Thursday, October 31, 2013

Our Halloween

Another Halloween in the books! We had such a nice time. The small Bears were bouncing off the walls for the past couple of days, with Halloween activities at school and the buildup to the big night. We carved our pumpkin on Wednesday night; when I say "we," I mean my husband and children because I don't enjoy carving pumpkins. I'm not very good at it, for one thing, and I can't stand the smell. I cooked dinner while they carved. The small Bears opted for objects instead of a jack o'lantern face; between them, they asked for an owl, a moon and a mouse. The Bear encountered some difficulty with the mouse and owl, but we ended up with a really distinctive pumpkin.

The small Bears were both happy with the costumes I made for them. I didn't have patterns, I made them up myself. Those years I spent sewing in a sweatshop college theatre costume shop are still paying off. The LB's spider costume is made from a black sweatshirt with black fabric "legs" attached down the sides and strung together with fishing line. I stuffed the legs with batting and sewed them onto the shirt, then sewed the fishing line down through the ends of the sleeves and each of the legs, tying knots under each leg to keep them elevated. I made his mask from felt and elastic, with silver puffy paint "spider eyes." The GB's gray mouse costume was more involved; I wanted to start with a sweatshirt for her too, but Walmart didn't have one small enough for her. I bought a yard of gray fleece and made a tunic-style top myself. I traced one of her shirts, but made it larger to fit over a shirt. I made mouse ears with a padded hairband and some of the gray fleece; I sewed pipe-cleaners onto the backs of the ears to make them stand up. Then there's me, in my store-bought cat ears and tail. I've had them forever and they're my usual costume.

I'm glad they had warm things on because it was cold! Windy, too. Actually, it felt like the perfect Halloween night, like you'd read about in a short story. We went out at dusk. The sky was clear. Jupiter was plainly visible to the southwest, shining brightly. Our neighborhood is fairly high and we could see the city lights spreading across the mesa. There was pinon smoke in the air. We rely on the honor system with our giveaways (which included Smarties candy as well as pencils, stamps and mini bubbles this year) because we both like to accompany our kids for trick-or-treating. It's a good neighborhood. One man always serves hot dogs in his driveway. Some neighbors wear costumes to answer the door and everyone comments on kids' costumes. It's a great place to live and we're always reminded of that on Halloween.

The streets were quieter than usual this year, though. Earlier in the week, we had quite the catastrophe on our street when some workers laying underground cable caused a water-main break. We lost our water for about a day at our end of the street, which was inconvenient but we managed. At the other end of the street, they lost their water for several days and there is currently a hole in the middle of the street about sixteen feet in diameter as they continue working to repair the main. The road is closed down there and we've had to take a detour to get in and out of our street. Even the sidewalks are cordoned off at that end. I imagine this had something to do with the quietude tonight.

I cooked a "spooky" Halloween dinner tonight, as I do every year. Do you enjoy cooking fun foods for holidays? I think silly finger food is where I really shine. I made Crescent Mummy Dogs, which are an old favorite around here. I also made a recipe I devised myself a few years ago, which I call Spooky Eyeballs. These are made with slices of carrot and cucumber with a smear of cream cheese and a slice of olive on top. We also had tater tots and what I'm calling Witches' Fingers...otherwise known as cornichons. Dessert was not needed, given the massive piles of candy hauled home. It was a happy Halloween for this family. I hope yours was too.

Monday, October 28, 2013

52 Weeks of Happy - 43/52

Joining in with Jen, here are four happy photos from the past week.

During the week, I had a craving for chocolate milk. I love milk, with or without chocolate, but I don't drink very much these days. I feel like it's a waste of calories (I don't have evidence for this, it's a personal theory, okay?). It might be a way to justify eating more cheese, I don't know. But this particular morning, I felt compelled to make chocolate milk. I used real Hershey's Syrup and stirred it with an iced-tea spoon. It really hit the spot.

It's afghan season again! I've been churning out afghans for a couple of years now and I appreciate seeing them put to good use. In this case, there was a stuffed animal under the blanket receiving some sort of injection with a needle-less plastic syringe. I don't know much more than that but I can tell you they were definitely nice and warm for the process, sort of a cozy amateur veterinary clinic, if you will.

