ears had to stick out, but I couldn't use wires or anything that could hurt the baby's soft little head. I ended up using fleece stiffened with interfacing, then adding a layer of batting. I also did some top stitching to make the ears stiff. I then split them in half a few inches, inserted the ends in the holes left by the crochet, and stitched them closed inside.

I then cut out the eyes on black and white felt, and the nostrils using black felt, and appliqued them to the hats. The Mama Sheep had her rollers to deal with, too, which I attached by winding strips of leftover fluffy fabric around the rollers then poking them through the crochet holes to tie inside, much like the ears.

It's the little details that kept me the most busy. Every time I thought I had it done, there was one more elements to the costumes that needed attention (such as finding the perfect yellow pacifier for the Timmy costume). Finally, after numerous visits to the fabric store, a cross-state trip, things being mailed last-minute, and sewing against the clock, the costumes were done.

Ta da! It's Timmy! All that hard work and...wait...


...well, crap.

We got him to wear the hat for maybe a total of two minutes. Maybe.

It was hard not to be disappointed, but as my husband pointed out, there's a good chance we'll be able to use these costumes again next year. Even if Vinnie doesn't appreciate it now, someday, when he's older, he'll look back at the pictures of his first Halloween and see just how much his mama (and grandmama) love him...

...or how crazy we were.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bibs, Bibs, Bibs (Warning: gratuitous baby pic spam)

If there's one thing my little man has mastered, it's drooling. The kid is like a leaking faucet, and has been since he was about three months old. Luckily, I was ready, with a stack of bibs that I'd stitched up before he was born. Unluckily, it wasn't nearly enough, and I've had to buy and stitch more bibs since. More stitching. Oh darn.

So, in honor of Vinnie's 8 month anniversary, here's some of my favorite bibs (or, um, the ones I actually took pictures of before they got horribly slimed):

At one month old, he was a little young to be thinking of eating with utensils. Despite that, this has been one of my favorites. Pattern by Urban Threads.

Still one month old, Vinnie got in touch with his Latino heritage (yes, my blond-haired, blue-eyed boy is a quarter Mexican) with this sweet lucha libre design from Sublime Stitching.

At three months, Vinnie's 100th percentile head was already too big for his fun Easter hat. Good thing the paranoid bunny bib doesn't have a size restriction. Also from Urban Threads.

Feeling international at five months, the little man sports his French toast bib from UT.

My seven-month-old little monster sporting a little monster from UT.

For a while, these were the only crafty projects I could muster the energy and time for. Now that my little guy is older, I've been able to find a bit more time for more complex embroidery (and blogging, even if I'm typing this with one hand while holding him with the other). I still have a stack of bibs (colored, this time) waiting to be stitched on, or perhaps I'll try applique. I always say that, don't I? Someday, I'll actually do it.