Friday, October 29, 2010

The Bat

Shhh!  He's sleeping now, but just wait 'til the sun goes down...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tooth Fairy

Last night, the tooth fairy came to our house for the very first time...

In exchange for Diego's first lost tooth, he got a two dollar bill, a tiny coin from Guatemala, a congratulatory note and a honey stick.  The Tooth Fairy also left dozens of shiny footprints all over the bedside table.  They were so tiny!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cat and Mouse Costumes

A few years ago, I made this simple mouse costume for Diego:

                                         Photo by the great Sharon Montrose (Lucky us!)

He was also wearing matching brown pants and brown sandals.  A 14" long, tapered tail that was made out of the same fabric as the ears was tucked into the back of his pants.  He was absurdly cute in this costume, especially when he got into it and acted like a mouse, which he did EVERY SINGLE DAY until Christmas.

I think some fantastic toddler costumes can be made very simply using solid colored matching pants and shirts, with just one or two other accessories.  That way, if the costume does become a favorite, it's easy to wash, easy to get on and off in a hurry, and comfortable for play time.

Here's a picture of Ruben from last year, when he needed a quick NEW costume right before a Halloween party (!):

                                                                  (photo credit unknown)

I grabbed some kitty ears that we already had in our dress up box, and made very simple sock paws with white stitches out of some of Joe's black socks.  He wore a black turtleneck, black pants, black shoes and black eyeliner whiskers.  He had another long black sock safety pinned onto the back of his pants (I think I just stuffed it with another sock).  The paws were a great success for Ruben.  I think that because they were the part of the costume that he could see and interact with all the time, they really brought it alive for him.  When he put them on, he clearly felt like he became a cat.

This year our costumes will be a little more elaborate, but I do love the simplicity of these old favorites.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Halloween Costumes (part 1)

We've been making a lot of these:

Involving these:

and this:


I think I've talked them out of this:

So, I was playing around with another XXL t-shirt, when I discovered that this could be the perfect (!!!) body for Ruben's BAT costume:

Does my drawing make sense?  The t-shirt is upside down.  I put elastic through the bottom hem, just like in these skirts.  I turned it inside out and stitched it along the dashed line.  I cut two arm holes where you see those two vertical lines.  His legs come out of what were once the t-shirt sleeves.  This is so simple that it has already taken me much longer to write this post than it did to make the costume!  This is just the beginning for our bat, but it would be a very cute body for many toddler-preschooler animal costumes.

It's really stretchy around the neck, which you need for easy on/off.  He says it is very comfortable.

He gets into character as soon as he puts it on.  I love that.  I'll show you more pictures when he has wings!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fork Fangs!

I just remembered this old cafeteria trick:


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Iron Jane

We are three weeks into our CSA, and it is such a pleasure.

(We just got a farm subscription, so for $20 every week we get a huge box of a variety of local, organically grown fruits and vegetables.  I promise I won't bore you with the inventory... please keep reading!)

The very first thought I had when I opened our box was, "Hooray, somebody else decided what we're going to have for dinner!"

Making dinner at our house sometimes feels like my own private game of Iron Chef.  There's a one hour countdown and the big clock is ticking, the available ingredients are strangely mismatched, and oh, the PRESSURE.  But, if I can pull it off, I win the prestigious title of "Iron Chef."  Well, maybe not.  But if I beat the meltdown, and dinner tastes good, I feel the Iron.

But, back to the CSA.  I love NOT having a choice of what vegetables we get each week.  Someone else is shopping for me, and they're choosing some things that I never buy.  Vegetable variety is being forced upon me, and I know that is a good thing.  A little recipe search on Google or Epicurious gives me some inspiration, and off I go.

If you happen to be getting an abundance of yellow summer squash in your CSA or garden, here's a delicious and easy recipe that I came up with last night.  I used some Japanese zucchini recipes for inspiration. Please let me know if you try it!

Summer Squash and Onions 


    *  4-6 medium yellow summer squashes 
    *  2 tablespoons olive oil 
    *  1 onion 
    *  2 tablespoons soy sauce 
    *  1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger 
    *  1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    *  1 1/2 tablespoons honey
    *  3 tablespoons sesame seeds
    *  2 tablespoons butter
    *  ground black pepper


   1.  Slice squash and onion into thin (about 1/4”) pieces
   2.  Mix soy sauce, honey, garlic and ginger until honey is dissolved
   3.  Pour olive oil into large frying pan and heat on medium high
   4.  When pan is hot, add all remaining ingredients (including soy sauce mix)
   5.  Fry, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender and browned

 (Farm illustration by Diego)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Date Night

Toys stay on the floor and dishes in the sink...  Tonight is date night.  At least, I think it is.  Joe's not back from tucking in Diego, so that might be a sign that he's accidentally resting up for date night.  I should know.  I just woke up from putting Julio to bed.

"What does this dynamic couple do for date night?" I know you're wondering.  No, there is no babysitter or idling taxi waiting for me to put the finishing touches on my up-do.  These days, date night is more of a sweatpants and herbal tea type of affair.  There is usually a laptop and a DVD involved.  Sometimes we watch the whole thing (not in one installment) or enjoy a (huge) bowl of ice cream.

