edamomie

An Exploration of Parenting by the Vowel

Queen of Hearts for a Day November 1, 2015

A: Activities and I: Independence
 

My kids inherited the Halloween gene. While you might say that this proves true for every child — what kid doesn’t like a pillowcase full of candy? — the fact that they start scheming and envisioning their costume as early as June places them in the slightly obsessive category. They owe this debt of gratitude for the love of planning the costume and going to painstaking lengths to ensure its perfection, to my husband. And maybe my handy, if not limited, sewing skills.
 

Queen_Halloween_MakeUpThis halloween, my 12 year-old daughter, Ava, envisioned the Queen of Hearts three months before the spooky holiday neared. She found a DIY costume video from a teen pop culture icon, Bethany Mota (#SpookBook), on Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland version of the Queen of Hearts character inspired by the actress Helena Bonham Carter.
 

Two months out, we made our list of stuff we would need: fabric: red, red lace and gold brocade; thread, black corset, red ribbon, black elastic, gold fabric paint, red jewels, a dowel rod, gold piping and gold foil for the scepter; funky black tights, black felt, hot glue gun and sticks and of course, the make up.
 

We hit Joann Fabrics for the first round of items. For the first time in 20 years, I actually bought a sewing pattern for the skirt (typically I just pull something out of my closet with a similar cut and improvise). The red skirt complete with interfacing, waistband and a zipper presented numerous challenges and creative differences. My Brother sewing machine needed a $75 tune-up. Halloween costumes of the past with glittered to sequined fabric had taken its toll. We used too thick of a thread for our satin fabric. Ava accidentally cut out a small chunk of the nearly completed skirt. We sewed in the zipper upside down. The list goes on…
 

Queen_Halloween_Skirt
 

The most challenging part was the red lace overlay. The entire skirt was a Project Runway #MakeItWork moment. We were three weeks in and Ava was starting to wane — this is a ton of work for a costume I’m going to wear for four hours! Let’s just buy a costume at the store. I assured her, we would see the project through. We were already $80 (+ $75 for repairs) into the project.
 

By five weeks in, we came at it with renewed energy on a quest to find the red tutu and black corset for less than $30 and $50, respectively. We ended up finding a $6 red tutu at Michaels and a $16 Bebe corset at NuLook Consignment. Perfect moment for a refresher course on our Halloween costume budget and the meaning of DIY. Ava was quite focused on executing the costume to every exacting detail she saw in the video. I stressed the importance of using things we already had on hand and reinventing our own version — creative and economical. We shared some very vocal creative differences again… and resolved them.
 

Queen_Halloween_Hare_Training
 

At seven weeks in (one week away from Halloween), we visited Spirit Halloween in search of my 10 year-old son’s costume. Ava was immediately drawn to the $59.99 Queen of Hearts costume in the bag. It was jumping off the rack, speaking to her. It would be so easy… She was practically begging me to buy it. I held firm if a bit incredulous she’d push to go that route after our efforts. I assured her that now was the fun part.
 

Queen_Halloween_Corset
 

And it was. We put all of the details together little by little throughout Halloween week. By Friday (the day before Halloween), it was pretty solid and she was fairly confident. Halloween day, I picked up black tights for $5 at Target and Ava’s aunt Katie (@Glamwhip), once again showed her awesome skills as a make-up artist. We had pinned away the night before (Pinterest Board: Queen of Hearts) and she came with all of the make-up and ideas ready to go on Halloween. I found my wedding crown and Katie used that in the glam up-do. Ava stepped into my velvet heels and the role of the queen.
Queen_Halloween_Tights
 

Ava’s friends came over around 6:00 on Halloween to enjoy hotdish, hotdogs (#mummydogs) and hotcakes (chocolate cupcakes); head out trick or treating, then just hung out at our house til 10:00. The make-up came off with some persistence (the heels had been shred long before in favor of her Converse) and the candy was counted. It was def a DIY Halloween filled with lots of good lessons on creativity and perseverance with a pricetag of $115, if that’s a factor.
 

Happy Halloween, everyone!

 

DIY Paris Fini: Walls 3 and 4 August 25, 2014

A: Activities

Wall 3: Paris Mural

Wall 3: Paris Mural

Talk about procrastination. Or let’s just say we were hard at work on our #summerbucketlist. After a December 2013 start date, my 11 year-old daughter’s Parisian-themed room is finally complete. Until two days before the start of school, we hadn’t revisited the room since April 16, 2014 (see the post on walls 1 and 2 here). Now, we’re calling it fini (finished in French).

 

Wall 3: The Mural

Paris Cafe Table

Paris Cafe Table

I enlisted my sister-in-law to help with the wall mural. I pulled out photos, scrapbooks and postcards from my visits to Paris for inspiration (see our Paris Pinterest board). For more inspiration, Ava referenced her Monster High Doll packaging most recently from Scaris (Monster High’s version of Paris).

 

Ava had definite ideas about the wall and used her sketchbook to plot it out. Notable items – a wrought iron fence in the foreground, a cafe table and pastries at Cafe de’ Flore, the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coure, a bridge on the Seine, Scaris-inspired city scenes and St. Germain des Pres. In front of Cafe de’ Flore, we placed an actual French Vintage Cafe Table ($174 on EBay).