I've baked two pumpkin pies so far this fall. This was the second and it was excellent. I love pumpkin pie. I'm actually not all that keen on the current trend toward making every single thing pumpkin-spice flavored but I do love a good, old-fashioned pumpkin pie. I will make at least one more this season because it's our traditional Thanksgiving dessert.

Our young teetotalers have been enjoying mugs of (lukewarm, herbal) tea sipped through silly straws. They have this on the weekends with breakfast, mostly, but sometimes also on a weekend afternoon. It's been good for them; they sit together at the table and drink their tea while they chat. The conversations I overhear are interesting and sometimes rather hilarious. As it gets colder, they'll have hot cocoa sometimes, especially when they come in after playing in the cold. I'm not sure how the silly straws will fare with the thicker cocoa but I'm sure they'll be game to try.


Hello and welcome, new readers and followers! I'm so glad you're here and I hope you enjoy visiting the Thistlebear home. I hope the week has started off well for everyone, especially in the UK with your "hurricane." It's going well here; we spent the morning at the children's hospital with the LB for his regular kidney check-up. He's doing quite well and we're thankful for that. We always feel a little anxious before his check-ups so it's nice to have it out of the way. Now we're very excitedly preparing for Halloween, starting with pumpkin-carving tomorrow!

I've had some lovely comments lately about my strawberry-printed oilcloth placemats, which are on the kitchen table and often show up (as above) in my posts. The kitchen is my favorite room in our home and a lot of my photos are taken there. I made the placemats myself last winter from Mexican oilcloth, after I experienced sticker-shock with some ready-made ones available in a local import shop. It was far more affordable to buy a couple of yards of oilcloth on Etsy and sew them myself - even after purchasing a new sewing machine foot suitable for sewing the oilcloth. I posted a how-to on my blog back then; it was one of my very first blog posts. I would love to share the experience, so I have added a link to my sidebar for it, along with some other how-to's I have posted on my blog. None of these how-to's is uniquely mine - that is, I was inspired by the work of others when I made them. But it seems handy to have clickable links to them right on the blog. I'll add new ones as applicable. I was in the mood for a general cleanup of the sidebar anyway; it was looking cluttered. I hope you'll be inspired to try something I've made.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

October light

Indoors and out, the light has changed. Mornings are dark; I eat my breakfast near the window in the breakfast nook and watch the sky grow lighter. Midday is still bright but the angle of the light has changed and the sun certainly doesn't feel like it did a few weeks ago. The sun has set by the time I'm tucking the GB into her bed at seven in the evening; we need lights on for baths and hair-combing and pajamas. Her brother follows at seven-thirty and by then, it's night-dark. Last evening, we watched a storm several miles to the north while sitting in our family room. There was vivid cloud-to-cloud lightning. We turned off all the lights in the house and sat on the couch, each holding a child on our lap, everyone under afghans. It had rained all morning and some of the afternoon but we didn't have rain from the evening storm. What a pleasant way to sit together; talk about hunkering! We timed the thunder and watched the lightning and listened to the wind howl in the chimney. It was exciting.

The temperatures always seem to plummet in October. I usually wear a sweater when I'm outdoors now and the small Bears have been in long sleeves and long pants every day for about three weeks. We need blankets at night and the furnace has switched on about five times now, always in early morning before we've gotten out of bed. It has run enough times to lose that burnt-dust scent of the first few heating cycles. There's something very comforting about being in furnace-season; I've lived in this house long enough to know every tiny sound the furnace will make as it starts up, from the whoosh of the gas flame, to the tick-tick-tick of the pipes as they heat up, to the hissss of the air through the vent above our bedroom door. We sleep under the duvet now and soon we'll be using the giant granny again.