When Diego was a baby, we used to read or play scrabble or cribbage, make some music together or (once) do some stretching and a light workout.  For that matter, before the kids came along, we even used to go out.  Those luxuries are on hold these busy days, but you know what?  I really don't mind.  I love watching a movie (falling asleep) next to Joe on the couch.  I know our days of out-on-the-town will be back before long, but right now I can't even imagine staying out late.  I think I'd rather have a babysitter come at 5:30 in the morning so Joe and I could get an extra hour of sleep.  Speaking of which, I'd better go wake him up for date night!

The Very Young at Art

Sidewalk chalk was a big hit.  Scribbling everywhere with big, easy to hold chunks, and endless cups of water for pouring on top...  what more could a fifteen-month-old want?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pet Gorilla

This toy has been in our house since Diego was a baby.  We call it the pet gorilla.

It's just a picture of a baby gorilla that I downloaded, printed, cut out and stuck in an old candy box.  Occasionally, we "feed" it some fresh bamboo, which adds to the effect.

Julio is fascinated.

He stares at it for a while, then asks for the box to be opened.  He takes out and examines the bamboo and the picture.  He says, "Gorilla!"

The other boys still occasionally play with it, but I remember that when they were his age, they were just as intrigued by it as Julio is now.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Spooky Spider

I asked Diego if he would like to make a spider web for our front door as a Halloween decoration.  He said, "No thanks, but I'd like you to make one."  Not what I had in mind, but I said, "Okay, I'll make a web if you make a spider," and he enthusiastically agreed.

I stuck six kebab skewers into a wine cork, and while I sat on the floor twisting yarn around them, Diego ran off to make a spider.  He chose his own materials, so I had no idea what he was going to make, but as usual, I love his creation!

I am so crazy about our little collaborations.  They are always surprising, and always turn out so much better than anything I would have made on my own.

Monday, October 11, 2010

You Can't Handle, The Truth

I'm surely not the first person to have this idea, but this morning when I went grocery shopping without my reusable bags and had to use paper, I realized:

Putting handles on paper bags causes a huge waste!

When I was a kid, we never double-bagged our groceries.  The bags didn't have handles, and we carried them up in our arms.  When we bought lots of cans or other heavy loads, they were usually put into old cardboard boxes for us, but mostly groceries were brought home in single brown paper bags.

Now that there are flimsy handles on all of the bags, nobody around here carries the bags by holding the bottoms any more.  Most people end up using either two paper bags or a paper and a plastic together for each sack of groceries in order to make sure they don't drop them if the handle breaks!

I'm sure there must be studies and statistics about this, right?  Seriously, it's probably time to ban the bags, but at the very least, let's forgo the convenience and go back to paper bags without handles!

Thursday, October 7, 2010


He lives right in the middle of the city, next door to a vacant lot by the freeway.  Clearly, he owns the place.

We had to stop and say hello.

Gorgeous, isn't he?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Extension Tubes

Do you know about Extension Tubes?  They are tubes that fit between your lens and camera body, and they are a fairly inexpensive way to give your lenses a macro effect.

As you can see, they really are just tubes.  There is no glass in them, but they have electronic contacts so that the camera and lens can still communicate with each other for exposure and auto focus.  Mine are made by Kenko, and I got them at B&H Photo many years ago.

Here are some examples of what they can do.  (You can click on any of the photos to get an enlarged view.)  This tiny mushroom was on my front lawn:

This is a full frame of the closest I could possibly get to it with a 50mm macro lens:

Here it is the full frame after I added a 36mm extension tube:

And again:

Here's another tiny mushroom (you can see the blade of grass for scale):

And the entrance to an earthworm burrow:

As you see, they can give your photos an ethereal quality, with a very, very shallow focus.  When you use them, you need to be extremely close to your subject and hold your camera very still, so they're not ideal for taking pictures of anything that moves.  But, if you happen to be well on your way to becoming the world's greatest tiny mushroom photographer... you might enjoy playing around with these!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hen of the Woods

Do you ever buy something from the market that you've never tried before?  I don't mean a new brand of something that you usually buy, but something so totally new to you that you need to go home and look up what it is and how to cook it.  If you are a foreigner in the country where you live, this is probably a common occurrence for you, but most of us who live near where we were raised seem to stick to the same familiar grocery list month after month.

I love trying new foods, and fortunately for me, I live in a big city where I can be a foreigner whenever I choose.  Within a few miles of my house, there are some fantastic Korean, Indian, Japanese, Greek, Mexican, Thai, Eastern European, French, Jewish, and Ethiopian grocery stores.  My favorite markets for experimentation are usually Asian, because I love so many of the flavors, because I can't read most of the packaging and because I didn't grow up eating or cooking this kind of food.  It can be wonderfully disorienting to shop in a market where you don't know most of the products.  Sometimes I will pick up a package and wonder, "Is this thing fish, or dessert, or both?!"  If the ingredients are listed in English I can usually tell if what I'm looking at is junk food or not, but the flavors are often a complete surprise.

The produce department of my nearby Koreatown Galleria Market yields all kinds of exotic-to-me fruits and vegetables.  My current favorite section is the mushroom area, where I can buy fresh Enoki, Oyster, King Oyster, Bunapi (brown and white), Portobella, Maitake, and Shiitake mushrooms.  We're working our way through them.

The Maitake, or "Hen-of-the-Woods" mushrooms, pictured above, are a new-to-us favorite.  They looked so strange to me that I had to try them... I've just been sautéing them with butter and garlic, and they are so delicious.

I know that this kind of grocery shopping is not for everyone!  What about you?  Do you enjoy tasting new-to-you foods?