 

We sketched in pencil, then we went over it in black paint. We used a smaller point Sharpie for the Scaris fine detail. Then came the color accents. I used a watercolor technique by placing a small amount of color on the wall and taking a damp cloth and streaking or in the case of the clouds, swirling it, to diffuse the color.

 

Wall 4: The Reading Nook

The board and bench

The board and bench

Since the mural was definitely proving to be ongoing thing, we gave it a temporary rest and shifted our focus to Wall 4. I had this idea for a very long bench with cubbies for storage and a large whiteboard framed by curtains. For starters, we adhered two large white boards (2’x4′ each) next to each other on the wall. We used teal blinged out ribbon from Michael’s to frame the whiteboard. To complete the reading nook, we found one zebra print curtain and two tiered white ruffle curtains for a steal at Bed Bath & Beyond. The zebra print easily draped above the nook as a canopy over three dowel rods.

 

I’m not one for dyeing, but the white curtains would not suffice. They called out for teal. After a lot of research and grave warnings about chemical dyeing processes, I still decided to go for it. I found a large pot for $35 at Northern Brewery and Supplies and ordered the dye (it is VERY special because it’s a certain type that works on 100% polyester (note – blends are much easier to find generic dyes for)). If I had a top loading washer, it would have been an easier process too. I had to dye each curtain separately, so it turns out one curtain is a bit lighter than the other, but they are spaced far enough apart so it’s not obvious. Overall I am thrilled that it even took and that it was so easy.

 

Reading Nook

Reading Nook

Now for the bench. I referenced two bloggers DIY bench for inspiration and the how-to (See: CraftThriftWed and Mommy Vignettes). We purchased the white 5-opening Ikea Expedit bench for $70 (which has since been discontinued (since Feb 2014)) and 2 black wicker baskets. Ava and I assembled the bench together, then I enlisted my parents to help with the bench cushion project. My dad had extra chipboard on hand and arrived with it precut to the exact dimensions.

 

The search for foam was not as easy. We ended up purchasing a custom cut four-inch high piece of foam from A-1 Foam and Upholstery at a discount because it was glued from scraps rather than a whole. It was $55 and I couldn’t tell the difference. My mom helped us sort through the limitless options at JoAnn Fabrics to land on the navy, teal and white fleur-de-lis patterned fabric. We stretched our $20 roll of quilt batting around the chipboard and foam and stapled it in place. Then we did the same with the fabric, pulling it as tight as possible. …and Fini!

 

Sky Zoning Out June 22, 2014

Filed under: Activities — edamomie @ 8:31 am
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A: Activities

Hyped-up Sky Zoners

Hyped-up Sky Zoners

It was time to get out of the house… When my son Calvin turned nine recently, it was his first official birthday party that we didn’t host at our home. Months prior to his birthday, he began pushing for a Sky Zone Trampoline Park off-site party with his friends. Everyone was doing it.

 

Calvin is highly persistent and stood over my shoulder one Sunday morning in April as we reviewed the Sky Zone website for party details and costs. There is a fair amount of information there, but you really do need to call to ask specific questions and check date and time availability. Calvin was standing by with my mobile. I made the call, narrowed in on a date (not realizing June 15 was Father’s Day — totally thought it was June 21), length of jump time and put down a deposit. I received a confirmation email, shared it with family and filed it away til early June.

 

Orange Sky Zone Socks

Orange Sky Zone Socks

When early June rolled around, we relied on Evite again. One mom alerted me to the fact that our date selection was also Father’s Day. Not cool on my part! However, Calvin was born on the occasion nine years ago. I polled a few mom’s (and my husband) and they didn’t seem to mind, so we kept the date. At least no other kid birthday parties would coincide with his!

 

The Sky Zone advisor I talked with upon booking recommended 1 hour of jump time. Calvin would not hear of it – – 1.5hrs was the minimum acceptable jump time in his book. So it was: 3:10 check-in, 3:30 jump time, 5:00 pizza time. 5:40 clear out.

 

Lego Pirate BDay Cake

Lego Pirate BDay Cake

With five guest yeses about a week out, I started to think about offering to carpool the boys from Minneapolis (our home) to Plymouth (Sky Zone’s location), a 25 minute drive. All of the parents took me up on that one. It would mean 2:00p.m. arrival at our home and 6:30p.m. pick-up. I quickly realized that Calvin’s easy no-frills party would still be work.

 

I started prepping the day-of the party at 10:00a.m. This included a run to Target, baking and decorating a two-tier cake, cleaning the house and packing up stuff to take to Sky Zone. All by 2:30. We went with a pirate theme, timely because his class had just finished their pirate lessons and party at school.

 

Sky Zone contracts pizza out to Davanni’s. Part of our party plan meant we’d get one cheese and one pepperoni pizza for up to 10 kids for our $200 total amount. To order a sheet cake to be delivered as well, they need seven days notice. I opted to make ours and bring in ice cream too (guidelines state that you may bring in baked goods and pre-packaged ice-cream).