Late afternoon is my favorite in this season. Most of the homeschooling is done, guitar and piano have been practiced, shoes and coats and lunchboxes and water bottles have been put away until tomorrow. We've finished our audiobook for the day; I felt like hearing an old favorite and chose Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder (I prefer other books from the series even more, but the library had only a limited selection). The LB loved Farmer Boy when we read it together not long ago and he's happy to listen again. The food descriptions in this book! I can tell by all the lip-smacking as they listen that the small Bears like it too. Those late afternoon hours are fleeting now; it's darkening so quickly these days. Around five o'clock, I'm putting on my apron and switching on the kitchen radio to "All Things Considered" while I start dinner.  Evenings are spent working on something crafty; I need my creative time like I need to breathe. The Halloween costumes are finished! I think I did a pretty good job with them. I'm still working away at the LB's granny stripe and I've been trying a few more complicated yarny things too.

I'm feeling better; I'm glad that was a short hiccup. Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful. I want to remind everyone of that; it helps me when I'm struggling. It's good here: the Bear just came in from running and the small ones are drinking lukewarm tea (it's their new thing this fall). I sewed costumes and worked on Christmas creations all afternoon. Right now, I have the small Bears' dinner to make and later, the Bear and I will enjoy a date-night treat of Chinese take-out for dinner. We have ice cream and a burgeoning Netflix queue. I have a new hard apple cider to try, Angry Orchard Apple-Ginger. There are dark clouds building over the mountain again and we might have some more rain. And there's yarn, always oodles of yarn. Yes, it's a good Saturday afternoon at home with my little family of Bears. I'm a happy, lucky lady.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Los Poblanos Farm

Last week on our "private Friday," the Bear and I took a drive down to the Bosque - the verdant area surrounding the Rio Grande. The Rio runs straight through the middle of our city. The Bosque is a woodland area (the name means "woods" in Spanish); there is more water, therefore more plants can grow. The Bosque has long been the center of agriculture in this area because of the availability of water. The Anasazi farmed there hundreds of years ago. Even today, there are many farms and plant nurseries thriving there. It's about twenty minutes from where we live, but it feels like a different place altogether because it's so much greener and is generally quite rural.

We had a specific destination in mind, Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm. This is a place I'd wanted to visit for a couple of years but we hadn't found the time to go. Finally, with the advent of "private Fridays," I suggested a visit. I knew we wouldn't be able to do a lot there, as we weren't staying at the inn or dining in the restaurant, but I had heard good things about the farm component of the property. They have a small lavender farm as well as a variety of farm animals and I was excited about this; I love lavender and I'm an avid chicken-watcher.

The farm did not disappoint. It was a chilly, sunny morning and we wore sweaters and carried hot beverages. We also each carried a camera. We looked like tourists. One employee questioned us because we did not have a photography license (apparently people have tried to take wedding and family portraits on the property without permission). I think it was the Speedlight on the Bear's camera; it does look imposing. But I only wanted a few farm shots and that seemed to be okay with her. We spent a companionable half-hour in the farm area; there were goats, sheep, chickens and other birds - ducks, guinea fowl, peacocks and geese. The lavender was well past its prime but the scent remained and it drifted on the breeze now and then. We enjoyed poking around the farm shop, looking at soaps, salves and other products made with ingredients grown on the farm.

Since we were not paying guests, we were unable to tour the whole property but what we saw looked nice. The buildings are old but have been maintained beautifully. We may go back for a special occasion; the restaurant menu looks delicious and while it's expensive, we might go for an anniversary or birthday. I appreciate that they use local ingredients in their menu, some of which they grew right there on the farm. The animals and their homes were nicely kept and the lavender was too; it must be lush in the growing season. I'm happy to have visited and I may try to take the small Bears sometime because they would enjoy the animals. I probably should call and ask them first, though.

Our "private Fridays" have been such a pleasant addition to my life; we missed a few when the Bear's workload became much more demanding last month, but that has subsided for now. It's nice to have time together, in daylight, to do something we haven't done before. Or things we have done before - there are lots of stores, diners and coffee shops we plan to revisit on future "private Fridays." I love that it feels like old times; we're not harried parents of two in our mid-thirties, we're young people with all the time in the world to chat over coffee. For a little while, anyway.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Dia de los muertos love

I've been an Etsy user for several years but only recently figured out how to create treasuries. I usually make them without saving them because I'm never sure if I'm doing it right. I don't care about having my treasury chosen for the front page, though that would certainly be flattering. But I decided to have a go again after I found an easy treasury posting tool on a website called I had always wondered how other bloggers did this and I was excited to see how easy it was to make my treasury and share it on my blog. I was already looking through items related to the theme of this treasury, just for fun, so I figured why not try to make one to share. (No, this is not a sponsored post; I'm just really happy to have figured out how to share an Etsy treasury).

