Someone around here just had a birthday and I might have gotten a little carried away.  This was the first year that he was really paying attention to birthdays and I wanted him to have a special day when it arrived.  For months he's been asking if it was his birthday yet and we've been planning and counting down the days. 

My big surprise was a small play kitchen I'd been making since late summer.  I found this nightstand on Craigslist and since it was made from solid wood, felt it had a lot of potential for refinishing. 

I was inspired by the many upcycled play kitchens on Pinterest and got some help from a few tutorials on refinishing varnished wood.  I went with a light sanding, an oil-based primer, latex paint and a polyurethane finish.  It took quite a few months to get it all done -- mostly due the fact that late summer became winter rather quickly and refinishing wood in the wintertime is not much fun.  But I really liked the way it turned out and Jonas was definitely surprised.  He's already made us many pancakes of all delicious varieties. 

I wanted to add some knobs to the stove -- but we ran out of time and it was going to be a tricky operation to attach knobs that would actually turn.  We'd like to be able to convert the kitchen back to the nightstand when Jonas outgrows that type of play, so I guess he'll just have to use his imagination. I also struggled with how to make the burners and in the end I just cut a few circles from black Contact paper.  Easy to do and easy to remove.  All of the pots and pans came from Goodwill and we had some play food floating around the house from last Christmas. 

Another surprise I had in store was a train cake.  I borrowed a train cake mold from a friend at our co-op and hoped that I would not have a cake making distaster on my hands.  I had to make the cake in the few short hours before I went to work Friday when Jonas was out of the house.  When I saw how intricate the mold was I feared the worst. However, the cake came out relatively cleanly and I had fun decorating it with some candy embellishments.   Jonas was pretty delighted when we brought it out at his party. 

We just had a few little friends over for some playing and cake-eating.  I made a DIY stomp rocket launcher and we were lucky to get a sunny morning to enjoy while we were outside.  The little guys were not quite strong enough to make the paper rockets fly very high, but Nick helped out with a few giant stomps.  It was a pretty easy project to put together thanks to the tutorial. The kids had fun and worked up an appetite for some cake. 

However, the best surprise of the birthday weekend was not planned by me at all.  Right around bedtime Saturday night, we noticed snow had begun to fall.  Jonas insisted in going out for some snow play before he went up to bed and then we had a great morning on Sunday walking to the frozen pond and making tracks in the snow along the way.

Jonas is growing into a fun and challenging kid.  He loves to sing songs, play with trains, go for hikes in the mountains and terrorize the cats.  He also loves reading, puzzles and hearing us talk about our day.  We delight in seeing how the next year changes him and shapes his personality. 


winter activities

As far as holiday decorating goes, I'm not one for putting everything up right away and prefer to do a little bit at a time.  This year, I made Jonas an advent calendar which has been a fun part of our daily routine and helped us get in the holiday spirit, bit by bit.  Each pocket has either a small candy, and little toy, or an activity.   Today's activity is "Make Apple Cider Donuts."  Some other activities are "Help Put Up the Decorations" and "Bring in the Tree and Decorate It."  Our living tree from last year survived the summer, so we will bring it in again this year. You can only have a living tree in your home for a few days before it begins to suffer, so we will bring it in and decorate it on the 23rd. After this Christmas, we will likely donate it to the park department for them to plant. 

I borrowed the design for the calendar from this Land of Nod calendar:


I was not wanting to spend $50 on a calendar, and I also think advent calendars traditionally don't have a 25th day, since that is Christmas.   I probably spent $20 on materials, and although my number stenciling is not quite visible, I still like the way it turned out.   Its nice to have something we can use year to year and will be a tradition in our household.

I don't know if you can spy it, but there is a tiny toy giraffe in the 24th pocket.  Jonas has been (remarkably) patiently waiting for it to be the 24th since he can tell there is something good in there.  (Not only has the calendar been for for the holiday, it has also helped with number learning and delayed gratification. )

The dark days already seem brighter as we fill our days with activities and explore our city -- decked out in its holiday glory.

For fellow Seattlites, here are the outside activities we planned:

  • Trip to Seattle Center to see the Winterfest Train -- via the Monorail

  • Visit to Swanson's Nursery for, yes, more trains -- plus reindeer and a camel
  • Trip Downtown to the carousel and to (maybe) see the gingerbread architechture at the Sheraton

Crafty activities:

  • Make dog treats to give as gifts
  • Make an ornament
  • Bake cookies (leftover gingerbread dough in the freezer from last year worked out just fine)
  • Make birdseed pinecones for our aviary friends

We also had a little brightness from Mother Nature this past week with a nice inch or two of snow.  If only I had put in the activity "Make a Snowball" for that day.


into the season

As the days shrink down and get colder and more damp, sometimes I think of holidays and special events as little islands getting us through until the spring.  I think it's no coincidence that each month has something to look forward to and celebrate.  And with sunset happening around 4 o'clock, we're all about the celebrating at our house. 