 

Trampoline Dodgeball

Trampoline Dodgeball

The boys start arriving. Wow, they are loud! We have two carloads going up and the discussion is high-pitched and rotating between subjects of swearing, pants and grossness. We check in at Sky Zone where bright orange gripper socks and water during jump time are all inclusive. The party host, Austin, runs all of the waivers through (I emailed requests to parents ahead of time so they could fill out their child’s form online). There is some confusion if the online submission totally covers them, or if kids needed to also print it out and bring it with them. I’m still confused.

 

The boys, stickered with their 2 jump time segments (3:30-4:00 and 4:00-5:00), burst in to the zone. I wondered if 1.5 hours would seem like an eternity. In most people’s opinion, an hour is plenty. Nine-year old boys are not most people. The norm doesn’t apply. They went from trampoline mosh pit to dodgeball and back to sky high jumps.

 

Snarky Pirate

Snarky Pirate

After the boys were jumping for 30 minutes, I decided to brave it and join my daughter, Ava, and her cousin, Ravelle. After all, we did pay for a block of up to 10 jumpers. There were 9 of us. I wasn’t prepared for the high fun-factor and height these trampolines afforded, not to mention the workout and soreness days later even after a 10 and 20 minute segment. Picture Lego man jumping jacks from the LEGO Movie.

 

At promptly 5:00, it was time for the party room. The party host helped with set-up and had our beverages ready and pizzas on the way. Did the boys not expend any energy? They still seemed crazed to me. The girls and I hung tight together in the corner. What happened to the sweet little eight-year-old boys that had manners? Ava informed me that this was a new phase.

 

Super Soaker = Great Gift!

Super Soaker = Great Gift!

Post pizza, there was cake. Roughly, one could discern a pirate Lego theme (I made use of our numerous Lego figurines for this). One small section of the cake had literally fallen off at home, most likely because I baked a 9×13″ pan’s worth of batter in an 8×8″ square pan. I improvised with a pirate puppet to cover the mishap. It still tasted delish.

 

The boys were amped up and it was time for gifts. How can you go wrong with footballs, ropies and squirtguns? After more pants talk and pull-down attempts, we tidied up our party room and checked out at 5:38. They do run a tight ship there. I thought it was the perfect amount of time.

 

Somehow my husband got Ava and Calvin in his car and I had the four boys in mine. That was a long drive home. When I arrived and pulled up behind them, Ava inquired, “Mom, are you okay?” Ahh, she’s so sympathetic! Calvin and friends immediately tore into the gifts, launching the ropie into the tallest tree on the block. Finally, the parents arrived and chorralled their boys into their cars. By 6:45p.m., it was silent. Time to move right into Father’s Day!

 

 

 

 

 

DIY Paris in Process: Walls 1 and 2 April 16, 2014

Filed under: Activities — edamomie @ 11:05 am
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A: Activities

Paisley and Paris

Paisley and Paris

The never-ending DIY project: my 10 year-old daughter’s room. The discussion began in December 2012. At that time we could not reach a compromise on many important details, so we abandoned the project until a later date. See the blog post here. Then her younger brother got a room redo in June 2013. Finally, in November 2013, we were ready to take another look at it. This time around, Ava and I were on the same page pantone-wise and total project-wise.

 

The inspiration occurred on a stroll through PBTeen where the Lola Paisley pattern in purple was on sale. I bought the sheets, a sham and a Paris embroidered pillow. Then it was time for paint selection. We took the sham to Home Depot and matched the colors for the wainscotting (dark purple, Behr, Crowning), the chair rail (teal, Glidden GLN6013, Peacock) and main walls (light purple; Behr, Winter Amethyst). Three walls would share the same pattern and on the fourth wall that’s visible directly across from the door, we opted to do a Parisian mural – Ode to the Eiffel. That wall would be creme.

 

Ava's Room Ages 2-10

Ava’s Room Ages 2-10

Even with the excitement of a fresh coat of paint, painting over the hot pink, baby pink and light green watermelon scheme of my daughter’s youth brought on waves of nostalgia. Off came the wooden birds and followers that adorned the walls. The sweet baby pink eyelet curtains too. With my Dad and I on paint detail, we knocked it out pretty quickly all over the course of Christmas. I painted three sets of wall shelves from hot pink to dark purple and name letters from baby pink to teal. My daughter and son painted all of the other loose ends they could from the hook rack, to mirror trim to a tissue box.

 

Wall 1

Wall 1Then it was time to design each wall and its details. The longest walls of the room on opposing sides would be easiest. For Wall 1, we hung two purple shelves, high and centered; a grouping of three Pottery Barn picture frames (reused from previous room decor); and an IKEA 5-hook set (not shown here). The creme frames with openings for 4×6’s for 9, 3 and 1 photo got photo refreshes in black and white. Photos from her recent tenth birthday and family photos from 2013 replaced the professional pictures of her from age four.

 

The matting for the frames got a paint-over from pink to teal and dark purple. I was shocked that this actually worked and paint didn’t saturate the cardboard-based matting too much. We found a wrought-iron Eiffel Tower candle stand at Bed, Bath and Beyond for her dresser and I used material from the bench project (more details in the Wall 3 blog post) to recover the once hot pink chair cushion. I arranged the decor for shelving and the dresser and desk tops. Ava continues to tweak it to her liking. I’m calling it done.