I made this treasury with items designed to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, a holiday celebrated in Mexico over the span of November 1 and 2. This is a special day to honor departed loved ones. The sugar skull is the emblem of this holiday - these are skull replicas made from sugar and decorated in a fancy way with roses, crosses, scrolls and other designs. I really love sugar skulls. I know that I don't necessarily seem the morbid type, but I love the artwork that goes into them and there are so many beautiful items made with sugar-skull designs, from jewelry to housewares to clothing. I don't think they're especially morbid anyway; they're colorful and pretty, and I like the idea of honoring the dead with a celebration. I only own a few sugar-skull items, including a beautiful postcard by the artist Jade Boylan, which I display in a frame in my bedroom. I have included the postcard in my treasury.

Here in New Mexico, Dia de los Muertos is a popular event. We have a parade and festival in our city to celebrate. You can attend workshops to make your own skulls from paper or clay. There are poetry readings, musical performances, art shows and face-painting. People build ofrendas, or altars, and display skulls in their homes. Some wear skull jewelry. In my treasury, I attempted to include different kinds of items but I do find myself very drawn to the jewelry and artwork; I especially love the turquoise skull earrings and the cross-stitch pattern.

Handmade Day of the Dead Sugar Skulls - kateillustr8s
Handmade Day of the Dea...
Turquoise and Red Day of the Dead Rose and Sugar Skull Earrings - PennysLane
Turquoise and Red Day o...
Handpainted Dia de Los Muertos Skull and Candleholder (Purple w/ Flowers) - KMariesDesigns
Handpainted Dia de Los ...
Ladies Mexican skull A-line skirt - multicolor with inset panels - for Halloween, Dia de Los Muertos - fits sizes S, M, L - DomesticThreads
Ladies Mexican skull A-...
Day of the Dead Boston Terrier Sugar Skull Dog Earrings - PrettyInInkJewelry
Day of the Dead Boston ...
Sugar Skull Dictionary Art Print Black Sugar Skull, Dictionary Art Print, Wall Decor,  Dia de los Muertos, Halloween Decor, Day of the Dead - reimaginationprints
Sugar Skull Dictionary ...
CROSS STITCH PATTERN Dia De Los Muertos Sugar Skull Couple - somerley
Día de los Muertos Sugar Skull pin cushion Pillow - stitcherygiftery
Día de los Muertos Sug...
Day of the Dead Bangle Bracelet, Sterling Silver Paper Artisan Wearable Art Jewelry, Dia de los Muertos, Sugar Skull .... - TaylorsEclectic
Day of the Dead Bangle ...
Pillow Day of the Dead / Dia De Los Muertos  Sugar Skull throw Pillow - VintageGaleria
Pillow Day of the Dead ...
Day of the Dead Cat Earrings Sugar Skull Gothic Cat Art Cameo Earrings 25x18mm - tigerpixie
Day of the Dead Cat Ear...
Orange and White Block Printed Skull T Shirt - HouseRabbitHandcraft
Orange and White Block ...
Mexican Fiesta Prayer Flags. Inspired by traditional Papel Picado. Dia de los Muertos Fabric Bunting. Fiesta Garland - Cazmira
Mexican Fiesta Prayer F...
zocalo! cut chenille baby blanket/ dia de los muertos/ day of the dead/ Mexican fabric - thelittledonkeyshop
zocalo! cut chenille ba...
Day of the Dead - Dia de los Muertos - Teal - Available in all colors.  Art Print  - 11 x 14 in. or 12 x 18 in. - LoveSignBoutique
Day of the Dead - Dia d...
Sugar Skull Postcard - JadeBoylan
Sugar Skull Postcard
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