Before I get into the the current month and activities, I wanted to catch up on Halloween and how that went this year.   Last year Jonas was sick and only mildly participatory.  And after dragging a sick kid out to the pumpkin patch and various Halloween events (I didn't realize that he was sick until afterwards), I decided to keep things low key this year and focus on a fun costume that would serve us well for pretend play into the winter days.

Roughly 90% of Jonas' heart and mind are devoted to trains.  Today when I suggested we check the mailbox for Christmas cards, he replied, "Maybe they'll have trains on them!"  It was clear to me that his costume should be train-themed.  I should also note that I usually aim to make a costume from 1) clothes we already own and 2)minimal amount of purchasing new items.  Jonas' costume this year scored on both fronts.  

All of the clothes were from his regular wardrobe, so I only had to fashion a hat.  And I already had some ticking fabric, so I actually made the hat from leftover material.  I used a tutorial on making an engineer's cap and was pleased with the result.   I was not so pleased that Jonas didn't want to have anything to do with it once I made it.  However, he wore it on Halloween when he was all dressed up for pre-school and for some pictures.  Good enough.

The train I fashioned from a cardboard box, paper fasteners (which I think of as "brads") and a can of matte spray pain.  It was fun for me to figure out and Jonas still loves puffing and chugging it around our living room.   I had tried to add some straps, but he prefered to hold up the train himself.

I had to work the night of Halloween and Jonas didn't seem very interested in going out with our babysitter, so he handed out candy to the handful of kids who ventured down our dark street.  Maybe next year we'll join a Halloween celebration in another neighborhood nearby that has more families (and is better lit).

Now after this frosty weekend, Halloween seems far away and we're into the Christmas season. Next up I'll post about some Advent activities and the calendar that I made. 


moving along

Our lovely, warm summer has given way to a bright fall and all of the best colors are out in the trees.   We've been attempting to finish up some home projects now that winter is on the way and we spent the summer in the fashion of the grasshopper, reveling in the moment.   The moments of our summer were made up of many trips to the mountains where Jonas exhibited his hiking skills. 

For a two and a half year old he really hangs in there.   Nick can still carry him for quite a ways, but he does a lot of his own hiking as well, as long as the terrain is safe.   He will travel as far as his little legs take him, and then is happy to stare up at the trees and sky from the safety of Dad's pack.  When asked if he was ready to turn back on a trip to Mt. Pugh this summer, Jonas simply replied, "Make it to the top Dada!"  Jonas already knows that is where the magic of the mountain lies. 

I was lucky to have some time to find some other magical areas in the woods this summer.  My old friend Katie and I took a few nights to enjoy the splendor of the Goat Rocks Wilderness.  Wildflowers graced the meadows and we had clear, starry nights.  The highlight for me was to be able to spend some quality time with a friend without interruptions or busy schedules. 

We also took a family trip out to the Tetons of Wyoming and enjoyed the change in landscape and many encounters with wildlife.  

The area has a real feeling of wildness and majesty.

Although many view the Tetons as a way point on the way to Yellowstone, I felt we had plenty of exploring to do within the park and stayed in a relatively small area of the park even. We snagged one of the loveliest campsites at Jenny Lake and recommend the area highly, especially to those with children.

Hopefully our hiking days aren't over for the year (but certainly shorter) and we can get over to the east side for some late fall exploring, frost-tinged leaves and warm evenings by the fire. 

I have always regarded Fall as my favorite season and although it brings with it the shortening of the day, the quality of the air and light still carry a certain appeal.  We get to bring out our sweaters (and knitting projects) and get back to school.  Jonas is in the next level of preschool at our cooperative of Victory Heights and we are having a very enjoyable year.  It is a fantastic group of parents and kids and as much as I relish the Thursdays where I can drop Jonas off and have a few hours to myself, I also love the Tuesday where I can spend time with other kids and watch them learn and grow. 


spring sewing

I've had more of an inclination to be sewing lately as the spring weather sets in and we get the occasional taste of summer.  My knitting projects get less and less attention and I start combing the sewing blogs for new patterns and fabric.  I've been meaning to sew this dress from Made By Rae for a long time now.  I printed, taped and traced the pattern pieces long ago and then was never quite ready to commit to this fabric I bought until just recently.  The print and colors seemed a little bold for me, but a few weeks ago I decided that I should just go for it.  (I think I bought the fabric for pajama pants orignially I think.)  I also now own a pair of fairly bright blue capri pants as well, in my attempt to liven it up a bit. 

The dress was nicely constructed and the pattern was well written.  I fancied it up with some nice finishing (a few French seams, a sewn yoke and hemstiched at the bottom).  I messed up the notch at the neckline a bit, but not that anyone can notice.  Overall, it might be the nicest thing I've sewn.  Here's a little detail of the neck:

And the back is shirred with elastic thread for extra ease and wearability. 

Next up for sewing is another Made By Rae pattern for a baby dress for a friend and then more work on a quilt I'm piecing for Jonas and his eventual Big Boy Bed.

Welcome Summer!