 

Wall 2

Wall 2We move on to Wall 2. This wall has two windows so the first task is finding curtains to replace the pink eyelet ones. At BBB, we find four deep purple curtains with a subtle pattern of polka-dot for $15 each (80% off). Her twin bed with a tall headboard fit nicely between the windows. I hung the now purple shelf high on the wall above the bed and uncovered three white wicker baskets from my closet with lavender gingham liners to place on the shelf.

 

Below the shelf, we know we want to hang the three Christopher Straub fashion sketches I bought Ava for her birthday last year. We headed back to Papyrus where I purchased them originally and pick up three frames – two black and one teal. We positioned these below the long shelf and above the headboard. We consider this wall done for now and make a note to eventually find a night stand. For the time being, she’ll use her clip-on lamp for reading in bed.

 

Next up will be Wall 3, the bench, canopy and white board wall; followed by Wall 4: the Paris mural finale. We’ve been working on this wall on occasional Sundays since December! It will have an end point soon though, if I have any say in the matter. Stay tuned….

 

See photos and progress on our Parisian Room Pinterest page.

 

 

 

 

Layering it on to Land a Leprechaun March 17, 2014

A (Activities) and E (Eats):

6-Layer Rainbow Cake with Ladder to Access

6-Layer Rainbow Cake with Ladder to Access

Did someone say Pot of Gold? That’s what my 8 year-old son, Calvin, heard. We might not be more than 15% Irish, but for a chance at this said gold carried by a leprechaun, we attempted to make a trap to ensnare one of these little mischievous devils.

 

First, we baked a 6-layer Rainbow Cake. Inspired by Martha Stewart, but short-cutted like crazy thanks to Betty Crocker Vanilla Super Moist Cake Mix and Betty Crocker Rich & Creamy Cream Cheese Frosting. One box mix divided into three equal parts made three 9 inch round cakes. The element of fun here was food coloring. My 10 year-old, Ava, was in charge of the color mixology and first up was purple, blue and green (see the video here (originally on Vine @jengilhoi)). Then we washed the cake pans, mixed again, divided and baked round two for yellow, orange and red layers. I usually spend a decent amount of time frosting the sides, but we had a different vision for this tower of cakes: high and messy. We skipped frosting the sides. To get cakes to layer correctly, I cut off the slightly rounded cake tops.

 

Rainbow Cake Testing

Rainbow Cake Testing

Second, we made white chocolate covered pretzel ladders using pretzel rods for the sides and thin pretzels for the ladder rungs. Super messy, but fun and kid-friendly. With one package of microwave-melted Candiquik white chocolate in a tray, Ava coated the pretzels, assembled them and hung them out to dry on parchment paper. These ladders would be the only way in which a 2-3 inch full-grown Leprechaun could access the cake.

 

Third, we broke into teams to design the traps using our cake bait. Neither kid wanted to be with me, rather they wanted to team with their Dad, the engineer. My feelings weren’t too hurt. He is highly experienced in shenanigans from his college days and has skill in weighted pulley systems and the like. To Ava’s dismay, we were once again a team. The criterion was that the leprechaun had to trigger something that set the course for events that would eventually end in his entrapment.

 

Ava and Mom's trap: Swing into Green Sea

Ava and Mom’s trap: Swing into Green Sea

Calvin and Dad’s trap was indeed elaborate and weighted. One sliding trophy on dental floss nearly took Calvin out in the testing process. I heard him cry out in pain. When their plan was presented, it include a wire trip that pulled a coat rack which then released a trophy that slid down the floss, knocked over a book that fell and slammed the trap shut. Ava was blown away.

 

Leprechaun Outsmarted MonsterHigh Ghouls and Frogger

Leprechaun Outsmarted MonsterHigh Ghouls and Frogger

Then it was our turn. We got points for style. Ours included a welcome sign, enticing Monster High ghouls, all sorts of mischievous items like tacks, granulated sugar, glue and ladders to climb up the multi-level tower. Once the top of the tower was reached, the leprechaun was to dismount the pretzel swing and land in a swampy sea of hot, green bubbles and drown. See the video overview here.

 

Neither trap caught a leprechaun. The leprechaun maneuvered through Ava and Mom’s trap, taking out the MonsterHigh Ghouls with tacks and out swimming Frogger to escape. Fooled again (see: Unlucky Strikes March 2011 blog post)! And now we have a ton of cake to eat too. Maybe next year we’ll get the gold!

For more images, see my Pinterest board (@jengilhoi) here. 

 

These Girls Will Rock You February 12, 2014

A: Activities

We Will Rock You

We Will Rock You

Sport for the mind. This is exactly what the First Lego League (FLL) delivers on through an international robotics program that includes more than 200,000 kids in 63 countries. In Minnesota, High Tech Kids, a Minnesota organization dedicated to delivering fun, hands-on science, engineering and technology programs and events that inspire kids in their formative years, runs the FLL program locally as MN FLL. During the 2013-14 season 562 teams (comprised of 4-9 graders) competed in MN FLL, culminating on February 8 at Washington Magnet School in St. Paul where 66 of these teams had the opportunity to compete at the state championship in high-pressure, spirited competition.

 

The lego, math, engineering and science culture is alive and growing. And now girls are participating more in science and math oriented programs too. At two recent MN FLL competitions, it was impressive to see the number of kids involved and the hours of effort into this program by volunteers, coaches, teachers and participants alike. It was not by my doing that my 10 year-old daughter, Ava, became involved in GEMS (Girls in Engineering, Math and Science), a free program for students offered at her school. She was the instigator. After coming home totally jazzed about GEMS on day two of fifth grade, we agreed to let that be her new “sport” for the year.

 

Birdseye View of Board

Birdseye View of Board

I have to admit, I was a bit shocked. She struggled with math in third grade. Then something clicked in fourth grade. I attribute that to the fourth-grade teachers’ response to newfound research citing the importance of word problems in math and proactively implementing new daily word problems into the math curriculum at Hale school. It provided a great foundation for the real-world scenarios and problems they would solve through participation in programs like MN FLL.

 

The GEMS program at Field Middle School is run by their science teacher, Mary Hill, who has 30 years in the program and received the highest honor from MN FLL – Coach of the Year.  Some schools’ science programs are run by volunteers and the level of involvement varies. Field GEMS meet for two hours every week throughout the course of the school year. Parents from other schools cited a schedule of once or twice a month over a more limited time during the school year.

 

Ava participated in the Hale Science Fair before (grades 2-4), which was individual and project based for one event. This program differed in its team structure (six girls) and problem to solve (each team solved for the same set of challenges). In GEMS, the teams consist of 5, 6 and 7th grade girls so there’s an element of teaching within the team itself. And because the playing field is level, every team can learn from other teams’ solutions.

 

High stress 2.5 Minute Challenge

High stress 2.5 Minute Challenge

It took me awhile to fully understand the structure of GEMS and their primary focus — preparing for the annual MN FLL competition. Information was not forthcoming from my daughter. My first immersion was the January 18th MN FLL round one competition. It ran from 7:30a.m. until 6:00p.m. I asked a ton of questions and finally formed an understanding of the program. In a nutshell, there is a robotic portion similar for all teams and an in-depth research project on a natural disaster and solutions that are each team’s own choice.

 

Robotic
The challenge is set up so that each team has the same size 93″ x 45″ board with a 3.5″ high border and graphic overlay that represents the year’s theme of choice: Nature’s Fury. (see the full challenge details here). The context of programming the robots made of Legos involves solving real world challenges in a natural disaster, in this year’s case, a tsunami. The board involves simulated runways, roadways, roadblocks, buildings and people and animals. The task at hand is to program your robot, always released from the same corner starting point, to solve a series of challenges. Robotic arms trigger the launch of a cargo plane, a sweeping save of animals in a tree, the lifting of a house from the flood area, and the release of goods into areas where people need immediate aid.

 

 

Research
Teams could choose their own natural disaster to investigate, considering the effects of the natural disaster on individuals and property. They were required to focus their research by identifying a challenge caused by the storm and create an innovative solution that could prevent or solve that problem. Ava’s team, We Will Rock You, chose landslides and how in the event of a landslide people could be notified, be prepared with a survival backpack and continually directed to safety via GPS throughout the course of the landslide.

 

The research component included online research which for Ava’s team meant viewing websites like redcross.com and survivalkitsonline.com for the survival backpack, interviews with local experts working in the field and dealing daily with public safety and survival during natural disasters, and research of GPS technology. The We Will Rock You team selected landslides because even though they’re most common in California and Colorado, they can happen in any state as in the case of last year’s landslide tragedy in Minnesota.

 

Lego Robotics

Lego Robotics

Competition
Seventy three teams competed in the day-long MN FLL regional competition at Anishinabe Academy on January 18 and three finalists advanced to the February 8 state tournament including Ava’s team which also won a design award (see the results here). Several similar competitions took place all around the state from late 2013 through early 2014 to narrow in to the 66 teams that would compete at state.

 

The day consisted of robotic challenges in 2:30 minute timeframes, eight teams per time. The room filled with nervous energy as two from each team went forward each time to live program and active the sequences of the challenge. The research portions were limited to five minutes where teams presented their projects, answered questions from the judges about the project and CORE values. These values enforce friendly competition and mutual gain are not separate goals and that helping each other is the foundation of teamwork.

 

Outcome
She still seems jazzed about the program. And next year, she’ll have some younger teammates to mentor. I believe this is such an important program that sets girls up for success in science and math related fields. It’s not too young, in fact middle school is a critical time to foster this growth. We can all take cues from young people who serve as great role models — like the 10 year-old eco-blogger Hannah Alper (check out her Dec 5, 2013 TED Talk). I am so excited that Ava discovered this extra-curricular activity and sport for the mind that will fuel her passions about her ideas to change the world for the better. Rock on girls!

 

For Fall Colors, Do North October 7, 2013

Vista from our TwoHarbors vaca home

Vista from our TwoHarbors vaca home

Fall colors in Northern Minnesota get so much hype every year. So when we had the opportunity to travel early October to TwoHarbors to stay in a private home, courtesy of a very generous client of my brother’s, we hopped on it. Our trips to the Lake Superior shore Minnesota side have typically been in the summer (Backdoor Exploring blogpost) and winter, both recent trips were to Lutsen.

 

Car one – my parents, brother and sister-in-law and their 8 month old – went up Thursday eve of the first weekend in October. Car two – our family of four – drove up Friday afternoon. The weather didn’t look to particularly promising, so we left the golf clubs behind in favor of board games. Our home away from home for the weekend was in TwoHarbors right on 440ft of lakeshore with a long winding private drive. Luckily it is a year-round home with heat and a fireplace – much needed for a chilly fall weekend.

 

Nana and kids on the shore

Nana and kids on the shore

The first crew visited Gooseberry Falls on Friday, while we were still in the Twin Cities. It was the best day weather-wise. When we arrived around 7:00 on Friday night, it was pitch black. You could hear the waves crashing, but see nothing of Lake Superior. Needless to say, the kids, Ava (10) and Calvin (8) were pretty blown away the next morning by the views and rocky shoreline.  Winds reached 45MPH out of the NNE that day which made for huge, crashing, ocean-like waves. A few times, they caught us of guard and had us retreating pretty quickly!

 

On Saturday, my husband made omelets with everything – and I mean everything from steak to sausage and all the fresh veggies from gardener friends we toted with us. After brunch, it was misty and overcast so our plan to visit the Glensheen Mansion in Duluth, haunted in murderous mystery, was an eerily perfect choice.  We arrived by 12:15 and watched a few of the historical videos in the gift shop before our 1:10 tour. We opted not to do the expanded 1.5hour tour that included the boys’ floor and attic, where Elisabeth, the heir to the estate, was murdered in 1977.

 

Waves Crashing, Coming Closer, Run!

Waves Crashing, Coming Closer, Run!

The kids thought we were en route to a Haunted House, like the one at the MN State Fair, so we had a lot of explaining to do.  The tour mentioned nothing of the murders. Most of us had read Glensheen’s Daughter, the story of Margorie Congdon, the adopted daughter of Elisabeth Congdon. It had been years though, so we refreshed our memories by paging through the book in the gift shop, by Minnesota author, Sharon Darby Hendry, a family friend on my husband’s side. We thoroughly enjoyed the tour — it really transported us to a different era. Built between 1905-1908, the home had not only the best technology available in its day, but the most humane and equal treatment of servants.

 

After the tour, we headed into Grandma’s Sports Garden for the 2:30 Gopher game.  It was only fair after the guys endured the home tour, maybe not their first choice. The weather was fierce as we left to head back up to Two Harbors. We decided to stay in make a fire and order pizza from Do North Pizza. Good stuff especially because they delivered. Later on, indulging in Betty’s Pies and a heated game of Cranium, we had an experience worth a Yelp review (Perfume Pie).

 

Exploring Minnesota

Exploring Minnesota

After a pancake breakfast Sunday morning, our crew split up. Our family of four visited Gooseberry Falls and the rest of us drove up the shoreline to Splitrock Lighthouse. We met back at the house late afternoon and packed up to head back to the cities. The skies brightened a bit on the way home to take in some peak fall colors. I would much rather have been out walking among them, which we did a bit of at Gooseberry Falls.

 

With all of our indoor time, we did check out the homeowner’s vast collection of historical books while Calvin studied the map of Lake Superior and shipwrecks of the past, including the Edmund Fitzgerald. The kids were intrigued enough to want to plan another vacation to the lake next summer – potentially the Apostle Islands. (I did post some #fallcolor finds on Instagram as part of Explore Minnesota’s Instagram campaign #ExploreMN and a quick Vine video). I am want to find another fall weekend to visit where the viewing pairs nicely with warmer weather – maybe fall of 2014!

 

Flip This Room, I’m Eight! June 20, 2013

Filed under: Activities — edamomie @ 8:15 am
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Prep Process

Prep Process

A: Activities

I’m definitely the painter in the relationship. When my 8-year-old son and I embarked on a project to upgrade his room recently, it soon became clear to me that he was the big idea man and I was the worker bee.

 

By the time I caved and we redid his room, he’d been pitching me ideas for over a year. StarWars, Legos, football and more. He definitely knows how to plant a seed. A few weeks ago, as his birthday was closing in, I recalled a talk with a friend about the most fun birthday surprise they ever gave their daughter : a room re-do. They sent her away and teamed up as a family for an intense day to give her a new room. It got me thinking, birthday present = room rehaul.

 

Then, about a week ago, about two-thirds of his toys were in the hall after a cleaning and organizing spree. “Mom, I’m done with this stuff.” Wow — no attachments to this stuff, really? Good for him. Again I wondered how I could support this new leaf he was turning over. As we hung out in his room, he pointed out what he called “baby barf green” trim and a babyish rug. I considered that. His room painted 10 years prior to accommodate our unknown firstborn, was mainly blue with green trim. His sister arrived first, so I decked it out in pink accents. When Calvin arrived on the scene two years later, she moved out. I kept most of her stuff in the room (including the rug) and swapped out pink for navy.

 

Stripes - Let's Hope They're Level

Stripes – Let’s Hope They’re Level

Yes, I agreed, the rug was in pretty tough shape. A few moments later I found the perfect rug online at PotteryBarn Teen (PBT) on sale plus another 15% online place your order by end of day discount and decided the 5×8 would work even though the previous one was an 8×10. Calvin gave it a thumbs up too. Then it all fell into place.

 

With the rug and its colors as inspiration, we headed to Home Depot for paint. I super-decisively narrowed in on two shades of Martha Stewart Living blue. We brought paint home with us on Sunday and I started the scraping process. Normally, I would just do a paint over, however, our original version included some texture we threw into the mix. That needed to come off.

 

Paint dust. Calvin scraped for awhile too, but bowed out because of this substance. After two intense hours of scrapping the texture off, I was ready to vacuum to the wall/floor edges to inhale the dust. Then I laid out newspaper as floor protector from paint specs, consolidated the remaining room furniture and threw a drop cloth over it. Then I taped everything off with my 3M blue – ceiling, window trim, wall trim. I removed all the hanging items – hook racks, shelves and name letters. Very time consuming.

 

Stripes in Blue; Wall decor in Yellow

Stripes in Blue; Wall decor in Yellow

After six hours of prep, I was ready to bring out the roller. But not yet. I did the trim and edging first for each wall, then finally following up with the big roller. I did two layers of this. Calvin came in a surveyed my work. Sure is taking you awhile. This looks like the same blue it was. I don’t get it. It’s not any different. I insisted it was way lighter. However, doubts began to nag at me. I pulled out the sample color cards when the job was complete and sure enough, instead of giving the paintmaker the Heavenly Blue, I gave him the Stratosphere. The same paint we choose ten years prior. Seriously! I could not sleep that night.

 

Morning brought clarity. I liked Stratosphere. We still had our navy stripes to add (Azurite, technically) and I would do one wall all in navy. It was a plan. Calvin pressed on, how much longer? Will this mess be cleaned up by my birthday (2 days later)? Not long now I assured him.

 

Final Flip

Final Flip

I was motivated to get this done for many reasons – his stuff cluttering the hallway, the frames, etc for painting stretched across the dining table…. and his birthday coming up. On day two I taped out the two stripes (71.25 divided by 5 = 14.25) that would get a navy coat. I used my level religiously throughout – worked like a charm. I took the mini-roller and breezed through one coat before bedtime.

 

On day three, the stripes got a second coat and I moved on to the two-coat work for the navy wall. Calvin made a case to apply Stratosphere chevron to it, but I backed him down. Instead we focused on an accent color choice for frames and shelving. Yellow it would be. I stuffed the rolled rug into the car, ran into HomeDepot for color cards, back out to the car to match the rug and back in to get the right paint – Sahara Shade. Before bedtime, I applied a layer to each item.

 

Day four. Move in day. Another coat of yellow, some navy for the vent. Wait…. more nails, more screws, more putty (for the C-A-L-V-I-N wall art project) and progress. I washed curtains and ironed them (had I ever done that?). Yes, super fresh! Calvin moved his books back in, adhered his new dry-erase map and found a home for his new guitar. We reused frames, shelving and more. Proceeds from whatever we might sell of the PotteryBarnKids MVP bedding will go to new bedding/decor. He’s thinking football.

 

There’s definitely a more grown-up feel to my just-turned 8-year-old’s room (see the Vine video at jengilhoi). He’s pleased with it. I hope so because it’s only a 1 (at most 2) time occurrence to flip your room from birth to 18. Most parents I polled also agreed – one and done. Timing was just right for this change and Ava, my 10-year-old, has handled it beautifully. We were on track to redo her room in December (see the blog post), but discovered that her PB rug was in good condition, we couldn’t agree on color selections (no your walls cannot be black) and the top colors she wanted to lose were hot pink and baby pink which was everywhere, so it would be more expensive to replace. She’s waiting til age 12 she says. Thank goodness. That will buy me some time to rest up and save up!

Happy 8th Birthday, Calvin! — love, your worker bee   

 

Birthday Decadence June 11, 2013

Filed under: Activities — edamomie @ 8:16 am
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A: Activities

Peace, Love and Balloons

Peace, Love and Balloons

Celebrating a decade of existence is no small matter. Each year, we start contemplating themes early in May for my daughter’s early June birthday. There are always many variables — how many to invite, what to do, what to eat and when to have it.  This year, I suggested a few options – 1) invite everyone and keep it to a three-hour party at our house or 2) invite up to three girls and call it a sleepover.

 

Ava, my recently turned 10-year-old, first tried to compromise. She wanted to invite everyone for a few hours, then have a few stay overnight. I was not taking alternate options. After a few days of deliberation, she selected the slumber party/sleepover. We hadn’t ventured this route yet, but I figured it was time. The girls were mature enough to handle it (was I ready?).

 

10-Year-Old Silliness

10-Year-Old Silliness

Because the invite list was small, I did a quick text poll to the girls’ moms to find out which of two dates worked best. With that nailed down in less than 12 hours, we had a date, our guests confirmed and a general idea of activities.  We did a quick evite (as opposed to elaborate handmade invites in years prior) with a tentative schedule: 2:00p.m. on a Friday until 9:00a.m. on a Saturday; and activities: roller skating, pizza, pedis and movie.

 

The kids’ birthday parties each year always seem like quite a production. Maybe it’s because we never throw any adult parties. I do a quick run-through of parties past and notes to self from previous years – outsource food, simplify decor, clean and plan like crazy. Since food is snack stuff and pizza at a restaurant is easy, I opt to make a four-layer red velvet cake, Ava’s choice. For whatever reason, I always make the cake. This one was towering. The slimmest silver of it was plenty.

 

Sock-buns at the Roller Garden

Sock-buns at the Roller Garden

For decor, I hit Litin Paper no earlier than 10:45a.m. the day of the party for decor and balloons. I’m not stressed in the least. Odd. Then home by 12:45 to pull off a major house overhaul, decorate and head to school by 2:00 to pick up Ava and two of her guests.  She is really surprised by the transformation at home and seems delighted by it. I think she thought there was no way I could pull it off given the state of the house when she left for school.

 

We hang out til we can drop off her younger brother at class. Then we are on our way to Aunt Katie’s for make-up and hair at Ava’s request. We arrive at 4:15 and our fourth guest, Sophie, meets us there. The four girls all get a different look hair and make-up wise – – the common thread: sock-buns and glitter eyeshadow. We’re out the door by 5:30 for the St. Louis Park Roller Garden.

 

We arrive, pay admission and rental ($8 per girl) and take the floor. I swear at least 15 birthday parties are happening – – it is kids night from 4-8 after all. We all skate, including me, and snack on pretzels and soda. One boy who is kind of a terror on the rink, gets a stern talking to from Sophie. We unlace around 8:00 and head to Fireside Pizza.

 

Four Layers of Velvet

Four Layers of Velvet

I like this neighborhood joint (we went there for my son’s 6th birthday), but I forget that service is slow. About 50 minutes after we order, our pizzas and pastas arrive. I do hear some really good stories in the meantime — everyone has a story about the ocean, there’s some crude/rude humor, but no boy talk.  Maybe that’s for later?

 

I thoroughly enjoy the conversation. We’re home by 9:45, but too full for cake just yet.  So it’s on to presents then pedicures. Thank god there are only four — they each get a footbath, massage and polish. They all choose differently — fuchsia, candy apple red, purple and smurfy blue. They’re kicking back and watching the movie Hook during pedi time.

 

11:45p.m. rolls around and we’re ready for cake. Super late I know, but not letting this wait til the a.m. Calvin is still up to witness this. And so the song goes, the candles are blown out, the cake is cut, and the vanilla and strawberry ice cream scooped.  NOW, can it be time for bed?

 

The Morning After

The Morning After

Yes, it’s close for sure. Back to their sleeping quarters and time for some girl talk. I turn out the lights and fall exhausted into bed. The next morning comes quickly and I’m up with coffee. Enjoying 15 minutes before it’s time for a waffle breakfast. The girls seem a bit tired (12:45a.m. = reported bedtime), but in good spirits nonetheless. No sooner than they finish up their breakfast and pack up their stuff do their parents arrive for pick-up.

 

We take some photos and call it a party. We wave goodbye to our guests and take a moment to recap. Then it’s off to more adventures for the day, knowing we have the weekend to recover.

 

American Girls Learn the Hard Way: Beauty Hurts May 28, 2013

Filed under: Activities — edamomie @ 11:50 am
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A: Activities

American Girls Dressed in Yellow

American Girls Dressed in Yellow

It was another rainy Memorial Day Weekend with cousins – ages 7, 9, and 9 – in constant search of something to do. My 7-year-old son, Calvin, kicked off the weekend with an early birthday gift to his soon-to-be 10-year-old sister, Ava. It was an American Girl school desk with all the school box essentials.

 

He knew going in to the weekend he would be out-numbered as the cousin in the middle was Ravelle, age 9. Typical of each cousin camp weekend, he started out optimistic that he would be included in their play and ended up a bit burned out, frustrated by their undying interest in all things girly.

 

The complaints started to roll in around 7:00p.m. on Sunday eve of the long weekend, “what’s there to do?” We had already seen Epic, the movie, and went mini-golfing at Pirate’s Cove. They were on a fun roll. As we surveyed their slew of American Girl clothes, shoes and accessories, a bright idea popped into Ava’s head. “Let’s make dresses!” she insisted. Now was the how. What was on hand, what materials could we use? ….ah tissue paper from her early birthday gifts – in bright yellow, vibrant stripes and white.

 

American Girls with their Designers

American Girls with their Designers

They enlisted Aunt Katie and began cutting, twisting and creating fashionable looks with the paper. The four models – Kit, Kerstin, Piper and Mia (AG girls) – were fitted and styled from head to toe with the right shoes and accessories. An audience of 14 was called to the catwalk and required to sit in their assigned seats. Ava made the opening announcements and the Summer Fun Catwalk was underway.

 

The models emerged, via Ravelle’s hand, from under the pool table catwalk. For the grand finale, they all took one last turn and paused for the photos. Given the tight context of Ravelle’s space, she eventually bumped her head to which front-row Calvin pronounced, “Beauty Hurts.” Ensuing laughter prevailed as all the ladies agreed – yes it does! Here’s a little clip from the show, American Girl: Summer Fun Catwalk:

 

 
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